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How To Make The Most Of Your Memorial Day Weekend Gardening

Before you transfer a plant into the ground from the greenhouse, remember to gradually introduce them to the outdoor conditions.

Memorial Day Weekend is here. But the gardeners among us are casting an anxious look at the sky, or at least at the weather forecast, in hopes that it will be a good weekend to get gardens going and yardwork done.

While typical gardening and planting is a bit delayed this year, garden contributor Melinda Myers offers some suggestions about what you might want to take on during one of the busiest and maybe most important gardening weekends of the year:

1. Install floating row covers: Cold weather stresses plants and delays your harvest, but Myers says even with decent weather she will give a little extra protection to her plants to speed up the harvest. "[Floating row covers] trap the heat, so if we have cold nights like we've been having in the 40s, it won't kill your plants." The covers let air, light and water through - but just remember to remove it when plants need to be pollinated or grow too big.

2. Gradually introduce plants from a greenhouse to the outdoor environment: The first day, put plants in an hour of direct sun, and increase the time each following day. Let the soil go slightly dryer and don't fertilize until you transplant your plants in the ground.  "That extra effort really helps make the transplanting a success, and your garden a bigger success as well," notes Myers.

3. Have healthy soil: Soil is the foundation of a healthy garden according to Myers, "so wait until it's moist - but not soggy wet [to plant]. And that's going to be the tough thing if you have heavy clay soil, with all the rain we're having, patience is going to be something you're gonna need." To test your soil's readiness, take a handful of soil, gently squeeze into a ball, and if it breaks into pieces with a flick of the finger - it's ready to be worked.

4. Fertilze: Generally a low nitrogen soil release fertilizer like Milorganite with allow slow, steady growth and is less susceptible to insect and disease problems, "and you'll still get flowers and fruit," notes Myers.

5. Add organic matter: Everything from organic mulch, shredded leaves, grass clippings not treated with weed killers, and evergreen needles can be used on the soil surface after planting. "It conserves moisture, you water less often, it also helps suppress weeds ... and the other benefit as it breaks down - it improves the soil, so those worms are going to be happy."

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine.
Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.
Joy Powers hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM January 2016 as a producer for Lake Effect.