Digging, Planting, Tending

Mary Garden Digging, Planting and Tending

Location - Choose a location for your garden that has at least 5 hours a day of full sun.

Design - Sketch the outlines of your garden on paper.

Digging - (1) Mark the outlines of your garden on the ground. (2) Dig up squares of grass sod to a depth of about 1 inch. Use sod to cover bare spots elsewhere, or dig into the bottom of your garden bed after clay soil has been removed. (3) Dig the ground to a depth of at least 1 foot. (4) As you dig, pile to one side the poorer clay soil from the bottom 5 inches and remove.

Soil Preparation - Shovel and rake the remaining soil to break up the lumps and remove stones. Then dig the following materials uniformly into the top 12-inches, to make it porous for deep penetration of water and air, spongy to receive and retain waters, and fertile to nourish plant growth:

  • River Sand (salt free) - 20 cubic feet to each 100 square feet of garden area . . . for porosity.
  • Humus (compost leaf-mold or Canadian peat) - 30 cubic feet (5 bales) to each 100 square feet, for sponginess and initial fertility.
  • Fertilizer - 10 pounds per 100 square feet of mixed organic and ground natural rock fertilizer such as Espoma Garden Tone "4-6-6" (4% Nitrogens 6% Phosphorus 6% Potash) or Fertrell Super "3-7-3", which provide some immediately available nutrients for early spring growth, plus additional nutrients for gradual release through the year through the action of water, soil bacteria and earthworms.
  • Lime - 8 pounds of crushed limestone per 1OO square feet - to "sweeten" acid soils to a slightly acid or nearly neutral condition. (Not necessary in the limestone areas).

Soil Maintenance - After the first year, add 6 cu. ft. of humus, 5 lb. of fertilizer and 3 lb. of limestone each spring to replenish materials used by plants or leached away by water. Spread on top of the soil and use a hand cultivator or spading fork to work it in as deeply as you can without disturbing plant roots.

Planting - Outline the areas for low, medium and tall plants on your garden sketch and estimate the numbers of each you will need. . . allowing 6" space between low plants, 12" between medium and 14" between tall. Decide the flowers you want and mark their locations on your sketch. Then, procure, sow and plant at the times indicated. For earlier bloom of annual flowers, seeds may be sown indoors in a sunny location in trays or pots 4 to 8 weeks before outdoor sowing times and then transplanted to the garden.

Watering - Water your garden with a gentle hose sprinkling or soaking. Supply as much water as soil will absorb without becoming mushy or forming puddles, Water again only when the soil looks dry on top in the morning or plants show signs of beginning to wilt (usually after 2 to 7 days in dry weather, depending upon heat and humidity). Thorough watering followed by drying from the top down induces deep root growth and draws in fresh air necessary for soil processes and root vigor. A soil cover or "mulch" such as grass clippings or buckwheat hulls will decrease water loss and soil crusting in the hot summer months.

For suggested use in devotion, prayer and meditation, see Bloom That Pray

Copyright Mary's Gardens, 1965, 1996


The John Stokes and Mary's Garden collection was transferred to the Marian Library in May 2013. In addition to his archives, manuscripts, artwork, and personal library, John S. Stokes also donated his extensive website. It was transferred to the Marian Library in early 2010. This particular entry is archived content original to Stokes' Mary's Gardens website. It is possible that some text, hyperlinks, etc. are outdated.

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