Tuscaloosa Master Gardener Pam Sloan has spent decades cultivating beautiful gardens, keeping them radiant throughout the summer and beyond. Sloan says she grows a multitude of different varieties of plants and flowers.
“I grow herbs, perennials, annuals, old pass-along plants, vegetables, trees, shrubs, wildflowers and house plants,” she said. Her favorite? “The oakleaf hydrangea – and any plants that I use in teaching…that narrows it down to about a few million!”
In terms of what local gardeners can and should grow, Sloan says basically anything. Any plant you want to grow, you can – with the proper care, of course. For beginners, she recommends taking a few steps before planting.
“Start with a soil test to determine what will grow best in your yard. Build up your soil first,” said Sloan. “Also, read about plants that you love. Think like a plant…how big will I get? What do I need to grow? What part of this yard would I want to be planted in, and how much sun/shade can I take?”
Soil testing kits can be picked up at the Tuscaloosa County Extension Office (2513 7th Street).
“They will give you the small carton and tell you how to collect your soil,” Sloan said. “They will send it to Auburn for a complete analysis. It costs $7.”
Sloan also emphasizes the importance of maintenance, for it could be a new gardener’s key to making their garden look and feel manicured and pristine.
“Take a walk through the garden every morning. Pull off dead blooms; look for any insect damage; decide what needs pruning, watering, harvesting, etc.” she said.
If you’re busy and struggle with finding time to keep up with a large garden, or you don’t have the space, you have other options. Sloan recommends trying container gardening.
“For containers, I use ornamental grass for height, a flower in season – like a couple of baby mums and an ornamental cabbage – with something that will trail over the side, like sweet potato vine or creepy jenny. I also put in herbs just to make it smell good,” Sloan said.
The Master Gardener Program in Tuscaloosa County is an educational outreach program provided and administered by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. It is a program to train individuals who volunteer their expertise and services in support of the Extension effort related to education. To learn more, visit mg.aces.edu/Tuscaloosa.