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Question: 415-3410
I am currently living in central Illinois. I am wanting to start a new flower garden in my back yard. The soil is black loam and was used as pasture land. It has never been used for anything else. The sod is a mixture of grass and weeds. I am going to start with a 20 x 40 ft. area. I also am getting a late start because of the rain we have had in the area. There is no problem with drainage in the area. The flowers would receive the south afternoon sun. I eventually want to have a combination of roses and flowers. What is the best preparation? Knope, Taylorville, IL

Mort's Answer:
You will need to cut the grass down to the ground before tilling. This may require two or three successive cuts. Rake the grass out so it will not interfere with the tines on the tiller. You will need a professional size tiller with eight or ten horsepower to turn old sod. Do not till the soil, while it is still wet. I would add aged manure and grass clippings and other organic material. I prefer raised beds for roses. Hybrid Teas should be planted at least four feet apart. A good combination of perennials and annuals will give year round color. I would put the roses in the center with annuals on the outside. This will allow easy access each spring. Granular fertilizer 5-10-10 can be added to the top of the soil each fall for the perennials and annuals.

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Question: 765-2412
We have a half acre that is the remnant of the tornadoes that hit the city. What would you suggest to begin a garden in the area that was once our home? Jack, Joplin, MO

Mort's Answer:
You will need to plow under all the weeds that are now populating the lot. You could make a depot for wood debris that needs to be chipped and/or shredded. You might consider using it as a community garden. Areas of 20 ft. by 20 ft. will produce $2000. 00 worth of vegetables. You could rent out a tiller to other gardeners. All wood to be chipped has to be clear of toxins and aged for at least a year. New wood robs soil of nitrogen, while old wood takes it from the air in to the soil. Old shredded leaves and grass clippings can be assembled in separate piles. You can plant hot weather veggies now. Tomatoes. peppers , melons and eggplant are the easiest. At some point you might consider a fence to keep out critters.

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