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Gardening 101: Follow these easy tips to help your plants thrive

Whether you're a newbie or a seasoned pro, there's always something new to learn about gardening.

DENVER — It doesn't matter how long you've been gardening, there's always something new to learn.

Gardening is low-tech. It's the mastery of simple tasks to achieve good results. It's mainly common sense and observation.

Avoid online junk about eggshells, banana peels, fish, coffee grounds, beer and soda pop on your lawn, and a whole host of silly and potentially harmful "tips."

Let's start with planting. It's surprising how many people yank plants out of their pots. Don't tug on the stems — it's easy to break or damage them. Use gravity. Turn the pot upside down and squeeze.

Don't scruff the roots. Most plants have fibrous roots that start to expand the minute they meet new soil. Scruffing them disrupts their growth and sets them back.

Soil is really, really important. For container gardening, always buy a premium potting mix.

If you get a bag of wood chips, that's not soil. It's wood. It will never grow decent plants. You can add new soil and compost to your old soil to save money and create a fertile potting mix.

In the ground or raised bed, you can change the composition of the soil to accommodate the plants you wish to grow. Work in compost or manure to alter the texture of the soil. This adds more air space and benefits roots.

Clay soil isn't necessarily bad. It has the advantage of holding moisture well. While it can be amended, it's easier to find plants that thrive in clay. These include coneflowers, rudbeckias, ornamental grasses, daylilies and many plants native to the Great Plains. Do your research.

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Petunias.

Pinching and deadheading are essential skills. Many plants benefit from a good pinch. Use your fingernails or manicure scissors to pinch out the growth tips at the top of the stems. This will encourage the plants to branch and get bushy. Coleus, petunias and salvias respond really well to pinching.

Deadheading is removing spent flowers. This prevents plants from diverting their energy into seed production instead of setting buds. Remove the spent flower with a pinch. Remove the whole flower stem, not just the faded flower. This especially benefits pansies, petunias and many other annuals. Otherwise, they'll stop blooming.

More Proctor's Garden:

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