Gardens & Landscape

A Helping Hand

For some people, gardening comes naturally. But for most of us, a little guidance is helpful.

Luckily, expert help is at our (admittedly un-green) fingertips, thanks to the garden pros at home service provider resource Zaarly, such as RJ Stafos. We asked Stafos, who grew up on a Kansas farm, for his advice on growing a robust and healthy garden. He provided some old-school farmer tips to help get your garden into the swing this spring.

Plan what to plant. Asking questions about your favorite plants can help you plan what’s best for you, your family and your garden. Here are some to consider:

  • How long will the plant live? Some plants’ life cycles are just one year or one season.
  • Does the plant need other plants to survive? Fruiting trees, for example, may need to be planted in pairs to bear fruit. Edible fruits need flowers nearby to attract pollinating bees and butterflies.
  • How big will the plant get? Plants need space to grow.
  • How much work is involved in caring for the plant?

Plan where to plant. Think about the layout of your yard and which areas you want to plant.

  • How much sun or shade does the area get? Is that perfect for the plant?
  • How much heat does the area get? Rock walls or concrete patios can put off too much heat for many plants, even cactus.
  • What is the pH of the soil? Most plants need a neutral soil. Too much or too little acidity can harm your plants. Your nursery has a pH testing kit.

Prep the soil. Once the frost is over, about mid-March in Kansas, it’s time to plant. Preparing the soil is the most important thing you can do for the health of your plants.

  • Till the soil 4-5 inches deep. Turn it over and break it up. Then assess whether it needs to be amended. If it’s full of clay or sand, or it’s not a dark brown, loose soil, you may need to amend it with two parts topsoil, one part sand and a little bit of fertilizer.
  • If the pH of your soil is acidic (below a 7, which is common in rainy areas and under pine trees), raise the pH with lime or powdered limestone.
  • If the pH of your soil is not acidic enough (or alkaline, above a 7), add pine needles, compost, manure or sulfate.
  • The holes you dig for your plants should be twice as big as the root ball, to allow for growth.

Feeling overwhelmed with plant choices or garden work? Check out to connect with RJ Stafos or another garden pro to help shape up your yard this spring and for years to come.