Western Mountains and High Plains
Nourish your soil with homemade compost. As we begin the garden season in earnest, it's time to gain a better understanding of the soil and its role in plant health. You can improve your soil by recycling organic debris through the process of sheet composting, a system that involves spreading raw materials directly into your garden. You can also simply pile organic debris and let nature do the work. The Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah L. Martin (Storey Publishing, 2008, $19.95) provides information on a range of labor-saving strategies that making composting easier by keeping the piles right in the garden, so you can make the "black gold" that keeps your garden thriving with the least amount of effort.
Favorite or New Plant
Few flowers provide an opportunity for interaction with kids like the colorful snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) do. They're a lot of fun and perfect for teaching children about plants and flowers. Show children how to play with the blossoms by pushing the "dragon jaws" (flower blossom) open and then allowing them to snap shut.
Snapdragons are easy to grow, either from seed or from young transplants. Spikes loaded with flowers in a variety of colors are useful as edging or bedding plants, and they make excellent cut flowers as well. Position taller varieties toward the middle to back of a border and smaller varieties at the front. The dwarf and intermediate types don't require staking. Snapdragons grow best in full sun and well-drained soil. Snapdragons come in a range of varieties. Some, such as the Butterfly series, produce double flowers. Some of the dwarf varieties, such as 'Floral Carpet' and 'Tahiti', are excellent grown in containers.