Now that spring is in full swing and the garden is breathing down the neck of summer, it is time to make a list of garden chores to do.

The glow of spring can be very deceiving and can lull you into a false sense of security. So take some time to stroll through your garden and take paper and pen with you. Great gardens all have one thing in common, and that is the gardeners who live there and tend the garden have great gardening habits.

The first thing on the list is to be sure your garden has a fresh layer of mulch down. This is probably the single most important thing I do all gardening season because it has the most benefit to your plants and overall health of the garden.

We put down mulch every year in the springtime because it does three things: It keeps the roots cool when it is so hot; it keeps the weeds out; and finally, and most importantly, it keeps the moisture in.

Many of us choose to use pine needles because they are easier to put down and are less expensive. I say it is okay to use pine needles on large bedded areas that are located far away from the house.

Why am I not a fan of pine needles? Because pine needles have no benefit to the soil they cover. I use triple ground hardwood mulch only. This is very finely ground up hardwood. The pieces are small and sit on my soil all year and disintegrate down into the soil over the course of the year and improve it tremendously.

After using the triple ground hardwood mulch for the last 20 years my garden has very impressive soil, and all because I used a product that benefits my existing soil. You can dig with a teaspoon anywhere in my garden. I mulch every year in my garden, consistently. You can buy this product locally, just be sure to ask for triple ground hardwood mulch and nothing else.

Next on the list, you need to do a mental review of what will be blooming in your garden from June through August. Let’s face it, you know the old expression: “Anyone can do spring.” Well, that is partially true. The real test comes after the show of spring blooms when the weather is hot, frustrating and just plain trying.

Day lilies are a simple but yet very important plant group to add to your garden. This plant group is so simple to grow but is very rewarding, as it is a long bloomer. Each flower on the multiheaded flower spikes bloom one at a time and lasts for only one day, hence the name day lily.

A sun-loving flower group, it even has attractive foliage, after all the bloom spikes have flowered out, with its striped, slim green leaves. But what makes me love this flower is the wide range of colors it is available in. I am crazy over the peach colored flowers with the crinkly edges to them. What makes this plant so popular is its long bloom period and that fact that it is so easy to grow.

The other must-have midsummer flower is the dahlia. Dahlias are tubers which look like small baked potatoes that you can mail order from companies such as Swan Island Dahlias ( They arrive in the mail and you plant them out into the garden soil sometime after the soil warms up. They are planted 6 to 8 inches deep and are planted on their sides.

You should never fertilize a dahlia until it has leaves above the ground. After you plant it, it would be wise to stake the area right around the bulb right away. If you do it later, it never works because it is usually too late and the plant is lying on the ground by then.

Dahlias come in many colors — except blue and black — and many different flower styles. They range in size from 1 inch across to 10 inches. They love full sun and are disease resistant. Out of one tuber, you can get maybe 20 to 30 flowers that are drop-dead gorgeous.

They bloom reliably from June through November, with fall being their main season. Dahlias are one of the most valuable plants in my garden, giving me foliage, terrific blooms and cut flowers for a long time in the growing season.

The last thing on my list is a new weird plant I bought, mail ordered, and am going to grow it out to see what it does. You may have heard of it. It is called “Ketchup and Fries” tomato plant.

By now you are saying, huh? Let me explain. This is a tomato plant on top and it grows potatoes in the ground. Can you believe it? The plant is a tomato plant grafted onto a potato plant. I bought mine from Territorial Seed Company (
I am planting this plant in a pot that is 22 inches in diameter. I will stake it on top, grow the tomato out, harvest the fruit and then in mid-September I will cut the top off the plant and let the potatoes ripen. This is an experiment that seems like great fun to me. I will give you an update on how it performed.

Linda Cobb is a correspondent for The Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald-Journal.