Let’s talk garden math

 Today’s blogging prompt involves the number four in any form… four seasons, four cardinal directions, four suits in a deck of cards, four basic mathematical functions, four elements (earth, wind, air, and fire), and so forth. I thought about things that come in four and decided to talk about the four basic mathematical functions, as related to gardening. 

The area that I live in in Western New York is USDA zone 6a. It is a temperate climate with four very distinct seasons. The best time to plant here is at the end of May. It’s fast approaching. Here are some things that you can do for your garden this year. They involve all of those mathematical functions (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division).


I live in an area with a lot of clay soil. One of the benefits of clay soil is that it holds nutrients really well. Sandy soil, for example, does not do that. The water and other nutrients just go right through it. But clay soil can be problematic. Drainage can be terrible. After a heavy rain, you will see a lot of flooding. This could result in your garden being underwater, which is never desirable. 

One thing that you could do is to build up your soil, which should help nourish the plants that you grow and it should help to improve the drainage situation. You could add such things as bark, sawdust, manure, compost, and peat moss. You will want about two to three inches of these additions, which are called amendments to the soil. Then you will want the amendments to the soil to be rototilled into your garden. 

If you don’t like weeds in your garden, you could make it harder for them to grow by placing a layer of newspaper into your garden spot before you add your soil amendments. The newspapers provide another layer that the weeds have to grow though.


It’s time to clean out the garden. There are plenty of things to be removed (subtracted) from your garden spot. If you covered your garden with a layer of leaves, you can take those leaves out now. You can dig out the weeds and prune dead branches from shrubbery. If your shrubbery has blossoms, make sure that the blossoms are gone before you go crazy with those pruners. Shrubbery that does not have blossoms can be pruned now. If you have shrubbery that tends to grow tall and block your sightlines through your windows, you’re going to want to prune with much gusto. 

You can prune your rose bushes, too. The forsythia bushes have blossomed and, once that happens, it is time to prune rose bushes. If they are tall and straggly, you will want to prune them so that they will grow bushier, which is preferable.


You’re going to want to be careful with plants that multiply with great abundance, such as mint and pachysandra and field bindweed (which is often mistaken for morning glory. You might want to have a ground cover that spreads quickly, and, in that case, pachysandra would be a good alternative, especially in a shady area. Pachysandra loves full shade. So, under a tree would be a great place to plant pachysandra. Morning glory is a very aggressive plant and is best grown in containers. Field bindweed is something to be avoided. It will wrap itself around shrubbery and any other plant. If you don’t constantly pull it out, it will take over your entire garden with far too much ferocity. Last summer, I noticed this weed in the gardens at Buffalo Harbor State Park. I pulled and pulled and filled many garbage bags with this weed. I was quite surprised to see an actual garden under that chaos.

Mint is a nice plant to have because you can use it for cooking or for a relaxing cup of tea. But the plant is extremely aggressive and will take over the garden. It multiplies like crazy. It is best planted in containers to prevent spread.


Spring is a good time to divide your hostas. They are still small and much easier to divide. When you dig up parts of the hostas, make sure to get as much of the root ball as you can. You can either plant the hostas in a different part of your garden or you can share them with friends and family. Hostas love shade so they are another option for planting under a tree or another shady spot.

What are you planning on growing in your garden this year?

4 thoughts on “Let’s talk garden math”

  1. Alice, what a great way to weave in science and math in your surrounding natural environment. I appreciated your clever mathematical gardening tips and look forward to reading more of your outdoor adventures.

    Sending all my love and gratitude,

  2. Oh, I'm growing too much to mention! I have clay soil, but too large an area to amend. I put in raised beds.

  3. Love how you weaved math and gardening together.. I have quite a bit of math-work to do in my garden this year..:)

  4. I love this post. I am struggling with my front flowerbed and this helps. There are some things here I want to try for sure. Love how you looked at it from a math standpoint.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top