Nurturing Gardening Relationships…

To Help Nurture Your Garden!

by Karla Dalley

Let’s face it,it’s been a long, hard winter.  And, for those of us who love gardening, it’s probably been even harder!  There are only so many times we can find beauty in snow on tree branches or nicely pruned hedges before we get anxious to be back into the garden. As the weather begins to warm up, let’s remember not to rush out into the garden too soon.  As excited as we are to get back to our gardens and plants, there’s nothing more harmful than working in wet soil.  And many of us in this area have clay or compacted soils already so we need to take extra care not to work in those wet soils or we will have a much worse problem.

What can we do on those lovely warm early spring days?  If we have garden paths, we can take those to tour our yards and see what needs to be done once that warm sun dries the soil a bit more.  Surely after all the snow and ice this winter, we will need to prune broken branches at a minimum.

While it may not be apparent immediately, some of our plants may have died this past winter.  While this can be heartbreaking, it can also be an opportunity.  If the gardens are too wet to work in, head out to your favorite garden center.  Spend some time now, in the early spring, before the mad rush in May when it may be difficult to get as much individual attention as you’d like.

There are always new plants coming onto the market but sometimes the “tried and true” plants are better for your location.  I know from a lot of experience that variegated plants don’t do well for me–they can be genetically weaker and I have a very tough site to begin with.  So I either avoid them altogether (a tough decision because there are some great ones out there) or I put them in a sheltered location to give them a real chance to thrive.

What I just said is “I’ve killed an awful lot of variegated plants to come to that conclusion.”  But in early spring, the great folks with lots of experience at your local garden centers can help you avoid the same adventure–unless you like that sort of experimentation.  Spend some time talking to them about what your conditions are like: sunny, hot and dry; shady and dry; shady and wet–you get the idea.

If it’s possible–and often it is because many of these places stay open late at least one evening–try to go during a slower time so they have some time to spend with you.  You’ll find it a rewarding experience and you’ll understand the value of shopping locally as well as coming away with a better understanding of some plants.

While you’re at the garden center, pick up some early spring flowering plants for a patio container.  They don’t have to be pansies, although they could be.  There are lots of great choices like nemesia, alyssum and diascia.  Or, try some early perennials like hellebores.

In fact, you don’t even need to have flowers.  You can put together a great container of edibles that will take some frost and still give you a great looking planter.  Plant some decorative leaf lettuces–a 6 cell pack of mixed leaf lettuces will do so long as you have a nice mix of textures or leaf colors.  Pick up a 3 cell pack of parsley (flat leaf or curly leaf, which ever you prefer) while you’re at it.  And if you can find an alpine strawberry to tuck in there, that’s good too.  And I would add in some small-flowered violas–organic, if I could find them (or calendulas) so that I’d have some color and some edible flowers for my salad.

All those things go into a shallow 8” container so you’ll have lovely color and some fresh greens to augment your salads right into June or so!

Meanwhile, you will have learned about some plants, trees, shrubs,  perennials, or maybe roses for your garden (or whatever you were asking about when you were talking to the garden center staff).  And once your soil dries out, go back and purchase some of those plants you learned about.  Maybe you’ll see some new ones to ask about.  June and July are great times to wander around garden centers too.  This is how gardening relationships are born.

 
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