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Prime Time Gardening

Tips and Tricks for planting in Prime Season!

by Karla Dalley

This is the time of year that gardeners live for…even those who just purchase a few packs of annuals or a hanging basket or two!  Everywhere you go, the world is a riot of flowers, plants, flowering trees, fruit and berry bushes, herbs, vegetables plants, some with full grown fruit already on them. The bounty is overwhelming!

By making some thoughtful choices now at the garden center, your garden upkeep for the rest of the season can be made much easier.

First, decide on the type of gardening you will be doing.  Do you need to replace some plants that have died over the winter?  Are you filling some spots with annuals for color?  Are you planting edibles (herbs, vegetables or perhaps some berry bushes)? Are you renovating an existing garden? Knowing this will help you focus on what you need at the garden center and keep you from getting distracted by all the alluring choices.

Check the sunlight in your garden area. Due to a rough past winter, many trees have come down in yards and what might have been a shade garden in the past, could now be a full sun garden.  Different plants might need to be chosen for that spot, and some of the existing plants may need to be moved.

Plan your bloom time. When thinking about purchasing plants for a new garden, (or any that you might be renovating) make several trips to the garden center at various times of the season.  If you purchase all the plants in April or May, you’ll have a lovely, spring blooming bed that will be nothing but foliage for the rest of the season. Even if all of the plants you’ve chosen do bloom in spring, this type of garden can be lovely for the rest of the season if you choose some plants with ‘colorful’ foliage: variegated leaves, chartreuse leaves, or darker burgundy or purple leaves.  Plan accordingly.

When planting, remember to leave proper spacing between the plants to accommodate their mature size.  During the first season the garden may look sparse. Mulching in between the plants will help unify the bed, or planting smaller annuals in-between for a year or two might allow the plants to fill into their mature size without being over-crowded.

Remember a few things about newly purchased plants. Take those size and spacing requirements liberally.  Sometimes a plant straight from the garden center will behave differently the first year in the garden than it will in succeeding years.  A plant may grow taller, or shorter as in the case of mums and asters, for example, than the tag indicates. With respect to ultimate height, remember how big a 6’ shrub can be. Nursery pot size can sometimes be deceiving with shrubs.  Those shrubs that look cute and dwarf can still grow large, if that is what the cultivar is designed to do!

Edibles are all the rage now and most are colorful and decorative enough to be incorporated into existing landscape beds or planted into pots.  Just be sure that no pesticides are used in these gardens…you don’t want to go through all the trouble of growing your own food and then mistakenly spray it with poisonous herbicide!

Herbs grow beautifully in pots and some even prefer to grow this way. Basil, as well as some of the other Mediterranean herbs like thyme and rosemary seem to love container culture.   Best of all, as long as you have a sunny spot near the kitchen, the herbs are always in reach.

And, as far as decorating with fresh flowers, remember that many perennials have a long bloom time, and of course, annuals bloom through most of or all of the summer.  Fresh flowers are an easy summer decoration both indoors and on the patio or porch.  If this is something that appeals to you, choose flowers at the garden center accordingly.  My home is rarely without cut hydrangeas from my garden, for example.  And while flower arranging isn’t my strong suit, they do look lovely with a large cut hosta leaf or two behind them.

Finally, family owned garden centers are becoming a rare commodity these days. As gardeners, we need to do all that we can to help them thrive.

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