Spring Planting: How to Prep Part 2

May 3, 2013

By Ghost Gardener
Columbia, SC
May 2, 2013

Now that your outdoor spot is all tidy and ready to go, make a list of what you’ll need to spring into action.   Consider these 4 elements:  plants; materials; containers; décor.  

PLANTS :  Biggest consideration after determining how much or how little sunlight shines on your area is to decide what plants are pleasing to your sensibility.   Ideally your new garden spot will boast a combo of ANNUALS, plants that flower all season, EVERGREENS, plants that live on through the year, and PERRENIALS, plants that will make a big show later this spring or summer, die back in winter, and then come back again next spring.  How you mix it up is personal preference,  limited only by your budget and each plant’s own light and space requirements.  Also in the mix can be deciduous shrubs or trees, those that drop their leaves in the fall or winter and bud out again when it warms up.  Bare branches provide interesting structure to a fall/winter garden, and many deciduous trees and woody shrubs bloom before anything else in the late winter/early spring, leafing out afterwards.

MATERIALS:  Amend your soil with organic matter, like mushroom compost, instead of relying on chemical fertilizers later on.  Fill your containers with pre-fertilized potting soil if you’re new to the soil-amendment game,  or simply add compost to bagged topsoil and add your own slow-release fertilizer as you plant.  You’ll also need mulch to top-dress your in-ground bed to keep weeds down and help hold moisture in the soil.  Pine straw is cheapest, but shredded hardwood mulch shows off your plants better, is easier to weed in, and breaks down into the soil over time.  And do you have a decent hose with a spray nozzle or a watering can?  Make your water source easily accessible, and make sure the water stream coming forth from the hose gives a rain-like gentle spray on the new plantings.

CONTAINERS:  By all means use what you already have!  As long as the pot has a hole in the bottom, it is suitable.  Water has to be able to drain out or the plants will drown.  If you have a pretty ceramic planter, with no hole in the bottom,  you can set a potted plant down in it, but make sure you are able to lift the potted plant out of this decorative planter when it’s time to water.  You’re also going to need rocks or pottery shards in the bottom of your container so that the drainage hole doesn’t get stopped up.  Old, cracked, or broken terra cotta pottery is perfect for this, or you can invest in a bag of river pebbles.

DÉCOR/FURNITURE:  Anything made of metal or concrete can serve as a decorative focal point along with pretty containers.   And if you like to gaze upon your garden spot, add a couple of chairs and something to serve as a table and you’ve got a sitting area. 

Where to shop?  Shop local if you want to buy more than a shovel or some retaining wall building blocks.  Locally-owned, independent nurseries are the way to go for many reasons, the foremost being to join the community support group of fellow gardeners….and you belong !  Personally, I am loyal to no one garden center.  I have discovered that each nursery offers a different area of expertise.  I shop everywhere, but keep coming back to these four here in town:  Cooper’s Nursery on Parklane offers a huge selection of shrubs and trees;   Mill Creek Greenhouses has unique perennials and native species;  Southern Vistas  boasts architectural salvage and natural stone perfect for pavers;  Forest Lake Garden Center on Trenholm at Forest carries an abundance of bedding annuals throughout the entire season.   Each nursery features  informative gardeners ready to offer suggestions and answer your questions.

 Sure you’ll pay 10% more than in the big box chain stores, but you’ll gain boatloads of gardening know-how if you care to ask questions.   Your relationship with a nursery can last years and be a true information source.

Ask your gardener friends where they shop.  Get the name of the owner or an employee so you can connect on your first visit.  No gardener friends?  Look in the yellow pages as many established nurseries feel no need for websites or facebook pages.  Go somewhere close to your home or work so it’s convenient.  Don’t be afraid to admit your beginner status!  Folks who work with plants are an easy-going bunch and LOVE to share their knowledge.  Yet beware:  there is no such thing as a plant guarantee once your purchase is in the ground or container.  The nursery can, however, help you figure out why if there is plant death or disease….another bonus of shopping local.

Now you are armed with your list and can shop with confidence.   Check out several places if you don’t see what you like at your first stop, or if you feel you’re not getting the attention you need.  Be patient, be kind, and be ready to talk shop—-or at least open your ears!

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