Any time is the right time to to think about your garden. Whether you have a brand new home with bare earth or an older home with an established garden that needs a facelift, get out the seed catalogs and turn dreams into reality. It takes a bit of time and planning, but it's well worth the effort.
Maybe you are trying to find a catchy little scheme to make your yard just right for that a home sale. Perhaps you just want to know what is new. Hopefully, you took note of what you weren't satisfied with last summer. Your plans are more practical when you can still remember that the cucumbers were hit by frost before they were ready for pickles or the tomatoes never ripened because of too much or too little rain.
Assess the successes and failures of last year's garden.
- Did you use what you grew?
- Were the flowers pleasing to the eye?
- Did you have a garden pest problem?
- Do you have a shade problem?
- Are you using your garden space productively?
- Will your plant part of the plot in ground cover or will you plant more flowers for cutting or vegetables for eating?
- If your garden was a burden instead of a joy, maybe it is time to permanently reduce its size.
Whatever you decide, try to be realistic. Decide which plants you truly want to grow, and in what quantity. Lay out your garden on paper and order only what you need to match your plan. If you are interested in perennials, a long-term plan may be what you need. Choose disease resistant strains. Talk to your gardening friends and professional nursery staff about varieties that have worked well for them in your area. Follow the experts' advice when choosing a new variety. Try an all-American winner; each year new ones are selected by a non-profit organization of seedmen.
If you are already an experienced and serious gardener, consider expanding into habitats. With careful planning and planting you can provide different areas that attract butterflies, hummingbirds, or other desirable visitors. "Problem" areas such as marshy ground can be turned into positive features by creating a habitat for wetlands creatures.
Get as much done as you can before planting time arrives. The dormant season is not only for planning. It's for organizing and repairing tools, for preparing staking systems if you use them, for lettering markers to be placed in your garden at planting, for ordering hardware for fencing - a gathering of momentum so you are ready for the joy of placing that first seed in the moist earth. The preparation will reward you with months of enjoyment when your garden flourishes.
Landscaping Questions and Answers
Q: I just moved into a new home and want to work on my landscaping. My yard is full of dirt. On my budget, I will have to do most everything myself and probably over a few years. Where should I start?
A: If you have decided to do much of the work yourself, you need to create a plan locating all the details that will make the difference on how the finished product will meet your needs. Remember that shrubs and trees do grow beyond nursery size. You will need to verify the space required when full-grown so you don't create congestion and overgrowth. Some nurseries offer a planting service if you bring in your photos and plot plans.
It is usually best to do the heavy work like grading, mounding, walls, walks, decks, pavers, and large trees first. Some aspects of the project may need a professional. Obtain competitive bids for these parts of the project.
A sprinkling system, if you choose to have one, should be part of the first step. Next comes your lawn. After the grass has had time to establish itself so you can walk on it to get to your beds, work on your plantings as the money is available. The final touch - plant your smaller shrubs, install edging and add mulch.
Q: When can I cut back the foliage from spring flowering bulbs?
A: The foliage is the food source for your bulbs for strong bulbs next spring. It is best to just take a little string, tie the leaves together in clumps and let them die a natural death. You should also fertilize with something like Holland's Bulb Booster to encourage as much energy as possible to bulb building for next year's growth.
Another tip: remove the flower stems when the flower petals have fallen. Allowing spent flowers to go to seed will only further divert energy needed for strong bulbs.
Q: Are there any annuals that rabbits won't attack?
A: Rabbits usually stay away from wax begonias, geraniums, canna, celosia, cleome, lantana, marigolds, portulaca, salvia, statice and petunias.
Computer image landscaping makes it possible for you to look at a computer screen and see what a flowering shrub will look like in the yard before it is planted. The on-screen show can often be an eye opener before actually spending your money and time in a disappointing finished product.
To add color and fragrance to your garden in most areas of the country try these easy to grow plants that do best in average well-drained soil in full or partial sun: sweet alyssum, sweet peas, nicotiana, petunias, zinnias, snapdragons, stock, dianthus, heliotrope, four o'clock, pansies. Sweet peas, sweet alyssum, and nicotiana are the most fragrant.
Try some stained glass Mosaic stepping-stones to add a unique touch to your garden.
If you are looking for lots of fragrance-free color, try geraniums, impatiens, saliva, or begonias.
Consider ground cover roses to enrich your landscape and reduce maintenance. Produced by hybridizers determined to eliminate the need for chemical pesticides in the garden, ground-cover roses are characterized by low, spreading growth, extreme-cold hardiness and repeat blooms.
One last word: Keep children indoors when you run your power mower. One out of every five lawnmower deaths involves children. Never allow a child to ride on a riding lawn mower. Mow during daylight hours when the grass is dry.