Get Garden Ready; 10 Steps to Bold Blooms
Its raining again… in June… and it feels like April. Despair not though. Because, if you can see beyond the sheets of rain, you’ll see lush vegetation. Fifty degree temperatures aside, it feels like we’ve tripped to the rain forest. So, your lawn looks like Fenway. Good for you!
Don’t be lulled into complacency though; those yards you admire from afar actually require upkeep. Here are some gardening tips to help you prioritize.
1. Track Sunlight
Gaze into the sun. Or at least pay attention to how long it sets on your planting bed. Knowing how much sunlight your flowering beds get during the day is the largest component of successful gardening. The other factors can be negotiated; this cannot. Check the beds in the morning, again mid-afternoon and early evening to gauge the hour span of sunlight. Most plants are classified as full-sun (6 hours or more), partial sun (3-6 hours) or shade (less than 3hrs).
If you’ve been to a nursery EVER, you’ll notice someone painstakingly watering every plant. Potted plants especially require consistent watering in the warm weather. Previously planted flowers and shrubs are more drought-resistant as they can soak up water and nutrients deep in the soil. However, they still need watering, so if you do not have a sprinkler system, consider laying a soaker hose through your flower bed. Of course, manual sprinklers work just as well, especially in smaller spaces, like beds. You can run them on timers or simply pay your flowers a visit. I have soaker hoses in most beds but always check the soil myself before deciding if its needed or how long to run it. Too much water can be harmful too.
A good rule of thumb (for established growth) is that the larger the root system, the less water it requires. A tree requires less water than a shrub, a shrub less water than a perennial. If you are using soaker hoses or sprinklers, you’ll want to keep this in mind. My hydrangea requires far less water than the coneflowers flanking it.
Plants can survive without it but they won’t thrive. Blooms last longer, are more plentiful, and more vibrant after fertilization. Fertilizing at least twice during the growing season is advised, in spring and mid-summer. If you haven’t done a first treatment yet, you should prioritize it soon. A dry, granular fertilizer can be applied to the entire bed and raked into the soil, or if your beds are already blooming (or beds are crowded as are mine), you can use a liquid fertilizer, one that can be sprayed easily with a hose attachment. This is also a good idea if flowers are stressed and lacking nutrients and need a quick boost, as the release is immediate. Regardless of fertilizer, follow package directions for deciding on volume.
New Plants: When planting new flowers or shrubs, you should add fertilizer into the planting hole. Non-established plants require more coddling.
Aerate your bed by overturning the soil to about a 8″ depth. Its convenient to aerate while fertilizing if possible. Aerating the soil promotes healthy root growth. Its also a good idea to aerate after a lot of rain, to prevent root rot.
5. Zone Defense
Know your planting zone. The country is divided into climate zones which direct which trees, shrubs, and flowers will survive and hopefully thrive in each. If you’re shopping locally, this shouldn’t be a concern. However, if you should order anything online, pay attention to the zone.
6. Sketch a Plan
I am so guilty of the impulsive bloom buy. Thus, I find myself planting and replanting later. Its always a good idea to consider your space first. Consider your area, your sunlight, the moisture level of your soil and what look you might be going for. If you can, get an idea beforehand – looking online or even in your neighborhood. Note what it is you like about the inspiration garden: particular plants and arrangement. Landscape designers often recommend planting in threes, rarely pairs. Think about your color palette as well. Too much color or too many varied plants can be distracting.
7. Source Plants
Once you’ve considered the plants you’re seeking, noted your zone, the hours of sunlight and how moist your soil is, you’re ready to purchase plants for your bed or move plants already on your property. (I move at least two perennials every season due to changes in sunlight or crowding). Be sure to read about the plant before purchasing, specifically – how much sun and water it needs, and how big it will grow (up and out). These will help you determine if the plant is truly a good match for your garden. Maybe you’ve seen the T shirt that reads, “friends don’t let friends buy annuals”. I tend to agree. The majority of any garden should be made of perennials and shrubs. You don’t want to have to replant an entire garden every year. Some annuals can help round out the garden though and planted early enough in the season, can really fill in a space nicely.
Once you’ve planned your garden, the actual planting is quick and easy. Dig a hole big enough for your root ball, but don’t plant too deep. Its always a good idea to water the plant immediately, especially in very warm temperatures. Be sure again to pay attention to how high your plant will grow and how much space it needs around it. If plants are too crowded, they will struggle for soil nutrients and potentially for sunlight.
After you’ve planted, watered, and fertilized, do consider mulching your bed. This helps to keep the soil moist. It also just lends a clean look. A friend has said, “Mulch is like photoshop for the yard” and I couldn’t agree more.
10. Patrol for Pests
Nothing is more frustrating than cultivating gorgeous flowers and then returning to find them,… gone. There are plenty of rodents and bugs that will share in the enjoyment of your flower beds. Be watchful. At the first sign of bugs on my flowers- whether they be ants, beetles, or slugs (after all this rain) -I spray them with an insecticide. I also watch for the family of rabbits that visits often and at the first sign of any pest, I seek out organic solutions. For rabbits, you can sprinkle pet fur or cat litter about (they shy away from the predator scent). There are plenty of solves online for every pesky rodent.
If you follow these simple guidelines, your flowers will return the love. Let us know if you found these tips helpful or have your own to share.