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Plan Before You Plant

It’s winter, and as you gaze out your picture window, all you see is a 50 square foot patch of bare dirt. After a foray through the top 10 plant catalogues armed with a major credit card and your vivid imagination, that space is crowded with shrubs, bedding plants, bulbs and foliage, all competing for light, water and nutrients. You’ve created a plant riot.

Planning is vital to creating a noteworthy garden, and winter is the best time to sit down with pencil, paper and reference books. A good garden plan can save time, money and heartache.

SET YOUR SIGHTS ON YOUR SITE

Where is your future garden located? Is it visible to the entire neighborhood, or to your eyes only? Does it receive full sun, or is it shaded part of the day? What is the soil type? All of these factors need to be considered during your planning phase, and will help you screen out your plant choices.

DO YOU HAVE A PURPOSE IN MIND?

Your site may also help determine the garden’s purpose. I have two beds within 5 feet of my kitchen door, so they are dedicated to herbs and salad fixings (I can come home from work, pick dinner, go inside and eat.) If your garden is surrounded by a privacy fence, you could consider installing a wildflower plot, or a garden designed with birds and butterflies in mind. These garden styles tend to be unruly, so cloaking them from potentially offended neighbors or homeowners’ association spies is a good idea.

Deciding on a particular theme or purpose for the garden plot further narrows your plant choices.

HOW MUCH MAINTENANCE IS INVOLVED?

If you are a harried homeowner with less than 2 hours a week for yard work, installing an annual bed or vegetable garden is not for you. The time you are willing to devote to maintenance is important in choosing plants; the less you want to work, the more you’ll want to stick with tried, true and dependable plants such as daylilies, hosta, iris, and groundcovers such as ivy or dead nettle.

If, on the other hand, you relish “fussing,” annuals, vegetables, fruit trees or fruiting shrubs (such as raspberries, blackberries or currants), and tea and shrub roses can be added to your landscape. These plants all require routine maintenance including trimming, pruning, weeding, deadheading, and regular pest control.

SIZE, PROPORTION AND BLOOM TIME

A plant’s final size – height and width – are also important factors in choosing plant material. Plant size should be in proportion to the size of the bed and the size of any buildings or fixtures. If you’ve ever seen foundation plants that have overshadowed the home they were supposed to compliment, you’ll know what I mean. Those overgrown arborvitae eventually have to be cut down and dug out, which is backbreaking labor, or expensive if you have to hire a Bobcat. Better to plant with the end result in mind.

Bloom time is your final consideration. You may choose to create a mixture of shrubs, bulbs, perennials and annuals in your bed, which will produce a long period of blooming as each group flowers successively. You may decide that one splash of color, followed by a pleasing palate of green, is more to your liking. Knowing when a plant shows its best side (and what it looks like afterward) can help you choose whether that plant belongs in your yard, or if you’ll maliciously suggest it to your crabbiest neighbor.

Take the time to plan before you plant, and you’ll be rewarded with seasons of color, fragrance, and garden health.

About The Author

Jean Fritz owns a small market farm in east-central Indiana, and publishes a bi-monthly ezine, Leaflets, covering various garden topics. To subscribe, visit the KittyVista website (http://clik.to/kittyvista).

kittyvista@yahoo.com

Jean Fritz