Sunday, February 5, 2012

Selecting the Right Site, Preparing it Well, Planting it Wisely

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM.
Here is a recent post written by Paul that talks well about how to plan a garden and landscape concept. Then once the concept is planned how to execute that plan! This is a great post to think about this time of year and then this post can serve as a reference once the gardening season begins!:

"Let's use the winter months wisely this year to make our gardens of 2012 the ones to remember. The garden that is prepared properly will produce plants that will develop better, perform better, thrive and because of this these plants will be more resistant to insects and disease problems. If you want your plants to reward you for your efforts, let's take a few minutes and talk about the "basics" that we sometimes forget all about the sun, the soil and the care.

When you look to purchase a new home I know you have heard this phrase; " Location, Location, Location." This is the first step when planning your garden, because the specially chosen plants you want to grow in your yard will need specific growing conditions. Look around your property and pick the right location first. Sunshine, or should I say the intensity and duration of the sunshine, is the first and most important factor to consider for a specific type of garden.

Stand in the middle of your yard and say to yourself the following: "southern exposure is the best place to grow a garden; next best is eastern exposure with morning sunshine, western exposure with late in the day sun and last--but not least--is a northern exposure for the shade garden."

Now break down the yard again into two main areas. The front of the house--this is your formal area for the public view and for you to show off what you can do in the garden--your "bragging rights." The back of the house is your private area, a working area and a place for all to enjoy your property, even a place to hang out the laundry so the neighbors don't see your underwear drying in the sunshine.

When you design your home landscaping, you will want to scatter color for all seasons in front of the house because your yard is seen all year. The back yard is enjoyed from May to October by you and your family and you should concentrate on plants that give you enjoyment while you're there to enjoy it. If you're not sitting on your deck during April, why plant azaleas that are in bloom at that time there? Save the space for hydrangeas (for example) that will flower July, August and September when you're there to enjoy your back yard deck.

This winter, make a plan of your property, take pictures of what is there, and visit your local nursery or garden center for advice to improve what you currently have in place. I'm not saying start over--what I want you to do is ask for help to improve what you currently have. If you want to make your yard kid friendly, if you want to install a waterfall and fish pond, if you just want a garden to enjoy while you're outside enjoying the summer. Tell the person whether you like gardening and would enjoy working in one or whether you'd rather plant it and forget it.

Many nurseries can make suggestions to help you out with a quick plan of your yard or, for a few dollars, they can design a full-scale plan for the entire property. If you're going to do it yourself, do it in sections--one garden area at a time--so you can enjoy your work in the yard. Alternatively, you can hire someone to do it for you--and in a short time, your gardens are all in place. Start with a plan, visit the nursery and look at the plants suggested for your yard and ask your gardening friends about these plants, even show them your plan for their feedback. Your gardening friends know you and how you enjoy your yard and I'm sure they will be happy to give you suggestions or recommendation to improve on the current plan to fit your needs better.

One last thing before having your yard landscaped and very important, always go to the nursery to select and tag the plants to be used in your yard. Tag the trees to be used, as you know what type of character you would enjoy from that plant. You're part of this design and you should have the right to select the plants to be used in your garden.

Soil preparation is also very important and make sure you condition the soil before planting. Soil additives like compost, animal manure or even digging an oversize hole and back filling with extra top soil or loam can make a big difference in the development of your plants. If your soil is sandy, stony or heavy clay without proper conditioning, your plants will not perform properly once installed in your yard without lots of extra help from you during the year.

When the plants arrive, be home to examine the plants before they are planted. Have the landscaper set up the planting to your liking before they plant. Be there and stay involved during the planting because some time looking out the kitchen window a plant will not do what you want it to unless it is moved just a couple feet over to the right or left that may not be noticeable on your plan. Work with the Forman and his helpers but don't become a pest!

Ask for their suggestions while they plant, as they have the experience and they want you to be happy with their work. You never know what you will find while planting and it may be necessary to move things around a bit or even bring in extra top soil and plant on a raised mound to do the job right. This is an investment in your home--just like a rug or couch in the living room--so be happy before it's all planted and the landscape people have left.

When you select a plant, find out how to care for it and what you can expect from that plant's performance in your yard. Make sure before the landscape crew leaves that you walk the property with them and they answer all your questions about the plants and their care. If you should see a problem developing, don't wait. Call the nursery that did the planting or where you purchased the plant that you planted.

Try to purchase plants that will do several things for you, like spring flowers with and fall fruit, summer flowers with fall colored foliage, a thick-growing privacy hedge with unusual winter character. If your town is always on water restrictions during the summer months, how about plants that require less watering or plants that will grow well in wet areas and help to drink up the extra surface water. If you live on a corner lot, how about selecting a fast growing plant to create a privacy hedge and control the road noise at the same time. Something that is hard to find in nature is a plant that flowers and is fragrant at the same time.

Think seasons of the year and what these plants have to offer you each season, think of the maintenance required by you during the year, and the benefits of the plants to your living space. Do your research first, then ask questions, ask more questions, and only then plan your living area outside when you know the benefits of each plant. Remember my motto: "There are no dumb garden questions!!!" Enjoy.

Thanks to Paul Parent!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
February 5, 2012

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