Late Winter has turned into early Spring and it’s time to get all the little gardening preparation chores done in order to have the easiest job ahead of you in obtaining the beautiful yard you desire this summer. After consulting my library, I’ve identified ninety-three little things that will lead to the easiest and best preparation for a beautiful and green year for you and your yard. I’ve divided them into seven categories for you and linked to the other posts in this series:
If you’d like more information, I’ve added links to as many of the plant names and terms as I could, so that should help. I also want to thank the authors of the following books which helped me put these items together:
Month by Month Gardening in Georgia by Walter Reeves & Erica Glasener
Taylor’s Guide to Gardening in the South edited by Rita Buchanan and Roger Holmes
Backyard Secrets of Garden Experts by Leslie Garisto
Ready? Let’s get started gardening!
- Now’s a good time to double check your gardening glove supply. If you don’t have a good set of heavy and light gloves for your gardening, go find some. Your hands and forearms will thank you before the month is over.
- Remember that yard survey I suggested you do last month? Well, it’s time to pull it out (or more than likely, do it for the first time (says the king of procrastinators to his understudy) and make an index card for each bed you intend on working on. You’ll want to draw the shape of each bed and make an estimate of the square footage of the bed. You Millennials, in case you don’t know what an “index card” is, yes, there’s an app for that. I use Notability from the App Store which allows you to write, type, AND draw sketches all on the same document. No, I don’t know but guess there should be an Android equivalent. Get out your compass again and make the best guess of how much sunshine the bed gets and if parts of the bed will be shadier than other parts. Now, note what colors and specific flowers you have in mind to get the look you are thinking of.
- Plan your color with the light your gardening beds will be receiving. You’ll want to plant enough annuals of one color to draw the eye to that spot. For instance, white flowers lighten a shady bed. But in bright sunshine brilliant red, orange, or yellow flowers are needed to compete with the existing light.
- Plan different patches of color in different areas of your yard. One bed of Black-eyed Susans are attractive, but if every one of your beds is all Black-eyed Susans, it gets pretty ho-hum.
- In most yards, there are at least two and mostly three points of view you need to plan for. First, the view from your kitchen window. Next time you go to the kitchen window, think about what kind of a point of interest fits in that spot to pull you and your visitors’ eyes to that spot. Next, the view from your back patio, porch, or deck. Same thing. I tend to be in the sit-down position and have a cold beverage (Coke will work, but I prefer Sam Adams) and think about where the sight lines are from your various chairs and benches. Note those on your backyard sketch as well. You’ll want interesting focus points at most if not all of these spots. Third, walk around to the street and see what points in your backyard are visible from the street. The goal is to make the passerby or occasional jogger slow down to wonder as he/ she glimpses on the go.
- If you have or plan to add, a long gardening bed, try to make it irregular or oval or with a flowing edge (designed so your lawnmower can easily pick up the grass along the curves). Don’t plant it in a single color (see boring above). Adjoining mounds of different heights and colors give your long bed more interest and ultimately a great talking point for the nickel tours of your work this summer.
- Try to combine annuals and perennials to give color interest all through the growing season. Very little is more satisfying than seeing a new round of blooms replace an earlier round of blooms, especially if they are a new plant type. Also, think about deer. If you have deer nearby, you don’t want to attract them to your plants. (Hosta in my yard is better known as deer salad)
- REMEMBER THE WILDLIFE! Go back to your plan and think out how this is going to look to Butterflies or Hummingbirds. Are there fruit-bearing plants in your gardening design that the birds will like? How about nesting bushes and shrubs? Now’s the time to think of all this.
- Butterflies need different plants for the different life stages of the insect. Your plan should have plants that feed the caterpillars as well as plants whose flowers attract butterflies. Caterpillar feeding plants include Parsley, Dill, Fennel, Milkweed, Clover, Aster, Snapdragon, and Sunflower. Butterfly attracting plants include Lantana, Butterfly Weed, Pentas, Impatiens, Cosmos, Salvia, Petunia, Coreopsis, Snapdragon, Marigold, Tithonia, Aster, and Black-eyed Susan.
- Plan for a source of water for the Butterflies if you don’t already have it. Butterflies won’t drink from large, open water areas, but wet sand or mud provides excellent watering holes. A saucer designed to fit under a clay or plastic pot makes a good container. Fill it up completely with sand and make some depressions in it your fingers, where water can accumulate. Now, add a couple of pebbles for the Butterflies to rest on in the area that will get the most sun. It’s this kind of mini-garden design that marks the true pro!
- Speaking of pot saucers, to keep mosquitos down, it’s a great idea to add sand to wick up the overflow from watering your pots so as not to give mosquitos places to breed. Double duty! See how much time you’re saving?
- Now that spring bulbs are starting to bloom, it’s time to plan ahead for the bulbs you would like to have to bloom in summer and fall. Mind you, summer bulbs like Caladiums may be available in the stores, but you shouldn’t plant them until the soil temperature is at least 60 degrees and the last frost threat is over. These temperatures in North and Middle Georgia shouldn’t be reached until April or May.
- Start Tomato seeds indoors. You’ll need six weeks to grow strong plants so they will be ready just in time to plant outdoors when the soil has warmed up. Use peat pots filled with sterile potting soil. Plant two or three seeds per pot. When the seeds have sprouted and grown 2 inches, pick out the weakest ones, leaving the strongest plant to thrive.
- Why, you may ask, grow tomatoes from seeds when just buying plants at the local nursery are much easier than growing seeds? Other than self-abuse, (50 Shades of Tomatoes), you might want to try out different varieties of Heirloom Tomatoes that you’ve learned about or gotten in seed form from friends. There is an entire post coming up on Heirloom Tomatoes, but they can be much more flavorful than what you get from the store.
- Orchids are known as a fussy indoor plant, but they can thrive with conditions similar to those required by the African Violet. They need bright, indirect light, and. Temperatures comfortable for humans. If you can provide this, you may want to try your hand.
- Don’t depend on the calendar to determine when to plant grass or apply a weed preventer. The timing of many yard tasks is best determined by the temperature of the soil. For example, Fescue or Rye seed germinates when the soil temperature is above 55° F. Bermuda grass, Centipede grass seed germinates best when the soil temperature is above 70°. Crabgrass seed germinates when the soil temperatures are above 55° for seven days in a row. Chickweed seed germinates when the soil temperature is 70° and declining.
- If a clump of soil holds together but crumbles easily, it is dry enough that you can begin planting hardy perennials.
- Climbing and trailing roses can surprise you with their appetite for space. Study the label that comes with a new rose and space it accordingly.
- Plant roses at least 30 inches from a building. Otherwise, they will lean outward and lower branches will become bare.
- Plant roses at least 4 feet from other large plants. Roses are heavy feeders and will compete with their neighbors for nourishment.
When you’re ready, you can follow this link over to the next section, PLANTING