Last week was typical March week, snowy and windy but with sun and 50s over the weekend. For the past month or so every warm and sunny day makes me eager for Spring gardening. I’m Jeanette, Becky’s mom, and six weeks or so ago we talked about me doing a guest post for By The Poole. Becky and I are alike in many ways, we definitely share an organizing gene, but my love of playing in the dirt and making things grow seems to be a mine alone.
I’m not an authority on gardening. Although I have several books on gardening and subscribe to Better Homes and Gardens for the plant section, for the most part I rely on the information on the back of seed packets and the plastic stakes in potted plants. As a matter of fact most of what you need to know to successfully grow a plant is there. Packets and stakes tell you when to plant, how deep, how tall the plant will grow, whether it needs a sunny or shady location, when you can expect it to bloom (or be ready to pick for vegetables), how much water it needs, what kind of soil is best and even a picture of what it will look like.
While I pay attention to that information, I also believe growing plants is a bit like raising children: Try something, if it works do it again, if not do something different and don’t expect the same thing to work for all of them. My brother once bought a house with flowers all around it and decided he didn’t want all of those flowers; another time my husband, Fred, and I had the chance to get a number of plants that were being removed from a construction site . There were no instructions either time, so I just brought them home and put them in the ground, watched to see how they did and later moved the ones that didn’t seem to like where I put them at first. Plants are pretty forgiving if you pay attention and will sort of tell you when something is wrong—plants that need to be in the shade will look burned and droopy in the direct sun and sun lovers get spindly in the shade. I lose a few every now and then but most plants want to grow and make the best of where they are planted even if it’s not ideal.
Before I move on, I should explain the two main kinds of plants. Annuals just grow for one season. Most vegetables and often the most colorful flower are annuals. Annuals are grown from seeds or found in fairly inexpensive trays or flats at garden centers. Perennials can be grown from seed but are more often purchased by the pot or shared by a friend who divides a clump that has grown too big and unless there is a problem they grow from year to year often spreading into larger clumps. I like to have some of each in my garden. I rely on the perennials and bulbs I’ve planted in the past to get my garden started then add annuals a tray or a flat at a time for splashes of color as time permits. A mixture of the two as well as mixing vegetables and flowers can result in a pretty and interesting garden and some plants do double duty. One year I was given some okra someone had started from seeds and while I’m not a fan of okra it had beautiful flowers.
Some of my favorite sun loving annuals are zinnias, marigolds, cosmos, nasturtiums, asters and sunflowers. I always buy a few different kinds of impatiens and begonias for the shady areas. The backbones of my perennials are shade loving hostas in a large variety of leaf colors and patterns, and sun lovers including stella d’oro lilies (these are the yellow lilies you see in the landscaping at many fast food restaurants), black eyed susans, daisies and balloon flowers. I also have some chrysanthemums for fall color.
If, like me, you just can’t wait until it’s really time to plant most things, buy a flat or pot of pansies as soon as you see them in the garden centers and put them by the door you use the most often. They are so cheerful and can stand the cooler temperatures that come, particularly at night, in early spring. Books, blogs, and websites abound to answer your question and help you get started, but nothing beats a walk through a garden center to get you in the gardening mood. Happy gardening!