flower gardenWe are coming into planting season and one gets the itch to go and buy new plants. I can’t believe that Home Depot is selling Lemon Trees- really?  If one has a greenhouse, one can grow them in Northern Nevada, but don’t get sucked in. Citrus dies with frost. The big box stores are not experts on gardening in Northern Nevada.  If you are knowledgeable about the plants you are spending your money on, buy them anywhere you find them if they are healthy and are at a good price.  If not, go to a real nursery and seek their knowledge.  Pay a bit more, but buy the ones best suited to your home, the environment, your ability to keep them up and ask questions about how to plant them.  It’s worth the extra money paid up front.

So, getting into my pet peeve about landscaping- don’t plant a plant- shrub or tree in a wrong place……read the plant label about the future growth of the plant before you plant it and don’t plant it unless there is room for it to grow at least to 3/4’s size in the given space. Why feed, water and enjoy it, only to have it sheered off or cut down because it was in the wrong place.  If you are not sure, ask the nurseryman or woman- pay a bit more at a nursery for their expertise or do your homework before buying at a box store. Plants are an investment. Your time is an investment and water is an investment.  Planted in the wrong place, they will become a detriment and will have to be removed or become an unsightly problem.  I inherited a lovely weeping spruce in a 2X2 space next to the driveway.  It is putting on new growth and is happy, but it is already crowding the driveway and walkway. I am not sure if I can transplant it and am not sure if I have space for it somewhere else in my garden.  And there is a nice weeping cherry tree off the front walkway, that will surely outgrow its space. It is already spilling its branches up to the walk. In another couple of years it will outgrow its space or I can continue to trim it up and disconfigure it to keep it in bounds or cut it down; don’t think it is transplantable. Plants are like children, cute when they are young but unwieldily as they grow and you are stuck with them forever….

I am a big fan of perennials, especially in small garden areas.  What are perennials?  These are classified as plants that die down to the ground in the winter and sprout their new growth from the roots in spring and flower in spring to summer and fall.  Examples are coneflower, catmint, coreopsis, hardy geranium, hardy dianthus, iberis (snow in the summer), valerian, shasta daisies, hosta, coral bells, phlox of many kinds……there are too many to list. Because they die back every year, they are somewhat contained and you can plant with abandon. Some reseed and put out seeds that will grow new babies around your garden. Some will send out runners from their roots and grow new plants.  If you see the plant growing outside of your boundaries you can easily dig it out and give cuttings to a friend or just toss them.

Shrubs are plants that sprout new growth from existing branches.  Some are small like lavender but some can grow large like sand cherry and purple plum.  They can be evergreen like boxwood, yew and holly or deciduous like dogwood, Russian Sage, lavender, lilacs and roses. Most produce lovely flowers and one should prune them after they flower. Their size can be contained without harm to the natural growth of the plant, unlike trees.  Junipers of all kinds fall into this category, but they are not easy to prune without giving unnatural shapes to them. It is best to plan a large space for junipers to ramble and grow without pruning.  Mugo pines are not shrubs, they are trees in the respect that they will become very large and pruning is not a way to control their growth. When you cut off a branch of an evergreen pine, spruce or juniper or sheer it it will never grow back and fill out like a deciduous plant.  Don’t plant these unless you give them space to grow naturally. Less is more with shrubs. If you have large areas to cover shrubs are your answer. If you have small spaces, perennials will give you the most color with maybe a few shrubs interspersed.

Most important….the soil in which you are going to plant the plants. If it takes a jack hammer to dig the hole for the plant, it is probably not the best environment to expect the plant to grow in. When you buy a plant from a nursery, it has been raised in a very comfortable environment that has encouraged its root development- a nice loamy soil or a very nice open one that allows it to expand its root development. Now you are going to shove it into a hole dug into hard ground that you can hardly dig into; it doesn’t accept water and when it does it keeps it with no drainage….not the best place to put your investment in. After all the dreaming of what the plant will produce it will only be as good as the soil and light in which  it has been planted.  If it needs sun, plant it in a sunny place.  If it needs shade, don’t plant it in a sunny place, certainly not one that gets west and south sun. Early morning sun is probably fine. If the label says part sun, plant it only on an east or north facing place. Our sun is very bright, so a little goes a long way.

Back to the soil thing….many plants will thrive within the natural ground around them, but you must create a nice environment for them to get them started. If you have very sandy soil it will not hold water and you should add compost/humus that will hold water around the plant and make sure that you water it everyday.  If you have clay/hard packed soil,  best is to remove some of the clay and add compost, mix the compost with the clay, chop it up and mix it like you are making a pie crust or if you can’t relate to that, just keep shoveling and chopping until the hard clay is broken down to 1 inch chunks or less and mixed in with the compost to make a lighter mixture. You can do this for a single plant or can do this for a whole planting bed for perennials. Use a rototiller if it is a large area. Clay soil holds a lot of nutrients for plants but the molecules are small and sticky; they hold a lot of moisture when wet, sometimes too much and when they are dry they are like cement. Introducing compost in the way of well rotted horse or steer compost, peat moss or bought compost breaks up the stickiness of the clay and allows air in to allow the nutrients to nourish the plant roots and give needed air to plant roots.  Too much moisture in clay soil is like planting a plant in a plastic bag.  For planting trees, research from Cooperative Extension says that going the extra mile to add compost to the soil  is not necessary and could be detrimental to their growth, but for shrubs and especially for perennials I  strongly suggest preparing the soil before planting.  You don’t have to fertilize if you prepare the soil. Make sure the plants are kept moist; as moist as a rung out sponge.  Stick your finger in the soil to check it.  Over watering is worst than under watering. Look at your plants everyday.  If the leaves look droopy, the plant probably needs water, but if the soil is waterlogged, the same can result can be seen We will be coming into the hot season, so watering every two days will be fine to get them established. If you live in a place with sandy soil, you should water every day. If you plant your plants in compost and humus, no fertilizer is necessary.  If you want to give them a small dose of watered down fertilizer a couple of times during the growing season that is fine.

I have a special challenge of having moved into a really nice property where everything is covered in rock with landscape cloth or weed cloth underneath. Wanting to plant some new plants I must move the rocks aside; no small challenge and then cut the weed cloth out. What I find underneath all that is nasty soil, so it takes a lot of work to clear it all out and supplement the soil for a 1 gallon plant. Seems a lot of work, but will be worth it.  Mostly, I have fallen in love with planting in pots. Beware of a ground cover of plastic sheeting underneath rocks or bark-it keeps weeds at bay but also will constrict the growth of all plants.

I have been harvesting snap peas that I planted in early March and they are so sweet. The chickens dug up the beets. It’s not too late to plant all the sun loving veggies like summer squash- zucchini and yellow crookneck, peppers of many kinds, winter squash and herbs like basil and rosemary. When it comes to tomatoes, buy the ones who have days of harvest of less than 80 days. Don’t waste your time now on melons, unless you just want to see what happens.  Don’t waste your time on  corn unless you have a really large plot to devote to it. Corn requires a lot of water and the yield is small within a given space. Plant herbs with abandon but be careful of oregano and mint as they are perennials and might take over your garden. Plant beans now- green beans, yellow beans and red ones that turn green when cooked. Take care to to decide if you want climbing beans or bush beans and plan for their growth. Plant pumpkins and winter squash of all kinds now.

Happy planting to all.

Jill

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