Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
November, 2006
Regional Report

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Without good design and planning, a landscape can become a cluttered collection of plants, as in this photo.

Plan Before You Plant

Fall and winter are the best planting seasons of the year in the south. Perhaps you are installing a new landscape or maybe you would like to do some renovations on your existing landscape. The sooner you make the changes, the longer the plants will have to become established and ready for next summer's heat.

Unfortunately, most landscape changes are made with little planning. We see a plant we like and purchase it without knowing where it will go in the landscape or how it will fit into the overall plan. I know the appeal of those "gotta have" plants. Such impulse purchases are the prime cause of the "postage stamp" beds that appear in spring like small islands along the driveway or out in the lawn. They can become maintenance headaches and often fail to give the aesthetic effect we had hoped for. With just a little time spent creating a plan first, you'll find your money will go further and you'll be much happier with the end result of your time and labor.

Find Examples You Like
Take time to drive through neighborhoods and see what you like in the way of design styles and plants. Peruse gardening magazines and books for ideas. Draw out your homescape on paper, sketching where beds should go. Remember that gradual curves are more attractive and easier to maintain.

Be Selective
Decide which plants you want to include and feature in the plan. Think through the four seasons and what is blooming or otherwise colorful, especially in the summer and winter months. Consider the ultimate size of each plant. You don't want to spend your weekends shearing that shrub that insists on growing up above the window to maintain your view, or have one plant overtake a less vigorous neighbor.

Make sure plants are where they want to be. That means they are suited to your zone, soil, and microclimate. But it also means deciding whether to locate them in sun or shade, in moist or dry areas, and perhaps protected from wind or blasts of cold air. We can find ways to cheat a bit on the zones and amend the soil to accommodate some plants, but this may mean more work and a plant that doesn't perform up to expectations.

Prepare the soil before you plant. Composted organic matter is one of the best secrets of success, along with raised beds to insure optimum soil drainage. Site preparation cannot be overemphasized. By the time you have put a plant in the ground, you are already two thirds of the way toward success or failure with that plant. Spend a little time and money on soil prep to save a lot of time and money down the line.

Planting season is upon us. Take a little time to plan before you plant and reap the rewards for years to come.

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