Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
March, 2007
Regional Report

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Planning your landscape beds before you plant can help you create the end results you desire.

Planning a Beautiful Easy-Care Garden

Spring fever has arrived and we are all enjoying a full-fledged case of the "gottagardenitis." The inspiration to get out there and plant is a wonderful thing, but all this green enthusiasm can lead to some hasty decisions and ill-fated efforts. Here are a few thoughts to help avoid some of the more common landscape mistakes we gardeners often make.

Plant Choices
Now, I am the first to understand the desire to buy great new plants I can't live without. But we just need to recognize that plant collecting and landscaping are two different things. Figure out what you want your landscape to look like, draw out the beds, and decide on the appropriate plants. Then you can do your shopping with much better long-term return on your time and money.

We often make the mistake of sticking plants into a spot that has not been prepared. Spend a dollar on your soil before you spend a dollar on a plant. Most plants really benefit from added organic matter.

Build up raised beds, especially in rainy parts of the south, to protect plants from drowning during extended rainy spells. Eradicate weeds before you plant. It's much easier to destroy weeds before there are plants in the beds. Those notorious invaders like nutsedge, bermudagrass, and Johnsongrass thrive in the new beds you build if you leave them around to enjoy it. Whether you dig or spray, get it done before you plant.

Plant Placement
One of the most common mistakes made in landscaping is to plant shrubs under a window that get too tall and end up hiding the view. This gives you the opportunity to get more practice at shearing than an Australian sheep rancher. There are compact forms of many species, and when a dwarf is not available, another species that is smaller makes a better choice.

Then there is the common mistake of planting shrubs close to a walkway, typically on both sides of the sidewalk. Visitors must get a running start to plunge through the foliage of the living gauntlet lining the path to your door. Or you can just add the letters BYOP to any party invitations (Bring Your Own Pruners). Find out the mature width of a plant. Half that number is the absolute closest you want to plant it next to a walkway.

New gardeners are especially prone to overplanting, but even experienced gardeners can willfully forget. Large expanses of annual color are striking but must be maintained. Perennials may not require replanting but must be maintained if they are to be kept attractive. Vegetable gardens can be manageably small or become quite an expansive project. Think about how much time you'll want to spend out in the garden in July. You can grow a lot of things in a small garden if you plan it right. You'll have less ground to cover when it comes to weeding.

With spring planting season upon us, this is the time to pause and think over what you want your gardens and landscape to be. What design or overall look do you want to achieve? A little time spent planning and preparing will help you get the most benefit out of your gardening dollars and the most satisfaction from your landscape.

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