Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
February, 2010
Regional Report

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Planning ahead will create a landscape with year round interest.

Gearing Up For Spring

If your desire is to have a landscape with year round interest, now is a great time to plan ahead. Spring doesn't officially start for several weeks and though the urge to garden can hit during weak moments while visiting a home and garden show, it's the wise gardenerwho plans in advance before purchasing plants or gadgets.

Acting on impulse may not always produce satisfying results. That cute little blue spruce you purchased at the show will have to be moved after several years because it was planted too close to the house. Those so-called bargains and impulsive garden shopping can leave you with a headache, not to mention the bill charged to your credit card. If you're new to the area or you're starting your first garden, here are some tips to help you get started.

Develop a Plan
Consider the overall look of the house and landscape so that it will suit your tastes and lifestyles. Map out your property on graph paper, then sketch in your ideas and those of other family members. This is a good start to creating a master plan that can be followed or changed as needed for many years to come. It's easier to erase mistakes on paper instead of having to remove a tree that was planted in the wrong spot years later.

Check Property Lines and Utilities
Get a surveyor's map of your property and walk the boundaries. Remember that anything you build or plant on your neighbor's property may have to be torn down or dug up in the future. Note the location of underground service lines (buried electrical and telephone lines, water pipes, septic tanks and leach fields, sewer lines and television cables, etc.). This will prevent costly mishaps and serious accidents. Look above you and be aware of power lines and telephone cables. This may interfere with trees and shrubs as they reach mature heights.

Learn About the Climate
Gather some vital statistics about the coldest temperatures you are likely to experience as this will in part determine plant selections for your area. What are the dates of the average last frost in spring and first frost in the fall? These dates will affect how you plan a vegetable and flower garden. Find out annual rainfall, the direction of prevailing winds and if there are microclimates or areas that offer additional protection for plant growth.

What is Your Soil Like?
The soil you have to plant in may need some help from to support plants will grow vigorously and well. Many new homeowners find that the existing topsoil was stripped away and replaced with "contractor's dirt" or that construction equipment has compacted the soil. Without some quality organic amendments, you will be facing a nightmare trying to grow healthy lawns, food gardens, flowers, trees, and shrubs. Invest in good soil amendments, avoiding materials that are full of weed seeds or have a high level of soluble salts. Establish a healthy soil in the beginning since this is the most important thing you can do to ensure vigorous, healthy plants.

Remember that it is a wise gardener who has the common sense to plan ahead and schedule landscape projects within a budget. Don't get caught in a trap and get a major headache, but plan an overall landscape that you will have time to care for and enjoy.

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