Take the Right Steps for a Colorful Garden

After this long, snowy winter you might be tempted to race out to your favorite garden store in search of annuals and perennials as soon as you feel the early springtime sun on your face. But since hard freezes in the mid-Atlantic region can pop up until the end of April we encourage you to wait until May, and focus now on planning to get your garden just right. Here are some tips.

Survey your soil. If you dig up the mulch you put down last year you might find the soil underneath to be clumpy, moldy or shallow, or riddled with sand or clay. In that case it’ll be smart to add high-quality topsoil that’s loose, dark and full of the nutrients that will give your plants a healthy start.

Take stock of your sun and shade: Survey your yard for different zones of sun, and choose annuals and perennials that will thrive in each area.

Areas that are sunny for several hours a day are good for begonias, Angelonia, celosia, marigolds, and zinnias, all of which tend to stay healthy and colorful throughout the spring, summer and early fall.

Impatiens, petunias, lobelia, and most begonias will do well in areas with a mix of sun and shade.

Geraniums, fuchsia, and New Guinea impatiens, tend to do just fine in shady areas.

Consider the right trees and bushes. While maple trees tend to do better when planted in the fall, dogwood, willow, magnolias and fruit trees should be planted in the spring so they have several months to become well established. Most shrubs can also be planted in the spring as long as you do so in areas that are completely free of frost and in soil that isn’t too wet.

One way to know if the soil is right, according to Tim Johnson at The Chicago Tribune is to make a ball of soil in your palm. If the soil breaks apart easily when you press it with your thumb it’s suitable for planting. If it still sticks together it needs more time to dry out before you plant.

You should also consider how much space you have. Some shrubs, such as boxwoods, mini butterfly bushes, hawthorne, and Japanese holly don’t grow very tall. Others, such as oak leaf hydrangea and mountain laurel, can reach heights of more than six feet. So it’s a good idea to consult a garden professional to find the right mix for your space.

And if you’re yearning for bright early spring colors, consider forsythia, azaleas, witch hazel, andromeda and flowering quince. If you plant them now under the right conditions, they’ll fill your garden with vibrant blooms this time next year.

Protect your investment by watering correctly. As you’ll see from this post (link to that post), you need to recognize that different plants have different watering needs.

Those annuals are going to get the best start if you water them every day, unless you experience full days of rain. Aim for about a minute of watering for each plant.

Your perennials should also be watered for at least a minute per plant every 3 days.

Water your trees every five days, with 10 minutes of water for each tree. Water your shrubs every 5 days, allotting 5 minutes for each shrub, with the exception of hydrangea and spirea, which should be watered every 3 days.

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