As we finally start to enjoy buying and planting pots and gardens, remember to read those plant tags and take into consideration what you, as the steward of your portion of the world, need to do to do the best by those expensive plants.
Placing a plant in the proper growing climate is the key to success. Always check plant requirements on the plant tag, then make sure you know your property well enough to assign the plant to the appropriate place.
• Full sun: This means the plant needs at least six hours of full sun, not dappled light from overhanging trees. Many flowers and vegetables need this much sun to produce a good crop of blooms or fruit.
• Part sun or part shade: About four hours of full sun or several hours of dappled light. More delicate plants fit into this category, but they still need sun to bloom and thrive.
• Full shade: Less than four hours of sun. These plants, with a few exceptions such as bleeding heart or impatiens, do not boast strong colors.
Steps toward WaterWise gardening
Everyone benefits when you choose to be a WaterWise gardener. You can create beautiful, low-maintenance landscapes with a few simple steps.
— Decrease the size of your lawn – think mulch, flowers, trees, native plants, herbs and even a water garden.
— Get your soil tested — a service from your local county extension office. Then use the fertilizer or amendment ratios recommended.
— Sweep up any fertilizers from driveways, sidewalks, streets and parking lots. If left on paved surfaces, they are destined to wash into our fresh water sources.
— When you must irrigate use a tuna can and egg timer to gauge the rate per minute water is used. Set the empty tuna can (which is about 1-inch deep) in the path of the water, and time how long it takes for the can to fill. Thereafter, set the egg timer, or sprinkler setting, to remind you when to turn off the water. New plants require one inch of water per week for the first year, but once established they should only require additional water during long droughts.
— Use mulch correctly. One to three inches of mulch maintains even moisture and soil temperatures, and as a bonus, cuts down on weeds. Too much mulch might repel water. After it begins to decompose (another bonus that adds organic material and nutrients) add enough mulch to maintain 1-3 inches.
— Stop raking up grass clippings or using a bag on your mower. Clippings are actually beneficial, as they add nutrients as they decompose. You can cut chemical fertilizer by a third.
— Avail yourself of all the free resources when planning and planting your landscape — local garden centers, books using terms like low-maintenance, WaterWise, drought-tolerant or xeriscaping all provide good information. Make use of the free materials from your county extension office too.
Susan Woody has been a home and garden writer for more than 20 years and is a master gardener.