Getting started, choice perennials and a to-do list
No doubt about it, spring has sprung. The chill is gone, and the grass is growing! It’s even warm enough to get the seedlings out into the garden. Whether you are a newbie to gardening or have two green thumbs, there is always plenty to do and say about gardening.
Not quite ready to rototill? This blog will get you inspired to pull on your gardening gloves and start digging in. Let’s get growing!
Gardening tips for beginners
If you are not so much a gardener as an observer, knowing how to get going is often the hardest part. Following are a few tips to keep in mind should you be looking to turn over a new leaf and get into the gardening game:
- Location, location, location! Just like with real estate, you need to think about where you want to be and do a little research. If you’re lucky enough to have a nice-sized yard, hopefully, you can find a spot that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight a day, preferably that early morning kind. Next, take a shovel and check out the soil. If it is full of rocks and roots, you’ll want to keep looking. Of course, raised beds and containers are an option if you’d prefer to stay where you are. It’s also a good idea to stay close to a water source.
- Begin with good soil: Nutrient-rich soil that drains well will lead to success. Muddy, rocky or clay-filled soil will need some work, but with the right mix of compost, sand, mulch, seaweed and other options, things will improve. It might be an idea to take a sample to your local garden centre and get some advice.
- Start small: You know how sometimes your eyes are bigger than your stomach when it comes to food? Same with gardening. The bigger the garden, the greater the yield and, well, the greater the work. While the thought of freezing 20 pounds of tomatoes might be appealing, think about the weeds that will also come your way.
- Choose the right plants and learn your frost dates: Again, asking your local growers what works for them and is well suited to this climate will save you time and effort. While artichokes and almond trees aren’t a possibility around here, plenty of good West Coast options are available. But make sure you know your frost dates because there is nothing more disappointing to see your efforts shrivelled up due to an unexpected cold snap.
5 Perennials suited for the West Coast
Most of us want a nice-looking yard – and the less work involved, the better! These perennials are not only easy to grow but also suited for the West Coast. Pop ’em in this spring and you’re good to go for many years to come!
- Shasta daisy: This happy flower features a sunny yellow centre surrounded by white petals. It looks pretty and bright in the garden, attracts butterflies and is a great cut flower to add some cheer to your home. It prefers full sun or part shade and well-drained soil; shastas will grow up to three feet tall and a foot wide.
- Daffodils and tulips: Looking for variety? Daffs and tulips come in an array of colours and size varieties. These beauties look great outside at the start of spring and can also be cut and brought into the home for a week or so. Full sun and moist, well-drained soil make them happiest, but they are adaptable to less-than-ideal conditions.
- Lupine: Known for its upright spires of flowers, lupine adds an architectural look to the garden. Often seen in shades of purple and blue, you can also find them in pinks, reds, oranges, yellows and white – something for every yard. Their preferred growing conditions include moderately fertile, light, slightly acidic soil in full sun or partial sun. They can reach up to three feet tall and a foot wide.
- Sword ferns: These plants are perfect for a shade garden; arching fronds add interesting architectural impact and unique texture to any yard. Evergreen, the rich colour shows all year long. Plant in fertile, rich, well-drained soil; and shady conditions. They can reach three feet in diameter.
- Hosta plants: Another lush foliage that is ideal for a low-maintenance garden. Touted as shade lovers, they do have a need for some sun, but it depends on the colour of their leaves. A general rule is the lighter the foliage, the brighter the sun. The darker foliage retains colour best in moderate shade, while variegated varieties need more sunlight to keep their stripes. That said, all hostas need some shade as few, if any, thrive in strong, direct sun. They fully mature in four to eight years and can grow to three feet in diameter.
May gardening to-do list
May is when the action really starts to crank up. Here are some things that need to happen, both in the yard and in the garden:
In the Yard:
- Fertilize azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias after they bloom with something appropriate for acid-loving plants.
- Feed your roses with fertilizer and watch for fungus or disease.
- Transplant trees and shrubs before any hot weather hits and keep them well watered.
- Prune back any damage from winter.
- Apply mulch to shrubs with shallow roots (such as camellias and azaleas) as protection from coming heat and weeds.
- Let foliage from spring bulbs die back naturally on its own (cutting it back can risk the health of next year’s flowers). But deadhead perennials and bulbs throughout the blooming season.
- Fertilize bulbs after blooming.
- Plant perennials before the heat of summer and keep the water constant through the season.
- For the lawn, set mower blades at two to three inches; mow often but don’t cut more than half the blade at a time.
In the Garden:
- Start enjoying the cool-season vegetables (such as spinach, carrots, and lettuce) that you planted in March or get them in again.
- Direct sow the seeds of your other annuals when night temperatures reach 9 Celsius regularly.
- Harden off members of the nightshade (peppers, tomatoes, eggplant) family. Once nighttime temperatures stay reliably above about 9 Celsius, plant them outdoors.
- Plant successive crops of veggies every few weeks to extend your harvest.
- Control weeds to reduce competition for water and nutrients. Add mulch to keep things wetter as the heat turns up.
Inspired (or maybe a bit tired) thinking about it? Whatever you get up to, enjoy your time outside!