1. Location, Location, Location…
First and foremost, plant what you know will thrive in the environment around your home. For example, I purchased a very small but beautiful blue hydrangea for an empty spot along the walkway to my front door. I knew that particular spot didn’t receive sun until late in the day, but I figured if I watered, fertilized and nurtured it, I could make it grow. After all, I wanted to share my beautiful hydrangea’s beauty with everyone that drove by my home. I finally conceded after about a year and transferred it to a location in the backyard that received full morning sun and afternoon shade. It immediately began to grow and quadrupled in size in two months. In a couple of weeks there will be big beautiful flowers to enjoy.
2. Prepare the Soil
It’s always important to mix your soil with an equal amount of organic compost. In addition, if you have a particularly moist area where you’d like to plant, adequately prepare the area by spreading a 4-inch layer of gravel under the location of the garden for appropriate drainage.
3. Label your Flowers
It’s inevitable. Each year you plant lots of flowers. Some annuals, some perennials and you end up “picking weeds” that just need to go. However, you soon realize (maybe we’re talking about me here) that your perennials aren’t coming back the following season. That’s because it’s easy to mix-up a weed that has sprouted along with a flower you planted the previous year. For a simple solution, label your plants with the nursery tags your plant comes with. If they’ve already found their way to recycling, label a popsicle stick and sink it into the ground next to the appropriate plant while they’re still fresh in your mind. This will save you time and money the following year.
4. Don’t Over Water
While watering newly planted flowers is important, don’t over water once they’ve been established. Over watering drowns plants roots and can cause them to rot. Invest in an irrigation system with a “smart” controller, meaning that it automatically adjusts watering levels based on historical data and moisture sensors, says Rebecca Sweet, who designs gardens in the California bay area. If you prefer not to invest in a system, Sweet suggests planting an “indicator plant”—one that wilts much more quickly than the others—such as a hydrangea or lettuce. “One look at them on a hot day will tell you whether or not you need to water your plants,” says Sweet.
5. Be Careful of Invasive Plants
When planting a variety of beautiful plants, look for words like prolific reseeder and vigorous growth which often indicate invasive tendencies. This type of plant will spread and entangle anything surrounding it. Invasive plants are usually good in pots or to cover a large area. For example, my front yard has a large tree which provides a lot of shade but has exposed roots underneath which aren’t very pretty. It’s located by my driveway and not much can be grown in the surrounding area. I chose to plant Lantana in this area as it requires little water, shade and not much soil but provides an abundance of color and coverage.
6. Don’t Forget about the Wildlife
Unless your home is completely surrounded by a fence, don’t forget about the wildlife that lurks. When we had our pool installed we transplanted at least 30 bulbs from our fenced backyard to our mulch beds along the front of the house. After spending days transplanting the bulbs we were excited to see them bloom about three months later. However, the deer ate all but two within days of them blooming.
7. Don’t overdo the Pesticide
If you have an area of grass that you’d like to use as your garden, don’t kill the grass with pesticide because the chemicals remain in the ground for years and nothing will grow. What you can do is pour an earth-friendly mix of equal parts hot water and vinegar over the selected area once a day for a few days until the offending area turns brown. The vinegar will kill the leaves and most of the plants’ roots, making it easy to pull up the grass.
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