Although spring is one of the most important times for gardeners, it is also one the most
dangerous. Yes there are cautions to be taken! Amongst all the new arrivals, spring blossoms
and all the fabulous commotion in the garden centers, we tend to join the chaos and start
grabbing anything we can get our hands on without even knowing what we are putting in our
carts. The adrenaline is pumping and plants are flying. A tiny mistake now can haunt you for
years if you are not careful. The silver lining is that there are steps to take to ensure smoothe
Step 1: Know your yard!
Taking a look around and getting to know your outdoor space is the most important thing
you can do. Start by drawing a rough sketch of your yard. Label the shade and sun areas as
well as the dry and/or moist areas. Note large trees and structures. This is important because
if you have drainage problems or space issues, then they are going to bear weight on what you
can bring in.
Goutweed spreading out from it's contained bed area. This is also available variegated.
Step 2: Know what you already have.
Make a list of the existing plants in your yard. If you have no idea what is what then perhaps a neighbor can help and/or a plant book from the library. Learning about the plant you have will let you know what may be at its maximum size already or what is not thriving. If your plant is not doing well then it is probably in the wrong spot and should be moved to a more appropriate spot. Plants at their maximum size will need to be divided and spread out: by all means give pieces to your neighbors if need be to lessen your load. Know which plants are really aggressive; they will need to be eradicated BEFORE you plant near or in that space. Last but not least, be aware of any big trees that will naturally have giant water guzzling roots which may make it tough to plant in some areas.
Step 3: Know what you want!
Knowing what you want is actually the key to success. Learn what the plants require and then see if your yard can support it. There is no sense in bringing it home if it isn't going to live. Do not buy shade plants if you can fry an egg on your front walk way and stay away from desert plants if all you have is an irrigated forest. The Most dangerous of all are plants marked, "Natural ground cover", "Great filler", "Will grow anywhere" or with no label at all. Don't get me wrong, every plant has a perfect place, but if you don't have that spot it's best to let sleeping dogs lie.
Taking some time now to do your homework will save you from the nightmares later such as planting up an entire bed of something great over top of an area that had Ageratum, goutweed; that is now chocking it all out because it was not properly eradicated before the planting. Just because you cannot see it, does not necessarily mean that it is not there. (Trust me; I learned that one the hard way when I first started gardening.) Something else to watch for is plants given to you by friends or family. You have no idea what could have been growing in and around that plant. For all anyone knows, there could be Ground Ivy all through it... that's a fun one to get rid of.
At the end of the day, all you really need to do is use your head and be rational. Shopping for plants is supposed to be a fun experience, so go on and have some fun. If you like something and are not familiar with it, ask a nursery employee. They will most likely be able to provide all the information you need. This is a great way to justify an impulse buy. I like to call this an…"Intentionally smart impulse buy", because you didn't plan on buying it when you got to the store, but you got details first and then made the educated decision to bring it on home. May you lead a happy, healthy garden season. Good luck with the spring finds.