Going to the Nursery....

This is truly the month nursery owners must love with many eager gardeners looking at and hopefully purchasing plants. I frequently wonder why homes and businesses aren’t a great deal more colorful after all this expenditure. Let’s make sure we’re ready to plant. Are the new beds dug up? Are the beds prepared for plants? Is the soil lose and friable? Have we added organic material (especially compost) to the beds? Can we plant the purchased plants reasonably soon?

OK you’re ready. Now I know that you want to purchase everything. (I do!) It is best to take a look at your personal garden goals. What is the situation for the beds or containers you wish to plant? Full sun all day? Partial shade? Moist area? How much care are you willing to give the plants you purchase? Traveling this summer? Who will take care of your new purchases?

Make out a tentative list of the plants you wish to purchase. Make notes on what you are looking for: shrubs, fillers, ground covers, annuals, perennials and so forth.

At the nursery don’t hesitate to ask questions of the staff. You will soon learn to recognize those whose avocation is the love of growing things and those who merely have a job. If you need to ask many questions or need to take time with your purchasing it is probably a good idea to make multiple visits and to go when nurseries are less busy, that is not on weekends.

So you are not yet a plant expert. No matter. Browse. Really look at the plants. Look at the leaves and stems. Are they brown? Are they falling off the plant? Do they look crisp? If so, the plants have been subjected to heat stress or lack of watering. The roots of such plants have probably suffered as well. Such plants may still be purchased but it may take weeks of care for them to recover, if they recover at all.

Take a look at the roots. Carefully turn a single container upside down or carefully remove a single plant from a tray. Healthy roots should have reached the bottom of the pot. If the roots are all near the top of the container the soil underneath will fall apart. Do not purchase this plant as poorly developed roots lead to more easily stressed plants in the transplanted garden. They dry out more easily and provide less support for the plant.

The presence of flowers on nursery plants is not necessary for their success in your garden. It is actually a good idea for you to remove flowers from young plants before planting them in your garden so they can use their energy to first establish good roots.

Take a look at the inserted tags. They are a wonderful source of information! They identify the plant as to species, variety, light requirements, whether annual, tender perennial or perennial, flower color, heights, acid, neutral or basic soil requirements. I like to copy such information into a notebook so I can keep track of exactly what I have planted and how successful the planting was.

When you reach home put the new plants in a protected place until you can plant them. Annuals love warm soil and stable temperatures. When the time is appropriate, simply turn the container upside down and gently squeeze to remove single plants or gently push the bottom of plants that are sold in packs. There is no need to pull. The plants should come out easily. Gently tease the roots apart (spidering). This makes it easier for plants to get established after planting. I like the soil to be slightly moist so it doesn’t draw water away from the newly set plants. The new plants should be set at the same level or only a little lower than they were growing in the container. Gently firm the soil around each plant. Water carefully. There is no need to drown the new plants or to wash away the soil. Applying a thin layer of compost around the plants will help keep them moist. Keep an eye on your new plants. Check to see how they are doing. Soon your efforts will be rewarded.

Forever Young Magazine May 2005