What to know be­fore start­ing on a gar­den

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - HOME & GARDEN - By Jenna Schus­ter

As you see flow­ers and veg­etable gar­dens be­gin­ning to grow around your neigh­bor­hood, you may feel in­spired to start a gar­den of your own. Whether you’re new to gar­den­ing or com­ing back to a long-adored hobby, these ex­pert tips will help you get your new gar­den started.

While it can be tempt­ing to buy ev­ery beau­ti­ful plant you see at the gar­den cen­ter, it’s best to do your re­search be­fore you make a pur­chase. Do some dig­ging on­line or talk to a pro­fes­sional gar­dener to find out what green­ery will thrive in your yard. For ex­am­ple, if you’re look­ing to plant in the shade, you’ll want to pur­chase low-light op­tions like ferns or hy­drangeas. If your yard at­tracts a lot of di­rect sun, choose plants that can han­dle the heat, like cone­flower or Rus­sian sage.

Tip: Be sure to know the dif­fer­ence be­tween peren­nial and an­nual plants as you go about plan­ning your gar­den. Peren­ni­als will

Do your re­search.

re­turn each year in the spring, while an­nu­als will last for a sin­gle sea­son.

If you’re a be­gin­ner, start with hardy plants.

Keep­ing up with a strict wa­ter­ing sched­ule or tem­per­a­men­tal green­ery can be tricky for even the most ex­pe­ri­enced gar­dener. When you’re start­ing out, it’s bet­ter to lean to­ward for­giv­ing plants in your gar­den. Daisies, black-eyed Su­sans, lamb’s ear, cat mint and the aptly named “obe­di­ent plant” are all on the hardier side.

Tip: When you place your cho­sen flow­ers and shrubs, be sure to give them ad­e­quate room to grow. Oth­er­wise, crowded plants end up com­pet­ing for nu­tri­ents and won’t reach their full po­ten­tial.

Be pre­pared to deal with pests.

Un­for­tu­nately, pests are a very real part of the gar­den­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. And while you can al­ways call a pest con­trol ser­vice for help, there are a few steps you can take at home to keep crit­ters away. For in­stance, plant­ing marigolds as a bar­rier around your gar­den (or in­cor­po­rat­ing mint into the area) is known to help re­pel aphids, mos­qui­toes and other in­sects. And cedar chips are known to help de­ter ticks and fleas.

Tip: If you strug­gle keep­ing rab­bits and deer away, look for plants that are less ap­peal­ing to wildlife. Some will even have a “deer-re­sis­tant” la­bel that makes them eas­ier to find.

If you’re start­ing with a con­tainer gar­den, be sure to pro­vide your pots with ad­e­quate drainage — oth­er­wise, your plants are at risk for root rot. Choose a well-drain­ing soil for your pot­ted plants, and only use con­tain­ers with drain­ing holes at the bot­tom. You can al­ways drill your own holes in the bot­tom of your pots. Cre­ate even more drainage (and keep large pots from get­ting too heavy) by fill­ing the bot­toms with rinsed out alu­minum cans, milk jugs or bot­tles, and adding dirt on top.

Tip: Drainage makes a dif­fer­ence in your land­scap­ing too. A land­scap­ing pro­fes­sional can help you find ways to di­rect rain­wa­ter flow to the right ar­eas of your yard.

Don’t for­get drainage.

DREAMSTIME

Hav­ing a gar­den can im­prove your curb ap­peal and bring forth fresh veg­eta­bles.

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