Monday, May 14, 2012

So You’d Like to Start a Flower Garden…

We all flip through magazines with beautiful, lush, colorful outdoor spaces we wish we could recreate in our own yards. Or, we envy our friends and neighbors for their endless, abundant flowers beds that seem to go on forever.

If you have a vision for that perfect flower garden outside your own doors, stop dreaming and start planning. With a little research on what flowers and plants are best suited to your area, and a commitment to learning how to properly care for them, you can grow a flower garden that will bring beauty to your yard season after season.

Most gardens evolve for a number of reasons—the gardeners growing knowledge, the weather that season, and changing tastes. When you've learned a bit more about your capabilities as a gardener and exactly what you like, you'll be better equipped to choose plants, plant and care for them.

First things first. You will need some basic tools.

You want to have two shovels to dig different size holes to plant your flowers and dig up the roots of old plants, and a hoe to help till the ground and get under and remove stubborn weeds.

A garden hose will be necessary for watering. There are a number of available options; just be sure the one you select is long enough to reach your beds. Some gardeners choose soaker hoses, which weave through your beds and slowly soak the soil. Hand watering is made easier with a watering wand that enables you to adjust the water pressure and direction. Invest in a good pair of gardening gloves, a knee pad and a sturdy garden cart as well.

Start with the soil:
Just about any flowering plant you choose will thrive when planted in loose, moist, well-draining soil. You can have your soil tested (or buy a soil testing kit at your local garden center and do it at home) to determine which nutrients it may be lacking before you begin. You can improve just about any soil by adding hummus, compost, manure, or a combination.

What to plant?
For beginners, annuals are easy to grow and widely available. Ask your nursery attendant for tips, read labels and hop online if you have immediate questions. There are a number of easy-to-care-for perennials as well. Perennials can add long term beauty to your garden with beautiful blooms that come back year after year—with the proper attention and pruning of course. If you are trying to stick to a color scheme, look into the plants that will fall into your preferred palette.

The right place at the right time:
When deciding what to grow, take into account what surrounds your garden. Are there large trees surrounding your space? Choose flowers that will thrive in shady areas. In full sun all day long? That will require a different flower choice. Trust me, as many new gardeners learn the hard way, they are not interchangeable. Hint: most perennial flowers and roses do best in full sun. You’ll find a number of part-sun plants too for those areas about which you are unsure.

Get started:
Today you can find flowers at just about any retail venue, from a locally-owned nursery to grocery and drug stores. While hearty plants can be found anywhere, for your first endeavor I encourage you to seek out a reputable nursery with professionals on staff who can offer guidance on planning and selection. Most of these centers will often guarantee their plants as well and welcome return visits when you have questions—which you will. Buy hearty-looking plants with strong stems and full, leaves,

Once you have prepared your soil, dig a hole slightly deeper than the roots of your plants. Remove the plant from its temporary container (unless it is an organic, biodegradable peat container which may be planted) and slight loose the roots. Gently place the entire root ball into the ground and fill in the hole, mounding the soil up around the stem. Fertilize at this point and then carefully monitor your plants’ water needs. Continued addition of the right nutrients and a bit of attention, and you will have a thriving, blooming flower garden in no time.

Elena Gomez is a receptionist at the Palms Hotel and avid gardener who enjoys spending her time off writing about botany and the fine art of growing home gardens.
Photo Credit: Kirpernicus

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