by Connie Oswald Stofko
This weekend is probably the biggest shopping weekend for gardeners.
Our gardens should be dry enough to dig in by now, and by the end of May, the danger of frost should have passed, so we’re all excited to buy tender plants and put them in our gardens now.
To help you get the most out of your shopping excursion, take a look at these tips.
Decide what you want to get out of your garden before you buy things to put in it
Even if you don’t want to create a detailed plan, you should have a pretty good idea of what you want to get out of your garden before you step foot in the garden center.
This year I want lots of tomatoes.
I’ve set that as a goal in other years, too, but I never succeeded. I think my biggest problem is that I don’t buy enough tomato plants. The reason I don’t buy enough tomato plants is because I forget what I really want to get out of my garden.
I get distracted and put in too many other things that we’re not really going to eat. I know my husband likes hot peppers, so I buy them. But they come in a six pack of plants. I’ll use a few hot peppers in chili and freeze a few to use in dishes throughout the year. I need maybe a dozen hot peppers a year. So why am I buying a half dozen pepper plants?
Think it through. Decide what you want to get out of your garden and make sure that’s what you put in it. When you’re making your plans, don’t forget that bushes and trees can be food plants, too.
Measure your garden and containers
This is one of those things I never think of doing until I get to the garden center.
I have window boxes that I plant with different annual flowers every year. I see these window boxes every single day for months as they hang from my porch and second-floor windows, so I know how big they are.
That is, I have a good sense of their size until I step into the garden center. Then I can’t quite picture them and I’m not sure how many plants I need.
So I wander over to the area where they’re selling window boxes, figuring that when I see the size that I have at home, I’ll know how many plants I need to fill it. But when I’m looking at the window boxes, the big ones seem larger than what I have at home, and the small ones seem smaller than what I have at home.
I shrug and walk back to the section of annuals. I stretch out my hands to approximate the size of my window box as I remember it. I pick out a number of plants.
Then I go home with half as many plants as I really need.
If you have a particular container or bed that you want to fill, measure it before you go to the garden center. Don’t forget to take the measurements with you. It wouldn’t hurt to take a tape measure with you to the garden center, too.
Make a list
Do you go to the grocery store without a list? If so, how does that work out for you?
If you’re going to the garden center for more than one variety of plant, make a list.
Of course as you’re standing in your garden you know you want three kinds of tomatoes. And sage to replace the plant that didn’t come back. And purple annuals for three different containers, with maybe some yellow annuals, too. Oh, and a perennial flower for sun in that spot over there. And some groundcover for between the stones in the path.
But when you’re browsing among all those interesting plants at the nursery, it’s hard to visualize your garden. It’s like trying to sing “Happy Birthday” while another song is playing loudly in the background.
Make a simple list to keep yourself on track.
Look for new plants for shade
I know many of you used to go out and buy a flat of impatiens. You popped those into your shady garden beds and you had color all summer. But now downy mildew is killing off our beloved impatiens walleriana.
If you plant impatiens, the flowers might make it through to August before they die. Then again, they may die sooner, depending on the weather.
You may want to look for alternative plants for shade. Check out this 2013 article on impatiens, which includes a nice list of alternative shade plants and quite a few photos. Check out the comments where readers shared their favorites for the shade, too.
Explore new garden centers
There are many wonderful, locally owned nurseries and garden centers in Western New York. Each has its own specialties, so it can be fun to explore a new garden center.
Because the stock can vary so much from nursery to nursery, if you’re looking for a particular plant, contact them directly.
To find contact information, you can:
- Click on any of the ads on the emailed version of the magazine or click on the ads here on the Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com website.
- Go to the pages under Garden Resources.
- Go to our Gardening Directory.
And please let these businesses know you heard about them on Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com!
Bonus tip: Don’t make this the only weekend you shop
Local garden centers such as Lockwood’s in Hamburg and Mischler’s in Williamsville will continue to put out plants for the next several months. Check out some ideas for perennials in summer, perennials in fall and annuals in fall. You can plant bulbs such as tulips in fall, too.
Do you have tips for other gardeners on how to shop for plants? Please leave a comment below