Believe it or not, spring is coming. It has started in the south and is moving north. Spring is an exciting time to be a gardener, but it can also be a bit overwhelming. Sometimes the whole yard and all its many nooks and crannies can seem overwhelming.
It does not matter if your yard is new or old. Planning is one of the most important steps. The camera on your phone can help. Take "before" pictures of different spots throughout the property. You can track the improvements and feel good about your progress.
When you are out shopping, find plants on sale that will fit an area. Expert advice from the stores will be much improved if you have photos, measurements and notes handy. Do the landscaping with a plan, but do not be afraid to change what does not look right to you.
Pick an area, and break it down to size. Most landscape areas are small enough to be worked on in just a couple of weekends. Most importantly, do the work at a pace that will allow you to have fun doing it.
Use temporary plants like annuals to brighten the landscape until you can find the right perennial or shrub. Warm colors like red and orange will stand out and bring attention to the area. Cool colors like blue and green will recede visually, which makes small areas look bigger.
Use colorful plants to highlight the most important architectural feature on the house, the front door. Use green plants like evergreens to hide architectural blunders like the utilities.
Use a section or two of fence to make a wall that separates one area of the landscape from another. Use shrubs to do the same thing. Use them to hide unsightly views and frame good views.
Use a birdbath or sculpture to bring an area into focus. Use small shrubs or perennials to create the backdrop and setting for the sculpture.
Large flowerpots, lanterns and many other household items can be used to create a new use for an old item and create a new focal point in the garden. Use old lanterns, candleholders and landscape lighting to give new life to the landscape at night.
Create a path in areas that are heavily used. Lawns do not hold up to lots of traffic, and other materials are better at keeping mud out of the house.
Walk around the whole yard as often as you can. You will become used to what plants look like when they are healthy. You will notice problems quicker and when they are easier to treat. At the same time, you will enjoy your landscape more if you are outside.
Put plants in the right place in the first place. Plants that need sun will not do well under a heavily shaded tree on the north side of the house. Do not keep planting the same flowers in the same spot every year. Diseases and insects can wait until you replant. Plants from a different plant family will be more resistant to problems.
Mulch new plantings, and add new mulch each fall. Add organic matter when planting. Top dressing with leaves or compost will improve the soil.
For instant impact, buy the largest plants you can afford. Most shrubs, trees and perennials are available in several sizes. Do not buy a baby plant of a huge growing species; it will grow out of bounds too quickly.
Weed all beds as you take your daily walk. If you pull them while they are small, there will be practically no weeding to do most of the time.
Water the plants with a deep watering, and then let them become nearly dry before watering again. Most plants do not like to be wet all the time. Install a water garden for the plants that do like to be wet. Watering in the morning is better than the evening because it dries on leaves before diseases can enter.
Follow package directions, and do not overfertilize. Too much fertilizer kills more plants than the lack of fertilizer.
Email questions to Jeff Rugg at [email protected] To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.