Diary Feb 25/2012 - Avoid mistakes at the Nursery

Soon, very soon, it will be time to make one of your many trips to the local nurseries to buy wonderful new plants for the garden. Oh! How easy it is to get carried away there! Everything looks so colourful, so lush, so "plantable" - you feel you could buy the whole place out!! But remember - gardening is an expensive hobby to begin with. There's no need to wipe out your total monthly budget!! Here are a few pointers for shopping at the garden centre.
1. When buying perennials, buy spring blooming plants in the fall and fall blooming plants in the spring. (Did I just write that correctly? Yes, I did.) This gives the perennials a chance to establish good root systems before blooming. Now, with annuals, you certainly can buy open flower plants but sometimes it's better to buy ones with tight buds. You'll get a longer "show" if they are not already spent when you plant them.

2. Check the plant for (a) spots (b) insects (c) mildew (d) or excessive dryness and wilt. Don't feel you need to rescue a plant - buy a plant with strong, multiple leaves, sturdy stalks and signs of new growth.

3. Even though I said not to blow the budget in the garden centre, be careful that you aren't too stingy either. Many times gardeners only buy one or maybe 2 plants of a single variety. Instead, think the way landscape designers think: plant a mass of one type of plant and colour. You will make a design statement which will be worth the extra cash spent.

4. Check that the plant is not root bound by turning the pot almost upside down. If there's a mass of roots coming out of the holes, it may be weak already. Choose plants with moist soil that lift out easily out of the pot.

5. Stick to your shopping list!! Impulse buying can be expensive and impractical.

6. Don't buy a perennial or shrub without an identifying tag. Tags contain a lot of important information that can help you place your new"baby" in a spot where the conditions suit it best. Also it helps you avoid buying a plant that grows much larger than expected!!

7. Keep your receipts!! Many nurseries offer a one year guarantee, so if your plant fails to survive, you can very often get a replacement if you have a receipt.

8. Buy as many plants as you can place in a specific amount of time. If you buy too many flats and can't plant them fast enough, they may dry out and die.

9. Buy trees and shrubs that are native to your country and area. Sure, sometimes it's fun to go "beyond your zone" and experiment with a plant that needs warmer conditions but in general plants that are used to your climate will do better in the long run.

Keep these tips in mind and you will have PLENTY of money left over for all the other stuff: fertilizer, manure, mulch, new tools, gloves that always wear out in the middle of the season, etc. etc.etc.