Spring arrives tomorrow and while each of us lives in a different zone regarding how hardy the plants we choose must be to grow well, the task of planning for what you want to grow is a way to cultivate a yard and garden that feeds your literal appetite as well as your craving for beauty and tranquility.
I shared last week 10 Tips for Preparing for Spring, and #1 was “gathering the supplies for planting seedlings” as that is what I will be doing next week as it is about 60 days out from Bend’s last frost (early June). Fortunately, I had planned on staying home during Spring Break this year, but now more than ever as we are all staying home, the blossoming of the new spring and summer season gives us reason and motivation to plan a bit more thoughtfully about what we want as we now have time to think about it and time at home to tend to it as well.
No matter how large or small your yard is, or even if you do not have a yard, we can all bring living plants, herbs and blossoms into our lives.
As I do not have a traditional garden spot of land on my new property, I am going to be planning where I want to place my garden items throughout my yard so that I still have my favorite herbs, a handful of tomatoes plants as well as other vegetables that could fit well in a few small spots here and there.
Planning for perennials is an opportunity to truly customize our outdoor space, which is why I am extremely excited to begin making decisions about how I envision the foliage framing my house as it matures over the years.
So let’s take a look at tips and ideas for prepping for a garden that feeds us well as well as delights our being each time we wander about in it or gaze upon it.
1.Know your zone
Here in the states, readers can determine what plants they can grow by knowing what zone they live in (there are 12; Bend is 6b). Not all countries have something similar, but often there is an equivalent so that you know which plants would flourish and what freeze temperatures you need to make sure your plants are hardy enough to survive.
2. Decide what you would like to have readily available to cook with
Over the years, I have been fairly consistent about planting and growing and using herbs. Each year I add to or edit what I have based on what I use and want to use in my kitchen. This year I am going to try and grow a handful of French herbs from seed that are not available here in Bend as plants at the nurseries. We’ll see how it goes, but after cooking with Susan Hermman-Loomis this past summer in Normandy, there are certain herbs I absolutely want and now know how to cook with to elevate the everyday meal simply. I will share more about what I am planting in the weeks to come and this summer.
Along with herbs, many of us are fortunate to live near farmer’s markets and grocery stores that carry fairly abundant options for seasonal produce which is why it may not be necessary to grow as much as you would need or want to cook with. However, while fresh tomatoes will always be available at the market, I do love planting a few of my own. Aside from that, I have learned, lettuce is something I would rather pick up at the farmer’s market stand, and garlic as well as carrots may be best left to more seasoned farmers due to space in my yard.
Consider what berries you might want to grow as often you can select everberry varietals which means they continually produce fruit throughout the summer. I have strawberries, marionberries and will be trying to nurture some blueberries as well in my yard, but even though I do not have a garden patch, they are planted along the sides of the house where they thrive in the southern and western sunshine. Space need not be ample for you to have your own produce.
3. Where to plant for the proper sun, shade and moisture
Now that you know what you want in your yard and what you can grow based on the hardiness chart, determine where to plant them. Herbs love the sunshine, so make sure shade is not prevalent wherever they find their home. While some plants do need the sunshine, harsh end of the day sunshine may be too much, so consider the east or west side thoughtfully. My marionberries face south and based on what I saw last summer, were very happy. Also, consider how they will be watered. When you are away on holiday or a short vacation, do you have automatic sprinklers or a neighbor or house sitter who will make sure they are given what they need? All of these details will ensure you return to a yard that is happy and well-loved so you can enjoy your yard and garden all spring, summer and fall.
4. Assess what you have
Whether you are starting completely from scratch or you already have some or many plants in your yard and/or garden, there is something to appreciate. If you have nothing: you have a clean palette to create exactly what you want with some patience. If you have something, you know what can grow, and if you like what you have, you are already a step ahead. Focus on what you love and have been gifted with that works with the yard and garden of your dreams, then edit and add accordingly.
Something I love about my yard is that I have a peach tree. A peach tree in Bend, Oregon! Too ecstatic to express it fully here. What I didn’t have were perennial spring flowers, so I have added tulips and daffodils to the front of my house with the hopes that they will continue to mature and offer an abundance of brilliant yellows and peaches each spring as we eagerly step out of our long winters (which I do love, but I also am always ready for spring to arrive).
5. For the plants you will be adding, determine when they will bloom and intermix the blooms of different times that something is always in color.
This is a skill that I am currently learning, and with each flower and determined by how they grow in Bend, I am figuring out what grows when. Some roses and other flowers bloom throughout the entire summer, while other plants such as daisies and black eyed Susans, grow once and then are done, same with lavender and flax, mums, etc. This is a bit of the puzzle that will be your yard and garden, so have patience with yourself and have fun delighting in what will grow next and planting them in next to each other so that wherever your eye looks whenever it looks, it sees something of beauty offering its unique gift.
6. Determine the color scheme you want
As a reader recently shared on Instagram, she has an evening garden or moon garden as my mother calls it — a part of the yard that is primarily, if not entirely, full of white blooms so it is as if they are glowing and illuminating the garden in the evening and night, especially when there is a full moon.
Our preferences, the color of our homes and what is available will narrow our choices, but the good news is, there are ample choices of colors. Consider the aesthetic that inspires you when you see it in others’ yards. I personally am drawn to an English cottage garden that is full of seemingly unorganized hues that look comforting and jovial. However, I also love softer, neutral hues or a monochromatic space with varying shades of a singular color. Have fun with this painting of your garden, so to speak, and don’t be afraid to edit and move as the years pass by as you learn more about your preferences and what works best in your yard.
7. Determine the maintenance you can give your yard and garden
Perhaps I should have shared this item closer to the top of the list, but sometimes when we love something enough, we are willing to give it the maintenance it needs. I know that is not the case every time, but as the power of Mother Nature is so significant, maybe the effort will be worth the joy the beauty brings.
Either way, be clear about how to best take care of your plants during the growing and production season as well as the wintering season. Whether it is pruning, uprooting completely (as with dahlias) each year or simply being able to water them properly, educate yourself on what your yard will need based on what you plant within it.
8. Perennials and Annuals
Perennials are an investment up front, but delight and require less work throughout the duration of their lives after the first year of planting. Keep in mind every perennial is unique, but the point is, much like an investment piece of furniture – a sofa, for example – if you buy well, what you want and love, you only have to buy it once. Annuals will nearly always be purchased each spring and summer, from certain herbs and flowers to fill your pots, planter boxes and hanging baskets, so have fun planning what you will pair together. The annuals offer the ability to change it up every year based on your curiosities, interests and change in preferences.
9. Climbers and vines
Vines and climbers offer a signature like nothing else to a home. Revealing years of attention and love and attention by the owner, there is nothing quite like a beautiful vine. The good news is, they are not that expensive, but rather just need patience to come into their own. In my previously owned home, I planted virginia creeper to cover a dividing fence between a neighbor in hopes of making it feel more natural and less industrial. Within four years, it was halfway covered (it ran the length of the house), and by the time I sold the house (a total of nine years of growth), the entire fence was full and lush and beautiful.
At the moment I am excited to be planting a hardy wisteria vine on my back porch that I cannot wait to see how it matures and grows. Sharon Santoni’s home (see below) is a garden’s dream when it comes to vines and how they can add character to house, but whether you live in a single family home or a town-house, you too can have a vine in your yard and/or garden. With time, it will become your own “French Country Home”. 🙂
10. Start planting indoors and ordering perennials in early spring
Granted, where you live will determine when you should begin planting your seedlings indoors (or in your greenhouse), and online nurseries are helpful in that they will only ship to your zone when it is a good time to plant for best success, but the good news is, even if the last frost is a couple of months away as it is here in Bend, you can begin to garden and plant now.
I will be planting my seedlings next week, and will show you how I set it up. And while I am not the garden expert like Floret’s Flowers or my mother who has been working her magic for decades (I look to both of these experts regularly for tips and information), I am eager to continue to learn, and the results are worth the effort, no matter how small. Simply to see some sort of growth is a beautiful sight to witness and buoys the spirit about what is possible with a little bit of planning and patience and consistent love and attention.
May you find some enjoyment and pleasure in your gardening adventure, and discover how green your thumb actually is. 🙂