Begin From The Ground Up
Before investing in a single marigold, pansy, hydrangea or hosta, spend a little time tending to your beds. That means about 4 to 6 inches of good soil that’s loose, nutrient rich and filled with living organisms. Begin by hand-tilling your base when it’s not too wet and adding organics in the form of peat moss and aged manure. “If you’ve got good soil, then your odds of success are going to be greatly increased,” says Brian Corrigan, owner of Cahoon Nursery & Garden Center in Westlake. “You spend a lot less money if you prep that whole bed.”
Shop With Your Garden In Mind
Know your garden needs. If your bed is in a predominantly shaded area, sunflowers aren’t going to thrive no matter how much love you give them. Do some research on what flowers fit your space requirements before even stepping out the door. Some garden centers even divide their retail floor between plants that thrive in full sun areas and shady areas. “Don’t buy spur-of-the-moment something that’s really cute that’s not going to live in your yard,” says Glen Benson, manager at Bremec Garden Centers in Chesterland.
Grow With Perennials
It’s easy to give in to the instant gratification of annuals. “Their unbeatable color and flowering assortment is gorgeous,” says Noelle Akin, communications and education director at Petitti Garden Centers. But perennials, which return year after year while blooming for shorter periods, offer rewards that seem to multiply. “When you plant them, they are small,” she says. “It’s in the second year and the third year that they mature into something that is fantastic.” Plus, after a few seasons, perennials can be divided and moved to fill in other areas of your yard.
Consider beginning early and indoors with easy and reliable seeds such as zinnias or marigolds, which germinate and grow quickly. A seed starting kit can be purchased for $10 to $30, while a packet of a dozen or more seeds can sell for the price of a single established plant. Make sure that you place them by a window that gets a lot of light and water them as directed. “For herbs and edibles, [starting from seeds] is usually something very easy to do,” says Akin. “You can start with very small plants that are grown in flats and they are usually fairly economical.”
Plant A Healthy Relationship
Many garden centers have loyalty programs that offer deals by email or text. Bremec, for example, even sells $35 “bonds” in February that mature into $50 worth of merchandise when redeemed in April or May. But loyalty is more than just saving a few bucks. “A lot of garden centers have their own growing facilities, so you’re buying the plant directly from a local producer,” says Benson. “We’re going to have a better product that’s going to thrive better for you.” Plus, working with an educated local staff that can answer questions and understands gardening in Northeast Ohio adds value to a purchase.