BY WENDY ALTSCHULER For Sun-Times Media
After such a lingering and drab winter, bringing color and life into your outdoor landscape is a sought-after prospect this spring. Before you can welcome beautiful hues and robust vegetation into your garden, a few objectives need to be taken care of first.
Ryan T. Reece, landscape designer and sales manager at Red’s Garden Center, said: “First, it is crucial to remove any left over fall and winter debris from your plant beds. At this time you should also cut back any perennials and prune any shrubs that need it.”
Next, suggests Reece, to give your plants the needed nutrients, apply a slow-release fertilizer followed by a weed preventer, which will help cut down on weed growth. If you’re not adding any new plants to your beds, apply mulch.
For a new garden, consider plant selection carefully.
“You need to focus on choosing plants that have different flowering times for consistent color through each season,” Reece said. “It is also important to select plants with different foliage colors, textures and sizes, which will provide your garden with more interest.”
Maureen Byron, co-owner of Trellis & Trugs, said that the perfect way to bring color into your garden, yard or home is by using containers.
“They allow even those who don’t have room for flower beds to participate in the rites of spring, moving from colorful daffodils and tulips to other perennials,” she said.
Group planters together, or use as a single statement piece or garden focal point. Strategically placing pops of color around your outdoor spaces will bring life and brilliance where you want it most.
“Containers can also be used to frame an intimate seating area or announce the entrance by the use of color,” Byron said.
Kim Goers Boyer, director of marketing at Vern Goers Greenhouse, advises that once your spring-flowering shrubs have bloomed, be sure to prune them and cut them back.
“Many plants, like alyssum, impatiens, dianthus, violas, pansies, coleus and lobelia get leggy,” Boyer said. “While they will be green for a week or two, they will come back thicker, fuller and much happier for you if you use your scissors.”
Keep your plants watered. Regularly checking for moist soil. Plants that are in containers or hanging baskets need more water than those planted in the ground. Also, make fertilizing part of your routine, suggested Boyer.
“Depending on the type of plant you have, pick a fertilizer that can help the plant thrive all season long,” Boyer said. “If you don’t necessarily have one area you want to focus on, there are great general fertilizers, such as Osmocote or Schultz’s All Purpose Plant Food.”
Liz Holmberg, co-owner of Lizzie’s Garden, offered these ideas to jumpstart your spring garden and keep it picturesque all season long:
1. Invite diversity by planting a broad range of different trees, shrubs, perennials and flowers. You will be providing tasty treats for pollinators, birds and beneficial insects, while strengthening your garden’s resistance to disease and harmful pests.
2. Look at enriching your soil with compost, peat moss and worm castings-the most important thing you can do to ensure a healthy, trouble-free garden. The work you do at the beginning will pay off as you dig into rich, healthy and fertile soil.
3. Consider an edible landscape. Aronia, blueberries, American cranberry bush, hazelbert or Nanking cherries are examples of plants that are great for both landscaping and nibbling.
4. Be a plant artist this year. Instead of locking yourself into the same color scheme you have been using year after year, step out of your comfort zone into a completely new color. It will feel fresh and exciting.
5. Do not get obsessed about matching the shrubs you lost with new ones of equal size. Smaller shrubs in containers will catch up with the older ones.
6. Don’t be shy about pulling a plant to look at its root system. A healthy root system is key to your success with that plant. Some plants, which are high in salt levels or have other issues, will exhibit root problems before the plant itself starts declining.
Finally, have fun and enjoy spring gardening!