Planting by Plan


Spring and early summer are great times to get plants started. Feeling and smelling rich earth after a long winter is good therapy. Bonus points are added when you can shed some winter fat.

So what do you do? If you are like most gardeners, you see something pretty in bloom and take it home. Chances are it fails because you had too much or too little sun for that particular species. Or, it gets too large in a few years and you have to move it or rip it out.

With planning, you can avoid a lot of mistakes. There are many very good bookds at the library if you do not wish to purchase your own. Garden centers, nurseries, and greenhouses often have knowledgeable staff who will give you advice if you ask. Having a sketch of your site with measured distances, windows, and existing trees noted does not hurt. A photo helps a lot and be sure you know when the sunlight hits the area to be planted.

If you have a single story house, it makes sense to plant lower shrubs which will not hide the home or make it look smaller. Conversely, if you have a colonial, some taller shrubs or small trees will help create a less imposing impact. Blending colors, textures, evergreens and deciduous, informal and formal shapes is key to achieving the look you want. Keep in mind the house color if any blooms might clash or be lost against the house.

A very general rule is to plant shrubs 4' from the foundation. Farther is better, if forsythia or lilac or similar shrubs are to be installed. While this looks odd at first, it is amazing how fast the home can become crowded and a shearing headache created. The gaps between shrubs can be filled with perennials or annuals and, later, moved as the shrubs fill in.

It is far too common, even among the people doing landscaping for a living, to plant a few feet from the foundation. It is also comon, in order to sell more plants, for them to be jammed too close to each other. If you have money to burn, and like transplanting large shrubs, be my guest. At least know that is what will happen.

If there is no gutter, allow 1.5 to 2' of crushed stone, at least 8-12" deep, with the top of the stone a foot below the sills (at minimum). This avoids the commn splashback of rainwater hitting bark and making the house look unsightly. You can opt for a metal or plastic border between stone and mulch that is around the plants, but this is not mandatory.

While it is wonderful for the environment and your mental health to get plants started in the garden, asking lots of questions and reading up on what you like before you buy is a very good idea.


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Poland Spring, Maine
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