My garden was a wreck! Winter (OK, the not summer season in FL) and neglect had taken their toll.
It really needed an intervention! Does yours?
Here are the three (super simple) steps of a spring garden tune up:
1) Review Your Space
First things first– take stock of what you’ve got going on.
Are your existing plants still in good shape– or do they need to be replaced? Do you have a good planting area– or do you need to create one? Are you working with a blank canvas– or does your current landscape just need a face lift?
Fortunately for me, I had existing planting areas. Unfortunately for me, I had some beat up and overgrown plants to contend with.
See for yourself…
At first glance, you see loads of colorful blooms in my petunia garden below.
I was impressed that the annual (will only last one season) flowers planted 9 months prior were still growing, budding and flowering at a remarkable rate. These petunias even held up during Hurricane Irma!
And, although FL is not noted for cold winters (or winters at all), we still experienced a couple of nights where it got down into the 20’s. I did not cover the flowers or protect them in any way.
I thought for sure they would’ve died. But they emerged each morning seemingly unscathed.
Upon closer inspection, though, you notice that the plant in the right front corner is looking a little sad. And the leaves of the other plants aren’t quite as vibrant and shiny as they were before.
(Admittedly, I think the cold temps were the culprit of the damage– but I really expected the plants to be complete toast and they held up really well.)
Despite the beauty still left in the box– it was time for a change. It was time to replace them!
It was also time to replace the flowers in the other box below– a random mix of annual blooms that had been planted in December or January as a placeholder until veggie growing season (after mid February) was upon us.
They were doing OK. Some of the plants definitely did better than others. As you can see, the top right plant was really struggling.
Fear not– frugal florists! Even though I was conspiring to dig these boxes up– I had a plan.
My MIL took the flowers and replanted them in various spots in the yard.
Admittedly, we had varying degrees of success with that (ranging from flourish to brown in two days). But– at least we tried!
The overgrowth above is a series of perennials that I planted last April or May. I did a poor (OK, non-existent) job of maintaining them and they really got out of hand.
The MIL replanted all of these as well– with about a 50% success rate.
I like the idea of changing up the colors each season, so I plan to purchase annuals going forward.
At around $1 per plant, it’s an indulgence that I feel comfortable with. I know I will get my money’s worth.
And, with luck, I am buying my MIL’s next set of hand me down plants (sounds funny, right?).
2) Out With the Old
Now, it’s time to refresh (or prepare) your planting areas.
This can involve tilling the earth, adding soil, constructing raised beds and a number of other things depending on your situation.
Here’s what happened at the lake…
Once the MIL had relocated all of the plants, it was time to prep the areas for new inhabitants!
As you can see in the photos, we had a lot of leaves that had blown into the planting areas. I scooped up most of them and dumped them into our fire pit. I wasn’t too fastidious about this as the leaves will make good compost.
The rains and natural settling of the the earth caused the soil level in the planting areas to drop. I topped the boxes off with Miracle Grow all purpose garden soil. (I’m not currently an affiliate of Miracle Grow or Home Depot– I’ve just had really great luck with this soil.)
I worked the new soil into the existing dirt by manually folding the freshly poured top layer into the layers below.
Now that the nutrients from the new soil were distributed, this task was done.
Empty flower boxes.
Here is a close up of an empty box– before cleaning it out and topping it off with soil.
And here are the empty rings where the perennial flowers used to reside. I did not add soil to these during this step.
I used the Miracle Grow when I planted the new flowers if that particular circle needed it (about 50% needed a little more soil).
3) In With the New
After assessing your current situation, and preparing your garden areas, you’re ready for the fun part– installing the new plants!
Now’s the time to decide– do you want all flowers, all edibles or a mix? Do you want annuals or perennials?
How much sunlight do your garden areas offer? How much space do certain plants need to grow properly? (These will impact your selections.)
Once you’ve plotted this all out, head to your favorite garden supply store and get buying!
Here’s what happened at the lake…
I replaced the petunias with four different types of herbs below: basil (top right), lemon balm (bottom right), cilantro (top left) and garlic chives (bottom left).
I love herbs! If you prune them properly, they will continue to produce all season long. They are great accompaniments in cooking– and the lemon balm is supposed to be a treat in tea. (I still have to try it!)
I really enjoy the fragrance of these plants. You’ll catch a whiff when watering and when the wind blows across them.
Herbs are super easy to grow. Water daily, prune now and again, use pest deterrents periodically and voila!
In the other flower box, I put in two cherry tomato plants.
Last year, I had four tomato plants in the other box (crop rotation is important for the soil) and it became way too crowded.
The plants grew to be 6+ feet tall and the branches of the plants became intertwined. This made pruning and applying pesticide/fungicide effectively difficult.
As a result, my plants suffered from a host of common tomato plant diseases and a bumper crop of horn worms. Those suckers are the devil– and they literally rip into the fruit, rendering it rotten for human consumption. You can see more about them here.
I did one smart thing last season, though. I planted 4 types of tomatoes (for the life of me, I don’t remember them all now) to see which grew best.
Interestingly, the cherry tomato plant did fairly well. The horn worms didn’t bother with the fruit (too small in comparison to the other plants, maybe?). This was the only plant that I got a usable yield from.
I’m hoping that by planting two different types of cherry tomatoes (pictured above), I’ll get a decent crop. Since the box will not be overcrowded this year, I will be able to apply the vermin deterrent regularly. Forget about it this year, vile bugs!
Here are the flower rings now:
You can barely see anything in comparison to the jungle that was there before. Here is another shot to show that I really did put in new flowers:
These will flourish all year long. I look forward to their lasting beauty.
Some General Garden Thoughts
This year, I planted actual plants instead of seeds. I have grown plants from seed before and it’s an enjoyable experience to watch something go from seed to table (or flower vase).
But, one of my downfalls is impatience.
I got a late start on planting and I wanted to make up for lost time.
This is a lesson in frugality for me. I spent more than $25 on the herb and tomato plants alone. I don’t regret it per se– but I could have pocketed a few extra dollars since seeds are less expensive than plants.
As another, non-sponsored recommendation, when I do buy plants for the garden– I try to buy Bonnie Plants – especially for veggies and herbs. I have great luck with them. They always seem to take when planted and are generally pretty hardy.
The garden area is a work in progress. There is always more weeding to do!
But it’s an enjoyable activity that I’m glad I have more time to do these days!
Want to see some gardens that really have it mastered? I can only aspire to emulate them!
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