Turn your first visit to the garden center this season from problem to pleasure by following these smart, simple steps.
Spring fever can lead to all kinds of impulsiveness, especially at the garden center. With hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of pretty plants already in bloom and aisles overflowing with new products, it's easy to get a little carried away. After a winter's worth of anticipation, it's hard to avoid walking out with too much (or too little) of what you actually need. The antidote: a few simple strategies that help you size up the inventory with the ease and confidence of a professional. All it takes is some planning and shopping savvy. Armed with our helpful tips, you can head out to your favorite nursery secure in the knowledge that when you return, you'll have exactly what you need to make your garden grow.
Place your pots in their garden locations, and then take photographs. Print the photos, and note the diameter and the depth of each pot on the paper. This way, you'll buy the perfect plants in the right quantities. Determine how much potting soil you'll need, using an online calculator.
It's time to put your plan into action. Grab a cart and start shopping, beginning with your highest-priority plants.
Assemble Your Grouping at the Nursery
Instead of going back and forth between plants, place the ones you like in your cart as you find them. Make part of the cart your "audition" space, arranging plants as you would in your garden border or container. Whenever you discover interesting new plants, swap them in to see which you like best.
As you make your choices, be sure only the healthiest, most vigorous specimens make it to checkout. Avoid plants that are wilting or have brown, dead foliage, and pay attention to these less obvious, but very helpful, clues.
Root growth is the best sign of a plant's health. Remove the pot, and check for roots that are fleshy, firm, and numerous. Avoid specimens with sparse, rotten, or otherwise damaged roots.
Buy Plants You Can Divide
Healthy plants are easy to divide. Unpot baskets of annuals, using a trowel edge to gently break them apart. A perennial may be more firmly lodged. Remove it, and separate it into two, using pruners to cut stubborn roots. Check each half of the plant to see if it can be further divided.
Seek Out Discounts
Many nurseries will cut their price if you buy an entire flat or spend a certain amount, so it’s worth asking about discounts before you shop. If you need only a few plants, you can offer to split the flat with a friend or donate any extra plants to a local garden club or community center.
Wait for Markdowns
Annuals left on the shelves after the May and June rush tend to get marked down after the July 4 holiday to make room for fresh stock. That makes mid-July the perfect time for picking up a few plants to tuck into a dull spot in a border or pump up your hanging-basket display.
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