After being cooped up inside (especially within the past two years) it can be easy to get carried away with your outdoor plans — including the ones involving plants. You may head to the garden centre with the intentions of picking up a few seedlings and supplies, and somehow end up with more plants that you can fit in your garden or yard.
But once you’re inside and get your first whiff of freshly watered tomato plants with metallic background notes, it can be a challenge to stop yourself from going buck wild with impulse purchases. But Margaret Roach at the New York Times has a few annual strategies for dealing with this perennial problem, including what she calls the “early, middle, late” approach. Here’s what to know.
Go into gardening season prepared
Before anything else, Roach recommends making a list: “Write down what you look forward to in the garden during each month of the year, whether it’s flowers, foliage or some structural effect,” she writes. Also include qualities you’re looking for in plants, like their ability to attract butterflies, helpful insects, and birds.
How to take the ‘early, middle, late’ approach to garden shopping
If you’ve used bulbs in your flowerbeds before, then you’re already somewhat familiar with the “early, middle, late” approach — determine which combination of bulbs will ensure you have blooming flowers all season. But Roach explains that this line of thinking is helpful beyond bulbs:
Apply that idea of a prolonged show to every sought-after effect, visual or otherwise — from your potential signature colour to the possibility of having fragrance over many months, and even to fall foliage, if turning up the heat on the far end of the season is a goal…Soil moisture and temperature patterns shift the precise timing and intensity year to year, but you get the idea: Even what is traditionally considered fall foliage season can be extended with advance research.
But be prepared to put in a little extra legwork to locate plants that won’t peak until mid- or late-summer, says Chris Beytes, the editor of the greenhouse trade magazine GrowerTalks. “What’s in bloom will be up front, along with the roses and hydrangeas everyone is asking for,” he told the New York Times. “At the good garden centres, all the other stuff is there, too — but maybe in the back hoophouse. Ask.”