THESE ARE THE GOOD old days in the garden world. The temperatures are beginning to drop, the rains are beginning to fall and the hours of daylight are short. I call them good garden days because this set up is perfect for planting woody ornamentals. If you’ve been planning to do a landscape project in your yard this is the best time of the year. First of all most of the garden centers in town have a good supply of bushes and trees, you can watch for sales as most of us are trying to figure out ways to keep some money flowing towards us instead of away from us.
Cash flow this time of year and up into February is generally in the wrong direction because we are buying up supplies for the upcoming spring. It’s hard to get very many people into a garden center in the middle of winter although it is a great time to plant. Many people don’t think about it until spring arrives. Planting a woody ornamental this time of year is so much easier on the plants and on you. The plant will go dormant once the weather gets cold and stays cold. You can concentrate on getting better root growth during the cold months by using root stimulator. That way when things begin to warm up in early May the roots will be strong, and the vegetative growth will explode. At that point you will help the leaf growth with a slow release fertilizer to give them that extra boost.
Planting this time of year allows the plant to first go through a wet and chilly winter into a gradual increase in temperatures which slowly hardens the plant off to the scalding summer temperatures that come after spring. You won’t have much to do for the plants when you plant this time of year because Mother Nature provides the moisture and the temperatures, and the day length needed. When summer arrives, you will have to pay attention to the rainfall. As it decreases the plant will rely more on you.
When a person waits until April or May to plant, they will immediately have to pay attention to water needs right away and they are sending their new plants right into the heat of the summer. That can be very hard on a plant and on a gardener. I even tell people to try to find all the varieties of plants they are looking for, take them home and put them in their own little nursery. Put them into survival mode and wait until about now to plant them. Plants are a lot easier to water and tend to when they are rowed up in a tight group rather than planted all over the yard.
I tell them they can use the time between when they purchased the plants and now to improve or create the beds the plants are destined for. I think once the beds are ready it’s not a bad idea to go ahead and mulch the beds for a number of reasons. Mulching while they are sitting protects the soil from the elements and allows some of the organic ingredients to break down and cool off a little bit. Mulching in advance is a great way to slap your own wrist from jumping the gun and planting too early. A mulched bed at least has a nice, neat and finished look that you can live with for a couple months if need be.
The same principle applies with planting perennials. It’s much wiser to plant perennials during the winter months because it allows the plants to become vernalized which some perennials require in order to have a good bloom year. They need to go through a certain amount of cold and dormancy to get to where they perform like they should. When you wait until spring to plant your perennials they won’t get to go through a cold period until the next winter. So by planting now you are basically buying yourself a year since they will experience the cold right away. I have always found the perennials that I plant in the fall and winter wind up being my stronger plants in the end.
The same idea works for winter hardy herbs. The mints, oreganos, lavenders, thymes, chives and parsley can all be safely planted now so you can use them all winter long. But also they will be massive by late June and ready to take whatever heat is coming our way in the months to come.
SOME NURSERIES will have sales this time of year to clear out some inventory and to get that money moving in a positive direction. You should check around town and see if you can find what you need and see if they are on sale. I think we will have our annual sale in the next week or so. We will probably put everything in our store at a 30 percent discount.
It’s a great time to restock your chemical stash or get some great Christmas gifts or pots and fountains. Think about what you are going to have to buy this spring and come get it for a huge discount. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Christmas shopping at a garden center is way different and easier to knock some names off of that list. Of course if the person on your list is a gardener it’s a no brainer and if you don’t know what they are in need of in the gardening world then a gift certificate has made many a plant nerd happy.
If some of the people on your list aren’t necessarily green thumbs you may be surprised at some of the unique gift choices that are available at a garden center. I’ve been around town checking out some of the garden centers gift shops. I’ve seen pickling kits, home beer brew kits, kombucha making kits and lots of great kitchen supplies. I’ve seen herb ice trays, peeling and paring knives, pillows, candles, throw blankets, purses and man bags, Yeti stuff, grills. The list of things I saw were great and way more interesting than the same old stuff at Target and Old Navy. I saw lots of great things that would fit into most Dirty Santa games budget and affordable things that can stuff a stocking with.
Who knows? If you start giving your people quirky garden center finds you might become your families own crazy Aunt Clarissa (every family has one) who is known for her weird and unusual gifts that everyone sort of dreads to open but sort of can’t wait to open because they know it’s going to be something unusual.
I’m hoping you have a fun and safe gift shopping season and I’m hoping that you will try to buy all you gifts locally so you won’t have to worry about the mail making it on time for Christmas.