This is an archived story; this page is not actively maintained. Some or all of the links within or related to this story may no longer work.
For the latest University of Minnesota news, visit Discover.
Plan ahead to make the most of your time and money at a garden center.
Time to hit the garden centers
By Deborah Brown
From eNews, May 13, 2004
Just like buying groceries, you need to plan ahead when shopping at a nursery or garden center. Otherwise, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and want to buy everything you see. Here are some tips so you don't end up with too much or with the wrong plants for specific locations.
- If some of your flowers or vegetables were beset with insects or were badly diseased, think long and hard about trying those plants again. Often, there are good substitutes that will allow you to garden with minimal use of pesticides.
- Bigger is not necessarily better. When it comes to flowering annuals, large, well-developed plants are probably not your best buy, unless your goal is creating an "instant garden." Choose these plants for window boxes and garden tubs where you want lots of color-right from day one. For most purposes, however, smaller bedding plants will do just fine. They'll transplant easily and grow rapidly, often catching up quickly with larger counterparts.
- Look for bedding plants in divided "cell packs." They're easier to transplant without damaging roots. Plants in packs without dividers have long, spread-out roots, making it more difficult to ensure each has an adequate supply of roots when you divide them. In that case, your best bet is to use a sharp knife to cut the soil into cubes for planting, rather than trying to pull the plants apart.
- Perennials... the larger the plant, the sooner it will function from a design standpoint in your garden. On the other hand, buying younger, smaller plants can really help stretch your gardening budget. The trade off is that they may not bloom this year, and it will take longer for them to attain their full size and stature.
- Pick up some seed packets. Most vegetables and many flowering annuals may be seeded directly into the garden once the soil warms this month. You can even start flowering perennials outdoors in a "nursery bed," then transplant them next year when they're larger.