Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Plan Your Garden

Rosemary Harris is the author of The Big Dirt Nap (February 2009, St. Martin’s Minotaur) and Pushing Up Daisies (coming soon in paperback) featuring amateur sleuth Paula Holliday. Rosemary is a master gardener and a former bookstore manager and video producer.

I’m not doing a whole lot of gardening right now..I’m looking out at a new dusting of snow that covered my garden yesterday like so much powdered sugar – but for any gardener, this is the time of year when we're pouring over garden catalogs and deciding which projects we're going to pursue in the garden this year.

My garden is 16 years old – an infant in the grand scheme of things. I was lucky enough to inherit the garden of a woman whose tastes were similar to mine and who had a good eye for design and color. I was unlucky enough to have bought my house after she’d rented it for over 10 years – leaving the garden neglected and overgrown. For the first few years I did lots of pruning, ripping out, then planting. I’d load up the Jeep every weekend with new plants to try…and if they didn’t succeed, so be it –I’d yank them out and fling them on the compost heap.

When I was writing my first book I had much less time to spend on my garden. A side benefit of that was that it saved me quite a bit of money.

I was a much more careful shopper at the nursery; I tried to never go without a list, instead of letting myself be seduced by something I just happened to see or that the nurseryman rhapsodized about. I can’t completely eliminate annuals – can any of us say no to non-stop color? – but I dramatically reduced my use of them, putting perennials and small trees in containers instead. They come back reliably every year and a small shot of color (with one or three annuals) is even more effective than a huge swath. My faves for this are ornamental grasses, hostas, Japanese maples, lysimachia and bamboo. I’ve also found that oregano and lamium (generally used as a ground cover) are great for hanging baskets.

I don’t start nearly as many seeds in February and March as I used to (time constraints) but I always do herbs. And I sow them right in the planters where they’ll be when I finally put them outside. I don’t bother with peat pots anymore. They tended to either dry out or get moldy for me and they seemed like an unnecessary expense since I was sowing the seeds right in the pot.

Still, the best way to save money in the garden is by making sure that the plant you’ve chosen is right for the spot you’ve chosen. You can spend a lot of time and money trying to make a plant grow where it doesn’t want to! Happy gardening...


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