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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Plant A Garden In Your Mind

There isn't much garden planting happening for many of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Outside my window the snow is falling, the temperature is dropping, and gray clouds have lowered to the treetops. Inside the walls my thoughts are warm and my hopes are rising. I use this time of year to think of sunny weather, plan my garden expectations, and choose the new plants and seeds that will soon populate it. While the comforting fire burns in the wood stove in the corner, I'll even close my eyes and picture how the mature plants will look next to each other, against the fences, and at harvest.

Recently I've written much on new gardening catalogs. Two weeks ago I received a number of seed catalogs and this last week saw the arrival of live plant catalogs, including High Country Gardens, one of my favorites. The photos from every company's offering burst with bright colors. Some have smiling children. All of them encourage you to buy and it's hard not to pull out the credit card and go online or phone in an order after being inspired by thoughts of your garden in bloom.

My suggestion today is to wait. Take some time, a day or a week or a month, and think about your gardening plans. Put your ideas on paper or in a computer spreadsheet. Envision your garden at its peak. With that thought in mind, determine the steps to reach it.

Ask yourself some important questions. Will you expand your garden this year or use the same beds? Will you try something new or stay with the same plants? Will you have help with gardening or will you work by yourself? Are you available to garden or will other activities pull you away? Will you plant seeds, live plants, or both? Do you have a budget in mind for new purchases? Will you work from a plan?

Many of us succumb to impulse buying when it comes to our gardens. We see a plant at the nursery that we're sure will look good next to the Daisies so we buy it. A friend recommends a shrub on sale at the garden center so we rush down and buy two. We really don't need 10 Salvia plants, but they're on clearance so we find space for them. I do this too often. My gardens look great, but they look better when I plant with a plan.

Without forethought, colors are mismatched, small plants are hidden by larger ones, and beds become a mishmash of designs. Without a little research, the wrong plant is put in the wrong location and becomes a waste of time and effort. Without anticipation of results you become the gardener that people avoid because you have too much zucchini.


Try to avoid buying seeds and plants willy-nilly. Almost every gardener has unopened seed packets tucked away in a box or drawer. What began as a glorious vision of new plants ended with old, shriveled seeds because there wasn't enough time or space to plant them. We keep them with hopes that we'll plant them some day, but they're soon replaced by new packets and new visions.

Use this down time when the weather is cold and dreary to plan the best garden you can. If you've never measured the size of your beds, do it now. If you don't have a master diagram showing where your garden is in relation to sun, water, and your house, create it now. If you don't have a listing of the plants you've grown with success, write it now; do it for the plants that failed too. If you don't have a vision of what you want your garden to be, think about it now.

These steps are important in establishing a blank template of your garden. On this template you can add, remove, and move plants. When you've identified specific areas for specific plants, you can pick up the catalogs and order with purpose. When you garden with a plan, you'll avoid costly mistakes of seeds that will never see the soil and plants that die or need to be replaced.

It's easy to do. It begins with the comforting thought of what you want your garden to be. Create a plan for your activities. It doesn't need to be a final product today. Gardens evolve and your plan should evolve as you learn more and try different things. The concept is to think about it ahead of time and the perfect time to act is on a cold winter day.
There isn't much garden planting happening for many of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Outside my window the snow is falling, the temperature is dropping, and gray clouds have lowered to the treetops. Inside the walls my thoughts are warm and my hopes are rising. I use this time of year to think of sunny weather, plan my garden expectations, and choose the new plants and seeds that will soon populate it. While the comforting fire burns in the wood stove in the corner, I'll even close my eyes and picture how the mature plants will look next to each other, against the fences, and at harvest.

Recently I've written much on new gardening catalogs. Two weeks ago I received a number of seed catalogs and this last week saw the arrival of live plant catalogs, including High Country Gardens, one of my favorites. The photos from every company's offering burst with bright colors. Some have smiling children. All of them encourage you to buy and it's hard not to pull out the credit card and go online or phone in an order after being inspired by thoughts of your garden in bloom.

My suggestion today is to wait. Take some time, a day or a week or a month, and think about your gardening plans. Put your ideas on paper or in a computer spreadsheet. Envision your garden at its peak. With that thought in mind, determine the steps to reach it.

Ask yourself some important questions. Will you expand your garden this year or use the same beds? Will you try something new or stay with the same plants? Will you have help with gardening or will you work by yourself? Are you available to garden or will other activities pull you away? Will you plant seeds, live plants, or both? Do you have a budget in mind for new purchases? Will you work from a plan?

Many of us succumb to impulse buying when it comes to our gardens. We see a plant at the nursery that we're sure will look good next to the Daisies so we buy it. A friend recommends a shrub on sale at the garden center so we rush down and buy two. We really don't need 10 Salvia plants, but they're on clearance so we find space for them. I do this too often. My gardens look great, but they look better when I plant with a plan.

Without forethought, colors are mismatched, small plants are hidden by larger ones, and beds become a mishmash of designs. Without a little research, the wrong plant is put in the wrong location and becomes a waste of time and effort. Without anticipation of results you become the gardener that people avoid because you have too much zucchini.


Try to avoid buying seeds and plants willy-nilly. Almost every gardener has unopened seed packets tucked away in a box or drawer. What began as a glorious vision of new plants ended with old, shriveled seeds because there wasn't enough time or space to plant them. We keep them with hopes that we'll plant them some day, but they're soon replaced by new packets and new visions.

Use this down time when the weather is cold and dreary to plan the best garden you can. If you've never measured the size of your beds, do it now. If you don't have a master diagram showing where your garden is in relation to sun, water, and your house, create it now. If you don't have a listing of the plants you've grown with success, write it now; do it for the plants that failed too. If you don't have a vision of what you want your garden to be, think about it now.

These steps are important in establishing a blank template of your garden. On this template you can add, remove, and move plants. When you've identified specific areas for specific plants, you can pick up the catalogs and order with purpose. When you garden with a plan, you'll avoid costly mistakes of seeds that will never see the soil and plants that die or need to be replaced.

It's easy to do. It begins with the comforting thought of what you want your garden to be. Create a plan for your activities. It doesn't need to be a final product today. Gardens evolve and your plan should evolve as you learn more and try different things. The concept is to think about it ahead of time and the perfect time to act is on a cold winter day.

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