Spring is the season when everything starts to bloom, and it’s something we look forward to all year. Here in the Pacific Northwest, nature seems to explode with new life as the days become warmer and longer. If you’re lucky enough to have a spare patch of dirt in your yard, or even a few extra pots laying around, you can curate your own patch of nature in the form of a garden. Its exciting and daunting, especially if you haven't had the best luck with growing things in the past. We wanted to help alleviate some of the anxiety you might feel about starting your own garden by sharing some useful tips. That’s why we spoke with Jason, a Certified Professional Horticulturist, from Kent East Hill Nursery, which is right up the road from our office. He walked us through all the need-to-know essentials for having a successful and thriving garden this year.
WHAT IS ESSENTIAL TO REMEMBER WHEN PREPARING YOUR SPRING GARDEN?
When it comes to prepping your garden for spring, nothing is more important than these four factors: Creating great soil, making sure you have access to water, understanding your site’s sunlight levels, and choosing the best plants. Here at the nursery, we love helping people create the garden of their dreams!
IS IT BEST TO WATER IN THE MORNING OR EVENING?
In general, I like to recommend watering plants in the morning while it is still cool, but the reality is that if you have to water during other times of the day, that is okay too! 95% percent of new plant failures are because of a lack of water, so it is better to water them at the wrong time than to not water them at all! I know I have found myself watering mid-day on more than a few occasions. If that’s the only time you’re available to water, then go for it!
WHAT ARE THE MUST-HAVE TOOLS FOR YOUR GARDEN?
Having a few simple tools like a watering can, hand pruners, and a knee pad will make gardening easier and more enjoyable for you in the long run. If you are spending extended periods of time weeding or planting on the ground, your knees and back will thank you for the extra cushioning of a knee pad. Additionally, remember to use the correct type of soil when you are planting. Potting soil is probably the best for a flower garden.
DO YOU RECOMMEND STARTING SEEDLINGS OR PLANTING INTO THE SOIL?
That’s a great question, it really depends on the plant. A great deal of popular flowers and edibles are easily growable from seed by simply sowing them straight into the ground. Good examples include Lupine, Violas, Sunflowers, Corn, Beans, Squash, Potatoes, etc... There are others that are a lot less work to grow when you start with professionally-grown starts. Good examples of these include Tomatoes, Peppers, Onions, Strawberries, plus many herbs.
WHICH PLANTS ARE THE LOWEST MAINTENANCE?
There is a surprising number of low-maintenance plants, grasses, and shrubs that you might not even think of. What they are really depends on where you live and the time of year you are planting. What I suggest doing is visiting your local nursery (we are located in Kent, WA) and asking what they recommend. They can show you what they have. In general, there are some really beautiful ornamental grasses that are especially low-maintenance. I am a huge fan of planting containers filled with gorgeous perennials, as well as small trees and shrubs. Some great examples include Bleeding Heart, Hellebores, Heucheras and Kaleidoscope Abelia!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FLOWER TO GROW IN THE SPRING?
Perhaps my personal favorite of the spring garden is a native shrub called Red Flowering Currant. Red Flowering Currants are beautiful plants with large clusters of reddish pink flowers that hang down from the foliage. They are a real hummingbird magnet, and a fabulous plant for even inexperienced gardeners! Some Currant flowers are edible, but this one is all for show! I have two in my yard and they should be blooming soon. I also have my eye on some Peonies, another one of my favorites, for my spring flower garden this year.
OTHER THAN LOOKING NICE, WHAT ARE THE OTHER BENEFITS OF A GARDEN?
Other than the obvious like fresh produce and a yard that is easy on the eyes, there are lots of benefits to having a garden and some attractive landscaping. One that you might not think of right away when planting is that it can actually increase the value of your home. Some research suggests that great landscaping and an attractive home garden can tack on an extra 10% of value. Gardens are beneficial in so many different ways. In addition to providing great food and habitat for native critters, a garden also provides you a place where you can go to reconnect with nature. All too often, our daily lives are GO! GO! GO! Sometimes it is nice to just stop and smell the roses. Oh, and if you have kids, there may be no better way to teach them about nature then to get them out in the garden. So many cool things for a kid to learn!
We'd love to learn about any of the gardening tips or tricks you've picked up over the years. Share a picture of your garden on Facebook or Instagram and tag #WesternChiefGarden for a chance to be shared on our pages.
This blog post was brought to you in partnership with Kent East Hill Nursery.