Garden shopping list
I’ve been interested in gardening for most of my life. So much so that when it came time to pick a major in college, horticulture felt like my calling. I spent four years in college learning how to identify trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. I had classes in soils, biology, pathology, greenhouse production management, landscape design … well, you get the idea. I say all that not to brag, but to acknowledge that even with all that time spent studying, I still have days when I walk into a garden center and feel overwhelmed by choices.
On a sunny spring day when everyone is out shopping for their gardens, it’s easy to get swept away by the color, variety and seemingly endless choices in the store.
This post might be a bit late, as a blog about prepping for a trip to the store could have come out months ago, but here in the Midwest we’re still waiting for the "real" spring to start. I’ve made a few trips out for plants, but Mother Nature hasn’t stopped sending cold damp weather our way, so we have a few more garden center visits to make.
Here’s a few tips for navigating those return trips.
Have a project in mind and take inventory.
Gardening really is not that different from deciding to paint your dining room. Planning a garden takes the same steps. Take a quick inventory of what you have at home before you start. Is your hand trowel in good shape? Do you have plenty of fertilizer? Do you still like the pots and planters you have or do they need updating? What about tomato cages? Once you have an idea of what you have, make a list of what you need.
Take a lap for inspiration.
We all have days when we go to the greenhouse to get inspired. Those days are fun walking up and down the aisle, seeing what’s new and finding old favorites. Plan a little extra time to take the hustle out of the experience. Remember, gardening should be a fun, relaxing time for you and the garden center should be a part of that.
Grab a cup of coffee and take a stroll. Maybe you’ll find inspiration in that gorgeous Hosta that you’ve always wanted to try in a container on your patio. Perhaps you’ll find a new color of your favorite flower or a new vegetable that the garden center is excited about. Once you’ve seen all your options, your garden plan will start to come together.
Know how to pick the best plants.
This is the part where studying horticulture helps me give you real advice. Sometimes the best plants aren’t what you think. Say you found your favorite tomato variety, but those plants are really tall compared to all the others. You’re tempted to buy the smaller, nicer looking plant in a different variety, but did you know tomatoes might actually grow better if they’re planted deeper? Don’t be afraid of tall tomatoes, just dig a deeper hole, bury the plant, and it will make more roots along the stem!
While you’re looking, see if you can find Burpee’s Fourth of July tomato, my favorite for being the first on the block with tomatoes. You should also look for Burpee’s SteakHouse tomato that tops the scales at a whopping 3 lbs! You’re sure to win a blue ribbon with tomatoes from those plants.
If you’re shopping for perennials, you’re really shopping for a healthy root system. Good quality plants will be well rooted in the container and the roots will be white and fleshy, not brown and slimy. This sounds obvious, but did you know that many times the roots can be healthy but the top looks bad? When this happens, perennials oftentimes get discounted and moved to the back. Check out the discount rack, take the plants out of the pot and, if the roots look good, you just saved some money!
Picking annual flowers is similar in that you want healthy roots when you buy, but unlike perennials, in my personal opinion, it’s rarely worth it to buy bad-looking annuals. It can take several weeks and a lot of TLC for them to recover and all that time you’re missing out on color. Don’t be afraid to buy annuals that aren’t blooming but have healthy foliage and strong roots. Just take them home and fertilize them regularly and soon enough they’ll be doing their thing. Burpee’s Isabells calibrachoa are one of my favorite annuals for containers and the color range is huge so you should definitely be on the lookout for those!
I hope these tips help you turn what could be a shopping chore into a fun outing. Don’t be afraid to share some of your favorite Burpee plants with us on Facebook or Instagram!