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Plan your garden now for ease at planting time

Get ready to think spring.


The Saturday Life section connects you to practical know-how from local people who know.

We’ve had a few glimpses of warmer weather, which means winter is finally winding down. Spring planting season will be here before we know it, and preparation is key.

We talked with local gardening and landscape design experts to help you get ready for the warmer months.

Develop a layout

You probably wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint or even head to the grocery without a list. It’s important to have a plan, especially if an eye-catching, thriving garden is your goal. Whether you’ve had the same layout for years or are a complete novice, it can be helpful to get a professional’s opinion.

“Definitely to start, it’s beneficial to a lot of people to have a landscape design or plan done, where everything is laid out to scale,” said Jerry Schelhorn, nursery manager at Grandma’s Gardens in Waynesville. “A lot of people enjoy this because they have something to work off of. Even if they’re DIY’ers, they have something they can follow.”

Of course, your garden can be as elaborate or as simple as you have the time and space to manage. If you’re on a tiny city lot, a scale model and blueprint are a bit much. “If it’s a smaller area or existing bed, people can just bring in photos and measurements,” Schelhorn said.

No matter now small or large your garden is, “A plan is important because we take into consideration whether it’s sun or shade. There are so many plants to choose from. Without good advice, you can make a wrong decision on plant selection.”

Design trends

Maybe you want to narrow things down a little before you make a planning appointment or grab some gardening books. Understandable — the types of gardens out there and the plants that grow in them are overwhelming in number.

So what’s been popular lately? “Miniature and fairy gardening is still a strong category,” said Scott Robinson of Meadowview Growers in New Carlisle. “It started in the last two or three years and remains popular.” These gardens are great projects to start with kids and (obviously) work well on smaller lots.

If you’re the practical type, take note. “There’s a huge interest in vegetable gardening since the cost of food has gone up,” Robinson said. As to specific vegetables that are popular, the answer may surprise you — super spicy peppers. “We’re focusing on growing hot peppers,” he said. “A lot of guys like to grow their own; it’s a fun thing. They’ll be ready in late April or early May.”

Other things to consider when narrowing down plant options include choosing plants of varying heights and textures, juxtaposing complementary colors and leaving enough space for plants to grow. (Don’t overbuy.)

Getting outdoors

The long, gloomy winter has most of us itching to get back to the outdoors. Good news: there are a few things you can do beyond drawing up a plan and making lists of plants, even as early as March.

“You can do quite a bit pretty soon,” Schelhorn said. “As soon as the ground thaws out, you can start to work the soil. That can be done once we start having temperatures in the 40s and 50s during the day. You can plant trees, shrubs and perennials later in March, but definitely do soil prep.”

He explained, “What’s really important in the Dayton area is good soil preparation. Our soils are terribly clay … . I would guarantee that all soils in Dayton are all alkaline and all clay. There are a few exceptions like people along the river, some areas of Middletown and Miamisburg where the soil is a little richer, but 95 percent of homeowners have heavy clay.”

To counteract this, Schelhorn recommended bringing in fresh soil and mixing compost with it. Special soil blends are available as well.

Robinson advised that cool weather-loving pansies are the earliest flower you can plant. You’ll also be able to tell soon what made it through the polar vortex and what needs to be replaced. “It’s going to make for an interesting spring to see if any damage occurred to shrubs. It’s obviously going to be a concern as to what perennials made it and which didn’t, and whether rosebushes made it,” he said.