Prepare now for a lush, green, and fragrant spring

If you were ever in the Boy Scouts, or you have a son who is, then you'll know the famous motto of that organization: "Be prepared."
It's a lesson I've sometimes had to learn the hard way. Perhaps, like me, you've waited until the last minute to make reservations at a restaurant or a hotel, only to find you've left it too late and you're disappointed.
So today I am going to encourage you to take a leaf out of the Scouting Manual and... Be prepared!
With the Holidays behind us and spring still a few week away, this is the perfect time to prepare for the planting season ahead. Yes, it is tempting to wait until spring is almost upon us. But take some time now to prepare and you won't be disappointed later. The good news is that much of this preparation can be done while you relax in your favorite armchair with a cup of cocoa (or something stronger) close at hand!
Plan your garden Ready for a new look? Get a few sheets of 1/4 inch grid paper and roughly draw the shape of your landscape. Start by sketching in items that can't be moved, such as large trees, walls, your garage and so on. Now sketch in areas where you might add new beds or change the shape or location of existing beds. Some new specimen trees? An evergreen privacy hedge? A water feature? Add 'em in. Use a pencil, so you can erase and start over where necessary.
And remember: there's no rule that says everything has to be planted in straight lines. An area of lawn curving between perennial beds and flowering trees can be a delightful change from a solid slab of grass. There are some helpful tips on landscape layout and planning in previous Plant Man columns archived at my Web site. Go to and scroll through the archived columns under The Plant Man heading.
Mouse through the flora Get some inspiration online. Use Yahoo or Google to find information and pictures of plants you've heard about and find out if they'd fit in with your new plans. You can find enormous amounts of planting tips and independent advice, and you can check to see if a particular plant will thrive in your hardiness zone. And then you can place plant orders via the Internet without ever leaving home.
Keep a record If you get those free calendars in the mail, take one of them and start writing down information that you'll need every year, to save having to figure it out year after year. For example, it would be a good idea to note the projected dates for the first and last frosts, how much fertilizer you need each year for your lawn, and the date you spread it, and so on. You can also note the number of plants you buy for your container gardens, to avoid over- or under-buying next year.
Try something new Tired of the same old, same old? Prepare now for something new and different. Because the unusual plants are often in short supply, you definitely want to prepare now by researching and ordering your"out of the ordinary" plants.
In my previous column, titled "Some new plant ideas for the new year," I suggested some that you might find interesting. If you missed that column, you can find it saved at my Web site. As always, you're welcome to contact me at if you need any personal advice or suggestions.
Find fallen branches At this time of year, the weather can often bring down anything from small twigs to large branches. When they're left there all winter, they can traumatize your lawn, and may cause a tripping hazard to children or pets playing in the yard, particularly if hidden by snow or frost. Your lawn will benefit in the spring from your preparedness now, and you might end up with some kindling for your fireplace, too.
Think green! Best of all, prepare mentally by imagining how lush, fragrant and beautiful your landscape will be, mere weeks from today!
The Plant Man is here to help. Send questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to For resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, go to

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