Its That Time of Year – But Earlier!
The temperature is dropping but we’re expecting a remarkably warm spring. This means a longer gardening season and more opportunities for starting early. But for many people, the problem still exists called “how do I start?”. Well, the first thing I advise is “don’t worry!”. Not only should this be fun, but this year the fun starts even earlier.
But I do understand. There are so many choices, so much information available, and past experiences (good and bad). It can be overwhelming and lead to a desire for a plan. But plans aren’t much fun and can make getting started even more burdensome.
I prefer setting a few priorities, three maximum. Any more becomes a list and lists aren’t fun either. I’ll use my own priorities as an example.
Priorities: Mary’s Balcony
Get a handle on indoor plants in my 13th floor studio where I live and work. They’ve been a joy all winter but are out of control, have taken over, are tired, need consolidation, dormancy, and to be moved outdoors.
- Instant Gratification!
Start growing immediately for immediate multi-sensual enjoyment: color, beauty, fragrance, flavor (culinary herbs), and artistic expression and arrangement.
- Business Preparation!
Start stocking some live plants and supplies, and ensure plant rehab. space for client needs as required.
Its also important to me to minimize waste: time, money, plants, trash.
Its simple. Once you have priorities the rest evolves. So when I have initial consultation with clients, a lot more gets accomplished quickly if they just tell me what they don’t like and then we then we can figure out together their 3 (or fewer) priorities.
So what happens next? How to start? Again, I’ll be the example:
First steps: Mary’s Balcony
- Take stock!
Put everything out including: existing plants, pots and window boxes, soil etc. The following 4 photos show my stock-taking, including: 2 lovely fragrant geraniums that needed re-potting, 4 small cyclamen plants that needed consolidating into a single pot before putting them into a dormant state, 3 large begonia plants that bloomed all winter long but had become overgrown and messy, 8″ and 10″ inexpensive plastic pots with clear saucers, 4 empty but soil-filled window boxes, two 3-shelf chrome carts.
Taking stock is not a big deal, but makes getting started so much easier once you see what you have.
- Re-pot, consolidate, cull!
This second step helps you gain space and have a less cluttered look because you’re combining many smaller plants into fewer larger plants.
The first photo shows the consolidated cyclamen. I’d bought them at Mahoney’s last November and they bloomed all winter in four treasured, small, Royal Stafford pots that I’ve had for decades. But the pots are breakable so not really suitable for my windy balcony. An although its still throwing a few new buds, the yellowing leaves are a sign the plant is tired. By mid-April I’ll put the consolidated cyclamen into dormancy and then bring it out again for next late fall and winter. So although I’m not a huge fan of mixed pots, I think this will be a gorgeous multi-colored flowering cyclamen plant next winter, that will still fit on my cold windowsill – a spot I know they thrive in.
The following photo shows the re-potted herbal geraniums. I believe one is a rose specimen and the other (variegated) is apricot. I bought them at Ricky’s in Somerville at the end of the season last year, and they’ve done beautifully but had outgrown the Royal Stafford pots. I have them each in an 8″ pot and they are already taking off. And the fragrance is devine!
The begonias were already in 8″ pots and I think that’s large enough. They are still covered with spectacular blooms but they need some cutting back and TLC. I feel a bit of a traitor but I’m anxious to get them out because they are just too big and messy for my indoor studio.
You’ll find that doing steps 1 and 2 will allow you to purchase additional plants with a lot less stress and confusion. I still prefer to not buy everything all at once and if possible, split it among more than one supplier.
I knew I wanted pansies because because they will thrive even in a cold snap so they’re perfect for this time of year. I wanted them specifically for the window boxes. I bought approx. 16 small plants at Ricky’s and added 3 small pots of white alyssum for contrast and scent.
Ricky’s also had some unusual herbs so I picked up a delightful small-leaf basil and a purple basil. Both of them are extremely fragrant.
Later that evening I went to the Hame Depot garden center and bought few more small pots of herbs: rosemary, lavender, dill.
I also picked up another bag of soil and 4 small Kolanchoe plants to put in the now empty Royal Stafford pots. I’m very happy replace the overgrown plants with a few neat, small, brightly flowering pots on my indoor windowsill.
Planting is the fun part when you have what you need, know where everything is going, and have the space. I prefer to not buy more than I can plant within a 24 hour period. Its not a hard and fast rule but a decent guideline. But what’s most important is to water thoroughly, When its colder, its easy to assume the plants won’t need the same amount of watering. With most flowering plants, that’s a mistake.
A good planting habit is: complete the job! Good watering, clean-up, arrangement and display are all important – particularly when you’ll face what I’ll call “transitional contingencies”. I’ll address that topic in my next post. What its about is how to deal with the following:
If I plant early:
- When is the temperature safe enough?
- What has to come in?
- What can stay out?
- How much work is involved?
- Is it worth it?
I know. It sounds daunting. But this is Boston after all!
But for now, here are a few shots of the completed plantings for this first phase of my balcony project. Can you notice how quickly the plants are adapting and already flourishing? Its been 5-6 days – that’s all. So there’s a real benefit to starting early. But most importantly, I took care of my 3 priorities and followed steps that made it fun, kept the cost low, and eliminated waste.
You can do the same and hopefully my example will make that easier for you.
Happy Gardening from The Flower Whisperer and don’t forget –
Be a Flower!