Prevent premature death in the garden

Have you ever seen a honey bee with so much pollen on her feet and thighs she can barely fly? I often wonder if some of them never make it back to their hives, they’re so overloaded. It’s spring again and all the more reason to be organized not just with housecleaning, but in the garden.

This time of year the nurseries are teaming with flowers that beseech us like friendly puppies at the Humane Society to take them home. And we Sidetracked Home Executives are like busy bees around those beautiful flowers. After all, we survived winter and we’re sick of gray and ready for sunny colors.

But like those bees, we can get carried away buying more than we can plant. We fly home with our trunks full of flats of flowers with the optimism we’ll plant them all in a day. Too often we poop out in the middle of the plant, and the remaining purchase is at the mercy of our next planting mood which can easily result in death of the remaining purchase. “Death by good intention.”

A good rule of your green thumb is the four Key P’s — plan, prepare, purchase and plant. If you try to prepare and plant at the same time, you’ll poop out and the plants you’ve taken into your care face possible death. Of course it’s not premeditated, but the plants will be just as dead.


Divide your yard into zones. When you divide up a project into manageable parts you won’t get overwhelmed. Figure out what you’d like to have brighten each zone and write down how many of each plant you want. It’ll be like a grocery list. Don’t plan another zone until you’ve finished planting one you’ve planned. I like to add at least one perennial each year (those are the plants that come back) in each of my zones.


Prepare the soil and even dig the holes before you head to the nursery.


Take your list and limit what you buy to the amount of holes you’ve already dug. Don’t be tempted while you’re in the beauty of all the colors and fragrances. You don’t have to stick to the exact kind of flowers on your list, just the number of plants.


When you actually get to plant, you’ll be so happy with yourself for doing all the hard work first. And you won’t have the guilt that comes with unintentionally killing innocent life.

This year I’ve turned one of my pet peeves into an advantage. We have a big meadow and every spring the moles convene like they’re at a mole retreat. Their underground social network rivals Facebook. They seem to converge on our meadow about when the grass starts growing. As I walked through the grass and inspected the hills I noticed how rich the dirt was and I thought, ‘I should use it when planting flowers in the beds that have a great deal of clay.’ I went to my local nursery and asked what I could add to the dirt to make it good as a potting soil.

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