Spring planting is in full force

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 5, 2009

The air is a little sweeter, and the view is a bit more colorful now that spring flower planting has begun.

But to keep the flowers blooming and smelling fragrant, local flower retailers say there are few steps to follow.

The first, according to Tom Smith, owner of Fred’s Greenhouse and Garden Center in Natchez with his wife Rhonda, is making sure to pick the correct plants and flowers. Smith said rushing to get plants in the ground can be detrimental.

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Making sure gardeners are purchasing the right plant is something he takes seriously because he wants to make sure his customers are happy when the get the plant in the ground.

“You have to make sure the weather is completely right,” Smith said. “I won’t release a plant off the shelf if the weather isn’t right.

“I might lose a sale at that time, but I’d rather make sure the customer is happy with the plant.”

Tanya Doucet, the florist at Live Oak Nursery and Garden Center in Natchez and Vidalia, said her customers know what they want when they come to purchase flowers for planting. She said they typically head for the rows of impatiens, begonias and marigolds when the weather starts warming up.

“They are easy to plant and are real hardy,” Doucet said. “It is hard to kill them.”

No matter the type of plant purchased, Doucet said it is important to follow the planting instructions found with most plants.

“It really is important to look at and read that stick,” Doucet said.

Some of the most common mistakes made, Doucet said, are over or under watering plants and not planting in the correct location.

Smith said watering mistakes are the most common and the most avoidable. He said at his nursery and greenhouse, he tends to lean toward the dry side of watering.

“Once you put water in the ground, you can’t pull it out,” he said. “You can’t soak it up.”

Doucet suggest using mulch to control water.

“Mulching will help your plants say moist,” she said. “That’s very important since our summer gets really hot.

“And it keeps the weeds away.”

Not all the work in gardening happens after the flowers are in the ground, Smith said. He said making sure your soil is ready for planting is half the battle.

He said he uses a compost, black cow manure and a soil conditioner to make sure plants are properly nourished.

One soil mistake Smith said, he sees too often is people using potting soil in their planting beds.

Smith said potting soil is formulated for pots and not beds.

“Potting soil will either retain water or lose water and neither of those options are good for planting beds,” he said.

And after the plants are in the ground, Smith said the look closely at them while you are enjoying their beauty.

While the plants are still at Fred’s Nursery, Rhonda Smith has the job of scouting, or checking the leaves and blooms of flower for signs of disease.

Smith said it is important to continue that after the plants are planted.

“You have to scout your plants for any sign of fungus or disease,” he said. “You have to catch it before it gets out of hand or there’s nothing you can do.”

Doucet said planning your garden before you purchase flowers and plants is a good idea since plants require different amounts of sunlight.

“Marigolds are a good full sun plants,” she said. “Impatients can be a little harder. They can be a bit fussy and like the shade.”

Smith said, the full sun indication doesn’t mean it is necessary to find a place in a planting bed or garden that is always exposed to light. He said, despite the literal meaning of “full sun,” all flowers need time in the shade.

“Even a plant that says full sun needs a little break,” he said. “Full sun all the time can be stressful on the plant.”

Both Smith and Doucet said they have experienced good sales so far this season because of the pleasant weather.

“People are starting now because they don’t want to have to do it when it is so hot,” Doucet said.

But they caution buyers who might be getting anxious to plant since the weather isn’t conducive to all plants right now

“We still have a couple of nights that may be in the 30s,” Smith said.