The snow has melted. The sun shines high in the cerulean sky. Birds chirp happily from the trees beginning to bloom for the summer. It’s officially spring, and that signals one thing to many people.
It’s time to get to work on your lawn and garden.
Whether you’re a seasoned plant lover, starting a vegetable garden, or looking to design new landscaping for your home, you need to know how to care for the plants and flowers you choose to decorate your space. Three Bettendorf plant and garden experts have all the advice you’ll need to create an outdoor space you love.
Pat Wohlford of the Tri-City Garden Club (a regional Quad-Cities gardening club founded in 1919 by Elizabeth Putnam) has some advice when it comes to global warming: don’t rush.
“People are so anxious,” Wohlford said. “But the official last frost date is May 15.”
Wohlford, a former president, has been a member of the group, which has run Centennial Garden in Middle Park, since 1996. Over the decades, she has become familiar with the language of gardening. She explained to me how the United States is divided into zones that indicate when to start planting each season.
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“[Bettendorf is] an area 5b. The whole country is divided into zones depending on the temperature. It has to do with how cold it can get for a [perennial] plant, which comes back on its own every year, to survive,” she said. She stressed the importance of paying attention to labels to ensure that you are buying plants for your zone.
Knowing what you want from your garden before you start planting is a surefire way to set yourself up for success. You should never dive into gardening season without understanding what you are planning and where you are planting it.
“Think ahead – what is your goal and what do you have room for. We can help you figure out how to get there and the best way to get there,” the garden center general manager said. by Wallace, Kate Terrell She recommends preparing not only a monetary budget, but also a time and space budget to know how much work you are able to put into your garden.
We can’t control nature, but we can do our best to prepare for whatever it can throw at us. Brad Snider, landscape designer at Greenspace Associates, emphasized the importance of knowing the conditions of the site you plan to use.
“Is it sunny or shady? Is it wet or dry? What are the ground conditions? Snider asked. These will take into account all of your choices about the plants you choose and how you will care for them.
When you’re ready to start tending your garden for the season, start by clearing fall and winter debris. Some people choose to clean up dead plant material in the fall, while others, like Wohlford, leave it for the winter.
“I like to leave a habitat for the birds. Anything that goes to seed serves as bird food. The other thing is that there are creatures like butterflies and beneficial insects that lay eggs in the plants,” she explained.
A beautiful flower garden in summer brings a sense of peace and joy that you won’t find anywhere else. But to sustain a thriving garden, you must prepare it to survive the four seasons we see in Bettendorf.
“The main thing that damages our plants is winters, because there are certain plants that people want to have here, but they just can’t survive because of our winters,” Snider said.
Snider recommends hydrangeas as a strong flower for surviving winters. Shrubs such as spirea and juniper are also excellent in the Midwest. If you are a vegetable grower, lettuce and radishes are two crops that can survive colder temperatures.
It is also possible to use your lawn and house to create a favorable climate for plants that otherwise might not grow well in Bettendorf.
“Once in a while there will be something planted near a house and the shade and the warmth of the building will create a little microclimate,” Wohlford said. If you are lucky enough to have a lawn design that allows you to create warmth for a plant, be sure to incorporate it into your garden plan from the start.
The beauty of Bettendorf is no coincidence. Resources and experts abound in this area, and you don’t have to go it alone.
Wallace’s Garden Center has more than ten horticulturists on staff, including Terrell, who holds a BS in horticulture from Iowa State University. The local company is happy to offer their knowledge and answer any questions you may have. Wohlford said she visited Wallace’s frequently when she needed something for her garden and appreciated the information she received from them that she wouldn’t find at the big chain stores.
For those new to gardening, Wohlford says there are plenty of online resources to help you plant the right plants in the right place. Additionally, there is an Iowa State University extension office for Scott County located on Tanglefoot Lane in Bettendorf. The office will answer any questions and even help you test your soil.
A large-scale landscaping project can be an even bigger investment than a garden. Landscaping includes landscaping – plant materials such as flowers, shrubs, and mulching – or landscaping such as retaining walls, pavers, and outdoor furniture. A company like Greenspace Associates can help you design and implement a concept for your dream outdoor oasis.
“You run a lot of risk if you do it yourself,” Snider said. “You might pick bad plants that might not survive there, and you’ll end up spending money to replace them. If you are doing an exterior room or landscaping, you risk selecting the wrong material and installing it incorrectly. You can’t beat professionally designed. We kind of know what we’re doing.
Terrell thinks you can show off your personality through your plant and gardening choices. When planning your garden, consider choosing plants that will bring you peace and happiness. Maybe you saw a certain flower on a special holiday. Perhaps the scent of a specific herb reminds you of a loved one.
“It’s important for people to garden in a way that brings them joy,” Terrell said.
Wallace’s, which grows most of its own plants, has seen a trend for bright, warm colors for its plants this year. Oranges, warm coral, yellow, everything to brighten up a space. A popular choice has been two-tone flowers, such as petunias, geraniums and marigolds.
“Probably the number one trend we’re seeing is bolder, more cheerful color,” Terrell said. “It’s been a trend for a few years with COVID. People want to have bright, colorful and cheerful things around them.
Your entire outdoor space should be a place where you can relax and connect with nature. Invest in all of your landscaping while you work on your garden and create a comfort-filled oasis.
“Your outdoor space is just an extension of the interior of your home. We want the exterior to reflect what we love to do,” Snider said.
If you like to host family parties, you might want to add a kiddie pool and a nice patio with quality furniture for the parents to hang out and watch. Invest in a fire pit and outdoor lighting to extend the use of your space as we dive into fall.
“Anything you can do indoors, you can do outdoors,” Snider said. “We made refrigerators, grills, access doors, trash compactors, sinks.”
Be diligent in maintaining your garden
Gardening is a hobby that brings joy and pleasure to millions of people, but it takes work to reap the benefits of beautiful plants and vegetables.
That means spending time in the sun, lifting and moving garden supplies, and getting your hands dirty. Maintaining your garden regularly is imperative to keep it healthy.
“If you don’t get the weed control out of your garden, things can get out of control,” Wohlford said. “It’s not a job that everyone enjoys doing. Mulch is a great help in controlling weeds.
No matter what you decide to plant this year, what you put into it matters the most. Be sure to buy the right size pot or container with good material and quality soil. Terrell referenced an old gardening adage that says “you should always put a $10 plant in a $20 hole.”
“If you take the time and effort to start with really good soil for plant growth, you will have much better success.”