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Planning Your Gardens
February 10, 2014

I don't know about you, but I've about had it with this 'Global Warming' stuff.

Yes, winter continues.

More snow and temperatures remain below normal.

Still, we creep closer to spring.

The sun now sets after 6:00 PM in Southwest Michigan.

That's almost an extra hour of daylight since mid December.

Between dealing with snow and other daily responsibilities, I am working on a few odd jobs around here.

One such task for me is getting rid of stacks of old magazines.

Magazines that once held important information and articles.

Into the recycling bin went years of old 'Birding Business' magazines.

Several old magazines on 'Fine Gardening', and other similar issues.

Mostly magazines that were important to business (when we had our store), and when I actively Worked in a garden center.

Now landscapes and gardens for me, are about attracting wildlife and planting more natives.

Fine gardening has nothing to do with this, and in my opinion, has nothing on 'Gardening For Wildlife'.

Did I mention, I now have more space (to pile more clutter in).

You got to hand it to the squirrels, they are a tenacious bunch.

They simply don't give up.

They aren't happy with any Ole food, they pester the birds for ground feeding rights.

I don't know who has more fun when I chase them away from the platform feeder on the deck.

Them, or me.

I get a bit of a kick out of it, and I think they like to taunt me in the process.

Speaking of birds, February 14-17 is Cornell's Great Backyard Bird Count.

You can click here to register (no Charge) Great Backyard Bird Count.

Simply follow the instructions as you find time to count some birds.

It is a way to relax, and really get to see who visits your feeders, or what species are around if you are taking a nature hike.

All counts help scientists monitor our bird populations, both good and bad.

Birds are an indicator species and give the experts an idea what may be troubling a certain environment, or region.

It could be lack of habitat, pesticides, or a number of reasons we need to be informed.

I digress. We are weathering the weather, and for you who asked, Yolanda is doing well.

No more seizures or episodes.

Thank you Lord.

Bobo is still a sad looking Love Bird and is perched on my shoulder right now, and Bebe is on my head grooming me :-)

The fur kids, they can't wait for spring as well.

The Amaryllis bulbs were planted a week or so ago.

Seeds have been ordered.

Planting material is in place and grow light is set up.

For me, seed starting will begin soon.

I've cut down some, I simply don't have space to do more.

(Oh how I Greenhouse would bring such joy.)

This is also time for you to get started (I know many of you have ).

Remember to start seeds in a soilless seed starter for best results.

It is also a time to go over your notes and diagrams, if you have them.

If you don't, you can still make plans and draw diagrams of where you want things to go.

A smart gardener plans his/her work and then works the plan.

Here is a sample of what you may want to do.


My yard and gardens seem to change from one year to the next.

Not always big changes, but there seems to be something new to plant every year, or things are moved around from one spot to another.

I think this is the nature for most gardeners.

You add that 'Gotta have' plant.

Something out grows a location or would look better over there.

You may have a little nursery or retaining bed, where plants need to be moved from periodically.

Every year I seem to be relocating, removing a non native, or planting something new.

I have to plan my work and work my plan.

That forces me to draw diagrams and maps of my gardens.

Graph paper works best for this, you can make simple 'In Scale' drawings of your yard, or a single bed.

For example, a single bed may be 6 feet (2m) by 20 feet (about 6m).

Take your graph paper and count the squares accordingly.

You can count single boxes, or double and triple them for a scale model.

Now you have an outline of your bed.

An experienced gardener will know the approximate size of an annual, perennial, or a shrub.

Know if the plant spreads, like 'Bee balm' or 'Goldenrod'.

Or well behaved Like a 'Tall Garden phlox' or 'Coneflower'.

Understand the mature height and spread of any and all plantings.

This is paramount if you don't want to dig and re dig twice a year, or at least once a year.

You will thank yourself later on for doing your homework.

Maybe even through some love my way :-)

Here Is How It Works:

Say you want to plant an Arrowwood viburnum (V. dentatum) in your wildlife garden.

Better yet, plant three in a group for better fruiting.

These particular shrubs can grow 10 feet (3m) tall, and just as wide.

So the shrubs can have a wide spread all around.

So do you plant the shrubs 10 feet (3m) apart?

You don't have to.

Plant the shrubs closer for a nice thick protective area in a few years.

Possibly a nesting spot for some of your birds.

You can also keep the shrubs pruned up a bit.

I have some Highbush Cranberry Viburnum (V. Trilobum) planted but 3 feet apart and groomed to grow straight up, as they make an ideal friendly fence on one side of the deck.

I keep them about 3 feet (1m) wide.

Open Space:

There is all that open space between the shrubs right now.

For a couple of years, there will be.

Don't let this space go to waste.

While your shrubs are still small for the next couple of years, plan on filling this space in with annuals or maybe a few vegetable plants (various peppers add color and food).

You can plant a perennial or two, but know this.........

You will be moving it in a couple of years.

Annuals are always best as fillers.

Me, I like the cottage garden look.

Filled with plants and loaded with colors.

Not just for my eyes, but for the wildlife.

Any open space, and I place an annual.

While most annuals are non native, they do attract pollinators and some insects for bird food.

Be careful not to choke out your perennials with too many annuals.

Plant native perennials (in permanent locations) for even more wildlife action.

Over the years, I have learned what annuals perform best, and what annuals attract more pollinators.

What grows where and pretty much what to expect from a certain plant species.

If you don't have favorites, you will.

For Example:

I like to attract hummingbirds as much as the next person.

I have many plants to attract them from spring to autumn.

However, if I could pick just one species of plant to attract hummers, it would be 'Red Salvia'.

Red Salvia blooms from spring to killing frost and continues to grow and get better as the seasons wear on.

Salvia is a true hummer magnet and can grow in full sun to partial shade.

Fill in some of the voids with salvia and you can't go wrong.

They are critter resistant, and have yet to have them ruined by mildew of other fungus.

I also have annual beds as well.

Look and Feel:

Have a 'Feel' for what you are looking for.

Not simply flower power, but a 'Look and Feel' project.

Colors of flowers and foliage.

Plant height.

Fall colors and fruiting abilities.


Are your plantings easy care, or high maintenance?

As I mature with age, my body reminds me (all to often), that I don't want to keep digging and moving things.

I have better things to do than thin out clumps upon clumps of iris or daisies.

It is wise to look for permanent locations for some plants.

Some where, the 'sage' in me must act the part.

Graph paper and written plans allow for you and me to save time on labor.


Unless you plant an instant landscape, you will have a couple of years for perennials to mature and at least that for shrubs to show some value.

Plan what your gardens will look like when things are grown up, not what they look like as babies.

Until your perennials, shrubs and trees grow up, fill in the voids with annuals, and make room for an annual bed too.

Plan on how tall flowers, grasses, shrubs and yard art will be.

Now is the time to plan workability too.

Watering and caring for your gardens.

Plant like need plants with like need plants.

In a few short years, weeds wont be an issue, as your plants grow and fill in, they block the sun, and choke out 99% of any would be weeds.

Continue to add mulch and shredded leaves and you will have your own bit of paradise.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

You are never a great man when you have more mind than heart.

King Solomon in all of his wisdom had something to say about the heart.

Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.

Proverbs 4:23

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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