Margot’s “Get-Real” Guide for Gardening in the South
[After you read this entry, click: How My Garden Grows: Four.]
I confess that I am a “fair-weather” gardener. The best months in NW Florida to enjoy gardening are: October, November, early December; March, April, and May.
There are many things you need to know about, if you are a first-time gardener, or if you are a “frustrated” gardener.
I will give you my best gardening tips:
Purchase the Book:
- The very best book I have found is The Southern Living Garden Book.
- This one is specific to the Southern climate and heat zone.
Know Your Climate:
- Record Your Climate Zone here: ____________ Mine in NW Florida is “Lower South” [LS].
- Record Your Plant Heat Zone here: _____________ Mine is Zone 9.
Find a Nursery:
Find a small, locally-owned nursery that specializes in:
- native plants
- rain gardens
- attracting wildlife
In Tallahassee, my favorite nursery is Native Nursery. If you go, please tell them I sent you: I won’t receive any compensation but my friends at Native Nursery will be delighted to meet you. Get to know the owners and staff by name.
Know Your Gardening Terms:
For instance, grass that you cut is “turf.” Save the term “grass” to describe the “ornamental grasses.”
Turf plus everything else is “the garden,” a term which Anglophiles, such as I, relish using.
“Plants” is a woefully inadequate general term but I am going to use the term, anyway.
Look below at the amazing choices of “plants:”
Choose a Category:
In what plant category are you interested?
- Bulbs & bulb-like [corms, rhizomes, etc.]
- Foliage: solid color; variegated
- Fruits & berries
- Grasses: Ornamental
- Ground covers
- Shrubs & bushes [I cannot remember the difference.]
- Use a compass to identify the sun exposure on the sides of your home and garden.
- Draw a rough sketch of your home and garden.
- Label: N, S, E W.
- Take the sketch to the nursery.
Know the Requirements of the Plant:
The label on the plant may not be correct because the labels are not “regional.”
Always check The Southern Living Garden Book first!
- Sun exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade
- Moisture: water and drainage
- Climate: heat and humidity
- Soil texture: sand, clay, or loam*
- Soil pH
- Learn the Latin names of the plants!
- Regional names are not specific enough.
- There are many “spider lilies,” for example, but only one Lycoris.
Choose a Theme:
What theme or purpose do you have in your garden?
For what problem do you require a solution?
- Beauty spots: bed, border, or island
- Bullet-proof: You cannot easily kill it.
- Care-free: Very low maintenance.
- Containers: pots, hanging baskets, and window boxes
- Exposure: sun or shade
- Food: fruits & berries, kitchen herbs, or vegetables
- Flowers: fragrant blooms and/or flowers for cutting
- Moisture: Damp or wet area [Rain Garden is a solution]
- Moisture: Drought conditions [Xeriscape is a solution]
- Privacy: hedge or screen
- Showy: Color [blooms, foliage, stems, or bark] or seasonal interest
- Southern: Heritage or Native
- Wildlife: butterflies, songbirds, and hummers
Choose plants that are Care-Free AND Bullet-Proof:
Attraction for wildlife: butterflies, hummingbirds, and songbirds
Hardy and tough
Tolerant of extreme ranges of: salt, sun/shade, temperature, moisture, ph, soil quality, and soil texture.
Must be free of:
Toxicity and poisonous properties
Allergic reaction in people or pets
Does not require:
Spray, soap, oil, powder
Color: blooms or foliage or bark
Year-round interest [or at least more than one season]
~~~Compiled by Margot Blair Payne, May 2012