Richard Gunion

Before you dig out the gardening tools and find yourself overwhelmed by the selection at your local nursery, check out some tips from area experts on what to consider.

David Sherwood, owner, SHERWOOD’S FOREST NURSERY

  • Check sun exposure in the area where you plan to plant and choose plants accordingly.
  • Call 1-800-DIGRITE and get all utilities marked prior to digging.
  • Plant early bloomers like forsythia, snow mound spires, hellebores, dogwood and redbud trees early so as not to miss them in their full glory.
  • Mid-spring plantings include broadleaf evergreens like holly, bracken beauty magnolias and late-flowering plants like rhododendron and azaleas.
  • In late spring, plant marginal shrubs like crape myrtle and tropical plants, and start on summer annuals and vegetables.
  • Balled and burlap trees larger than 20 inches in diameter should be planted by a professional.
  • Many homeowners want maintenance-free landscape—there is no such thing. All plants need regular watering, mulching and fertilizing.

Chip Tynan–manager of horticulture answer services, MISSOURI BOTANICAL GARDEN

  • Perform a soil test: Take five to six, half-inch slices of soil from the planting area, remove any growth or mulch and place each sample in a clean Ziploc bag. Mix the samples together, and let dry out naturally if wet. Extract two cups and place in a clean, unused container. Clayton accepts samples for the Missouri University Extension. MOBOT Kemper Center also accepts samples.
  • Don’t work the soil when it is wet, especially if breaking ground on a new garden. The diminished state of the soil’s texture will remain for the entire growing season.
  • The average last frost date for St. Louis is April 15; the average first frost date falls between Oct. 12-20.
  • It’s best to call in the professionals when you have issues with drainage or plan to add hardscape.
  • The max depth for mulch is 2 to 3 inches; avoid placing mulch against tree bark and don’t mulch dry soil.

Jim Graeler, general manager, CHESTERFIELD VALLEY NURSERY

  • Have a plan. Sketch your ideas on paper to ensure the area has nice balance and flow, uses various textures and has year-round color. Consider drainage and how large plants will get.
  • Perennials can be planted in mid-April and annuals after the last frost. Many say after Mother’s Day; however, we start the first of May.
  • If you have dreams of building a brick paver patio or installing an outdoor fireplace or kitchen, a high level of skill and knowledge is required to produce not only a beautiful result but also one that will last—it’s best to consult a professional.
  • Ask a lot of questions. Don’t choose plants based on aesthetic alone.