Garden Center Overview 101

Garden Center Overview 101

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Trips to the garden center are a spring rite of passage, as winter-weary homeowners seek to throw off months of relative solitude to buy flowers and plants in a bid to offer seasonal cheer. Privately owned nurseries and garden centers as well as those operated by “Lowe’s” and “The Home Depot” are busy all weekend throughout the spring. By mid-June, business returns to normal as customers finish beautifying their lawns and gardens, and are ready to enjoy the fruit of their labors all summer long.

Where you shop is up to you, but there are some things you’ll want to keep in mind as you shop this weekend. The following are some tips and a glossary of sorts explaining what you’ll see and what you should consider:

Guarantee — Spend $150 on a Japanese Maple and you’d expect it to grow and become the centerpiece of your front yard. If it dies, will you be out $150? Not always. Some stores guarantee shrubs, evergreen and trees for one year following your purchase. This is important because it may take that long for you to know whether that bigleaf magnolia or dwarf redwood will survive. Ask your merchant what is covered and how refunds, credits and exchanges are handled.

Annuals v. Perennials — Some flowers last for the season and are known as annuals. Other flowers die off in late fall, but bloom again the following spring. If you’re lucky, these “perennials” will make a permanent home in your garden, providing years of enjoyment. Popular annuals include petunias, dahlia, impatiens and geraniums. Most desired perennials include hosta, garden peony, phlox and day lily. Mixing and matching the two in your garden can offer you a good variety of plants and flowers, some of which will bloom at various times of the season.

You can build the perfect garden setting this spring.

Tools and Decorations — Most any tool made and yard decoration sought is available at large garden centers and through many hardware stores. Your dilemma comes down to deciding which tools you need and what quality to select. Here’s a tip for first time gardeners: shop a garage or yard sale to find much of what you want. The reason? You may discover after just one season that gardening is not your thing, leaving you will little used, but pricey tools and decorations. Save your money the first year by selecting buying only what you need, shopping used and borrowing everything else from a neighbor.

Seeding and Fertilizer — If you want to start a debate with a group of people, then discuss seeding and fertilization for your lawn. You’ll receive more opinions than you expect with some people advocating for an all-out annual chemical attack on your lawn while others espouse letting nature take its course by keeping seeding, weeding and feeding to a minimum. Your best approach is one that you want to follow which means avoiding the pressure to do the seasonal Scotts lawn care routine when a less robust plan may do. Take into consideration your soil, perhaps sending off a sample to your university extension service to find out what food your lawn needs.

Mulch and More — One thing you’ll notice as you make your journey down aisle after aisle of plants, flowers, decorations and tools, is that the truly big items are nowhere to be found. Well, at least not out in the open. Bigger items, such as bags of mulch are usually sequestered to the sides of the center, sitting in large piles on shelves and pallets awaiting your purchase. What can be so complicated about dirt? Not much, however mulch can be used to do different things, therefore reading labels will tell you what to get. Two categories of mulch are offered: organic, consisting of pine needles, hay, grass clippings and even shredded newspaper and inorganic which are stones, plastic and landscape fabric. Both protect the garden, but only the former passes on nutrients to your plants.

Shop ‘n Go v. Delivery — Not everyone owns a Ford F-150 pickup truck, a Toyota Highlander SUV or a Honda Odyssey minivan, vehicles just perfect for hauling hundreds of pounds of garden center goodies to your home. Nor is everyone strong enough to lift up 40 pound bags of mulch, 60 pound bags of decorative stone or a concrete bird bath. Some garden centers deliver and charge a fee for this service, perhaps an option worth considering when choosing where to shop. You can also rent a truck from The Home Depot to cart away your half dozen Bartlett pear trees, irrigation equipment and pavers. Or, pay the neighborhood kid $20 to meet you at the garden center with his pickup truck to load and go.

Finally, be prepared to spend, spend, spend when shopping for lawn and garden gear and items. Easily, you can spend hundreds of dollars on plants, flowers and fertilizer, perhaps thousands if you’re looking a major yard makeover project including a new patio, furniture and a grill. Know your budget and stay within it!

See AlsoHome Remodeling Plan: Garden Landscaping

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Categories: Yard and Garden

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Auto Trends Magazine", an online publication. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and weblogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".