It might still be on the early side, but I put in my herb garden last weekend. (If a surprise frost comes in, I’ll cover everything.)

The chives and the huge grove of parsley . . . overwintered (I actually need to harvest that parsley!), but everything else is a “start” or a “bedding plant” I picked up at my favorite nursery late last week.

Want some tips about choosing and planting bedding plants? It’s easy, sure. But there are a few tricks to know.

First, when you’re choosing a bedding plant, look for a healthy plant. I know that sounds very obvious. But what, exactly, IS a “healthy plant?” Well. . .

  • It’s not too big yet. (It will grow.)
  • It’s not really blooming much — ¬†but you can see plenty of buds (future blooms”; after all, you want it to bloom in your garden — not at the nursery).
  • It has lots of tiny, new leaves emerging on the plant (“future growth”).
  • It’s not “leggy.” (That just means it’s been in its nursery container for a long, long time. It’s not always bad, but if you have a choice, choose the “not leggy” plant.)
  • It doesn’t have roots coming out the bottom of the container. (Again, that just means it’s been growing in its nursery pot for a long time, and might be getting stressed.) Later in the growing season, it’s hard to find bedding plants that aren’t “leggy” or that aren’t a little root bound . . . but at the beginning of the season? You should be pickier if possible. (By the way, feel free to pull a plant out of its container and take a look at the roots before buying; it’s totally allowed! Just be gentle and respectful.) (I buy plenty of plants that ARE root bound in their containers, but if I have a choice not to, I buy those that aren’t root bound instead.)

If you don’t plan to plant your new bedding plants right away, make sure to give them lots of love until you do. Keep them in the shade, give them plenty of water, and mind any frost warnings. It’s generally best to get them in the ground (or your container) as soon as you can once you bring them home.

At planting time, dig a little hole that is big enough to comfortably hold the plant at the same soil-level as it’s been growing in it’s little container. I like to dig the hole a little deeper and a little bigger in diameter so I can backfill with some organic compost/manure. (I pick up big bags of this stuff at Lowe’s. It’s very inexpensive – less than $3 for a 40 lb. bag – and we use it for everything we plant in our garden.) (Note: I don’t use compost in my containers, though. Just potting soil.)

If I notice the plant looks a bit root bound (this one was a bit on the tight side), I gently massage it to loosen up the roots before placing it in the hole. This really does help the roots take hold easier, and makes for happier plants in your garden.

Then, I just firm up the soil around the plant, and give it a good drink of water. Planting is hard on the plant — and I want to give it the best start possible.

Best time to plant? When it’s overcast and drizzling! Don’t put off gardening just because it’s raining a little! (That said, be smart. You don’t want to endanger yourself in a downpour or a storm!)

How about YOU? Have you done much planting yet this season?

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Let me know if you have any questions about planting. I’ll try to answer your questions — or direct you to a resource.