By now, you should have a good sense of what survived our tough winter. It’s easy to make a snap judgment early in the season, but many plants don’t really start to bud out and show whether they lived or die until well into spring. A good rule of thumb is to wait until almost Father’s Day to evaluate what’s working and what isn’t working in your garden.
This is the time when you can assess what areas of your garden need the most work. It’s still cool enough that you can do some serious digging and rearranging without too much sweat. And it’s still early enough to find good replacement stock at local nurseries and landscape centers. If a plant is still struggling now, chances are it may struggle for the rest of the summer. You need to decide: keep or toss?
It’s important to view your planting area from several different angles. Don’t forget to look from your house through a window to see what kind of view you have. If you have a hilly site, go to the top and the bottom of the hill to see what it looks like. Oftentimes you’ll get an entirely different sense of what is thriving and what is struggling when you walk around and look at things from all angles.
Make notes as you go about what looks good and what is looking straggly. Keep a Garden Journal in a simple spiral notebook, jotting down what did well and what needed more maintenance than you expected. That way you won’t make the same mistake next year when you see that intriguing plant at the nursery and you decide to give it a try.
It’s also a good idea to make a note every year of the new plants you put in and jot a few notes about their ideal growing conditions. As you walk around the garden, try to figure out why a plant didn’t do well. Was it disease? The wrong plant in the wrong spot? Too much or too little light? Too much or too little moisture?
If you kept a garden notebook, check your notes from last year. Did you put the plant in the right spot but it still did badly? Document it so you know to either avoid that plant in the future, or try it in a different spot.
Sometimes, for no real reason, a plant that did well the year before is now struggling. Try a little TLC, but if that doesn’t work, you’ll need to decide: keep or toss? Maybe it’s time for a replacement.
For garden questions, call the Linn County Extension Hortline at (319) 447-0647.
Jean Wilson is a Linn County Master Gardener.