To Plant or Not to Plant…, That is the Question
And we have the answer-
With literally thousands of plant species and varieties available for your landscape, it is sometimes a daunting task to select the ones best suited for the space. There are multiple factors to consider before adding new vegetation to your yard. Size (growth habit), zone (hardiness), exposure (sun/shade), soil (clay/sand), water (wet/dry), and wildlife (wanted/unwanted) are the essential aspects factors to focus on when making new choices. Some initial research will be highly beneficial to help you ensure your landscape investment will thrive.
All plants are living organisms that grow at different paces. Some compact, small shrubs can quadruple in size over a few years. Bed width, surrounding plants, and window heights must all be considered before planting. Most plant identification tags will give adequate spacing recommendations and specify mature heights and widths.
For example, foundation planting design should be based on a 15–18-year life span. After that, it is typically time for a landscape renovation due to overgrowth and crowding. This guideline allows plant material to have enough room for healthy growth while not making the overall initial appearance look sparse.
Our geographic region of the Northeast is divided into three specific zones which affect plant hardiness depending on temperature extremes. Certain plant varieties may not survive or thrive with low-temperature exposures.
We are zoned as follows: 6b- the central corridor of South Jersey (-5-0 F), 7a- eastern/western South Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania (0-5 F), 7b- shore points from LBI to Cape May (5-10 F). These zones and the rest of the United States are available online on the USDA Plant Hardiness map.
Some plants need full sun exposure, and some prefer part sun or all shade. It is crucial to be aware of your property’s sunlight patterns. Too much sun and a shade-loving plant’s leaves will scorch, while too little for a sunbather will grow sparsely with little flower production. Once again, plant ID tags specify this and the duration of the day required. Adjacent trees and buildings cast shade depending on their orientation to the sun, so that should also be considered.
Something as simple as dirt can be a very complex balance of moisture retention and organic matter. Soils with high clay content will retain water and allow it to drain very slowly, causing root systems to rot and decay. On the other hand, sandy soils allow moisture to drain too quickly, not allowing roots to capture necessary water.
Identify your soil type before selecting new plantings. Rutgers Soil Testing Laboratory in New Brunswick offers this service for a minimal fee for those without a degree in soil chemistry. In addition, they will provide instruction on necessary remediation to suit your proposed use and plant selection. For example, adding organic matter (peat moss) or sand to soils high in clay may be all that’s needed to create a better foundation.
Too much or too little water is probably one of the most common causes of untimely plant death. An important factor in determining how much water is required is soil type and its ability to drain adequately. The combination of sandy soil in full sun exposure will result in the need for increased watering versus soil with clay content in a shaded environment. Investing in an automated irrigation system will make this chore much more manageable. Even remote rain sensors can be integrated into a system and regulate the amount of water supplied based on what is provided by Mother Nature.
Garden critters can be a double-edged sword since it’s beneficial to include plant material that attracts “wanted” wildlife instead of greenery that entices “unwanted” pests. Butterflies, hummingbirds, and chipmunks are usually welcome guests and add to your landscape’s beauty. Unfortunately, deer and rabbits can be the main culprits of missing and damaged foliage. If you live in an area prone to Bambi or Peter Cottontail, don’t fret, there are extensive plant lists they don’t like so that you can plan accordingly.
This list may seem like a lot to keep in mind, but with minimal investigation, your landscape investment will be better able to thrive for years to come. Landscaping is meant to be a therapeutic, enjoyable activity, so have fun with it, and always remember….we’re always just a phone call away if you need help.