What do I plant and when?

We frequently receive questions about when our respective plant collections are available and the best time to plant. A quick answer up front: the garden year is longer than some people think! Plantings are especially useful in the cooler seasons. When the thermometer rises above 30 degrees, it makes sense to let the plants rest. Also, the gardener is best off now on a cozy lounger in the shade with cold lemonade. Then, when the temperatures drop again, it’s time to get going again.

This snappy little overview hopefully brings some clarity to an -admittedly- not-so-simple subject:

perennials

Shrubs can generally be planted from spring through fall. The ideal time, however, is autumn: the soil is still relatively warm from summer, precipitation is increasing, and the sun shines only gently into the garden: an almost ideal condition! The perennials can now take root quite comfortably and no longer have to put all their energy into flowering. In spring, they will also start on time and offer much more than young plants that have only now been planted.

But when is fall? Don’t look at the calendar, look out the window! When the leaves fall, the temperatures no longer rise above 16 degrees and it gets noticeably cooler. Light frosts at night are not a problem and are well tolerated by all hardy perennials, even as young plants.

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Planting in spring and summer is likewise usually no problem, but makes a little more work: when temperatures shoot up, young plants with their short roots need to be watered very regularly.

Tulip and daffodil bulbs

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Please plant autumn bulbs only in the fall! Sounds logical, but is often done incorrectly. Many put your bulbs already in September, when it is often still too warm. These begin to sprout and then it was often with the bloom in the spring. Better to wait for the uncomfortable, wet and cold muddy weather, put woollen socks in your wellies and off you go! Theoretically, you can still plant autumn bulbs in December, but the ground should not be frozen. A prolonged period of frost will simply make the soil too hard and impenetrable.

Flower seed

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Early starters start seeds indoors in late February, but then the seedlings usually need to be repotted before heading outside in mid-May (not before, please, EVERYWHERE the weather is right now). It’s a lot of work. I usually don’t start pre-potting indoors until early April, and then have the first blooms in the garden from about mid/late June. Since many annuals really do bloom until frost with regular pruning, that’s perfectly adequate in my view.

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As always, there are exceptions to the rule: there are hardy annuals that are also sown in late summer for the next garden year. It’s worth trying this out, you’ll get a better and earlier start and bring even more joy that way! Winter hardy annuals include: maidenhair in green, poppy or wild carrot.

Biennials are sown the first year and don’t flower until the second year. What sounds like a lot of work isn’t at all. They can be sown from early summer to early fall and once they are planted in the garden, you can forget about them for a bit. They don’t need much and are usually super hardy. And then, when you completely forget about them, they usually appear in stately figure and beautiful bloom. What a joy! Many are self-seeding and remain permanent guests in the garden if you let them.

Dahlias

Dahlias are some of the best garden plants if you know how to handle them. It’s not complicated, but it requires its own journal post. Here’s just a quick overview of the best time to plant them. Directly in the garden do not plant before mid-May as they are very sensitive to frost. A good tip for early flowering, though, is to grow them ahead. I do it like this: I have 20-30 large, simple flower pots. These are filled with soil in early/mid April and the bulb is planted individually in them. They stand near our small garden house protected on the terrace. If the temperature does drop below 0 degrees at night now, I quickly put them inside in the evening. This takes less than 5 minutes and has happened exactly 2x in the last 4 years. The little bit of work is rewarded with flowers already in June (and they still bloom until the first frost, they are just incredible!)

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