9 ideas for choosing what flowers and veggies to plant

June 30, 2015

Walking into a garden centre or home improvement store can be completely overwhelming: often they have so much variety that it's difficult to decide which plants to choose. To help you narrow down your shopping list and pick flowers and vegetables to grow in your garden, here are nine things to consider.

9 ideas for choosing what flowers and veggies to plant

1. Grow for flavour and colour

If you're a food gardener at heart, try using your sunniest spots to grow dwarf tomatoes, small-fruited cucumbers or a hanging basket of frilly lettuce. Any place sunny is a prime spot for getting excellent results. Then what? Move on to colourful flowers!

  • Light pastels are great for areas that are used at night because they reflect the glow of the moon.
  • Brighter reds and oranges will attract hummingbirds, butterflies and other critters as they dazzle you with their rich hues.

2. Buy extra bedding plants

After you've filled flower beds with bright bloomers, plant "extras" in containers and place them near entryways or outdoor living areas.

  • These "extras" will help bring together splashes of colour from other parts of your yard. What's more, you'll be able to appreciate the intricacies of otherwise simple flowers because you can view them up close.

3. Don’t forget fragrance

It's easy to make your outdoor living spaces even more enjoyable. Simply include pots of fragrant flowers, such as heliotrope or scented geraniums, in the area.

  • Don't forget about adding fragrant herbs in your potted garden. Herbs like basil, rosemary and mint have a delightful aroma. To help release their spicy perfumes, swish your hand through the foliage of fragrant herbs.

4. Include some evergreens

You'll love having evergreen foliage close at hand, regardless of the season. Best of all you can use evergreen boughs in your holiday decorating plans.

  • For special winter interest, try growing a dwarf juniper, white cedar or even a shapely evergreen holly in a container.
  • Hardy bonsai plants kept on a deck or patio work like living sculptures but may have to be brought inside in winter.

5. Try topiary in a pot

Ivy, jasmine and other small-leafed climbers can be trained over wire frames into a variety of attractive and interesting shapes, such as hearts, arches or cones.

To create a topiary

  1. Make a wire frame or buy one from a garden centre or home improvement store. It should be twice as tall as the plant's pot.
  2. Insert the wire frame's base firmly in the soil around the plant.
  3. Wind one plant stem around one wire and repeat with remaining stems.
  4. If a stem is slightly stiff and won't stay in place, tie it in position with soft green twine until it conforms to the shape.
  5. Pinch or snip any stems that grow out of place.

6. Consider easy-care succulents

If you often forget to water, try growing sedums and other succulents as patio plants.

  • Succulents store water in their fleshy leaves, so they require less care than many plants.
  • A few varieties of succulents are cold-hardy enough to be left outdoors in mild winters. If you're unsure, ask the expert at your local garden centre or home improvement store for advice.

7. Assess how much space you have

If you have a tiny garden or limited outdoor space, container plants may be the way to go.

  • Portable and easy to squeeze into nooks and crannies, container plants add colour and appeal to the tightest spot. Best of all, you can grow both ornamental flowers and veggies in pots.

In the fall, you'll need to bring certain potted plants indoors if you want to have them around for another season. Other plants won't survive and should be tossed.

One plant that is popular for growing in containers are geraniums.

  • Bring potted geraniums indoors before the first fall freeze and keep them near a sunny window.
  • With luck, regular watering and occasional fertilizing, they may bloom off and on all winter long.

8. Anticipate winter’s chill

If you live in an especially cold climate, you'll need to figure out how much protection your plants will require during winter and if you're enthusiastic about doing the prep work.

  • If you intend to leave certain plants outside year-round in a cold climate, you'll need sturdy plastic, wood or fibreglass planters that can take a beating.
  • You'll also have to protect both your plants and containers by wrapping wire mesh loosely around the planter, then filling the space with plastic packing peanuts, bubble wrap or dead leaves for insulation.
  • Choose a variety of plant or flower that is cold-hardy to your area. These "tougher" plants are better able to withstand the frigid temperatures and don't require as much fussing.

9. Gauge how much work is involved

Gardens are a real joy but they can also be a lot of work. When choosing plants, keep this in mind. For example, outdoor container plants are popular because of their versatility, but need to be kept warm and protected from winter frost damage. To help shield them from the cold:

  • Wrap each container with bubble wrap and use duct tape or string to hold it in place.
  • Make sure the wrap extends a few centimetres (or couple of inches) above the lip of the container. The added insulation will keep the soil warmer all winter long.

If you're not keen to take these extra steps come fall, then you may want to reconsider buying container plants or at least limit how many you have growing.

If you plant veggies in containers, by the time fall rolls around they may have already been harvested – think "tomatoes." In that case, you may want to consider such "ornamental" vegetables as runner beans.

  • They flower and wither before winter so there's no need to worry about them surviving the cold.

Every garden (and gardener) is different. While some people might prefer bright, showy flowers in the garden, others may want something more practical, like vegetables. Choosing what's right for you is a matter of personal taste. However, don't hesitate to ask the experts at your local home improvement store or garden centre for advice. They'll be able to help you decide what will grow best in your area according to your tastes.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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