Meagan Francis

Meagan Francis

Young Annual Plants Lined Up at Local Nursery
Young annuals are sold in large quantities and varieties at local nurseries every spring.

If you’re a newer gardener, you may have experienced something like this: One warm Saturday morning you decide, “This is the weekend I’ll start my garden!” You rush out to your neighborhood nursery or the garden center at the local home-improvement store, excitement growing as the scent of fertilizer and fragrant blossoms reach your nose.

But as you wander up and down the aisles, looking at everything from irrigation systems to potted impatiens, you start to feel anxious. With so many varieties of plants, types of fertilizer and organic matter, and a vast array of tools, you just aren’t sure what you need and can’t settle on anything.

Sound familiar? I’ve been there. For eager can-do types, it’s easy to put the cart before the horse…and then get overwhelmed by too many details and too little knowledge. But there are a few steps you can take to make your next trip to the nursery a success:

Prepare. First, do your homework! Test your soil so you know what you’re dealing with, watch your yard for a day or two to see how much sun different areas get, and look at websites and magazines for inspiration.

Ask for help. When you get to the nursery, make a beeline for an employee. They’re there to help you, and can save you a lot of frustration and wandering. Tell them about the composition of your soil, how sunny or shady your yard is, your experience level, and how much time you have to spend in the garden. They’ll point you toward plants that are a good fit for you, plus the supplies you’ll need.

Start small and simple. Instead of trying to plan out your whole garden at once, you may want to break it down into a series of simple, small-scale projects that you can add to as your confidence grows.

Check your list twice. There’s nothing more discouraging than getting home and realizing you forgot some essential tool or supply. Check your list before you check out. You may also want to ask the garden center employee, “Do I have everything I need?” in case there’s something you didn’t think of. If you don’t have a ton of money to invest in tools right away, check out our list of essential garden tools – you can do a lot with the basics.

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