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Tips for planting a flower bed

With the gorgeous weather we have been having, it's been hard not to be outside all day. I had a day off of work May 2, and wanted to take advantage of the sunshine and use the time to clean up my frontyard and plant some spring flowers.

Pulling up to my home and seeing the gorgeous multicolor blooms planted in my flower beds and pots really brightens my day.

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I usually start my spring planting by spreading mulch on my flower beds and around the base of my trees. We usually order mulch from our local Boy Scout troop, and there are often several colors and textures to choose from. I also tend to struggle with how much to order. I did some research and found some great tips about selecting and laying mulch from http://www.diynetwork.com.

According to http://www.diynetwork.com, for every 100 square feet you want to cover, you will need nine bags — measuring three cubic feet each — if spread three inches thick. If you want to have mulch delivered in bulk, it is usually measured in cubic yards.

We usually order shredded hardwood mulch, but course nuggets are also a good option. The website suggests using the shredded mulch if you are applying it to a hilly area, as nuggets tend to shift more when it rains and might not stay where originally spread.

After reading the article for DIY Network, I also realized I was spreading my mulch too thin. According to the article, if you are using shredded mulch, you should spread it three inches deep, and if you are using nuggets, three to five inches of mulch should be applied.

My husband likes the look of the black mulch, but we realized very quickly that black mulch and dogs don't mix. Our dogs are free to roam in our fenced-in backyard, and often ended up trekking through or laying in the mulch. When they came inside, they would be covered in the black dye that is used to darken the mulch. Long story short — our carpets would be ruined. Because of this, we decided to use black mulch in the front yard only, and use the natural-colored mulch in the back.

According to the DIY Network, dark-colored mulch tends to attract sunlight and can cause the plants that it surrounds to become extremely warm. So, if you are planning on using dark-colored mulch, it might be best to use plants that are good in high heat.

After I found out the proper way to lay the mulch, I covered my beds and surrounded my trees, and was ready to plant the gorgeous flowers I purchased.

I usually buy my flowers at a local home improvement store, but this year, I decided to purchase them from The Forbush School at Glyndon. The school has a greenhouse in which the students help cultivate and grow plants to sell to the public. I spoke to a man working for the school and he said the sale is a great opportunity for the students to interact with the public and get experience with communication and organization. Purchasing plants at an area farmers market, garden center or roadside stand is also a great way to support local businesses.

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When deciding what plants to purchase for my flower garden, I usually try to map out what I will need before heading out to buy them. I make a simple sketch of the yard, including flower beds, tree surrounds and pots. I then draw in where I want to place plants and label the sun level in the individual areas. It can easily become overwhelming and expensive to purchase a yard full of plants.

With this planning, I tend to be more focused at the store and can assure I have the right plants for the right areas.

After arriving at the store or market, I can usually rely on the plant label to find out what type of sunlight the plant should be in, whether it is an annual or a perennial, and how big it will get. Through trial and error, I have made a point to specifically look at the width the plant should grow to. When purchasing them in the spring, plants seem so small, and I used to not account for how much they'd grow during the summer. I would often over-plant in the spring, and the flowers would get too crowded as they grew.

When I got home from the plant sale, I unloaded all of my colorful blooms and started to get to work. I used my sketch to place the flowers in the areas I had planned for planting. That way, I could take a step back, look at the overall garden and make adjustments if needed. It is much easier to move plants around before planting.

After I have the plants all laid out and positioned to my liking, I start digging. With my garden gloves and trowel, I move the mulch to the side, and then try to dig a hole in the soil about as deep as the root ball that is on the plant. I then use a technique my dad taught me, in which I loosen and separate the roots in the root ball a bit. My dad explained that this enables them to spread better and absorb more water after planting. I then place the plant in the ground and fill in the soil around the roots. After the flower is planted, I spread the mulch back around the plant. After a little hard work, I get to step back and enjoy the wonderful blooms that cover my yard.

For the first week or two after planting, I try to water my flowers daily, usually in the morning when it is not as hot outside. After this period, I water them every few days if there has not been a heavy rain. I try to keep my water stream on the roots, not on the delicate flower petals and leaves.

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I hope you are inspired by the warm weather to get outside and plant some flowers and plants of your own. Just a few plants can really brighten up your yard and your day.

Kelly Scible is a Reisterstown resident and can be reached at kellyscible@gmail.com.

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