A simple way to start a garden is to use what many call “bedding” plants. These started plants give you a head start; both in design and success.
When displays of bedding plants start showing up at your local garden retailer, you may think it’s time to plant. But don’t rush in and buy those plants until you know if the timing is right in your area. To do this, use this interactive USDA hardiness zone map by entering your zip code; then you’ll know when the last frost is for your area. After that date, it is safe to plant outside but continue to pay attention to overnight lows in case you have to cover your plants for protection against late freezes.
Look for plants with well-formed leaves of uniformly green color. Avoid any plants with brown or damaged leaves, as well as any with obvious signs of pests.
Preparing for Planting
If you can’t plant immediately, store your plants out of the wind, sun and protected from any late frosts. Water as necessary to keep them from drying out. If days are warm but nights are cold, you might want to put them outside during the day and move them to a protected place overnight to harden off.
When ready to plant, gently “pop” the individual plants out of their packages by pressing on the bottom. Handle them with care, holding them by the ball of soil and roots, or by holding onto the central stem close to where it meets the soil.
Follow the recommended spacing on the plant label and arrange and rearrange your plants on the prepared soil. Then use a hand trowel to dig a hole for the plant. Place the plant in the hole and fill in around the plant firmly but not compacted too hard. You want the garden soil to just cover the top of the soil the plant is growing in, leaving the top of the green plant to catch the sunlight.
Keep your plants watered and fertilized, take some time each week to pull out weeds that may appear, and watch your garden grow. Hanging baskets and plants in containers may need frequent watering during hot weather (sometimes even twice a day in really hot weather), so watch for signs of wilting.