Date Night Cincinnati · Monthly experts

Gardening advice for couples

Spring is in the air, and it’s time to start planting gardens, but where do you start? We talked with Mark House, the assistant manager from Krohn Conservatory, for some gardening advice!

Date Night Cincinnati (DNC): When is the best time to start planting flowers?

Mark House (MH): When people say “flowers,” they are often referring to single-season (annual) plants. The best time to plant most flowers is after May 10. Some annuals, such as alyssum, flowering kale and pansies, can be planted in March and April. Other flowers, such as tulips, daffodils and hyacinths (bulbs), are best planted in the fall. Perennials, plants that come back each year, can be planted in the spring or fall.

DNC: What is the best soil to use?

MH: This is a tricky question. Most seasonal flowering plants perform best in local soils amended with a lot of organic matter. At Cincinnati Parks, we till 2-3 inches of organic matter (compost, peat moss, rotted manure, etc.) into the flower beds each spring before planting. This will not work for established perennials. But, the soil should really match the needs of the plants you select. I recommend getting a soil test from your local OSU Extension Office. Every county has one. The extension office will tell you what you need to do to your soil to grow the plants you want. Otherwise, ask the grower from whom you are buying the plants. They can tell you what each individual plant requires as far as soil is concerned.

Note: To find your county’s OSU Extension Office, check here.

DNC: For a couple planting a garden, how do you handle disputes over which flowers to put in? For example, I want daisies, but my husband wants roses.

MH: I really recommend a compromise. If one person dominates a planting selection, the other will feel left out. Plant both. The only exception would be if one person cares for the garden much more than the other. You can’t have someone take care of your flowers if they don’t like them. By the way, choose roses carefully, only a few really grow well in the Midwest.

DNC: If you want to start a vegetable garden, what is the best way to get started?

MH: There are absolutely wonderful classes offered in this region to help coach vegetable growers. The Civic Garden Center, OSU Extension Office and many others offer advice and training. Otherwise, I recommend consulting with someone who has experience growing vegetables. I have learned a lot from helpful friends and family. Other options include online vegetable gardening forums, seed catalogs and even learning by growing.

DNC: Anything else a couple should know before starting a garden?

MH: Yes, plan well.

1. Base planting populations on the mature size of each plant; people often overcrowd plantings.

2. Select plants that will grow well in your specific location (wet, dry, sunny, shady).

3. Know your soil! Is it alkaline or acidic? Heavy or light? Fertile or depleted? Plants can have strong preferences.

And, I strongly suggest investing in an irrigation system — one you do yourself or a professionally installed system. This can really make a difference. Finally, I would suggest a book called “The Well Tended Garden” by Tracy DiSabato for flower bed design and the “Guide to Ohio Vegetable Gardening” by James Fizzell, or comparable books.

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