This is the first article in our new Quick Digs series about preparing for spring in Salvia gardens. It focuses on first steps from recording information about your landscape to inventorying garden tools.
As spring approaches and daylight grows longer, it's time to get ready for a new season of planting sages (Salvia spp.). First steps include recording sages already planted before planning new purchases, repotting cuttings and seedlings, inventorying garden tools and getting back into the yo-heave-ho of turning the compost heap.
Getting prepared for spring means that when the first new growth arrives, you'll know which plants are weeds and be prepared to remove them before they choke sages and other perennials that are re-emerging. You'll also be well equipped for pruning, raking and digging.
Recording What Is in the Garden
Herbaceous perennials begin dying to ground when first frost hits. Then it is easy to forget where plants are located if you haven't kept a record. Computer programs, such as Excel spreadsheets, can make it easier for gardeners to list the locations of herbaceous perennials. However, notebooks and pencils are sufficient for drawing flowerbed sketches and keeping lists of their contents.
It's never too late for record keeping. Even if it has been months since your last plantings, it's a good idea to draft an inventory of the Salvias and companion plants occupying various flowerbeds in your yard. Here are some basic facts to record:
Repotting Sets and Organizing Seeds
Salvia enthusiasts often take short cuttings of favorite perennials in the fall. If the roots of an in-ground plant die during winter yet its potted cuttings thrive, replacement is easy and inexpensive.
Growing Salvias from cuttings generally is more successful than growing them from seed even if a sage is a pure species rather than a hybrid. Of course, hybrids may not seed at all or, if they do, the plants produced usually won't look exactly like the parent plant.
However, if you saved Salvia seeds last fall or have packets you purchased, now is the time to make a list of seed stock and organize it for planting based on characteristics, such as color, size, flowering season and whether the seeds can be started indoors now or must wait for outdoor sowing after frost has passed.
For cuttings and indoor seed flats, it's best to use soilless potting mix. Although soilless mixes combine organic and inorganic materials, they don't contain problems common to field soil, such as plant diseases or weeds.
Selecting the right kind of soilless mix for a sage depends on whether it needs a rich, average or low-fertility mix -- information you can find in all the plant descriptions in our catalog. It's important to remember that all sages need well-drained soil so roots can grow and breathe easily.
When cuttings or seedlings triple in size, it's time to move them to larger pots that are about double the size of their current containers. Sometimes it's necessary to repot twice before outside planting, especially if you live where late spring frosts are common.
Inventorying Tools and Turning Compost
There's no time like the present for considering the kinds and condition of garden tools on hand before it is time for spring weeding and planting.
If the blades of your shears have rusted beyond repair, the tip of your shovel has broken off, the tines of your garden fork are warped or the handle of your rake has become uncomfortably splintery, it may be time for replacements.
Thinking about your own patterns of gardening, such as what tools you do and don't find useful, can help in making decisions about what to buy. Perhaps you've put off turning the compost, because of the garden-fork problem. Or maybe you have a short-handled garden claw, but prefer to weed while standing up. By getting a long-handled model, you may find yourself getting at the weeding more quickly.
Digging into Quick Digs
Next up in our series, we'll look at planning a Salvia garden calendar for spring. Meanwhile, we encourage any winter-weary gardeners who have questions about Salvias and spring gardening to write or call us. We're glad to offer what we know and to chat about the warmer, more colorful days of long-blooming sages to come.