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Quick Digs: Inventorying Salvias and Tools for Spring Gardening

Jan 30, 2016

Quick Digs: Inventorying Salvias and Tools for Spring Gardening

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:

  • When last frost is predicted for your region, because this will affect plans for pruning and planting
  • Where flowerbeds are located throughout the yard
  • What perennials and shrubs are already planted in those flowerbeds
  • What sets from fall cuttings or seed are available
  • Where the best spots are for new plantings and
  • When specific sages are likely to bloom.

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.

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Plants mentioned in this article
Ask Mr Sage is one of the most popular categories in our Everything Salvias blog. Here are a few of the latest posts:
Ask Mr. Sage: How to Place Advance Orders with FBTS - Flowers by the Sea is a mail-order nursery eliminating craziness from garden planning with advance orders and customer selection of shipping dates. Ask Mr. Sage is a regular feature based on calls and emails received by FBTS. This article details how to use our redesigned preorder process and other catalog tools for making sure you get the plants you want when you want them. Ask Mr. Sage: How to Select Plants for Garden Triumph - Planning for Salvia garden success requires following the rule of selecting the right plant for the right place. Desert sages aren't appropriate for the damp Southeast. Moisture-loving ones aren't right for desert climates where they need lots of watering to survive. Flowers by the Sea Farm and Online Nursery offers tips for selecting plants based on local climate. Ask Mr. Sage is a regular feature of the FBTS Everything Salvias Blog. Ask Mr. Sage: How Should I Prune my Salvias? - Flowers by the Sea Online Nursery specializes in Salvias and often receives questions about how to prune them. Although getting good at pruning takes practice, Salvias rebound quickly if you make mistakes. A key to successful pruning is understanding the varying needs of four main categories of sages. Ask Mr. Sage is a regular feature of the FBTS Everything Salvias Blog. Ask Mr. Sage: Do You Offer Free Shipping? - Like free lunches, free shipping is a myth. Flowers by the Sea doesn't offer free shipping, because it would require increasing plant prices to cover the cost of shipping. Read more to learn how FBTS sets fair shipping prices. Ask Mr. Sage is a regular feature of the Everything Salvias Blog and is based on calls and notes from customers. Ask Mr. Sage: Best Time to Plant Drought Resistant CA Natives - Drought resistant California native sages thrive when planted in fall. It's easier for roots to become established when soil is warm, air temperatures are cooler and precipitation is increasing. Ask Mr. Sage is a regular feature of the Everything Salvias Blog and is based on calls and emails from customers. Ask Mr. Sage: What Is Shipping in Boxes Like for Salvias? - It's understandable to worry about the condition of plants following shipment in a box. However, Flowers by the Sea Online Plant Nursery is exceedingly careful to make sure your plants arrive in healthy condition. A satisfied customer sent us the photos in this article. Step by step, they illustrate the process of unpacking and hardening off FBTS plants received by 3-day ground delivery more than 1200 miles away from our Northern California farm.