Garden tips from the experts

Garden tips from the experts

It’s gardening season once again! Gather your garden gloves, trowels and shovels and head outdoors to beautify your outdoor space. Whether you’re planning a vegetable garden or adding plants and flowers to your landscaping, gardening is a fun way to personalize your home while breathing in that sweet, fresh air. We chatted with local garden experts to help with your gardening needs this season. 

Garden tips

Spring gardening checklist 

from Dirk Jonker, owner, Jonker’s Garden

897 Lincoln Ave., Holland

Plant perennials

Perennials should be in good supply at the nurseries now that spring has sprung. Once the last day of frost has passed, plant summer and fall flowering perennials such as rudbeckia, Japanese anemone, daylilies, hostas, coneflower, astilbe and yarrow. If these plants have been purchased from a garden center that has hardened them off outdoors, most can be planted even before the last frost.  

Garden tips

Plant cool season vegetables

Cool season vegetables include lettuces, spinach, kale, radishes, peas, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, leeks, chard and kohlrabi. This is also a good time to plant onion sets, seedling potatoes and asparagus crowns.

Plant summer vegetables after the last frost

These include beans, corn, cucumber, eggplant, melons, okra, peppers, pumpkins, squash, sunflowers and tomatoes. 

Plant fruit trees

But first, find out if your selection needs a pollinator or is self-fruitful and is appropriate for your USDA zone. Make sure there is sufficient space for your selection and that the site receives six to eight hours of full sun.

Plant spring bulbs

These include dahlias, gladiolas, cannas and ranunculus.

Move succulents outside

Succulents that have been overwintered can be moved outdoors after the last frost. Be careful not to move them into full sun until they are acclimated. Protect from too much moisture if rains are heavy in your area. 

Plant azaleas and rhododendrons

Plant azaleas and rhododendrons

Plant these now, while in flower, because as soon as they stop flowering, they start growing. Also plant about an inch higher than the surrounding soil so that the top of the root ball sticks out of the ground to allow for settling over time. 

Pruning and spring-cleaning checklist 

• Prune rhododendrons immediately after flowering. Snap off old, dried flower clusters on rhodies, but remove carefully so that developing buds beneath the trusses are not damaged because they provide next year’s blooms.

• To eliminate sources of overwintering disease and insects, clear and dispose of old leaves and flowers from flower beds.

• As frost-damaged plants begin to grow, prune and remove the damaged portions of the plant.

• Hibiscus and other tropical plants that have been overwintered inside can be pruned, fertilized and put outdoors after the last frost.

• Wait until bulb plant leaves turn yellow before cutting them off. This allows the energy and nutrients to return to the bulbs for next year’s flowering.

Q&A with Robin Baker, owner, Robin’s Flower Gardens

6032 144th Ave., Holland

Q. How do you choose which flowers to offer at your garden center?

A. I trial new and different flowers by my home every year to see how it performs in the landscape, how much water it requires and what the ideal sun or shade formula is. Nothing can guarantee customers’ success with flowers better than my own hands-on experience. I can determine whether it’s a perfect flower for someone who wants a low maintenance, easy beginner flower or whether it requires more attention and would be better suited for the advanced grower. 


Q. How can customers ensure they’re choosing the right flowers? 

A. One of the tips I give customers when picking out flowers is simple — trust the advice of your garden center experts! I’ve seen it far too many times where the customer doesn’t take their advice and falls in love with the bright, beautiful blooms on a flat, basket or planter — only to end up in the end unsuccessful and feeling defeated. 

Every customer can have a green thumb, I promise! I always ask the customer about their planting area; how large is it, what direction is it facing, is there irrigation and most importantly how much time do they want to give to their plants or flowers in this area weekly?

I also ask the customers about their past experience of the area. Have they had experience with flowers in that area prior and if so, what were the flowers and how did they perform?

Once the garden center expert has some of those questions answered, they can make recommendations that will guarantee a customer’s success! We want the customer to succeed, because a happy customer is a repeat customer!

Q. What are some of your favorite flowers? 

A. My personal favorite annual flower is the SunPatien! They will flower beautiful, colorful, consistent blooms all season until frost. SunPatiens can be planted in the hot sun or on the north side of your home where there’s very little sun and they will still out-wow the neighbors’ flowers every time — I guarantee it! They do not need to be dead headed! They take a fair amount of water, but minimal to no fertilizer at all! They come in a rainbow of colors and once you try them, you’ll probably never try anything else. For minimal cost, they are my No. 1 recommendation and will make anyone love the outside of their home. Sound too good to be true? Stop in Robin’s Flower Gardens and give them a try! 

My second favorite would have to be the Macho Fern! Another easy, anyone-can-grow choice! Much larger than a Boston Fern, this beauty will grow larger than most hanging baskets and you will feel horrible throwing it away at the end of the season. Yes, it’s all green, but don’t let that fool you. They require minimal water or attention! These super easy showstoppers are for anyone and everyone! They might not produce blooms, but they sure do produce a wow! Stop in, I locally grow hundreds of them!

Photo: Robin’s Flower Gardens
Photo: Robin’s Flower Gardens