As you’re thinking about plants for your garden this spring, remember to think local. Not only will the small nurseries in your area have plants that are specifically geared towards your climate and soils, but they will also be able to offer better advice on what does and doesn’t work, troubleshoot issues and make suggestions. Since the plants at the big box stores often travel far distances, they can pick up diseases and pests along the way that might not manifest themselves in that exact plant, but can wreak havoc in your garden. Finally, by supporting local businesses you are supporting your local economy, minimizing the carbon footprint in terms of transportation costs and growing expenses (especially water), and fostering a community of gardeners in your area.
There are some fantastic resources here in the Upstate, one of which I mentioned in my post “What is permaculture?” - the SC Upstate Permaculture Society. I’ve learned so much about how to garden successfully in a southern climate from this group, not just about how to deal with the hot and dry conditions, but also about improving the red clay soils and about plants native to the area.
So many native plants have been labelled ‘weeds’ by society, mostly because they tend to grow well if not controlled and pop up in places they are not welcome – your turf or flower beds. However, there are endless benefits to these native 'weeds'; some are edible, others have herbal uses, and many are perfectly adapted to challenging local growing conditions. Insects and wildlife depend on these plants, and their scarcity means favorites such as monarch butterflies and honeybees are struggling.
|Lauris helping with the yardwork|
We have not yet taken the steps to completely eradicate grass from our yard, but it is an attractive option that is growing more popular in the urban landscape. As we're slowly designing our gardens with permaculture and sustainability in mind it helps to have local nurseries that not only sell native plants, but provide knowledgeable help. We have several here in the Upstate, one of which is Padulas Plants and Gardens. We recently had an opportunity to tour their grounds in nearby Greer.
The herbs, vegetables and flowering perennials sold by Padula’s are grown on site and without the use of chemical fertilizers. They make their own soil mix at the plant nursery, and offer many native species that are not available at the chains. It was interesting seeing several of their perennial stock gardens, where the plants were growing in a natural environment.
|In the wooded stock garden|
The owners regularly post beautiful pictures of their plants and fascinating videos of wildlife on their facebook site, which is also where you will find up to date information on what they currently have in stock. Padulas offers classes on basic garden design, the art of Bonsai creation and their care, perennial propagation and care, as well as various seasonal classes. More information can be found on their website and on YouTube. We picked up a few plants for our new garden beds, and I found plenty of inspiration in their gorgeous gardens. It didn’t hurt that the day we visited was a perfect spring day, with the sun warm on our backs and all the dogwoods and cherry trees blooming along the roads. The boys started counting them on the way there; they lost count at seventy-something.
|More yard work. Don't ask.|
We found the time this weekend to work in our garden. There have been some big changes in our backyard, and I’m looking forward to everything coming together so that I can share the results. These warm days have definitely brought an end to my winter crops, as the salad and kale are going to seed and the carrots wilting. The peas are coming in nicely, and the tomatoes have been planted. Along with plants from Padulas I’ve got seeds, shrubs and veggies from several sources (including the SC State Farmer’s Market), and slowly we’re piecing together our summer garden: a new year, a new garden and new possibilities!