Gardening Principles

We think these concepts deserve a gardener’s attention!

Right Plant, Right Place

Let’s say you are planning to create a new bed in your garden (maybe because you reduced the size of your lawn!)  Before you make a purchase, the Master Gardeners urge you to consider the concepts of Right Plant, Right Place.

Have you…

  • tested the soil to see what kind of soil you have? Are you willing to amend the soil to make it palatable to your prospective plants?
  • observed the sun exposure in the planting area? Resolved to buy only plants that are compatible?
  • considered the pest resistance of the prospective plants—do you need deer resistance?
  • made a rough drawing of existing structures and beds that are near the new area?  Taken pictures of the area?
  • considered the availability of water in the new area? If water is not available, will you choose drought-resistant plants?
  • considered the mature size of the prospective plant? Will it be compatible with nearby structures and other plants or trees?
  • determined the maintenance required is an amount that YOU can manage?

People enjoy more gardening success when they use these principles.  Happy, healthy plants are better for you and the environment!

Water Conservation

  • Plant drought-tolerant, native species to reduce demand for watering.
  • Practice conscientious watering: apply water during cooler morning hours when it is less likely to evaporate; direct water to the roots of the plant, where it is needed.
  • Soaker hoses release water at the plant root zone to minimize evaporation during watering. Water must penetrate deeply to establish healthy roots.  A plant can only use water that comes in contact with its roots, not its leaves.  Consider attaching a timer to your hose, or soaker hoses, so that water will shut off automatically.
  • Take care not to over-water; too much water can kill plants; soil should never be soggy. Roots need air as well as water.  A damp environment can favor diseases and pests such as slugs, snails and earwigs.
  • Water conservation encompasses the policies, strategies and activities that manage water as a sustainable resource, protects the water environment and meets current and future human demand. Population, household size, growth and affluence all affect how much water we use.
  • Mulch regularly to maintain soil moisture and discourage weeds. Mulch prevents evaporation from the soil surface, suppresses water-thieving weeds, and adds vital nutrients to the soil as it decomposes.
  • Install rain barrels to capture rainfall as a watering source.
  • In the vegetable garden, limiting water is less an option; water conservation practices are especially important.
  • Annual incorporation of organic matter into the soil will build the soil’s capacity to retain water.
  • Frequent lawn watering often encourages shallow rooting and may increase susceptibility to disease and stress injury; strive to give your lawn 1” water per week, including rainfall.
  • Repair any leaky equipment.
  • Implement good design principles to help retain water where it is needed and minimize runoff.

Native Plants



Native plants are plants which have evolved in a specific region (like Eastern North America) for millions of years.  They have adapted to the environmental conditions around them (soil, climate, animal life) and, because they are not struggling to survive, they grow into healthier specimens.   Even better, they attract bees, butterflies, beneficial insects and birds—all part of a beautiful, sustainable garden!

  • Natives are better suited to survive our hot, humid summers
  • Natives often require less maintenance, less fertilizer, and less pesticide use
  • Natives require less watering, once established
  • Natives help to restore natural food and nectar sources for butterflies, bees and birds
  • Natives provide a natural habitat for beneficial insects

In the Education Garden we display a wide variety of native shrubs and perennials.    Try them in YOUR garden!  They’re easy to find at local nurseries and are a great investment.

Lawn turf is not native!

Consider reducing the size of your lawn by expanding existing planting beds with native ground covers, shrubs and perennials.  If you don’t need a large lawn for play space, you have a perfect opportunity to  introduce more natives on your property.   And once established, native shrubs and groundcovers provide four season interest and require little maintence

Think about the money you could save by using less water, less fertilizer and pesticide, reducing or eliminating your lawn service…and much less time trying to keep grass alive.

Questions?  Ask a Master Gardener!