Updated May 06, 2009
Are you looking to fill a flower bed? Do you want to beautify the homestead? If you've never gardened before, you'll need a few hard and fast rules for gardening in Southeast Michigan:
- Start Small! Don't try to plant an acre of garden if you've never planted one before; you'll only get frustrated and have a sore back. A three-by-five foot plot would be ideal.
- Start with good soil. Most plants like loose, slightly sandy soil that is rich in organic nutrients. This means that if you have heavy clay soil, you'll need to loosen it up and add compost, sand, rotted manure and/or leaves. Soil should drain well. In other words, it should not hold water for long after a rain and be fairly level.
- Put the right plant in the right place. Don't try to grow full-sun plants in shady areas or vice versa; it just won't work.
- Know how hardy the plant is. For instance, plants that are labeled "Zone 7" or higher cannot survive Michigan winters and should be treated as annuals. Up until recently, most areas in Michigan were considered Zone 5, but climate changes over the last decade have resulted in warmer temperatures. At least one climate-zone map, posted by The Arbor Day Foundation, reflects the change and depicts southeast Michigan, including the Metro Detroit area, as Zone 6. What does this mean to you? That some plants labeled Zone 6 may survive, but you won't know till you try.
- Read labels. Know what you're getting. Many plants have several names, including a Latin name. For simplicity sake, the plants named in this guide are all listed by their common Michigan names.
- Ask for help! Trust your local nursery to help you out. For instance, most nurseries provide lists of plants that do well in certain areas.
- Always look for low-maintenance plants. Who wants to spend Michigan's relatively short summer deadheading, staking, pruning and digging?
- Use organic, slow-release granular fertilizer. You can get away with once-a-month feeds; but if you build your soil well with compost, you may not even need that.
- Weed consistently. Weeding a few minutes a day as you walk through your garden is much easier than spending hours catching up once a month.
- Mulch, mulch, mulch! Mulching conserves moisture, keeps weeds down, and makes the garden look nice.
- Water infrequently but deeply. Don't sprinkle daily. Instead, give a deep watering once a week or as needed.