Can I plant now in mid-August?

(Question)

I am a first time home buyer and have a nice space in front porch which I feel to do gardening.

1. My front porch is facing west, there are three place that I plan to do plant
i)Two small places on either side of my footsteps
ii)A Small rectangular space just besides my front porch
iii)Front Porch railings
And our soil is a clay soil
I read your Gardening guide for Perennials, the details that I inferred and the questions are

I would like to plant Perennials that would last for say 1-2 yrs avoid spending, might be shrubs or flowers blooming out, what plants to chose, where is the best place to get less expensive and main thing is can I plant them now in mid august or just leave this season and do it next year, since my house faces west, the place with grass besides the porch really pales out, and that’s the place where I could plant I think. Please help needed. Thanks

(Answer)

Today, most hardy nursery stock is grown directly in the container you purchase the plant in or has been dug and potted at the proper time of year. This minimizes transplant shock, as a result , it is now safe to plant from April through to October.

Taking time to create a healthy soil before you plant goes a long way toward ensuring a healthy, productive garden. Clay soils are heavy and tend to stick to your shoes and shovel when wet and crack when dry. The ideal soil consists of two parts of each sand and silt to one part clay. All soils can be improved by adding 5-10cm  organic matter every year to your soil.  Some examples of organic matter include good quality triple mix, composted yard waste, mushroom compost, and well composted animal manure. For heavy clay soils it may be necessary to add other amendments to improve drainage such as coarse builders/construction sand. Be prepared to amend the entire planting area so that plant roots can grow freely. You may like to refer to our Gardening Guide entitled: Improving Your Soil Organically.

Autumn can be dry and warm so attention to soil moisture is critical. It is best to water deeply and infrequently after plants are established. Plants should obtain 2.5-4cm of water per week. This encourages plants to develop deep roots which allow them to endure longer periods between watering. It is also important that every plant obtain a good soaking before the ground freezes.

It is difficult to suggest specific plants for the garden not knowing the hardiness zone of the area or the size of the garden space. There are so many things to consider when selecting plants for the garden. Some desirable traits include long flowering, attractive foliage, drought tolerant, low maintenance. A well balanced garden consists of evergreens, which provide winter interest, flowering shrubs which can provide 4 season interest, and  perennials. Your local garden center is the best place to start your search and will be able to provide a wide range of information and  plant material. Each plant will contain a tag that will describe the growing condition required (sun, partial shade, shade), the mature size of the plant, and the hardiness zone.

You may wish to review the following Gardening Guides: Long Blooming Perennials, Perennials for Full Sun, Dividing Perennials, and Ornamental Shrubs for various Light Conditions.

Have fun selecting plants for your new garden space.