1. Pay Attention to Soil Preparation. Do not skimp. Many beginning gardeners learn this the hard way. Don’t bring your plants home until your soil is ready to plant. If you buy plants on impulse before the garden is ready, you’ll either succumb to the temptation to plant without adequate soil preparation, or you’ll have to tend the plants in their pots until the garden is ready.
2. Don’t plant too early. The first warm days of spring often lure gardeners outside and tempt them to plant before the time is right. Some seeds, such as beans and corn, that are planted in cold soil can rot before they germinate. New seedlings or transplants can be stunted, weakened or even killed by low night temperatures. To avoid stress on your plants, wait until night temperatures stay above 50-55 degrees F. Look up the hardiness or minimum acceptable temperatures for the plants you want, and don’t rush spring.
3. Don’t plant too close together. Once the plants reach their full size the garden will look overcrowded and the well-being of the plants will be compromised. This will become apparent over time and it will look worse every year until some of the plants are removed. Even then, the remaining plants often look lopsided or unnatural. Properly spaced plants look and grow better and are less vulnerable to diseases from poor air circulation. When planning your garden, have an idea of each plant’s mature height and width.
4. Don’t delay in planting purchased plants. Plants waiting for a spot in the garden often languish on the porch or by the back steps until they dry out or become rootbound. Plants might survive a lengthy delay but can be so stressed that they never realize their potential. Bulbs, tubers and corms are some of the most frequently forgotten plant purchases. Bulbs need time to develop a strong root system before leafing out and flowering.
5. Cut or straighten roots before planting. A plant’s roots can’t grow very far before they hit the side of the pot and turn. When this happens, the plant is described as potbound. At the time of planting, these roots should be untangled and straightened as much as possible. To minimize the chances of buying a potbound plant, choose the smallest plant in the largest pot. If the roots can’t be straightened , use a sharp knife to score the sides of the rootball. The severed ends will put out straight, new roots and the plant will establish itself better. The roots of herbaceous plants can be combed out with your fingers, or you can score the rootball with the edge of a trowel.