Homefront: Ground Advice

When spring weather arrives, it’s time to liven up your winter-worn garden with new shrubs, trees and flowers. Before grabbing your trowel, take some advice from Bill LeFevre, executive director of the John Bartram Association at Bartram’s Garden in southwest Philadelphia, on how to keep your grounds beautiful this spring.

Know Your Soil Different plants and flowers thrive in different soils. “Know if yours is clay- or sand-based,” says LeFevre. “Send a sample of your soil to a local garden center or cooperative extension for soil analysis. They’ll tell you exactly what plants will flourish in that environment.” To purchase a standard soil test kit, visit your local county office of the Penn State Cooperative Extension, a statewide educational network that offers horticultural and agricultural resources.

Sun, Sun, Sun Vegetation needs sunlight, but too much can dry out and even kill delicate plants like impatiens. “Know the quality of sunlight your yard receives,” says LeFevre, and choose your plants accordingly. Gray leaves are a tip-off that a plant likes intense light — try sage or herbs like rosemary.

Water Wisely “It’s better to give a long, heavy water every other day than just turn on the sprinkler every day for five minutes,” says LeFevre. That way, the water reaches the roots, which needs the most moisture, instead of just the tips of the plants.

Bartram’s Garden, Philadelphia, 215-729-5281, www.bartramsgarden.org; Penn State Cooperative Extension, www.extension.psu.edu.