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Check Out the Cape Gazette's Home and Garden Guide and Get Ready for Spring!

One of the best aspects of life in Delaware is our climate. While our summers are getting hotter, most days are still pleasant enough for outdoor activities, especially if you can get to one of our magnificent beaches or airy state parks. And although I still yearn for more snow for more festive holiday seasons, I’m grateful that most winter days are pleasant enough for long outdoor walks. Meanwhile, the fall and spring are glorious. 

All of this matters a lot if you enjoy gardening and landscaping. Our temperate mid-Atlantic climate makes it possible to have flowers and shrubs in bloom almost all year, and if you’re buying a home in a recently developed neighborhood you might have the opportunity to have your major yard work – the mowing and mulching and snow removal for example – taken care of by your homeowners association. Which usually leaves you with a patio or deck or small section of yard that’s just big enough for planting your favorite annuals, perennials and shrubs, and hardscaping to create a wonderful back yard oasis.  

Whether you live up near Wilmington or all the way down at the Delaware-Maryland line, you can get all kinds of great ideas for your garden at the Cape Gazette’s 2024 Home and Garden Guide Our neighbor, who has a small townhouse-sized yard that blooms with color three seasons a year, has read it from cover to cover, and found some very interesting ideas to consider.

Make a Smart Plan for your Plantings

Heading out to the garden center without a clear plan for what you’re going to buy might be fun (“Oh look at that darlin’ little tree – it’ll look pretty next to the deck”) but if you don’t buy flowers, shrubs and other items that will thrive in our climate, or that aren’t planted in just the right spot for shade, sun and soil composition, you can end up wasting a lot of money and effort. One of the most helpful features of the guide this year is on page 26. It spotlights the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone map, which will tell you which types of plants, shrubs and trees do best in each of 11 zones. This is important because what grows well in forest-like shade in Northern Delaware might shrink to nothing in the heat alongside a coastal marsh.

If you’re planning a vegetable garden you’ll also appreciate the Spring Planting Calendar on page 62. It describes what to plant in March, April, May and June, and gives you a good sense of when you can start harvesting. One special reason to check this out right now: The guide tells you what kinds of seeds you can plant indoors now while it’s still cool, so they’re in sturdy shape for transplanting outside in a few weeks

Know what you’re doing when you grab those clippers.

Perennials and shrubs thrive in our climate, and they’re already blooming with leaves and color. While a lot of homeowners cherish their shade and the way they anchor yards of all sizes, many folks like to prune them to tailor and fine-tune their shapes. As experienced gardeners know, this process also strengthens a lot of plants, so they’re more resilient. On page 32 is a guide that will help you determine what and when to prune.

Learn how to go easier on the pesticides.

If you want healthier tomatoes with fewer chemicals, plant marigolds next to them to repel nematodes, and basil alongside them to repel aphids and whiteflies. We’ve also found a lot of the staff at local garden centers to be very knowledgeable on this subject, so you can probably benefit by asking about other ways to protect your garden with plants that pests don’t like.

Go big on your backyard with a pool, stonework, and gazebos.

The guide also describes important points to consider if you want to put in a pool (on page 36), create different seating and reflection areas and outbuildings and screened or glassed-in porches. These adjustments are a lot of fun to think through and can be very important to your quality of life and home value because you can enjoy your backyard three seasons a year.

Do your best inside job.

Are you in the process of deciding whether to buy an existing home, design your own home, or move into a community with homes under construction that you can customize? There’s a story on page 74 about points to consider. You can also learn a lot about different types of flooring on page 80, and sturdy and beautiful homebuilding materials that are easy on the environment on page 88. 

Plan your big box purchases and shop small and local too.

One of the best features of the guide are the many advertisements for businesses staffed by local folks who have years and even decades of good reviews. While Loews, Home Depot, Wal-Mart and other big box stores are great for stocking up, there are scores of small businesses, so you can buy local and get the personalized service you need to keep your home and garden looking great all year long.