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Plan your garden to match your needs (Released: 4/12/96)

by Renu Sehgal, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- Now's the time to make plans for your landscape, University of Connecticut experts say.

Make a list of what you want and why. For instance, forsythia bushes in the front yard to buffer sound and for security. How about plants that attract birds?

''The site that you have -- the sun, the soil and the drainage conditions - - should match the plants you select,'' said Marie Dube, an associate extension educator with the Cooperative Extension System. ''Don't stick plants in an environment they don't like. They will be under stress and have problems with disease and insects.''

Group plants according to water needs. Use drought-tolerant plants in areas farther away from the house, Dube said. These plants include thornless honey locust, purple leaved plum, smoketree, northern bayberry, cotoneaster and juniper or perennials such as black-eyed Susan, yarrow and sedum. Water plants only when they need it, but always water deeply to promote deep root growth, she said.

''Watering only the top portion of the soil encourages the development of shallow root systems, making the plants unable to survive long periods of drought,'' Dube said.

Overwatering plants can wash soil, chemicals and plant nutrients off your property and into streams, rivers, ponds, lakes or Long Island Sound. That can also contaminate groundwater and drinking water, she said.

Deciduous trees are good to plant near the house because their leaves will keep the house in the shade during the summer. In the winter, the trees will lose their leaves so the sun will warm the house.

To attract birds, Dube said, gardeners can use plants with berries. Among the plants that produce fruit in the summer are dogwood, spice bush, honeysuckle, blueberry and barberry. American holly, winterberry, red cedar, bayberry and spindle trees hold fruit that are attractive to birds into the winter months.

Master Gardener Nancy Patenaude said gardeners can attract butterflies by using the proper food, sunlight, moisture and plants that can provide them safety as they change from larval to adult stage. The garden must be located in the sunniest part of the property because butterflies need the sun to help them reach a certain body temperature so they can fly, she said. Dandelions, clover and dense trees offer the caterpillar food and safe harbor, while wildflowers such as Queen Anne's lace and annuals such as zinneas satsify the adult butterfly.

Among other things to consider when beginning your garden is security, Dube said.

''Don't plant anything big and tall near the front door so no one can be hiding behind bushes. Also, trees shouldn't be in front of windows. Plant shrubs that you're sure will stay at the height you need,'' she said.

Area plant professionals have a newsletter for the home gardener who value the environment called Hort Impact. Articles include dealing with pest problems in houseplants, cultivating lawns and buying new annual and perennial plants. The eight-page, monthly publication is available for $10 a year. Contact Patsy Evans, in the Department of Plant Science at (860) 486-1942.

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