Garden planting tips for Grand Forks-area yards

Georgia Heitmann from Grand Forks’ All Seasons Garden Center has some tips for new and experienced gardeners about what plants work well for their lawn and how to tend to them.

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Dieter and Georgia Heitman own and operate All Seasons Garden Center in Grand Forks, a family-owned business that they started in 1978 on the south end of Grand Forks.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald<br/>

GRAND FORKS — Though there’s still snow on the ground, spring is here and homeowners may be looking for new plants to add to their yards.

Georgia Heitmann from Grand Forks’ All Seasons Garden Center has some tips for new and experienced gardeners about what plants work well for their yard and how to tend to them.

What plants are best? Heitmann says there’s no perfect choice.

“There are so many I couldn’t narrow it down to save my soul,” she said. “I have to say that I am wonderfully surprised by how many things we can grow successfully with as difficult as some of our winters are.”

It depends on what a person wants to see and get out of their plants. For trees, Heitmann listed a menagerie of options, from hawthorn and hackberry to fruiting crabs and spring snow. Curb appeal isn’t the only thing people should think of when buying trees, but also if they can provide good shade for a patio and keep the house cooler. Lindens are one example of shade trees, and can come in different shapes like inverted cone and umbrella.


Those with smaller yards can plant smaller, ornamental trees, like a Japanese tree lilac. Those who’d like a fast-growing tree may want to choose poplar. If someone’s yard has a narrow space, a gladiator tree would be good. Elms are a good choice, too, according to Heitmann, as new varieties aren’t susceptible to Dutch elm disease.

One thing to keep in mind when choosing any plant is if they’re compatible with their environment. North Dakota’s soil is alkaline, meaning it has a high pH, and so not all plants are able to handle the level of acidity. Newer varieties of plants are more compatible, but Heitmann still advises people to add peat moss to their soil to bring down the pH, no matter what they’re planting.

For shrubs and flowers, Heitmann cites hydrangeas as being a popular choice, due to their newer color varieties and hardiness. All Seasons Garden Center offers 22 to 25 different varieties of hydrangeas in different colors, though Heitmann says there isn’t a hardy blue hydrangea yet. Among the other shrubs Heitmann mentions are dogwood, barberry, rose and lilac.

“There's nothing like the smell of a lilac in your yard,” she said. “That’s a treat.”

For people who haven't gardened before, Heitmann has a few tips. The first is to start slow.

“Don’t plant so much that you’re going to be overwhelmed,” she said. “It’s better to work into gardening — limit what you’re planting the first years and then develop on that.”

Heitmann recommends having something blooming all season long. Different plants are in bloom at different times of the year, so someone being mindful of what they’re planting and when will guarantee color in their yard through the growing season. For plants that bring color in the winter, Heitmann suggests spruce trees.

As for how often to prune, Heitmann advises to do it annually. This time of year is a good time to prune trees like maple or birch, as well as fruiting trees like apple and plum, before the sap starts to flow.


For those interested in growing vegetables or fruit, Heitmann says to not plant produce all at once, but to plant successively.

“In other words, maybe plant your peas three or four times, your beans three or four times, so you do spread out your harvest so you don't have so much all at one time to handle,” she said.

While Heitmann has noticed some popular choices, like tomatoes, peppers, and herbs, she advises gardeners to grow what their family enjoys eating. She also recommends checking what is in any chemicals or other substances gardeners use to help their plants grow.

“When you garden, whether you garden with flowers or you garden with vegetables, you know what you've used on that,” she said. “I’m more of an organic gardener. I don’t really use chemicals on my garden and I think when you’re feeding it to your family, you know what you’re feeding.”

While it seems the snow stuck around longer this spring, Heitmann says not to be worried about planting later.

“The soil has to warm up and sometimes I think people plant their garden early, but the soil isn't warm enough to really get you good root development,” she said. “The best time to do it is when your soil temperatures are at least at 55 (degrees Fahrenheit) because you get better germination at that temperature.”

For Heitmann, there’s no particular plant she favors over others.

“I’ve never met a flower or plant I didn’t like,” she said. “There’s beauty in all kinds of plants.”

Otto is a recent University of North Dakota graduate and intern at the Herald.
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