Appreciate your handiwork! The Lazy Gardener moved out some pansies from this planter last week and the new plants are growing in nicely.


If a plant isn’t thriving in its current place, you can move it! But recovery depends a lot on the size and type of plants

Sheesh, did I ever move this past weekend. And there’s more moving to come!

If a plant isn’t thriving in its current place, you can move it! True for annuals, perennials, shrubs and small trees. Moving gets harder and less successful the larger the plant. Also, recovery is longer for plants that take years to mature rather than weeks.

Back to my pansies for example. I knew when I planted them in April that summer heat would wipe them out. I plant them anyway because I enjoy their bright faces in the cold days of April and May. Plus, when those heat-loving annuals are ready to go outside, I just pull out the cold-loving pansies to spend the rest of their happy days in the shady nooks of the garden. Annuals adjust quickly because they are built to grow flowers, set seed, and die in one growing season—no time to waste! This is also why we can wait for warm soil to plant our colorful annuals. They catch up quickly!

Perennials take a bit longer to get established. Generally, their first year is more of a toddler year; just getting going. The second year is adolescence; it’s potentially beautiful but not that sturdy. By the third year, you’ll have an adult perennial—blooming well if the conditions have been right. If you move that perennial, you set it back a year. If I’m in a hurry for results, I try to plant that perennial in the perfect spot the first time.

That all said, I have moved my peonies. I have numerous peonies that I transplanted from an old garden and some I moved around in my new location. I don’t know the best spot for them yet. For the peonies, I’m patient and will wait a year or two before making another move. And then, I will have to live with the fact that they need a couple years to re-acclimate. Peonies have a longer adolescence and can live for 25 years or more, so it takes a bit more time for them to settle into a new location.

Big pots stayed in their spots all winter. These are meant to be seen at a distance but they don’t need to be filled with soil. Leaves fill the bottom half for organic drainage. The green pot in the middle is the place holder for a dahlia plant already started.

Speaking of moving things and not wanting to move them, customers at Ward’s often ask if certain pots are ‘weather-proof’ or more specifically, if they can be left outside all winter. Honestly, even sturdy all-weather containers would last longer if we didn’t leave them out to go through the freeze and thaw trauma of winters in the Berkshires. But that can be impractical. I learned this trick for my large, glazed containers from Jenna O’Brien of Viridissima Horticulture & Design. The beauty is you don’t have to move them often or far.

Here’s what you do: When your annuals are done in the fall, remove the spent plants and put into your compost. Remove the soil to a wheelbarrow and dump into an out-of-the-way pile to refresh and reuse next year, add the soil directly to your compost, or transfer to lighter pots that you can wrangle more easily. Then simply turn the empty pots over!

By removing the soil, you avoid having the moist soil expand and contract in the freeze/thaw cycle which would crack your containers. By turning the pots upside down, you keep the containers from filling with water that can seep into the porous pottery, and also expand and contract in winter. This lazy gardener is VERY happy with the result this spring as the heavy pots stayed put and were easy to turn over for May planting.

Another trick with my big pots: Don’t fill the whole thing with potting mix. I have a pile of last year’s leaves (held over to add ‘brown’ carbon to my composting ‘green’ vegetable scraps) and I use those to fill the bigger pots about halfway up. You could use ripped newspaper or pine-bark mininuggets as well. My leaves are free, though. Just press your fill down so it holds the soil but still drains. No problem if the annual roots actually reach that filler. It’s just future compost!

This Mountain Laurel has tons of buds on it but the plant is in the wrong place. Too much sun! Once it flowers, this lazy gardener will move it about eight feet to the east where it will get less direct sun- more like four hours which it prefers. Considering the yellowing leaves, it’s a good idea to check the soil pH. They like a pH of 5 to 5.5.

On my tour around the garden, I’ve noticed my Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) leaves don’t look good. I planted a mixed shrub border two years ago and added some perennials last year. The bed is maturing nicely—all the shrubs are blooming in succession (I feel so smart but should be thanking Mama Nature) and the perennials all came back. Yes! However, I anticipated that my Mountain Laurel would have less sunlight but plants around it haven’t filled their roles as casters of shade. As a result, the Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) seems to be struggling. Time to review what I’ve done. The shrub is fully budded but the leaves are a pale green and seem to be drooping although I’ve watered.

If you see yellowing leaves, review the plants’ recent care or environmental changes when trying to determine what can be wrong. Yellowing leaves can mean both too much and too little water. Consider —have you watered deeply and regularly? Was there too much rain that didn’t drain away for days? Or have you been skimping on the water? Is the soil pH correct for the plant?

I will move that Mountain Laurel into a shadier spot where sunlight hits directly for about four hours only. However, the move will have to wait until I get that beautiful bloom. I don’t want to ruin the show! I should check the pH of its new spot as well. Mountain Laurel is like Rhododendron and likes a slightly more acidic soil to grow well.

Too much water can wash away nutrients and too little water can dry out the roots and keep nutrients from reaching them. Yellowing from lack of nutrients may indicate the wrong pH and have nothing to do with the watering schedule.

Don’t make your soil soggy but water deeply once a week to establish landscape plants, more often for annuals and vegetables especially in raised beds or containers in sun. And remember to mulch everything. The soil surface will dry out essentially creating a crust that keeps the soil moist deeper down. By adding mulch, you create a ‘crust’ of less nutritional value and keep your soil working for the roots. Mulch breaks down eventually to become soil as well.

Now that the vegetable beds have been planted, I will use straw around everything to keep the soil moist. I finally got my tomato and beet starts in the ground. Also squash seeds have been planted in their little hills. I pack plants close together in my raised beds. Weeds don’t get much of a chance. Note the cardboard barrier that I mentioned last week for the squash seeds in this photo.

A mechanical barrier in the hill for squash seeds to prevent borers getting at the new stems.

For my last move, I say, “Off with their heads!” No, I haven’t turned violent. Just like with bulbs, some perennial plants will perform better if you dead-head. This term refers to cutting off spent flowers. By cutting the flowers off perennials like Iris, I am preventing the plant from creating seed and instead the plant will send energy and food to the leaves and roots. A larger more robust plant results and I’ll get more flowers the following year (or in some cases like Salvia, a second bloom later in the season). You can pop off the dead flowerhead or trim back the flower stem to a healthy leaf. I like dead-heading because while I’m doing it, I enjoy studying how the plant grows. Maybe that’s why I think of myself as a lazy gardener; I like to do the jobs slowly and enjoy them as I go.

Next week – planting flowering and herbal annuals as companions in the garden… and more!


I call myself the Lazy Berkshire Gardener because I don’t want to work too hard in my gardens. I want to enjoy them. I find it easier to observe my landscape and let the compost happen, the water pool up or daisies to self-sow.  I look for ways to do the minimum task for the biggest impact. For example, mulching is better than spraying and much better than weeding all season.  I look for beautiful low-maintenance plants that thrive in or at least tolerate my garden conditions. Plus, I’m willing to live with the consequences if I miss something.