Wisconsin gardeners with a little planning (and a little luck from Mother Nature) can create gardens that provide bountiful flowers, fruits and vegetables. Picking the appropriate plants, knowing when to plant them, and how to maintain your garden will help you have a successful growing season.
There’s one constant as you plan your Wisconsin garden – the weather will be unpredictable year after year. Snow in May? It’s happened. A sixty-degree Christmas? Also happened. It’s important to pick plants that are hardy enough for our violate weather in Wisconsin’s Hardiness Zones 4 and 5. When planning your garden, make sure your plants are compatible in your Zones. Most local garden centers will sell plants that will thrive in our climate. If you’re buying plants on-line, make sure you research zone compatibility.
Cold Wisconsin winters are no match for some perennial plants. Bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, and crocus weather the cold well, and provide a beautiful Spring bloom after long winter months. Plant these bulbs in late fall (October) according to package directions. Iris and day lilies are also hardy bulbs that bloom in the summer months. Peonies are a classic Wisconsin favorite, and are best planted in the fall. Daisies and black-eyed Susan’s are two more classic perennials that are easy to grow and maintain. Deadhead your flowers after they bloom for a bigger showing the following year. Sedum is another popular plant in a Wisconsin perennial garden, with flowers that bloom in fall when many other plants have already bloomed. You can dead-head sedum, or leave empty stalks for winter-month variety in your garden. Creeping phlox is a great additions to beds and borders – plant in spring to establish root growth during the summer. Hostas are a perfect addition to shady areas, especially under trees, and are very cold-hardy. A rose in the garden is always appreciated – consider covering during winter months.
Annual flowers can bloom spectacularly during Wisconsin’s summer months, when the weather is warm. Choose non-tropical flowers, as summers are rarely hot enough for these tender plants. Common Wisconsin annuals include geranium, marigolds, impatiens, petunias, and begonias. If you plant in the Spring, watch for frost warnings and cover your plants overnight if there is any danger of freezing. These plants will normally die after the first frost of the Fall.
Many vegetable gardeners in Wisconsin rely on annual plants – peas, corn, beans, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers. Some annuals such as lettuce and radish plants prefer cooler weather, and can be planted as soon as danger of frost has passed. Other annuals can be started indoors in Spring, or planted outside once the days begin to warm on a regular basis. There are a some perennial favorites that survive Wisconsin winters – strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus, and berries. For young, tender plants, consider covering with a layer of mulch for the winter.
For more information on gardening in Wisconsin, researchWisconlin Gardening and the University of Wisconsin Urban Horticulture site.