Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Spring fosters the urge to spend time outdoors and work in the yard

With the emphasis on "going green" and recycling, I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and rework one of my older articles. As spring approaches, the urge to get outside and start working in the yard becomes more powerful with every day that the sun shines.

There is a sign in the store that says: "Flowers leave some of their fragrance in the hand that bestows them." The Chinese Proverb becomes more meaningful and relevant the more I think about it. For some, the act of gardening is based in science; for others, it's a hobby that fills a seasonal need. Still, for others, it is about design and self-expression. In any case, gardening, no matter the level, is still gardening.

Plants foster an appreciation of growing, living, thriving, reproducing and dying. For me, the outdoor landscape of a home is more than improving "curb appeal." Of course, I appreciate the beauty of a manicured yard and botanical perfection, but what I notice is the passion that people exude when they work on their gardens.

As we begin the spring season, it is important that we take the time to really think about what worked and what didn't work in our yards. This is especially true for this season with our current economy. As we try to get value for every dollar spent, we want to ensure that we purchase healthy plants and place them in an area where they will not just survive, but thrive. In an upcoming article, I will discuss landscaping with vegetable plants.

Consider the following:

Did you like the color of your zonal geraniums? Did the perennial Johnson's Blue get enough light?

Do you want to add a free form edge to an existing formal planter?

Did you or Mother Nature do some tree trimming this winter? If so, light changes for your beds must be considered. What once thrived in a shady spot will be tortured in an area that is now going to have more sunlight.

Make a plan:

Now is the time to get out the graph paper, pictures of your yard from past seasons, a current picture of the area and start planning. First, identify the location of perennials in the bed. Consider what colors and textures you would like to incorporate this year and start looking for your plants.

Amend your soil, clean away leaves and debris from the winter season and start dreaming. Remove dead annuals from your container gardens and amend that soil as well. It will be great to get a head start on all of the prep work!

Check out your gardening tools and assess their viability for the season. Is the handle of your shovel giving you splinters? It's time to either sand the handle or get a new one. How about that leaky hose that always has bothered you? Having your lawn mowers and other small engine machines repaired this time of year is easier because the repair shops aren't busy yet, but in a couple of weeks their schedules will be filling up fast.

As the daylight increases in the evening and we prepare for spring - dig in the dirt! It will feel good to get out there and get some good exercise and it will be fun to be in the midst of spring's promise.

Jim Gainan is VP/Shareholder of Gainan's Flower and Garden Center in Billings. Questions or comments? Email Jim Gainan @