Q: How do I know what to plant and where to plant it?
— Henry, Cayucos
A: Mastering proper plant placement is as satisfying and rewarding as getting an A in a difficult subject.
Before shopping for plants, browse through a garden book and look at neighboring yards. Visit local nurseries and read the labels on the plants that interest you, or ask a nursery employee about the plants.
Find out how tall and how wide the plant can grow and if it requires full sun, shade or morning sun and afternoon shade. If it blooms, what time of year does it bloom?
Usually, a local nursery only sells plants that do well in the surrounding area.
This can be confusing in San Luis Obispo County, because you may buy a plant in Cambria to be planted in Paso Robles. Obviously, those two regions have very different climates.
Avoid planting a tree too close to your home, and use caution if planting a tree next to a common fence to avoid future conflicts with neighbors. Provide sufficient space for plants and allow them to grow into their natural shapes to minimize pruning.
If you are shopping for a fruit or nut tree, the label should tell you how many chill hours the tree requires to bear fruit or nuts. Every bearing tree has a minimum chill hour requirement which allows the tree to go into dormancy when fruit buds form.
Also, fruit and nut trees can be grafted onto three different root stocks — dwarf, semi-dwarf and standard. Determine the potential size of the one you want.
Another problem is so-called “weed trees,” like silk tree, tree of heaven and privet. Their seeds propagate profusely, especially after very wet seasons, and many are allowed to grow and become nuisances.
Oaks and pecans also propagate easily, and can grow into large trees that require a lot of space.
Be judicious when you plant. Plant the right plant in the right place.
Got a gardening question?
In San Luis Obispo, call 805-781-5939; Arroyo Grande, 805-473-7190, and Templeton, 805-434-4105. Visit us at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo/ or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Instagram at slo_mgs and like us on Facebook. Informative garden workshops are held the third Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. to noon at 2156 Sierra Way in San Luis Obispo. Garden docents are available after the workshop until 1 p.m. To request a tour of the garden, call 805-781-5939.