What I’ve Planted in my Zone 5b Gardens: An Update

I’ve been so busy out in my gardens and I wanted to share with you my latest update from my Zone 5b Gardens. 

Now that our average last frost date has come and gone, everything I’ve started in the house from seed along with the plants I’ve purchased from my local garden center are going in the ground. 

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Knowing your Planting Zone

When it comes to gardening, you need to first and foremost know your planting zone. If you look up the USDA plant hardiness zone map and put in your zip code, it will tell you what your hardiness zone is. You want to know your first frost date (the date that it might likely be cold enough for a frost). You also need to know your last frost date. 

This will help you choose the best plants for your zone and how to care for them.

I’ve planted both perennial plants (come back every year) and annuals (only last for the season) in my yard. I had lots of open areas in my garden beds. We had free-standing pots, window boxes, and hanging baskets that all needed to be filled with flowers.  

Prepping the Gardens

Before we get started with planting, there is work to be done in the yard. Our last frost date in zone 5b is May 15th. However, the forecast saw warm weather a few weeks before that date so we got busy.


It’s so crazy that I lost some of my perennial plants over the winter but the weeds not only don’t die they come back with a vengeance.

We also have quack grass that grows on Rhizones and it takes so much work to get it out but even after all that work, you know it will come back. It took us three weeks with help from Emma to get all the weeding done. 


I don’t do a lot of fertilizing but this year I added some Holly-Tone around my hydrangeas because they didn’t do well last year and I think while that had a lot to do with the deer, I want to make sure they had a little extra boost this year.

I also used Triple Super Phosphate around my roses which have been struggling a bit. I also wanted to give my new plants a boost.

In our vegetable garden beds, we add mushroom compost every year to amend the soil. It gets tilled in with the existing soil. 

For Gorgeous Gardens

From Seed Packet to Seedlings

My seed starting was very successful this year. I had so many seeds that germinated well. They grew into big beautiful plants. I actually ran out of space to plant everything so I’ve shared with neighbors.

Hardening off the plant

Before they can go from the house into the ground they need to be hardened off. That is a process of slowly introducing them to the outdoors. I started by moving everything to my greenhouse. We put wire racks in this year to house all of my seedling trays.

Every day I introduce them to the great outdoors. At first in a shaded area for a few hours, then a little sun. Eventually, I leave them out even if it’s raining. My tomato seedlings could have been introduced to more sun before going into the ground because initially, they were looking a little sad but they’ve perked up in the last few days.

Vegetable Garden

In the vegetable garden, we have planted five different varieties of tomatoes. San Marzano (perfect for sauce), Big Beef (great slicing tomato), Bodacious (this is the first time I’ve grown this variety) one cherry tomato (Candy Apple), and an Heirloom tomato (Cherokee Purple).

We have planted a marigold that I started from seed between each tomato plant. They protect the tomato plant from root-knot nematodes. They also supposedly keep a variety of pests and rabbits away. We don’t have rabbits but we need all the help we can get with everything else. 

I started cucumber from seed and I’m glad I have 6 plants. I planted 4 but only 2 are doing well. I planted them to go over the trellis in my vegetable garden along with sweet pea flowers that I also started as seeds. 

We bought a zucchini plant as I’ve never had much luck with trying to grow it from seed.

In the vegetable garden, I also have carrots, beets, radishes, romaine lettuce, bibb lettuce, and sunflowers. These were all seeds that were sowed right into the garden. Except for the carrots which take a little longer, I’m happy to report they all are popping their heads out of the ground.

Once we put the tomatoes in the ground we added straw to the beds. I have battled with tomato blight for years. Last year we didn’t plant any tomatoes in the vegetable garden. We are hoping that rotating the crop and the straw will keep that at bay this year.

Cut Flowers in the Vegetable Garden

I have allocated one of the raised beds in the vegetable garden to growing cut flowers. This is where I plant annuals specifically for cut floral bouquets for the house. I grow flowers that the deer would mow down if they weren’t in my fenced garden. This year I have:

  • 3 varieties of snapdragon (Rocket, Potomac apple, Potomac Berry) I have not had the Potomac variety before so I’m excited to see how they do. 
  • Bells of Ireland
  • Ranunculus
  • Phlox
  • Celosia 

Herb Garden

My herb garden is serving double duty this year. I’ve planted my dahlia’s in one corner of the herb garden. I used one area that has some perennial herbs in it (oregano and sage) to plant the herb plants that I bought. I’ve added Rosemary, Flat-Leaf Parsley, Thyme, and Lavender.

Sunny Pots and Gardens

I’m going to list all of the plants that I’ve put into my sunny/part-shade gardens. I’ve noted if they are annuals or perennials. I’ve also noted if I started them seeds or bought them as a plant.

  • Lavender – Perennial (seed)
  • Foxglove – Bi-Annual (seed)
  • Globe Thistle – Perennial (seed)
  • Coneflowers – Perennial (seed and plants)
  • Phlox – Perennial (seed)
  • Salvia – Perennial (Plant)
  • David Austen Rose: Olivia – Perennial (Plant)
  • Floribunda Rose: Sweet Rose of Mine – Perennial (Plant)
  • Celosia – Annual (seed)
  • Snapdragon – Annual (seed)
  • Ornamental Kale – Annual (seed)
  • Dahlia (Annual) – You have to dig up the tubers and store them in a location where they won’t freeze in Zone 5b
    • My tubers from last year are popping up but my new tubers aren’t up all yet. I’m not sure what’s going on with that. 

These are the plants that I’ve put into my pots that are in the sun:

  • Strawflowers: Mohave Yellow – Annual (seed and plants)
  • Angelonia: Dark Rose – Annual (plant) 
  • Lysimachia Vine: Goldilocks – Annual (plant)
  • Trailing Verbena: White – Annual (plant)

Shady Pots and Gardens

The only thing new that I’ve put into my shade gardens this year are some coleus. They add great color and flourish in my shade. I bought them for both the garden and my shade pots. I grew them seed last year and they did well. I’m not sure why I didn’t do more again this year.

I also grew impatiens from seed and had (2) 40-cell trays filled with them. I have impatiens in my window boxes, the hanging baskets on my front porch, and the basket on my vintage bike that is in our shade garden. I also have them tucked into various pots that are in the shade.

Also in my shade pots along with double impatiens and coleus are asparagus ferns and a variegated vinca vine.  

These are some of my favorite annuals to add to a shade garden for color

New Perennials

Some of the perennials that I started from seed are lavender and globe thistle. I grew them primarily because deer don’t like them. I strategically placed them near the hydrangeas and roses that deer love.

I also added to my coneflower (echinacea) patch because the deer don’t like them either. If you’re looking for more varieties of perennials for Zone 5b you can find my post HERE.

Update on the Deer

I have been using a combination of three different deterrents to keep the deer away from my garden. I started very early with Liquid Fence which I sprayed around the perimeter of our entire property. Initially, I sprayed three weekends in a row and now I’m spraying it once a month or after a hard rain. Then I’m spraying the plants with Plantskydd and Deer Out. I spray one or the other almost every weekend. Deer like tender buds so right now when things are new it’s important to keep on top of that.

I also tried something new this year. I bought cheap pinwheels and have placed them around the gardens. They aren’t very attractive but lo and behold, the deer don’t seem to like them. Deers are skittish creatures and the pinwheel’s bright colors and spinning wheel scare them.

This is a plant that I didn’t plant but it is Milkweed. Milkweed is the required host plant for the caterpillars of Monarch butterflies. So I’m happy to have it mysteriously appear in my gardens.

Finishing Touch

Now that everything has been planted, we put down mulch. Mulch is a great way to keep your plants from drying out too quickly. It also can help keep the weeds at bay. Lastly, it just makes the gardens look finished and complete.

So that’s what’s been going on in our garden. Both “Handy” and I are stiff and sore from all the hard work. We are at a stage in our lives when we should be decreasing the size of our gardens. However, that can never happen when I keep adding more plants 🙂

Happy Gardening,

P.S. If you still have peonies that are blooming, read my post from last week on how to prolong those blooms HERE.

Meet Me

I’m an Interior Designer, Professional Organizer, and Party Planner who lives in the suburbs of Chicago in a 1,300 sq., ft., home with my “Handy” husband, Keith.

I’m an open book about my life on my blog. Find out more about me by tapping the button below.

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