Gardening

Evergreen Plants Make The Best Foundation PlantingFoundation plantings make for the basis of landscape design, not only in looks but also in purpose. Good planning results in foundation plantings that compliment, balance, take up excess water keeping it off of the foundation, screen, and block the home from sun and wind. The curb appeal that good foundation planting provides increases the home's value and desirability when selling. In some neighborhoods, they are required by covenant bylaws to not only exist around the home, but to look kept and beautiful. If you're installing, adding to, or completely redoing your foundation and are looking for plant choices that are going to be absolutely low maintenance, look no further.

Here are some suggestions for you that will require little work and provide beauty, all while adding function and purpose.

Evergreen plants are absolutely vital in a beautiful foundation design. They are functional and are beautiful year round. They also offer native songbirds and other animals respite, all while they do what foundation plantings should be doing and being absolutely simple to maintain. Not all evergreens are suitable. Here are some of our favorite low maintenance evergreens for foundation plantings:

    • Junipers come in many sizes and shapes and textures. Many cultivars have been specifically developed to be well suited to foundation plantings. For example, Irish Juniper is a medium sized juniper at maturity, but its slender profile makes it a great anchor planting, or a plant used to balance the shape of the home and the landscape. It would also make a good screen, and in the fall when Junipers develop their blue waxy berries, they become cover and forage for many types of bird species. Once established, Irish Juniper needs no extra watering and minimal yearly pruning.
    • Arborvitae are bred and crafted in the same numbers (if not more) by nursery breeders to suit landscapes and foundation plantings as Junipers. There's literally an arborvitae cultivar for every nook and cranny in the garden! They come in fantastic colors too - from bluish grey to bright yellow chartreuse, and textures from appearing coarse to soft. They are all hardy, virtually work-free once established, and essential in the garden and foundation plantings. One of our favorite is Anna's Magic Ball. Not growing more than 2 feet in height and spread, this tiny little cutie is green with bright yellow tips. It really stands out! Planted below a blue-cast spruce, or among grey and blue broad leaved hosta, Anna's Magic Ball brightens up the foundation beautifully. Techny Gold is an older cultivar that grows up to 15 feet in height and has similar chartreuse foliage as Anna's Magic Ball. All Techny arborvitae have a naturally growing pleasant triangle or pyramid shape and make excellent screens and anchors in the foundation design.
    • Boxwood is a broad leaved evergreen shrub that has been used for hundreds of years (especially in Europe) as a formal hedge. It takes shearing nicely and forms a very dense shape based on how it's sheared. Sprinter Is a tested performer that is healthy and beautiful as well as easy to care for. It's pleasant emerald green color and forgiving nature makes it a staple in the landscape. Once established, it's also carefree. Yearly shearing encourages it to keep shape.

These are all wonderful, easy to care for evergreen shrubs well suited to foundation plantings. There are plenty of choices and mixed with deciduous selections and perennials, they will make the foundation of your low maintenance foundation planting plan that's as beautiful as it is functional.

 

Perennial PlantsGardening for some, no matter the amount of work goes into it, is a very enjoyable task - from hauling the dirt, to cutting the brambles, to pulling the weeds - it's all good stuff. But for many of us, we love our gardens and don't mind a little weekend upkeep, but we certainly don't find the idea of making it a full time job enjoyable. Thankfully, there are some pretty awesome gardening hacks that make gardening a whole lot easier. Great tools and time saving materials and habits like putting down a good mulch regularly are a couple of hacks that help, but one is so simply obvious yet dismissed that it might boggle the mind. Simply put, if you plant the right perennials in your garden, your life will be a lot easier. It's true - many perennial plants make gardening easy.

Here are some of our favorite perennials that make gardening easier with the biggest amount of "WOW" factor to boot!

Perennials in their own right save you a lot of time and headache. Once established, they come back year after year without a lot of help from you. They tend to be healthy plants that resist disease. They sometimes naturally fill in spaces beautifully, or remain in neat and tidy clumps all their lives. But with some careful picking and choosing, you can even make your perennials pull double, or triple duty. They can serve purposes in terms of water saving, producing edibles for the table, offer shade and respite, and even protect your home and property.

Succulent plants such as ice plant, sedums, and hens and chicks are all drought tolerant and conserve water. There are many forms of succulents, from the tall background stately plants like yucca plant, to the mid-ground succulents like upright sedums, to lovely ground covers such as hens and chicks, there's a succulent perennial for every need in the hot garden that doesn't receive a lot of water. You won't have to water these once they're established and will save you money and time.

Perennial edibles are also wonderful multi-purpose plants that save you energy in the garden. Many herbs are wonderful perennials, such as rosemary plant, sage plant, and mint plant. Catnip plant is perfect for kitty of course, but catnip can also be grown in the garden as a beneficial insect attractor. Yarrow plant is another perennial that has herbal qualities, and is also a good wildlife attractor. Some of these perennial herbs can be spreading and somewhat invasive, so employing raised bed gardening when growing these (especially the mints) will help you keep these wonderful garden perennials under control.

And finally, adding one or two very interesting and unusual "Wow!" perennials will make your garden stand apart from the crowd. Ornamental banana plants are beautiful and have high-impact in the garden for example. In many areas, hardy ornamental bananas can be grown year round right in the ground. Dwarf varieties can be grown in large pots and brought inside when cold weather hits if you live in a colder climate. A few ornamental bananas in the garden gives a tropical feel that suits the hot summer garden wonderfully.

 

Attract Hummingbirds to Your GardenA lot of people think that hanging out a quick hummingbird feeder is enough to encourage hummers into their gardens. While hummingbirds will stop by and eat from these feeders, they tend to quickly move on to more welcoming gardens. Creating an ideal garden for hummingbirds offers more than just food. They offer all of the basic essentials for bird life. Hummingbirds come and stay in gardens that are perfectly suited for them. Here's what you need to create an ideal garden for hummingbirds.

Many hummingbirds are a migratory species of bird that spend the winters in South and Central America, and in the spring travel all the way up to North America and even into parts of Canada where they spend the warm season breeding, raising young, and preparing to fly south again. Hummingbirds rely on the nectar found in flowers, which they get plenty of in South America. But, they need the abundant insects found in the spring and summer in the lands of North America and Canada to successfully raise healthy babies. They also spend a lot of time resting- usually about 80% of their lives is spent sitting and resting their tiny bodies. Providing a garden that's full of healthy insect activity with lots of nectar sources and plenty of thin twigs, branches, and other similar places to rest are all going to entice a hummer to stick around. Even more important, providing a safe place to nest will help the hummingbirds stay through the season, and return yearly.

Rely on plants that hummingbirds enjoy to eat from. Tubular red, blue, and purple perennial flowers are highly attractive to hummingbirds. The wild versions of plants usually create the most nectar which will encourage hummingbirds to come back again and again, but this isn't a hard-set rule. Many cultivars provide plenty of nectar for hummingbirds.

Hummingbird plants include:

  • Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)
  • Azalea
  • Honeysuckles
  • Weigela
  • Monarda (Bee Balm)
  • Agastache
  • Hosta
  • Foxglove
  • Yucca
  • Rose of Sharon
  • Viburnum
  • Crape Myrtle
  • Summersweet (Clethra)
  • Hydrangea
  • Mockorange
  • Potentilla
  • Trumpet Vine
  • Salvia
  • Coral Bells (Heuchera)
  • Mints

Consider tying up a thin line if you don't have a clothesline already. Hummingbirds of North America are well adapted to life with people and their homes and are quite fond of perching and resting on clotheslines, wires, extension cords, chicken wire fences, or any thin and stable cables. Trees and shrubs are also very welcome resting spots too.

Offer a moving source of water for hummers to bathe in and drink from. Despite assuming that these small birds get all of the water they need from nectar, they are still observed using birdbaths consistently.

In the garden, try to refrain from using chemical commercial pesticides. They are long acting, so even if you use them in a specific area they often stick around and continue to kill for weeks after the application. Instead, encourage a healthy bug population. If you're over-run by grasshoppers or Japanese beetles for example, there are plenty of specific traps that work to capture these pets and bring their numbers down to a less destructive number. One option is to use a natural organic insecticidal soap for aphid infestations that won't harm hummingbirds if it's ingested in small amounts.

So... go beyond the hummingbird feeder for attracting and keeping those gorgeous winged jewels in your garden.

Making Room for Something New in the GardenI am making progress and room in my garden for new things with the guidance from Jack Canfield's book - The Principles of Success: Principle #28 Clean Up Your Messes and Your Incompletes.

There will always be new tasks/projects/missions that need completing and in competing stages - so this is an ongoing mission of mine.

I often walk around my garden and take notes of what tasks I must complete, transplant, and coordinate the placement of new plants. I decide which textures, colors, or sizes of plants I need and where I want them included. This is my primary garden task - the overall planning while viewing the garden in smaller sections within the entire garden design.

Jack Canfield stated, "Get into the completion consciousness. Continually ask yourself, What does it take to actually get this task completed? Then you can begin to consciously take that next step... Rather than start fifteen projects that end up incomplete and take up space, you'd be better off if you had started just three and completed them."

I discovered some of those incompletes or projects in my garden survey and I have a scroll of things that could be, should be and want to be concluded, which can appear overwhelming.

Jack Canfield and Mark Twain and many others endorse this management technique: chunking it down into smaller more manageable tasks and maintain focus.

Recently in my garden, I added larger containers to transplant older plants that were root bound and needed space to grow and bloom. I found azure blue, root beer brown and asparagus green containers on sale at different places and I am trading the smaller containers with a more uniform garden design.

To add flair, I planted fresh yellow and pink primroses, and pink, purple and red cyclamen around the border of the hydrangea, pink rose transplants and others. In the some of the new containers, I added two delicate Pink Breath of Heaven, a pink geranium and a lavender osteospernum (daisy) and I am pleased with the final results.

Within a week, the blooms will spring forth and sing! Ahh... progress.

I always photograph my garden so I can review what worked successfully or not. Sometimes, I repeat a garden design that I especially liked in a similar or different location. I am celebrating these completions and successes and remembering them with my photos.

Now, I have room for new things in my garden and to complete new tasks. Happy gardening!

 

Benefits and Tips to Mowing in FallA Few Benefits of Turf Grass

Many people plant grass to enhance the appearance of their yard, or to make it a safe place for children to play. Some people plant grass so they can enjoy playing and watching sports. But many people who plant grass are unaware of all the benefits that turf grass brings.

    • Turf grass, when properly and regularly maintained, will capture the carbon emitted from lawn mowers. The grass draws the gas into its roots which in turn reduces emissions that would pollute the air we breathe.
    • It is a great source of oxygen. A family of four will receive enough oxygen from just a 50' x 50' lawn.
    • Ground temperatures are more easily controlled where turf grass is planted. The grass essentially acts like an outdoor AC unit.
    • Do you get a lot of runoff water? Turf grass is a great way to reduce runoff as it works like a sponge to soak up excess water.

Why Continue to Mow During Fall?

When fall weather settles in many people retreat to the indoors. The summer activities are over, school has started for the year, and many businesses are busy preparing for winter holidays. It is no wonder many people forget to mow their lawns in the fall. But mowing through the fall months is essential to ensuring a lush lawn come spring.

If your grass is continuing to grow despite the cooler temperatures, it will benefit from a simple mow. Fortunately, because grass growth slows in the fall, the interval between each mow increases, saving you more time in between each mow for your busy fall tasks.

The biggest reason to continue to mow during the fall is to ensure the health of your turf grass. Keeping your grass shorter in the fall than in the previous warmer months will help reduce the risk of disease, fungus, and snow mold during the cooler seasons. Mowing in the fall will save you from having to treat or dig up the grass you worked so hard to maintain all summer. It will also save you the time, energy, and money required to plant new grass seed in the spring.

Tips for Mowing in the Fall Months:

    • Stop mowing when the daily average temperature is below 50° for a continuous week.
    • When mowing for the last two times of the year, move your mower's blade to the lowest setting. This will help the sunlight reach more of the grass.
    • Keep you grass shorter than 3 inches to reduce the risk of snow mold.
    • Be sure to keep your mower blade sharp to ensure a clean, sharp cut and to avoid various grass diseases.

Mowing Doesn't Have to Be a Chore

Do you often feel like mowing is the worst outdoor chore there is? It requires so much time and energy to mow and to maintain your lawn mower. But mowing the lawn doesn't have to be a chore. It can be a game!

If you have a walk-behind mower, and dislike the effort required to push it across your entire yard, you may find joy in replacing it for a riding mower.

Sometimes a little music while mowing can help lessen the stress and pain of mowing. You can also see how far you can get before the song ends. Set a goal of finishing the lawn before a set amount of songs are over and reward yourself with your favorite treat or activity if you make or beat your goal.

Do you have children? Lessen your yard work load by teaching your older children to mow. If you have younger children you can invite them to be part of a game by letting them set up an obstacle course for you to complete while mowing the lawn.

Garden Furniture SetsGarden furniture sets are a type of furniture specifically designed for outdoor use. They are typically made of weather resistant materials which do not rust. Many people's perception of outdoor furniture is simply that of a patio set consisting of a table and chairs and quite frequently a parasol which provides shade from the sun or shelter from rain. The range today, however, is enormous and garden furniture has been adapted to suit all space sizes from large garden spaces to patios to conservatories and foldable tables and chairs are ideal for balconies. Today you can choose from tables, chairs, sofas, arm chairs, loungers, weather proof cushions, parasols and gazebos which now come with UV protection. Usage of garden sets is enhanced by the addition of a patio heater which allows people to sit outside at night or in cold weather.

A garden is often referred to as an outdoor living room so you need to choose outdoor furniture sets wisely so that they enhance and make a statement in your garden without of course dominating it. It is important therefore to take the size of your garden and the space into which you will be putting the furniture into account. How many people will it have to accommodate? Will there be room to move freely when it is in place? Is it for entertaining or simply relaxing in the sun? Perhaps it may simply be for garden decoration? Is it for outdoor dining? The garden furniture you purchase will therefore be influenced by all these factors plus of course price.

The type of material you choose for your outdoor furniture is generally determined on how durable and weather resistant it is plus of course your own personal preference and as mentioned earlier price. It is not practical to constantly have to move garden furniture into a designated storage area or into a conservatory so furniture that is durable, weather resistant and requires minimum maintenance will give you a better return on your money at the end of the day. Garden furniture sets made of rattan are quite popular as it is maintenance free, practical and UV durable so it won't fade over time. Neither does it rust or warp consequently is ideal for outdoor use. Garden furniture made from metal are strong and solid as we all know and by definition quite durable. Those made of aluminium are lightweight and do not rust. Those made from wood are generally quite attractive, easy to clean and maintain and resilient. Garden furniture made of plastic today comes in all shapes and sizes and can bring a touch of colour and indeed style to your garden. If on a tight budget then plastic can be quite suitable.

Prior to purchasing your dream garden furniture check everything out. Will it fit in the space allocated by you? Are you satisfied with the comfort of the chairs or sofas? Is the height of the chairs chosen compatible with the table height? Are the cushions weatherproof? Should you consider purchasing covers for your garden furniture set or are you confident in your ability to keep it in good shape year round? Talk with the supplier or store and get all the necessary maintenance information at time of purchasing.

Finally sit back and relax and enjoy the added value that your garden furniture will bring to you and your family.

Avocado TreeMost avocado trees are grown in tropical climates, primarily in Mexico (the world's leading producer of avocado), California, Hawaii, and Florida. California is the number one producer of avocados in the United States, with most of the crop being of the Hass variety. But why not growing an avocado tree at home?

Growing an avocado from seed...

To grow an avocado tree, you need to get an avocado seed, clean it off and poke three toothpicks into the side of it. Then immerse the seed halfway in the water while the three sticks rest on the rim of a drinking glass. Set the seed with the wider portion down.

Place the glass with the seed somewhere warm with not too much direct light. The water should be changed at least every couple of weeks, before it gets dirty and depleted of oxygen.

In four to six weeks, the seed should split and out should come roots and a sprout. Once the stem has grown a few inches, place it in a pot with soil. Avocados have been known to grow large, so you will have to repot the plant several times.

What's the ideal place to grow an avocado tree?

The ideal spot for the plant is at the brightest window. Avocados are widely cultivated in tropical to subtropical climates. They may grow in shade but require full exposure to sunlight for best productivity. It should also be watered every few days.

How long does it take to grow an avocado tree?

Under good conditions, growing avocado takes many years, even up to a decade or two, to begin producing fruits. Indeed do not expect to get fruits but you can still grow a beautiful houseplant!

How big is an avocado tree?

Avocado is a medium to large evergreen tree with large, leathery, deep green leaves. The tree grows to 20 m, with leaves 12 cm to 25cm long. The flowers are greenish-yellow.

Why growing an avocado tree at home?

To grow an endless amount of organic avocados! Avocados are very healthy for you. They have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and alkalizing properties. They can help you lower your cholesterol level and contain lot's of healthy nutrients. They are also very rich in fiber. So there're many reasons why it's recommended to include avocado in the diet. Try growing an avocado tree at home if you don't like making regular trips to the grocery store for your daily supply or if you are fed up with spending lot's of money for quality produce!

Create Your Own Mini Meadow GardenWith attention paid to the plight of diminishing wildlife, especially populations of pollinators such as native bees and butterflies, people have responded with an interest in ways they can help keep what pollinators are left and even help increase populations.

This has resulted in a heavy interest in native plants as alternative choices in landscapes, and has changed much of the approaches we take when designing landscapes, as to make benefitting wildlife a priority in design. Ultimately, creating gardens and landscapes that resemble a healthy, established native ecosystem is the ultimate goal, but doing so takes a lot of space, money, and time. So what's the typical eco-conscious gardener living in the urban jungle to do?

Many gardeners are falling in love with the ideas of mini-meadows. While it's not acres of native restored prairie gardens, it's still a beautiful way to enjoy wonderful, healthy plants in the landscape while helping out the bees and butterflies (and birds and a plethora of other native wildlife).

Native prairie plants have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years in tough climate conditions. They can handle a wide range of weather - from heavy rain, to drought conditions, to heavy wind and high humidity. Prairie gardens do well covered in feet of snow, or in dry cold with no protective snow at all in the winter. In a varied prairie plant community, plants are blooming and going to seed throughout the entire year, so something interesting is always happening. And, animals that depend on the food and cover these plant communities provide can rely on a season-long home, which makes them extremely important.

In this prairie garden design by Julie Farris, you can see how beautiful pairing formal lines and modern materials with the informal plantings of native prairie plants can look beautiful together. Mixing flowering plants (often referred to as "forbs" when talking about prairie and meadow settings) and grasses makes for a very beautiful and natural backbone for your perennial plant choices. Best of all, once established, these plants are all absolutely care free if you start with good soil and mulch each fall with natural mulch materials that feed the soil. Every 3-4 years, some division of perennials might be necessary, but sharing divisions with friends is a fun thing to do! Consider adding shrubs and trees, such as spice bush, Princeton Elm, Cottonless Cottonwood and small trees like native dogwoods, like red twig and white flowering, if you have the space.

Some specific plants that are ideal for starting the mini-meadow or small prairie planting include the Cheyenne Sky Panicum Grass, Prairie Dropseed Grass, Little Bunny Pennisetum Grass, Northwind Panicum, Echinaceas, Goldenrod, Yarrow, Asters, Blue False Indigo, Agastache, Monarda, and Heliopsis.

And, of course, there are many, many more! Plus there are seed blends for a fast easy meadows.

CompostingA walk through the woods off of the beaten path, or paved path in the case of city parks, will point out the ease of composting. Take a look at the big birch or maple or ash or oak or whatever other tree grows beside the path in your neighborhood. Depending upon the time of year, the tree is covered with leaves, losing leaves or bare of leaves. All those leaves fall to the ground. If you have a similar tree in your yard, every year you rake up what seems to be at least a foot of leaves. Why are there not at least thirty feet of leaves under the trees in the woods accumulated over the last thirty years of growth? Surely the wind has not blown all of them away.

The answer is found beneath the few leaves left under the tree. A quick scuff of the foot reveals black earth full of organic matter, compost. First a layer of last year's leaves with the general detritus of a woodland floor, then that layer of black matter, the leaves of past years broken down by bacteria, fungi, insects and animals of the forest floor.

Leaves are designed to feed a tree. When green photosynthesis allows the sunlight on the leaves to feed the trees in one way, but when brown the feeding continues as the leaves turn to compost and furnish the roots with nutrients the roots have in their turn brought from the depths of the earth. That same growth potential can be brought to the home garden with compost.

In fact even the method of the trees can be used at home. The sheet composting method is one of the most simple. As one example, consider the garden bed in the fall that will need about three inches of compost in spring. Instead of waiting for a busy spring, it can done in the fall. A layer of garden debris form that or other beds can be spread out over the site to about three inches thick. Next, the lawn mower about to put away for winter is used to mow bags of leaves piled from nearby trees. The chopped leaves are spread another three to six inches over the bed. Everything is neatened up and perhaps watered to settle the chopped leaves, which, incidentally, seem to form a sort of jigsaw puzzle to hold together and not blow around the yard following the mowing. By planting time in the spring there will be a great layer of compost to put the seedlings into or to dig into the bed before planting seeds.

Relax and compost. Things rot and return to nourish the earth. All we have to do is copy what nature teaches us and let things grow as they like to grow.

Growing Plants From SeedI wonder about growing plants from seed every year, even though I used to start over twelve hundred every year. Still, it is amazing to see them grow and flourish when the seeds are often so tiny. On the other hand, there is a lot that says for us to relax and just plant them and let them grow the way want to grow.

I have watched small children and even tried to help them plant seeds to grow up to be everything for beans to marigolds to sunflowers. Their hands are small and fine coordination is lacking and their enthusiasm makes everything spill and water pour too hard and seeds go to deep. When the leaves appear and the plant grows on I am not sure who is more excited, me of them. Certainly I am amazed at how the enthusiasm has succeeded over careful manipulation and my years of practice.

When you look out our living room window you can see a bird feeder hanging from a branch of the pine tree. It is visited by all sorts of birds from chickadees to a woodpecker that seems to think the peanuts are his. Often the chickadees in particular will hold on to the feeder and sort through the fare for sunflower seeds, meanwhile throwing aside all sorts of other goodies to the ground where there is already scattered other birdseed for the juncos, mourning doves and bluejays. Every summer some kind of grain tries to grow there as well as sunflowers and other plants. One or two tend to start in among the potted plants that grow on the patio next to the feeder. Mostly the deer tend to nip them off, but the plants are growing well most of the time before that.

No one planted them or gave them special soil. They fell as nature intended, moved by some birds and missed by others. Possibly some moved through the animal's digestive tract although I have seen little evidence of that.

Yet we worry about sowing seeds indoors for fear that they will not grow or they will collapse. Too much water may be given or too little. Questions arise of light and potting mixes and temperatures and if a cold frame is needed and what to do with it. Much of the time we worry we stand beneath a pine tree reaching 50 feet into the air. Only God or Mother Nature or happenstance have planted it depending on your point of view and even God just threw out some seed and stood back to see what would happen.

It is good to do our best to try and get things right and start our plants off as best we can, but it is also good to remember that we garden because it is fun. We start plants from seed because it is not something we wish to agonize over but rather something to enjoy. It is another step in the progress from empty soil to flourishing flowers and delicious vegetables. Plants like to grow. Seed likes to be sown. Just relax and enjoy. Something will grow.