As your lawn endures the trials of job this summer – drought, pestilence and disease – you must hold to the hope that there is a lush, green turf on the other side of this summer. Has your spring turf been reduced to an arid, brown toasty color? If not, you might want to submit your water bills for federal disaster relief. Dry, scorching heat is the perfect scenario for crabgrass to flourish and bluegrass to perish. What’s needed, of course, is a good, deep penetrating rain.
The large Japanese beetle population will mean a heavier than normal population of grubs. Knowledge is of course your best defense. Here are a couple of suggestion for coaxing your sod through the trials of summer…
Feeding: Your lawn’s nitrogen needs are at their highest in late summer. Avoid fertilizing when temps are about 85 degrees. Supplement this late summer feed (high in nitrogen) with a fall fertilizer that will concentrate on developing the root system. This will build a turf more resistant to drought and pest damage. This might be your most beneficial feeding. You can supply a fall food right into November in most areas.
Pest Control: In late summer and early fall the grub cycle begins as the larvae pupate into the common white lawn grub. At this stage of their development, these grubs are the most vulnerable. Treat infested areas with milky spore, an organic alternative to harsh chemicals. For more information visit the NOFA website.
Watering: A good rule of thumb is to water in the early morning hours. Try to provide at least 1 to 1.5 inches of water through rainfall or irrigation. A deep watering once a week is more beneficial than a series of shallow watering.
Seeding: To repair damage caused by drought, pests and disease, plan on a fall seeding program. Match the grass seed varieties to the conditions. For example, if you have a rocky, sandy soil that doesn’t hold moisture well, use a drought resistant lawn mixture featuring turf-type tall fescues (TTTF). Unlike ryegrass that spread by shallow rhizomes, TTTF have long individual tap roots. They are tough, durable and make a long wearing attractive turf. Heavy clay soils might do better with a bluegrass and ryegrass mixture. Fall is an optimum time for seeding. The warm weather speeds germination while the autumn night temps start to drop. Remember to keep the seed moist until established. That might require 2-3 mistings during our “Indian Summers”. The attention you pay to your lawn now will pay big dividends in the fall, the following spring and for years to come.
Much like an artist uses oils, the gardener uses plants to paint strokes of color across the landscape. Part of the art and beauty of gardening lies in the ability to combine nature’s hues in a way that delights the eye and engages the viewer. Some instinctively know which colors work well together and the exact shade to use to perk up a drab border. For others, the process is more hit or miss, moving plants around to find the right combinations. Whether your tastes run to brilliant reds and yellows or restful blues and greens, the secret to creating the look and feel you want in the garden is often simply a matter of understanding the effects of different color combinations.
Analogous colors are those that are closely related on the color wheel. Yellows, oranges, and red-oranges (or blues and violets) used together create a feeling of harmony. Combining analogous colors is perhaps the most popular color scheme used in gardening.
Complementary colors are colors that are opposite on the color wheel, such as violet and yellow, blue and orange, and red and green. These colors offer the greatest contrast, so the effect can be bold and dramatic, even vibrating. Be careful not to mix small amounts of complementary colors together, however, as from a distance the colors will tend to blend, appearing gray. Larger areas of one color positioned against an area of its complement will work to create an exciting contrast.
Triadic colors are groups of three colors that are spaced equidistant from one another on the color wheel. Using areas of primary colors, such as red, blue, and yellow, together in your garden can create a dramatic effect. As with complementary colors, too many small patches of varying color can create a gray or neutral tone from a distance. Plant larger areas of color to benefit from this electric contrast.
A single color used throughout the garden can create a wonderful feeling of unity. To keep this area from becoming too monotonous, use plants of varying textures and varying degrees of value (lights and darks). An all-white garden, featuring silvery-greens along with a variety of white blossoms, will impart a feeling of purity and light. You can add hints of pale blue for a cool, quiet mood, or warm things up with a splash of yellow.
Cool colors, such as blues, violets, and pinks, can create a quiet, calming effect, while warm colors, such as bright yellows, oranges, and reds, tend to make a bold and dramatic statement. Placing plants with cool colors, which recede from the eye, behind those with warm colors, which advance, creates the illusion of depth in a small space.
Perhaps the best rule to follow in creating a color statement in your garden is to experiment. Try unusual combinations of color together to see for yourself what works for you in your space. Move plants around…as a color that isn’t quite working in one area may look great in another.
Although gardeners often dream of sun-splashed borders filled with stately perennials, many are discovering that their daisies, daylilies, and daffodils are working overtime, bringing the garden to light…at night! Welcome to the world of the garden after dark.
With busy families finding fewer daylight hours to enjoy their gardens, it makes perfect sense to create a moonlight retreat in which family and friends can gather after hours. Spending balmy evenings out-of-doors is a wonderful luxury after the chill of winter…and during the scorching days of summer, the relative cool of the nighttime garden will come as a welcome respite. For the romantic at heart, few things are more enchanting than a midnight stroll through flowers kissed by moonlight.
How do you begin to create such a paradise? The secret is to select white and pale-colored plants that shimmer in the night. You’ll find that many of your favorite flowers, which you thought only bloomed in blue or hot pink, have been hybridized for white color or a very pale interpretation of their darker counterparts. Annuals like petunias, impatiens, and snapdragons all have white cousins, along with perennials, such as echinacea (coneflower) and campanula. You may also be surprised to learn at what time of day many flowers open. While some, like daylilies, as the name suggests, actually close at nightfall, others, such as evening primrose and moonflower, with its lemony scent, come alive right along with the peepers and crickets.
Just like any other garden, the moonlit garden should be filled with plants of different heights and habits, shapes and textures. Plants with variegated or white-edged foliage like euonymus, ivy, and hosta, add contrast to the garden and will sparkle in the dim light just like the flowers. Shrubs like spirea provide a backdrop for lower-growing plants like cosmos and artemisia, while a well-placed trellis or fence can lend support to lacy curtains of clematis and passionflower. A bench beneath an arbor brimming with white wisteria and climbing roses or a garden swing flanked by fragrant lilac or mock orange is an intoxicating spot to while away an evening. You’ll find that the strong fragrance will not only attract hopeless romantics, but also the “butterflies of the night,” moths, which will flit and flutter throughout the moonlit garden feeding on sweet nectar. Special touches complete the scene: A serpentine path lined with phlox, baby’s breath, and lilies, will invite a leisurely stroll, and a rustic lantern will allow you to enjoy your garden even on those nights when the moon is hidden by clouds.
A warm summer’s night, a trickle of water from a nearby fountain, and some soothing music from a speaker hidden beneath a shrub–the stage is set for spending a relaxing evening with friends and family in the magical land of the midnight garden.
My hydrangea grows beautiful green leaves, but I haven’t seen any blooms yet. How do I get my hydrangea to bloom?
- There are a few main reasons that you may not see blooms on your hydrangea bushes: sun exposure, over-watering and over-fertilizing. Endless Summer® hydrangeas prefer morning sun and afternoon dappled shade. If they are planted in full sun, it may be too hot and intense for the blooms to produce. Also, over-watering and over-fertilizing your plants can inhibit bloom production. Hydrangeas prefer moist, but not wet soil, and one application of fertilizer in spring or early summer. For additional planting and care tips, please click here.
- I pruned my hydrangeas back after an early frost and now I am not seeing blooms. Why is that?
- How to prune hydrangeas is a great question. If you pruned your hydrangeas back to the base, it will take some time for the new growth to develop and produce blooms. Be patient and look for the green growth coming up from the base of the plants. That is where your new blooms will grow from!
- I had several small blooms on my hydrangeas last year, so this year I have fertilized every 10 days until I saw blooms starting to develop. What else should I be doing to get big blooms?
- The first rule of thumb is to NOT over-fertilize your hydrangea plants. We suggest one application of granular fertilizer in spring or early summer, and then follow package instructions afterwards. If you over-fertilize, it can burn the root system of your hydrangea bushes and actually inhibit bloom production. For more tips on fertilizer and how to achieve big, beautiful blooms, please click here.
- My hydrangeas have brown dry spots on the leaves and brown petals on the bloom. What do I need to do to make the hydrangeas healthier?
- If the spot is round and brown with a red to purple ring, you likely have Anthracnose. Remove the affected leaves and dispose away from your plants. Treat with a fungicide and repeat as necessary. If the margins of the leaves fade from green to grey and then turn brown, the plants were dry for too long. If the petals of the flowers turn brown at the tip, not enough water was applied. Both the leaves and the flowers will show lack of water very quickly.
- I planted my hydrangeas in a location with at least 6 hours of full sun and partial afternoon shade. I read online that hydrangeas prefer that I water them heavily once a week instead of a little water every day. Now my hydrangea bushes are turning brown with no blooms. What am I doing wrong?
- Depending on where in the United States you live will determine how much sun your hydrangeas can handle. If you are in a northern state (Zones 4 – 5b), your hydrangeas can handle up to 6 hours of sun in the morning, but as you get further south you should allow for more shade on your plants. In the southern-most regions (Zones 8 – 9), we recommend a maximum of 2 hours of morning sun. Too much sun exposure can cause your hydrangea shrubs to burn on its leaves and blooms. Also, be sure to put your fingers in the soil to see if it needs watering. We do recommend a soak versus light watering each day, but you should be sure that the soil is always moist – not wet – by sticking your fingers in the dirt. If it is dry, give it a good soaking. If it is wet, do not add water. For more information on where to plant and how to water, please click here.
- Do these hydrangea plants survive in containers? Our garden gets really hot, so I think a container would be a better option. Do I follow the same care instructions (watering, fertilizing, etc.) as I would in the garden?
- Absolutely! Hydrangea shrubs are perfect as potted plants and give you the ability to move the hydrangeas to different locations and create a focal point in your living space. The care instructions are mainly the same, with a few notable differences. For a complete look at container care, click here.
- What type of fertilizer do you recommend? I know that hydrangea bushes do best with certain kinds of fertilizer because of their big blooms, but am not sure what to buy!
- We recommend a granular, slow-release fertilizer with a NPK ratio of 10-30-10. If you cannot find that specific ratio, ask your local nursery for a fertilizer with a high concentration of phosphorus, as that encourages the bloom growth. For more information, please click here
- I bought these plants because I wanted big, beautiful blue hydrangea bush in my garden. I got big blooms, but they are PINK! What did I do wrong?
- The pH level of your soil determines hydrangea colors. If you have a pink hydrangea and you want a blue hydrangea, no problem! Pink blooms develop in alkaline soil, so certain amendments need to be made to lower the pH and create an acidic soil situation. We suggest Color Me Blue soil sulfur to encourage blue bloom production. This is safe, organic and all-natural. There are also other natural remedies to changing hydrangea colors. To encourage blue blooms in alkaline soils, add aluminum sulfate, composted oak leaves, pine needles or coffee grounds. There are more tips, including how to change from blue blooms to pink hydrangea, click here.
- I planted my Endless Summer hydrangea in an area that is far too sunny and hot, so I’d like to transplant them to a more shaded area. What is the best time of year to do this, and are there any other tips I should know?
- If you are transplanting your hydrangea bushes, we recommend doing so while it is dormant.That means transplanting your hydrangea shrubs in late fall, after the first frost, or in early spring before it has woken up for the summer.
- I live in an area that gets a lot of snow during the winter. Should I prune Endless Summer Hydrangeas back like I do with my other hydrangea bushes? What else should I do to protect them from the freezing winter months?
- The great thing about Endless Summer® hydrangeas is that you don’t need to prune them back to the base like other hydrangeas. Since they bloom on previous years’ growth AND the new season’s growth, you can leave them all winter long to achieve double the blooms next spring. Do NOT prune the hydrangea back in fall. Leaving the fall blooms on your plants over the winter provides winter interest, and ensures you aren’t removing buds that will become flowers in the spring and summer. Leaves, wood mulch and/or straw are good options to insulate your plants. Mound the mulch or leaves around your plants at least 12” high to protect the flower buds that will bloom early next year. For more Overwintering tips, please click here. If your hydrangeas are planted in containers, please click here.
Information courtesy of Endless Summer Hydrangea. Visit website >
Shade plants offer much more color and variety than most of us imagine. Your best bet is to stick with plants that note full or part shade. We find good definitions to be 0-2 hours of sun for shade and 2-4 for part shade, and like some light and bright tones to punctuate shade.
Almost all spring bulbs work in areas around trees, since they will bloom before the tree leafs out.
For lots of color in shade plants through the season, consider bright annual Impatiens. They’re especially great in two or three rows to create a vivid band of color on the front border. Begonias love shade, too.
Variegated Leaf Shade Plants
A great way to achieve long color in shade gardens is plants with variegated leaves. Mix in some Hostas with large areas of white in their leaves – there are some lovely limes, too. A large blue-green elegans is beloved as a great focal point. Other bright leaves include some ferns, especially the Japanese varieties. The delicacy of ferns’ leaves add beauty in shade plants, and Solomon Seal fills and spreads nicely (great with Dicentra, which dies back in heat). There are probably more varieties than you know – do some searching. One grass, Hakonechloa macra aureola, in gold, grows in shade, as does variegated Lamium and Brunnera with striking leaves and small blue flowers. Caladiums are always stunning – try them with dragon-wing begonia for drama –and most Coleus prefer part-shade.
Spring and Summer Shade Plants that Flower
In the spring, Dicentra, pink or white bleeding heart, tiny flowers on arching stems, are gorgeous and seed freely. Primroses may bloom all summer in cooler areas, and do a spring and fall show in others – they’re small, so plan them at the front. Lily of the Valley has graced gardens for hundreds of years, Pulmonaria has patterned leaves and lovely spring flowers and Cordyalis brings in yellow accented by ferny leaves.
In early summer, Huechera (coral bells) steal hearts. Older varieties flower in pinks to reds, and newer ones offer purple, orange and lime foliage (but tend to have rather non-descript white flowers). Heucherella and Tiarella (foam flower) are smaller versions of Heuchera with vivid leaves.
Astilbes follow in many pinks plus white, red and lavender, love part shade and provide tall foamy flowers – fertilize them throughout the season and leave the dried flowers on for great winter accent. Aruncus (goat’s beard) is a tall display of foamy white flowers in June and July. Many varieties of Hemerocallis will grow in quite a bit of shade, and Tiger, Oriental, and Asian lilies do well as partial shade plants.
Fall and Winter Shade Plants
Hostas bloom in purple or white, and tall scarlet lobelias are a great accent at the back of the garden. Sedum Autumn Joy is great in partial shade.
Helleborus, or Lenten Rose, blooms between February and April depending on your Zone.
Kerria Japonica is a true shade plant. Many Hydrangeas, some small decorative maples and Summersweet (needs lots of water) thrive in part-shade.
It’s fun to discover how much you can do in shade, and shade gardens look cool and inviting whatever the temperature.
Lured by the gorgeous new offerings each season in glossy garden catalogues and magazines, you might be tempted to choose plants not well suited to your area – an expensive and time-consuming error. High-maintenance plants, artificially kept going by herculean efforts and costly fertilizers, can also be discouraging as they often do not survive.
More and more, amateur and professional gardeners are turning to native plants to enhance their outdoor spaces.
But just what is a native plant? A native plant is defined as one that exists naturally in a given area and is indigenous to that specific region or ecosystem – one that has not been introduced by humans.These can include trees, shrubs, wildflowers, grasses, mosses and groundcovers. For example, in the Pacific Northwest, the Douglas-fir tree is a native plant. English holly, which can be found extensively there also, is not native to the region because it was introduced by humans. It is, however, native to England!
Incorporating native plants in a gardening scheme does not require ripping out existing plantings. Natives can be gently introduced to a thriving garden, with benefits all around:
- As they are adapted to the region’s soil conditions and climate changes, natives are
much lower maintenance
- They require much less water
- Natives generally do not become invasive
- They encourage wildlife to visit and provide a safe habitat for birds and butterflies
- Natives thrive without fertilizers and chemical pesticides.
CHOOSING NATIVE PLANTS
Here are a few tips to get you started with native plants:
- Consult nature. What is growing in your local parks and wild areas? If you need to, get help with identification from books, a knowledgeable friend or your area’s Master Gardener program.
- Connect up with local native plant societies. Nearly every region has one and they offer a wealth of information and tips. Most have extensive websites with plant lists, photographs and planting instructions.
- Cultivate a relationship with a reputable nursery. Many specialty nurseries now are dedicated to native plants and will welcome your inquiries into what plants they recommend.
Once you have an understanding of what the native plants in your area are, you can begin to plan where they will best be utilized in your own environment.
Remember, trees and shrubs form the basic structure in any garden plan. Are there natives you can use to define a new garden space or create a needed privacy barrier? What about colorful wildflowers? Is there a section of your garden where the sight of gaily swaying columbines will brighten the view? Do you have children that would delight in avian and insect visitors?
Consider the locations and then choose plants based on which soil conditions, light and water availability you have which most duplicate their natural environment. Then sit back and let them take over.
Soon, you’ll hardly remember how your garden was before you decided to “go native”!
Butterfly gardens provide food and sanctuary for many vibrant species of Lepidoptera. This type of garden can be planted in even the busiest urban location. Offering even a small habitat can help support the butterfly population in your area. A container garden consisting of a few carefully selected bushes and flowering plants may be all it takes to attract these winged visitors to your home. If you have more space available, you can plan a butterfly garden complete with a walking path and outdoor seating for maximum enjoyment.
Selecting & Caring For Host Plants
Indigenous plants are often the best choice for butterfly gardens. These shrubs and flowers are simple to grow since they are already compatible with the soil type, texture, and pH in your area. This means you will only have to worry about ensuring adequate sunlight, water, and drainage for your plants. You may also consider adding compost once a year to replace any lost nutrients. Don’t use pesticides.
Visit your neighborhood garden center for advice on nectar producing plants that do well in your zone. Bear in mind that some are perennials in the Southern U.S. but must be replanted each year in colder parts of the continent. Here are some frequently suggested plant/flower species (both native and imported) that grow well in many different zones:
Some of these plants, such as clover, double as food plants for caterpillars. You can also deliberately grow hosts for specific butterfly larvae. Use milkweed to supply a breeding ground for monarchs. Dill, parsley, and other members of the carrot family will attract female swallowtails that are ready to lay their eggs. Watching caterpillars grow and change is one of the most interesting experiences provided by a home butterfly garden.
Common Butterfly Species
Expect to see both local and migrating species of butterflies pass through your garden depending on the time of year and your location. The larger and more varied your plant selection is, the greater number and variety of Lepidoptera you will see. However, some plants (like the aptly named butterfly bush) will attract many different types of butterflies at one time. Here are some of the species that frequent North American butterfly gardens:
This type of garden will attract much more than just butterflies. Hummingbirds are welcome visitors as well. Bees and wasps will also come to drink from your ready supply of nectar. When this happens, move slowly and remain calm. These insects are foraging far away from their home nests and unlikely to sting humans. They help pollinate flowers and are a natural feature of all butterfly gardens.
Fragrant gardens are becoming very popular with home owners. Human beings are very sensitive to smells, both pleasant ones and unpleasant ones. We use all kinds of means to dispel the smells from our bathrooms from using spray scents to deodorants to ceiling exhaust fans. At the same time, the number of fragrances available in perfumes is enormous, not just for women anymore, but also for men.
You can also enjoy a fragrant garden all year long, and you can vary the fragrances to your own taste. If you want to bring flowers into your house, you may scent the house with roses one day, lilies the next, and lilacs the next, as you please. Besides, you can grow artemesia or lemon thyme whose pungency and tang provide a counterpoint for the fragrance of the flowers.
We plant vegetables in our gardens to help meet our needs for food; in the same manner, a fragrant garden can be food for the soul. When we smell the first viburnum in the spring, it fills our hearts not only with joy but with hope: summer is on the way. Consider planting a fragrant garden. It will make your life better.
Planning Your Fragrant Garden
You’ll want to place your fragrant garden as close to the house as possible so you can enjoy the fragrance inside the house as well as out. If you can plant near a wall or a patio, the reflected heat will intensify the fragrance of many plants, which will increase your enjoyment. If you put your garden in the open yard, the wind will be likely to blow the scent away from you. An enclosed place will permit the fragrance to collect and intensify.
The more fragrant your fragrant garden, the more insects it will attract. If you have someone in your family who has serious allergies, you’ll need to put the garden in a place where this person can avoid the insects. You need to factor in that there will be more bees and bugs around scented plants.
You need to take into account when the flowers will bloom in your fragrant garden. For example, a clematis will be likely to bloom in early spring as will daffodils and tulips. If you’re planting a fragrant garden at a summer house, you may completely miss these. On the other hand, if you plant only summer-blooming flowers around the house you live in year-round, you’ll be missing some fragrant seasons. If you plan carefully, your fragrance season can last from frost to frost.
Planting for Your Own Region
Before planning your fragrant garden, talk to a gardener in a local gardening store. He will be able to help you choose those plants that will grow best in your own area. You might consider flowering trees like magnolia as well as shrubs like mock-orange that bring their own fragrance. Then there are vines like wisteria and perennials like primroses. In addition, look at annuals and bulbs such as hyacinths, Irises, Freesias, and paper whites for spring fragrance. For summer, consider lavender, lilies, nicotiana, to name only a few. A visit to your gardening store will inspire you!
HOW THE PLANT OF THE YEAR IS SELECTED
Candidates for the Proven Winners’ Plant of the Year are judged stringently by growers, retailers and home gardeners against the five criteria: Easy to Grow, Iconic, Readily Available, Perfect for Baskets or Containers and Outstanding Landscape Performance. Plants are selected that are easy for everyone to grow and deliver a clearly exceptional garden performance.
After several rounds of voting, the winners are announced to growers across North America one year in advance to ensure they have plenty of time to grow the millions of plants needed to satisfy the demand at retail. As a result, home gardeners can easily find a retailer who carries the winning Plants of the Year.
ANNUAL OF THE YEAR: Supertunia® Bordeaux™ Petunia hybrid
Supertunia® Bordeaux™ will quickly grow into a blanket of sparkling purple flowers in your landscape. Since it is so vigorous, you won’t need many plants to make an impact. You’ll love how they look when you grow them in hanging baskets and upright containers. Supertunia® Bordeaux™ play well with others if you’re into playing matchmaker.
- Masses of vibrant color
- Non-stop bloom from spring to frost
- Self-cleaning flowers—NO deadheading needed
- Versatility of use in containers and landscapes
- Broad color range to suit every style
- Remarkable vigor and disease resistance
Supertunia petunias are vigorous with slightly mounded habits that function as both fillers and spillers in containers. They are also excellent landscape plants, best suited to be placed near the front of beds. They have medium to large sized flowers. Whether you’re looking to add a mass of color to your garden beds or create impressive containers with curb appeal, Supertunia® Petunias are the best choice for your sunny landscape. You’ll be amazed how green your thumbs are when you grow these vigorous, reliable flowers.
PERENNIAL OF THE YEAR: Primo™ ‘Black Pearl’ Heuchera
Coral bells like Primo ‘Black Pearl’ tend to grow best and have the prettiest coloration when grown in part sun, meaning 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day. In very warm climates, full shade may be necessary. In cooler zones, it will grow in full sun if given adequate moisture. Primo ‘Black Pearl’ will keep its dark coloration even in full sun conditions.
- Jet black, glossy, ruffled foliage
- Long lasting, light pink cut flowers
- Attracts pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds
- Vigorous, densely mounding shape
- Versatile – grows in landscapes and containers
- Naturally heat and humidity tolerant
- Measures 8-10” tall x 26-30” wide
- Native perennial for zones 4-9
Coral bells like Primo ‘Black Pearl’ can be grown in containers, but keep in mind that it grows notably larger than standard varieties, so give it plenty of room to show off. If growing it on its own, choose a container that is at least 10” in diameter and 8” deep. If you plan to pair Primo ‘Black Pearl’ with other plants in a combination recipe, you’ll need a much larger pot, at least 18” in diameter.
LANDSCAPE PLANT OF THE YEAR: Spilled Wine® Weigelia
Rich, velvety foliage forms a sumptuous textural backdrop for a bright floral bouquet of magenta pink blossoms that sing every spring. An updated, more petite look for weigelia, it’s the perfect choice for foundation plantings, edging landscape beds and planting en masse. Full-bodied looks and an easy constitution—that’s Spilled Wine® weigelia.
- Dark wine red foliage all season
- Loads of vibrant magenta pink flowers in spring
- Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds
- Not preferred by deer
- Low mounding shape
- Adaptable to most soil types
- Grows in large containers and landscape beds
- Grows 2-3’ tall x 2-4’ wide
- Reliably hardy in zones 4-8
Like a complex wine, Spilled Wine Weigelia embodies a certain richness and intensity that may look complicated, but there’s really nothing to it. It even adapts to most soil types, including clay. Giving it 6+ hours of sunlight, average water (about an inch per week), and a bit of slow release tree and shrub fertilizer in early spring will do the trick.
Learn more about our National Plant of the Year program at www.nationalplantoftheyear.com.
Enter the kitchen garden:
A garden is as distinct and individual as your tastes will allow. Whether you like it hot and spicy-with herbs and peppers that sing with flavor-or subtle blends of flavorful veggies and culinary herbs, it is easier than you think to have success in the garden and in the kitchen.
Today’s kitchen gourmet is more likely to trek to the backyard garden than to the local market for fresh rosemary, peppers or cilantro. Where else can you be assured of a variety of fresh produce that is designed around your palette?
There are three elements essential to a successful planting: location, drainage and spacing
Most vegetable and herb gardens need a minimum of four to six hours of direct sunlight for peak performance. The ideal exposure would be a southwestern or a southern exposure. That would mean the garden would be bathed in sunlight from around 10 am till 3 or 4 in the afternoon.
We suggest using a rectangular shape for your garden bed. By keeping your dimensions to a 4′ x 8′ plot you will insure an easy accessibility to your garden for weeding, watering and harvesting. You might use a flexible garden hose to approximate your final garden. Just as a good carpenter will measure twice in order to cut just once, an experienced gardener will spend a week or so in gauging the available sunlight over the terrain in order to establish the best available location.
Once your location is secured, then it is time to address the issue of drainage. Almost all culinary herbs and vegetables benefit from good drainage. A garden bed is built, as in built up, to insure the best possible conditions. This type of gardening is known as a “raised” garden. Raised beds can be created quickly, often in a single Saturday afternoon.
Use wooded materials such as non-treated pine or cedar, wall-stone or edgers to frame your bed. This should result in an increase of anywhere from 6-8″ from ground zero. Once your materials are obtained and your spot is properly marked (use limestone), turn the existing soil to a depth of six to eight inches. A couple of passes with a borrowed rototiller will do the trick. If you are digging by hand, remove this soil and mix it with compost or manure, peat moss and top soil to create a rich cake-like consistancy. Turn all the materials in a large pile by fork and shovel and fill your now assembled frame. Attempt to mound towards the center. Drainage gaps can be used on the corner and center sections.
Grade your soil smooth of rocks, lumps and debris
Then it is time to lay out your plant material. Pay close attention to the spacing requirements listed on the plant tags. Plant for maturity. Our sample bed of roughly 32 square feet should hold at least 24 plants properly spaced. Depending on your needs, you might start with one or two plants of a variety. This should give you plenty of material for a wide variety of meal possibilities. With proper plant selection, it should be enough produce to spark neighborhood get togethers throughout the summer months. Bon Appetit!
Not enough room? Consider the contained garden:
Whether it is a situation where there is a shortage of a sunny spot or maybe you are simply limited in space. You can still take advantage of the information above. Just adapt it to the container(s) and space
available to you. This is a great way for apartment or condo dwellers to maintain a small culinary garden.
Whisky barrels, terra cotta planters or even window boxes can produce a bounty of herbs, vegetables and flowering material. The key to success remains in light, drainage and spacing. We’d love to introduce you to the many possibilities of container gardening.
A garden is a wonderful place for a child to experience the natural world and learn how things grow. It is a place of wonder and surprise that excites the imagination as it teaches valuable lessons about the environment, responsibility, and discipline. With a little planning and effort-and a little help from you-your child can create his or her own garden world to enjoy all summer long.
Creating a Child’s Garden
Give your child his or her own special space: Rope off a corner of the family garden, prepare a separate plot, or set up a rain-barrel planter. Just be sure to place the garden where it will get plenty of sun, at least 4-6 hours per day. Help your child create a simple plan, using kid-friendly plants, such as large colorful flowers, tasty vegetables, and interesting plants that grow quickly. Great beginner plants include morning glories, zinnias, sunflowers, sugar snap peas, pumpkins, corn and tomatoes.
While buying pre-finished plants will the job easier, consider starting the garden from seed. Winter is the perfect time for planning the garden and for selecting and planting the seeds.
In early spring, help your child prepare the garden bed. Children will appreciate the process if they understand a very basic concept: The soil is the seedling’s lunch box. This is where the plant will get all the food, water and nutrients it needs for proper growth. Preparing the soil will teach your child an important lesson in the rewards of hard work.
Keep it Fun!
The Potato Volcano is a great gardening and recycling project to try. Or, if your child likes private hideaways, you can help him or her create a pole-bean teepee or a sunflower clubhouse. Whatever project your child chooses, be sure to keep things fun. Let gardening open a whole new world for your child-one filled with earthworms and flowers, sunshine and showers!