Tips And Inspirations

How to Plan a Vegetable Garden

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Source: www.BHG.com

 

Starting a vegetable garden at home is an easy way to save money — that $2 tomato plant can easily provide you with 10 pounds of fruit over the course of a season.

Planting a garden with vegetables also give you the pleasure of savoring a delicious, sun-warmed tomato fresh from the garden. In almost every case, the flavor and texture of varieties you can grow far exceed grocery store produce.

Learning what to plant in a garden with vegetables, and how to tend them for the best harvest, is probably easier than you think. If you plan it right, you can enjoy a beautiful garden full of the fruits of your labor — without having to spend hours and hours tending it.

 

Deciding What to Plant in a Garden with Vegetables

When deciding what to plant in a garden with vegetables, it’s best to start small. You don’t want to start off planting more than you can manage and end up wasting food and feeling overwhelmed.

First, take a look at how much your family will eat. Keep in mind that vegetable such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash keep providing throughout the season — so you may not need many plants to serve your needs. Other vegetables, such as carrots, radishes, and corn, produce only once, so you may need to plant more of these.

 

Determining How Much Space You Need

Once you know what you want to plant, you can figure out the right amount of space for your garden. You don’t need a large space to begin — you don’t even need a yard if you choose to grow in containers, a deck or balcony may provide plenty of space.

 

Picking the Perfect Spot

No matter how big your vegetable garden, or how you determine what to plant, there are three basic requirements for success.

1.  Full sun. Most vegetables need at least 6-8 hours of direct sun. If they don’t get enough light, they won’t bear as much and they’ll be more susceptible to attack from insects or diseases.

2. Plenty of water. Because most vegetables aren’t very drought tolerant, you’ll need to give them a drink during dry spells. When thinking about how to plan a vegetable garden, remember: the closer your garden is to a source of water, the easier it will be for you.

3. Good soil. As with any kind of garden, success usually starts with the soil. Most vegetables do best in moist, well-drained soil that’s rich in organic matter (such as compost or peat moss).

 

How to Design and Plan You Vegetable Garden

There are two basic approaches to planning the layout of a vegetable garden.

Row Cropping

Usually what comes to mind when you think of what to plant in a vegetable garden: you place plants sing file in rows, with a walking path between each row.

This approach works best for large vegetable gardens, and it makes it easier to use mechanical equipment such as tillers to battle weeds.

The downside of row cropping is that you don’t get as many vegetables in a small space, as much of the soil is used for footpaths rather than vegetable plants.

Intensive Cropping

This type of planting a garden with vegetables means planting in wide bands, generally 1-4 feet across and as long as you like. Intensive cropping reduces the amount of area needed for paths, but the closer spacing of the plants usually means you have to weed by hand.

Because of the handwork required, remember: it is important not to make the bands wider than you can comfortably reach.

This approach also allows you to design your vegetable garden, making it a good choice if you want to grow vegetables in your front yard, or any place you’d like to spruce up. It’s a great solution for mixing vegetables with ornamentals as well.

 

Testing and Fixing Your Soil

It’s best to test the soil before you begin planting a garden with vegetables. Check drainage by soaking the soil with a hose, waiting a day, then digging up a handful of soil. Squeeze the soil hard. If water streams out, you’ll probably want to add compost or organic matter to improve the drainage.

Next, open your hand. If the soil hasn’t formed a ball, or if the ball falls apart at the slightest touch, the soil is probably too sandy. To counter this, add organic matter to improve the sandy soil.

If the ball holds together, even if you poke it fairly hard, you have too much clay in your soil. Which will also improve with organic matter.

If the ball breaks into crumbs when you poke it — like a chocolate cake — rejoice! Your soil is ideal.

If your soil doesn’t drain well, your best bet will probably be to install raised beds.

 

Digging Your Beds

Loosen your soil before you plant your vegetable garden. This can be done either by tilling or digging by hand.

Once the soil has been loosened, spread out soil amendments (such as compost) and work them into the soil. Avoid stepping on freshly tilled soil as much as possible. Otherwise, you’ll be compacting the soil and undoing all your hard work.

When you’re done digging, smooth the surface with a rake, then water thoroughly. Allow the bed to rest for several days before your plant.

 

Choosing Varieties

Once you start deciding on what to plant in your vegetable garden, you’ll probably notice there are endless possibilities. There are thousands of tomato varieties alone!

When selecting varieties, pay close attention to the description on the tag or in the catalog. Each variety will be a little different — some produce smaller plants that are ideal for small gardens or containers, others offer great disease resistance, improved yields, better heat- or cold-tolerance, or other features.

Once you narrow your choices of types of vegetables, pick two or three varieties that seem promising. That way if one variety doesn’t perform well, you’ll have other plants to make up for it. Next year, grow the best performer again, and choose another to try.

Many vegetables can be started early indoors or purchased already started from a garden center. The benefit of this approach is that you can have a crop ready to harvest several seeks earlier than if you were to plant seeds in the ground. Starting vegetables indoors is not difficult, but it does require some time and attention. Seed packages list the options you have for planting particular seeds.

 

Care and Feeding

Most vegetables like a steady supply of moisture, but not so much that they are standing in water. About an inch of water per week is usually sufficient, provided by you if Mother Nature fails to come through. Water when the top inch of soil is dry. For in-ground crops, that may mean water once or twice a week; raised beds drain faster and many require watering every other day.

Weeds compete with your vegetables for water and nutrients, so it’s important to keep them to minimum. Use a hoe or hand fork to lightly stir (cultivate) the top inch of soil regularly to discourage weed seedlings. A mulch of clean straw, compost, or plastic can keep weeds at bay around larger plants like tomatoes.

Fertilizing your crops is critical to maximizing yields. Organic gardeners often find that digging in high quality compost at planting time is all their vegetables need. Most gardeners, however, should consider applying a packaged vegetable fertilizer, following the directions on the box or bag. Don’t apply more than recommended as this can actually decrease yield.

By using vining crops like pole beans and snap peas when planting a vegetable garden, you can make use of vertical space in the garden and boost yield per square foot.

 

Harvesting

Don’t be shy about picking your produce! Many vegetables can be harvested at several stages. Leaf lettuce, for example, can be picked as young as you like; snip some leaves and it will continue to grow and produce. Summer squash (zucchini) and cucumbers can be harvested when the fruit is just a few inches long, or it can be allowed to grow to full size. The general rule: if it looks good enough to eat, it probably is. Give it a try. With many vegetables, the more you pick, the more the plant will produce.

 

Stopping Pests and Diseases

Pests and diseases are ongoing problems for most vegetable gardeners. Although specific problems may require special solutions, there are some general principles you can follow.

Deed and rabbits. Use fences to deter rabbits. Make sure the bottom of the fence extends about 6 inches under the soil to stop rabbits from digging underneath it. The fence needs to stand at lease 8 feet above the ground to prevent deer from jumping over it.

Spring insects. Row covers, which are lightweight sheets of translucent plastic, protect young crops against many common insects. Row covers are also helpful to prevent damage from light frosts.

Fungal diseases. Reduce fungal diseases by watering the soil, not the leaves of plants. If you use a sprinkler, do it early in the day so the leaves will dry by nightfall.

  • If a plant falls prey to a disease, remove it promptly and throw it in the trash. Don’t add sick plants to your compost pile.
  • Grow varieties that are listed as disease resistant.
  • Make it a habit to change the location of your plants each year. If you grew tomatoes in the northwest corner of your garden this year, put them in the northeast corner next year. This reduces the chances that pests will gain a permanent foothold in your garden.

Summer insects. Pick larger insects and caterpillars by hand. Once you get over the “yuck!” factor, this is a safe and effective way to deal with limited infestations.

Use insecticidal soap sprays to control harmful bugs as well.

 

 

Early Spring Gardening Care & Maintenance Tips

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From NorthernBelleDiaries.com

 

One of the most important things in gardening is how you prepare for the spring. Setting your garden up for success is easier than most people think. And, when you set yourself up for your success (in any area of life), the job becomes much easier and enjoyable than if you did not take those precautionary steps early on.

Is it too cliche to insert the early worm gets the worm reference? Okay too soon, too soon.

Below are some early spring gardening care and maintenance tips to help make your garden bloom in the coming season.

 

Transplant Troubled Plants

Early spring is the perfect time to transplant shrubs and plants. The cool temperature allows the roots to transition to their new location before the dogs days of summer. Be sure to have your wheelbarrow nearby to hold the dirt as you dig the new hole. It will make filling the hole with dirt infinitely easier.

 

Prune with Prudence

If you are lucky enough to have crepe myrtles in your yard, now is the time to prune them. Crepe myrtles are one of those shrubs that should be pruned in the spring. Never prune hydrangeas in the spring as you might be cutting off the current year’s blooms. Better Homes and Gardens has a great guide on when to prune particular shrubs and trees during the growing season.

 

Assess Needs and Troubled Areas

Create a living privacy fence with shrubs, bushes, and trees. A living privacy fence is a cost-effective solution to expensive fences while helping the environment. Also start assessing dead grass patches. Spring is the prefect time to start putting down grass for a beautiful healthy lawn.

 

Add Fresh Mulch to the Flowerbeds

Your plants and water bill will thank you for this small act of service. Mulch not only looks nice, but it helps the soil retain water, prevents evaporation, and keeps your flowers’ root nice and cool during the summer. It’s a good idea to add fresh mulch in the spring and fall.

Also, some plants, like holly, hydrangeas, and azaleas prefer acidic soil. Mini pine nuggets naturally break down into acidic soil so it’s a great way to control soil pH for these plants.

 

Sharpen Mower Blades

Your mower’s blades should be sharp and clean prior to the lawn-mowing season. Dull blades will wreak havoc on your grass blades. The jagged rips on the grass blades can lead to disease and fungus. This is also a good time to change the oil, spark plugs, and filters if necessary.

 

Apply Fertilizer and Weed Control to Your Lawn

In addition to feeding your lawn to replenish needed nutrients, it’s important to also treat and prevent weeds. Crabgrass and other weeds are ready to pounce once the warm temperatures arrive. Applying pre-emergent herbicides are a must when fertilizing your lawn.

 

Clean

Las, but not least, clean! All of this work is for naught if your home has mildew from the winter. Use a pressure washer to clean the outside of your home.

Basic Lawn Care Tips

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From HGTV.com

You know a healthy lawn when you see it: a smooth, lush green carpet, perfect for cartwheels and croquet.

So why doesn’t your lawn look like that? To get that perfect lawn you may have to change your mindset, says landscape designer Gary Alan (www.garyalan.com). “You know how in golf they say ‘Be the ball’? Well, you’ve got to be the grass. You’ve got to think about what it needs,” Gary says. The basics, he says, are pretty simple: sun, water and fertilizer. Once you get those down, everyone’s happy — you and your lawn. Here’s how to get started.

 

 

Setting Soil

Planting a new lawn is like any good adventure: preparation and planning are key. No matter which planting method you plan to use, you need to prepare the area thoroughly to banish weeds and make sure soil won’t immediately crust over or compact into lumpy ruts. John Griggs, a master gardener in West Virginia, says the most important step — and one that many gardeners skip — is testing the pH of your soil. Do-it-yourself test kids are available from nurseries and catalogs, or you can take advantage of the testing offered by your state’s designated agricultural university. “It might seem like a hassle, but testing your soil will save you from pouring money into the ground,” John says.

Start by stripping the area of all weeds, including roots, even if that means taking off the top six inches. Then rototill to a depth of at least six inches to loosen compaction and improve drainage. It’s extremely important to add loam and compost to enrich the soil; many experts suggest mixing equal parts of loam, sand and your original topsoil. You’re best off in the long run if you incorporate a slight slope to facilitate drainage and prevent pooling. Finally, use a roller to pack down the soil, then grade the area with a metal rake. Be as thorough as you can — remember, once you’ve put your seed or sod down, you can’t go back and regrade.

 

To Seed or Not to Seed

No question but rolling out a carpet of sod is the quickest way to a beautiful lawn. But sod can get expensive, especially if your lawn is going to cover a large area. The alternative is seeding the area yourself, either by hand or with a method called hydroseeding, which has recently become quite popular. Long used by farmers to sow large fields, hydroseeding solves one of the main problems of hand seeding: even dispersal of seeds. The grass seed — a mix of varieties blended for your climate and the type of use your lawn will get — is mixed into a pulp made from virgin wood fibers, fertilizer and binding agents.

 

Shave and a Haircut

When it comes to sharing lawn secrets, the first one on many garden experts’ lips is mowing height. “Most people mow their lawns way too short, which stresses out the grass,” says Paul James, host of Gardening by the Yard. The secret, he says, is do less, not more: “I’m a great believer in benign neglect.” He recommends raising the mower to the highest possible notch so you’re mowing only the top third of the grass when you cut. Taller grass promotes better root development, Paul says, as well as shading the ground so it doesn’t dry out as fast. An added benefit: the taller grass blocks the sun that weed seeds require to germinate. And don’t believe for a moment that leaving grass taller is going to mean mowing more often, says Gary. “There’s a big misunderstanding that a lot of people have that if they cut it shorter, they won’t have to mow it as often,” say Gary. “But that’s absolutely false; it renews itself so fast that it doesn’t save you any time.”

 

Water, Water Everywhere

“Water only once a week, but water deep” is the rule according to Paul. A weekly soaking helps roots extend deeper into the soil, while frequent shallow waterings tend to lead to thatch, that unsightly web of dry brown runners just above the soil. Watering deeply can also prevent chinch bugs, a pest that tends to attach dried, stressed out lawns across the midsection of the country. To figure out how much water your lawn needs, take your soil type into account: sandy soils dry out faster, while clay soils hold moisture longer and don’t require watering as often.

For a newly seeded lawn, water every day for five to 10 minutes only. Your goal is to dampen the seeds without causing runoff that might wash them away or mar the surface with gullies. After the seeds sprout and the new grass is a half inch tall, water once a day for 15 to 20 minutes.

 

Please Feed Me

Even the healthiest lawn gets hungry and needs a solid meal. Twice a year, spring and fall, is the bare minimum most experts recommend for fertilization, though some add a feeding in the middle of the summer. But beware the common N-P-K (nitrogen-phosphate-potassium) fertilizers popular with most gardeners, says Gary; they don’t provide everything your hungry grass needs. Instead, he recommends a complete fertilizer that includes micronutrients such as sulfur, copper and iron. “Just like you take a multivitamin, your grass needs one too,” says Gary. In addition to regular fertilizing, he recommends an application of dolomitic lime every few years. This is because watering and fertilizing cause soil to become acidic over time and lime restores the pH while putting important minerals like calcium and magnesium back into the soil. In some Western areas, soils are naturally alkaline and may not have this problem, so it’s best to test your soil’s pH first.

 

Weeds, Go Away

No doubt about it, crabgrass is the bane of every lawn gardener’s existence. But that doesn’t mean herbicides are essential to a healthy lawn; in fact, many experts avoid them. The true secret to banishing weeds, they say, is to grow such healthy grass that it chokes out the invaders naturally. Mowing regularly helps too, because it tops off weeds like dandelions and crabgrass before they have a chance to scatter their seeds. When you do find yourself compelled to do battle against a path of weeds, Paul recommends using one of the new “natural” herbicides that derive their potency from corn gluten, salts from fatty acids or other nonchemical sources.

Air Supply

When grass gets too compacted, nutrients can’t penetrate to the root system where they’re most needed. That’s where aeration — poking holes in your lawn to improve oxygen circulation — comes in. Most people aerate with a simple tool that looks like two hollow tubes attached to the end of a long handle. Of course, you can also just waltz around your lawn in spiked sports shoes — that works fairly well too.

 

Types of Grass

Some lawns have finer textures (think golf courses), while others feel like Astroturf under your feet. There are hundreds of types of grass available, and new varieties are developed every year.

As with all plant choices, climate plays a big role in determining which type of grass will work best for you — soil type, rainfall and other factors also come into it. As a general rule, cool-season grasses go dormant during the warm weather, and warm-season grasses go dormant during the coolest months of the year; in areas where it’s possible to have a green lawn all year round, you want a mixture of both these types. “I’ve lived in seven different states and I’ve had seven different lawns,” says master gardener John Griggs, who believes a local nursery is one of the best sources of information on which type of grass will work best in your area. Here’s a list of the most popular choices:

 

Popular warm-season grasses:

 

Zoysia grass
Bermuda grass
St. Augustine grass
Bahia grass
Centipede grass

 

Popular cool-season grasses:

 

Bentgrass
Bluegrass
Fine fescues
Tall fescues
Ryegrass

 

Grasses for special needs:

 

Shade: St. Augustine grass, fine fescue, tall fescue, ryegrass, bentgrass
High traffic: Zoysia grass, improved Bermuda grass, Bahia grass, regular Bermuda grass, perennial ryegrass

 

The Right Stone for Your Landscape

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from Houzz.com
Stone has always been a cost-effective hardscape material for all garden styles. In gravel form it has been used in landscapes from the raked Zen gardens of Japan to the driveways of English landscape gardens, and it is still used as an affordable and easy-to-install surface in contemporary gardens. Its larger relations, then pebbles, cobbles, and paddle stones, have become a much more interesting and useful material in our gardens, as they have so many applications.

Click through the slide show below for tips and design inspiration.

 

 

Common House Plants That Help Clean Indoor Air

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from lajollamom.com

 

NASA discoverd that some house plants not only absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, but they also eliminate significant amounts of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and other chemicals from the air.

 

So , not let’s talk about plants that help clean these nasty chemicals out of the air. Interestingly enough, a lot of these plants might be toxic to cats and dogs (or even kids) if eaten, so do some research if you there’s a risk.

 

SnakePlantSnake plant, or mother-in-law’s tongue, is a very popular house plant that can be used outdoors in areas without direct sunlight. With it’s upright leaves it has a lot of architectural interest making it a popular choice for contemporary homes. Snake plant is a very effective indoor air cleaner against formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene, and toulene.
PeaceLillyPeace lilies help clean the air of formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene, toulene, and ammonia. In addition, it helps get rid of acetone, a chemical released by electronics and certain cleaners. Peace lilies require shade and frequent watering. Keep dust off the leaves as well.
BostonFernIndirect light and moderate warmth keep Boston ferns happy. They’re easy to find, inexpensive and can take some neglect. Boston ferns are some of the best filterers of formaldehyde, though they can also clean small amounts of xylene and toulene.
GerberaDaisyGorgeous Gerbera daisies not only cheer up your home, but do it some good too. Gerbera daisies are rare plants in that htey also release oxygen during the night, so keep them in the bedroom for restful sleep. They need sun and water as soon as the dirt in the pot dries out. Gerbera daisies rid the air of benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.
Red-edgedDracaenaRed-edged Dracaena have a red edge that can add a pop of color to an indoor arrangement. However, these can grow very tall, so remember that as you decide to increase pot size. These plants filer formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene, and toulene.
PotMumChrysanthemums like sun and water as soon as the soil is dry an inch or so from the top. Inexpensive to buy at even grocery stores, this chrysanthemum not only has excellent feng shui properties, but it cleans formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene, toulene, and ammonia.
AloeThough not part of the NASA study, aloe is extremely good at filtering formaldehyde. It loves sun so it is the perfect plant to keep near a kitchen window. Break off  leaf to heal accidental burns and wounds as well — it’s dual purpose!
LadyPlamThese gorgeous palm trees with their finger-like leaves do well inside the house without direct exposure to sunlight. Be careful not to soak the roots. Lady palms remove formaldehyde, xylene and toulene, but is an extremely efficient ammonia cleaner.
GoldennPathosGolden pothos is a fast-growing vine that looks great in hanging pots or wherever it has the ability to cascade or climb. Consider placing golden pathos near the garage as it has an acute ability to clean benzene out of the air as well as carbon monoxide. Formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toulene are other chemicals the plan targets.
PhilodendronPhilodrendrons are known specifically for removing formaldehyde from the air. With big, decorative leaves, they make for stunning container gardens indoors and out.

5 Herbs that Thrive Inside

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from GrowAGoodLife.com

 

Fresh herbs are a delicious way to add flavor to any meal, and growing the herbs yourself make them every more tasty!

Here are 5 herbs that grow great during the winter.

 

Chives

If you grow only one herb indoors over winter, let it be chives. The mild onion flavor compliments many dishes of numerous cuisines from breakfast to dinner.

Sun: 4-6 hours

Temperature: Average room temperature. Will withstand temperatures fluctuation of 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit (13-24 degrees Celsius)

Soil: All-purpose potting mix.

Water: Twice a week when soil surface feels dry. Tips of foliage will turn dry.

Harvest: Once the plan is 6 inches (15 cm) tall, cut leaves as needed leaving at lease 2 inches (5 cm) of growth above the soil. The plant will continue to grow.

 

Oregano

Oregano is a staple in many households and is used frequently in Italian dishes as a pizza topping.

Sun: 6-8 hours

Temperature: Average room temperature. Will withstand temperature fluctuation of 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit (13-24 degrees Celsius)

Soil: Well-drained, sandy soil. Mix equal parts all-purpose potting mix and sharp sand. Or use cactus-potting mix.

Water: Water when soil surface feels dry about once a week. Oregano is susceptible to root rot so do no over water.

Harvest: Once the plant is 6 inches (15 cm) tall, cut stems as needed leaving at least two sets of leaves. Frequent trimmings produce a bushy, compact plant with healthier foliage making Oregano one of the easiest herbs to grow in-doors over winter.

 

Rosemary

You can grow rosemary in the same pot for a few years.

Sun: At lease 6 hours.

Temperature: Average room temperature. Will withstand tempura fluctuation of 45-70 degrees Fahrenheit (7-21 degrees Celsius) in winter.

Soil: Well-drained, sandy soil. Mix equal parts all-purpose potting mix and sharp sand. Or use cactus-potting mix.

Water: Allow a few inches or soil to dry out between waterings then water thoroughly. Rosemary likes to stay on the dry side.

Harvest: Once the plant is 6 inches (15 cm) tall, cut stems as needed. New growth will continue forming on the stem. Rosemary grows slowly, so don’t harvest more than 1/3 of the plant at one time.

 

Thyme

The intense flavvor of Thyme complements most meals, including chicken, beef, pork, and game. Use thyme in winter in crockpot stews and roasts.

Sun: At least 6 hours.

Temperature: Average room temperature around 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit (10-24 degrees Celsius)

Soil: Well-drained, sandy soil mix. Mix equal parts all-purpose potting mix and sharp sand. Or use cactus-potting mix.

Water: Allow top 1-inch (2.54 cm) of soil to dry out between waterings then water thoroughly. Once established, Thyme is drought resistant.

Harvest: Once the plant is established, cut foliage as needed leaving 3-inch (7.5 cm) stems to continue growing.

 

Parsley

More than just a garnish, parsley adds a light, fresh flavor and busts of color to many dishes including roasts, grilled steaks, chicken, fish, and vegetables.

Sun: At least 6 hours.

Temperature: Average room temperature. Will withstand temperature fluctuation of 55-755 degrees Fahrenheit (13-24 degrees Celsius)

Soil: All-purpose potting mix.

Water: Twice a week when soil surface feels dry.

Harvest: Once the plant is established, cut stems at the bast leaving at least 2-inch (5 cm) stems to continue growing.

 

Helpful Tips:

  • If you start your indoor herb garden in the fall, begin with established plants so they will continue to grow indoors over winter and produce quicker. Growing from seeds requires more attention and time before the herbs can be harvested and used.
  • If you have houseplants, it is a good idea to quarantine any plants brought in from your garden for a while to be sure there are no hitchhikers such as pests or diseases. Leave these in a separate room for several weeks to be sure there are no surprises.
  • Propagating herbs from cuttings is a quick way to establish a plant. Cut a 5-inch stem, strip off the bottom few inches of leaves, place stem in water to root, plant into post once roots develop, and water frequently until established. Then water as needed.
  • Fertilizer can be used to give the herbs a boost to help them grow indoors. Feed your herbs with liquid seaweed or to dress with compost in late winter as daylight begins to increase.
  • If you don’t have a sunny south facing window, use a grow light or fluorescent light to supplement lighting.

Tips to Perk Up a Bleak Winter Garden

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Originally from HGTV.com

 

Wintertime, like an x-ray of the landscape, reveals a garden’s basic structure. To add more interest to the cold-weather garden, consider these key elements:

 

Focal Points

Focal points include sculpture, garden structures, boulders or containers. They can create dramatic or subtle, year-round interest within the landscape. Garden features such as ponds, arbors or a lone container become the center of attention when placed in contrast with their surroundings.

 

Color and Structure

For a splash of winter color, consider going evergreen. Evergreens can bring color to the landscape when the mercury is bottoming out. Even the color brown can make its own bold statement. A bare deciduous tree against a curtain of green brings structure and style to almost any planting.

 

Fragrance

“Never underestimate the winter fragrances that can lure you outdoors, even in cold weather,” says garden author Marianne Binetti. For example, witch hazel (Hamamelis sp.) has a sweet fragrance, regardless of how cold the temperature. There are yellow and orange varieties available. Fragrant plants can do double-duty in the garden. Sweet box (Sarcococca ruscifolia) infuses a pleasant vanilla scent to the air and produces black berries that provide additional color and pizzazz.

 

Winter Chores

Winter is also the time to tackle a few chores in the yard that don’t seem as obvious during the rest of the year. There are several plants that can be pruned in winter. For early spring-blooming plants such as Lenten rose, cut back tattered, old foliage left over from last year. Cutting back the foliage allows the winter blooms to be more prominent and inhibits the potential spread of mold or disease. (Note: when pruning back, take care to avoid cutting back new growth.) Prune out tree or shrub branches that are crossing or rubbing against one another. This task can be more easily accomplished in the wintertime because you can see the skeleton or framework of the deciduous trees.

 

Winter Safety

Don’t forget about safety, especially when it comes to walking on icy surfaces. To reduce potentially slippery hazards, use organic kitty litter as an alternative to salt. Since salt can wash into your flower beds and sterilize the soil, non-chemical kitty litter will provide traction without being hazardous to nearby plantings. Look for kitty litter that contains vermiculite or pumice. As an added benefit, staying on paths or sidewalks keeps you out of the soggy soil.

How To Lay Pavers

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Step One — Prepare Base

After locating and marking the outline for the brick paver patio, set stakes at the four corners. Excavate the area within the stakes to a depth of 4-6 inches. Spread gravel over the entire area, rake smooth, and tamp down to a level surface using a hand or power tamper.

LayPavers1

 

Step Two — Installing Edging

When the gravel base is compact, measure and cut plastic paver edging to the required length to secure the pavers. Lay the edging along the outside border of the patio. Secure in place by hammering 10″ spikes through edging into the ground.

LayPavers2

Step Three — Add Sand

Pour sand over the entire area inside the edging to a depth of 1″. Use a rake to evenly distribute it. Using a horizontal 2×4, smooth out and level the surface of the sand.

LayPavers3

 

Step Four — Lay Pavers

Starting at the edging border, begin laying brick pavers. Use a rubber mallet to tap pavers into place. Continue laying pavers following any numbers of patterns until the area in complete. For any irregular spaces, it may be necessary use a hammer and cold chisel to cut them to size.

LayPavers4

Step Five — Fill Joints

Spread a thin layer of sand over the entire patio and use a push broom to work it into the gaps between pavers. Soak the patio with a gentle spray of water to help the sand into the gaps. Repeat the process until the sand fill all the gaps. Run a tamper over the patio to set the bricks.

 

How To Lay a Retaining Wall

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Step One

Dig a trench a little wider than the retaining wall you are using 3 – 6 inches, fill with slag sand and tamp with hand or power tamper.

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Step Two

Start with the first layer of retaining wall making sure to use a level as you go. Depending on your design you might need to make some cuts. Proceed until you have a finished product.

RetainingWall2

Step Three

For more than one layer, or when you are using a cap, it’s recommended to use a retaining all adhesive. Proceed until you have a finished product.

RetainingWall3

 

How to Care for an Emerald Green Arborvitae

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    Arborvitae

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Originally from homeguides.com

 

Averaging 10 to 15 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide, Emerald Green arborvitae can become natural privacy fences. Once established, they require only basic care to maintain.

If you are thinking about putting Emerald Green arborvitae in your landscape, here are some tips on how to get them properly in the ground so they live a long and happy life.

  1. Plant Emerald Green arborvitaes approximately 2 to 3 feet apart when planting more than one to create a natural hedge. This spacing allows mature plants to spread out slightly, but prevents roots crowding and competition of nutrients and water. The Emerald Green grows 6 to 9 inches a year once established.
  2. Position the arborvitae in full sun; while it can live in partial shade, the evergreen cannot withstand full shade and will begin to turn brown, eventually dying from lack of sunlight.
  3. Provide well-drained soil, and water the tree thoroughly at planting. The soil can slightly dry out between water applications, but this variety of evergreen is not drought resistant and must receive plenty of moisture during the growing season. Water more frequently and deeply during drought conditions.
  4. Apply a 10-10-10 fertilizer — the number indicated the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the product — in early spring to boost the arborvitae’s health for the coming growing season. Fertilize it again in mid-fall after the summer heat is over. Avoid fertilizing when the tree is being planted, as well.
  5. Prune only the sides of the arborvitae if stray branches become too long, or a dead stem needs removed. Pruning the top of the tree is not recommended, as this can ruin its natural, pointed shape. However, it can be done to control the height of the plant. If deer mar the evergreen’s look, pruning can be used to reshape the arborvitae, but do not over-prune.

 

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