Native Wildflowers for Spring and Early Summer Shade Gardens

Planting a mix of different perennials is the secret to creating a shady garden that looks its best over a long season—whether you are growing wildflowers or a mix of native and non-native plants.

A good mix ensures a progression of flowers, since different plants emerge and bloom at different times.

Be sure to include plants that feature handsome foliage as well as pretty flowers, since the foliage adds interest long after the blooms have faded. In addition to the wildflowers listed here, native ground covers also make excellent additions to shade gardens.

Give the wildflowers listed here rich, well-drained soil. All bloom best in partial shade, although they also tolerate full shade.

Wildflowers for Spring Bloom

Wildflowers for Spring Bloom
Wildflowers for Spring Bloom

For flowers in early and mid-spring, consider the following species.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) produces its dainty white flowers shortly before the scalloped, kidney-shaped leaves appear. The 4- to 6-inch-tall plants spread via fleshy rhizomes to form clumps a foot or more across. Zones 3 to 9.

Virginia bluebells (Mertensia pulmonarioides) is grown for its clusters of nodding, bell-shaped flowers with pink buds that open into blue flowers. The 1- to 2-foot-tall plants, which grow from white carrotlike roots, produce clumps of blue-green leaves that can reach 1 foot across. They go dormant in early summer after the flowers fade. Zones 3 to 9.

Large merrybells (Uvularia grandiflora), also called large-flowered bellwort, isn’t as well known as some native wildflowers. Plants range from 1 to 1½ feet tall and wide. They feature pendant yellow flowers, each with six petal-like tepals, and produce handsome clumps of foliage. Zones 3 to 9.

Wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata), also known as woodland phlox, bears showy clusters of fragrant flowers in shades of lavender, pale violet-purple, or white. Plants are 12 to 14 inches tall and gradually form clumps that can reach 2 feet wide. They also self sow. Zones 3 to 9.

Natives for Late Spring and Early Summer

Natives for Late Spring and Early Summer
Natives for Late Spring and Early Summer

Consider the following species for flowers a little later in the season.

Celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) bears clusters of four-petaled, saucer-shaped, golden yellow flowers above deeply lobed leaves. Plants range from 1 to 1½ feet tall and form 1-foot-wide clumps. They self sow. Zones 4 to 8.

Goat’s beard (Aruncus dioicus) produces plumy, branched clusters of white flowers above clumps of pinnate leaves. This is a shrub-size perennial that ranges from 3 to 6 feet tall. In warm climates, a spot with constantly moist soil that receives afternoon shade is best. Plants can tolerate full sun in the North. They will spread to 4 feet or more, especially in moist soil. Zones 3 to 7.

Solomon’s plume (Smilacina racemosa), also called false Solomon’s seal, is a 1½- to 3-foot tall native that produces arching stems that end in fluffy, 4- to 6-inch plumes of tiny, creamy white flowers. The stems are clothed in attractive lance-shaped leaves. Red berries follow the flowers. Plants spread slowly by creeping rhizomes and also self-sow. Zones 4 to 9.

Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) is primarily grown for its handsome foliage. Plants produce arching stems with lance-shaped leaves. Small clusters of greenish to white flowers appear in each leaf axil. This species ranges from 1½ to as much as 7 feet tall, and clumps spread by rhizomes to 3 feet or more. Zones 3 to 9.

Planting Successful Shade Gardens

Planting Successful Shade Gardens
Planting Successful Shade Gardens

To get your wildflowers off to a good start, always incorporate plenty of compost or other well-rotted organic matter into the soil before you plant. You can spread it before planting or incorporate it into each hole as you move plants to the garden. An even easier way to improve garden soil without digging is covering the site with newspaper and mulch to smother weeds and prepare soil before you plant.

Once your plants are in place, mulch the garden with shredded bark or chopped leaves. Be sure to keep them well watered. Test for moisture by sticking a finger into the ground next to a plant. Water if the soil feels dry. Monitor soil moisture closely and water regularly for the first few months after planting. After that, mulching and natural rainfall should be sufficient.

When acquiring wild flowers for your garden, avoid plants that you suspect have been dug in the wild. Look for plants that are marked as being nursery propagated. Or buy from local botanical gardens or native plant societies. Never dig plants from wild areas.

Gardening Tips

Organic Gardening Guidelines for Beginners

How to Site and Prepare Your Organic Vegetable Garden

Deciding where your garden is going to be located and preparing the area for planting are the first two critical steps towards building a healthy and productive organic garden.

Sunlight vs. Shade

While some cool-weather crops may benefit from a little shade from the hot summer sun, most garden crops prefer full sun. Structures such as the house, garage, privacy fences, and trees, or the like, may impact how much light any given area will receive as the sun tracks across the sky. Identify which areas receive at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day. These will be your prime gardening areas.

Don’t Be Overambitious

As in any new undertaking, there’s a learning curve. You’re better off making a modest start for the first season and building on your success, rather than biting off more work than you can easily manage and feeling too overwhelmed to carry through.

How big your first vegetable garden should depend largely on how much time you’ve got to devote to it. According to Growing Fruits & Vegetables Organically, a Rodale Garden Book, a garden plot, only 16 square feet can provide a surprising amount of food over the course of a growing season; a novice gardener shouldn’t attempt more than 200 square feet.

Consider Your Options

Consider your garden’s water requirements. If the best place to garden on your property is too far for a garden hose to reach, are you really prepared to hand carry buckets of water out to it all season long? If not, your best bet may be to go with your second or even third best choice.

There’s no rule that says your garden has to all be in one place or even that it all has to be in the ground. If the sunniest spot in your yard is a patio, or you live in an apartment and only have balcony space in which to garden, you can grow many vegetables in containers.

Site Preparation

Ideally, preparing the site should be done in the autumn before you intend to start your garden. Once you’ve decided where your garden will go, it’s time to clear out all the existing organic matter. If it’s a lawn, it should be lifted out a spade-full at a time in thin slabs and piled upside down. Keep it moistened and the grass will decay. The whole pile will be a great soil amendment by spring, providing it wasn’t treated with chemicals. You could still add it to your flower beds as mulch if it was chemically treated.

If you’re dealing with a weedy mess, mow or pull as much of it as you can. Add this organic matter to your compost pile, unless it’s already gone to seed. In that case, it should be disposed of with your household trash. Till or dig the soil under. Bear in mind that the weed seeds already buried in the soil will continue to haunt you.

Soil Preparation

Soil Preparation
Soil Preparation

Examine your soil to see if it’s mostly sand, clay or loam. Sandy soil will feel gritty and won’t hold together well when wet. Clay will feel slippery and sticks together well when wet. Loam is mostly organic material with both kinds of particles in it and will hold together somewhat when wet.

Soil that is mostly clay will be hard to dig in, especially if it’s compacted from foot traffic. Sandy soil can become compacted, too, after getting a lot of foot or vehicle traffic. It’s best to loosen hard-packed soil with a rotary tiller and amend the soil with compost or humus before attempting to plant anything.

Remove as many rocks as possible, especially if you intend to grow root crops. If you can’t dig down at least a foot before hitting hardpan, try another site or build a raised bed. Filling raised beds with purchased soil may spare you the problem of dealing with a lot of weeds.

Adding organic matter such as compost or humus will enrich the soil like a slow-release fertilizer as soil microorganisms break it down further and make the nutrients available to plants’ roots.

It’s a good idea to test your soil’s pH level to see how acidic or alkaline it is. You can buy kits at most garden centers. Most vegetables and herbs grow best in a neutral pH of around 6.0 to 7.0. Acid soil will be less than 7.0; alkaline soil will be higher.

You can add lime to acid soil to ‘sweeten’ it. Add sulfur if the soil is too alkaline. Organic matter has a balancing effect on pH, so adding in plenty of compost or humus should solve any pH problems.

The soil in Desert Vegetable Gardens: Desert Soils Not Very Fertile

Almost all soils in the desert regions of North America (and elsewhere, for that matter) tend to be high in salt and alkaline, low in organic matter and fertility.

Organic Matter

Adding organic matter (compost, animal manure, green manure) greatly improves soil structure, adds nutrients to the soil, increases it’s water-holding capacity, and allows the soil to hold on to added nutrients long enough for the plants to take them in.

Livestock manure

Livestock manure - organic compost
Livestock manure – organic compost

Although high in salts (especially cattle manure), livestock manure is probably the easiest way to quickly add organic material to your soil. It already has active bacteria in it that will enhance nutrient breakdown, and that’s good for vegetables.

However, only apply fresh manure in the fall. That way, it will have time to break down in the soil.

Manure that has already been composted, or heat-treated manure can be laid down and mixed into the soil prior to planting in the spring. Additionally, the composting process will kill any weed seeds that may be present in fresh manure. Fresh manure, if applied in the spring, usually burns young plants.

Green manure

Green manure - Apple Seeds
Green manure – Apple Seeds

Green manure is any plant that can be grown and incorporated back into the soil as organic matter. Winter wheat, barley, oats, rye are some examples of green manure. If you want a green manure crop next winter, buy the seeds from any local farm feed store and scatter them around your garden in late summer or early fall. Simply rake the seeds into the ground around whatever vegetables are still around. The seed will sprout and start to grow.

At first frost next fall, pull out frost damaged vegetable plants and leave the green carpet there. It will develop fully in late fall. Give it a little taste of nitrogen fertilizer in early spring, then till or turn the green manure into the soil about a month before your plan to plant your garden.


Organic Gardening Guidelines for Beginners
Organic Gardening Guidelines for Beginners – Compost

Another really easy method of adding organic matter to your soil is putting down compost. Compost is usually made from leaves, grass clippings, food wastes, and garden vegetable waste (damaged fruits, old plants). Add one to two inches of well-decomposed compost over your soil and then till it in.

Many desert soils are highly alkaline. Alkalinity tends to inhibit plants’ intake of necessary nutrients from the soil (phosphorous, iron, zinc). Compost helps make those nutrients available.


Garden Design Tips: Help for the Design-Challenged

If you’re an organized left-brain type, you know how to go about designing a garden. You get out the graph paper and the tape measure, and perhaps some garden-planning software and go through it step-by-step.

But what if the sight of a tape measure and graph paper makes you break out in hives? Can you still have a good garden if you like to act on impulse, or on the basis of what’s on sale at the garden center? Absolutely. After all, gardens never come out quite the way you plan them anyway and that’s half the fun. Here are some rules for making sure your spontaneity doesn’t turn into a total mess:

Planning Hardscaping for a New Garden

This is where you need to be at your most thoughtful. It’s easy to move plants, but you don’t want to have to move decks, patios, or walkways. Sketch your ideas on paper, and enlist the help of a designer or landscaper if necessary. Think in terms of garden rooms, dividing the outdoor space into areas to make it seem bigger and to make planning easier.

Buying Plants for a New Garden

Buying Plants for a New Garden
Buying Plants for a New Garden

Decide whether you want an all-season garden, with plants blooming off and on throughout spring, summer, and fall, or whether you want a garden designed for maximum impact in one particular season. Survey your space carefully to see how much light it gets at various times of the day and year. Take note of problems like competition from tree roots, excess heat from concrete patios, and so on. Correct any drainage problems or they will severely limit your choices.

Decide on a color scheme before you start. White-flowered plants and plants grown only for foliage can be added to almost any color scheme. It’s even possible to have different color schemes in different seasons, but this must be done with great care to avoid clashing colors.

Always buy less than you think you have time to plant. Nothing is worse than having to throw plants away because they died before you could get them in the ground. Start with the backbone plants. These are the large, architectural plants that anchor the garden and give it interest even when nothing’s in bloom. They should be long-lived perennials, look good at all seasons of the year, and be low maintenance.

Check out Perennial All-stars, by Jeff Cox (Rodale Books), for recommendations. Whenever possible, choose plants you’ve grown before or seen growing in neighbor’s yards under similar conditions. With the exception of dramatic ‘specimen’ plants, never buy less than 3 of any given plant, and always group them in odd numbers.

Planting a New Garden

Planting a New Garden
Planting a New Garden

Prepare the soil carefully, breaking up clumps, removing sticks, stones, and roots. Add compost and other desired soil amendments and dig them in thoroughly. Rake the surface smooth.

Plant the back of the garden first, or the center for circular gardens, putting the tallest plants there.

With smaller plants, groups of 5, 7, or even more may be necessary for impact. Plan the middle and front of your gardens using this rule. Use more than one grouping of the most attractive plants. Unless your garden is very formal, weave the groups in and out of one another, keeping taller plants to the back but avoiding a strict progression of height. Use curving lines rather than straight ones in all except formal schemes.

Think about how plants will look next to each other. Use feathery foliage next to rigid, spiky foliage, and juxtapose contrasting colors to add interest and visual impact. Repetition of elements will make your design more harmonious. This can be done not only by repeating the same plant in various places, but by repeating plants with very similar appearance.

Be sure to follow directions on spacing plants, either as listed on the tag or in a good garden guide such as the Time-Life series of gardening guides. (Time-Life Books, 1989) Plant the garden a little sparsely at first to leave room for expansion and for tucking in an extra element here or there. Once everything is planted, add an attractive and appropriate mulch.

Improving a Garden

Improving a Garden
Improving a Garden

After a year or two of growth, survey the results to see what works and what doesn’t. Remove and relocate any plants that refuse to stay in bounds or are otherwise unsatisfactory. Think about adding a birdbath, brightly painted chair or other design feature.

Once you’re happy with your results, think about adding a few annuals for an extra pop of color. If your garden is very informal, self-sowing annuals can attractively weave the garden together. Forget-me-not (mysotis) is an excellent choice for accomplishing this effect in a shade garden.

As the garden grows, you’ll need to lift and divide perennials occasionally. Peruse garden catalogs for new hybrids and more attractive alternatives to the plants already in place.

With a little experimentation, you can have a stunning garden without ever touching a piece of graph paper.


The Importance of Choosing the Right Footwear for Gardening

Gardening is one of the most relaxing pastimes around, and there is little more wonderful than kneeling down to plant some beautiful new flowers. The gardening season is nearly upon us, and it will soon be time to refresh the flower beds.

As a result, you may be looking to refresh your gardening shoes (or even buy your first pair), and it is important that you know why it is so crucial to select the right footwear for gardening. For some, it might be a pair of wellies, for others hiking boots. It doesn’t matter – as long as you read through the advice below and implement it into your next choice of footwear. 

They Are Keeping You Safe

Your gardening shoes should have excellent grip to keep you safe and prevent you from falling over. A pair of shoes with little to no grip means that if you step outside in wet conditions, you are more likely to fall over and potentially injure yourself.

A good sole that offers traction and grip will help to stop this from happening, or at least reduce the chances. They should also be robust and well made, as this means that they should last longer. A good quality pair of shoes will keep you going for years and through many poor weather conditions.

Supporting Your Feet and Back

Many shoes offer arch and heel support, which is something you should definitely look into. Even gardening shoes can give you this, and it helps to prevent injuries to your feet, but also supports your back to stop aches and pains that are associated with walking around a lot. Arch and heel support is something that should always be taken up when offered.

Keeping You Healthy

By this, we mean that a good pair of gardening shoes will keep your feet warm and dry throughout the year – some plants need winter care after all. If your feet become cold and damp, it can lead to you becoming unwell, and this is not something you want during gardening season.

Especially in the spring when the rain is almost constant, you are going to want a waterproof pair of shoes as well as ones that keep them warm and allow your feet room to breathe. You will be able to find gardening shoes like these at very affordable prices too.

Ensuring You are Feeling Comfortable

Your comfort is key. There is not much worse than having to walk around the garden and get all your work done when you are uncomfortable. When you go to buy your gardening shoes, you should strongly consider investing in something that provides superb levels of comfort while you work, and that also gives you all of the points we have mentioned above.

When combined with support, waterproof capabilities, and excellent grip, you will end up with the ultimate pair of gardening shoes. You can get comfortable gardening shoes in the form of wellies, hiking boots, or simple slip-on shoes, so there is a wide variety to choose from.

To Conclude

Hopefully, this little guide has given you the advice you need to choose the best possible footwear for your gardening endeavors. It is important that you are correctly supported and warm, even for the shortest outdoor journeys, so that you can garden in comfort and without risking soreness or damage to your feet.

Just remember that your feet deserve the best – after all, they are supporting the rest of your body and need to be well looked after. Good luck with your garden this spring, and make sure you choose the right shoes!


Tool Shed Tips and Tricks

Any garden enthusiast with Hunter wellington boots knows the need for a properly-built and arranged tool shed.

You will find several types of sheds plus they might be used solely to keep tools. Sometimes, your garden shed can double as your planting shed with merely a small area allocated for storing gardening tools and supplies.

No matter how big your tool shed is, the key factor is to maintain your tools within the best condition so they could serve you as lengthy as you possibly can. Resources need good care and maintenance to keep their quality and perform their functions well.

Rusting is a very common condition in steel tools. It might occur when the tools are uncovered to moisture and climate conditions since they’re not saved correctly. In case your gardening tools are organized, it is simple to access them whenever you should utilize them.

Additionally, you avoid accidents. This really is why tool sheds really are a must for each home. Cleaning and oiling your gardening equipment and tools regularly is nice practice but it’s not enough.

You need to allow enough space in which to arrange and store them, keeping them from kids and protecting their quality. An outbuilding inside your garden removes clutter. If there’s enough space, the tool shed might even be employed to keep bicycles, toy cars, along with other products.

Tool Shed Size

Tool Shed Tips and Tricks

Consider all of the equipment and tools you have when determining on how big something shed you intend to construct or install. You should also intend on the other products you may want to be stored away inside a shed and steer clear of the potential of these extra products overtaking the whole space with time.

It might be better if you are planning to make use of your shed for the tools only.

Create a listing of all of your tools and gardening equipment and classify them into small, medium-sized, and enormous tools. This gives you a concept of how large an area you’ll need for the tool shed.

You have to also provide enough room that you should move along easily inside and maneuver large equipment in and from Funky wellingtons.

Build or Buy?

Tool Shed Tips and Tricks

It’s up for you on whether or not to construct your own tool shed or buy prefabricated garden sheds online. If you’re much more of a renovator who loves focusing on little projects, building your personal shed will certainly be considered a rewarding experience.

Should you simply don’t have time and also the abilities, pre-made tool shed garden kits could be shipped directly on your doorstep. These items are simple to assemble should you follow instructions carefully.

For those who are creating your personal garden tool shed, you are able to acquire shed plans in lots of places on the web for minimal costs. They include exact dimensions along with a detailed listing of the types of materials you’ll need, which could be bought in the home improvement store.

However, prefabricated tool sheds can be found in variations, designs, and materials that all you need to do is browse and choHunter Gloss suits your requirements for Hunter Gloss.

From lean to sheds to barn sheds, online sellers have everything ready for you personally. Pre-made sheds are sturdy and created to last lengthy. They may be metallic, plastic, vinyl, as well as abs plastic.


Giving Your Vegetable Seeds a Head Start

You can control the heat and moisture levels more easily indoors or undercover outdoors to provide seeds with the optimum conditions they need for sprouting.

This is particularly important for slow-to-sprout seeds, but in areas with short, cool summers, even fast-growing vegetables, such as sweet corn and bush beans, will benefit if started indoors in plantable peat pots.

The basic needs for starting most kinds of seeds indoors are few:

  • Sterilized potting soil
  • Milled sphagnum moss, vermiculite, or perlite
  • Containers with drainage holes in the bottoms, such as flat, shallow aluminum foil pans, or plastic trays
  • Small peat pots (21/2-3-inch diameters)

Mail-order firms also sell many kinds of devices to make seed starting easier. These include miniature greenhouses, compressed peat moss cylinders that expand when soaked in water, and pre-planted kits.

Damping-off diseases that kill seedlings as they sprout or shortly afterward can be a serious problem. Avoid this difficulty by sprouting seeds in a sterile medium, such as vermiculite, perlite, milled sphagnum moss, or a sterilized commercial planting mixture.

Vermiculite and perlite tend to retain moisture and are best used as a covering for seeds to keep them from drying out. Sphagnum moss (not the same as sphagnum peat moss) is best used as the actual growing medium because it contains a natural inhibitor that discourages the growth of bacteria and fungi.

If you can’t buy or mail order bags of sphagnum moss in the milled or pulverized form, you can grind up the rope-like “green moss.”

Sphagnum moss often comes dried and must be thoroughly moistened before use. The easiest method is to place a quart of moss in a plastic bag and add a cup or two of water. Squeeze the bag to make the moss accept water and knead it until the moisture is evenly distributed.

Fill seed-starting flats or pans with moistened moss or sterilized potting soil 1/2 inch from the top and firm it level. Scatter the seeds thinly and cover lightly with moistened moss, perlite, or vermiculite. Sprinkle the seeds lightly each day until they sprout. If you cover the pan with plastic film after a thorough moistening, you won’t have to water again until the seeds sprout.

Keep the pan out of direct sunlight.

When the first sprouts appear, remove the film and set the pan beside a sunny window. If nights become very cold, however, move the containers away from the glass. When the second pair of leaves open, it’s time to transplant the seedlings.

After they have adjusted to larger containers by showing new growth, you can begin to expose them to outdoor temperatures when it’s sunny and nights are mild.

Sowing seeds directly in peat pots prevents giving small seedlings a transplant shock. Cucumbers, squash, and melons are particularly set back by transplanting; this defeats the purpose of giving them an early start.

Caring for Texas Landscape Plants in the Fall

The peat pot allows you to place the entire plant and pot into the soil as soon as the roots penetrate the containers. Start such large, fast-sprouting seeds in peat pots only three to four weeks before outdoor planting time.

Before setting the plants in peat pots out in the garden, thoroughly soak the pots until they are dark brown and soft. If they are sent into the earth while dry, it is hard to soak them by water, and the roots cannot penetrate the pot walls.

Be wary of starting your seeds too early, a common problem in starting them indoors. Ordinarily, 8 to 12 weeks before the average date of the last killing frost in the spring is soon enough.

Seeds planted too early have to cope with short, gloomy days, frigid nights, and extremely dry air inside heated homes. And if you are successful in sprouting and growing a number of varieties, you’re faced with the problem of what to do with dozens of plants if it’s too cold to set them outside.

With proper timing, started plants can be transplanted into peat pots and set out for two to three weeks prior to the frost-free date.

Gardening Tips

Gardening Tips For The Winter Months

Fall is perhaps the prettiest time of the year for many gardeners when they can analysis the fruits of their summertime labors.

It is the time when the deciduous trees start to show their fiery colors when the last of the summer crops of vegetables are ripening on the vines and when the days are showing a marked shortening of light. Fall is also one of the busiest times of the year as it is time for all good gardens to be protected against the onset of winter.

Mulching with Hay

Mulching with Hay
Mulching with Hay

Mulching is probably one of the best tips for ensuring that the roots especially of young trees are not damaged by winter frosts. Whilst Lucerne hay is one of the best products to use, the astute gardener can also use old newspapers, grass clippings, in fact, most organic matter.

One of the most cost-effective measures to use in so far as mulching is concerned is the use of leaf matter. The fallen leaves are a lovely sight sprinkled about the garden, and when raked and piled about the plants and trees they become possibly the cheapest form of mulching available. But do ensure that the mulch does not go too close to the trunk of the tree or shrub. This can lead to collar rot – and could kill your plant or tree, not good.

Potting Frost Sensitive Plants

Potting Frost Sensitive Plants
Potting Frost Sensitive Plants

Frost is probably one of the biggest killers of many tender plants and trees. The best way to secure your plants from the harmful effects of a cold snap is to:

  • Mulch heavily
  • Either remove the plant to a pot or
  • Cover with hessian

Another tip for trees is to wrap the trunk with a thick layer of paper or hessian. This will go a long way to protecting the tree.

Plant out Your Winter and Spring Flowering Bulbs

Fall is the ideal time for planting out winter and spring-flowering bulbs. It’s great to plant them en-masse around and under trees and shrubs. They will lay dormant in the cool to cold earth, and amazingly will shoot up and flower when the time is right.

Cutting Back Old Growth

Fall is also the time when many plants will be needing a good cut back. By cutting and shaping the plant or tree it is setting the plant up ready for the new spring growth. Plants such as Lavender really love a good cutback, especially as the lovely perfumed flowers can be kept and dried for use in the home.


Fall is the time when most gardens cease to require much watering. The hot summer months that saw the need for constant watering of the garden have gone and fall gardens do not need near as much watering, especially as the mulching will keep the roots moist should it happen to rain.

However, fall is a great time to identify areas in the garden that could do with a good drip-feeding system. The digging is not nearly such hot work when done in the Fall. The placement of the pipes and drip feeders will greatly assist the garden come the long hot summer months of the new season.

The best thing about preparing a fall garden for winter is the opportunity it gives the gardener to work outside, experience the delights of the season such as the sounds of the birds as they forage for berries on the trees and shrubs and the delights of walking amongst the plants and trees and know that you have done all that is possible to ensure that the garden will survive the onset of winter and the frosts that can do so much damage.

Gardening Tips For The Winter Months

January is full of horrid weather for plants. Sub-zero weather with lots of brutal winds, torrential rain, bitter ice, and snow. The garden lies dormant waiting to burst out at the first warm rays of spring sunshine. Here are a few tips to make sure your favorite plants survive this winter.

  • Do not use salt to clear snow and ice off paths bordered by plants because the salt that can run off and damage the plants. Just haul out the old shovel and get some fresh air and exercise.
  • Might want to make a note where your garden is retaining water and you might want to fix this once the weather eases up.
  • Take a daily walk around your flowerbeds and spot if there is any snow covering the plants. You may want to gently tap and scrape it away with a pole. Excess weight from the snow can break branches.
  • Try not to walk on snow-covered gardens. Plants and the edges of lawns can easily break.
  • This is a great time to get your equipment repaired, tune-up and blades sharpened.
  • As soon as weather allow be sure to spray your fruit trees to get rid of winter eggs from pests.
  • Be sure to cut down on watering the plants in the greenhouse. They are growing at as slower rate and need less water or the roots will rot.
  • Both plastic and clay pots should be covered. Plastic becomes brittle when cold and can break. Clay pots when frozen may crack.
  • Send away for seed and plant catalogs. Sketch out new borders or areas of the garden. Order the seeds.
  • If the water freezes, fish are prevented from getting oxygen. Do not try to crack the ice. This might cause shock waves and actually kill the fish. Instead, boil a pot of water and put it on top of the ice. You may need to do this a couple of times.
  • Make sure your compost has a meshed top or hinged lid to keep rats out who may be drawn to the kitchen scraps.
  • Birds are essential to all gardens getting rid of pests. Be sure to supplement their diet over the cold winter months.

A gardener will find no rest in the winter making plans for the new growing season. Plants still need to be cared for as not to suffer winter damage. It is a task gardener bare with love and much enjoyment all year through.


The Truth About Plant Containers and Pots

What newbie gardeners are feeling about planting

The main thing that stresses amateur gardeners out is trying to figure out what type of containers to use. You can honestly plant something in just about anything. However, there are many things that vary when it comes to different materials, such as durability, weight, size, expense, look, or whether you want the plant containers to be inside or outside. Each different type of container has its own advantages and disadvantages.

First, there are the most common types like terracotta and ceramic pots. Terracotta pots are a red-brown color, come in many different sizes, and are made from a special type of clay specifically made for making plants.

Terracotta is a good choice because it is affordable available almost everywhere. It is good at circulating water and air but dries out quickly in the sun or wind. Also, terracotta is not glazed and is highly permeable. It can soak up moisture and release it, so it is important to maintain your plant’s water.

It is more fragile than other types of containers and not very durable in harsh weather conditions.

It is scratch-resistant and is unlikely to produce clay dust but cold weather can cause terracotta to chip or crack. Another type of popular container would be ceramic. Ceramic is an easy way to add some color anywhere you would like since it comes in many different colors, shapes, and sizes and you can use ceramic inside or outside.

They are stable during bad weather due to their weight but they can crack during autumn and winter, depending on how cold it gets. A disadvantage would be that ceramic pots can be very heavy and expensive.

Plant containers like pressed paper and coir can only be used outside but they are biodegradable and eco-friendly. A pressed paper is a good insulator and is very good for root growth and can breathe very well so these are a good choice when considering your plants’ health and is very cheap.

Coir is another biodegradable pot made of coconut husks and resin. They are more durable than the pressed paper and cost a bit more. They both come in many shapes and sizes. Both can be planted in the ground with the plant and will get broken down in the soil over time and will provide a little bit of compost for the plant. Wood is a common material for a plant box.

It is a sturdy and reliable material against all kinds of weather and inexpensive, depending on the size of the planter. They can be inside and outside and while they usually come in square and rectangular shapes, they can sometimes be round as well.

Their only downside is rot, which is caused by lack of drainage and the wood will soak up all the water at the bottom. To prevent rot, some people line the bottom of a wooden container with a plastic liner and poke holes in the bottom for drainage. Wood can also be treated to make it immune to rot.

Wood is ideal because it can be portable or permanent based on the gardeners’ wishes.

The Truth About Plant Containers and Pots
The Truth About Plant Containers and Pots

Metal, concrete and plastic containers are also good options. Plastic containers are very common and very cheap. They can be made to be thicker for outdoor use and durability and can be thinner for portability and lightweight.

They can come in any shape, size, design, and can even be made to look like other materials. They can fade over time in the sun and can crack in extreme cold so it is recommended that plastic containers should be moved indoors during winter.

Metal containers are expensive and very heavy but they are extremely durable. To avoid rust, the type of metal needs to be aluminum, copper, lead, zinc, or copper-coated stainless steel. Smaller metal containers are not recommended because the sun heats up the plant and can cause damage.

Concrete planters are the most durable kind of planter but most are permanent and cannot be moved. Most are built into a patio or into the ground and those that are made with a large mold to shape it are extremely heavy and very difficult to move.

Plant pots come in an infinite number of colors, shapes, sizes, and designs. There are also different forms that plant containers can come in. Some are decorative, some are practical. Some people use window boxes which are both decorative and practical.

They add color to the house and are easy to access. There are huge ceramic pots that can be put out of the patio or hang planters from the top of the porch for decoration. There are also large wooden and concrete planter boxes that are used outside for vegetable gardens. There are pots, bags, trays, boxes, baskets, etc. and they all have different uses.

Pots and baskets are decorative. Bags, trays, and boxes are portable and easy to manage.

Some people have found the strangest ways to put a plant for all kinds of reasons, from lack of money to upscale interior decorating. People use anything and everything for a planter. From an old shoe to a flower box built into your coffee table. The possibilities are endless when it comes to a container.

The Truth About Plant Containers and Pots
The Truth About Plant Containers and Pots

Plant containers can be found, built, or bought. They can be two inches or two yards. They can be made of paper or concrete. The material and size and sometimes the shape of the container can help your plant grow and thrive.

Each characteristic can make a difference to you and the plant. If you cannot move or reach the container then the plant will die and you will either have to start over with a new plant or you waste space and money over a planter you cannot use.

There is an infinite number of places and possibilities for gardening. All plant containers are different and each has its advantages and disadvantages but it is up to the gardener to determine which one will suit their needs best.


Ranch Landscaping Tips And Tricks

The Ranch landscape appeals to our senses of rural beauty, nature and living in a slower time. Ranch properties usually have vast acreage, old buildings that might have been built at different times and land uses that have changed considerably over time.

Often times, the sheer scale of the rural landscape can be overwhelming for the average landscape contractor, landscape designer as well as the owner who no longer works the land but uses it for rest and retreat.

The prospect of maintenance, care, and management of a Texas Horse Ranch, Farm or Estate can be overwhelming. The approach is two-fold and should be one of the phased management and implementation of landscape design.

Comprehensive Management Plan

A comprehensive management or maintenance program for a ranching landscape defines zones of management, prioritizes tasks and determines if various maintenance areas should be expanded or deleted altogether to make the job of maintenance much more manageable.

Defining zones of management for ranch landscaping would look something like this:

1) the most intense and highest maintenance takes place around the perimeter of the house. These include weekly tasks such as mowing, shrub pruning, and weeding.

2) The next zone might include bi-weekly or monthly maintenance tasks such as weeding and pruning around less used walk, patio or pool areas for entertaining. Both zones one and two should receive regular fertilization, mulch and have an irrigation system as well.

3) the next zone might include biannual spring and fall clean-up such as fields that are seasonally mowed, shrub brush edges that need regular thinning out or filling potholes in the entry road all categorized as spring and fall clean-up.

Simply by organizing tasks by their intensity, a zone of management and time of year for tasks to be done a yearly maintenance schedule of tasks and budgets even the largest estate can be created and brought into reality.

Master Plan Design for the Ranch Landscape

Because many rural landscapes have been built at different times, with many different pieces, a Master Plan Design can be a tremendous help in providing cohesiveness and unifying even the largest property by its various uses.

It can be a very rewarding process in piecing together farm history of the past with the present. Below are design approaches utilized on large ranch properties to create cohesiveness:

Approach to the House-the first impression up the gravel, dirt, or long paved drive is the entry to the home in the rural landscape. A colonnade of oak or fruit trees along one or both sides of the drive can be a wonderful approach lending order and accentuating the length of the drive and size of the property.

1. Windbreaks strategically placed in patterns can provide a sense of scale and shelter to the entry approach as well.

2. Lawn-Landscape-Garden-Orchard-Woodland-start to define the landscape

And give it some structure as well. As referred to above, the closer to the home. The more intensive the maintenance, as one gets further from the home the less Intensive maintenance should become.

3. Outdoor Fountains the wonderful sound of water and appeal of the rustic rural fountain. These may need to be built in a simplistic manner, easy to maintain, or only for use during social events. Materials might include old stone, brass or copper weirs.

4. Outdoor Kitchens-covered open outdoor kitchens that before air conditioning was built as not to heat the house in the summer. Materials that reflect the home can be repeated such as matching roofing or molding details giving it a county nostalgia feel and creating unity with an old farmhouse.

5. Walkways-similar to English Gardens, walkways of gravel, limestone chips and reused brick or stone from the original construction can lead around the property and link to arbors, benches, or swings.


Indoor Container Gardening for the spatially challenged

Some of us can’t afford to purchase homes even in this time of foreclosures and lower prices. Some of us have very little outdoor space, have bad soil or don’t have landlords hip to tilling up the yard.

Some of us just like watching plants grow and develop in our windowsills instead of outside, where weather and temperature can leave all our love of planting unrequited. We are the people who turn to indoor container gardening.

Indoor container gardening is a great way to grow small vegetables, herbs and other sundries in minimal space. If you’re good with plants and conscientious, you can do it in just a couple of windowsill-based square feet.

First, get or make yourself a small sprouting greenhouse. Ikea has them for around five bucks. If you don’t have an Ikea nearby, you can create one with a transparent glass or plastic container (I prefer searching in thrift stores, where the options are endless), or build a lidless box using small pine slats and nailing along polyurethane sheeting.

The construction isn’t really important. What is important is that the sprouting plants receive regular airflow, and that sunlight (and its warmth) permeates the container.

How to Organize Vegetable Seeds
How to Organize Vegetable Seeds

Next, choose your seeds. I find that dwarf tomatoes, basil, oregano and even some chilies work really well indoors. Read the instructions on the seed packet; some seeds require chafing or cutting to loosen the seed’s goodness from the husk, allowing it to sprout. Do what the seed packet tells you and you can’t go wrong in germinating at least most of your plants.

For sprouting, I like to use paper cups. Not only is this a good way to reuse items you might have around the house, it’s also very easy to peel away the cup when you need to transplant the seedlings – thereby saving the roots and keeping the young plant’s integrity.

Toss in some indoor potting soil and plant seeds to their suggested depth. Water voraciously. Put the cups under your makeshift greenhouse, stick the whole contraption in a sunny area, and wait.

In a couple weeks (depending on seedling), you should have a number of sprouts. If there’s more than one per pot, thin them out. Continue to water, and cycle out the air (if you’re using glass or plastic) at least twice a day so the plants don’t suffocate. If you want, talk to them. They seem to like that.

When the plants have five to seven leaves each (beyond the initial sprout leaves – which are usually shaped differently), transplant them to larger pots and free them from the greenhouse. Continue to water conscientiously, and watch as your indoor garden takes shape.