With the warm weather comes perfect timing to tackle outdoor projects. If you have recently moved into a new house, gardening is the perfect way to ground yourself and make the space feel like home. The beauty of gardening is that there is always something new to learn. It takes trial and error, but with the right guidance you can have a green thumb in no time. These 5 tips for beginning gardeners are perfect to start this new adventure with!
When beginning to garden, it's important to start small and not take on more than you can handle. Gardening is a hobby that takes a certain amount of devoted time. If you run a busy schedule, don't feel down about starting with a small garden! It is suggested to start with containers or a raised bed to manage your seeds. Over time, you can slowly expand your garden and add more plants as you please.
Most plants are sensitive and require a level of care, from both you and your gardening tools. Purchasing a hose that won't kink will save you time and worries, but be sure to pair it with a gentle watering faucet. Consider investing in stainless stool tools as they can handle weather elements not rust.
Spreading mulch is one of the best things you can do for your garden. Mulch helps limit time spent watering since it is able to hold moisture. Adding 2-4 inches of mulch on your garden beds will help plants thrive.
Not only is composting a sustainable way of life, but it adds great value to gardens. The secret to a healthy garden is the quality of soil, and compost is a great way to boost the nutrients. Start composting with grass clippings or fallen leaves, while incorporating kitchen waste. This includes:
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Spring fever has come with the arrival of some warmer days and longer hours of daylight. This is the time people start to dream about rejuvenating the outdoor garden and picturing beautiful landscapes. Mulch, weeds and other things can get in the way of the dream garden. Learn more about how to choose the right plants to boost the appeal of a home garden that everyone can enjoy.
A soil test is the best way to see what is going on underneath the dirt in the yard. The local agricultural extension office can provide helpful information such as what will grow and how to improve the soil quality. Some of the follow are tips to help get started:
The trees planted in a person's yard can make a huge difference to the health of a garden. Some trees drop seeds all over and others can dwarf a person's house over time. It is important to select a shrub or tree for the garden with the following considerations in mind:
Know the Garden
There is more to a garden than 'full sun' and 'partial shade.' Too much sunlight can burn foliage and compromise plant health. Too little sun can make plants weak. Selecting plants that thrive for a person's specific conditions is key to making the whole thing work properly.
Look for healthy plants. Inspect foliage at the place of purchase and check the plant for firmness along with healthy roots. The best place to buy is a local garden center or online from reputable nurseries.
Choose a variety of plants to start that offer interest at different times of the year. Summer-blooming plants like canna, coneflowers and guara keep showing until fall while others can take over as fall foliage. Winter plants like trees can add architectural beauty through the colder months.
Divide and Conquer
Some of the best plants are perennials or ornamental grasses that can be divided up to grow across a garden over the years. Digging up and dividing plants help keep them actively growing. A healthy amount of water helps keep the plants establish in the ground and grow healthy. This is best done every two years to support a cohesive look to a person's garden.
Spring gardening has endless possibilities. Be sure to try the above tips to find the best ways to help grow a sustainable, interesting garden for years to come.
A veggie box on stilts can make it easier to plant and harvest crops and is portable to move as needed around the yard for prime growing conditions. Learn how to start a veggie box in the garden with seeds and a small container to grow the plants.
The first step to getting started with a veggie box is the seed tray. Tomatoes, peppers and greens are best planted in seed trays or small plastic pots. Fill each pot or tray with soil, tamp down and lightly water. Make an indentation to put seedlings in. Cover up the hole with a little bit of soil and pat gently into place. Label each tray with the plant name and date. Label by row if planting many kinds of plants. Use a tray to place the seedling containers into for a better way of keeping soil moist.
When leaves first emerge are actually cotyledons, which provide food for seedlings. True leaves have a different appearance than cotyledons. Once the actual leaves come in, it is fine to transfer plants to temporary 4-inch pots, directly to a planting box or container.
Lettuces, greens, radishes, beets, strawberries and herbs are best suited to a 16-by-24 inch planting box. Beginners should work with an experienced woodworker the first few times to ensure safety while using equipment such as saws and drills. The following will be needed to get started:
1-by-4-inch redwood, cedar or other untreated wood planks cut into various sizes
Six planks 16 inches long (to make short sides of the box)
Six planks 24 inches long (to make long sides of the box)
Five planks 23 inches long (to make base of the box)
2-by-2-inch redwood, cedar, other untreated wood cut into various sizes
Four pieces 24 inches long (for the legs)
Two pieces 12 inches long (to reinforce base of the box)
Having some tools of the trade will help in construction of the boxes. It may be helpful to work with a friend who already has the tools to save money and have fun making the boxes together.
⅛ inch drill bit
1 ⅝ inch outdoor deck screws (24-30)
Work gloves and eye safety goggles
Clamps, power screwdriver, jigsaw and chop saw are optional
Constructing the box can take some skill and practice but once it is done, the box will be a great way to get the veggie garden started.
Buy six-packs of seedlings or grow at home. Either way, the best way to begin is filling the box with potting soil. Water until damp, then lift baby plant from seed tray using a fork or spoon. Hold the plant carefully by the root ball and avoid mishandling the leaves or stem. Place plants in a new container, press soil firmly around. Watch the veggies grow before harvesting!
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"wisdom in natural simplicity"
You can create your own Zen-like garden by understanding and utilizing simplicity in positioning and materials. At first glance, things may look askew or odd when you enter a Zen garden, but understand that nothing is left to chance in these special places. Every shape, plant, boulder, piece of art, and water feature has been chosen, and placed, with care.
A traditional Zen garden is enclosed and has a defined point of entry and exit, so in creating your garden, start with the gate. Both practical and symbolic, the gate allows those who enter a clear line to leave their stress and troubles behind. The gate also keeps out the unwanted, both physical and spiritual.
Extending from either side of the gate will be an enclosure; a fence. Choosing natural materials such as wood or a living hedge, will give visitors the illusion of being 'hugged' while their eye is drawn by the continuity and rhythm of the enclosure. This elicits feelings of safety and security, and of being welcomed.
Throughout any garden you will find pathways. This is especially true in Zen gardens where the paths are not only functional, but chosen with purpose. A straight-lined path will get you there quickly, where a curved or zig-zagged path encourages the visitor to slow down, take their time . . . reflect. For this reason, Zen paths are often narrower, allowing for one person to pass, thus making the garden experience singular and unique. Common considerations for Zen paths: width, gravel (aesthetic and auditory), shape/direction of pathways, simple lines and angles.
Incorporate rhythm into your garden through repetition—patterns, plants, paths, and structures. For most people, an easygoing rhythm translates into moments of blissful tranquility.
Boulders, in every size, color, and shape are instrumental to the antiquated feel of a Zen garden. They speak of nature and the passing millennia, while adding visual points of interest. A variety of textures and the freedom to "plant" them as deep and wherever you want, makes them a fun addition to your garden as well. Investing in a few extra large boulders, professionally delivered and installed, will be well-appreciated by your visitors to your garden. TIP: Odd numbers are more natural, so go with groupings of three or five boulders as opposed to two or four.
Provide simple, unadorned seating in your Zen garden. Let your visitors focus on the fresh air, the sounds of nature, and the other carefully chosen aesthetics of the garden.
Simple, organic art is perfect for a Zen garden. In fact, the more simple, the better. Abstract sculptures and wind chimes are great examples of artistic items you can incorporate into the landscape for the enjoyment and mental awakening of those who will wander your pathways. Stick to natural hues.
Carefully placed lighting will make your pathways safe to traverse in the evening hours, and will allow you to highlight the more special features of your garden, like prized specimen plants or a handcrafted sculpture.
Choose plants for the scents they'll emit when in bloom, the sounds they'll make when being rustled by the wind, and by how they'll feel beneath your feet or under the pads of your fingertips.
The sound, movement, and peace that water can bring to a garden is priceless. Again, go with simple and natural . . . and understated. Whether a small bird bath, a rain catcher, or even a full blown water feature with falls, you want this element to not be forced or contrived.
Continuity is the key to being Zen.
A flash of yellow darts around the garden, feeding on flowering seed heads or stopping at bird feeders. What could it be? Meet the American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis), one of the only vegetarian songbirds. Because they don't feed their young insects, they're able to hold off their nesting habits until later in the year, June or July, when seeds are abundant.
Here are some tips for making your garden inviting to these yellow birds:
Some common plant favorites of the American Goldfinch to feed on are thistle, sunflowers, asters, and milkweed. Looking to the trees will find these birds enjoying alder, birch, and western red cedar. They will work bits and pieces of these plants into their tightly-woven nests for both warmth and as a food source.
Goldfinches want and need an ideal habitat for seed-hunting, like shrubby fields or forest edges.
These birds prefer to build their nests in shrubs or young trees, but several feet off the ground. To maximize your chances of attracting mating pairs, be sure to incorporate larger shrub species.
Keep any feeders you have full, and clean. American goldfinches are at risk of getting mycoplasmal conjunctivitis—house finch eye disease—from birdfeeders. If you do notice that your winged guests have crusty eyes, take down the feeders and disinfect them with a 10 percent bleach solution then leave them down for about a week so the birds can heal rather than continue to spread the disease.
American goldfinches are one of the U.S.'s national treasures. Thanks to their assorted adaptations, they are often the object of fascination and admiration for everyday backyard gardeners and ornithologists alike. If you attract the American Goldfinch to your backyard, let us know and snap a picture if you can!
Plant late summer to be ready for your guests to arrive in the fall!
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Getting back to nature is a wonderful thing. However, looking out your front window to see the local wildlife destroying your landscaping and foraging off your heirloom varietals isn't.
You can do something extreme—like put up a ten foot fence to keep them out. This might work, maybe . . . but you'd be surprised how resourceful and agile animals can be. You could go to your local outdoor store and procure bottles of assorted wild animal urine to spray around as a deterrent. Again, it works for a short time, but is not a long-term solution (and who really wants to mess around with feral urine?). Another, more viable, option is to revisit your landscaping choices. Use nature to outwit natural animal tendencies.
Ground covers are practical, versatile, and affordable. While there are hundreds of ground cover options, only a handful can stand up to deer. Most deer-resistant covers are highly invasive, so you want to plant responsibly; i.e., if you don't have a lot of deer or other foragers, you may want to forgo these or risk having your property overrun. These plants can help keep deer out of your garden this season.
1. Eastern Teaberry (Gaultheria procumbens)
Also known as wintergreen
Native to cold-weather climates of the eastern U.S.
Has small urn-shaped flowers in the Spring, followed by red berries; in the Fall, its evergreen foliage is bronze-tinged
Needs rich, acidic soil and is a good choice for growing around azaleas, hydrangeas and rhododendrons.
2. Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Also known as bearberry
Sun-loving option as majority of deer-resistant, non invasive groundcovers prefer shade
A type of wild manzanita that grows as a low, spreading mat on the West Coast. East Coasters: look for cultivars taken from the eastern subspecies, such as 'Massachusetts'
Has the same evergreen foliage and smooth reddish bark manzanitas are known for
3. Dwarf Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides)
Also known as leadwort
Tough, well-behaved, easy-to-grow ground cover from China
Foliage with sky-blue flowers which appear sporadically from midsummer through fall.
With the first frost of fall, the foliage becomes tinged with a burgundy color
Can aggressively spread with rich soil and lots of moisture
WARNING: Wear gloves when pruning or handling the plant as contact may cause dermatitis.
4. Barrenwort (Epimedium spp.)
Also known as horny goat weed
Tough ground cover which thrives in shady areas under large trees
Spreads at a moderate rate but not considered aggressive or invasive
Has heart-shaped leaves and hat-like flowers
For resisiting deer, look for varieties such as 'Sulphureum' or red barrenwort
5. Pachysandra (Pachysandra spp.)
Most common form used is also known as Japanese spurge
High degree of shade tolerance
One of the cold-hardiest evergreen ground covers
Can be aggressive with growth under ideal conditions
WARNING: Pachysandra is poisonous and should not be used where there is a concern that children, pets, or livestock may consume it.
6. Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)
Also known as wild baby's breath
Get more advice on keeping deer and other citters out of your garden.
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