Raised Beds for your vegetables

garden bedThere are a whole lot of reasons to build raised vegetable gardens—the kind that sit above ground within a frame made of wood or other material. If your land has sandy, claylike, or hard-packed soil (or if you don’t know and don’t give a hoot about the difference), you can provide perfect conditions for whatever you’re keen on growing. Plants are lifted out of the way of rowdy pets and little ones, and your soil warms up earlier and stays that way longer, extending the growing season and providing gentler conditions for new seeds and delicate transplants. Fruits, veggies, and ornamentals will send their roots deeper in search of water, which means a stronger foundation and improved health. And raised beds keep your space tidy. Best of all, they couldn’t be easier to make. Especially if you’re getting into growing for the first time, you’re going to want some beds of your own.

Build your beds somewhere that receives at least 5 to 6 hours of daily sunlight (the more, the better!). Orient them north to south to prevent plants from shading each other out. Beds should be at least a foot wide, though no more than 4 feet across to make weeding and harvesting manageable. Six to 8 feet long is typical and cost-effective. Ten to 14 inches is an ideal height to accommodate strong roots. Leave at least 2 or 3 feet between beds for walking and wheelbarrow access.

WOOD

Pressure-treated lumber and railroad ties contain chemicals like arsenic and creosote that can leach into your soil. Instead, use untreated wood. It isn’t as durable, but the brilliance of a plank-and-rebar design (see below) is that each individual wall is easily replaced. Try naturally rot-resistant varieties of wood, such as oak, cedar, and redwood.

SOIL

You want the kind that’s dark, rich, and loaded with microorganisms. Fill your beds with a mix of 50 to 60 percent good-quality topsoil and 40 to 50 percent well-aged compost. Before each new growing season, test your soil for pH and nutrient content. You can buy a kit at most home-improvement stores. If your test shows a need for additional nutrients like nitrogen and potassium, raise levels by working in amendments such as bone meal and kelp. Dress beds with an additional ½ inch of compost later in the growing season to increase organic matter and boost soil health.

PLANTS

If you’re building your beds in high summer, it’s not too late to plant fall crops. Sow seeds like carrots and lettuce directly into the soil, or buy midseason transplants for crops like kale and broccoli. If you’d rather wait until next year to plant, cover the soil in your new raised beds with a mixture of grass clippings and shredded leaves in autumn—the material will compost before you’re ready to start in spring.

WATER

Raised beds have fantastic drainage, which is great for plant health, but they dry out quickly. Give your plants a long drink in the early evening, but check them again on hot summer afternoons. If the soil is dry, it’s a real scorcher outside, or you live in a hot and arid climate, water again. A programmable drip-irrigation system  is inexpensive and convenient, delivering consistent moisture straight to plant roots. Invest in a timer component to save money and water

THE BUILDUP

For a 4-by-8-foot bed, you’ll need:

Two 2-by-12 planks, each 8 feet long
Two 2-by-12 planks, each 4 feet long
12 pieces of rebar, each 2 feet long
A rubber mallet
Newspaper or cardboard
Soil to fill the finished frame

building a rebar raised bed
1/5 JOHN BORGOYNE

1. On a level section of ground, lay the boards down with their inner corners touching. Stand one long board on its side, and, using a rubber mallet, hammer two pieces of rebar 1 foot from each corner, a few inches deep into the ground.

building a rebar raised bed
2/5 JOHN BORGOYNE

2. Prop up the short sides using a piece of rebar at each center for temporary support. Next, prop up the second long side and adjust the alignment of your frame as necessary. Then hammer rebar a few inches deep 1 foot from each corner of the second long side.

building a rebar raised bed
3/5 JOHN BORGOYNE

3. Hammer rebar a few inches deep a foot from each corner of the short sides and remove the temporary supports. Add two pieces of rebar 2 feet apart along each long side. These will reinforce the frame when it’s filled with soil.

building a rebar raised bed
4/5 JOHN BORGOYNE

4. Hammer in the rebar until 6 to 10 inches are exposed above ground. Line the bottom of your frame with newspaper or cardboard and wet it thoroughly. Finally, fill your bed with soil to within a few inches of the top.

 

different kinds of raised garden beds
5/5 JOHN BORGOYNE
Alternatives

The possibilities for building materials are endless.

Wattle
Weave a frame with long, flexible sticks. The kids will have fun collecting them, and the results are usually Pinterest-worthy.

Logs
If you’ve recently cleared a tree, logs can be a cost-effective material. Choose pieces that are straight and at least 1 foot in diameter.

Concrete Blocks
Placing the blocks with open ends up provides extra growing room. Tuck herbs or decorative flowers into the cavities.

High + Mighty
A waist-high bed is accessible to those with physical limitations.

10 Ideas for a beautiful spring garden

A spring garden is one of the sweetest things. Bulbs emerge from the ground as if by magic, trees leaf out with fresh green growth, and flowering shrubs and perennials burst into bloom. Here are 10 ideas to make your garden shine in the spring.
Traditional Landscape by AHBL
1. Showcase spring blooms. Bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, and delicate annuals like violas, primroses and nemesias steal the show this time of year, swathing garden beds in color. Perk up tired winter beds by picking up a few flats of annuals at the nursery and tucking them into bare spots. Make a note of where you’d like bulbs in your garden — perhaps lining a walkway or grouped in a patch by the mailbox — so you’ll have a plan in place when bulb-planting time rolls around next fall.
Traditional Landscape by Dear Garden Associates, Inc.
2. Plant in drifts. Plant drifts of flowers in a single color to get the most color impact in garden beds. Unlike a regimented row, a drift has a more irregular, natural shape — it’s how a single variety of wildflower would naturally grow on a hillside.

Here, two drifts of ‘Caesar’s Brother’ Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica ‘Caesar’s Brother’) spread on either side of a steppingstone path form a dramatic swath of deep blue-purple. The Siberian iris has a clumping habit and will naturally spread to form a drift if planted in moist, slightly boggy soil.


Traditional Landscape by Enroot Landscape Planning and Design
3. Create a seasonal destination. As you’re dusting off your patio furniture, consider pulling a pair of chairs to a spot that’s particularly beautiful — perhaps an area under a flowering tree or one with a view of the garden.

Wherever you choose, make it a spot where you’ll be tempted to sit with a cup of morning coffee and enjoy the spring sunshine.

Traditional Landscape by Claudia De Yong Garden Design
4. Give your edible garden a cottage-garden look. Kitchen gardens may have practical functions, but with a little extra care they can become just as attractive as ornamental beds.

Four ways to instantly boost charm in your garden

  • Plant climbing roses and allow them to ramble over a fence.
  • Add decorative trellises or supports made of pruned branches for vines like sweet peas and pole beans
  • Give your garden shed a fresh coat of paint and place a potted boxwood out front.
  • Plant trailing herbs (like variegated thyme) and flowers (like marigolds ) to soften the corners of raised beds.
Traditional Deck by seattlehometours.com
5. Invest in one knock-your-socks-off flowering tree. Considering adding a specimen tree to your yard? Spring is a great time to go tree scouting. Drive around your neighborhood and look for trees that tempt you to pull the car over. A few favorites for spring blooms include  flowering crabapple, Japanese flowering cherry , dogwoods, or red buds


Traditional Landscape by London Garden Designer
6. Plant clipped evergreens. While evergreens are easily appreciated in bare winter beds, they’re also surprisingly useful in spring gardens. Use an evergreen hedge as a dark backdrop to show off pale blooms planted in front. Clip a few evergreen shrubs into spheres or pyramids to add structure to beds and balance the loose forms of billowing spring flowers.


Modern Landscape by Botanica Design
7. Add pollinator-friendly plants. While you’re planting perennial beds, consider including a few plants specifically chosen to support birds, bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Ideally, include a variety of nectar- and pollen-rich blooms in many colors (red, pink, bright violet, blue, yellow and orange) to support the widest range of pollinating birds and insects.

Consider the peak bloom time of plants to ensure there’s a steady stream of sustenance.

Traditional Landscape by Waterman & Sun
8. Spruce up shaded areas. Shaded areas can easily turn into forgotten corners of the garden. Instead, turn a dark area into a woodland destination that can be just as interesting and colorful as brighter areas. white pansies line the pathway amidst a woodland planting of flowering hellebores, blue forget-me-nots, lush ferns and pink azaleas.


Traditional Landscape by MJ McCabe-Garden Design
9. Plant a sweet-smelling climber. Add a romantic element to garden pathways and trellises with a fragrant vine or climbing shrub rose. Plant near bedroom windows or along pathways leading to the home so that the fragrance will be carried on the breeze into sleeping and sitting areas.

Traditional Landscape by Enroot Landscape Planning and Design
10. Add a water element. Water can be used in several ways to show off spring gardens and add interest to landscapes year-round. Trickling water in fountains and sloped water elements add movement and a pleasant sound. Still-water elements like pools and basins add a reflective quality and sense of depth.

FOUR CAN’T-MISS WAYS TO ATTRACT BIRDS TO YOUR YARD OR DECK

bird house

Sometimes those who would like to attract birds to their home will ask if there are any special “tricks” to success other than putting out a bird feeder or birdbath.

The quick answer is yes!

Here are four proven ways to attract a maximum number bird species to your yard.   Not only will you get to see them, but you also will be helping them on their long migration journeys or to get through a cold winter. A well-stocked yard or deck, following the advice below, can help hundreds of birds to be healthier during the year and can help dozens survive a tough winter.  How cool is that?

1. BUBBLES AND DRIPS

Birds certainly need water, but they may not always know you have made it available. This is especially true of spring and fall migrants who are just passing through. The best way to “advertise” is to let them hear the water by using a fountain pump or a small drip hose.

Drippers, small fountains, bubblers and misters are very popular with our feathered friends. They are reasonably inexpensive and are available online and at most bird supply stores.  I like to think about migrant species such as warblers, vireos, and flycatchers stopping off for a refreshing drink (and snack) on their way from Canada to Central America.

2. “SMORGASBIRD”

Different birds eat different things, so it helps to offer a variety of food types. Native plants that provide seeds, berries and insects are the best and most natural way to offer food for wild birds. You can supplement that with feeders. Here are some tips:

  • Black-Oil Sunflower is the most popular bird seed, and attracts a variety of birds to your feeder.  Blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, finches, nuthatches, and sparrows love it.  New to backyard birding?  Black-oil sunflower seeds are a great place to start!
  • Thistle or Nyjer is a small, high quality, seed that goldfinches love. These birds have a beautiful gold color and they are a pleasure to watch along with their cousins, the red-hued house finches and bright-colored buntings. Thistle seed requires a special bird (finch) feeder with smaller holes,
  • Seed mixes are popular for beginners because they attract many different types of birds.  They can be messy though because birds pick over unwanted seeds and toss them away.  “No-mess” seed mixes, that have been de-hulled, will cut down on the mess below your feeder.  They are more likely be picked up by ground feeding birds, such as doves, juncos, sparrows or even squirrels.
  • Suet is basically a cake of animal fat and is a healthy source of protein for birds, especially in the winter months.  When food is scarce, suet may be a lifeline for many birds in your yard. Suet is often mixed with some seeds and served through suet cages.
  • Nectar is sugar water and requires what is called a hummingbird feeder.  Hummingbirds are the most notable nectar-loving birds. They are a pleasure to watch in your backyard.  The increasingly rare oriole is a fruit-eating bird that also enjoys nectar.
  • Smorgasbird: there are many other types of food that you can feed birds. Many birds enjoy peanuts, peanut butter, cracked corn, millet, apple pieces and oranges.

3. LITTER-BUGS

There are a large number of bird species that stay on the ground to feed and seldom, if
ever, land on feeders.  They will often gobble up seeds that have fallen from the feeders and others will scratch around in small piles or mats of leaf litter you can place around the yard.  This leaf litter is a natural habitat for many insects and gives insect and grub-eating birds such as robins, towhees and thrashers, hours of quality snack time.

4. HAVENS AND HIDEAWAYS

If you watch how birds approach most feeders, they will first sit in a nearby bush as a “staging area” and then fly out for a quick snack on the feeder.  They will then return immediately to the relative protection of shrubbery or trees.  So placing feeders relatively close to some “safety cover” will attract more birds.  Keep an eye out, however, for neighborhood cats.  They like to lie in wait in vegetation that may be too close to the feeder.   Allowing a few feet between a cat hiding place and a bird feeder will give the birds time to react and get away.

Birds also attract other birds.  These curious creatures listen for activity in the area and like to see what is going on.  For them, your yard will be like the local restaurant you can’t wait to tell your friends about.

The main thing about attracting birds to your yard or deck is to let it happen over time and enjoy it.  As birds begin to find your place you will be amazed at how many you see.  Remember to keep up with the food and water supplies, especially in the winter when you can help dozens of birds survive the cold.   Remember too, that a good bird identification guide will add to the fun.  We are fond of the National Wildlife Federation’s Guide to North American Birds because of its good reviews and reasonable price.

25 easy vegetable gardening tips

August 19, 2015 111Tips & Tricks

Whether you’re new to growing or a seasoned expert, this collection of 25 vegetable gardening tips will help. Enjoy

1. If its getting cold and you have tomatoes still ripening on the vine — save your tomatoes! Pull the plants up and bring them inside to a warm dry place. Hang them up, and the tomatoes will ripen on the vine.

2. Companion planting is an excellent way to improve your garden. Some plants replenish nutrients lost by another one, and some combinations effectively keep pests away.

3. Paint the handles of your gardens tools a bright, color other than green to help you find them amongst your plants. You can also keep a mailbox in your garden for easy tool storage.

4. Compost needs time to integrate and stabilize in the soil. Apply two to three weeks prior to planting.

5. There is an easy way to mix compost into your soil without a lot of back breaking work: Spread the compost over your garden in the late fall, after all the harvesting is done. Cover with a winter mulch such as hay or chopped leaves and let nature take its course. By spring, the melting snow and soil organisms will have worked the compost in for you.

6. Like vining vegetables, but don’t have the room? Train your melons, squash, and cucumbers onto a vertical trellis or fence. Saves space and looks pretty too.

7. Garden vegetables that become over-ripe are an easy target for some pests. Remove them as soon as possible to avoid detection.

8. Onions are ready to harvest when the tops have fallen over. Let the soil dry out, harvest, and store in a warm, dry, dark place until the tops dry. Cut off the foliage down to an inch, then store in a cool, dry area.

9. Keep dirt off lettuce and cabbage leaves when growing by spreading a 1-2 inch layer of mulch (untreated by pesticides or fertilizers) around each plant. This also helps keep the weeds down.

10. When planting a flower or vegetable transplant, deposit a handful of compost into each hole. Compost will provide transplants with an extra boost that lasts throughout the growing season.

11. Insects can’t stand plants such as garlic, onions, chives and chrysanthemums. Grow these plants around the garden to help repel insects.

12. Milk jugs, soda bottles and other plastic containers make great mini-covers to place over your plants and protect them from frost.

13. For easy peas, start them indoors. The germination rate is far better, and the seedlings will be healthier and better able to fight off pests and disease.

14. Healthy soil means healthy plants that are better able to resist pests and disease, reducing the need for harmful pesticides.

15. Another reason to use natural and organic fertilizers and soil amendments: earthworms love them! Earthworms are extremely beneficial in the vegetable garden; increasing air space in the soil and leaving behind worm castings. Do what you can to encourage earthworms in your soil.

16. Diatomaceous earth makes an excellent organic insecticide – it is an abrasive white powder used to damage the cuticle, skin and joints of insects. It also makes an excellent slug barrier.

17. Some vegetables actually become better after a first frost, including kale, cabbage, parsnips, carrots, and Brussels sprouts.

18. When transplanting tomatoes, cover the stem with soil all the way up to the first set of leaves. This greatly encourages root growth, making a stronger, healthier plant.

19. Healthy soil means a thriving population of microbes, earthworms and other organisms. A soil that has “good tilth” will produce robust garden plants that are better able to resist pests and disease.

20. A simple five percent increase in organic material (compost) quadruples the soil’s ability to store water.

21. Plants will do best if they are well suited to your growing area. Take some time to read up and choose plants accordingly.

22. Keep garden vegetables from getting dirty by spreading a 1-2 inch layer of mulch (untreated by pesticides or fertilizers) around each plant. This will also help keep the weeds down.

23. Water your garden in the early morning to conserve moisture loss and to help avoid powdery mildew and other fungal diseases that are often spread by high humidity levels.

24. If you’re short on space, garlic, leeks and shallots make excellent container plants. They tend to have few insect or disease problems and don’t require much room for roots.

25. Over watering is worse than under watering. It is easier to revive a dry plant than try to dry out drowned roots.

Transform small spaces into high producing gardens!

Beet Chioggia Guardsmark
Beets
Cucumber Gherking F1
Cucumber
Eggplant Little Fingers
Eggplant Little Fingers
Whether you live in an apartment, condo or small patio home, don’t let your small space discourage you from growing an amazing vegetable garden! Many kinds of vegetables can be grown easily in containers on a deck, a terrace, a veranda or in your window sill.
Be sure that your chosen space receives six or more hours of sunlight. With the correct amount of light, the right container for the crop, good quality soilless mix, fertilizer and water, you can produce a full abundance of produce in most tight spaces.
Choose your container wisely!
  • Containers are available in many different sizes, shapes,and materials. Choose your container wisely based on the vegetables you choose to grow.
  • Shallow rooted crops like lettuce, peppers, radishes and herbs need a container at least 12-15” in diameter and 6/8” deep.
  • Trellises and stakes along with larger containers like 3-5 gallon buckets, half barrels and wooden tubs can be used to produce tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, summer squash, beans, peas and cucumbers.
Consider drainage!
  • Be sure there are holes at the bottom of the container for proper drainage. Drainage is reduced when the container is set on a solid surface, such as a patio or a deck.
Choose your vegetables!
  • Most varieties that are grown in traditional gardens can be grown in containers.
Choose the right soil!
  • Soilless mixes are lightweight and free from soil-borne diseases. There will be quicker drainage and some even contain a slow release fertilizer to feed your plants. At the nursery we prefer Gardeners Gold We think you will find it provides all the nutrients your plant will need and have had great luck with it.
Feed your plants!
  • Plants are hungry too! Be sure to feed your plants regularly throughout the season using a complete fertilizer at the recommended rate on the label.
  • Containers can dry out quickly so be sure to check your soil moisture daily. Keep the soil uniformly moist, but do not saturate, over-watering can be just as harmful as under-watering!
Give your plants some room!
  • Planting and spacing requirements for most vegetables can be found on the seed packet and should be followed carefully for best results. Limit the number of plants based on spacing requirements and container choice.
If you follow these guidelines, you are on your way to creating a successful container garden that will have you eating fresh produce all summer long. Don’t let small spaces hold you back from achieving your best garden ever!
Swiss Chard Peppermint
Swiss Chard
Simply Salad Alfresco Mix
salad mix
Tumbling Tom Yellow F1
Tumbling Tom Yellow

Container Gardening

Container Gardening Like A ProContainer gardening is a useful method of growing both edibles and ornamentals when you have little or no yard, have compromised soil, or you simply enjoy the freedom to move your plants from place to place. It is an ideal technique for those in urban situations such as apartments. One of the biggest bonuses to container gardening is that you get to skip the backbreaking work of weeding and amending soil! Container gardening can include traditional pots, window boxes, hanging baskets, or little planters in a window sill. Get creative with your space and experiment with different placement options such as on a balcony or porch, around a deck, or even on a rooftop.

Gather Your Gear
Very little gear is needed for container gardening. Standard gardening tools include gloves, a trowel, and a hand fork.  For larger plants that require pruning, a good pair of shears or kitchen scissors are helpful. Always keep your tools clean and blades sharp for easy cutting. Another important thing you will need is potting mix, which is available at any nursery. Use potting soil rather than soil from the ground, as potting soil has water retentive elements (such as peat moss or vermiculite), is free from weeds or disease, and contains a balance of nutrients ideal for plants. Most potting soils are ”soil-less.” Some are specific for seed starting, or acidified for specialty plants, but many are all purpose and are suitable for most types of containers and plants.

Pick Your Plants
Many edible plants can be grown in containers. Potted herbs are a popular choice and can be placed in a sunny window or even on a patio. Herbs are compact so they can easily be grown in a small space. Try chives, mint, basil, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, and more! You can even grow fruit trees in containers. Dwarf varieties of trees such as orange, fig, apple, and pear can (with some effort) grow in large containers. These usually need to be protected or brought inside during the winter. Strawberries are another fruit easily grown in a pot; there are even special terra cotta pots with holes in them that are widely available. If vegetables are what you want, try greens such as arugala, lettuces, swiss chard, and spinach. Smaller varieties of tomatoes, peas, pole beans, bush zucchini, and peppers can also be grown successfully with some staking or trellis for them to climb.

Consider Location
Your first consideration for any garden project should be location: specifically, sunlight and exposure. Container-grown plants tend to dry and wilt more quickly than plants in the ground. Once you’ve identified where you intend to put your containers, observe the amount and strength of sunlight. Does the space get full afternoon sun? Dappled shade? Is the area near a wall or blacktop, which increases ambient temperature? Will your containers sit outdoors in the rain, or on a covered porch or patio?

Porches and patios might be the expected spots for container gardening, but here are some other ideas.

  • Tuck large pots into your landscaping or flower bed for an instant mini vegetable garden.
  • Use containers to add height and visual interest in a planting bed. For example, a tier of flowerpots overflowing with blooms can bring a desirable vertical effect to a cutting garden.
  • Find unexpected spots. Set a teacup full of tiny flowers in a rock garden, for example, or tip a pot on its side and plant it like it’s spilling out into the landscape.
  • Arrange a collection of container-grown herbs by your kitchen door for easy snipping. Or, plant herbs in glass canning jars and place them on a sunny windowsill.

Choose the Right Plants
If you fancy a vegetable garden, choose plants that are will be compatible for containers , like  tomato, zucchini, cucumber and peppers . Match your plant selection to your location, as well. Plants labeled ”full sun” require at least 6 hours per day of direct sunlight. Consider the depth of the container and the plant’s root system (carrots, for example, don’t do well in standard pots, but lettuce does). If your budget allows for many plants, then go ahead and pack ‘em into the containers to create a lush, full look.

Choose Your Containers
There are numerous types of containers, each with pros and cons. On one end of the financial spectrum you have plastic containers which are light and cheap, but might not capture the aesthetic you’re going for. Compare that to stone or marble, which are gorgeous and sturdy, but are as hefty in price as they are to move around the garden. You want a vessel that has enough space for the roots of your plant, proper nutrients to feed your plant, and drainage holes to allow for excess moisture to flow out to prevent waterlogged roots. Additionally, consider where this container is going. For example, if you are putting it on a rooftop or in a window sill, choose something light. Be aware that some containers such as terra cotta can retain heat quickly, so extra watering may be necessary.

And don’t be afraid to get creative! Containers of various shapes, colors and sizes add visual interest to a conventional backyard landscape. Here are some fun ideas for unusual and interesting garden containers.

Reuse (upcycle) items that you’d ordinarily throw away when they’re empty or perhaps broken:

  • Empty coffee cans (spray paint them in fun colors, optional)
  • Kiddie pool or plastic sandbox (these make great small backyard vegetable gardens)
  • Large glass or plastic jars (ask a school cafeteria or local caterer if they have extra-large foodservice jars)
  • Plastic milk jugs or soda bottles, cut in half (you can also use half-gallon paper cartons or empty yogurt cups to start seeds for transplant)
  • A note on re-using tires in the garden: Opinions are split on whether this practice is safe, with some gardeners and environmental experts saying that heavy metals in tires may leach out over time, a particular concern with vegetables.

If you put your creative glasses on, you’ll see that practically anything can hold a plant. Scour flea markets, yard sales and antique shops for vintage items like these:

  • Vintage china cups, bowls and tureens
  • Enamelware bowls and basins
  • Old canning jars
  • Old-fashioned washtubs

Think of the items you use to hold stuff elsewhere in your home—if you have extra bins, boxes or buckets, repurpose in the garden. Even things like rubber rain boots that your kids have outgrown make cute planters.

  • Colorful plastic or galvanized metal buckets
  • Large storage bins
  • Wooden wine crates
  • Craft paint cans
  • Over-the-door shoe holders (the kind with fabric or plastic pockets)
  • Guttering—mount lengths of conventional roof gutter to a wall or fence (drill drainage holes at 3- or 4-inch intervals); fill with soil and plant with lettuce, succulents or trailing flowers

Maximize Drainage
Over- or under-watering is the No. 1 cause of plant failure—and growing in containers exacerbates the problem. Plants must never sit in accumulated water. If you’re using alternative containers, make sure there’s ample drainage. This can be a real challenge if, for example, you’re using an old enamel washbasin, glass jar or china soup tureen. If possible, drill or punch several holes in the bottom of your container. If drilling holes in the container doesn’t seem like such a good idea, then place nursery pots inside the planter (instead of planting directly in it) and be sure to pour out the excess every time you water.

Follow these links for how-tos on drilling in porcelain, glass and metal.

 

 

Use these proven techniques to properly water a plants growing in containers:

  • Wait for the plant to show very slight signs of wilt, then add water.
  • Feel the soil—poke your finger down about an inch; if it’s dry to that depth, then water.
  • Pick up the pot when it’s dry and gauge its weight; when the pot feels light, that’s a clue that it’s time to water.
  • Top watering—use a spouted watering can to apply water on the surface of the soil (not on the plant), until you see water pouring out the drainage hole at the bottom.
  • Bottom watering—set the container (or nursery pot) into a bucket or saucer of water, saturating the root system through the drainage hole.

Fertilize
Choose a balanced (10-10-10) fertilizer that you can add to your watering can. For continuous feeding to produce steady growth and bloom, mix at 1/10th the recommended rate every time you water.

Once you have your plants, location, and containers, the sky’s the limit! Start out small with easy to grow plants and build from there. Soon, you’ll have a new hobby that brings you joy as well as good health. Happy container gardening!

Sources
Joyce, David. The Complete Container Gardening. London: Frances Lincoln Limited, 2003.

McGee, Rose Marie, and Maggie Stuckey. The Bountiful Container. New York: Workman Publishing, 2002.

Tips for long lasting Lilacs.

Tips for long-lasting lilacs

lilacs3
Lovely lilacs are in full bloom in many parts of the country, and now is a good time to think about how to take care of them and enjoy them as long as possible.

6 Tips for lilac care

  • Lilacs do best with at least 1” of water per week during hottest months
  • Do not over-fertilize or they won’t bloom. Just feed in the spring with something like Plant-Tone.
  • Lilacs love a sweet soil, so if yours are planted near pine trees or oaks, in the early spring add limestone, wood ash or similar products at a rate of 2-3 handfuls per 3 ft of height or spread of the lilac.
  • Lilacs bloom on old wood, so pruning should be done in the spring as soon as the plants finish flowering. If you wait too long, you’ll remove all of the new buds for the next year.
  • When pruning, remove any dead wood and also the oldest canes. You can cut those right down 5-10 inches from the ground.
  • The rule of thumb is to cut out about ½ – 1/3 of the old wood each year to keep your lilac blooming year after year.  You can also cut the tallest parts back to about 5-6 feet
  • Lilacs are hardy and will grow in Zones 3 – 7 but don’t do well in the warmest climates

Consider planting several varieties of lilacs, selecting them by bloom time and color.  By selecting various bloom times, you can enjoy 3-5 weeks of blooms and that lovely lilac scent!

Planting Asparagus

Planting AsparagusAsparagus

Asparagus is planted in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. The plant is grown from “crowns” (1-year-old plants).

  • Eliminate all weeds from the bed, digging it over and working in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost, manure or soil mix.
  • Dig trenches of about 6 inches wide and 6 to 12 inches deep.  Some experts believe shallow trenches of 6 inches are best.
  • Asparagus does not like to have its feet “wet,” so be sure your bed has good drainage. For that reason, raised beds can be a good place to plant asparagus.
  • Create a mound in the trench and plant the crowns 15 to 18 inches apart, spreading the roots over the ridge.
  • Cover the roots and crowns with soil 2 inches deep and water thoroughly.

As the stems grow, fill in the rest of the trench with soil, leaving 3 to 4 inches of the stem exposed

Care

 When the trench is filled, add a 4 to 8 inch layer of mulch and water regularly.

  • Do not harvest the spears in the first year, but cut down dead foliage in late fall and side-dress with compost.
  • During the second year, keep the bed thickly mulched, side-dress in spring and early fall, and cut down dead foliage in late fall.Harvest/Storage

 

  • Asparagus can take three growing seasons to harvest; you may be able to lightly harvest during the second year.
    • In the first year, just let the aspargus go vegetative to give the crown a chance to get well established. Next spring, remove the old fern growth from the previous year, and keep an eye open for the new spears to begin emerging.
    • For the following years, maintain the bed and harvest only the spears thicker than a pencil.
    • The asparagus can be harvested for a period of about two to three weeks once the spears start to show. Keep a close eye on your asparagus so that you don’t miss the harvest!
    • After harvest, allow the ferns to grow; this replenishes the nutrients for next year’s spear production.
    • Harvest for 2 or 3 weeks. After you harvest, leave the ferns so it can gather nourishment for next year’s growth.
    • Cut spears that are about 6 inches in length at an angle.
    • Asparagus freezes well.

 

Planting Strawberries

strawberry patch

  • Buy disease-resistant plants , of a variety recommended in your area.
  • Plan to plant as soon as the ground can be worked in the Spring.
  • Strawberries are sprawling plants. Seedlings will send out runners, or ‘daughter’ plants, which in turn will send out their own runners.
  • Make planting holes deep and wide enough to accommodate the entire root system without bending it. However, don’t plant too deep: The roots should be covered, but the crown should be right at the soil surface.
  • Provide adequate space for sprawling. Set plants out 20 inches apart, and leave 4 feet between rows.
  • Roots shouldn’t be longer than 8 inches when plants are set out. Trim them if necessary.
  • pH should be between 5.5 and 7. If necessary, amend your soil in advance.
  • Strawberries require 6-10 hours a day of direct sunlight, so choose your planting site accordingly.
  • Tolerant of different soil types, although prefer loam. Begin working in aged manure or compost a couple months before planting.
  • Planting site must be well-drained. Raised beds are a particularly good option for strawberries.
  • Practice crop rotation for the most success. Do not plant in a site that recently had strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant.
  • Establish new plants each year to keep berry quality high each season.

 

Care

 

  • In the first year, pick off blossoms to discourage plants from fruiting. If not allowed to bear fruit, they will spend their food reserves on developing healthy roots. The yields will be much greater in the second year.
  • Eliminate daughter plants as needed. First and second generations produce higher yields. Try to space each plant about 10 inches apart.
  • Moisture is incredibly important due to shallow roots. Water adequately, about one inch per week. They need a lot of water when the runners and flowers are developing and again in the fall when the plants are mature.
  • Keep the beds mulched to reduce water needs and weed invasion.
  • Be diligent about weeding. Weed by hand, especially in the first months after planting.
  • When the growing season is over, mow or cut foliage down to one inch and mulch plants about 4 inches deep with straw, pine needles or other organic material. This can be done after the first couple of frosts, or when air temps reach 20 F.
  • Remove mulch in early spring, after danger of frost has passed.

Row covers are a good option for protecting blossoms and fruit from birds.

Harvest/Storage

Fruit is ready for harvesting 4–6 weeks after blossoming.

  • Harvest only fully red (ripe) berries, and pick every three days.
  • Cut by the stem; do not pull the berry.
  • Harvest will last up to 3 weeks. You should have an abundance of berries, depending on the variety.
  • Store unwashed berries in the refrigerator for 3–5 days.
  • Strawberries can be frozen whole for about 2 months.