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Monthly Archives: September 2017

Create Roof Terrace Garden

Although a roof garden can add another dimension to your living accommodation, space will probably still be limited and so you will want to choose plants carefully. You can choose to grow plants that will give you fresh produce or flowers and shrubs that have long flowering periods.

Shrubs, flowers and also crops can be grown in pots, containers, compost bags and maybe even raised beds. You should choose the lightest containers and compost you can find. All of this can be done in an inexpensive way if you recycle containers.

Plastic containers retain moisture better than terracotta; they are also lighter and more frost-proof. The addition of water retaining crystals to compost will reduce the need for watering. If you don’t like the appearance of plastic pots, they can be painted; and if you have a motley collection of recycled containers, they can be painted the same colour to create a co-ordinated colour scheme. The wonderful thing about container gardening is that it gives you the opportunity to choose the exact soil to give any plant the requirements it needs.

You will still need to consider whether a position is mostly in sun or shade before you decide what to plant there – as in any other garden.

Fruit and certain vegetables can be grown up walls or trellises to use all available space. They can even be mixed in with flowers. Some, like marigolds, can help keep pests away from your crops. Fruit trees especially like being trained against brick walls because these retain heat which will help to ripen fruit. A lot of fruit trees and vegetable plants have been bred as dwarf varieties to suit the smaller garden and really can be quite tiny. Some trees even produce more than one variety of fruit from one trunk.

Some crops like herbs, radishes, cut-and-come-again salad leaves and chillies can be grown in very small spaces. Strawberries can be grown in ornamental towers.

Your crops will need well-drained, fertile soil, good airflow and enough water. A greenhouse of any size will extend a growing season but because most roofs would not be able to accommodate such a large structure, cold frames and cloches can be employed to shelter young plants from pests and chilly spring winds instead.

Consider how much time you can spend giving attention to each crop’s needs; some are more self-sufficient than others. Think about when you will be away from home on holiday and when your crops will be ready for harvesting. Because container grown plants need a lot of watering they may not be able to survive for weeks without attention.

Plants on roofs have to either be able to withstand wind or be sheltered from it. They will need more watering than plants in the ground. Be careful where the water drains to if you have neighbours underneath.

Water gardens in the evening or early morning and give regular feed any pot-grown plants, especially later in the summer when the nutrients have been mostly spent from the compost.

On roof tops that really have no shelter from wind, plants that do well by the sea or perhaps New Zealand natives should be successful. Any plant that has thick leaves like laurels or fatsias would do well. Lavender and other plants that like free drainage should also be happy.

If you have very little soil to grow plants in, then you could consider planting wild flowers, alpines or sedums which come in a multitude of colours and will tolerate poor, shallow soil and a certain amount of drought too. Or you might like to grow bonsai trees which like being outside but are restricted in very small pots.

Landscaping Tiny Front Yard

Vines are a small space’s best friend. In typical design, it’s easy to add impressive dimension by layering objects based on size, and this is especially important when it comes to landscaping the front yard. Taller objects are behind shorter ones, which creates dimension and can make an area appear larger than it already is by taking advantage of vertical space when horizontal space is limited. In an area that may not fit large trees and shrubs that add vertical elements to a front yard, vines can be substituted and can have the same effect. Use trellises that are specially designed to support vines of size, or sink trellises into the ground or in pots to support smaller vines. We love Clematis because of its beautiful and long-lived flowering. Place vines in the rear of your design, along walls and porch columns. Train them to grow around doorways. Allow them to take up as much height as they can, which will add a large visual element to your small entrance.

Pots, pots, pots! Another way to add size to small spaces follows the same principle as adding vines, but instead with pots! Pots are made in all sizes- from very large, to tiny. Use varying sizes of pots to create visual depth in an area that doesn’t have a lot of actual depth. Place larger pots behind smaller ones in groups, and don’t be afraid to fill them with perennials that you often see in large landscapes. Many perennials will live just fine in pots. Grasses are a wonderful choice in pots and do well in pot culture. There are many sizes of grasses, and they are all excellent choices depending on the size of the pot. Try layering medium pots among a display with this lovely Acorus Ogon Grass. It’s bright yellow variegation will brighten up a small space without much work. The ‘Chip’ series of butterfly bush is another great perennial for pot culture, and their small size makes them ideal for small spaces. ‘Blue Chip’ will play well with the Ogon grass in a pot display in full or partial sun. Layer in pots of annuals too- often found in pretty, ready to display pots for purchase.

Opt for smaller ornamental versions of the big things. One simple example – Japanese maples. Even if you have limited ground space, there’s likely a cultivar of these amazing small trees that will be able to grace your front area. Some of these trees can even be grown in large pots – which is essential if you live in an area where it may get too cold to keep most Japanese maple cultivars outside year-round. We love the Japanese Butterfly Tree, which tops out at a small 10 feet in height and sports lovely color in foliage all year-long. You can trim Japanese maples to take on that open, gnarled, and layered characteristic that we all picture well-kept Japanese maples as, or you can allow this cultivar to grow and fill out as it pleases for a lovely, balanced look. It’s small and unobtrusive size will make it perfect for most all small spaces, and will easily add a pop of color where you need it most.

Making Compost

The first thing you’ll want to do is find a good location and build or acquire a means of containing your compost. The compost needs to get hot and needs air flow for ventilation, so a sunny, open location seems right. However too much sun and too much wind can dry out the compost which will slow the decomposition process. Find a warm protected area with partial sun. If you have neighbors nearby, you may want to consider that as well!

You will need a means of containing the compost matter. This will reduce its footprint in your yard, aid the decomposition process, and limit matter being blown out of the pile and littering your yard. Size depends on how much you want to compost and how much space you have. Compost piles can be built in four foot square fenced areas with the compost getting as much as four foot high. Don’t exceed six foot in height or the weight will compress the compost and hinder decomposition. An area this big can be built with wire fencing, wood pallets, or even hay bales. Most of us don’t need such a large area nor do we have the back yard space to spare for it. But if you are building your own area, shoot for at least three foot by three foot. Optimal decomposition requires three cubic feet of matter. There are number of commercially available compost containment options available for those of you that don’t want to build your own or for those looking to compost smaller amounts of material.

Now that you have decided on a location and acquired a means of containing your compost, you are ready to start adding material. You’ll want to add about two thirds dry or brown material and one third green or moist material. Dry materials include leaves, newspaper, and wood chips or saw dust. Shred the material first to aid in decomposition. Green matter is made up of grass clippings and kitchen waste, like fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells and nutshells. You can grind kitchen waste to help the composting process. Avoid materials that cause odors, attract pests, or promote disease. These include meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, pet feces, weeds that have gone to seed, and diseased plants. Layer the material in your pile, starting with approximately four inches of dry matter and adding roughly two inches of green matter. Continue layering until you are out of material or the compost container is full. Once your compost pile is full, you should avoid adding new material. It is best to start a new pile for the fresh material.

The last step is proper maintenance. The organic matter will decompose naturally in about a year, but proper maintenance, including mixing frequently and managing moisture levels, will cut the processing time significantly and reduce odors. Mixing or turning the compost can be done with a pitchfork. This provides oxygen that is necessary for decomposition. You should mix our turn your compost once or twice a week for faster results. Odors indicate more frequent mixing is necessary. The pile should remain damp, about the moistness of a squeezed sponge, so occasional watering may be necessary in dry conditions. Covering the pile with black plastic or using an enclosed container will reduce moisture loss and, as an added benefit, it will reduce rainwater from leaching out valuable nutrients.

Garden Hedges

The mass removal of hedges from the landscape has had an adverse affect on wildlife. Hedgerows play an important role in feeding, protecting and housing animals, birds and insects. They create much-needed resources to support a rural ecosystem.

But city and suburban gardens too can offer a huge opportunity to create a network of havens. Hedgerows that support wildlife do not have to be exclusively rural; gardeners can play an enormously important role in providing similar habitats.

The planting of hedgerows will create wildlife corridors. These act to link habitats and enable migration. Animals and insects will travel, meet and breed. The wildlife that lives as a satellite population cannot be self-sustaining over the long term.

Bees will in a day, typically travel up to two miles or more away from the hive to feed. But when the food supply is difficult to find, more energy has to be expended in order to collect the pollen and nectar they need to remain well-fed and, therefore, healthy. These insects play an enormously important role in pollinating our food crops.

Most of our ancient woodlands have regrettably disappeared and a lot of the animals that inhabited them now use hedgerows as their last refuge. Hedges accommodate a huge percentage of our birds and small mammals. These in turn can be beneficial to gardeners as they eat pests like greenfly and slugs.

Not everyone has the space to plant a hedge. But planting any plant that supports wildlife is enormously important; creating a service station that will become part of a wildlife corridor facilitating wildlife movement. These wildlife service stations in gardens can be large or small, mainly native trees or bushes and shrubs. They can also be ponds for frogs or banks of nectar-rich flowers like lavender. Plants such as hawthorn or blackthorn provide flowers for insects and berries for birds. These three mentioned plants can be used to create garden hedges.

Lavender is a good choice for a short, uniform hedge and escallonia for a tall one; they can both live for many years and are loved by bees.

Hedges provide permeable barriers that can diffuse airflow but still offer total privacy. They are preferable to solid walls which can draw winds down onto flowerbeds to cause damage. In some exposed places creating a garden without hedge boundaries would not even be possible.

What you ultimately choose to plant will depend on the space you have to fill, the amount of light available, your microclimate and soil type. All have to be considered to give any new hedge, tree or flower garden the best chance of thriving. It is also important to remember that most newly-planted trees and hedges need extra watering in their first season.

Other good plants to choose for wildlife would be: buddleia, cotoneaster, crab apple, dogwood, holly, honeysuckle, hornbeam, ivy, old man’s beard, bryony, wild rose and spindle.

In order to create the wildlife corridors needed to sustain a healthy ecosystem, lots of people making small additions to their gardens would make a huge difference.