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Category Archives: Gardening

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.

Fix Bad Garden Soil

The first method to clear out all the unwanted debris in the soil. For example, you want to clear out anything that includes synthetic materials, weeds, and rocks. Basically, you should try and get rid of anything that provides no help to your plants. You may have to dig a few inches underground in order to identify these debris but it is a step that has to be taken. Rocks have to be removed because they impede the growth of a plant’s root system. You want a plant’s root system to be as extensive as possible so that it can absorb as much nutrients as possible. When you clear out the debris, make sure you don’t touch any of the organic materials. For example, don’t touch things such as dead leaves because they will break down and turn into compost.

The second method is to replenish the nutrients and minerals in the soil. There are two ways of doing this. You can either purchase organic compost from stores or make your own. If you want to make your own then you will need to have a composting bin. These bins will help break down organic waste into nutritious compost or mulch. Obviously, plants are going to grow stronger if there are more nutrients in the ground. If you use the garden on a regular basis then you may have to add compost on a regular basis. This is why some gardeners like to relocate their garden spot every few years. This gives a chance for the old spot to revitalize its mineral levels.

Plant Garlic in Autumn

Some gardeners prefer to grow garlic from actual seeds. It is a tough process and one of the reasons most growers prefer using cloves.

Start by researching which varieties grow best in your area and climate. I prefer German White, which belongs to the hardneck garlic family. A moderately spicy flavor and plump cloves set this garlic apart from other varieties. A German White bulb typically has up to six cloves. The bulbs store well in Michigan when kept in a cool area.

You can buy garlic anywhere. It is not recommended to use garlic from local grocery stores as they may have been treated with chemical agents to slow down sprouting. Nonetheless, you can plant the cloves if you are in a pinch. On the other hand, the best results are obtained if you buy bulbs from reputable on- or offline seed dealers. Start with a moderate amount. You can increase your seed supply over the years by using more and more of the cloves you harvested.

Plant too late and the root system will be weak. Plant too early and the cloves grow above ground shoots. Find out for your area when frost sets in. Check the weather forecasts online. Start planning when temperatures start to go down and stay low.

Prepare your planting bed by adding well-composted manure. Remove weeds. Garlic prefers a well-drained, sandy-clay soil. Separate and inspect the garlic bulbs you selected for seed just before planting. Remove blemished cloves.

I lay all the seed cloves out on the bed to eyeball acceptable spacing distances. Space the seed about six to eight inches apart. Plant them at least three inches deep in the ground, with the pointy end facing up. Water the bed thoroughly. Keep the soil moist to allow the cloves to grow roots. You may even need to water during the winter if you live in a mild climate. Do not overwater as the seed will rot.

Softneck garlic has a flexible stalk and keeps longer. Silverskin and artichoke are usually sold at supermarkets.

Hardneck varieties have fewer, larger cloves. They are more delicate because they have a thinner outer bulb wrapper. This also reduces their shelf life. I dehydrate most of my garlic and grind it into garlic powder, which will stay fresh until the next season. The three main hardneck garlic types are porcelain, purple stripe, and rocambole.

The sulfur that garlic accumulates as it grows turns it into a natural fungicide. This can be beneficial to plants attracting pests easily. Naturally-occurring fungicide can help protect your plants from diseases.

Garlic works well in various situations as long as it is grown in full sun. Plant it near broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, fruit trees, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, peppers, roses, tomatoes, etc. It does not like parsley, peas, potatoes, or legumes like beans. Try not to plant these near your garlic.

Design Winter Garden

Flowers can come and go, but plants that offer colour and texture with their bark, stems and foliage have a more enduring appeal; even leaves that are deciduous can last a good while through the seasons.

In most gardens space is at a premium. So plants that add interest in more than one season are welcome residents. The key to success is to fill each position with plants that will thrive in the growing conditions there; whether sunny and open, shaded and wet, dry and stony, acid, neutral or limy. Choose plants that linger into the autumn, start in early spring, or are at their best in the winter in addition to the summer stars in order to obtain all-year-round interest.

When you design your garden, if you use tall and broad structures as a starting point, the rest of the garden can then be formed around them. Trees and shrubs give height and lower-growing species can spread out between them. The garden is inevitably more colourful in summer but when the autumn leaves disappear, the view from the house is longer and the bare bones of the garden are exposed. If a garden is designed to look good in the winter, it will never completely lose form, colour and interest.

Start building the structure of the garden with evergreens. They can produce green focal points in a garden. You will find they can have silver, purple, cream, gold and bronze foliage as well as green.

Conifers come in many different shapes and hues. Yew also has red berries to add more colour. Piceas have an attractive texture. Creeping junipers are useful to create ground cover. The dark colours of conifers can also offer a wonderful backdrop for jewel-coloured tulip flowers in the spring.

Other garden features become more prominent in the winter too, such as statues and sculptures, urns and benches and of course waterfalls. They may be partly hidden by foliage in the summer but take on a more dominant role in the winter garden so make sure they are placed well. Box topiary will also remain green in the winter and looks especially interesting when covered in snow.

Otherwise, plants can be grouped in pots to create a display that is easy to look after. Green plants such as rosemary can be mixed with flowering plants such as cyclamen. Plants that thrive only in one specific type of soil, like pieris, can be grown in pots too. Willows are in leaf for a very long season but their roots can be invasive which will prove to be a problem in a small garden. A smaller variety like a corkscrew willow can be confined in a large, decorative container.

Some plants that flower in the winter months have very muted colours. These dusky colours often suit winter light. You may want to group these together: skimmias, heathers and sedums for example. The colour of spring flowers are often much brighter. If you don’t like the clash of the bright yellow of daffodils with these dusky tints then make sure they are not planted together.

Should Decorate Garden

Chairs and Tables

In the summer, you can going to want to sit in the garden for the things that you would usually sit in the house for, so, reading the paper, watching TV; or even something as simple as having a brew and sitting alone to gather your thoughts.

Therefore, you will need a set of table and chairs. It is better to buy these in a set so that they match and you are not too hunched over the table. You should think about buying a set with an umbrella attached to it so that you can sit in some shade, should the sun become too intense.

At some point, you will also be thinking about sunbathing, so you can buy a chair that can be adjusted to become a bed. This chair might be included in the table and chairs set, or you could buy one separately because you won’t be using it to sit at the table.

Barbecue

In the summer, barbecues become more popular. Therefore, you should be looking for a nice barbecue so that you can have family over and you can all have a good time in the garden.

If you know that you are going to have barbecues a lot, then you should consider buying a large barbecue that is freestanding, that you can just leave in the garden, or you could have a barbecue built into the patio. The later being the most expensive option.

If you are only going to have one barbecue a year, you could save money and buy a disposable barbecue that you can just use once and then throw away.

Lighting

You will be spending a lot of time in the garden, even when the sun starts to go down. Therefore, you should be looking at some light features for the garden. You won’t want the garden to be completely lit up because that will spoil the atmosphere.

You should think about buying a few small lights that can be installed around the garden to give it a more romantic atmosphere. You could even get solar panelled lights so that you don’t need to have wires all over the garden, to power the lights.

Some Types of Colour Flowers to Garden

Salvia. This is a lovely purple flower that has a lot of green leaves at the base. They are part of the sage family and require little water to survive. Be sure to cut them down every now and then to keep them under control and neat.

Coneflowers. These daisy-like flowers come in an array of colours such as pink, purple, orange, yellow, burgundy, red and white. You can plant one colour or multiple colours to enhance your garden. They can also survive with little water.

Coreopsis. These are daisy-like flowers but are glowing bright in colour and have distinctive shaped petals. They come in red, yellow, and bright pink. If you have many of them together, they can add a burst of colour to your garden. They are perfect summer flowers and require little maintenance. The bright yellow is reminiscent of summer and makes you feel happy inside when you see them.

Bergenia. These flowers are bell shaped and purple in colour with large glossy leaves. These are beautiful winter flowers that can endure the cold weather. They require regular water, but they can still survive in low water conditions.

Sunset Strain. This is a bright pink or orange flower with white infused in it. It conjures up feelings of serenity and installs a feeling of happiness. The leaves are evergreen and they require little water to thrive.

Verbascums. These are dramatic vertical flowers that add a lovely colour to your garden and can grow up to a meter high. They can be found in purple, red, pink and white. They are persistent growers during winter too.

Irrigate a Garden

A way of reducing evaporation is to add a thick layer of mulch to the ground when it is moist. Aim to make the layer about 10cm or so. The layer should be organic material such as compost or well-rotted manure or alternatively you could use a membrane designed for the purpose.

When using a watering can or garden hose, try to direct the flow of water to the base of the plant so that the roots can benefit. Keep the flow gentle so that the pressure of the water does not erode the soil leaving any roots exposed. Soil needs to be soaked well otherwise the water will just sit at the top of the ground rather than sink down to where it is needed.

Embedding tubes or reservoirs next to a plant can help get the water from a can to roots quickly thus using water in an efficient way. Home-made reservoirs can be made from cut-down soft drink bottles. Water-retaining crystals are good to use in pots and hanging baskets; add them to the compost when you are planting up.

Garden hoses can be wound onto a reel to keep them neatly tidied away. Make sure you buy one long enough to reach the end of your garden.

Using a seep hose can save a lot of time, especially if you have a large area given over to growing vegetables or flowers. This is a long pipe with a perforated surface that leaks water along its entire length. Seep hoses can be laid along the top of the soil or buried beneath it. They are especially useful in low tunnels where plants are sheltered from the rain and access to them is difficult.

There are also greenhouse irrigation systems that can be connected to a mains water tap or water butt. A timer controls the supply of water to drip feeders. These systems are especially useful for people who work long hours during the week or need to be away from home for many days at a time.

Collecting water in butts from gutters is easy to do. The more roof surface area that can be employed, the more water you will collect. This water is a free resource for your garden and will be especially useful at times when water companies start to ration supplies. A thin layer of oil on the surface of the water will stop insects breeding in your reserves and a lid or grill will stop small animals such as cats or squirrels from falling into the butt and not being able to scramble up the steep sides to freedom.