Monday, June 11, 2012

Plant it …and Forget it!

Puttering around the yard in nice spring and fall weather can be fun, but not so much fun in the summer and winter. Not to mention that you’d rather relax in your backyard than labor in it! As I continue to rework our backyard garden I’m trying to make a more, maintenance-free backyard. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up from others and doing a lot of reading.

Plant easy-care plants- There are a number of care-free plants, including yarrow, purple coneflower and yucca that are not just care-free but also drought-tolerant. Ornamental grasses, Portulaca, and stonecrop rarely need watering after a hot summer day. For more options, look for plants with succulent leaves that hold water. I’ve found begonia’s work well in a spot that receives some shade or even deep shade. Low maintenance for the future does require a little care when first planted. Follow the guidelines for light, spacing and soil conditions to make sure you put that easy-care plant in the correct spot. Also be aware some easy-care plants can spread and take over a planting area so choose plants carefully.

Gain maintenance-free yard with ground covers- The average home owner spends about 40 hours every year mowing their lawn. Add trimming, fertilizing and watering and it requires a lot of time to maintain that wonderfully green carpet of green. You can cut your work load by converting some of that lawn to ground covers; especially if you are trying to grow grass in a very shady area of your lawn. Low-growing, thyme, snow-in-summer, moss, mondo grass are pretty easy-care substitutes for grass. A added benefit will be less time spent watering and a lower water bill. Ground covers require 2 to 4 times less water than turf grass.

Remember to Mulch- This one thing may go the longest way to reducing the time you spend on your yard maintenance. A 2 to 4-inch layer of fresh wood mulch not only conserves water loss and reduces weeds but also give your yard a quick face-lift. If that isn’t enough there is the added bonus that wood mulch improves soil as it breaks down.

Lead the way- Lay gravel, stepping stone, brick or flagstone path that allows passage through your yard and gardens. Paved and gravel-covered area like paths and patios are generally low maintenance- and never need mowing! A path can help showcase your yard leading visitors to attractive and interesting areas of your landscape. Widen the path in these areas and it encourages people to pause and install a bench if you want your visitors to linger a while longer.

Hope you can use some of these ideas in your yard to reduce the time you spend working in your yard and increase the time you spend enjoying your yard!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

8-Cheap and Easy Garden Tips

1. Repurpose: If you moved from ‘up north’ you may have a child’s plastic sled that isn’t getting used. Re purpose it and use it in the garden instead of an expensive garden cart for transporting flats of plants, heavy bags of soil, pots and other items from the shed or garage to your garden.
2. Recycle: Take that unwanted correspondence and junk mail shred it and add it to your compost bin, or place around trees and shrubs. Lightly rake loose surface soils away, spread the shredded paper, soak it, and replace the soil. Just stay away from the colored shiny advertisements.

3. Tree Stump solution: You’ve taken out the dangerous or sick tree but the cost of grinding the stump is not in the budget; consider turning it into a planter. For a large stump, hollow out the center by drilling large holes close together then carefully brake out the pieces with an ax. Drill a couple of downward sloping drainage holes through the sides of the trunk near the bottom of the cavity. For short small stumps try cutting the bottom out of a half barrel and place it over the stump. Fill planters with good quality potting soil and add plants.

4. Shady space ideas: Save time, energy and money when trying to plant in a shady spot with poor soil. When you can’t get things to grow beneath trees or fences, try using multi-tiered containers. Plant shade-loving plants and compact shrubs in the appropriate sized containers, set the containers larger ones in back and smaller ones in front. Use metal stands if some need to be taller. You can also use green or natural colored pots to better blend into the background and the containers won’t distract from the flowers.

5. Plant Markers that last: Remembering where you planted perennials can be a problem when they go dormant in the fall and before they re-emerge in spring. Labeling is the answer but often the labels don’t hold up, they fade, break or just disappear or looked unnatural. Try using rocks! Collect them on walks and bike rides or buy some river rocks. Wash the rocks and keep them in a handy pile near your garden supplies. (Smooth rocks work best.) Write the plant name in black enamel paint and cover in varnish. If your creative you can even paint a picture of the plant blossom!
6. New use for old Screens: Have you ever had trouble keeping soil from leaking out the drainage hole when filling a new planter? Discarded old screens can be the solution. Cut a square of out of the old screen a bit bigger than the bottom of the pot. Fit the screen inside the pot and fill with soil. The soil will stay put and you will still have good drainage!
7. Cheap Rain barrels: purchase a trash with a lid or repurpose an old one. Then cut your downspouts slightly higher than the height of your trash can, then using a utility knife, cut an opening into the lid of the can that can accommodate the downspout. Just lift the lid and dip in a watering can to use.

8. Decorate a lamppost- Train an annual climber like hyacinth bean or moonflower vine, to crawl up a lamppost. Wrap the post with chicken wire and then plant seeds or seedling (you started indoors) at the base of the post in spring after the threat of frost is past. By mid-summer; the vine will encircle the post. By August it should reach the top and be in full flower.