Sunday, July 29, 2012

Big Ideas for Small Spaces

I often miss the larger yards I had in my Florida and Georgia houses until the unrelenting heat and humidity of summer settles over the Lowcountry. Then I am happy to have a smaller yard. But the size of my yard does limit what I can do in the way of landscaping. So I am always looking for ideas to do the most with the space I have.

• Layering helps make the most of a small yard. Work from ground level upward, filling each layer with plants. Start with ground covers, annuals and perennial, then work up to shrubs, vines and trees.

• Plant flowering vines along fences, arbors and trellises. This will allow for maximum visual impact without eating up lots of precious garden space. Brighten privacy fences with trellises and flat-backed planters.

• Table top gardens and container gardens. Select a sturdy table that can hold about 50 pounds, and fill it with pots of flowers, veggies and herbs. Upkeep is minimal, and you’ll save your knees and back. Arrange potted plants in groups to save space and time watering.

• Want Veggies? Tuck tomatoes, peppers, and other edibles among sun-loving flowers, and train sprawling vegetables like cucumbers and pole beans to climb a trellis. Use lettuce as a border plant, or combine several varieties to make a low-growing bed. Small, compact squares work just as well as long rows.

• Even the tiniest yard needs trees or evergreens for a sense of structure. Many varieties of dwarf trees are ideal for small landscapes. Some examples: Flowering Dogwood, Eastern Redbud, Golden Raintree, Japanese Magnolia, and Crabapple.

Using some of these ideas we have managed to make the most of our smaller yard.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Flowers for Fall

I've always wanted the colorful splendor of my summer garden to linger until the first Frost. Living in the south my autumn yard does not shimmer with a palette of falling leaves. I have planted some American beautyberries which has gorgeous dark purple berries in the fall until the birds strip them for food and Loropetalum which has year-round purple leaves and flowers. My Maple trees and crape myrtles do give me a little color in the fall but not a lot. My dogwoods have not yet produced the red berries my older dogwoods in Georgia had every fall.

Fall blooming flowers come in rich colors that can extend the gardening season. I like to plant annual flower seeds that I have collected from deadheading or seed packets I purchased in the spring to plant later during July or early August for lovely autumn blossoms. The multicolored foliage of coleus is also one of my favorites to add late summer/fall color to my garden.

I use the annual flowers seeds to add to the perennials I already have growing in my garden including: Achilles (yarrow), sages, aster, coneflower, veronica, perennial saliva and day lilies that will continue to bloom into fall. I added Cassia earlier this year looking forward to the bright yellow blooms this fall.

I plan to seed zinnia, cosmos, lance-leaf coreopsis,Gloriosa Daisy,snapdragon, Celosia and Lady in red saliva in my perennial garden to cast a colorful spell in my fall garden. On occasion I have a second blooming of Carolina Jessamine and Crossvine to my fall color! This is one way I'm trying to extend color for all seasons in my garden.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Simple Water Saving Tips

Rain this summer has been very scattered and isolated and it seems to miss my location when it does rain! Watering a yard and garden with city water can be expensive, so here are some water-saving ideas.

A good way to start is by catching rain water in rain barrels. ¼” of rain can fill my rain barrels to overflowing. Rain water from my gutters fills my 55 gallon barrels very quickly even when rain is scarce. I use soaker hoses for some of my flower beds and hope to add drip irrigation at a later date as it can also shrink water bills, by delivering water just where it is needed. Organic mulch is a well known way for keeping soil moist. But what more can you do to reduce water usage in the garden and still have a healthy garden?

• Use and Reuse- Using gray water, or the water left over from everyday activities, is becoming more and more popular. Just make sure your gray water is free of softener salts-even trace amounts will effect the PH balance of the soil over time. Be creative- use a bowl to catch water when washing produce, let water from boiling vegetables cool, and then water a container. When its time to empty your dehumidifier tank don’t dump it down the drain-water pots or your garden. I use water from the kiddie pool our puppy plays in for watering containers plants, when it is time to empty the pool.

• Don’t Waste a Drop- make sure the water you are using really goes the distance-Example- when I water a hanging basket, I slide another container under it. Then if any water runs through the drain hole it will water the container below. Use a bucket to collect water from the faucet when you are running a bath or doing dishes to collect water as you wait for it to get hot.

• Redirect and Connect-Some water sources are easy to overlook because they are out of sight. If you have a sump pump try redirecting the drainage to benefit a planting area or connect the exit of the pump directly to a garden hose. Water that drips form an air conditioning unit can be channeled with plastic tubing delivering moisture to areas where it is most needed. Or I plant water loving plants where the AC water drips and never have to water there during AC use months. When it is time to drain our pond we try to direct the water to needed areas of the yard.
• All Systems Go-When running sprinklers be sure they only run long enough for your yard or garden to get the exact amount of water it needs. Using an automatic timer may lead to watering too frequently. Depending on your plants’ needs, soil type and recent weather 1” of water a week should do. Aim for two deep soaking a week. I have determined that water runs off my soil after 30 minutes and ends up in the gutter if left running longer. Measure distribution amounts with rain gauges or empty shallow cans set 1-foot apart as far as the spray from one sprinkler reaches.

• If you have access to a pond or stream you may be able to use it for irrigation but check with DNR to make sure it is allowed and to see if a permit is needed. Also growing more heat tolerant plants will cut down on watering needs. Some annuals and perennials thrive in dry conditions. Some annuals are: Celosia, Floss Flower, Gazania, Lantana, and Mexican Sunflower. Some perennials are: Artemisia, Butterfly Weed, Lamb’s Ear, Sedum, and Yarrow.

Try a few of these ideas and in no time at all you’ll notice some big saving!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Summer Garden Strategies

Summer heat often keeps us from walking through or working in our yard daily. But there are simple things you can do for your decorating and landscape theme.

Visit garage sales to find benches, deck boxes, and ottomans that provide both seating and storage and look out for vintage gardening gear and agricultural elements for decorating your exterior areas.

Take Preventive Measures- Add 2” of fresh mulch to improve your gardens overall appearance, prevent weeds and help soil retain moisture.

Visually Connect with Mother Nature- carry the colors and texture of nearby flowers and foliage to outdoor entertaining areas with accent pillows, outdoor rugs and table linens. Tuck succulents, dainty annuals, and fragments herbs into small clay pots to dress up table tops and walls.

Fill Voids- Buy annuals or perennials to fill gaps in your plantings. Or plan to on filling the holes with after-season bargain plants or plant divisions harvested in the fall from your garden.

Set Out Hummingbird Feeder- Look for a red-colored feeder and fill it with colorless sugar water (made from 1 cup sugar and 4 cups water, bring to boiling then cooled and stored extra in the refrigerator).

Pot Up Plants- Simplify container gardening by choosing potted plants that fit inside your decorative containers. Place the plant, pot and all, into the container. Fill portable containers with annuals and use them to jazz up fading perennials boarders.

Enhance Interest- Once gardens are going; use downtime to construct arbors, gazebos or to lay pathways and gravel-floored garden rooms.

Stay On Task- Keep watering during dry spells and continually deadhead and weed to ensure your landscape stays healthy and looks its best,