Landscaping Tip of the Week
A Winter Fantasy
November 22, 2010
Have you ever wondered what it would be like creating a dream landscape for your home, and what it would cost?
Beginning next week, our popular tip-of-the-week feature will become a series. We'll be taking you through the world of landscape designers, putting together a landscape design for an imaginary local couple named Bill and Joan. Each week we'll fill in another element of the design and explain how it fits into the bigger picture.
Bill and Joan are like so many of the people we've worked with in recent years, and the design we'll create for them is similar to projects our designers are actually working on now. At one time Bill and Joan had thought of selling their home, but current market conditions changed their mind. Now their imaginations are captured by the idea of creating a new environment for the home they're already in. They've read the market studies and they know that a whole new landscape, professionally done, could pay rich rewards if and when they do decide to sell. In the meantime, it'll be a real pleasure.
The first thing they got right is timing. They got in touch with us after the busiest part of the year, when our designers have a relaxed opportunity to break in new projects. Joan especially wanted to be involved in every phase of the design process, and Winter offers everyone a more relaxed opportunity to explore options and ideas. By the time warm weather returns their landscape will be in place, ready to enjoy.
We'll take Bill and Joan, and our readers, through every step in the process, beginning with the first site visit. It's fun and fascinating. Often times an unfolding design will take a surprising turn, especially when we're able to find more cost-effective ways of achieving the desired effect. By the time it's done you'll know why those of us at Fine Earth love the work we do. Unveiling a new landscape is like unveiling any other work of art... pure pleasure.
So follow along in the coming weeks as Joan and Bill create the landscape of their dreams!
Putting Your Yard and Garden To Bed For The Winter
November 8, 2010
Lawns: It’s not too late to do a couple of simple things for your yard that will pay big dividends in the Spring.
Food and Medicine
Look for signs of lawn disease, like patches of brown or yellow. Fall is a good time to apply lawn fungicides. See your local garden center for specific product suggestions.
Above all, make sure your lawn gets a good strong Fall feeding. Feeding now will keep your lawn looking good through the cold months and get it off to a strong start in the Spring. There are lots of good fertilizer choices on the market Again, check with your local garden center for specific recommendations.
If you haven’t given your lawn a final mowing for the year, now is a good time to do it. Mowing now will actually help come Spring, however, do not cut the grass too short. This is good advice any time of year. As a rule, lawns should be mowed to a height of 2.5-3”. Leaving some of the grass stem exposed helps facilitate photosynthesis.
DO NOT THROW AWAY YOUR LEAVES! Hardwood leaves make wonderful garden mulch. Composting them for the Winter can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. At a minimum, just join the ends of a section of wire fencing to form a circular cage for the leaves. Add kitchen scraps from time to time. In the Spring the contents will be a wonderful asset to flower and vegetables beds.
Give all beds a good final weeding. If your soil needs lime now is the ideal time for the palletized, (slow release) kind to be applied. Fall mulching is good, but optional. Another option for vegetable beds is adding fresh manure and turning the soil. It will breakdown over the Winter and provide Spring starter plants with a strong but safe source of nutrients.
Self-Heating Cold Frames
November 1, 2010
Last week we showed a cheap, easy way to create a “cold frame” for Winter gardening and early Spring starter plants using nothing but straw bales, 2x4's and clear plastic sheeting.
This week we'll tell you a proven way used by some local home gardeners to actually raise the temperature in a cold frame without electricity or propane, using only fresh manure.
Dig out the top 6" of soil and pile it beside the cold frame. Now, spread about 3” of fresh manure evenly on the bottom, and cover this with up to 6” of loose soil. Within 30 days the temperature in your cold frame will start to rise as the manure begins to break down. With a 6” depth the roots of tender young plants will be safely separated from the too-strong manure.
In March harvest the last of your Winter greens and replace with starter plant containers. By May you'll have hundreds of new flowers and vegetables to plant. The final step is to remove the cold frame and turn over the soil-manure mix for a patch of garden bed that's rich in nutrients and safe for plants.
October 25, 2010
It’s not too late!
Garlic lovers, NOW is the time to plant. Bulbs started now will produce a crop in July.
Although most of what we call “Winter Crops” are started earlier in the Fall, it’s still possible to create a small garden bed that will give you fresh, delicious food in cold temperatures, it’s fun to do, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to do it.
We have a project suggestion some of you might enjoy. This suggestion comes from local gardeners who have spent years creating their own answers to winter conditions in the Valley and the surrounding highlands. Winter gardening is tricky here because we’re subject to large temperature variations. This idea costs less than $100 and you can do it in a day.
Home Made Cold Frames
Select an 8’ X 12’ patch of garden bed. Surround it with straw bales laid end-to-end. This bale wall can be one or two bales high, according to your preference. Place a 10’ x 2” X 4” board across the top every 3’. Lay a 10’ x 14’ piece of heavy clear or semi-clear plastic across the top. This will allow for an overhang of 12’ all around. Staple the plastic to the boards.
This arrangement will protect your crop from the devastating effects of wind chill, help contain ground heat, and intensify the warming effect of sunlight. You’ll find that arranging the boards and plastic covering this way makes it easy to access the crops, and easy to open up one end to cool your cold frame down during unexpectedly warm days.
Incidentally, this cold frame becomes a perfect greenhouse for raising starter plants for the spring, (flowers and vegetables), saving you real money.
Next week we’ll tell you how some people turn this home made cold frame into a hot house without using electricity or propane.
Here are a few of the crops that can still be started here in a homemade cold frame:
Our favorite: “Baby Salad” or “Mesclun Mix.”
Fall Preparations for New Beds...
October 18, 2010
Supposing there’s a patch of lawn or barren ground you’d like to turn into a garden next Spring. If so, there are important steps you can take right now.
Actually, there are several, including soil testing, but this can wait if need be. You’ll know better what PH to shoot for, and trace minerals, once you know exactly what you’d like to grow.
The first step, though, involves adding nutrients and turning the ground over. In the Fall you can use strong, unprocessed organic ingredients, like fresh manure from a local farm, that would burn your plants if you added it in the Spring. Look around and you’ll see: this is what Valley farmers are doing right now. Simply spread the material evenly over the area you’re working with and turn the ground over in chunks. DO NOT OVER TILL.
Tulips, Daffodils and SuchOctober 11, 2010
Your gardening chores are not quite over. Fall (September - November) is the time to be planting your bulbs. The great thing about bulbs is once they are planted you get many years of beautiful flowers in the Spring. It is an inexpensive landscape investment that can really show off your gardens. Before planting your bulbs it is important to prepare the soil. This includes amending your soil with compost and a organic slow release fertilizer. It is important to make sure you amend the soil below the depth of planting. This feeds the roots of the bulbs and produces more beautiful flowers.
The general rule when planting bulbs is to plant them 2-3 times deeper than the bulb's height. Daffodils and Tulips should be planted approximately 8 inches deep while smaller bulbs should be planted closer to 3-4 inches. When planting your larger bulbs it is always beneficial to mulch your larger bulbs. This moderates temperatures and improves moisture retention. Lastly, don't forget to water once you finished planting and mulching. This settles the soil and allows your bulbs to start rooting. It is very important to have your bulbs start rooting before it gets to cold. Enjoy the fall weather and happy gardening.
Don’t put the shovel away yet!
October 4, 2010
October is a great time to be planting your fall annuals to replace your old and tired summer color. Planting earlier (October) gives the annuals time to establish their roots and look their best. In the case of pansies, with good root establishment, they can emerge and provide early spring color as well. Typically, fall annuals have their best bloom time during the months of October and November. The most popular fall annuals are pansies, mums and ornamental cabbages. However, a lot of growers are providing alternatives to these staple flowers. Some of these options include ornamental grasses, Calibrachoa, and African daises.
Landscaping Tip of the Week
September 27, 2010
Fall is the best time to fertilize your lawn because the nutrients go directly to feeding the roots of the turf. This helps the roots grow deeper which makes your lawn more drought resistant. Proper fertilizing in the Fall does not cause thatch build up. Thatch is a problem because it keeps nutrients and moisture from the turf's roots and it also provides a feeding ground for unwanted insects. Fall fertilizing will also provide extra food to add more green color to your lawn while also providing much needed help during the hot, dry summer months.
Aerating the lawn is always a welcome step, especially in areas of re-seeding. The drought we're experiencing this year is leaving dead spots in any lawn area that hasn't been watered regularly. Aerating the lawn greatly enhances the germination process, while aiding in the distribution of the fertilizer.
Aerating is not a complicated process, and it is best down in the Spring and/or Fall. Lawn Aeration improves water and nutrient uptake, breaks up thatch, improves compacted soil, and increases root depth. Aerating once a year is an important part in any lawn care program.