Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Full Garden with (Diligent) Part- Time Work

A low maintenance garden doesn’t have to look utilitarian or uninspired. Here is a thoughtfully written and  nicely organized book to help you create a varied garden that you will love and love to work in—The New Low-Maintenance Garden by Valerie Easton and photographs by Jacqueline M. Koch, is filled with photos and ideas that will have you impatient for the planting season. 

Here are some examples straight from the book:
Strategies for easy-care ground covers:
 Ground covers can be labor saving; when selected wisely for existing conditions and planted in well-prepared soil, ground covers take far less fertilizer and water than lawn grass, and don’t need mowing, edging, or raking. Ground cover plantings are permeable, allowing water to percolate through the soil slowly rather than run off as storm water, which is especially problematic in our cities and suburbs.
 • Avoid plants that need deadheading, fertilizing, or dividing.
 • Choose plants of similar timidity or vigor so that they’ll coexist harmoniously, without one type or another dominating and crowding the others out.
 • Plant ground covers more closely together than you might expect: for instance, small plugs of moss and thyme should be planted no more than your hand’s width apart (which makes for easy measuring when planting). Avoid planting in even rows; staggered rows or a diamond pattern or even random patterning, looks most natural as the plants grow in.
 • Consider installing drip irrigation or soaker hoses to keep ground covers well watered, especially in the first few years, which will encourage them to cover the ground much more quickly.
 • Mulch between freshly planted ground covers and pull weeds regularly until the plants are large enough and cover the ground enough to out-compete the weeds.
 • When planting ground covers on a slope, choose strong, tough varieties that can withstand drought. Then carve out temporary little terraces, or angled trenches with a lip on the downhill side, to keep water from running off or eroding the soil away from the baby plants’ roots.
 • Any sharp, clean edge makes maintenance easier. Defining the edges of ground cover beds helps keep them tidy and the dirt from spilling over onto pathways, patios, or lawn.
 • When planted in masses, ground covers can substitute for lawn, especially the “stepable” types like Irish moss, blue star creeper, and wooly thyme.
 • Get the most visual impact from ground covers by combining them with hardscape. The textures and colors of the plants are shown off when lapping up against the edges of decks, patios, and terraces or growing around pavers. Planted in cracks and crevices, ground covers soften the edges of the hardscape as well as keep weeds out of difficult places.
 • Ground covers and ground huggers aren’t synonymous, so don’t limit your thinking to low growers. Ferns, epimediums, hostas, ornamental grasses, lavender, and shorter bamboos work massed or interplanted to keep down weeds and cover the ground.

 The New Low-Maintenance Garden, by Valerie Easton (Timber Press, $19.95)
 Look for it and get a jump on Spring.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Incentives for Planting This Year

Yes, the previous growing season was a dismal one for backyard gardeners and farms alike. But take a look at some of the possibilities available if you are willing to put in the work and the weather. On the left is the brand new for 2010 from Burpee: the Tye-Dye Hybrid tomato, followed by Pepper Piquillo, the unusual looking and very tasty Broccoli Romanesco, the Beananza Bush Bean and the Burpee Cherries Jubilee Tomato. A few things to look forward to in the coming months.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fool Us Once, Mother Nature.......

No matter where you are these are the in-between months. The glow of winter and the exciting chance of snow has faded and there are definitely no hopeful signs of Spring as yet. But it might be inspiring to take a look at some seed and plant catalogs as a way of looking ahead to the promise of planning and the wonderful work of gardening and the rewards of harvesting. Assuming, of course, we can escape the multiple deluges that wreaked havoc on even the most experienced gardener’s projects last year. It was a very discouraging  summer  when many vowed—“That’s it for me.” Even if you said those words or thought them, you didn’t really mean them. It’s a new year with new possibilities—new seeds and with any luck, warm and sunny days with just enough rain to nourish what we’ve planted.

Here are two sites to get you inspired:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Soil, Patience, and Planting

Tips From The Garden Patch

by Andrew W. Jackson Sr.

It got very warm very quickly for a while but temperatures are coming back to more of a Spring-like level. Even without the false burst of summer we just had, gardeners are usually in a hurry to turn over their soil for their summer garden.

Hold on! Make sure the soil is ready to be turned over. Turning and working the soil when it is too wet can result in long term damage and poor quality of production. Place a handful of soil in your palm and squeeze it to see if it is ready to be worked using a fork. If the ball of soil stays together like putty it is not ready. The ball should easily crumble when it has the right amount of moisture for working and planting. Start with the kale crops, cabbage etc.

To be continued…

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tips From The Garden Patch by Andrew W. Jackson Sr.

A regular column by an expert landscaper, gardener, designer, and all around wise person.

A garden is many things to many people. World wide, humans have spent multiple hours in their magical portion of the earth commonly referred to as a garden. Gardens range from the simplest forms of groups of Annuals and Perennials to the most complex groupings of formal herbs, evergreens, trees, and shrubs. Regardless of its composition, the garden is primarily that special place where on can retire in seclusion to labor and do battle with the opposing elements of nature. Hopefully through the use of his or her own strength and knowledge, the gardener will harvest satisfaction in the form of beautiful flowers, vegetables, herbs or other plant forms that are joined together much as an artist places colors on a canvas in an effort to capture the essence of a fraction of life ’ s many offerings.
Whatever the type of garden there are a few simple steps to follow that should lead to a degree of success in proportion to the time and effort tilled into the foundation of all gardens; the soil. Soil is that place where the plants will place their ever expanding root system in hopes of finding moisture, air and nutrients; those basic necessary elements all plants require in varying degrees and forms.
There is nothing sadder than a gardener who spends hours of hard work and effort preparing their garden, who spends their hard earned money on plants, tools and assorted fertilizers and pest controls and then gathers a poor harvest in return for all their efforts….. Plan before you plant, keep it simple, prepare for the worse, and work with an air of expectancy that your garden will return beautiful results...

To be continued

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Gardener's Dream; A Cook's Reward

It may barely be January but when a catalog arrives filled with the seeds of the promise of summer, no one can blame you for dreaming of and planning for your next garden.

The Cook’s Garden from W. Atlee Burpee, a long-respected leader in garden plants and seeds, is brimming with seeds and starters for a range of vegetables, fruits and flowers guaranteed to keep the garden and kitchen humming. The 107- page catalog states it is the premier seed source for European Garden Vegetables and that seems to be an accurate description.

Some of the stand-outs include the new Pineapple Tomatillo, a golden-yellow blueberry-sized fruit that tastes like a pineapple. These are low-growing plants (always welcome) that produce huge yields of tomatillos encased in papery husks. Another new standout is the Carmelita Tomato—a hybrid of the most flavorful French heirloom varieties, these 8-ounce raspberry red fruits have superior flavor and texture. The Thai Purple Blush Eggplant is a miniature, round eggplant that is particularly well-suited for Thai cooking and curry dishes.

Salad greens include tangy Arugula, Lollo Rossa, a looseleaf lettuce and once-wild greens such as Lamb’s Lettuce. The Heatwave blend is a mixture that provides a prolific and dependable source of greens during even the hottest months.Colorful pepper collections such as hot Dancing Spirits and sweet Friggitello will add to the garden and the cuisine that follows.

Then there are the pages of intriguing edible flowers—Nasturtium, Calendula, Marigold, and others to add distinctive color to the garden and to meals.

Turning the pages of Burpee’s Cook’s Garden catalog will put anyone in the frame of mind of thinking about tilling the warmer earth and planning and planting. Even armchair gardeners can enjoy dreaming with this booklet.

Visit for more information, ideas and to request a catalog.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Birds as Winter Colors

It’s true that virtually all flowers and lithe green things have finally been beaten down by the three or so frosts that have carpeted much of the landscape of late. There still are plenty of scarlet, flame and nutbrown leaves scattered on the tress and on the ground. But not for long. Now is the time to fill the birdfeeders in the garden if you have any and the time to buy at least one if you haven’t had the pleasure of feeding wild birds during the winter months.

It is work, of course. And a commitment. Once you start, you have to keep up. But the rewards are many. Even having one feeder, keeping it filled with nyger seed or other small variety for finches or small birds can be very filling for the birds and quite entertaining for you. Have a suet cake holder for easy-to-use suet cakes for larger birds.

When buying seeds such as sunflower for larger birds, it is worth the extra cost to purchase the hulled seeds, that way there will very little seed cases scattered all over the ground, slowly building into an unwelcome heap.

You can find a good selection of wild bird food in chain stores, some specialty shops and also online, at, which often has specials that translate into having virtually no shipping costs.

Give it a try. You will be helping the birds—who in turn help you in the summer by eating harmful insects and weed seeds--- and helping yourself as well.