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Archive | Diggin’ Spring

Add sparkle to your landscape with unique containers 

Crates, recycled or purchased, can be painted and personalized to create a colorful, unique planter for flowers and edibles.

Crates, recycled or purchased, can be painted and personalized to create a colorful, unique planter for flowers and edibles.

By Melinda Myers

Perk up your containers and add a bit of sparkle to your landscape with bright colors, unusual materials or a unique purpose.

Include an elevated garden to increase planting space and make planting, weeding and harvesting easier on the back and knees. Liven things up with a robin egg blue VegTrug™ or washtubs elevated on a support for a bit of rustic charm.

Add wheels to make it easier to move planters around the patio or deck.  This allows you to follow the sun or make room for company at summer gatherings.

Recycle items into containers or invest in some of the new planters made from galvanized metal, wooden apple crates and more. Look for new colors or personalize them to create a warm greeting for you and your guests.

Increase growing flexibility with lightweight grow bags. They now come in a variety of colors and sizes. These fabric containers fold flat for easy storage when not in use.

Save space with sleek designs and built in trellises. You’ll be growing pole beans, tomatoes and flowering vines in a compact space. The colorful flowers and fruit will brighten a blank wall or screen a bad view.

Use containers and elevated gardens to increase the fun factor at your summer gatherings. Start your party with a trip to the outdoor bar. Weather-resistant butcher-block with built in planting space is sure to get the conversation going.  Gardener’s Supply Company is offering a new reclaimed wood outdoor bar with an integrated planter called “Plant A Bar.” Fill the planting space with some favorite cocktail herbs. Then mix up your beverage and let your guests add a bit of homegrown flavor.

Include the next course by growing your own salad bar. Guests will enjoy harvesting and creating their own bed of greens to accompany the main course. Fill a pot or elevated garden with greens, radishes, onions, carrots, herbs and your other favorite salad fixings.

Keep your containers healthy and productive with proper care. Water thoroughly whenever the top inch of soil is dry.  Check pots daily and water as needed. Extend the time between watering with self-watering pots.  Look for features such as weep holes that allow excess water to drain, funnels for top watering, and moisture indicators that let you know when it is time to add more water.

Further reduce maintenance by adding a slow release fertilizer to the potting mix at planting. Small amounts of nutrients are released over time, eliminating the need to mix and fertilize weekly. Give planters a mid-season boost or when making a second planting by sprinkling slow release fertilizer over the soil surface.

Harvest regularly to keep vegetables producing and looking their best. Replace early plantings as they fade with a second crop. You’ll extend the harvest and your enjoyment.

So take a second look at your patio, deck or front steps and move in a bit of color, fun and flavor for this growing and outdoor entertaining season.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Gardener’s Supply Company for her expertise to write this article. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

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Five easy tips for a stunning summer yard

_SPR-Stunning-summer-yard(BPT)

Summer’s arrival brings longer days and more sunshine. This season also means more of your favorite outdoor activities, such as relaxing in the backyard or working in the garden. In fact, there is no better time to refresh your outdoor space.

“The secret to a well-manicured yard is preparation,” says Chris Lambton, yard and garden expert for Fiskars. “Once the weather warms up, your lawn and garden will need a little extra TLC to be ready for outdoor activities or entertaining. Having the right tools on-hand is essential to making the process simple and enjoyable.”

Lambton offers his tips and tools for making your yard beautiful and easy to care for all season long:

Prune strategically

If you turn your back for too long, Mother Nature can take over your yard in the spring growing season. Trim and shape your plants by cutting 1/4 inch above a growth bud at a 45 degree angle to promote healthy growth. High-quality garden tools, like the Fiskars PowerGear2 Pruner or Lopper, make taming shrubs and cutting through dead or overgrown limbs easier.

Plan your planting

Summer is a great time to plan your outdoor space and give it a fresh new look. When plotting out your yard or garden, be sure to leave extra space around plants to account for their growth or plant in containers to easily move them around, if needed. Raised garden beds for herbs and veggies are great for keeping plants in order and allow you to plant, water and harvest more easily. Choose tools to help with planting that are easy to grip and will stand up throughout the season, like the Fiskars Big Grip Trowel or Transplanter.

Mulch carefully

Shallow layers of mulch work to keep your soil cool, cut down on weeds and slow the loss of moisture. But be careful not to mulch too deeply, as too much mulch can inhibit oxygen from reaching plant roots and encourage mold. As a rule of thumb, mulch only two to three inches on top of the soil.

Water wisely

A healthy lawn and garden will have deep roots that can tap reserves of moisture way down in the soil. Water deeply – but not too often – and you’ll encourage plants to develop even deeper roots. The best time to water is between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. when the air is cooler and there is less risk of evaporation from heat and wind. Use tools that are easy to maneuver and durable to stand up to the elements season after season, like the Gilmour Flexogen Hose and Thumb Control Watering Nozzle.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor

Remember to spend time outside in your yard and garden when the weather is nice and enjoy the fresh fruits and vegetables you grow. Use Herb and Veggie Shears to make healthy cuts on your plants so you have fresh and delicious produce throughout the season.

With the right tools, yard and garden work is fun, not frustrating. Use these tips to keep your yard maintained and beautiful so you can enjoy it all summer long.

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Back to Basics: Low maintenance flower garden care

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By Melinda Myers

Grow a beautiful flower garden with minimal care by investing a bit of time at the start of the season to reduce on-going care.

Always match flowers to the growing conditions and the care you are willing to provide. Low maintenance plants need minimal or no deadheading and staking. This means you’ll be growing good-looking plants with little effort on your part. And if the plants are suited to the growing conditions and resistant to common pests you’ll be doing less work managing insect and disease problems.

Further reduce your workload by selecting self cleaning or free flowering annuals and perennials and those bred for long bloom and compact growth. You’ll enjoy more colorful flowers with less pruning and grooming.

Ageratum, angelonia, calibrochoa and many of the newer petunia cultivars are just a few of the annuals that do not need regular deadheading for continual bloom.  Include perennials like willow amsonia, bugbane, Solomon seal, turtlehead and sedum autumn joy for lower maintenance and big results.

Prepare the soil and provide proper fertilization before planting. Work several inches of compost or other organic matter into the top 8 to 12 inches of soil to improve drainage and water holding ability. Incorporate a low nitrogen organic fertilizer like Milorganite (milorganite.com) at the same time. The slow release formulation provides needed nutrients throughout most if not all of the season. Plus, it promotes slow steady growth that won’t interfere with flowering, is less susceptible to pests and is more drought tolerant.

Properly space the plants, making sure they have sufficient room to reach their full size. Overcrowding means you will be thinning or dividing plants more often or battling disease problems instead of enjoying the full beauty the plants provide.

Consider removing flowers on annuals at planting. This allows plants to focus energy on establishing roots instead of flowers. Can’t bear to do this? Then remove the flowers on every other plant or every other row. Then a week or two later remove the flowers on the remaining plants. You will soon be rewarded with full compact plants that will produce more flowers throughout the season.

Pinch back long and leggy transplants. Use a hard pinch to remove the tip and several inches of stem. Use your pruners or fingers to remove stems just above a set of leaves. The remaining plant will still look good while you wait for new leaves and stems to grow and produce new blooms.

Encourage branching on single stemmed plants with a soft pinch. Remove just the uppermost portion of the stem where the leaves and tip are starting to develop. Soon you will have a well branched plant and more blossoms.

Improve plant posture and reduce the need for staking with early season pruning. Keep mums and asters compact by pinching them back to six inches throughout June to encourage compact growth. Eliminate floppy growth and the need for staking on late bloomers like Boltonia, Autumn Joy sedum, Russian sage and Heliopsis. Revive catmint and perennial salvia that flop open in the center with pruning. Cut flopping plants back halfway once or twice a season as needed.

And don’t forget to mulch. Covering the soil surface with an inch or two of shredded leaves, evergreen needles/pine straw or other organic material will conserve moisture, suppress weeds and improve the soil as they decompose.

Always water new plantings often enough to keep the top few inches of soil moist. Once established water thoroughly and only as needed. This encourages drought tolerant roots, so you’ll need to do less watering in the future.

With proper planning, plant selection and soil preparation you can keep your ongoing care to a minimum. That means more time to relax and enjoy your beautiful garden.

Gardening expert Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden MomentTV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and spokesperson for Milorganite. Myers’ website is http://www.melindamyers.com.

 

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Elevate your garden game with raised beds and planter boxes

DIG-Elevate-your-garden-web

(BPT) – What’s stopping you from gardening today? Do you live in an urban area, have a small yard or is your soil rocky and full of clay? Any of these challenges could make you believe that planting a garden simply isn’t in the plans this year, but that doesn’t have to be the case. You just have to get a little more creative and turn to raised beds and planter boxes to enjoy the vegetables, herbs and flowers you crave. An amazing 78 million U.S. households grow gardens, according to the Garden Writer’s Association. Wouldn’t you like to join them?

If you’ve never considered using a raised bed or planter box to garden before, these tools offer many advantages such as high yields, easy gardening and a longer overall gardening season. Before you get to work on this rewarding DIY project, though, ask yourself these questions:

Where will I place my garden beds?

This may be determined by the specific space you have available. If you have a few options, though, look for the sunniest spot possible. Remember that larger beds will have greater yields, but they also require more work. It’s best to build your beds to match the gardening time you have available.

What material will I use to build my beds?

There are many options in today’s market; however, many experienced gardeners build their beds from untreated Western Red Cedar because it is naturally rot resistant. This provides instant longevity without treatment. And for new builders, Western Red Cedar is affordable, lightweight and easy to work with – all important considerations when starting your first project. Plus, if you’re an environmentally conscious gardener, Western Red Cedar is sustainably harvested. The harvesting, manufacturing and transportation of this material all generates fewer greenhouse emissions than other types of materials, so you can go green in every stage of your project. You can learn more at Realcedar.com.

What’s the right size bed for my space?

As you’re planning your bed size, remember you’ll need to work in the space as well. The garden bed’s width can range from 2 to 4 feet and the ideal length is 8 to 12 feet. No matter the dimensions you choose, make sure your beds and planters are at least 6 inches deep; 12 inches is optimal for allowing the roots to grow deep and strong.

Is my soil ready?

Before you start digging around, make sure your soil is ready for success. Dig down 6 to 8 inches and loosen the soil. Then create a mixture of top soil and organic material – such as compost or manure. Once the soil is ready, it’s time to start watering, weeding and fertilizing.

All of these tasks become much easier with garden beds and planters because you will be working with a smaller space and won’t need to do so much bending. You may discover your garden quickly dries out in the sun, and if this is the case, a layer of mulch can be just the solution to help your soil retain moisture.

What are my plans for next year?

Harvesting is one of the greatest joys of gardening. Once you’ve finished this year’s harvest, you can set your focus on next year. Prep your beds for winter just as you would a traditional garden, and if you’ve built your garden beds from Western Red Cedar you don’t need to do anything to prep the boxes for the colder months. Western Red Cedar resists warping and twisting, ensuring your beds will look and function just as well next year… and beyond.

For more information on building a garden bed or planter box and to find project plans that will work for your space visit www.Realcedar.com/outdoor/project-plans/.

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Let it grow

Permanently improve the structure of your garden’s soil for successful results. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Permanently improve the structure of your garden’s soil for successful results. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Tips and tricks for a lush garden

(Family Features) Whether it’s a just a vibrant pop of pretty petals you want added to the front of the home or a raised bed full of delicious fruits and vegetables, the return of warmer weather has many homeowners reaching for their gardening gloves.

If you’re ready to try out your green thumb or dust off the gardening skills you long ago acquired, there are plenty of ways to achieve the lush vegetation you desire. Check out these tips and tricks for cultivating a thriving and productive garden of any variety.

Start with a plan. Different flowers and plants require different sun, soil and water needs. Keep these factors in mind and consult the seed packets to plan out where each should be placed. Many apps are available to take the guesswork out of gardening, helping you create a perfectly organized plant or flower bed. Some even offer reminders for watering, fertilizing and more.

Keep water in mind. Make sure your plan includes a close proximity from plant bed to the water supply.

DIG-Let-it-grow2-webBe smart with soil. Whether it’s a flower or vegetable garden bed or containers, the secret’s in the soil, where roots develop and sustain life. Invest in the proper tools to keep this foundation strong, such as Professional Soil Modifier from Profile Products, which improves water and nutrient retention, keeping vital elements in the root zone longer. For more information, visit www.profilegrow.com.

Plant close to home. If you have room, try to grow your plants as close to the home as possible. This makes watering less of a task, and also makes it easier to get to your precious vegetables when it’s time to harvest.

Opt for a permanent solution. There’s no doubt that gardens require seasonal upkeep, but you can find some ways to ease the tasks. One such solution is Professional Soil Modifier from Profile Products, which permanently improves the root zone by adding air- and water-holding capacity in all types of soil (unlike peat that needs to be tilled into gardens each year.) The result is better drainage when it’s wet, better water-holding capacity when it’s dry, deeper root growth and healthier plants.

Label away. Know exactly where you planted each seed with cute, natural labels. Simply use a permanent marker to mark each plant name on stones in front of each plant row.

Be a green gardener. Always opt for eco-friendly, pesticide-free products to use in your garden, when possible. Products filled with chemicals can be harmful to animals when carried through the air with wind.

So, dust off that shovel, tighten up the hose and get to growing. Once you have the right plan in mind, you’ll be on your way to achieving the flower or fruit and vegetable garden of your dreams.

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Conserve time and water 

While growing beautiful and productive gardens

By Melinda Myers

Drip irrigation systems apply the water directly to the soil, which reduces water lost to overspray, evaporation and runoff.

Drip irrigation systems apply the water directly to the soil, which reduces water lost to overspray, evaporation and runoff.

Reduce your workload, increase productivity and be water wise, whether you are planning, planting or already harvesting produce or enjoying beautiful floral displays from your garden.

Container gardeners may want to invest in self-watering pots. These containers have built-in reservoirs to reduce watering frequency. Commercial and homemade self-watering devices can also reduce watering frequency. Just make sure to test their effectiveness before leaving town. Or consider a one-time investment in a drip irrigation system designed for container gardens.

Drip irrigation and soaker hoses are also a great way to water in-ground plantings. These irrigation systems apply the water directly to the soil, which reduces water lost to overspray, evaporation and runoff. They also reduce the risk and spread of disease by preventing water from settling on the leaves of the plants.

Opt for a micro irrigation system if your water has a high mineral content. These minerals can build up and clog soaker hoses. Micro irrigation systems experience fewer problems and the nozzles can be cleaned to prevent clogs. Because the nozzles can be clipped onto stakes, tomato towers or other supports, this system makes it easy to deliver water right to the plants.

Raised bed gardens will also benefit from irrigation systems. Elevated gardens often dry out more quickly than their in-ground counterparts and need more frequent watering. Some, like the Raised Bed Snip-n-Drip soaker system (gardeners.com), are easy to assemble and allow you to water when needed. Further save time by using preformed corners with built-in spigots when constructing raised beds. Simply slide the boards into the metal corner pieces to create the raised bed. Some corner systems, like Aquacorner, have built-in spigots to make irrigation even simpler.

Correctly installed irrigation systems can help conserve water by ensuring you water properly and only when needed. Plus, using a timer and an irrigation system allows you to apply water at the best time for the plants. Just set the timer for early in the morning, when less water is lost to evaporation, and the plants will be watered even if you are not home.

Always water thoroughly and only as needed to encourage plants to develop deep root systems that are more drought-tolerant. Be sure to avoid high nitrogen, fast release fertilizers that promote lush, succulent growth, which needs more frequent watering.

Further conserve water and time spent watering by grouping moisture-loving plants together. You can provide needed water more efficiently and avoid overwatering nearby drought-tolerant plants.

And remember to mulch your garden. A thin layer of shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic matter helps conserve moisture and reduces erosion. As the mulch breaks down, it helps improve the soil, while decreasing its water needs.

So make this the year you take a break from watering, while continuing to enjoy beautiful and productive gardens.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments. Myers is also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

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Project FRESH gets free Michigan grown fruits and vegetables to WIC recipients 

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The Kent County Health Department is offering clients of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) the opportunity to get $20 worth of free food from area farmers markets beginning June 1.

In addition, participants receive a brief class about the program, nutritional tips, and recipes. Those who qualify for the program will also get an insulated grocery tote perfect for bringing fresh fruits and vegetables home from area farmers markets and participating roadside stands.

Applicants must make an appointment at the Kent County Health Department by calling (616) 632-7200 to sign up for one of the classes. Classes will be held at various locations in both English and Spanish until late July.

During the class, the funds will be electronically deposited on clients Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card.

Several Kent County Farmers Markets and Roadside stands are equipped to transact sales using the EBT or Bridge cards. Anyone who is eligible and attends the class will receive a list of those locations.

“The benefits of this program are two fold,” said Christopher Bendekgey, Director of the Community Clinical Services Division at the department. “We are able to get fresh fruits and vegetables into the hands of our clients, free of charge to them, and we’re able to keep the funding for the program in the local economy by supporting the farmers and growers of Kent County.”

The money—totaling $22,500 dollars—was made available for the program from the United States Agriculture Department.

As the continuation of a pilot program launched in 2012, Kent County remains the only county in the nation in which farmers and growers have been equipped, trained and authorized to accept EBT funds for this program.

While the program runs from June 1, 2015 until October 31, Project FRESH is a once a year benefit, meaning each recipient will only receive the $20 benefit one time this season.

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Bug Off

 

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Tips to help eliminate dangerous pests

(Family Features) A yard that is lush, green and free of weeds shows evidence of healthy lawn maintenance. However, many homeowners overlook an important aspect of lawn care that can affect not only the health of the yard, but also your family. Nuisance pests such as fleas, ticks, ants, spiders and more can transmit diseases and cause allergic reactions for both people and pets.

Your lawn is the perfect environment in which threatening weeds, diseases and pests can lurk, often with harmful consequences. In some cases, the primary damage may come in the form of these insects eating away at grass or the leaves of shrubs. Alternatively, grub worms or insect larvae may destroy grasses and plants at their roots.

DIG-Bug-off2-webOther lawn pests pose their greatest threat to you and your family. For example, Lyme disease, which is transmitted by the deer tick, is the most commonly reported tick-borne illness in the United States. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash. If left untreated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system. Currently, there are no protective vaccines for humans for tick-borne diseases.

Considering how quickly pest populations can multiply, being proactive in preventing and treating their presence is crucial. A regularly scheduled treatment plan is one of the best strategies to reduce your exposure to dangerous pests, and help defend your home and family from unwanted lawn visitors.

Look for a system designed to eliminate active pests and control successive generations. For example, the TruShield Lawn Pest Control Plan available through TruGreen includes a first application to significantly reduce the population of active lawn pests, and additional applications every four to six weeks for lasting control and ongoing protection.

“Using a professional to help control lawn pests should be part of a well-rounded, comprehensive defense program,” said Bob Mangan, TruGreen director of technical services. “Because ticks and other nuisance pests can congregate in backyards, it is especially important to help protect yourself and your family so that you can fully enjoy your outdoor time.”

In addition to a regular treatment program, these tips from the Centers for Disease Control can help reduce ticks in your yard:

• Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns

• Place a barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas

• Mow the lawn frequently and keep leaves raked

• Stack wood neatly and in a dry area away from the house or lawn

• Keep playground equipment, decks and patios away from wooded areas and in a sunny location if possible

• Remove any trash or debris from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide

For more information on protecting your lawn from pests, visit www.trugreen.com.

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5 steps to create an outdoor sanctuary at home 

DIG-create-an-outdoor-sanctuary1-web

DIG-create-an-outdoor-sanctuary2-web(BPT) – The wildly popular outdoor-living trend has inspired homeowners across the country to add value and comfort to their properties by revitalizing their backyards. In an increasingly hectic world, having a peaceful place at home where you can enjoy nature and fresh air has become a top priority.

But when you look at your outdoor space, is it more boring than beautiful? By adding a few key elements you can transform any yard into a stunning retreat that is ideal for spending more time outdoors and disconnecting from stress.

Step 1: Add natural elements

The visual components that make up your outdoor space dramatically affect the emotion it conveys. To create a relaxing atmosphere, add low-maintenance touches that reflect Mother Nature. Try blending softer elements, such as containers of flowers, with hardscape elements, like landscape rocks. Because real rock can be expensive and difficult to move, opt for Fiberlite Landscape Rocks that are light, affordable and hand-painted for a realistic appearance.

Step 2: Increase comfort

To make your outdoor spaces comfortable, think about how you’ll be using it most often. For entertaining, you’ll want to add a table, chairs and umbrella for dining al fresco. If you’ll be relaxing solo most often, set up a plush chair and comfortable accents like blankets and pillows. If you have a garden or large yard, create meditative spaces with strategically placed chairs or benches for quiet contemplation.

Step 3: Eliminate the negative

Every yard has features that are less desirable. Things like utility boxes, air-conditioning units, HVAC compressors and hoses are necessary, but these items are eyesores that detract from the ambience of an outdoor space. Fortunately, it’s easy to conceal unsightly yard features with vinyl outdoor fencing from Outdoor Essentials. This durable decorative fencing hides the negative while adding a decorative accent that is visually appealing.

Step 4: Create solace with sound

An outdoor sanctuary should go beyond what you see to tantalize all the senses. Sound is a key consideration that can help the space feel like a true escape. That’s why adding a water feature is an excellent investment. A burbling water fountain is a beautiful decorative piece that also provides a soothing sound. Wind chimes are another option for adding serene sound to outdoor areas.

Step 5: Create attractive focal points 

Gardening is a popular pastime that provides respite from life’s demands. Whether you plan to grow vivid blooming flowers or scrumptious vegetable plants, you can transform your garden into a gorgeous focal point in your yard with a raised bed. Outdoor Essentials’ vinyl raised garden beds frame and raise your garden masterpieces for easier access while simultaneously providing a stunning focus within the yard.

One final thought: While these steps will transform your backyard into a peaceful sanctuary, make sure to incorporate personal touches to make the space feel like your own. Choose decor, color palettes and patterns that speak to you. That way when you step outside your door, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a personalized oasis.

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Water wisely for a beautiful garden and landscape

Collecting rain in rain barrels when it is plentiful and storing it until needed is an effective way to manage water for the landscape.

Collecting rain in rain barrels when it is plentiful and storing it until needed is an effective way to manage water for the landscape.

By Melinda Myers

Too much or not enough water and never when you need it. That seems to be the long time plight of gardeners. Add to this extended droughts, flooding and watering bans. What is a gardener to do? Become a water wise gardener.

Water wise is not just about growing drought tolerant plants or eliminating plantings. It is a holistic approach to managing water to avoid flooding that overwhelms sewer systems; improper watering that wastes water; and poor landscape designs that generate too much work and require too many resources.

Make this the season that you incorporate a few water wise habits into your gardening. You will find it is good for your garden, the environment and your pocketbook. Start with one or more of these strategies this year.

Select the right plant for the growing conditions. Plants that thrive in normal growing conditions for your area will be healthier, require less care and need less water. Look for drought tolerant plants that require less water once established.

Keep water out of the storm sewers and in the garden instead. Prevent flooding while improving your garden. Adding several inches of compost to the top 8 to 12 inches of soil increases the soil’s ability to absorb and retain water. This means less runoff into the storm sewers and less frequent watering.

Use plants to prevent runoff and conserve water. Plant trees, shrubs, and groundcovers to slow the flow of rainwater, increase the amount of water that stays in your landscape for your plants, and to filter water before it enters the groundwater. Install one or more rain gardens to intercept surface water runoff for use by rain garden plants and to help recharge the groundwater.
Provide plants with a healthy diet. Use a slow release non-leaching organic nitrogen fertilizer like Milorganite (milorganite.com). You’ll encourage slow steady growth, so your plants will require less water and be less prone to insect and disease problems. Plus, the slow release nitrogen encourages healthy growth and does not prevent flowering and fruiting.
Water wisely. Water plants thoroughly and only when needed. Water the soil, not the plant, using a watering wand, drip irrigation or a soaker hose so less water is lost to evaporation. Water early in the morning, whenever possible, to reduce water loss during the heat of the day and diseases caused by wet foliage at night.
Manage your lawns to reduce water use. Select drought tolerant grass varieties to reduce watering needs. Prepare the soil before seeding or sodding, or aerate and spread a thin layer of compost over existing lawns to increase water absorption and reduce runoff. Mow high to encourage deep roots that are more drought-tolerant and pest resistant. Allow lawns to go dormant during hot dry weather. If irrigating, water thoroughly when needed—that’s when your footprints remain in the lawn.
Conserve water and reduce time and money spent on plant care. Mulch the soil around trees, shrubs and other plants with several inches of woodchips, shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic material. Mulching reduces watering frequency, prevents soil compaction from heavy rainfall thus increasing water absorption. It also adds organic matter to the soil as it decomposes.
Repair leaking faucets, fittings and garden hoses. A slow leak of one drip per second can waste up to nine gallons of water per day.

Look for and use wasted water. Collect the “warming water” typically wasted when preparing baths and showers. Use a five-gallon bucket to collect this fresh water and use it for your containers and gardens. Collect water from your dehumidifier and window air conditioners for use on flowering plants. Do not use this water if environmentally harmful solvents have been used to clean this equipment.
Check with your local municipality if you are considering using gray water. Once you wash clothes, dishes or yourself, water is classed as gray water and most municipalities have guidelines or regulations related to its use.
Harvest rainwater if your municipality allows. The ancient technique of capturing rainwater in jugs, barrels and cisterns has made a comeback. Collecting rain when it is plentiful and storing it until it is needed is one way to manage water for the landscape. But first check local regulations before installing a rain harvesting system. Several states have banned rain harvesting, while others offer rebates or rain barrels at a discount to gardeners.

Melinda has over 30 years of experience as a gardening columnist and TV/radio host. She has a master’s degree in horticulture and has written more than 20 gardening books. Visit www.melindamyers.com for gardening videos and tips.

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