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Tag Archive | "gardening"

Manage Mosquitoes While Enjoying the Great Outdoors


 Eliminating standing water, improving drainage in the landscape, weeding and proper mowing are just a few of the ways to help manage the mosquito population.

Eliminating standing water, improving drainage in the landscape, weeding and proper mowing are just a few of the ways to help manage the mosquito population.

By Melinda Myers

Don’t let disease-carrying mosquitoes keep you indoors this summer. Instead, employ these eight tips to protect yourself and manage these pests in your yard.

Do a bit of yard and garden clean up.  Remove weeds, manage neglected gardens and keep the lawn properly mowed to reduce resting spaces for adult mosquitoes.

Eliminate standing water where mosquitoes breed. Drain water that collects in buckets, kids toys, tarps, pool covers, clogged gutters and downspouts. Clear the gutters and downspouts so water can drain freely.  Store items that tend to collect water in a shed or garage.

Evaluate drainage patterns in your landscape. Improve drainage by amending the soil with organic matter. Install French drains, drain tiles and other drainage systems if needed. Or turn it into a water feature. Consult your municipality first for any relevant guidelines and restrictions.

Manage water in birdbaths, fountains, ponds and rain barrels. Change water weekly in birdbaths and wading pools. Add a pump to keep water moving and prevent breeding. Or use an organic mosquito control like Mosquito Dunks and Bits (SummitResponsibleSolutions.com) in rain barrels and water features. The Mosquito Bits quickly knock down the mosquito larval population, while the Mosquito Dunks provide 30 days of control. They are both safe for pets, fish, wildlife and children.

Add a fan to your outdoor décor. The gentle breeze keeps these weak flying insects away. Consider taking one to the garden when weeding.

Provide short-term relief when entertaining outdoors with the help of citronella oil or scented candles. Scatter lots of these throughout the area and within a few feet of your guests.

Cover as much of your skin as possible with loose fitting, light colored clothing. Mosquitoes are less attracted to the lighter colors and can’t readily reach your skin through loose clothing.

Further protect yourself from disease-carrying mosquitoes by using a personal repellent. For those looking to avoid DEET, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has also approved products with the active ingredient picaridin, IR3535, and the synthetic oil of lemon and eucalyptus. Avoid products that contain both sunscreen and insect repellents as you need to apply the sunscreen more often than the repellent.

Implement some of these strategies and then get ready to enjoy the outdoors mosquito-free all season long.

Gardening expert Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, 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. Myers’ website is www.melindamyers.com.

Posted in Bloomin' SummerComments Off on Manage Mosquitoes While Enjoying the Great Outdoors

Five top trends in container gardening


BLOOM-Five-top-trends(BPT) Gardening is a peaceful activity that eases tension, reduces overall stress and promotes longevity. One long-term study found that daily gardening reduces the risk for both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. With all of these benefits, there are ample reasons why people of all ages and lifestyles should start digging in the dirt.

You don’t need a big yard or lots of room to enjoy a beautiful garden. With so many options for indoor and outdoor container gardening, there’s no limit on the number of gardens you can have. Container gardening is a great way to color up a small space, add depth and height to your yard or easily change up the look of your patio. No matter your skill level, enjoy the benefits of gardening with these container trends:

Foliage gardens

Foliage plants are no longer just accessories for your small space garden. You can create an entire display simply out of rich, colorful foliage plants. Fountain grass, papyrus, vinca and grassy rush are all great additions for adding vibrancy to your container garden. Mix and match with various textures to find a unique display that speaks to you.

Petunia tower

A petunia tower is a great way to add an unexpected element to your container garden collection. A flower tower is easy to make and sun-loving Tidal Wave Petunias will bloom all season long on a patio, deck or pool area. You will need only three Tidal Wave plants. The Red Velour have great color and texture and make a strong statement. Plant them with good potting soil into a 10 to 12 inch wide plastic nursing pot. Place a three-foot metal tomato cage into the pot. The cage should be as wide at the bottom as it is on the top. Now slip the entire plastic pot into a glazed pot that’s about one to four inches wider, and voila!

Hanging baskets

Hanging flower baskets bring your plants to eye-level, where everyone can enjoy their wonderful scents and sights. Add beauty to an otherwise dull porch, wall or rafters. Try planting succulents for a virtually care-free container garden. Petunias, calibrachoa and pansies also make wonderful additions to hanging baskets.

Combination containers

Who says your container garden can only have one plant? Get creative and play with different color and texture combinations of plants and flowers. You can make up your own mix or search online for combo recipes by other inspiring gardeners. Mix foliage with flowers and use a color scheme to build a balanced and beautiful container.

Indoor container gardening

Take your favorite hobby inside. Even if you have a small apartment, there’s no need to rule out house plants. Find the best place for each plant, depending on their light requirements. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try different locations until you find the best spot for your indoor containers. For sun-loving plants, just be sure to place them on a windowsill for maximum light exposure.

With so many options and room for creativity, container gardening is a trend that’s here to stay. Tap into your inventive side to build a container garden that brings joy and wellness both indoors and out. For more gardening ideas, tips and tricks visit wavepetunias.com.

Posted in Bloomin' Summer, FeaturedComments Off on Five top trends in container gardening

Gardening with an enchanted twist


DIG-Enchanted-garden1(Family Features) – While the stress-relieving capabilities and health benefits of gardening are well known, a twist on this timeless hobby offers a way to add charm and a whimsical feel to your home and garden. Creating an enchanted fairy garden can boost imagination and offer a family-friendly way to hone your green thumb.

These miniature landscapes, often hidden in a secluded area of your garden or planted in decorative containers, are an easy way to refresh your interior or exterior decor and can be revamped seasonally to align with any design theme. The possibilities and styles are endless, so to help you get started, the crafting experts at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores created these fairy garden projects featuring a host of tiny details to bring your scene to life. Pottery, moss and tiny figurines will make your garden complete.

Find more inspiration to create magical little villages from start-to-finish at joann.com.

Fairy Garden Broken Pot

Crafting time: 3-5 hours

Skill level: Intermediate

Supplies and Tools:

• Planter container with broken edge

• Smaller pots to fit inside

• Packing peanuts or bubble wrap

• Small bag of brown moss

• Bag of Spanish moss in Basil

• Hot glue gun and glue sticks

• Sitting fairy

• Mini birdhouse

• Resin swing on a tree

• Green bushes

• Green trees

• Little resin house with moss

• Resin stepping stones

• Resin sitting bench

• Wire cutters

• Red succulent plant

Tightly fill bottom of planter with smaller pots and packing peanuts or bubble wrap. Cover packing peanuts/bubble wrap with moss, gluing in place with hot glue.

Place fairy items as you desire, securing with hot glue. Trim bottom of plant to a 1-inch stem and secure it in place with hot glue.

Naturalist Fairy Garden

Naturalist Fairy Garden

Naturalist Fairy Garden 

Crafting time: Weekend project

Skill level: Some experience necessary

Supplies and Tools:

• Unfinished wood tray

• Small can gold spray paint

• Old rag or paper towel

• Small can walnut wood stain

• Sheet of green floral foam

• Old serrated kitchen knife

• Hot glue gun and glue sticks

• Sheet of adhesive sheet moss

• Wood hut

• Bag of small pebbles

• Package of stepping stones

• Bottle of clear nail polish

• Bag of assorted round mosses

• Artificial pine trees

• 2-3 medium white birch rounds

• Fairy garden accessories such as teeter-totter, small bridge, twig archway, garden shepherd hook with hanging basket, woodland animals, etc.

Flip wooden tray over so bottom is facing up. Spray paint bottom and sides gold. Allow to dry. Using old rag or paper towel, rub on wood stain sparingly, allowing gold to show through stain in areas. Allow to dry.

Measure width of opening between sides of tray. Transfer measurement to green floral foam and cut with serrated knife.

To create hillside for house, cut green foam to resemble a hill with highest point in back corner of long side of foam. Slope downward to create impression of hill toward a river, and contour other side to go slightly uphill, forming river bed. Hot glue foam to bottom of tray. Add foam at top of the hill for more height, if desired.

Place sheet of adhesive moss on top of foam, cutting out areas for river and hut. In river area, apply path of hot glue and dump pebbles on top. Use bigger stones on sides to create river bank. Pour bottle of nail polish onto riverbed, brushing stones to look like water.

Place hut at highest point, gluing it down with liberal amount of hot glue. Nestle bushes and trees around hut, varying sizes of round mosses and trees, and hot glue in place.

Glue white birch rounds behind hut for backdrop to glue trees and shrubs around; giving off appearance of a hut nestled in the hillside. Attach bushes to outside of sidewalls. Glue stepping stones in place to create path to river.

Add additional fairy items to fill out the scene.

Posted in Diggin' SpringComments Off on Gardening with an enchanted twist

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.

Posted in Diggin' Spring, Spring Spruce UpComments Off on Add sparkle to your landscape with unique containers 

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.

Posted in Diggin' Spring, Featured, Spring Spruce UpComments Off on Five easy tips for a stunning summer yard

Low Maintenance Vegetable Gardening for a Bountiful Harvest


Low maintenance gardening. Intensive planting rows.

Low maintenance gardening. Intensive planting rows.

By Melinda Myers

Increase your harvest without increasing the size of your garden or workload. All you need is a bit of intensive planting, along with some low maintenance techniques.

Invest some time upfront to prepare the garden soil. This will save you time throughout the growing season.  Add several inches of organic matter and a slow release fertilizer into the top 8 to 12 inches of soil.  The organic matter improves drainage in clay soils and increases moisture retention in sandy soils. The slow release fertilizer feeds the plants for several months, reducing the number of applications needed.  You’ll have healthier plants that are better able to fend off pests and outcompete the weeds.

Match the plants with the right growing conditions. Tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables that produce fruit need full sun. Leafy crops like lettuce are more tolerant of shade. Check plant tags and seed packets for planting details or download a free gardening app, like Homegrown with Bonnie Plants, for plant information, maintenance tips, weather reports, and more.

Plant seeds and transplants in blocks with fewer pathways.  Give each plant enough room to grow to its full size. Your rows will be closer together with just enough paths for weeding, watering, and harvesting. You will be growing more plants and pulling fewer weeds with this strategy.

Interplant to further maximize your planting space. Plant short-season vegetables like lettuce and radishes in between properly spaced longer-season vegetables like broccoli and tomatoes.  By the time the longer-season plants start filling the space, the shorter season plantings will be ready to harvest.  You’ll be pulling radishes or cutting lettuce instead of weeds. Plus, you’ll harvest two crops from one row.

Plant successive crops throughout the growing season. Plant cool weather vegetables like spinach, radishes, and lettuce in spring. Once these are harvested, replace with warm weather vegetables like beans, tomatoes, or cucumbers.  Finish off the season by filling any voids with a fall crop of cool weather vegetables.

Go vertical to save space, reduce disease, and make harvesting easier. Growing vine crops on supports lifts the fruit off the ground and increases the amount of light and airflow the plants receive, reducing the risk of disease. Plus, you’ll do less bending when it’s time to harvest.

Mulch the garden with pine straw/evergreen needles, shredded leaves, or other organic matter.  These materials suppress the weeds, conserve moisture and add organic matter to the soil as they decompose. You’ll have fewer weeds to pull and not have to water as often.

Save time and water with the help of soaker hoses or drip irrigation. These systems apply the water directly to the soil where it is needed. Less water is 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.

Try a few or all of these strategies this season for an abundant harvest without a lot of extra work.

Melinda Myers has over 30 years of gardening experience 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 Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Bonnie Plants for her expertise to write this article. 

Posted in Home and Garden, Spring Spruce UpComments Off on Low Maintenance Vegetable Gardening for a Bountiful Harvest

Ease into gardening with a raised bed 


Raised bed gardens with benches make it easier to plant, maintain and harvest. Photo credit: Bonnie Plants  

Raised bed gardens with benches make it easier to plant, maintain and harvest. Photo credit: Bonnie Plants

By Melinda Myers  

Raise your garden to new heights for easier access and greater productivity. Raised beds allow you to overcome poor soil by creating the ideal growing mix, plus make gardening time more comfortable thanks to less bending and kneeling.

Whether you purchase a kit or build your own, there are a few things to consider when creating a raised bed garden.

Locate the garden in a sunny area if possible. Most plants require at least six hours of sun, and vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and melons produce best with a full day of sunlight.

Select a long-lasting material such as interlocking block, fieldstone, plastic lumber or naturally long lasting wood like cedar. The material selected will influence the shape and size of your garden. Some materials allow for curved beds while others are limited to squares, rectangles and other angular shapes.

Design your raised bed to fit your space and your needs. A three- or four-feet width makes it easy to reach all parts of the garden for planting, weeding and harvesting. Raising your planting bed at least 8 to 12 inches improves drainage and provides an adequate space for most plants to root and grow. If you want to minimize bending, go higher. Add benches to increase your gardening comfort and ease. Bonnie Plants has free downloadable plans (bonnieplants.com/library) for building a raised bed garden with benches in just one afternoon.

Roughen or loosen the existing soil surface if your bed is built on compact, slow-draining soil. This will allow water to readily move from the raised bed into the soil below. Cover the bottom of the bed with newspaper or cardboard, if needed, to suffocate existing weeds and grass.

Line the bottom of your raised bed with hardware cloth to reduce the risk of animals burrowing into your garden. Lay the hardware cloth over the ground and bend it up along the inside of the raised bed walls.

Fill the bed with a quality growing mix that is well drained but also able to retain moisture and nutrients. This may be a mixture of quality topsoil and compost, a high quality potting mix, or a planting mix designed specifically for raised bed gardens.

Grow any plants that you normally would grow in ground. Just make sure the plants are suited to the growing conditions (such as sunlight, heat and wind) in your area. Since the soil mix and drainage is ideal in a raised garden, you will be able to grow more plants per square foot. Just be sure to leave sufficient room for plants to reach their mature size.

Keep your plants healthy and productive with proper watering. This is critical for growing any garden, but even more crucial in a fast-draining raised bed. The simple act of raising the garden height increases drainage, and a raised bed filled with planting mix means more frequent watering. Consider using drip irrigation or soaker hoses for watering ease. Always water thoroughly when the top inch of soil is dry.

Add some mulch to help reduce watering and the need for other garden maintenance. Spread a layer of evergreen needles, pine straw, shredded leaves or other organic matter over the soil surface. This helps conserve moisture, suppresses weeds and adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes. You’ll spend less time watering and weeding throughout the season.

Add an organic fertilizer at planting if your planting mix does not already contain one. Apply again mid-season if the plants need a nutrient boost. Always follow the label directions on the fertilizer container.

The time and effort invested in creating raised beds will be returned many times over with years of healthy and productive gardens.

Gardening expert Melinda Myers 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 Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Bonnie Plants for her expertise to write this article. Myers’ website is www.melindamyers.com

Posted in Featured, Spring Spruce UpComments Off on Ease into gardening with a raised bed 

Plant a pollinator garden and enjoy the many benefits


A monarch butterfly on a tithonia blossom. Photo by Melinda Myers, LLC.

A monarch butterfly on a tithonia blossom. Photo by Melinda Myers, LLC.

By Melinda Myers

Whether planting a garden, enjoying the beauty of your landscape, or sitting down to a delicious meal, you have bees, butterflies and other pollinators to thank. These essential members of our ecosystem are responsible for much of the food and beauty we enjoy each day.

Unfortunately, pesticides and habitat loss are threatening their existence. There is something you can do to help. Turn your garden, backyard or balcony into a pollinator’s habitat.

Plant a variety of flowering plants that provide nectar and pollen throughout the season. Planting masses of natives, herbs and other pollinator favorites like sedum, zinnias, alyssum, cosmos, and columbine will attract these beauties to your landscape. Include a variety of day and night blooming flowers in a variety of colors and shapes to support the widest range of pollinators. But don’t let a lack of space dissuade you; even a window box of flowers can help.

Keep your plants healthy and blooming with proper care. Match the plants to the growing conditions, provide needed water and fertilize with an organic nitrogen fertilizer like Milorganite (milorganite.com) when needed. You’ll promote slow steady plant growth that is less susceptible to drought and pests. Plus the slow release low nitrogen won’t interfere with flowering, which is essential to the health and well being of our pollinators.

Supplement pollinators’ diets with a bit of rotten fruit. And be sure to provide trees, shrubs, parsley, dill and other plants that caterpillars, grubs and the immature stage of other pollinators prefer to feed upon. Put away the pesticides and tolerate a few holes in the leaves of their favorite plants. With a diversity of plants, you can easily overlook the temporary leaf damage. Plus, this is a small price to pay for all the benefits they bring to the garden.

Provide pollinators with shelter from predators and the weather. Include a variety of trees, shrubs and perennials. Leave patches of open soil for ground nesting bees and some leaf litter to shelter some butterflies, bumblebees and other pollinating insects. Supplement natural shelter with commercial or homemade nesting boxes. You’ll find do-it-yourself plans on the internet from various educational sources.

Puddles, fountains, birdbaths and even a damp sponge can provide needed water. Include water features with sloping sides or add a few stones to create easier access. Or sink a shallow container of sand in the ground. Keep it damp and add a pinch of sea salt for the butterflies and bees.

Maximize your efforts by teaming up with your neighbors. Together you can create a larger more diverse habitat that provides pollinators with the resources they need to thrive. 

Your efforts will be rewarded with greater harvests, beautiful flowers, and colorful birds and butterflies visiting your garden.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist 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 Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and spokesperson for Milorganite. Myers’ web site is http://www.melindamyers.com/www.melindamyers.com.

Posted in OutdoorsComments Off on Plant a pollinator garden and enjoy the many benefits

Maximize your harvest with limited space


DIG-Maximize-harvest-Cucumber-7.11by gardening expert Melinda Myers

 

Increase your garden’s productivity even when space, time and energy are limited. Just follow these six simple planting, maintenance and harvesting techniques for a more bountiful harvest.

Maximize your planting space with wide rows. Leave just enough room for plants to reach their maximum size. Make wide rows, 4 to 5 feet wide, so you can reach all plants for maintenance and harvest. Minimizing walkways means more planting space.

Try interplanting. Grow short season crops like lettuce and radishes between long season crops like cabbage, tomatoes and peppers. The short season crops will be ready to harvest when the long season crops are reaching mature size. You’ll double your harvest and grow more vegetables, not weeds between your longer season plants.

Grow more plants per row with succession planting. Start the season with cool season vegetables like lettuce and spinach. Once these are harvested and temperatures warm replace with beans and onions. Harvest these and plant a fall crop of radishes or lettuce.

When you use these intensive planting techniques, be sure to incorporate a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer, at the start of the season. Then add a mid-season nutrient boost if needed. The slow release nitrogen won’t burn even during the hot dry weather of summer. Plus, it won’t interfere with flowering or fruiting.

Go vertical. Train vine crops up decorative or functional trellises and supports. You’ll not only save space, but you will also reduce disease problems and increase the harvest. Growing cucumbers and melons increases light penetration and airflow, reducing the risk of fungal diseases. Pole beans are much easier to harvest and produce an additional picking. Secure large fruited vegetables like melons to the trellis with a cloth sling.

Be sure to plant vegetables in containers if in-ground space is limited. A 5-gallon bucket or comparable size container is perfect for a tomato. Peppers and eggplants will thrive in a bit smaller pot. Grow vine crops in containers and allow them to crawl over the deck or patio instead of valuable gardening space. Mix flowers and herbs in with your vegetables. You’ll increase the beauty while adding additional fragrance to the pot.

Harvest often and at the proper time. Zucchini and other summer squash should be picked when 6 to 8 inches long or in the case of patty pan squash it reaches 3 inches in diameter. The flavor is better than those baseball bat size zucchini and you’ll have plenty to eat and share. Harvest your head of cabbage when firm and full size. Leave the bottom leaves and roots intact. Soon you will have 4 or 5 smaller heads to harvest and enjoy.

With a bit of planning and creativity you can find ways to increase the enjoyment and harvest in any size garden.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening. She hosts the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV and radio segments and is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers web site is www.melindamyers.com    

Posted in Diggin' SpringComments Off on Maximize your harvest with limited space

Add tasty edible plants to your landscape


(ARA) Window boxes overflowing with blooms, decorative pots lining the driveway with striking colors, and even a flowering vine climbing up the mailbox. The growing season has arrived, and it is time to decorate the landscape.

The latest gardening trend is growing your own produce, so incorporate edible plants as a beautiful compliment to the typical annuals and perennials. This year, spice up the landscaping decor with some tasty options.

Edible plants—whether herbs, vegetables, fruits or flowers—add a creative variety of interest to your landscape, and also produce a delicious bounty for your dinner table come harvest time.

Here are some ideas to help incorporate edible plants into your landscaping:

Decorate an arbor in the garden, along a walkway or near the house with grape vines. These vines can help shade an area and also can produce grapes good for eating, juicing, making into jams or jellies, or even wine. Different grapes thrive in different areas of the country, so research your region first before attempting to start some vines.

Switch to edible flowers like nasturtium, violets, chamomile, dandelion, hollyhock, honeysuckle, and pansies in your window boxes and decorative pots.  Do not eat flowers grown for ornamental purposes, instead, start edible flowers as seeds and grow them yourself. These flowers work great in salads, teas, summery drinks like sweetened tea, mocktails, and lemonade, and also can be crystallized to decorate cakes. To crystallize flowers, separate the flowers from the stem, and wash and dry the bloom. Heat up equal parts of water and sugar until the sugar dissolves, and the liquid becomes an amber color. Let the syrup cool. Take flower blooms and quickly dip the pedals into the liquid mixture, turn back over and let dry blossom face up. Stronger petals with form and shape work well.

Mix an herb or two into container gardens. Lavender, rosemary, thyme, oregano and lemon grass are just a few that grow extremely well in containers, and mix attractively with other blooming flowers. Not only are the herbs edible, but also emit delicious scents when picked or touched, making a great choice for window boxes or path plantings.

Pot a tomato plant right in the front yard. Or, the backyard. Tomatoes grow well in full sunlight, and are decorative when the vines drape along a trellis or arbor. Tomatoes also work well as a natural screen along a porch or patio. Also good for use on an arbor or trellis are cucumbers, smaller melons and squash, beans and peas. Inter-plant vines with containers or landscaping, and your small vegetable garden will get a pop of interest to make it stand out – and provide a great harvest for your family.

Create a hedge with berries. Try blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and even gooseberries to make a unique hedge along the edge of your property. Just remember, your family will not be the only samplers of the fruits. Consider covering the hedge with netting to help keep birds from stealing all the berries. Combining beautiful landscaping with delicious foods to serve at dinner is sure to create many compliments – both from visitors enjoying the front and backyard views, and from dinner guests enjoying the produce harvest. Follow these tips and this year your garden will look good enough to eat.

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