Tag: tips

Five Tips for Container Gardens

Whether you’re working with limited space or just looking for more versatility in your gardening, containers are a great option. Container gardens provide statement seasonal color and allow you to add more variety to your garden in spite of space limitations. Here are five tips that will ensure your success!

Select the right container

Begin by selecting the right container. First, consider the size; you want to take into account the mature size of the plants you’re working with. Also, look for a container with drainage holes, so that the roots don’t sit in water. I love a classic terra cotta pot, but they are a little fragile, so to prevent cracking over the winter, you’ll want to be sure to store them before the temperature drops below freezing. If you don’t have sheltered storage, remove the saucers. This will help keep the containers dry.

Use quality soil

The next tip is to select a quality potting soil that’s formulated for container use. When you squeeze the soil in your hand and release it, it should crumble, not clump. You can find soil formulated for container gardens with fertilizer included.

Select the best plants

Now that you have the container and soil ready, it’s time to choose the best plants for your container garden.

You can really use any color combination you like, but to create visual interest, I like to use the thriller, filler and spiller structural concept. You start with tall thriller plants that add a vertical element to the combination. Next, use more rounded plants as fillers to give the container the look of abundance. Finally spillers are trailing plants that are placed closest to the container’s edge to balance the height of the thrillers.

Fertilizer is key

Once you have your plants in place, another key to successful container gardening is fertilizer. It’s like a daily vitamin for your plants because it helps them perform to their full potential. Begin by applying a controlled release fertilizer at the time of planting. Then, mid-season apply a water-soluble fertilizer to really increase your flower power.

Water correctly

Now for the final step – properly watering your plants. Apply water at base of plants instead of over the top. This helps hydrate the plant at the roots and prevents wet foliage – which can leave plants vulnerable to disease. Knowing when to water is also important. This may seem a little basic but it really works. Simply touch the soil with your finger. If it feels dry, that’s when you want to water it. Also, remember that just because one pot needs water, it doesn’t mean they all do. Differences in pot and plant sizes will determine how quickly a pot dries out.

Give these tips a try the next time you garden with containers, and see what a difference they can make in the health and beauty of your plants.

Catlin's Giant Ajuga, Catalina® White Torenia, Sunshine Blue® Caryopteris and Efanthia Euphorbia

ColorBlaze® Sedonia Coleus, Supertunia® Royal Velvet Petunia, Lucia® Lavender Blush Lobelia, Sweet Caroline Raven Sweet Potato and Red Riding Hood Purple Fountain Grass Vine

Supertunia® Bordeaux Petunia, Lucia® Lavender Blush Lobelia, Angelface® Blue Angelonia, and Sweet Caroline Raven Sweet Potato Vine

Ten Tips from Heifer Ranch

There is so much to discuss about Heifer Ranch I thought it deserved a second post. In the first post I introduced you to this farm and learning center that is a part of Heifer International. With only three full time gardeners who maintain almost four acres of produce, I figured the folks at Heifer Ranch would have some good tips for us home gardeners. Here’s what they had to say.

  1. Plant Early: Ryan, manager of the garden, says the first step to success is putting in a spring crop as early as possible. It helps the workers get a jump on the season and take advantage of Arkansas’ short spring before the weather turns too hot.
  2. Succession Planting: To stay in constant supply of fresh produce, the gardeners plant the same crops every 3-4 weeks. This is especially helpful for pest-vulnerable crops like squash, but it also helps if a heat wave or flash flood destroys one planting group.
  3. Row Covers: Many people shy away from them, but row covers made from thin agricultural fabrics are used to cover plantings for two main purposes: frost protection and as an insect barrier. This is an added protection for tip 1- planting early- but it also helps with weed control.
  4. Rotation: The Heifer Ranch gardeners try not to plant a crop of the same family in a particular spot within four years of another member of that family being planted there. For example, the areas that have tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant this year will not have any of those items planted there for the foreseeable future. It’s a task that requires a little note keeping, but it greatly helps with the prevention of disease and insect pressure for future crops.
  5. Drip Irrigation: With the typical Arkansas summer, and especially this year’s drought-plagued summer, drip irrigation is a saving grace. The use of drip tape or line helps them conserve water and helps keep plants foliage dry, which reduces disease. It’s especially useful to keeping the soil moist when plants are young so that roots won’t dry out.
  6. Compost: The dynamic duo of food waste from the cafeteria and manure from the barns with the addition of garden remnants creates “black gold” to greatly enhance garden soil.
  7. Cover Cropping: Despite the extra work it may entail, the gardeners try to never have bare soil. When a “cash crop” is finished producing, they quickly plant a crop like cowpeas in the summer or winter wheat in the fall because in sustainable farming, cover crops help manage soil fertility & quality by adding nutrients back into the ground and help keep weeds, pests and diseases at bay.
  8. Mulch: By placing mulch around the base of plants, the gardeners can keep the soil consistently moist and cool while also discouraging weeds- the less weeding they have to do, the more time they have for planting and harvesting.
  9. Organic Pest Control: Heifer Ranch is a certified organic producer and they avoid chemical-based pest controls. But as a last resort for those hard-to-beat pests, they rely on the organic pyrethrum-based controls for blister beetles and fire ants and baits containing Nosema locustae against tomato hornworms and grasshoppers.
  10. Hard Work: What garden doesn’t require this? All of the vegetables are harvested by hand, so the three full-time gardeners are out in the sun for 8-10 hours a day. Even so, they rely on help from volunteers, guests, and CSA members to keep things fully harvested. Gardening and farming are social events at Heifer Ranch.

Do you use any of these methods to keep your garden in top form? We’d love to hear which of these you use, or any other tips you have to make a garden manageable.

Fallscaping: Fall for Autumn

I had the pleasure of meeting Helen Yoest at the blogger conference held at the Garden Home Retreat last spring. Helen is a garden writer and speaker through her business Gardening with Confidence ™ and also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum.

You can follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her Facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence ™ Facebook Like Page and catch up with Helen via her blog at www.gardeningwithconfidence.com

In this guest blog post she shares the beauty of her North Carolina garden in fall and inspires us to take a look at what’s going on in our own autumn landscapes.

It seems everyone is a gardener in the spring, many of us continue into the summer, but only a few add flowers for the fall. Yet the fall is the perfect time to be in the garden

With the dog days of summer behind us, October opens with cooler air and less humidity creating a fresh scent and a sense of excitement. The source of this excitement may be for no reason other than it being bearable enough to be outside once again.

Indeed, October, and throughout the fall, is an ideal time to plan and plant new garden beds to ready oneself for the next year. The fall is also an ideal time to enjoy what the months have to offer.

The fall is also more than just flowers. There is color from foliage, there is scent, textures, and fruit and berries. With our area’s late frost date, we often find our gardens providing interest and intrigue well into November.

Flowers, Foliage, Fruit

Summer color can be extended into the fall with Asters, Anemones, Eupatoriums, Helianthus, Salvias, and Sedums. There’s also beautyberry, fothergilla, and golden rod.

Gingers are releasing scent to waft the thinner air, with flirty flowers causing reason to stare. Roses are regaling, hardy Begonia beguiling, Amsonia amazing. The ripened figs become a destination for one of nature’s most delicious delicacies.

Color, Scent, Texture

Reds dominate. Yellows generate. Purples empower. Grasses sway, with flags as flowers. Crepe Myrtle’s bark shed creating unique texture and mottling. The Maples mission is fulfilled as the last red leaf falls to the ground and yellow Gingko leaves make mass merriment.

The seed heads of Black-eyed Susans add texture and interest to the garden long after the birds finished them off.

Wildlife

The butterflies and hummingbirds are also busy in the fall garden as they ready themselves for a long journey south. The flowers of perennial Chrysanthemums such as ‘Sheffield Pink’ make the most perfect landing pad for a butterfly.

Hummingbirds pause mid-air to sip nectar from a Canna. Monarchs are grateful to find nectar still rich. Finches steady themselves as they feed on seeds. The box turtle moseys around the tomatoes eating what the birds or deer knocked to the ground.

Autumn was made for sitting on the patio to watch in wonder. Fall gardening does not need to be all about what needs to be done for the future. It can also be about what is available now. In the wise words of garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence, “Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn.”

Enjoy your garden this fall and all the falls to come. As you plan and plant, include fall peaking selections in your choices.

Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) - Photo Courtesy of Helen Yoest

Blue Atlas Cedar - Photo Courtesy of Helen Yoest

Crinum - Photo Courtesy of Helen Yoest

Hardy Cyclamen - Photo Courtesy of Helen Yoest

Dahlias - Photo Courtesy of Helen Yoest

Fall Textures - Photo Courtesy of Helen Yoest

Gourds and Mini Pumpkins - Photo Courtesy of Helen Yoest

Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha) - Photo Courtesy of Helen Yoest