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Monthly Archives: July 2016

Gardening in Raised Beds

A few changes are being made at the Trial Gardens at the Ag Center on Old Harrisburg Rd. The most evident is the bringing of the beds up in the Trial Gardens. Half of them have been raised for this present year with the rest of the slated to be finished one year from now.

Cultivating in raised beds, a typical practice in America since pioneer times, is getting a charge out of a resurgence of ubiquity among home producers whether it is for raising vegetables, blooms or even a few natural products, for example, strawberries and raspberries. There are various motivations to have raised beds, including poor under soil, restricted space, waste, low areas inclined to ponding and simplicity of working. Our issue at the Ag Center was waste. The ground there inclines sufficiently only to support washouts amid overwhelming electrical storms.

The “raised” part means that the soil level in the bed is higher than the surrounding soil, and “bed” implies a size small enough to work without actually stepping into the bed. The bed should be no wider than 4 feet, but length can be whatever suits the site or the gardener’s needs. Wider beds can be subdivided into sections accessible from planks or stepping stones. The bed does not have to be enclosed or framed. If unframed, the use of power tillers is feasible. However, framing offers several other opportunities and a properly maintained bed will not need power cultivation.

Perhaps the most important advantage of a raised bed is more production per square foot of garden. In a traditional, straight-rows garden, good management may yield about 0.6 pounds of vegetables per square foot. Production over three years in a raised bed at Dawes Arboretum in Ohio has averaged 1.24 pounds per square foot, more than double the conventional yield. In my own garden I raise potatoes in an 8 foot by 12 foot bed and consistently get two bushels or more each year. Raised beds do not require the usual space between rows because no walking is done in the beds to cultivate during the growing season. Vegetables are planted in beds at higher densities – ideally spaced just far enough apart to avoid crowding but close enough to shade weeds.

Another reason for greater production in a given space is the improvement of soil conditions. Soil compaction can reduce crop yields up to 50 percent. Water, air and roots all have difficulty moving through soil compressed by tractors, tillers or human feet.

Raised beds also help with water conservation since you are able to water only the area that is actually growing the crops. No need to water the paths and the area between rows as is done in most gardens. There are several watering systems that ensure the water gets only where it is needed. Canvas soaker hoses, perforated plastic sprinkle hoses and drip-type irrigation disperse water in a long, narrow pattern well suited to raised beds.

There are only a few guidelines to remember in raised bed construction: Keep the beds narrow and match their length to the site and the watering system. A north-south orientation is best for low-growing crops, allowing direct sunlight to both sides of the bed. Beds that will contain taller crops such as pole beans, trellised peas or caged tomatoes might do better on an east-west axis with the lower-growing crops planted on the south side of the bed to take advantage of the sun.

The advantages of raised beds are many. Beds elevated 2 feet or more offer the promise of gardening without bending and can have benches built on the side for even more convenience. Because a raised bed warms up quicker than the surrounding ground, it can easily double as a cold frame by covering it with a lightweight clear plastic cover. Imagine being able to start plants early in covered beds and never having to transplant them.

Yes, raised beds are enjoying a resurgence of popularity. Why not think about them for your own home.

Gardening in Small Space, Here Its Tips

In spite of the fact that our property isn’t little, we have a couple of “little spaces”. These spaces have been made through sitting territories, bunches of trees, and utilitarian structures.

When we first manufactured our home 19 years back, we planted numerous tree seedlings with the trust of making some of these uncommon spaces. One such space is our birch tree forest. We planted what now has all the earmarks of being five cluster birch trees, yet in actuality it was three seedlings we planted in each of the five gaps, making that characteristic bunch influence. Part of the forest is under-planted with Ilex verticillata – winterberry hollies. Since the trees are develop and the garden shaded, I have included Christmas greeneries, Heuchera (coral chimes), and Packera aurea (ragwort) and Thermopsis caroliniana (false lupine) to the bed, making an exceptionally characteristic, insinuate space, all shades of yellow and green. This space is most likely around 20’x10′, so there’s not a great deal of any one plant, but rather a decent assortment with fascinating surfaces and hues.

This space can further be developed by adding a small seating area and a few containers for additional color. Suddenly within a large space, a small garden that can be viewed and experienced in a very personal way has been created.

Another fun small area is by our patio. The two trees that shade it are paperbark maple and pagoda dogwood. Both are small trees, about 20’ tall. The Acer griseum, paperbark maple, has interesting peeling bark. I have pruned it so the bark is visible while sitting on the patio. This tree also gets a wonderful orange-red fall color. The Cornus alternifolia, pagoda dogwood, has low branches that just about hit the ground with white flowers in May. These trees have created a small understory area that I have a collection of shade perennials like hosta, ferns and hellebores. Each of these perennial plants has unique textures and foliage colors that can be seen and enjoyed close up – the beauty of a small garden.

Small spaces do not mean that gardening cannot be done. As a matter of fact, I enjoy small spaces better than large areas. Plants are seen individually and enjoyed up close, as opposed to mass planting and quick viewing. Small areas allow us to really work with different textures, shape and colors. Maintaining them is even more enjoyable. Weeding is easy and can be accomplished in a quick manner.

There are some limitations, however. We can’t plant everything. Site analysis, like understanding the sun, wind and soil will define the plant community. Not always in a small space can vegetables be planted. If there are trees shading the garden, you will be limited to ornamentals and not edibles, although a shade garden will allow for a great place to have a few chairs for relaxing.

Sun allows for edibles and ornamentals, but if a sitting area is needed provisions by umbrellas or some type of trellising will have to be considered. Deciduous flowering shrubs can be easily used in a sun garden, remembering that many flowering shrubs can get some great size to them. Using them individually as focal points or pruned into more of a tree form can make a great impact on a small garden.

Vegetables can be introduced in a sun garden within the planting beds mixed in with the ornamentals, allowing you to really work with textures and colors. Having great fruit color and interesting leaf texture makes some vegetable plants a great addition to a perennial bed. For instance the fern like leaves of the asparagus is a great background plant. The course texture of zucchini leaves make a great accent plant, and the climbing ability of a cherry tomato is great for on a trellis, as the red tomatoes are quite pretty.

Imagine sitting at a small bistro table with your best friend under an umbrella with a climbing cherry tomato plant behind you and plucking those tomatoes as a snack while relaxing. And in the corner of your small garden is a Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’, an dark leafed ninebark, growing as a focal point, reaching 8’ high with peeling bark and allowed to arch over a ground cover of strawberries that you picked and made some jelly. And how about a small birdbath in the other corner that has a few Deutizia gracilis ‘Nikko’, a dwarf deutzia that gets white flowers in the spring, at the base? Mix in a few sun perennials like Phlox paniculata (garden phlox) and Rudbeckia hirta (black eyed susan) and your small garden is filled with blooming plants to be enjoyed throughout the seasons.

Small spaces are synonymous with the use of containers. Container gardening allows a person to grow multiple types of plants in areas that have hard surfaces, like patios, decks and walkways. Typically we think of container gardening as growing annuals. So plants like geraniums, petunias, and million bells are often what we might envision. However, container gardening can be so much more. Vegetables, perennials and even small shrubs can be grown.

When choosing the container, consider what type of plants you will be growing in them, how big the plants are going to get and how much sun they will need. The sunnier the location, the more likely a pot that is plastic, or something other than clay, should be used. Clay, although looks great, dries out very quickly and watering daily is imperative. However, in the shade, a clay pot will do just fine.

The type of plants grown in containers will determine the size of the pot. For instance, vegetables require large pots – 16″ or larger, depending on the plant. Tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers would need a minimum of a 16″ pot, but if lettuce is your vegetable of choice, a smaller pot will do. Annuals plants are great in containers for quick color, and a variety of container sizes can be used.

Potting mix is important when growing in containers. There are many on the market. Whenever we talk about growing plants, we always start with the soil, and container gardening is no different in that aspect. However, the soil we use is soilless mixes. These are the mixes we purchase, not dig up from our yards. Soilless mixes are used because they do not compact and harden in containers like native soil does, and they are sterile, so do not carry and soil-borne diseases that can pass onto the plants. Many potting mixes are peat based, however, some mixes contain peanut shells, composted bark, or even coir. Coir is natural fiber made from the husk of coconuts.

Don’t limit yourself to turf and annuals in a small space – think about flowering shrubs, small trees, perennials and vegetables. If you have a small space, go crazy and design a great garden. Enjoy the space and all that can be done within that garden.

Mass Planting

Do you have a sunny garden space where you might want to see a blast of shading? A mob – a blast of shading? So frequently we see a gathering of annuals and perennials of various hues that look pleasant yet there is simply something lacking. Punch. It’s deficient with regards to punch!

Frequently the quantity of plants in the garden are sufficiently not and it looks meager. It’s constantly all the more intriguing and satisfying to the eye to plant in groupings instead of columns. A “gathering” can comprise of twelve tulips in an unpredictable planting design genuinely near one another with some diminutive person hyacinth underneath.

On the off chance that you plant three dozen tulips, three dozen daffodils, three dozen hyacinths and some crocus in a Spring garden space of 5 feet by 6 feet, it might appear like a ton. Be that as it may, when Spring comes you are going to have a great deal of exposed space. On the off chance that you are a genuine “line” grower, your blossoms will be unstable everywhere throughout the garden and you will in any case be demonstrating a considerable measure of ground.

If you “group” plant, the same thing will happen because you will have lots of space around your groupings. However, if you were to mass plant the entire garden with yellow or peach or red tulips or just daffodils or a combination of dwarf grape hyacinth in front of taller yellow tulips, WOW, what a show! A solid mass of the brightest, most cheerful, most waited-for show of the season pops out when we are craving color! Try mass planting! It’s fun, it’s rewarding, and when blooming, fairly shouts with liveliness! Here are some ideas for mass planting in sunny gardens (we’ll talk about shady gardens next week).

If you want to try mass planting in a small way and have a lamp-post in your front yard with 6-8 hours of sun per day, cut out a circular garden with the lamp post in the center and make the total space about 5-6′ in diameter. Add some good soil and soil amendments to build the space back up and mass plant the entire bed with one color of sun-loving annual – salvia, petunia, snapdragon, geranium, zinnia, cosmos, English daisy, sun coleus, plumed cockscomb, Dahlberg daisy, globe amaranth, portulaca, lantana, verbena, etc. Any of these annuals will show well in the sun. Begin in the center of the circle and plant less than half the recommended distance apart.

If your garden space gets some shade you will need to add white to your planting to set off the darker colors or those darker colors will absolutely disappear into the shade. When using two colors, begin at the center of your circle and plant with white, close together, for three or four circular rows and finish with the darker color to the outside of the circle. Water thoroughly. I tried this last year with white salvia in the center and purple salvia on the outside.

It really did look great! You can also use yellow in the center if you’re using snapdragon or zinnia, for example, with purple on the outside, that’s always a striking combination. For your first effort, stick with the same species – use all salvia, or all marigold, or all snapdragons, etc., use two colors if you wish, but don’t mix things up too much the first time. Experiment more next year if you like this year’s results.

A larger square, circular, rectangular, diamond or crescent shaped garden would be gorgeous if fully planted and brimming with color – for example, plant the entire space with mixed colors of sun coleus, planted close together. If your space is really large, add several of the fabulous striped-leaved cannas (canna “Tropicana”) in the back of the planting. Or try planting the taller variety of dusty miller above a mass planting of deep red sun coleus. Pinch back the coleus to keep it shorter than the dusty miller!

Another idea would be to plant a curved garden using the perennial, artemisia, then add a short annual in front of it, like “Escapade Red” verbena (a new color this year). This new color of verbena has wonderful dark green foliage which will mix well with the artemisia. You do have to be careful when mass planting with deep reds that have very little foliage. For some reason, a lot of red is actually hard on the eye (or maybe it’s hard on the senses) and you need to use some rich greenery or plant some white, silver or pink to make the dark reds appear more pleasing.

You could also try planting a “green garden”. Using one of the light variegated-leaved yucca (one with some gold tones) mixed with a light variegated coleus, like “Pineapple Queen” will produce a light colored, yet striking foliage mixture. The “Pineapple Queen” variety of coleus has a very light green leaf with a touch of red veining. Adding some perennial wormwood would further lighten up the space and some licorice plant would add some low-growing texture. Choose how many you wish to use.

If you like ornamental grasses, plant something smaller either in front of them or in between them. One combination I like using is “Autumn Joy” sedum with feather reed grass or maiden grass. Both the grass and the sedum will take you into the Fall and also provide winter interest – how can you lose? A totally different look would be to plant hibiscus as a companion to ornamental grasses. Check the nurseries, there are hibiscus that are now perennials in our area and in many bloom colors.

Another good choice for a sunny location is mass planting with vinca (not vinca vine, vinca plant). This is a versatile plant with dark green shiny leaves with blooms of rose, red, pink, purple, white and now in apricot, too, and several varieties have an eye of a contrasting color. They range in height up to 1-1/2′ and make a wonderful display. Plant less than half the recommended distance apart for a mass planting.

For an incomparable display of summer’s “hot colors”, mass plant a garden using “French Mixed” marigolds. This mixture contains a medium-to-dark solid rust color, a yellow with the rust color at the center of the flower and stopping halfway up the bloom, and a solid yellow color. If you want to add another texture to this mix, add calendula “Double Lemon Coronet” which is a solid yellow-gold pot marigold with a double bloom in a swirl pattern. Or add some zinnia in a compatible color.

You can choose to mix your colors randomly or in the case of planting with two colors, you could choose to use the darker color in the middle of two white or light colors. Think about it. Plan it. Have fun with it. Enjoy it! Experiment!

Plan a Garden from Scratch, Here Its Tips

Possibly you have quite recently moved into a house surprisingly, or into another home that has positively no arranging. Really you are exceptionally blessed in light of the fact that you can do what you need! Not exactly genuine – on the off chance that you simply begin purchasing and planting without an arrangement you will in the end be extremely sad.

So- – begin with an arrangement – perhaps draw your home impression and what you need to see around it. Watch out your windows and consider the view you have (or what you might want it to be). On the off chance that there are existing trees/substantial bushes, would you like to keep them? On the off chance that your neighbors have an especially alluring yard, would you like to arrange your finishing to incorporate that view? On the off chance that you have a perspective of a road or back road or somebody’s carport, might you want to shroud it? At the end of the day, look past your own particular yard. It will have any kind of effect when your own particular arranging starts to develop. Since it is currently fall, this is a decent time to arrange another garden. Start considering what you need, paying consideration on different yards or plants, and paying consideration on what you don’t need in your garden.

Only after you make a plan should you move on to the next step. This would be to amend your soil if necessary. Most newly built houses don’t have good topsoil so you may have to buy some, along with soil amendments (maybe some compost). Also be sure to get a soil test (Penn State Extension offices all sell the kits for approximately $10). The directions will tell you to send your sample to Penn State. The test results will tell you what fertilizer to use for flowers or vegetables, or shrubs and trees. If you really have no landscaping you probably should plant shrubs and trees first since they take the longest to mature. At least mark the space where you want those major plantings and plant next spring. There are lots of dos and don’ts. A tree, or trees, should be far enough from your house that the tree has room to grow. Also consider the type of tree. Knowing that there will be some pitfalls, you may want to consider native plants in all the categories. Whatever you choose, consider its mature size and whether it is susceptible to wind damage.

Moving on to shrubs that you might like around your house, keep in mind that shrubs often get a lot larger than the tag says. Even ‘dwarf’ shrubs continue to grow beyond the boundaries you may have set. Be sure the shrub you choose will like its location. If the front of your house gets the afternoon sun, you may be limited. Morning sun is the best for most plants–not so hot, and the soil doesn’t dry out as much. Whatever you buy, check the plant tags, ask the clerk and shop at a reliable garden store. And be sure you follow the directions for planting and watering.

After you get some of these permanent parts of your garden planned you can move on to perennials and/ or annuals. Again it’s important to place perennials in their permanent location. Annuals can be changed every year since the actual plant won’t come back the second year. Keep in mind that many annuals will reseed. This may suit you very well in terms of saving money, but if you don’t want the same annuals next year, be sure to pull out seedlings as they appear in spring. By now you can understand that this will be an ongoing project—not completed in just one season!

Another factor in this equation of what to plant is the entire category of bulbs. Lucky you—it’s fall—just the time to plant those spring-blooming bulbs. Tulips, daffodils, and crocus are the most popular and very easy to grow. Daffodils are perennial bulbs—they will return every year and usually multiply. Tulips can be perennial if you look for that label, or buy Darwin or Darwin hybrid tulips. Maybe you just want to experiment with different tulips but keep in mind that many tulip bulbs only bloom well the first year. After that they are likely to be much smaller and finally disappear altogether. There is also the concern of small animals eating your bulbs. Squirrels love tulips; daffodils are generally poisonous to all small animals so try planting tulips and daffodils together—this tactic will help protect the tulip bulbs. Here is another chance to change your mind in the spring. After the leaves of tulips and daffodils die back, you can dig them up and either replant immediately or mark them to plant again in the fall in a different place. Having bulbs come up in the early spring will satisfy your urge to see the results of all your careful planning.