Create a Bee & Butterfly Garden

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Today, May 20, happens to be World Bee Day. Founded to bring awareness to one of the world’s most important pollinators, World Bee Day seems perfect for a post that offers tips to create a bee and butterfly garden.

More than half of the world’s flowering plants require a pollinator to reproduce. Pollinators include butterflies, birds, beetles, wasps, bats, flies and bees. When a bee, for example, lands on a flower the sticky hairs on its body and legs collect pollen. As the bee flits from flower to flower, it transfers pollen, as it collects more, which is crucial for the plants’ reproduction.

Without pollinators, our whole eco-system is in danger. And, unfortunately, pollinators, especially bees, are declining in numbers.

We can help by creating bee and butterfly gardens, to attract and nourish these important species.

Create a Bee & Butterfly Garden

Create a Bee and Butterfly Garden

The best way to attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies to the garden is to offer a variety of flowering plants and herbs. As the pollinators do their important work of gathering pollen, they feed on nectar from the flowers.

A great suggestion, from The Honeybee Conservancy, is to feed them throughout the growing season, by including plants that flower in spring, summer and fall.

 

Create a Bee & Butterfly Garden

Spring Blooming Plants

These early bloomers are crucial as food sources at the beginning of the growing season:

  • crocus
  • hyacinth
  • calendula
  • lilac
  • pansy
  • sweet violet
  • spiderwort
  • dianthus (mini carnation)s

Create a Bee & Butterfly GardenLilac bush

Summer Blooming Plants

Many plants bloom during the warm summer months, providing ample food sources for pollinators. Add any of these flowers and herbs to a bee and butterfly garden:

  • bee balm
  • cone flower (echinacea)
  • snapdragon
  • hosta
  • lavender
  • marigold
  • chives
  • basil
  • oregano
  • rosemary
  • lemon balm
  • black eyed Susan

Create a Bee & Butterfly GardenHostas in bloom

Fall Blooming Plants

These late bloomers will keep pollinators coming to the garden after summer flowers fade away. Include a couple of these:

  • zinnia
  • sedum (live forevers)
  • aster
  • witch hazel
  • chrysanthemum
  • pineapple sage
  • Russian sage

Create a Bee & Butterfly GardenPineapple sage

Additional Tips to Create a Bee and Butterfly Garden

Try to include flowering plants from all three groups, to offer a continuous feast for bees and butterflies, hummingbirds and wasps. The plants can be grouped together, in a dedicated space. Or spread the plants throughout the garden space. The pollinators will find them.

No yard? No problem. The flowers and herbs listed do well in containers, turning a small balcony or patio into a bee and butterfly garden that will attract and nourish as well as a large space.

Bees and butterflies need a water source. Place shallow containers filled with water throughout the garden. Add twigs for insects to rest upon while they drink, or place containers near ornamental grasses or other upright plants. A bird bath works as well.

Butterflies and wasps enjoy mud puddles. They need the salts and minerals found in the mud.

Do not use pesticides or herbicides in the garden, as they kill pollinators. See Ecological Garden Hacks for natural ways of dealing with pests.

Create a Bee & Butterfly GardenCone Flowers

A Home for Many Creatures

One of the things that I most enjoy about my garden is that it is full of life. The plants grow and bloom and multiply. They not only bring me joy and provide healing for me, they offer sanctuary for many creatures.

Along with the plants, I provide natural elements so that beneficial insects and allies make my garden their home. Tree stumps serve as cute, natural containers for flowers, and they allow insects to take up residence there too. Ornamental grasses offer hiding places and blades of grass to rest upon. I have toad and spider houses tucked into my garden and shallow discs that I fill daily with water.

Bees, butterflies, lady bugs, praying mantis, wasps, dragonflies, frogs, toads, spiders, ants, earthworms and many other little critters co-exist in this backyard paradise. They are important to the health and wellbeing of my garden, and to the earth.

I do all that I can to welcome them and create a supportive environment in which they can thrive.

Won’t you join me, for the good and wellbeing of all, and create a bee and butterfly garden?

Create a Bee & Butterfly GardenThis amazing painting featured at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks.

Backyard Garden Series

Check out these other posts, in this gardening series:

 

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Easy Container Gardening

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Container gardening is a great way to add color and interest to the garden. For apartment dwellers, containers create a space to grow flowers, herbs or veggies on a balcony or patio. Although I have a large backyard garden full of perennials and herbs, and a raised bed veggie garden, I love including containers. I can change the annuals in the containers each year. And I can use a variety of interesting and often repurposed items in my garden space.

Use these easy container gardening tips, to create your own unique containers.

Easy Container Gardening

Choose a Container

I have more than 30 containers on my front porch and scattered throughout my garden. A few of those are classic clay pots or traditional plastic flowerpots, however most of them are repurposed containers. For container gardening, I love finding new uses for objects, in my house and in my garden.

Here are possibilities that can be converted to garden use:

  • metal containers of all kinds, including toolboxes, buckets, colanders, deep trays, boxes, water troughs, wash tubs and watering cans. If it can hold dirt, it can serve as a container for flowers. Metal baskets, attached to fences or walls can hold containers.
  • plastic containers including boxes, tubs, and bowls
  • wheelbarrows
  • wagons
  • wooden objects such as boxes, drawers, chests, and for holding containers, chairs and tables
  • Natural objects such as tree stumps

Drill drainage holes in the bottom of metal, plastic or wooden containers so that the dirt doesn’t stay water logged, which is bad for the plants. If the container is deep, this isn’t necessary.

If the container is very porous, add a coconut liner to hold the dirt in and allow water to drain more slowly. Purchase a roll of liner and cut to fit the container.

For less porous containers, add a layer of pebbles to the bottom or line with coffee filters, to slow drainage. Fill with potting soil. The container is ready to plant.

Easy Container GardeningA variety of clay pots grouped with maple tree stumps, all holding colorful vinca.

Easy Container GardeningThis grouping is composed primarily of metal containers, including buckets, colanders and a metal shelf holding three containers. They hold tobacco plants, portulaca and polka dot plants. The old chair serves as a holder for a bucket. A minnow bucket, hanging above the chair, becomes a candle holder.

Easy Container GardeningA copper watering can holds a Trailing Mazus. I hang this container from a shepherd’s hook, in the hosta garden.

Choosing Plants

There are many easy to grow and maintain plants to choose from for containers. Check out 10 Low Maintenance Annuals and 13 Easy Herbs to Grow for ideas. Or visit Lowe’s Garden Center for inspiration.

In addition to those, other great container plants are:

  • coleus
  • polka dot plant
  • tobacco plant
  • salvia (low growing)
  • verbena
  • lobelia
  • sweet potato vine
  • African daisy
  • succulents
  • ivy

There’s no right or wrong way to plant a container! Group different colors of the same plant or create a monochromatic grouping. Plant two or three flowers in small containers and group them together on a baker’s rack, bench or in a wire basket. Or combine a variety of plants together in the same container.

One idea is to plant a taller plant, such as Miscanthus, a small ornamental grass, in the center of a large container. Add mid height plants such as coleus or geraniums around the taller plant. Fill in along the edge of the container with a vining plant or one that spills over such ivy or lobelia.

Have fun creating the look that suits your container and your space.

Easy Container Gardening Begonias and coleus in clay pots, within a vintage box and on a bench. These shade loving plants thrive on a covered porch.

Easy Container GardeningRed pentas are surrounded by white and purple lobelia in a large oval metal container.

Easy Container GardeningSucculents in a metal colander.

Caring for Container Gardens

Once they are planted, container gardening truly is easy. Know whether the plants require sunshine or shade and place them accordingly. My lists of plants indicate this.

Water as needed. My well established perennials need very little watering during the summer. As long as it rains once a week or so, they are fine. However, containers dry out quickly. During the hottest part of the summer watering containers is a daily chore. Choose mornings or evenings so that temperatures are cooler and the plants can enjoy a long drink of water.

Even plants in shady areas need to be checked frequently, although they may not have to be watered daily.

Remove spent blooms on flowering plants, to encourage continued flowering. And some plants benefit from an occasional light application of fertilizer or plant food. Watch for some DIY plant care products in an upcoming Summer Gardening Tips.

With very simple, basic care, you can enjoy the rewards of container gardening! Those traditional or repurposed containers will provide color and scents throughout the summer until the first frost.

Backyard Garden Series

Check out the rest of the posts, in this informative series:

Spring Garden Tips

Ecological Garden Hacks

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

10 Low Maintenance Annuals to Grow

Growing Clematis Babies

DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent

Easy Container Gardening

Here’s an assortment of fun containers, to get you started!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 Low Maintenance Annuals to Grow

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While perennials form the foundation of a garden, low maintenance annuals provide the pops of color that create interest all summer long. These plants bloom and shine for a single season, rather than returning year after year.

There are advantages to adding annuals to the garden. They fill in gaps among perennials. Annuals add variety as the plants can be changed every year. Cost wise, they are cheaper than perennials. And they are perfect for containers.

Try out the following low maintenance annuals. They can be tucked into the ground. Or use them to create a container garden on a balcony or patio.

10 Low Maintenance Annuals to Grow

Marigolds

For many gardeners, the brightly colored marigold was the first flower they ever planted. Available in warms shades of yellow, gold, orange and red-orange, dependable marigolds have a distinctive aroma that helps to repel insects. They range in height from 4 to 24 inches, making them perfect in a flower border. Scatter seeds or plant marigolds in well drained soil, in a sunny location.

Geraniums

In warmer climates, the geranium is actually a perennial. For most of the US, however, it is grown as an annual. Planted in containers, geraniums thrive when moved indoors to winter. Colors range from red to pink to white and they grow up to 18 inches tall. Place geraniums where they can receive morning or late afternoon sun and shade during the hottest part of the day.

Zinnias

This easy care flower comes in a broad range of colors and varieties and grows to a height of 3 feet. Zinnias appreciate full sun and well drained soil. They can tolerate some drought making them a great annual for hot summers. To encourage continual blooms, pinch off the flowers as they fade. This plant is easily grown from seeds.

10 Low Maintenance Annuals to GrowZinnias in metal containers near my brick patio.

Petunias

Another very common flower, petunias are perennials in zones 9 – 11 and considered annuals in the rest of the US. (Find your zone here.) These colorful flowers do extremely well in containers, tolerating heat and blooming all summer. Keep them in full sun. Some varieties of petunias vine while others mound. Remove flowers as they fade to keep them blooming until fall.

Calibrachoas

These flowers resemble little petunias. Like petunias, they are perennials in zones 9 – 11 and annuals elsewhere. Calibrachoas come in a variety of colors and do especially well in hanging baskets and containers. They prefer sunny locations although light shade, such as on a covered porch, is tolerable as well. Water regularly to keep the soil damp for the best performance and remove faded flowers. If the vines get too straggly, pinch them back to encourage fuller growth.

10 Low Maintenance Annuals to GrowPurple and yellow calibrachoas growing in a wash tub.

Vincas

These low maintenance annuals bloom profusely throughout the summer, adding pops of color to borders and containers. Hues range from reds to pinks to lilacs to whites. Vincas grow up to 12 inches tall and attract bees and butterflies to the garden. Plant in well drained soil, in full sun. These flowers don’t have to be removed as they fade. Vinca blooms drop on their own.

Portulacas

Also known as moss roses or purslane, this annual thrives in hot dry conditions. Their trailing stems make them ideal for containers and hanging baskets. They also work well as ground cover. Portulacas come in a broad variety of colors and can easily be started from seeds. Although considered an annual in most of the US, they often self seed, producing new plants the following summer.

10 Low Maintenance Annuals to GrowVincas, portulacas and petunias in containers on my potting bench.

Pentas

These sun loving flowers attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. Reaching a height of 12 inches, pentas bloom in shades of red, pink, white and purple. They prefer well drained soil. Plant them in containers or flower borders.

Impatiens

Colorful impatiens come in a variety of bright or pastel hues. These low growing plants prefer lightly shaded to full shade locations and damp soil, making them perfect for hanging baskets or containers on a porch or covered patio. The blooms do not need to be removed as they fade. This favorite will flower until first frost.

Begonias

One of the easiest of the low maintenance annuals, begonias come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors. They grow 8 to 10 inches tall and bloom in shades of red, pink and white. Foliage can be green or bronze in color. Although they can thrive in full sun, most begonias do best in light shade. Keep the soil damp by watering frequently. The hardy plants do well in containers or borders and attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Begonias bloom throughout the summer, until it frosts.

10 Low Maintenance Annuals to GrowWhite and red begonias fill containers on my covered front porch.

Backyard Garden Series

If perennials seem too daunting, I hope this list of low maintenance annuals gives you ideas for your own garden. The beauty of these easy care plants is that they can occupy a variety of containers, bringing color and delightful scents to small spaces.

Or have fun mixing perennials and annuals together. In my outdoor spaces, most of my annuals fill containers scattered throughout my garden. I change the annuals each year, trying out new varieties and different colors, which adds to the fun and keeps things interesting.

For more garden ideas, check out the other posts in the Backyard Garden Series. And, happy gardening!

Spring Garden Tips

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

Ecological Garden Hacks

DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent

Growing Clematis Babies

10 Low Maintenance Annuals to GrowPentas growing in a vintage metal bucket, next to an old minnow bucket repurposed into a candleholder.

 

Order packets of low maintenance annual seeds by clicking on photo below:

 


 

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DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent

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As much as I love being outside, working in my garden, there’s one thing I don’t like. Mosquitos.

hate feeling a sting and looking down to see a mosquito on my wrist or arm. Worse is seeing them flitting about my head or hearing their high pitched whine and knowing what’s about to happen. They have their place on the earth, but I don’t have to like mosquitos.

For years I kept cans of insect repellent near the back door, to use as I headed outdoors. However, it always caused an internal struggle. Get bitten by mosquitos? Or douse myself with chemicals?

It’s no longer a struggle. After spending three years diligently cleansing my body and liver from toxins, I don’t want to spray them back onto my skin.

It’s easy, I’ve discovered, to create my own DIY natural mosquito repellent.

DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent

Mosquitos Can Smell You

Did you know mosquitos use their senses to find you?

The insects are attracted to the carbon dioxide humans and animals exhale. They vaguely see us as they dart our way. And once they get close enough, the warmth from our bodies helps them zero in on our location.

There is also some indication that mosquitos use their antennae to detect sweat, a common human occurrence on a muggy summer evening.

Why do mosquitos like to bite us anyway?

It’s only the female mosquito that bites. She uses protein and iron rich blood in the formation of her eggs. The bites itch because the body creates histamine as a reactive response to the mosquito saliva injected to slow blood clotting.

Are there smells mosquitos don’t like?

Yes! And we can use their dislike of certain scents to our advantage.

DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent

Scents Mosquitos Hate

These aromatic herbs are natural mosquito repellents:

  • lavender
  • citronella
  • peppermint
  • basil
  • lemon balm
  • marigold
  • catnip
  • rosemary
  • eucalyptus

I’ve grabbed a handful of lemon balm leaves, as I weeded in the garden, crushed them, and rubbed them on my arms to deter mosquitos. It helps!

Better still is to make a DIY natural mosquito repellent, using a combination of herbal scents that keep the little pests away.

DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent Recipe

For this easy to make spray, combine:

  • 1 cup lavender water
  • 30 drops lemon eucalyptus essential oil
  • 20 drops citronella essential oil

To make lavender water, boil one cup of water. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh or dried lavender flowers and 2 dried cloves. Let steep until water cools. Strain liquid into a dark glass bottle with a spritz top.

Add lemon eucalyptus and citronella essential oils. Shake well before each use. Apply to exposed skin every two hours while outdoors. Use within six months.

Lavender is near the top of the list for scents mosquitos dislike. Lemon eucalyptus and citronella both have strong citrusy scents that mosquitos avoid. In fact, lemon eucalyptus is very effective in repelling mosquitos, right behind DEET and picaridin, and it’s not toxic.

Vary the recipe if desired by creating basil water or lemon balm water as the base, instead of lavender water. Other essential oils that are effective in repelling mosquitos include peppermint, thyme, geranium and cedar.

You can create your own DIY natural mosquito repellent based on personal preference for scents by combining the herbs and essential oils in different ways.

DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent

Enjoying Spring and Summer Evenings, Mosquito Free

Mosquitos are certainly pests. And their bites create itchy bumps that can be maddening. The little biters can pose a health concern as well.

While it’s rare, mosquitos are known to carry diseases such as West Nile Virus, Zika, malaria, encephalitis and various fevers. Protecting ourselves from bites, while protecting our bodies from the toxins found in commercial insect repellents is possible, happily.

The end result of DIY natural mosquito repellent?

Backyard parties, quiet times in the garden, kids playing, walks in nature, all without the distraction of wondering when that dang mosquito is going to land and bite.

Do you have a favorite homemade mosquito repellent? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent

Backyard Garden Series

Other posts in the Backyard Garden Series:

You can pick up dark glass spritz bottles and lemon eucalyptus and citronella essential oils by clicking on the images below.

 

 


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10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

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As the month of April draws to a close, one thing stand outs to me. It’s planting season! Here in Missouri, which is zone 7 on the hardiness zone map, the beginning of May marks the end of temperatures that can dip below freezing at night. A good rule of thumb is to wait until the first part of May to plant in the ground. See what zone your region is in with this map.

Speaking of thumbs, not everyone has a green one. However, don’t let that perceived belief stop you from creating a garden. Whether you desire an expansive backyard paradise or a tiny butterfly garden, these 10 super easy perennials to grow will survive and thrive with little care.

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

Perennials are plants that return year after year. They are the foundation of a lasting garden, as they only have to be planted once.

The following plants provide riotous colors along with interesting textures and amazing scents to your garden. Check out this post, Spring Garden Tips, for suggestions on prepping the soil and cleaning up your area before planting.

If you are creating a flower bed or border for the first time, remove grass, turn the soil to a depth of one foot and work in nutrients such as compost before tucking in plants.

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow
My southern border with Shasta daisies, coneflowers, garden phlox, Russian sage, black eyed Susan and coreopsis.

Coneflowers

Also known as echinacea, these plants prefer a sunny location and produce purple, white or rose colored blooms from early summer until fall. Coneflowers tolerate the heat well and grow up to three free tall, making them ideal for a southern border. They attract butterflies and hummingbirds. As a bonus, you can create health boosting echinacea tea from the blooms.

Garden Phlox

Related to but not to be confused with creeping phlox, this plant stands tall in the garden, growing to a height of three to five feet. Garden phlox loves the sun and blooms in shades of pinks and purples.

Coreopsis

These sun loving yellow flowers bring cheer to the garden. Growing up to 18 inches in height, the flowers appear on bright green delicate foliage. Extend the blooming time by removing flowers as they fade, a practice known as dead heading.

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow
Sunny yellow coreopsis with coneflowers blooming in the background.

Russian Sage

This plant, which is closely related to the sage family, thrives during hot weather. Its woody stems grow up to four feet tall and produce small purple flowers and tiny leaves with a distinctive aromatic scent.

Black Eyed Susan

Producing masses of cheerful yellow flowers with dark brown centers, these plants prefer full sun and tolerate heat and drought well. They grow up to three feet tall. Cut back the plants after flowering to produce another round of blooms.

Bearded Iris

Irises put up tall stalks amid a fan of spiky leaves. The plants bloom in a wide variety of colors . Growing up to three feet tall, irises need a sunny spot in the garden. The leaves continue to show off after the spring flowers fade.

Day Lily

On the list of super easy perennials, the day lily ranks high. Extremely easy to grow, these plants thrive in a sunny location and do well in partial shade also. Their flowers vary from bright yellow to golden to orange. Although not absolutely necessary, day lilies respond well to a layer of mulch around them.

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow
Clusters of day lilies near my ornamental grasses.

Sedum

Sedum, also known as Live Forevers and Stonecrop, ranges from hugging the ground to growing up to three feet tall. The beautiful foliage is gift enough. However in late summer this hardy plant offers clusters of tiny flowers in white, pink, yellow or rusty red.

Hosta

This well known perennial is great for the shady areas in the garden. Growing up to four feet tall and equally wide, this plant produces showy leaves in a variety of greens. Many hostas have variegated leaves. In late summer they send up tall stalks covered with white, lavender or pink flowers.

Coral Bells

Another shade loving plant, coral bells pair well with hostas. Their gorgeous leaves vary from shades of green to purple to reddish brown. The delicate flowers may be white or pink. Because my backyard doesn’t have trees, and therefore no shade, my hostas and coral bells thrive in a garden strip on the north side of the house.

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow
Hosta and coral bells share space with a hydrangea.

Backyard Garden Series

I hope this 10 super easy perennials to grow post gives you ideas about what plants might do well in your own garden spaces.

I’m excited to present a series of posts over the next few weeks, offering gardening tips and ideas. Take a look at this post in the Backyard Garden Series, 13 Easy Herbs to Grow. And watch for upcoming posts about growing annuals, container gardens, creating a butterfly garden and easy vegetables to grow. I’ll have some fun gardening freebies for you too and ways to make your garden space uniquely yours. If you have questions about gardening, drop me a comment below. The answer might just become a featured post!

As my perennials push up through the ground, I’m excited as well to welcome them back. I’m ready to pick up new annuals and tuck them into place. It’s time to get my hands dirty.

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow
Russian sage with its wonderfully aromatic leaves.

Backyard Garden Series

Check the rest of the posts in this gardening series:

Spring Garden Tips

Ecological Garden Hacks

Growing Clematis Babies

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

10 Low Maintenance Annuals to Grow

DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent

 

Check out these cool gardening supplies!

 

 


 

 

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Ecological Garden Hacks

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Warm days full of sunshine and occasional showers are teasing my garden into life. I’ve completed early spring gardening tasks. Soon I’ll tuck new plants into the warming ground and celebrate each perennial as it pushes through the rich dirt.

I’m a mindful gardener, with an awareness of the importance of taking care of my little portion of the earth. I don’t use commercial weed killers or pesticides. To do so endangers the beneficial insects, toads and spiders that call my backyard home. It’s also important to me to reuse and repurpose items as much as possible, rather than buying new.

It’s a journey and a process that I expand upon every year. Each spring, as the garden awakens, I read back through a little book I purchased several years ago. I’ve learned great ecological garden hacks from Trowel & Errorby Sharon Lovejoy, and I’ve come up with a few of my own.

Ecological Garden Hacks

Ecological Garden Hacks

These hacks are friendly to the environment and beneficial for the garden. Many of the supplies needed are already in your kitchen pantry or they are easily obtained.

DIY Insect Repellents

Rather than using commercial products that damage the environment and destroy beneficial insects as well as troublesome ones, try one of these DIY repellents.

  • Add a handful of basil leaves to 1/2 gallon of water, crushing the leaves slightly. Brew in the sun for a couple of days. Strain and pour into spray bottles, adding 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap. I like Seventh Generation chemical free dish soap. This solution repels aphids, cabbage loopers, mites and cucumber beetles.
  • Add 2 tablespoons ground red pepper and 6 drops of liquid soap to 1 gallon of water. Let sit overnight. Stir and pour into spray bottles. Use to spray all plants in the cabbage family…cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower…once a week.
  • When trimming or cutting back herbs, drop clippings into a gallon bucket. Fill with water and let sit for a week. Strain and add 2  tablespoons of liquid soap. Spray directly on pests.
  • One of the easiest ways to control pests, including Japanese beetles, is to keep a bucket of soapy water nearby as you weed or work in the garden. Pluck off pests as you find them and drop into the bucket. I’ve not tried this next step, however I’ve read that you can strain the liquid after a week and use the dead bug concoction as a repellent. I must try this garden hack out this summer.

Create Houses for Garden Allies

While keeping a watchful eye out for pests and invaders, create habitats for insects and animals that feed on harmful insects.

  • Turn clay flower pots, with drainage holes in the bottom, upside in sheltered areas of the garden. Spiders will take up residence inside, feeding on insects and larvae.
  • Place shallow pans, bowls or discs on the ground near tall grasses or woody plants. Dragonflies are drawn to the water and like to rest on grass stems or twigs nearby. A dragonfly eats up to 300 insects a day.
  • Dig a shallow hole in the ground and create a toad house with two small rocks or bricks and a large flat rock laid across the top. Leave the front and back open.
  • Fill a half barrel with water to encourage frogs to gather. Watch the water however. Without frogs, mosquitos will lay eggs in the water that will hatch.

Other helpful allies include praying mantis, ladybugs, birds, snakes, large garden spiders and bats. You want these helpers in the garden. Create a supportive environment for them.

Ecological Garden Hacks
One of two toad houses in my garden.

Create Willow Water

The leaves and tender branches of the willow tree contain powerful compounds that stimulate growth and development in plants. Collect small twigs and spring leaves and cut them into one inch pieces. Drop a couple of handfuls into a bucket of water and steep the mixture for a week. Strain and pour liquid into canning jars. Store in the refrigerator.

Use willow water to propagate plants. Dip the end of the cutting in the water, letting it soak for a few minutes, then tuck the new plant into the ground. Water with the willow mixture. Use willow water to water around freshly transplanted plants and seedlings.

Garden Hacks from the Kitchen

Use those left over kitchen scraps to benefit the soil and plants in the garden.

  • Coffee grounds, egg shells and banana peels can go directly into the ground without composting. Sprinkle coffee grounds on top of the ground. Rinse egg shells and allow them to dry for a few days. Crush and sprinkle around tomato plants. Chop banana peels and work into the soil with a spade or turning fork. As they break down banana peels add calcium, magnesium, sulphur, potassium and sodium to the soil, enriching it.
  • Create a compost pile. Add kitchen scraps to it daily. Do not include meat or dairy products. Water every few days and turn the pile once a week or so. In a couple of months you’ll have rich dirt for the garden.
  • Use left over tea to water plants and sprinkle dried tea leaves on the ground. Save tea bags after use, cutting them open and emptying contents onto the ground.
  • Empty lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit rinds make excellent seed starter pots. Transplant the whole thing into the garden when the seedlings are big enough.
  • Water the garden with cooled vegetable water, left over from cooking. And although this isn’t exactly a kitchen item, stinky water from the fish tank is great for watering plants as well.
Ecological Garden Hacks
Adding chopped banana peels to the garden.

Uses for Epsom Salt

This product has so many uses in the garden. It contains magnesium, which is important to plants. Epsom salt speeds up plant growth, deters pests, increases the flavor of veggies and fruits and improves overall plant health.

  • In the garden, sprinkle 1 cup of Epsom salt per 100 square foot, mixing it well into the soil before planting.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt to the bottom of the hole when planting. Cover salt with a thin layer of dirt before adding plant.
  • Water around the base of plants with mixture of 2 tablespoons Epsom salt and 1 gallon of water.
  • Improve yield and flavor of tomatoes, eggplants and peppers by watering every two weeks with 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt in 1 gallon of water.
  • When planting roses, soak root ball in water containing 1/2 cup of Epsom salt. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of salt into the hole before planting rose. Once a month during the growing season, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt, per foot of plant, around the base of the rose and then water.
  • Use Epsom salt as a weed killer by mixing 2 cups with 1 gallon of water. Add a tablespoon of liquid soap and pour into spray bottle to use. Spray weeds while avoiding flowers and vegetable plants.

Repurpose Containers and Objects in the Garden

Rather than purchasing new containers every year, add interest to the garden by repurposing a multitude of items. My garden contains an eclectic mix of clay pots, metal pieces and other repurposed items.

I use metal buckets, washtubs, watering cans and tool boxes to hold flowers and herbs. This is one of the magical elements in my garden…it’s filled with unusual yet practical containers. Wire baskets, attached to the privacy fence, serve as shelves for an assortment of flower pots. Colanders cradle plants. A vintage minnow bucket holds tea light candles.

A rusty wheelbarrow became a fairy garden. And an old wooden chair holds an enamel bucket full of annuals. Greg repurposed old wooden pallets into a potting bench.

When the big old maple tree had to come down, after being damaged in a storm, I used portions of the trunk and large branches to create natural flower pots and plant stands. Eventually these planters will deteriorate and return to the earth. I consider them gifts from Maple Tree and I’m honored to have them in the garden.

Before I toss any item that no longer fulfills its original purpose, I consider what new life it might find in the house or garden. I love discovering new ways to use things.

Ecological Garden Hacks
Gifts from Maple Tree fill my garden.

Moving Toward Zero Waste

I am learning about and desiring to practice zero waste. In my home, in my kitchen and in my garden, living with less waste saves me money and allows me to do my part to ease the burden on the earth. Watch for upcoming posts about ways to live greener, limit one time use plastics, reuse and repurpose items and practice zero waste.

I hope these ecological garden hacks help you to enjoy your garden and feel good about what you are doing as you care for it. I’d love to hear about your garden hacks and tricks, in the comments. Happy gardening!

Ecological Garden Hacks
Can you spot all the repurposed items in this section of the garden?

Backyard Garden Series

Check out the other posts in this gardening series:

Spring Garden Tips

Growing Clematis Babies

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

10 Low Maintenance Annuals to Grow

Order Trowel & Error by clicking photo below:

 

 

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13 Easy Herbs to Grow

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

When I planted my garden in 2014, I included a space for herbs. I called this section of my backyard paradise the Apothecary Garden. In Medieval times, the person who sold herbs for medicinal purposes were called apothecaries.

At that time, I had no idea the role herbs would play in my future life. I just knew I loved the way herbs smelled. My desire for an herbal garden stemmed from my intention to cook with fresh herbs and to dry them, creating my own potpourri, teas and skin products. (Read about the birth of my Apothecary Garden.)

Six growing seasons later, the Apothecary Garden thrives. It provides fresh herbs and brings me much joy. This year I am expanding the herb garden, adding more plants and new varieties of existing herbs.

Most herbs are very easy to grow, tucking them into the ground or in containers. Apartment dwellers can grow herbs as easily as homeowners with big yards. They simply require 4 – 6 hours of direct sun, good soil, and proper drainage.

To get you started, here are 13 easy to grow herbs.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

 

Basil

Considered an annual, basil that is allowed to flower and go to seed produces volunteer plants the following summer. There are many varieties to choose from including one with dark purple leaves. Fragrant basil grows best in a sunny location.

Dill

Pungent and flavorful, use the leaves, yellow flowers and seeds in a variety of ways in the kitchen. Leave some plants with seeds, as they too will produce volunteer plants the next year. Grow dill in a sunny spot or tuck into a container that receives adequate sunlight.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

Mint

One of the easiest herbs to grow, peppermint, spearmint and chocolate mint flourish and return each year. The plants made great ground cover in the garden. Mint does spread  rapidly, so place it in an area where its growth can be controlled. Or plant in large containers. Mint grows well in partial shade to full sun.

Thyme

Another low growing herb, thyme is a perennial, returning year after year. It too makes a wonderful ground cover and can tolerate being walked on. In a container, thyme trails over the edge, partnering well with other herbs in a display. Grow thyme in full sun.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

Chives

With their pretty pink blossoms, chives are attractive enough to add to a border garden. Harvest the flowers or the tubular stems to add a subtle onion flavor to dishes. Grow chives in a sunny location in well drained soil, or plant in containers. This plant is perennial.

Lavender

Among the many varieties, English lavender is the most popular form of this wonderfully fragrant herb. It is a perennial that prefers full sun and well drained soil. Include lavender in the herb garden, flower border or in containers.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

Chamomile

This well known herb thrives in full sun to partial shade. Sow chamomile seeds, which can be ordered here, in late spring directly on the ground or in a container. Use the flowers fresh or dried to create a soothing tea.

Lemon Balm

This extremely easy to grow herb offers a strong lemony scent and flavor with a hint of mint. A perennial, lemon balm is another plant that can take over the garden, if not controlled. Grow in a full sun to partial shade or tuck into a container.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

Bee Balm

A perennial, bee balm, like mint and lemon balm, is simple to grow. And it too likes to spread. Bee balm’s gorgeous pink, white or purple flowers do indeed attract bees and butterflies. Use the flowers or the leaves to brew a fragrant cup of tea. Bee balm prefers full sun but moist soil, so surround the plants with a layer of mulch.

Lemongrass

Resembling ornamental grasses, the tall flavorful leaves and tender bulbs of lemongrass are used in soups or teas. An annual in most regions of the US, lemongrass must be replanted each spring. Place in full sun and keep the soil well watered.

Sage

Sage’s grayish green or variegated leaves add rich flavor to foods and teas. The flowers are edible as well. Grow in full sun in well drained soil or in container combos. Low growing sage makes a great border plant also.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

Fennel

Fennel’s leaves resemble dill leaves. Very easy to grow, fennel provides a subtle licorice flavor to dishes. The dried seeds make a fragrant tea. Grow in a sunny location.

Rosemary

This shrubby herb can grow tall enough to resemble a small tree or train it to climb a wall or trellis. Rosemary requires a hot, dry, sunny location or it thrives in a container placed in direct sunlight. Bring rosemary indoors in the winter and replant in the spring.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

Beneficial Herbs

Herbal plants add flavor to foods. I love walking into my garden and pinching off sprigs of fresh herbs to cook with. Actually, I enjoy walking through my herbal garden each evening, as the plants release their amazing scents as I brush the leaves.

Fresh or dried herbs are perfect for brewing health boosting cups of tea. And, as I intended, I create my own potpourri each fall, from the dried leaves and flowers.

When I planted my Apothecary Garden I did not know that in two years my life would shift drastically as I adopted a plant based lifestyle. Herbs play a huge role in keeping me healthy. As I realized the importance of these medicinal plants, I looked in amazement at my hardy and mature Apothecary Garden. What I needed for my health was already here, waiting for me to recognize the significance of my earlier actions.

How magical and enchanted life is. And how beautiful these life giving plants are.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

Backyard Garden Series

Check out the other posts in this gardening series:

Spring Garden Tips

Ecological Garden Hacks

Growing Clematis Babies

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

10 Low Maintenance Annuals to Grow

DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent

 

Grow an enchanting herbal tea garden, with this package of seeds. Click photo for link to Amazon.

 


 

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program is designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

 

 

 

Spring Garden Tips

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Happy first day of spring! I’m excited. Spring ushers in a time of renewal and birth and heralds the coming of warmer weather and longer days. For once, the fickle Missouri weather matched the approaching season. Sunshine and warm temps filled the days, encouraging me to get outside.

And my favorite outdoor activity this time of year? Tending to the garden.

I love seeing the first stirrings of life in my backyard paradise. It signals the return of colorful flowers, fragrant herbs and tall, waving ornamental grasses.

But first, tidying up is a must in March, after the garden’s long winter nap.

Check out these spring garden tips, to prep for the glory ahead.

Spring Garden Tips

 

Clear Away Debris

After months of cold, wind, rain and a bit of snow, the garden looks a bit bedraggled. The ornamental grasses droop along the fence row. Last summer’s flower stalks, which look beautiful contrasted against snow on the ground, can at last come down. And somehow, in spite of a six foot privacy fence encircling the yard, trash blows in.

As Greg and I survey the garden area, we pick up trash, cut down dry stalks and mentally take note of stray ornamental grass starts that need to be dug up.

Action step: Clear away garden debris including last year’s dead plants, dry stalks, leaves and any trash carried in by the wind.

Spring Garden TipsThe garden is a mess this time of year.

Trim Back Ornamental Grasses

Even during the winter months, ornamental grasses add interest to the garden. The stalks and tassels turn golden, providing color on gray, dreary days.

As the weather warms, the stalks need to be trimmed back, to six to eight inches above the ground. This allows fresh growth to appear. And trust me, the new stalks will quickly grow and fill back in.

We use an electric hedge trimmer to accomplish this spring garden task quickly and easily. The trimmed stalks go into a large metal barrel, for burning.

Action step: Trim back ornamental grasses. Burn the stalks or dispose of them via a trash dumpster. Don’t use them for mulch, as the seeds from the tassels will germinate.

Spring Garden TipsTrimmed ornamental grass clump. Cut back to 6 – 8  inches above ground.

Spring Garden TipsMetal burning barrel. The cover from the firepit keeps flaming debris from leaving the barrel. We keep a garden hose nearby, just in case.

Get a Head Start on Weeds

Everyone’s least favorite garden task is pulling weeds. It is an absolute necessity however. Not only are weeds unsightly, they crowd flowers, veggies and herbs, stealing their nourishment.

It’s early yet for most weeds. But not for eliminating ornamental grass starts that pop up all over the garden. It’s not difficult to remove these plants while they are tiny. It becomes a much bigger task if they’ve been left to grow.

I had quite a collection of starts, ranging in size from miniscule to large clumps. We noted the larger grasses last fall, and left them until spring clean up. Greg graciously removed the bigger grasses and clumps, while I dug up the smaller ones. After recent heavy rains, the small grass starts came up easily.

At the same time, I removed a couple of small tree starts and tackled clumps of dead crab grass. Greg used the weed eater to knock down dead grasses in the corners of the yard and along the edges of flower borders and beds.

Action step: Walk the garden area and inspect beds and borders for dry weeds and early starts. Spend a few minutes each day, walking the garden and pulling up weeds as they appear.

Spring Garden TipsRemoving a tiny ornamental grass start.

Check Soil

Before the garden begins to fill in, enrich the soil. Organic material like compost or manure adds moisture and much needed nutrients. My garden is six years old. Reworking the soil and adding compost nourishes the plants that are returning and gives new plants a great start.

We have a couple of places in the garden that hold too much water, creating boggy areas. Organic matter and peat moss worked into the soil will help to balance out those areas, creating better drainage.

Action step: Add organic matter to the garden if it is more than a couple of years old, to revitalize it. Balance out dry or boggy areas.

Spring Garden Tips

Spring Garden Tips for Mid Season

As the season progresses, these tasks will complete garden prep:

  • Plan out new beds and borders
  • Plant hardy annuals in containers and beds
  • Plant bulbs
  • Transplant seeds if they were started indoors
  • Plant cool weather veggies such as lettuce, cabbage and peas
  • Prune early flowering bushes, after they flower

Action step: This is the fun part, after days of cleaning up the garden and prepping for new plants. Take time to think about what you want to add to the garden this year. Visit nurseries. Tour other gardens. Check out Pinterest or browse online for ideas.

Spring Garden TipsLemon balm showing up in the garden. I’m excited to have my first cup of  freshly brewed lemon balm tea.

Spring Garden Tips for Late Season

Beyond the threat of frost, typically mid April to early May in most of the US, complete these tasks:

  • Cut back stems after bulbs bloom
  • Check garden for empty spots
  • Fill in with annuals and perennials
  • Plant herbs
  • Plant vegetables. Try out a raised bed garden.
  • Mulch with 2 – 3 inches of organic material such as cedar. Mulch helps to hold in moisture and prevents weeds and disease.

Action step: This is the time to bring winter dreams into reality. What do you want to add to your garden? Now is the time to do so. My garden changes every year, as I add to it. This year my intention is to rework the Apothecary Garden and add more herbs.

Spring Fever

I love this season and being outdoors. The garden is slowing awakening. New growth is appearing. Right now, it looks rather bleak. But I know. I know that just beneath the surface, life is stirring and soon my garden will fill with colors and scents.

In a couple of months, the garden transforms from this…

Spring Garden Tips

…to this! What a remarkable change.

Spring Garden Tips

Every task, every weed pulled, every plant tucked into the ground, is worth the effort. This backyard garden is, indeed, my paradise.

Backyard Garden Series

Check the other posts in this gardening series:

Ecological Garden Hacks

Growing Clematis Babies

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

10 Low Maintenance Annuals to Grow

DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent

 

Try out these essential gardening supplies and tools! Just click on the picture to view product.

 

 

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program is designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

 

 

Growing Clematis Babies

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

I only lost one perennial in the garden this spring, due to freezing temperatures. I had six clematis vines trailing up their trellises when the cold pinched them. Five came back. One did not. Losing one plant out of hundreds isn’t bad. And yet, there’s a gap where that clematis should be. I considered purchasing a new plant, but the perfectionist in me was concerned I couldn’t match the color of the other blooming vines in that area. And besides, I could use four or five new clematis plants.

I decided to try propagating clematis plants for the first time.

Growing Clematic Babies

Growing Clematis Babies in Water

 

There are several methods for creating new plants from existing ones. I decided to go with the easiest…growing new plants from cuttings in water. And I have the perfect container for rooting the vines in.

Growing Clematis Babies

My daughter Elissa passed on these unique bud vases to me, several years ago. I confess, it’s difficult for me, cutting flowers to use for display. I’d rather have them growing in my garden than dying in a vase, so I rarely gather flowers. However, these little vases make perfect incubators.

Growing Clematis Babies

Clematis Baby Cuttings

I took cuttings from these four beauties. Here are the easy steps I followed.

1) Prepare containers for rootings. They need to be tall enough to hold the cuttings. Dissolve aspirin in water and fill containers. The aspirin helps the cuttings to root. I used one low dosage aspirin in about 6 cups of water.

2) Cut a 6-8 inch section of vine from the top of the plant. Remove any leaves that lie below the water line, as they may rot. Clip off any blooms or buds so that energy is directed to rooting and not producing flowers.

3) Place cuttings, in aspirin water, in a bright window without direct sunlight. A north facing window is ideal. Use a grow light if a suitable window isn’t available. Change water daily, to prevent stagnation, and add a low dosage aspirin with each water change.

4) Once roots are 1/4-1 inch long, begin adding a tablespoon of potting soil a day to the container, so roots adapt to soil. When the container has mostly soil in it, transplant vine to a pot. Acclimate the vine to the outdoors by increasing the amount of sunshine it receives each day. When plant tolerates being outdoors for 24 hours, it’s ready to transplant into the ground.

Growing Clematis Babies

Test Tube Clematis Babies

I love creating, whether it’s a drawing or a recipe or a new plant. And I enjoy using what I already have on hand. It’s also important to be adaptable.

Cleaning the containers with a bottle brush, I accidentally broke the bottom of one of the tubes. Greg used a silicone sealer, in an attempt to fix it. I’m letting it cure for 24 hours. If it seals and holds water, great. I don’t mind the wabi sabi look…beauty in imperfection. And if it doesn’t hold water, that’s okay too. I still have five tubes.

It was as I was washing the containers that I recognized the irony of their shape, and laughed. These are large glass test tubes. I’m growing clematis babies…in test tubes. I have test tube babies. I couldn’t have a more appropriate container!

Growing Clematis Babies

Backyard Garden Series

Is your garden ready for spring planting? Need a selection of reliable, easy to grow perennials, herbs and annuals? Check out other posts in my Backyard Garden Series.

Spring Garden Tips

Ecological Garden Hacks

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

10 Low Maintenance Annuals to Grow

DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent

Growing Clematis Babies

 

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program is designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.