Companion Gardening Plants that Thrive Together

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We all appreciate companions in our lives, people who journey alongside, encouraging and supporting us. Plants, it turns out, enjoy a form of companionship as well.

Companion gardening is the practice of planting specific plants close together, for the mutual benefit of both. Our grandparents and great grandparents understood that plants thrive better when certain combinations are tucked into the ground together. I’m learning more about this helpful process.

Companion gardening, plants that thrive together, offers a list to try out in your own backyard or garden space.

Companion Gardening Plants that Thrive Together title meme

The Benefits of Companion Gardening

Tom Maloney, horticulture educator for Penn State Extension, says

“The theory behind companion planting is that certain plants may help each other take up nutrients, improve pest management, or attract pollinators.”

Flowering herbs and plants attract pollinators such as butterflies, bees, wasps and birds that improve the growth and yield of certain vegetables. Other strong smelling flowers or herbs help to deter pests such as beetles or aphids. Large leafy vegetables provide shade for smaller plants or give climbers support. While sprawling plants like okra or squash help keep weeds from springing up.

Try the following companion gardening plants that thrive together.

Cabbage and Chamomile

What a surprise this pairing presents! The flowering herb, known for its relaxing properties as a tea, draws beneficial insects to the cabbage plant.

In the fall, chop up any remaining chamomile, if you can bear to part with it yourself, and scatter the pieces over the vegetable garden to enrich the soil.

Tomatoes and Basil

This is a classic companion gardening combo and for good reason.

Basil and tomato plants share nutrients in the soil. The fragrant herb improves the flavor of the tomato plant and its strong scent, which I absolutely love, keeps pests away. Plus, experienced vegetable gardeners swear that they harvest more tomatoes when they companion plant them with basil.

Let some of the basil plants flower, to bring in those important pollinators.

Companion Gardening Plants that Thrive Together tomatoes and basil
Companion gardening plants that thrive together – tomatoes and basil

Tomatoes and Lettuce

Extend their growing season by planting lettuce crops, which prefer cooler temperatures, among taller tomato plants. The tomato plants shade the lettuce and help to protect them from too much sunlight.

Lettuce and Chives or Garlic

Those pesky aphids don’t like strongly scented herbs such as chives or garlic. Interplant chives or garlic with lettuce to protect their tender leaves. Consider adding the flower alyssum as well. It’s tiny white flowers attract beneficial insects. Or allow the chives to flower.

Companion Gardening Plants that Thrive Together chives and lettuce
Companion gardening plants that thrive together – lettuce and garlic

Radishes and Carrots

Since both of these are root vegetables, you’d think that they might compete for the same nutrients. However, radishes mature quickly and don’t grow as deeply in the soil.

Carrots mature more slowly and put down a longer taproot, drawing their nutrients from a different space.

Corn and Pole Beans and Squash or Pumpkins

This method of companion planting originated with Native Americans, who called it the Three Sisters.

Corn provides a framework for the beans to climb on. Beans convert nitrogen in the air into a form the plants use in the soil. And the squash or pumpkins sprawl out with their large leaves, preventing weeds from springing up and competing for nutrients.

Companion Gardening Plants that Thrive Together three sisters
Companion gardening plants that thrive together – corn, beans and squash

Melons and Flowering Herbs

Melons need pollinators to produce their fruit. Plant flowering herbs nearby to draw them in. Great herb choices include dill, fennel, thyme, mint or parsley. Provide a framework for melons to climb upon or give them plenty of space for the vines to sprawl naturally.

Broccoli and Calendula

The calendula plants produce a sticky substance on their stems that attract aphids and trap them. Planting the flowers near broccoli and related plants such as cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and collards, keeps aphids under control.

Plus, ladybugs are attracted to the calendula flowers. And they love to dine on aphids.

Companion Gardening Plants that Thrive Together broccoli and calendula
Companion gardening plants that thrive together – broccoli and calendula

Cucumbers and Nasturtium

Grow cucumbers up a trellis or platform and plant colorful nasturtium beneath them.

The scent of the flowers repels damaging insects while the colorful flowers attract pollinators.

Summer Squash and Marigolds

Similarly, planting nasturtium or marigolds with summer squashes such as yellow squash or zucchini helps protect those plants. Aphids and beetles are repelled by the unique scents of these flowers.

Marigolds enhance the growth of other garden favorites such as basil, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, eggplant, gourds, kale, potatoes, squash and tomatoes. Or pair them with melons as a way to deter beetles. Do not plant marigolds near beans.

Companion Gardening Plants that Thrive Together squash and nasturtium
Companion gardening plants that thrive together – squash and nasturtium

Flowers that Pair Well Together

If you love flowers like I do, you might enjoy pairing these flowers together, in containers or your garden space.

  • black eyed Susans with garden phlox or coneflowers
  • daylilies with yarrow or lavendar
  • bee balm with Russian sage
  • daffodils with irises
  • shasta daisies with coneflowers

Need help coming up with a garden plan? Check out free garden plans HERE.

I hope you discovered fresh ideas for companion gardening! We all like a win/win situation. Flowers, herbs and vegetables benefit from such favorable arrangements as well.

Have you tried companion gardening? What pairings benefited your plants the most?

Companion Gardening

Check out these posts from the Backyard Gardening Series:

7 Summer Gardening Tasks

10 Low Maintenance Annuals to Grow

6 Ways to Personalize Your Garden

Gardening Helps from Amazon:

 


 

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

 

 

 

Create Your Own Compost

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

Composting is the process of decomposing organic material into a soil conditioner. Added to enrich soil, this nutrient rich humus restores vitality and helps plants grow. Plus, it’s good for the environment. Composting recycles kitchen and yard waste, diverting as much as 30% from the garbage can and landfills.

It’s simple to create your own compost, using a bin or container.

Create Your Own Compost title meme

Creating a Composting Bin

Several methods exist for creating simple composting bins.

Drill holes around the base of a heavy duty garbage can. Add organic material to the bin and stir every two weeks.

Build a simple box from wooden boards or slats. Make it at least 3 feet square and no more than waist high. Set it on bare ground, to encourage insects and earthworms to burrow in. If wild animals or the neighbor’s dogs getting into the bin is a concern, add chicken wire or pig wire to the top. Add organic material and stir to aerate every two weeks.

There are more elaborate systems out there that incorporate three bins for mixing, turning and storing. These aren’t necessary however if that design appeals to you, go for it! Google composting bins or search on Pinterest for ideas.

Or you can purchase composting bins from garden centers. If you don’t have the simple tools to build one, this is a quick option to get you started.

Create Your Own Compost
Create your own compost – my simple DIY wooden bin.

What Goes Into the Compost Bin?

Once your composting bin is set up, start adding kitchen and garden waste. The trick is to balance “green” waste such as vegetable and fruit scraps with “brown” material such as dry leaves, newspapers and cardboard. This is important because green materials supply nitrogen to the mix while brown materials are rich in carbon. Carbon feeds the organisms that break down the scraps and nitrogen builds the cell structure of the newly formed soil enrichment.

The compost pile also needs oxygen and water. Without oxygen the pile will simply rot and smell. Moisture helps the organic material break down. Sprinkle the compost frequently if it hasn’t rained. And stir up the compost as it breaks down, to help air move through the mixture.

Earthworms are welcome allies to the compost pile as they help to aerate and break down matter. I have TONS of huge earthworms in my garden. I toss some into the compost pile as I weed and undercover them.

Create Your Own Compost earthworms
Earthworms are welcome allies in the compost bin

Green, Nitrogen Rich Waste to Add

The healthy compost pile needs more carbon than nitrogen in the mix. Too much nitrogen creates a dense, smelly mixture that decomposes too slowly. The bulkiness of carbon material helps oxygen move through the mixture and nourishes the organisms living there.

A good rule of thumb is one third green nitrogen waste to two thirds brown carbon materials.

Create Your Own Compost scraps
Create your own compost – scraps

Check out these lists of green and brown materials

Brown/Carbon Materials to Add:

  • wood chips, pellets, bark
  • straw or hay
  • shrub, tree trimmings
  • shredded paper including newspapers
  • cardboard, torn into strips
  • pine needles (use in moderation)
  • leaves, chopped or shredded is best, or create a separate pile for leaves
  • dryer lint (best if from natural materials)
  • corn cobs, stalks
Create Your Own Compost newspapers
Create your own compost – newspapers

Green/Nitrogen Material to Add:

  • tea leaves and paper tea bags
  • table scraps
  • seaweed and kelp
  • lawn and garden weeds, that have not gone to seed
  • grass clippings
  • green leaves
  • garden plants that have not died of disease
  • fruit and vegetable scraps
  • flower cuttings
  • coffee grounds (earthworms love these) and coffee filters
  • eggshells (which are really more neutral)
Create Your Own Compost saving scraps
Create your own compost – saving scraps

Don’t Add These Materials:

  • meat, bones, fish, dairy products
  • fats, cooking oils, grease
  • perennial or diseased plants
  • dog, cat or human poop or cat litter
  • black walnut leaves
  • machine or chain oils
  • sawdust unless it’s clean and then add sparingly
  • plastics
  • plastic coated paper or cardboard
  • anything treated with pesticides
  • charcoal

Tips to Create a Successful Compost

A few additional tips as you create your own compost.

Collect food, fruit and vegetable scraps in the house. I use a 21 cup plastic container that I already had on hand. Any container with a lid works. Because I am plant based, I can easily fill up my container in a day so I empty it every evening. When adding organic scraps, toss in carbon materials too such as newspapers, cardboard or leaves.

I love making my own veggie broth so most of my vegetable scraps go into containers in the freezer for this purpose. However I use the leftovers from juicing and blemished produce or veggies past their prime for composting.

Chop larger yard and garden wastes, to help them break down more quickly. And leaves and grass are excellent for the compost, however don’t add them in thick layers or they will clump together, slowing down aeration.

Use a spading fork to turn the mixture every week or two. If organic matter isn’t breaking down, add more green material and keep the pile moist.

If the compost pile is too wet and smelly, add more brown material and turn the mixture more frequently.

Create Your Own Compost
Create your own compost – after a month or so, this compost is coming along nicely

How to Use Your Compost

Your compost is ready to use when it looks and smells like dirt! This can take a couple of months or more, depending on what’s in your mixture.

Incorporate your rich new compost into garden beds or sprinkle it on top of the ground. Compost isn’t a replacement for soil but an amendment that nurtures it and your plants.

It’s that easy to create your own compost! Feel good about enriching your garden and easing the burden of wastes on landfills. And if you have any questions, ask in the comments.

Recycle or Compost

Other Posts in the Backyard Garden Series:

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden

Six Ways to Personalize Your Garden

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

Gardening Finds from Amazon:


 

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

Plants Gone Wild

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

Gardening is an adventure and a journey. No two gardens are exactly alike and no two journeys are either. I’ve learned over the years, as a gardener, from successes and mistakes.

One of the first things I learned is that some plants thrive, to the point that they can overtake a garden, crowding out other plants and hogging water and nutrients. This is my list of plants gone wild!

 

Plants Gone Wild title meme

Be Aware

Planting is purely a matter a choice, which is why my subtitle is “be aware of these invasive perennials” rather than “beware”. I choose to include a few invasive perennials, because I appreciate their beauty. I control their prolific spread. Others I dug up and removed because the effort to keep them in check proved too great.

With awareness, you can decide what works best for your garden. Check out your gardening zone. And then be aware that the following plants may spread into other areas of your garden or yard.

Liriope

This plant officially counts as my first big gardening mistake. From east and southeast Asia, this low growing plant is often used by landscapers to border a walkway or edge a flower bed. Liriope produces green or variegated grass like leaves, and stalks of purple flowers. And it thrives…in full sun or partial shade, in a wide range of soil conditions and it’s drought resistant. Perfect, right?

Liriope is optimistically called a “vigorous grower”, meaning it quickly overruns its boundaries and invades other areas. Using landscape edging or other barriers can help restrict it, however I found it too difficult to control. Even after years of weeding it out of flower beds in the front yard, it still shows up.

Plants Gone Wild liriope
Plants gone wild – liriope

English Ivy

And this classic beauty was my second big gardening boo boo. My grandson and I purchased one small ivy plant, years ago, and lovingly tucked it into a corner of a flower bed near the front deck. That ivy plant became a monster, covering all other plants in the bed and consuming them. Well, it didn’t literally eat them. However, ivy chokes other plants, depriving them of sunlight. They die.

Ivy is an evergreen woody vine. It is extremely aggressive, vining and climbing over other plants, shrubs, trees and even buildings. It took me a great deal of time to remove the ivy that spread from that one tiny plant. I’ve learned that the safest way to grow ivy is in a container…indoors!

Plants Gone Wild ivy
Plants gone wild – my glacier ivy in a pot

Creeping Jenny

Any plant name that contains the word “creeping” implies a warning…this plant spreads! Creeping jenny is considered a ground cover that tolerates both shade and sunlight. It’s a pretty yellow green in color and it’s commonly used to fill in areas where other plants won’t grow.

I added creeping jenny for exactly that reason, in a shady area with shallow soil. It thrives there and has indeed filled in the area. Because it’s in a contained space, I simply watch for it to encroach into the neighboring area, and pull it up when it does. For me, this easy to care for plant is worth having in my garden.

Plants Gone Wild creeping jenny
Plants gone wild – creeping jenny

Goldflame Spirea

Commonly called Japanese spirea, this mounding shrub is simple to grow. The goldflame variety produces showy leaves and clusters of pink flowers. It tolerates full sun to light shade and handles heat well. Spirea bushes are aggressive self seeders, however, and can escape a garden if not tended. They’ve naturalized in areas of the eastern US.

I love my goldflame spirea though. The leaves are brilliantly hued, from bronzes, golds and reds in spring to to yellow-green in summer to finishing with copper and crimson shades in autumn. Plus, the flowers attract butterflies. I keep my spirea in check by pruning it back to the ground during the winter. I admit, it does get a little bigger each year!

Plants Gone Wild spirea
Plants gone wild – goldflame spirea

Lemon Balm, Peppermint and Bee Balm

These herbs, all members of the mint family, are prolific producers and can overrun the garden. Extremely easy to grow, simply plant them in a sunny location and forget about them. They return year after year, often showing up in other flower beds, containers and the lawn. Lemon balm is one of the first plants to appear in my garden each spring and thrives until a hard frost nips it in late fall.

I love these herbs, for their wonderful health benefits, and happily tolerate their wildness. Their flowers attract bees. I keep mint in a contained area, however I give lemon balm and bee balm free reign, pulling up the excess plants.

These herbs do well in containers and that is the best way to keep them from spreading. Also, shear off the flowers before they go to seed. That practice not only helps prevent new plants, it encourages the existing herbs to produce more leaves.

Plants Gone Wild lemon balm
Plants gone wild – lemon balm

Lamb’s Ear

These gray-green plants with the soft fuzzy leaves are fun to include in the garden. They make perfect additions to sensory gardens and their stalks of purple flowers attract bees and butterflies. Native to Turkey, Armenia and Iran, lamb’s ear is considered an ornamental plant that tolerates various soil conditions. It thrives in partial shade to full sun.

I added three small lamb’s ear plants to my garden in 2014 and realized quickly that they aggressively fill in an area and pop up all over the garden and yard. I’ve even found new plants in the alleyway, pushing up through gravel. I’ve kept the plants under control by rigorously pulling up seedlings as they appear. It also helps to cut down the flower stalks, before they set seed.

Perhaps because we had so much rain last summer, most of my lamb’s ears did not return this spring. However, three plants appeared at the edge of their usual space. I know what three plants can do!

Plants Gone Wild lambs ear
Plants gone wild – lamb’s ear

Ornamental Grasses

When I planned out my garden in 2014, I knew I wanted ornamental grasses. I love the way they wave in the breeze and their tassels in the fall are so gorgeous. And leaving the dried grasses up in winter creates interest in an otherwise drab garden.  What I didn’t take into consideration is that those tassels are seeds. And the seeds go everywhere.

Ornamental grasses come in a variety of colors and sizes, with different shaped tassels. I still love having them in my garden. And…no other plant creates as much work for me!  Because my garden area covers more than half of my backyard, there is a great deal of disturbed ground for those grass seeds to sprout up in.

While the clusters are small, ornamental grasses are relatively simple to remove. And remove them I must, or grasses would spread throughout the garden, choking out all other plants. If I miss any, they reveal themselves in the fall, as other plants die back to the ground.

Knowing what I know now, would I still have ornamental grasses in my garden? Yes. I’ve learned to walk the garden frequently and remove baby grasses. Plus, a heavy layer of mulch greatly reduces their numbers as well.

Plants Gone Wild - ornamental grasses
Plants gone wild – ornamental grasses

Have Your Plants Gone Wild?

There are other plants considered aggressive invaders. I’ve only listed those I’ve personally dealt with. Bamboo, for example, should never be planted in a garden. It is the most difficult plant to contain and even more difficult to remove. And pretty little periwinkle, a ground cover, can certainly run amok!

Truthfully, most perennials possess the potential to spread beyond their borders. That’s why I choose to plant them. They return every year and continue to fill in.

That’s okay. I love a little chaos in my garden. A profusion of flowers, herbs and plants and a bit of wildness makes my heart sing. How could it be otherwise, for a woman who continually seeks to “go beyond”?

Tell me about your garden. Do you have a story about plants gone wild?

Plants Gone Wild night garden

Check out these posts in the Backyard Garden Series:

Spring Garden Tips

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden

 


 

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

 

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden

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

It’s true that April showers bring May flowers! The plants in the garden flourish during this month, offering colors, scents and beauty. In fact, May is Gifts from the Garden Month, with a different emphasis on each day.

May 3 is Meditate in the Garden Day and I celebrated the occasion with afternoon tea, journaling and a time of meditation in my contemplative corner. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and re-entered the house refreshed and full of joy.

It’s easy to create a meditation area in your garden. Think of this space as a place to daydream, write, relax, reflect, draw and pray or meditate. From a simple chair in a corner of the garden, to a hammock filled with pillows, to a fun, themed corner, the meditation area soothes the body and feeds the soul.

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden title meme

Elements of a Meditation Area

I first fell in love with small personal garden spaces as a child. In my own backyard I found a large bush to crawl beneath, when I craved alone time. And the wonderful couple across the street, whom all the neighborhood children loved, gave me permission to use their little corner backyard garden spot anytime I wanted. This area, with a single bench and honeysuckle covering the fence, became my own secret garden. I spent hours sitting in that space and as a result, I love honeysuckle.

Use some or all of the following elements, to create a meditation area in your garden. Simplicity is key. You don’t want a high maintenance area that creates more work and stress. This is your personal spot to de-stress, unwind and breathe deeply. Make sure that the environment supports those intentions.

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden chairs
Create a meditation area in your garden – seating

Water

Water features soothe frazzled nerves and relax tense muscles, encourage reflection and mask noise if the water is moving. They encourage butterflies, dragonflies and birds to visit.

Add a koi pond, fountain, tabletop fountain, bird bath or a simple shallow bowl filled with water to the meditation area. If the water is still, change it frequently to discourage mosquitoes from using it as a nursery.

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden water feature
Create a meditation area in your garden – water feature

Natural Elements

Add natural elements such as brick, stones, wood, bamboo, grass, pebbles or sand to your area. These materials complement plants, flowers and trees, providing a restorative space for grounding and centering. They also offer a deep connection to nature.

Add a couple of large rocks for interest. Or create a privacy screen from wood. Brick, sand, cedar mulch or paving stones make an excellent floor that helps to define your space and provides a solid foundation for chairs or benches.

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden natural elements
Create a meditation area in your garden – natural elements

Seclusion

This is perhaps the most important element to keep in mind, when creating a meditation area. Find a place that is separate from the rest of the garden. A simple chair in a corner or alcove works well. A bench at the end of a pathway or a hammock strung between two sturdy trees is ideal also. If you have a structure in the yard or garden, such as a gazebo or a covered back porch, create your own little private nook there.

Partition off your chosen area with fencing, repurposed gates, pig wire covered with flowering vines or lightweight fabric. Make use of existing trees or shrubs to provide privacy. And consider how much sunlight the area gets. Too much sun can be uncomfortable during the summer. Tent the area with a water proof, lightweight fabric or grow vines on an arbor to provide shade.

Create a place that delights the senses, where you can be alone.

Create a Meditation Area for Your Garden hammock
Create a meditation area for your garden – hammock

Beauty

Beauty inspires creativity, uplifts the spirit and brings joy to the heart. And beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. What makes you smile? Include those things in your meditation area.

Plants, flowers, herbs, ornamental grasses, trees and shrubs are excellent choices. Water features fall into this category too as do small boulders, pathways and garden art. Gather items that spark joy, to borrow a concept from Marie Kondo. This is your personal space. Let it be a reflection of who you are.

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden beauty
Create a meditation area in your garden – beauty for my eyes, next to my meditation corner

Personal Touch

Finally, because this is your personal retreat area, add items that showcase your unique personality. Add garden statues for whimsy, flowers in repurposed containers and inspirational signs.

You’ll need a place to sit. Add a chair, or a pair of chairs if you’d like to occasionally share your space, and a small table. The table is perfect for holding a journal, a candle, a glass of cold water or a tray with afternoon tea.

Choose a playful theme or include your favorite colors. Add interesting textures by way of cushions, pillows or snuggly wraps. If you’ll practice yoga in your meditation area, create space for a mat. Add twinkling lights, battery powered or those that plug into an outlet, so you can enjoy your meditation area during warm summer evenings.

Use what you have on hand to personalize your space. Make your own pillows. Repurpose items. This project does not need to be expensive to create. This is all about enjoying peace and solitude, even if only for a few minutes a day.

Create a a Meditation Area in Your Garden bicycle
Create a meditation area in your garden – repurposed bicycle

Bringing It All Together

Here is how I used the elements listed above, in my own meditation area.

I created the contemplative corner when I laid out my original garden in 2014. The space evolved over the years, to its current state.

I am adding a water feature this summer, in the form of a fountain. Greg is running electrical wiring to the corner so the fountain can plug into an outlet. I’ll string lights up as well.

A wood privacy fence forms two walls in my corner. Pig wire, covered in clematis vines, creates the other two walls, leaving an entrance into the area. This spring, Greg replaced the cedar mulch flooring with vintage brick. I love this change. The brick defines the area beautifully and creates a feeling of permanence.

The wood fence and vine covered fencing separates my meditation area from the rest of the garden. And yet, I still have gorgeous views of my backyard paradise through the vines and the entrance.

Beauty is provided via clematis vines, flowering plants, potted plants and the colors and items I’m using to cozy up the space.

And I’ve definitely added my own personal touch to my meditation area. My favorite colors…blues and greens….are represented in the cushions, pillows, throw, table and flower pots. I light candles when I’m enjoying my space, carry out tea and a journal, and include a colorful sign that reminds me to RELAX. And my beloved metal cranes stand guard at the entrance.

Meditation Area
My meditation area

What Will You Include in Your Meditation Area?

What will you include in your special area? I’d love to hear your ideas and see photos of your meditation area, contemplative corner or relaxation space.

May you enjoy many pleasant and restorative moments in your garden or backyard this season!

And check out these posts, in the Backyard Garden Series, for more ideas!

10 Shade Garden Plants

Easy Container Gardening

Six Ways to Personalize Your Garden

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden gate

Gardening Finds from Amazon:

 


 

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

Six Ways to Personalize Your Garden

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

I love this time of year. Spring signals rebirth and new life, as this part of the world awakens from winter’s sleep. For me, spring is gardening season, as plants awaken as well.

In my Backyard Garden Series, I’ve shared information about various types of plants, tips for gardening and ecological hacks. Today I add to that series with this post, Six Ways to Personalize Your Garden.

As important as the flowers, herbs and veggies are, it’s the personal touches that make a garden uniquely yours. That backyard paradise, patio garden or window box full of herbs becomes a canvas to create upon. No matter how large or small the space, the garden is your opportunity to tell your story.

Six Ways to Personalize Your Garden title meme

What Story Do You Want to Tell?

These ideas, grouped into six categories, are merely suggestions to spark creativity. There are endless ways to create gardens, whether they look formal, look wild or fall somewhere in between.

It’s fun to plan a garden. Choosing which plants to grow, what layout to use, whether your garden has a theme or not is just the beginning. After all the planning and planting comes stamping your garden with your unique style and personality. Choose ideas from one of the categories below, several of them or all of them.

Six Ways to Personalize Your Garden firepit
Six ways to personalize your garden – features such as fire pits

Foundational Features

Features provide a foundation for the garden, designating certain areas for particular purposes. When planning the garden, decide what you’d love to include in this outdoor space. This is your sanctuary so make sure whatever you add is a reflection of you.

For me, a fire pit, seating areas and a secluded space for meditation and contemplation were important initially. I’m now in the process of upgrading the meditation area and adding a water feature and electricity for lighting. And I’d love to have an inviting, bohemian style hammock in the shadier north side of the yard.

Feature ideas:

  • fire pits/fireplaces
  • patios/seating areas
  • water features
  • pathways
  • gazebos/structures
  • secluded areas
  • outdoor rooms/kitchens
  • lighting
  • speakers for music
Contemplative Corner
Six ways to personalize your garden – secluded space with its vintage brick

Artistic Accents

With the foundational areas designated, and plants in the ground, now is the time to play creatively. Do you paint? Create garden art. Sew? Make cushions for chairs, swings or the patio in your favorite patterns and colors. Whatever your creative passion…building birdhouses, pottery, macrame, stained glass, metal work…bring your artistic abilities into the garden.

In the house, I create vignettes that tell stories. I do the same in the garden, grouping items together, using unusual containers for plants and coordinating fabrics in my signature colors.

Garden art:

  • paintings on metal or wood
  • wind chimes
  • birdhouses/spider houses/toad houses/bug hotels
  • fountains/birdbaths/bird feeders
  • fabric pillows/cushions/hammocks/tents/throws
  • mosaics
  • murals
  • signs/inspirational sayings/poetry
  • plant markers
  • decorative fences/trellises/obelisks/sundials
  • statues/decorative concrete
Six Ways to Personalize Your Garden art
Six ways to personalize your garden – art from the NW Arkansas Botanical Garden

Repurposed Items

This is, without a doubt, my favorite thing to do, inside and outside the house. I love finding new ways to use existing items and if they are vintage, that’s even better . My garden is full of metal buckets, wash tubs, tool boxes, wire baskets and leftover wire fencing panels. The containers typically hold flowers and plants. One of my favorite pieces, an old minnow bucket, holds a fat candle.

I’ve used a variety of wood pieces in the garden as well. And while I love how the old doors, chairs and boxes look, they just don’t hold up well. Eventually the elements rot them away, no matter how well I paint or treat them.

Use your imagination. If something grabs your interest or sparks an idea, no matter how unusual, try it out in your garden.

Repurpose these items in the garden:

  • metal pieces such as buckets, trays, canisters, wash tubs, tool boxes, metal tables, metal drawers, minnow buckets, gates
  • metal tools such as old cultivators, vintage wheelbarrows, rakes, shovels
  • wire baskets/wire trays/wire boxes/fence panels
  • vintage brick/stone/concrete/paving stones/building materials
  • wood pieces such as chairs, drawers, boxes, dressers, screen doors, signs, baskets – with the understanding that the wood will eventually rot
  • kitchen items such as colanders, strainers, kitchen utensils, storage bins
  • farm pieces such as chick feeders, water troughs, watering tubs, vintage sprinklers, signs, posts
  • odd items such as box springs, tires, sinks, bicycles, vintage metal baby strollers, vintage toys, trucks, automobiles
Vintage Minnow Bucket Candle Holder
Six ways to personalize your garden – repurpose items, such as this old minnow bucket turned into a candle holder and a bucket into a flower pot

Memorials

Some of the most precious items in my garden belonged to family members who have passed on. My Aunt Annie’s red wooden box graces my covered front porch. It holds eight clay pots, full of begonias. My cousin’s wash tub holds vinca this year. Grandpa Bill’s rusty old cultivator is covered with clematis. My mother-in-law’s wind chime sings in the breeze. And the butterfly my stepfather painted years ago brightens the garage wall.

And those are just a few of the family memorials gracing my garden. There are more. All of these items remind me of my loved ones, as they serve in my garden. They tell stories about lives lived and joys experienced and challenges overcome. I don’t use fragile family pieces in the garden. These are all hardy items that can withstand weather.

In addition, I have plants that came from family members. The lilac bush was a start from my grandfather’s. The creeping phlox came from Mom Moore’s garden. And irises from my aunt’s yard now bloom in mine.

Items that can be used as garden memorials:

  • metal, wood, clay containers
  • art including wind chimes, signs, durable paintings
  • garden tools such as cultivators, rakes, shovels, sprinklers, watering cans
  • ceramic tiles
  • kitchen gadgets and containers
  • wood boxes, signs and containers, if protected from the weather
  • outdoor furniture
  • statues/concrete art
  • cuttings and transplants from their gardens
Six Ways to Personalize Your Garden cultivator
Six ways to personalize your garden – Grandpa Bill’s cultivator

Whimsy

Whimsy is defined as “playfully quaint or fanciful”. I love whimsy. It appeals to my inner child, makes me smile and invites play. I make sure I include some whimsy in my garden. The rabbit statue, a nod to the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, stands guard near a clump of ornamental grass. Herbs cluster in an apothecary garden.And a couple of years ago, I created a fairy garden in a vintage wheelbarrow.

Other whimsical touches in my garden include playful art such as the large butterfly, a bistro table and chairs and various candle holders. Special note, only place candles in fire safe items such as metal buckets or votive holders. I love sprinkling candle light throughout my garden by using candle holders from the garden and house. Soon I’ll have twinkling white lights in the garden too.

Whimsy is a state of being as well. When I’m whimsical I enjoy tea parties in the garden, make a bohemian tent to color in, stargaze or appreciate a crackling fire in the fire pit.

Add whimsy with these suggestions:

  • candle holders
  • gazing balls/birdbaths/bird feeders
  • fairy garden/miniature garden
  • child’s garden/vintage toys/lawn games such as croquet, badminton or corn hole
  • playful statues/garden gnomes
  • playground equipment/playhouse/treehouse
  • garden swing
  • bistro table and chairs
  • wind chimes
  • unusual plants/flowers
  • apothecary garden
  • secret garden
  • hammock
  • koi pond/zen garden
  • maze/labyrinth
Fairy Garden
Six ways to personalize your garden – whimsical fairy garden

Tell Your Stories

Your garden, as an extension of who you are, tells your stories. What stories will you include in your garden? One of my favorites is the pair of metal cranes near my contemplative corner. Read their amazing tale HERE.

These cranes tell part of my Scottish story. I christened them with Scottish names. Every time I look at those graceful birds, I think of Thirlestane Castle, in Lauder, Scotland, home of my ancestors.

The natural wildness of my garden reflects who I am, as does the candle light, the vintage brick patio and the many metal pieces scattered throughout the space. They all contribute to the telling of my tale. They all share aspects of who I am. I love that I can accomplish that with my garden. You can too.

Add these elements to help tell your story:

  • garden style…formal, semi-formal, natural, wild, modern, vintage, eclectic, flowers, herbs, trees, vegetables, fruits
  • lights/candles
  • fabrics/tents/hammocks/pillows/cushions
  • statues/art/whimsy
  • family pieces/memorials/ancestry
  • colors/textures
  • wildlife/pets/koi
  • structures/outdoor rooms/kitchen/she shed/outdoor office/he shed/play area
  • water/sand/grasses/rocks/trees
  • music/art/inspirational signs
  • outdoor furniture
Six Ways to Personalize Your Garden - candlelight
Six ways to personalize your garden – tell your stories. The cranes, the candles, the metal containers…they all tell parts of my story.

Fresh Ideas

I hope these six ways to personalize your garden sparked fresh ideas. The garden is such a personal space. Make it completely yours.

If your garden area is tiny, find creative ways to fill it. After the Joplin tornado in 2011, I lived in an upstairs apartment for two years. My “garden” was a 3’X4′ balcony. An assortment of flowers and plants thrived on that balcony and brought me immense joy.

And that is the greatest benefit from gardening and allowing creativity free reign…joy. Oh the herbs and veggies and flowers are wonderful. However, it is the whole experience that blisses me out.

What stories will you tell, in your garden? What will you create there?

Whimsy in the Garden
Six ways to personalize your garden – whimsical rabbit

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10 Kitchen Herbs to Grow in Water

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We typically associate gardening with digging in the dirt in a dedicated garden space. Or perhaps gardening is tucking plants into pretty ceramic pots. However, there are gardening tasks to do year around, even during the winter months. And gardening can move indoors to the kitchen.

Try these 10 kitchen herbs to grow in water. No dirt or green thumb required! And the convenience of snipping fresh herbs for a cup of tea or cooking is wonderful.

10 kitchen herbs to grow in water title meme

Set Up

Any waterproof container works for growing herbs in water. If it holds water, it is suitable. Line up a row of mason jars. Try vases in various sizes. Or browse your favorite flea market for one of a kind containers. Additionally, you need a window sill, bench, table or counter top near a sunny window.

Before frost nips the garden, bring in herb clippings to root in water. Or simply visit the produce section of the grocery store and purchase your favorite fresh herbs. Cut stems six to eight inches long and remove leaves from the bottom four inches. Before placing stems in water, make a fresh diagonal cut across the bottom of the stem.

Fill containers with fresh water. Do not use distilled water, as plants need minerals. When using clear glass containers, change the water frequently to prevent algae growth. Opaque containers don’t require changing as often.

Add prepared stems to water in containers and place them in a sunny location. Growing these plants in water creates a steady supply of fresh herbs. Snip leaves as they reach full size, to encourage new growth.

10 Herbs to Grow in Water

These 10 kitchen herbs are perfect for rooting in water in your kitchen.

1. Oregano

Oregano spices up pasta, sauces, soups and broths. This herb loves growing in water and can get big fast so keep it cut back. It loves sunshine.

2. Peppermint

One of my favorite herbs for tea, peppermint is perfect for relieving an upset stomach, soothing tight muscles and calming the body. Chew on a few fresh leaves for a quick energetic pick me up. Peppermint thrives in a partially shady window as well as a sunny one.

Peppermint in Water
10 kitchen herbs to grow in water – peppermint

3. Thyme

Thyme is another great herb for adding flavor to Italian dishes, soups and sauces. I also enjoy thyme tea. And it is one of the herbs I use in my DIY Vegetable Broth. Thyme prefers six to eight hours of sunlight a day.

4. Basil

Fragrant basil is a wonderful addition to pasta, sauces and soup. Plus it is the key ingredient in fresh pesto. Basil is another prolific herb that thrives in water. And it enjoys plenty of sunlight.

Growing Basil in Water
10 kitchen herbs to grow in water – basil

5. Chives

Chives are very easy to grow in water. This member of the onion family flavors a variety of dishes from soups to stir fries. Change the water every couple of days and make sure the herb receives lots of sunlight.

6. Lemon Balm

Another favorite of mine, this member of the mint family has a distinctive lemon scent and flavor. Lemon balm tea relieves indigestion, calms the body, soothes anxiety and allows the body to relax into sleep. Check out this lemon balm, fennel and thyme tea.

Lemon Balm in Water
10 kitchen herbs to grow in water – lemon balm

7. Lavender

This herb is worth growing in water just for its marvelous fragrance. Simply inhaling lavender’s scent calms the body. As a tea it eases depression, relieves migraines and promotes a good night’s sleep. Dry the leaves and tiny flowers and make sachets for drawers and closets.

8. Rosemary

I love inhaling this herb’s magical scent as well. Rosemary flavors rice and lentil dishes, roasted potatoes, soups and sauces. It makes a wonderful tea as well. Rosemary will tolerate partially shaded areas although it thrives best in full sunlight.

Rosemary in Water
10 kitchen herbs to grow in water – rosemary

9. Marjoram

This herb does well rooting in water although it is slower to grow. Use this fragrant herb in soups and sauces or combine with thyme or rosemary for a powerful tea. Marjoram prefers full sunlight.

10. Cilantro

Cilantro thrives as a water plant although it needs plenty of sunlight. Use this herb in homemade salsa and Mexican dishes. Or for powerful health benefits, add cilantro to juices and morning smoothies.

10 Kitchen Herbs to Grow in Water cilantro
10 kitchen herbs to grow in water – cilantro

Other posts in the Backyard Garden Series

Gardening in Winter

Spring Garden Tips

Containers for Rooting Herbs

 

 


 

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Gardening in Winter

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Gardening in winter may seem an impossibility. What about freezing temperatures, lack of sunshine and snow? However, during winter the garden goes dormant, resting before the growing season ahead. This makes January through early March the perfect time to prep.

Check out these tasks to do now, to get the garden ready for spring.

Gardening in Winter title meme

Gardening in Winter

I leave dry plant stalks and ornamental grasses up during the winter. Today perfectly illustrates why. My area received a light snow overnight, turning my beautifully messy garden space into an enchanting work of art.

I must add that I laughed over this occurrence. I plan my blog posts a month in advance. Today’s scheduled post, Gardening in Winter, benefited from the snowfall. It offered me the opportunity to snap wonderfully appropriate photos. Of course I did not know in advance that my post and snow would coincide but I happily accept this marvelous gift.

Six Tasks to do Now

Transplant Trees and Shrubs

These woody plants slumbering during the winter months can be moved while they aren’t growing. Dig up the tree or shrub, leaving a ball of earth around the roots. Move it carefully to the new location.

Replant the tree or shrub at its original depth, water thoroughly and tamp in dirt around the root ball. Water regularly during any dry spells, to help lessen shock from the transplant.

Trim Back Ornamental Grasses

Leave dry ornamental grasses up during winter, to add interest and beauty to the garden. Before spring, trim grass stalks back, to within six inches of the ground. February is a good month for this task in most zones. Ideally, trim grasses before any new green growth appears.

I use a large metal barrel to burn the dry stalks after trimming the plants back. A calm day with no wind is necessary when burning garden debris.

Now is the time as well to dig up any stray ornamental grasses that popped up in the garden in late fall. The plants are easy to spot, due to their tall stalks and it is simple to dig them up while they are small.

Gardening in Winter Grasses
Gardening in Winter – almost time to trim back ornamental grasses

Work the Soil

As the ground warms, prepare the soil for spring planting. Using a tiller or spading by hand, incorporate several inches of compost or shredded tree leaves into the soil. Remove dead weeds from the garden and cut dry perennials and herb stalks back to the ground.

Add a layer of mulch. Or you can wait until spring plants barely poke through the ground and then mulch heavily around them. Mulch reduces weeds, holds in important moisture and protects the plants.

Trim Back Evergreens, Flowering Shrubs and Vines

Now is the time to tidy up flowering shrubs and evergreens. Prune back branches, for healthier growth in the spring. Vines tolerate a good cutting back. I sometimes cut my clematis vines back to the ground although a less severe pruning is fine too.

Don’t prune crape myrtle however. If the plant gets too large for its location, consider moving it.

Gardening in Winter Cranes
Garden cranes stand guard over straggly clematis vines.

Check Garden Containers and Equipment

During those cold wintry days, walk through the garden frequently and check for needed repairs. I leave many of my containers outside during winter. Now is the time to inspect those metal tubs and buckets, clay pots, plant stands, trellises and wheelbarrows. Remove dried flower stalks or weeds from all containers, to prepare for spring planting.

Clean and sharpen shovels and hand trowels. Clean rakes. Inspect garden hoses for splits or cracks.

I have two metal cranes and a rabbit statue in the garden. I check them for damage and remove any garden debris from them.

Dream and Plan

This task is perfect for days when the weather prevents outdoor work. Grab a cup of hot tea or hot chocolate, a notebook and a pen and sketch out the garden. Dream up a new feature. Plan a border. Add a water fountain. Dream really big and create a whole new garden.

Research plants. Think about trying something different. Visit online nurseries, such as this one.

Winter is not just a time for gardens to rest and prepare. This season is a wonderful time for gardeners to dream, plan and prepare as well.

Gardening in Winter Rabbit
Rabbit statue in winter

Ready to Get Ready

I’m looking forward to getting into my garden to carry out these winter tasks. On the next mild day you’ll find me in my backyard garden, pruning, weeding and preparing for spring.

Admittedly, I have much to do. My garden suffered last year from too much rain. The excessive water affected herbs and flowers and encouraged rampant weed growth. By the end of summer, my garden looked wild.

No worries though. Hard work, heavy pruning and weeding will set things right. I don’t mind a bit of wildness, after all. It suits me. It’s that balance of beautiful order and barely contained wildness that so delights and inspires me.

Gardening in Winter Stalks

Check out these other posts, in the Backyard Gardening Series:

Spring Garden Tips

Ecological Garden Hacks

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

Create a Bee and Butterfly Garden

 

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Fall Checklist for the Garden

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As temperatures dip, the cooler weather serves as a reminder that now is the time to tidy up the garden and prep for winter. Fall, with its warm days and chilly nights, provides the perfect opportunities to enjoy puttering in the garden and dreaming of next spring.

Use this handy fall checklist for the garden, to make sure your backyard paradise fares well over the winter. The reward is a beautiful outdoor space when spring arrives.

Fall Checklist for the Garden title meme

Fall Checklist for the Garden

[ ] Plant bulbs, perennials, shrubs and trees for spring color.

Fall is an excellent time to plant for spring blooms. Check out this post for a list of plants that do well with a fall planting.

[ ] Divide perennials such as hostas, irises, day lilies, sedum, coneflowers, shasta daisies and canna lilies.

Most perennials can be divided every two to three years or whenever they show signs of overcrowding. Dig up plant and using a sharp shovel, divide the root ball into two or more sections. Replant extra perennials in a new location and water well. Or, better yet, share your perennials with others. A perennial exchange is a great way to acquire new plants for free!

Fall Checklist Pumpkins
Add fall color with mums and pumpkins.

[ ] Add fall color in the garden and on the deck or front porch.

For pops of earthy color, add mums, pumpkins and gourds. Create an eye catching entry with groupings of fall flowers and pumpkins on the front porch or near the front door. This is a great way to extend color well into the season, even as flowers in the garden fade away.

[ ] Note expected first frost date and prepare to bring containers indoors.

Use this frost map to see when the first hard frost is expected in your area. Those amazing container gardens you created last spring? Make space indoors for any that will winter inside. Keep the flowers in a sunny location, trim back spent blooms and leaves, and water as needed and you’ll have containers ready to go back outdoors next spring.

Fall Checklist Rake Leaves
Those fallen leaves can provide mulch for the garden.

[ ] Rake leaves.

If you have an abundance of trees then raking leaves is a necessary garden task in the fall. Beyond creating mounds of leaves for the kids to jump into, leaves can provide mulch for the garden. Mow over the raked up leaves, with a bag attached to the mower, or use a grinder to create mulch. The leaf mulch returns vital nutrients to the soil.

[ ] Start a compost.

Use those leaves, grass clippings and garden trimmings to create a compost. Food scraps, newspapers and yard and garden waste combine, creating the perfect environment for earthworms and bacteria, which turns the waste into valuable compost for next year’s garden. Make your own bin or purchase one and fill it up. Regularly turn the contents to maintain the proper mixture and distribute heat.

Fall Checklist Create New Beds
On the fall checklist for the garden…creating new beds.

[ ] Prepare new beds for spring planting.

Now is the time to plan and lay out new beds for next spring. Prep the ground by clearing any weeds or grass in the area and spade to a depth of at least a foot. Smooth dirt and let the new bed rest over the winter. It’s much easier to plant next spring when the ground is prepped in advance.

[ ] Tidy up the garden.

This task on the fall checklist for the garden is the biggie. As plants die down, trim perennials and herbs to the ground. Pull weeds. Harvest and store flower seeds. Remove dead branches from bushes, shrubs and trees. Do not prune rose bushes or butterfly bushes until next spring however. And leave ornamental grasses until spring as well. The grasses will turn brown and yet they are still pretty to look at over the winter and provide seeds and shelter for birds. After tidying the garden, lay down a good layer of mulch.

Fall Checklist Clean Tools
This is the time to clean tools.

[ ] Clean and store garden tools.

Use soapy water and a wire brush to clean dirt from garden tools. Apply a lightweight vegetable oil to metal to prevent rusting. Sharpen blades on shovels, trowels and hoes. Store tools out of the weather.

[ ] Clean and store containers.

Check and clean containers that are not going indoors for the winter. Remove dead plants and inspect for cracks or breaks in the containers. Also check garden décor and statues for needed repairs.  I leave most of my statures and décor in the garden over the winter, for interest. However, it is a good time to toss anything that has succumbed to time and weather. I have vintage wooden chairs that my grandfather made that are being repurposed into new works of art. And another old wooden chair that I bought several years ago at a flea market is destined for the trash bin.

Using a Fall Checklist for the Garden Creates an Easier Checklist for Spring

This fall checklist for the garden is for me, as much as anyone! I have a great deal of prep work to do in my garden, after above average rainfall this summer. Plus, focusing on the blogs this year and a trip to Scotland in July means my garden is more wild than usual this fall.

I look forward, in the upcoming weeks, to the tidying up process. The garden is resilient, adaptive and ever changing. In spite of its wild and unkept appearance…now…a little care this fall will return it to its splendor next spring. Time in the garden is time well spent. The returns are a hundredfold, for me and for my backyard paradise.

Create a Personal Manifesto

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Plant in Fall for Spring Color

 

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Ahhh….fall is here. Even though temperatures in the Midwest have remained unusually high, it’s time for gardening tasks that mark the end of the growing season.

Prepare a cup of herbal tea and read through these planting tips. This is the perfect time of year to plan for next year. Plant in fall, for spring color!

Plant in Fall title meme

Why Plant in Fall?

There are several reasons for prepping now for a colorful spring:

  •  Fall has more mild days for working in the garden, compared to spring when temperatures can still fluctuate wildly from day to day.
  •  Rainfall is typically plentiful enough that you don’t need to water as often.
  •  The soil is still warm, which encourages roots to grow and become established.
  •  Weeds are dying down, meaning there is less competition for nutrients in the soil.
  •  There are fewer pests to cause damage to bulbs and plants and less likelihood of disease.
  •  Fertilizer isn’t needed. It encourages new growth, which isn’t what we want at this time of year.

Plant about six weeks before the first hard frost. In the Midwest, that’s toward the end of November, making October perfect for planting. Check out your zone on this map.

Plant in Fall Daffodils
Daffodils are one of the first flowers to appear in spring.

Bulbs to Plant in Fall

Plant these hardy bulbs now, for gorgeous color in early spring.  Generally, bulbs are placed in the ground at a depth two to three times the diameter of the bulb. For example, plant most tulip bulbs at a depth of six to eight inches. Place in the ground with the pointy end, or nose, up. Cover with dirt and add a couple of inches of mulch.

  •  tulips
  •  daffodils
  •  snowdrops
  •  crocus
  •  hyacinths
  •  lilies
Plant in Fall Hostas
Hostas come in a variety of colors and patterns.

Perennials to Plant in Fall

Planting perennials in the fall creates bigger and healthier plants in the spring. Adding early blooming perennials to areas with bulbs doubles the color in the garden next spring. As bulb flowers die back, the perennials take their place.

Plant before a hard frost. Don’t fertilize. And add a couple of inches of mulch to blanket the new plants. Water only if there is less than an inch of rainfall per week.

  •  hostas
  •  salvia
  •  peonies
  •  coreopsis
  •  dianthus
  •  garden phlox
  •  sedum
  •  irises
Plant in Fall Azaleas
Azaleas are available in a variety of colors. Plant on the east or north side of the property. They don’t tolerate full sun.

Shrubs and Trees to Plant in Fall

Autumn is the perfect time to plant shrubs and trees. The warm days and cooler nights allow them to spread their roots and settle in before becoming dormant during the winter. And trees and shrubs planted in fall handle heat and drought better the following year.

Make sure you know how large the shrub or tree will get when full grown and leave ample room when planting. Dig a hole twice as wide as the plant’s container and deep enough that the root ball sits slightly above ground level. Add shrub or tree. Fill the hole half way with soil, then water well. Fill in with the remaining soil. Water again. Mulch with two to three inches of a bark based mulch, leaving a couple of inches of space around the trunk. Water two to three times a week, then taper off as the weather and soil cool down.

Shrubs

  •  knockout roses
  •  camellia sasanqua
  •  fothergilla
  •  oakleaf hydrangea
  • rhododendron
  •  spirea
  •  azaleas

Trees

  •  Japanese maple
  •  gingko
  •  maple
  •  alder
  •  hawthorn
  •  ash
  •  honey locust
  •  crabapple
  •  spruce
  •  pine
  •  sycamore
  •  elm

Enjoying the Rewards of Fall Gardening

The effort put forth in the garden, during fall, reaps big rewards next spring. Plan for next year and then grab a shovel! Create new beds, add a fresh focal point, divide perennials and tuck that tree into the ground.

Watch next week for the Fall Gardening Checklist. And happy gardening!

Ornamental Grasses
The ornamental grasses are beautiful this time of year.

Mosquitos still a problem in your area? Check out this DIY Mosquito Repellent.

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7 Summer Garden Tasks

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

It is officially summer! And with this season the garden matures. Plants are growing and blooming. Herbs become fragrant and vegetables bear fruit. This is the time of year for maintenance and weed and pest control!

These seven summer garden tasks ensure that your garden remains beautiful until late fall.

7 Summer Garden Tasks title meme

Summer Garden Tasks

These tasks can be accomplished in a few minutes a day. Walking through the garden area once a day, perhaps while watering, creates an awareness of what’s happening there. If something is amiss or needs attention, you can spot it and act quickly.

Weeding

This is the biggie among summer garden tasks! Warming temperatures and all those spring showers help the flowers and plants grow…and the weeds too! In fact, a great time to weed is right after a shower, when the ground is damp. Weeds pull up with little effort.

And the easiest weeds to pull are young ones. I’ve learned this from experience. As I walk through the garden daily, I pull any weeds that I see and drop them into a five gallon bucket. When the bucket fills up, I dump the contents into the large trash bin outside the fence, for trash pickup.

If weeds are overrunning the garden, pick an area and work through it diligently. Take a break and then move on to the next area. As the garden grows over the summer, weeds generally become less of a problem. The thriving plants create shade and fill in the area, deterring weed growth.

Use a mix of white vinegar with a squirt of dish soap in a spray bottle to kill weeds in areas away from flowers and herb. Drench the weeds with the mixture, on a hot sunny day, and they will be dead within 48 hours.

Watering

Classify this task under maintenance. As temperatures continue to rise and the rains come less frequently, watering becomes vital.

Containers tend to dry out more quickly than the rest of the garden. During hot, dry weather daily watering is essential. For containers a good indicator is to stick your finger into the dirt, up to the first knuckle. If the soil feels dry, water.

The rest of the garden needs approximately an inch of water a week. Note how often it rains and how much you get. During dry spells, sprinklers are a great way to water large areas. Soak the garden for half an hour and then move the sprinkler to another area. A well established garden can tolerate a bit of dryness. I very rarely have to water my  in-ground garden, however I water containers daily during the summer.

Once a month use a water soluble plant food to give the garden a boost of nutrition as it grows.

Summer Watering

Deadheading/Trimming Back

As you water containers, pinch off faded blooms. Called deadheading, this practice keeps plants flowering longer. Many flowering plants don’t need to be deadheaded. The blooms naturally fall off. However, if you see dried flowers on the plant, it’s beneficial to remove them.

Some perennials and herbs benefit from cutting the plants back, after they bloom, shearing away the dried flowers. Often the plants will bloom a second time. They include:

  • dianthus
  • daisies
  • hostas
  • coral bells
  • salvia
  • garden phlox
  • speedwell
  • lemon balm
  • bee balm
  • catmint

Fill In Bare Spots

As the garden matures, look for empty spots. Sprinkle the bare patch with seeds or add blooming annuals for an instant pop of color.

Or be creative and add rocks, driftwood, garden statues or a fairy garden. If you don’t have cats, a birdbath makes a wonderful addition to the garden. I place upside down clay flowerpots throughout my garden, to encourage spiders to make themselves at home. And I created a couple of toad houses from bricks and small slabs of concrete. These critters are garden allies that feed on unwanted pests.

Summer Garden Toad House

Control Pests

If your garden is home to spiders, toads, praying mantis and lady bugs, pests are kept to a minimum. I use natural approaches to pest control, as much as possible. See Ecological Garden Hacks.

As you water, weed and deadhead, watch for Japanese beetles. Pluck them off the plants…they don’t bite…and drop them into a bucket of soapy water. I do the same with cabbage worms in the vegetable garden.

Support Climbing Vines and Tall Plants

As plants mature, watch for those that need a little extra support. Use simple wooden stakes or bamboo canes for medium height plants needing support. For vines or taller plants, get creative. Make your own trellises from long sticks, fence sections, metal rods or extra garden rakes. Or purchase trellises and obelisks.

Tomato cages are available to support plants as they grow. Just add the cages while the tomato plants are still small and can easily fit inside them.

Summer Garden DIY Trellis

Mulch as Needed

Finally, check the layer of mulch in the garden and add to it as needed.

Mulch is a great way to keep weeds down, hold moisture in during the hot summer months and enrich the soil as it breaks down. It also keeps a garden looking neat and tidy. And if you use cedar mulch, it smells wonderful.

I typically add a four inch layer of fresh mulch every other year. Garden Centers often sell mulch by the truckload, which is more economical than purchasing individual bags of it.

Summer Garden Tasks Create a Happy Garden

Performing these simple summer garden tasks will keep your backyard paradise healthy and thriving, providing months of beauty. Getting out into the garden is also good for the body and soul. I make weeding and watering meditative experiences or times of expressing gratitude.

I benefit so much from my backyard garden. It brings me much joy and provides herbs for teas and veggies to eat. Tending my garden moves and stretches my body, contributing to my health. And sitting in my garden on summer evenings, with candlelight and a fire in the fire pit is pure bliss.

The very least I can do is take care of this magical place.

Summer Border

Check out these posts in the Backyard Garden Series

Easy Container Gardening

10 Low Maintenance Annuals to Grow

 


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