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.

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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

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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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10 Shade Garden Plants

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Not all areas of a yard or garden space receive full sun. For many plants, six to eight hours of sunshine is a requirement for growth and vibrant blooms.

However, shady areas can contribute their own unique beauty. The north side of a house or garage, the space beneath leafy trees or spots overshadowed by taller plants are perfect for these 10 shade garden plants.

10 Shade Garden Plants

Shade Garden Perennials

Like their sun loving kin, these perennials return year after year, however they thrive in partial to full shade.

Hosta

Available in a variety of patterns and hues of green, these magnificent plants often anchor the shade garden. Although they are known for their showy leaves, hostas bloom too. They produce tall stalks of white flowers in the summer. These plants can grow to be three feet in diameter so give them plenty of space.

Coral Bells

These beauties put up masses of tiny pink, white, red or coral bell-shaped flowers. Although the delicate flowers are pretty, coral bells show off with gorgeous foliage as well. The leaves vary from dark green to purple to bronze. The low mounding plants stay under two feet tall.

Hydrangea

This shrubby plant appreciates light shade and tolerates morning or late afternoon sun. Hydrangea produces large round clusters of flowers, in pinks, blues and white. This plant can grow up to four feet tall.

10 Shade Garden PlantsCoral bells, hydrangea and hosta share space in my shade garden.

Ferns

Have you ever walked through a forest and noticed wild ferns growing beneath the trees? Ferns thrive in cool, shady, damp conditions. In the garden plant beneath trees or other taller plants. Or place ferns in containers and hang or display on covered porches. They come in a variety of shapes with colors ranging from bright greens to deep earth tones to purples.

Astilbe

This showy plant is one of the most popular for the shade garden. They send up plumes of flowers in pink, lavender, red, white or salmon above fern-like foliage. They range in height from six inches to five feet, depending on the variety. The smaller astilbe plants do well in containers.

10 Shade Garden PlantsThis lovely Japanese fern thrives in my garden where it is shaded by ornamental grasses, clematis and irises.

Shade Garden Annuals

These annuals provide color even in the shade. Fill in any gaps in the shade garden with these easy to care for plants. Or place in containers on covered porches and patios.

Polka Dot Plants

Also called freckle face plants, these common plants produce colorful foliage. Colors vary. Some plants show off green leaves sprinkled with pink dots while others produce red whorls on a green background. Although known for their foliage, polka dot plants bear tiny pink or white flowers on slender stalks in late summer. They make ideal container plants and generally stay under a foot in height.

Coleus

Another plant with colorful foliage, coleus comes in a wide variety of leaf sizes and shapes. Leaves are typically variegated in reds, greens, browns, yellows and pinks. Easy to care for, these plants grow quickly, up to 18 inches tall. Coleus makes an idea container plant. Place them in darker corners of porches to brighten up the space.

Impatiens

These adorable flowering plants are available in so many colors. Use them to create a monochromatic shade garden, using all white or all pink flowers, for a dramatic touch. Or tuck a combination of colors into containers and place them in shady spots. I use these versatile flowers in containers in darker corners of the garden, on the porch, and in containers on the north side of the house. They wilt easily so keep them well watered.

10 Shade Garden PlantsNew Guinea impatiens, coleus and a polka dot plant in containers beneath the red bud tree. Rilynn is my garden cat. She loves the flowers.

Foxglove

These beautiful plants create interest with their bell shaped flowers on tall stems. Reaching a height of six feet, foxgloves thrive in partial or full shade, making them a very versatile plant. In cooler climates they even do well in full sun. (Check your planting zone on the map HERE.) The clusters of flowers range in color from white to yellow and lavender to pink. Like most of the shade loving plants, keep foxgloves well watered.

Begonia

One of the easiest plants to grow and maintain, begonias boast attractive foliage and pretty little flowers. Both can be a variety of colors. The leaves may be pale or dark green or bronze, while the flowers bloom in white, reds and pinks. Begonias do well in the shade garden as a low growing border plant. Or pop them into containers and place them anywhere a shot of color is needed.

These are my favorite plants to fill my vintage red wooden box, that belonged to my aunt. I use a variety of clay pots to group the begonias together. Keep these plants well watered as well. With shade garden plants, a good rule of thumb is to water them every day, especially during hot weather.

10 Shade Garden PlantsBegonias make excellent container plants and look wonderful grouped together.

Backyard Garden Series

From perennials to annuals, herbs to shade gardens, I’ve got you covered with the Backyard Garden Series. Check out some of the other posts below:

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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:

 

Click on photos below, to order packages of flower seeds that are perfect for creating a bee and butterfly garden:



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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:

Want more info and ideas about natural mosquito repellents? Check out this great post too.

Natural Mosquito Repellent Research

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:

 

 

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.