Posts Tagged ‘herbs’

Starting a Backyard Garden with Raised Beds and Pots

May 28th, 2014

You can start a backyard garden with raised beds or pots. Home gardening is the number one hobby in the United States.  Is there anything more satisfying than walking out your back door, picking a juicy red tomato and enjoying that sweet fresh flavor? It is a rare treat and for most of the country it is only something we get to experience in July, August and September, but it sure is worth it.  When you go to the grocery store in the dead of winter and the tomato package says, “Vine Ripened and Tastes like Summer”, don’t you believe it!

There is nothing quite like producing your own fresh food and it is very easy to do.  No matter what size your backyard may be, or even if you just have a patio or deck, you have room for a garden by building raised beds, pots, window boxes, or just about anything that will hold soil. raised beds in backyard

First, you must decide how much space and time you may want to devote to your new project.  Like most new endeavors, starting small is a good idea, and as you learn from experience you can grow and grow from one season to the next.  If all you have is a patio or deck, you should consider what we call “container gardening”.  This is nothing more than something like a five gallon bucket or maybe a whiskey barrel or maybe a used wheelbarrow.  Even an old bathtub would do the trick!  Just fill them with clean composted soil and you are ready to plant.

If you have a little more space, raised beds are the way to go. These are constructed with organic pressure treated lumber and range in size from four feet wide, one foot deep and to as long as you would like (10 to 12 feet is most common).  It is important to limit the width because you must be able to reach the center of the bed without stepping on the soil.  If you are going to use raised beds, it is a good idea to put pencil to paper and figure out how large an area you are going to work with and how many beds you want to build.

Because your garden is new, this will be your best chance to fill it with clean weed free soil. If you are just doing container gardening, you can purchase bagged soil at any nursery or garden center.  For raised beds, you will need to have soil or loam delivered by a local landscape service or mulch supplier.  You will need approximately 3/4 of a cubic yard for each 4×12 foot bed.  Make sure you specify composted loam for vegetable gardens.  Upon delivery, mix in a small amount of peat moss to lighten up the soil, about 5%. Fill up your containers or beds and you are ready to plant. Raised bed gardens

Herbs are quite easy to grow and don’t require much space, which makes them  ideal for     container gardens.  Select whatever varieties you commonly use such as dill, thyme, parsley, chives, sage, oregano, etc. Many herbs are perennials, meaning they will grow back year after year without replanting every season.  Chives are wonderful because a small bed will come back to life early in the spring and require very little  maintenance.  Many herbs that you plant in containers can be overwintered inside and returned to the patio the following spring.

Regarding vegetables, tomatoes are an obvious choice along with cucumbers, lettuce and peppers. These four items alone will provide you with salads all season long.  Green beans are very popular too and with staggered planting, you will be able to harvest them for several weeks in a row.  Onions grow very well throughout the United States and should be planted as “sets”.  These are just immature onions about 4 inches tall that have been commercially grown for transplanting to home gardens early in the spring.

Farmers Markets will have many varieties of plants to put in your new garden.  Plant whatever you like, but let’s get going.  Spring is here and it’s time to get dirty! You will find a great selection of herbs and some perennial vegetables such as asparagus and rhubarb at Greenwood Nursery (www.greenwoodnursery.com). Place your order as early as late winter for shipping at the right time for your area.

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How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden with Shrubs, Herbs and Perennial Plants

March 5th, 2013

 

What could be more enjoyable than sitting in your garden with lots of beautiful butterflies fluttering about? Gardeners are planting butterfly gardens, which not only have become a popular hobby, but, also, make for very beautiful gardens. While many gardeners plant amazing flower gardens with hopes of attracting butterflies, however, the butterflies don’t come because the wrong shrubs and perennial plants have been planted.

English: Français : Papillon monarque (Danaus ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes butterflies will not come to a garden because of pesticide use. The first thing you should do in planning for your butterfly garden is to rid the area of unwanted pests without using chemicals.

There are a few other things you can do to ensure that butterflies will come to your garden. Choose an area in your garden that is sunny with about 5 to 6 hours of sunlight per day, as adult butterflies only feed in the sun. The area needs to, also, be sheltered from heavy winds. As much as butterfly need to eat, they also do not want to fight harsh winds while trying to feed.

Another important aspect to a good butterfly garden is water. Like humans, butterflies need water. A couple of shallow bird baths where you can keep clean water will not only allow butterflies a drink, it will give them a place to rest.

There are two types of plants that butterfly use, those that provide food for the offspring and those that provide nectar for the adults. In a quote from the National Wildlife Federation, “Attracting butterflies involves incorporating plants that serve the needs of all life stages of the butterfly.” They go on to say, “The insects need places to lay eggs, food plants for their larvae (caterpillars), places to form chrysalides and nectar sources for adults.”

Most butterflies, including the Monarch butterfly, feed on buddleia, commonly called butterfly bushes, for nectar and milkweed to feed the caterpillars. Other ways to make the area more butterfly friendly are using flat stones or other large flat surfaces where butterflies can rest and spread their wings. Because butterflies are such delicate creatures, they will also need shelter and a little shade.

Plants that attract butterflies are buddleia or butterfly bushes, lavender, monarda or bee balm, veronica, salvia, rosemary, thyme, sage, roses, yarrow, lamb’s ear, hydrangea, weigela, rudbeckia, echinacea, Shasta daisy and yucca are excellent selections for a beginners butterfly garden.

Recap of How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden:

  • Limit pesticide use
  • Place your garden in a sunny area protected from heavy winds
  • Plant fragrant, summer flowering butterfly plants
  • Use flat surfaces for the butterflies to rest
  • Have a shallow water source

By adding some of these suggestions into your garden, you can attract butterflies all summer long.

 

Greenwood Nursery Your Online Garden Center

 

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Using Plants as Wedding Favors

October 3rd, 2011

Weddings 2011

Image by The Style PA via Flickr

With a resurgence of garden parties during spring and summer afternoons, these tips will help make your garden party even more special. Whether you present them as thank you gifts or as wedding favors, our suggestions will make you appear the thoughtful hostess.

Garden Parties, which were common during the Victorian Period, can run the gamut from a dressy afternoon tea to everyone arriving in their gardening ware to help work in the hostess’s garden. The garden party is, also, an excellent idea to bring people together for gardening clubs, a wedding shower or for the first time homeowner. Each guest brings a plant (small shrubs, ornamental grasses or other perennials) and a tool, or other piece of gardening equipment, whether new or a gift from the guests own tool shed.

For parties with gift exchanges, guests can bring items relating to gardening such as a plant, tool, container, garden ornament, etc… The hostess will need to somewhat define what types of items that guests should bring such as indoor, outdoor, flowering, non flowering, tools, etc.

One way of giving away plants as favors is to use small potted plants on the tables as all or part of the table decorations or tiny potted plants can be used as place card holders. The nursery pots can be covered with tissue paper, burlap or other fabric and tied with a colorful ribbon or twine or even repotted into inexpensive decorative or plan clay pots. Plants that work great for this are: herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, lavender), mini palms, mini schefflera, young Shasta daisies, sunflowers seedlings, young ornamental grasses or bamboo as well as starter plants such as tomatoes.

Handing out seedlings as wedding favors has been popular for quite sometime. However, there are some considerations to keep in mind.

Seedlings are seasonal and only available November through May. During the summer months, one would need to select small potted evergreens or potted herbs.

• Plants need to be ordered 6 to 8 weeks in advance from the nursery or greenhouse so that delivery can be timed for the week before the wedding.

• Designate a person, or persons, to be responsible for separating the seedlings and bagging each one with a handful of moist peat. This needs to be done within a couple of days before the ceremony so that they are still fresh and then kept in a cool, dark area such as garage, basement or pantry.

• Where will the plants be held (at the ceremony or reception) before being handed out? It should again be a cool, dark area out of the way. Heat and sun will dry them out possibly causing the plants to wilt severely or kill them. Depending on how many guests are expected, these boxes can take up valuable space.

• The most commonly used plant varieties for handing out as favors are: pines, spruces, dogwoods, lilacs, red maples, even late spring/summer flowering bulbs.

Using plants for gifts or wedding favors is long lived. Be sure to keep in mind your guests lifestyle. If most of your guests are city dwellers residing in apartments, they are not going to have anywhere to plant most shrubs or trees, so herbs or flowers would be quite thoughtful.

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Tips for Growing an Herb Garden

May 7th, 2011

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne Herb Garden

Image via Wikipedia


Tips for an herb garden:

    • Plant in full or mostly sun
    • Choose a well drained location (herbs don’t like wet feet)
    • Mix in some sand when planting (in clay soil) for better drainage
    • Place taller growing herbs in the rear as a backdrop such as lavender, rosemary and pineapple sage
    • Plant chocolate mint in a container for control
    • Mulch herbs with aged compost or aged manure mix
    • Allow soil to dry out between watering
    • When harvesting for recipes, select oldest growth first

Best herbs for culinary:

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Earning My Green Thumbs

February 13th, 2011

Public Flower Garden in downtown Seattle

Image by FallenPegasus via Flickr

Post by guest blogger Cydney Langford:

I am the firstborn child of nursery owner parents. Plants, not babies. I can attest firsthand that green thumbs are born, not made. I had all the qualifications and knowledge, and yet, I can’t keep a peace lily alive for peat’s sake! (peat, as in organic humor) On the way to school most kids were quizzed on their spelling words for the day. I was quizzed on trees and shrubs that we passed along the way.  As previously stated, I had ALL the qualifications and even interest but still, houseplants browned around me. This was the norm until my first house. It had no landscaping whatsoever; a clean slate. This was my time to shine! I could show my parents and prove to myself that I was just a green thumb in waiting.

First up was the placement of beds. An herb garden was a must, as was a vegetable plot or two.  Also not to be forgotten was a cutting garden. My mom always had fresh flowers in the house and my nightstand is never without a small bouquet. It’s quite the homey touch. Now,,,, all this might seem like a daunting task for a new homeowner who hasn’t even unpacked, but I was determined. My thumb was going to be green.

Starting out, money was an object so I wanted hardy perennials and evergreens that would give me presence in the garden. For the herb plot I knew that patience was a virtue if I didn’t want to spend much money so I began with 3 in. pots. I found a great creeping Rosemary which blew me away with how fast it grew and thyme which, to my surprise, was an evergreen in my region. Two super easy starter herbs. Next was 2 varieties of lavender, lavender du Provence and lavender munstead, to which I dug the holes much bigger and added sand before planting. This reminds them of the Mediterranean of where they originated and they’ll thank you for it by growing better and faster than in clay soil. Other herbs such as oregano, chives,sage and annuals like dill, which goes to seed quickly and basil rounded it out. Quick tip: pinching off the blooms on the herbs promotes growth. That way all the energy it would have expended on the blooms gets redirected to the base plant.

For some year round color, evergreens were in order. I chose the fast growing Green Giant. These gave the perimeter of my yard a quick and easy hedge. Dwarf Sungold Cypress adds a pretty yellow green splash of color.  So, I put several of those together for a sunny grouping. My backyard is shaping up quite nicely by now.

Next up was the vegetable plot. I’ve always admired how neat and tidy raised beds look. They also give the garden an English cottage look which I love. I built my own using three 6” x 8’ boards per bed. One on each side with the third board cut in half. Then I secured them to the ground with stakes attached on the inside.  It’s so easy! I painted them white to complete the cottage look.  Our local farmer’s market has some great venders that grow organic vegetable seedlings. I ended up getting all my veggie plants there as well as some local honey and baked goodies. I love the farmer’s market! After planting all my vegetables I mulched them in with some black cow and gave a good watering. Next up, my flowers!

Now with the cutting garden, I absolutely had to have roses. I love roses! However, anything I’ve ever read about roses talks about maintenance and upkeep and fertilizing and so on, etc. Ugh! How can I develop a green thumb when all I’ll be doing is researching rose growing tips and rose trimming tips, how to cover them for the winter & snore, snore, snore! I want to have a life as well. What’s a girl to do? Dum, da, dum dum! Knockout roses to the rescue! You can’t kill these things and they look amazing! I started with two 1 gallon containers and they’ve quadrupled in size in just three years. Beautiful blossom filled bushes with the roses just begging to be put on display in my house. They’re fantastic plants. When we entertain in the summer, no one can believe that I am the one responsible for the growth of these magnificent flowers! They also ask for the name of my gardener or how often my parents “stop by”.  I just reply that it may have taken a while, but I have earned my stripes in gardening and I now am the proud owner of not one, but two green thumbs.

By guest blogger Cydney Langford

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Selecting Plants for Borders and Edging

October 25th, 2010


Selecting plants for bordering or edging a garden or path can be just as frustrating as accessorizing a room or an outfit. You want the overall picture to look pulled together with your choices. I like to divide plants for this purpose into two divisions: compact and spreaders. These plants grow in the 3 foot and under height range. Compact plants are just that. They will grow within a defined space only getting slightly larger over the following years. If the area needs a strong barrier, consider a low growing shrub or grass such as Hameln Grass, Spiraea Magic Carpet, Cotoneaster Coral Beauty, Hypericum Blue Velvet or the dwarf Nandina Firepower as they will work hard year round to keep the garden defined.

Spreaders and drapers will creep into the garden mixing with the other plants or spill over the edge of the garden bed. They will work well in any garden, but can really show their talents when planted along the edge of a multi level garden. Along the edge or border of a garden is a key spot to introduce additional colors and textures. If the primary color of the garden or landscape is green, for example, edge the bed with contrasting color plants such as Heuchera Plum Pudding or Black Mondo Grass. If the garden is alive with lots of color, then going low key would be more effective with something like an ornamental grass, liriope, thyme, lavender plants or dwarf boxwoods.

Here’s a listing of plants that I have complied for these 2 divisions:

Compact plants for borders and edging:

Grass Hameln, Chives, Heucheras, Aster, Hostas, Ferns-such as Autumn Brilliance, Spiraea Magic Carpet, Lavenders, City Line Hydrangeas, Liriope, Armeria Dusseldorf Pride, Veronica Royal Candles, Cotoneaster Coral Beauty, Barberry Crimson Pygmy, Hypericum Blue Velvet, Nandina Dwarf Firepower, Daylilies, Sedums, Grass Black Mondo, Grass Acorus Minimus, Grass Acorus Gramineus Ogon, Potentilla Gold Drop,

Spreaders and Drapers:

Wooly Thyme, Red Creeping Thyme, Creeping Phlox, Creeping Rosemary, Elfin Thyme, Hypericum Calycinum, Drift Roses

This listing of plants should give you many ideas of what size, colors, and type of plants you can use for edging your garden or bordering your landscape. Don’t feel limited to these varieties.

Be creative with plants. They offer so much color and texture. That’s part of the fun and the learning experience of gardening.

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Tips for Fall Plant Care

October 19th, 2010

With fall in sight, there are a few projects which need to be done to move the garden and landscape into the next season. A little planning and some late summer maintenance can encourage a new burst of growth and color that will last for weeks, depending on where you are located maybe months, beyond the new equinox.

Here is what I do to extend my gardens energy:
Deadhead– both annuals and perennials- if you have a hedge trimmer, it makes this so much easier, especially for wide spreaders such as Shasta daisies and lavender
Pull out all annuals and perennials that have died or are on that path
Stake all taller growing perennials
Deadhead/prune knockout roses for gorgeous late summer growth
Pinch blooms from herbs. After most herbs bloom, their leaves begin to lose flavor, so pinch the blooms to encourage last minute growth.
Continue watering container plants regularly
Apply a fresh layer of aged compost mix to enrich the soil over winter
Weed– no one likes to hear it, but hand weeding is the best and safest way to control the situation in most gardens. Regular weeding walks through the area can help to keep them in check.
Note what annuals, perennials and shrubs performed well over the season and what colors/plants would be good for next years gardening
Here is a listing of shrubs and perennials that perform at their best from late summer through fall. This is the time to mix a few of these into your garden or landscape for more color and texture. Plant coneflower, sedum, black-eyed susan, shasta daisy, Russian sage, Knockout Roses, Anemone, Ornamental grasses, asters, rose of sharon, herbs, salvia, yarrow, butterfly bush, carolina allspice, burning bush euonymus shrubs, oakleaf hydrangea, smoke tree, viburnums, american bittersweet, and Japanese maples.
I clip tiny branches from my herb plants to display in my tiny bud vases all during summer. With basil in the kitchen, rosemary in the bathroom and thyme in the bedroom, what a way to tickle the senses.
If you have herbs in your garden that will be maturing over a few weeks time, you will definitely want to harvest and dry or freeze the leaves for fall and winter cooking.
These are just a few chores to perform on a beautiful weekend. You’ll get exercise, feel great and your garden will look amazing. Why not open the windows to air out the house while you work in the garden. Then the house will have that wonderful outdoor smell!

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How to Make the Garden Safe for Pets and Children

September 21st, 2010

When designing a new landscape or re-evaluating an older landscape, don’t forget to work in spaces especially for children such as: a sandbox, jungle gym, and/or open grassy areas for football or net games like volleyball and badminton (not just for children). A sandbox or jungle gym can be tucked into a corner or other small area. For jungle gym or other physical activities a thick layer of shredded bark mulch on the ground will help to reduce the impact of falls.

Introduce children to gardening and yard maintenance early on so that as they develop, they gain an appreciation and respect for plants and the landscape. These learning sessions are the perfect opportunity for teaching them about plants and how they grow. This reduces the chances of children ingesting any poisonous parts of plants.

For those with pets, work into your garden or landscape an area for them to run and play. Gravel can be irritating to their paws and hot in summer, so use shredded bark mulch for this area which also works great for their potty areas as well. Place dog houses in protected areas such as nearer the house/garage or tucked into corners (great where there is a fence for additional protection). Sun and wind protection are other points to keep in mind.

Be flexible. Some dogs just like to dig and no matter what, you can’t keep some plants. I’ve experienced this with my dogs. I replaced a couple of small trees damaged by a freeze a few years ago with dynamite crape myrtles. The next day, I came home to the plants dug up and dried out. I had to replace with 2 more new plants. The following day, I came home to them dug up and dried out, again. The dogs were scolded, of course, but we didn’t want to waste, yet, 2 more plants. So, I planted the newest crape myrtles in large containers with a few annuals. It isn’t what I really wanted for the landscape, but, this is a spot on the outside of my garden gate, so the container thing works fine. Planting in containers and raised beds can be a good solution for keeping plants off the ground so that they aren’t dug up, time and time again.

Both young and small plants are at risk of having dogs urinate on them, which if allowed to continue, will eventually kill the plants. Sprinkle cayenne pepper over the area and around the base of the plants.

Neighborhood cats can be a big problem. Two successful ways of keeping them out of landscapes and gardens is to lay pine cones around the area or lay sections of chicken wire, secure to ground and cover ever so lightly with mulch. The pine cones, chicken wire or anything prickly will help to keep them at bay.

Here is a short listing of plants that are generally safe to use around pets and children:

  • Bamboo
  • Ornamental grasses
  • Crape Myrtles
  • Forsythia
  • Cat Mint
  • Chives
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Heucheras
  • Sage
  • Herbs (many other varieties including annual varieties)
  • Sedum
  • Tulip poplar

This is just a short list of plants that can be planted safely in the garden. The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has a great site with information on a listing of the 17 top toxic plants to pets, great articles on pet care (dogs, cats and horses), and animal poison control hotlines.

Poisonous Plants

Pawprints and Purrs, Inc is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating pet owners, preventing animal cruelty and pet abuse. Check out their website and you will find articles on everything from pet ownership to traveling with your pet to alternative medicines for pets.

If you have a question about whether or not a specific plant is toxic or safe, always ask your pet’s veterinarian.

The following link is to a short article on backyard safety for kids. It offers some good advice to keeping children safe and happy at play.

Backyard Safety for Kids

 

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