Garden Enhancements- Using what you Have

Bring a bit of natural beauty to the landscaping around your home and property by recycling what nature has already provided! Stumps make gorgeous natural planting containers! If you have an old stump in your yard, chip out the center, add a bit of peat moss, a handful or two of mulch and some potting soil.

Stumps rot from the middle outwards, so they’ll last a couple years as a planter, breaking down naturally while providing a gorgeous natural planter.

Plant your favorite moisture loving flowers, such as ferns, impatiens, violets, and bulbs.

If you really don’t like the look of the stump and want to disguise it, plant vines in it such as ivy, morning glories, or Carolina Jasmine. Sweet potatoes also create a rapidly growing gorgeous vine as well and you may already have one in your pantry.

Article by Liss.

Source: Repurpose an eyesore Stump into a Gorgeous Planter (budget101.com)

10 Plants That Grow Better with Companions

By Rachel Brougham  for Bobvila©

 © istockphoto.com

Working Together

What makes your garden grow? Sunshine, rain, and… teamwork!

Like with humans, plants can have various types of relationships with one another. Some might support nearby plants, while others bully. Those that support—companion plants—also are known in the gardening world as “helpmates.” These companion plants often can help each other in the search for nutrients and resources, and they might even keep pests away.

Whether a garden is big or small, these 10 plants often grow better with a helper.

Cucumber

A favorite of many vegetable gardeners, cucumber comes in several varieties and often produces a bumper crop. Common cucumber companion plants include beans, corn, peas, tomatoes, and radishes, plus other vegetables from the cabbage family.

To keep bugs away, plant marigolds nearby, along with oregano and nasturtium. However, be sure to grow sage and basil separately, since those herbs can bully cucumber plants.

Lettuce

For salad lovers, lettuces—including romaine, Bibb, and loose-leaf varieties—will get a little help from their friends like beets, carrots, onions, and those in the cabbage family. In addition, growing garlic nearby will help deter aphids from attacking lettuce plants.

Peppers

Peppers—whether spicy or mild—do well when grown alongside plants such as carrots, eggplant, onions, parsley, and tomatoes. In addition, try growing your basil plants near your peppers so they work in tandem with one another; basil repels many insects and might even boost the peppers’ flavor.

Potatoes

Home gardeners have so many types of potatoes from which to choose, including early, midseason, and late varieties. Potatoes—like most other garden plants—benefit from a few friends when planted close together. Common potato helpers include beans, cabbage family plants, corn, eggplant, and peas. Try growing horseradish at the corners of your potato patch to provide a little extra protection from pests.

Basil

Basil, that favorite summertime herb that goes well in so many dishes, can grow near most garden crops and is known to improve both the flavor and growth of other crops nearby, most notably tomatoes and lettuce. Plus, for those who like to spend time outside during the summer months, basil can help repel mosquitoes!

Melons

From watermelon to cantaloupe to honeydew—and even new hybrid varieties—melons are a summertime favorite. For those growing melons in their home gardens, try planting them next to corn, pumpkin, radishes, and squash, since these companion plants can support one another during the growing season. You also can plant marigolds and oregano nearby to help keep pests from attacking your melons.

Tomatoes

It might come as no surprise, but tomatoes are the most popular vegetable garden plant, according to the National Gardening Association. In fact, nine out of 10 gardeners will try to grow tomatoes each season. Tomato plants benefit from asparagus, carrot, celery, cucumber, onion, parsley, and pepper plants. Planting some herbs such as basil, dill, chives, and mint nearby will also help repel insects, improve flavor, and boost overall growth and health.

Squash

For those who like to grow squash—whether butternut, carnival, or any of the several varieties available—consider growing corn, melon, or pumpkin nearby as helpers. Marigolds and oregano will also help cut down on pests while borage will help with growth and flavor.

Beets

Beet growers take note: Easy-to-grow beets will benefit from plants in the cabbage family, along with carrots, celery, corn, cucumber, and even strawberries. In addition, garlic is known to improve both the growth and flavor of your beets, whether the beets are traditional red, yellow, or striped varieties.

Carrots

Whether grown in the spring or fall, carrots benefit from several plant companions. Plant carrots near cabbage, leeks, lettuce, onions, chives, and peas. Onions can pull double-duty when grown next to carrots since they’ll support one another in growth and onions will help keep away pesky carrot flies.

Source: 10 Plants That Grow Better with Companions (msn.com)

Easy-Care Desert Landscaping Ideas

By Ann Wilson  for BH&G©

landscape

Utah landscape designer Rod Rasmussen packed in an array of flowers, texture, and form. In the foreground, a blooming spire shoots up from a red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) amid shorter blooms produced by red autumn sage (Salvia greggii), a low-growing evergreen shrub that tolerates a bit of shade. Red yucca repeats throughout the border to carry the eye down the path. Purple-flowering Texas ranger (Leucophyllum ‘Heavenly Cloud’), an evergreen shrub with gray-green foliage, is a repeat bloomer that produces flowers for several weeks up to four times a year. A banana yucca (Yucca baccata) expands interest on the right side of the path. “When designing desert gardens, you always need a couple of yuccas,” says Rasmussen. “They bring character, structure, and stand as a sculpture when planted alone or amid plants with softer foliage.”

A honey mesquite tree (Prosopis glandulosa) offers a respite from the heat and brings structure to colorful beds framing a pathway fashioned from chat, tiny stones leftover from screened gravel. Chat stays compacted, simulates the look of sandy soil, keeps down weeds and dust, and works well with desert plants’ forms.

Provide a Stage

desert landscape

Place big-money plants where they’ll be most often seen. Rasmussen always uses large plants and striking plant combinations to mark a home’s entryway. Whenever possible, he incorporates plants that offer multiseason interest, like the patch of prickly pear cactus (Opuntia) that flowers with yellow blooms through spring; the flowers give way to reddish fruits, and come winter, the paddles shade to purple. A pink-flowering Mexican oregano shrub (Lavender Spice Poliomintha) provides fragrance, flowers, and waxy evergreen foliage. A palm-treelike beaked yucca (Yucca rostrata) supplies a dramatic crowning touch.

Get Inspired by Your Home

Front Yard

Take your cue from your home’s architecture and the surrounding landscape. This home was built atop a lava-rock field, so Rasmussen incorporated black lava rocks in borders stepping up the slopes framing the wide steps. He placed plants so their forms would draw the eye toward the front door; he also positioned plants away from the stairs so they wouldn’t intrude on the upward view or poke guests.

On the left side of the stairs, a rocky point ice plant (Malephora lutea) and silvermound artemesia soften the base of the garden, while a gray desert spoon and purple-flowering verbena add interest to the midground. Yellow bird of paradise trees (Caesalpinia gilliesii), which grow 10 feet tall, frame the top of the steps. In late spring they bear yellow blooms that attract hummingbirds. At the very top on the right, Rasmussen placed a giant sword flower (Hesperaloe funifera), a yucca-like plant that produces

Go with Appropriate Plants

landscape

Tired of hauling out the hose? Combine drought-tolerant plant varieties that can go long stretches without watering. Here, self-sustaining plants mirror the arched shape of a nearby stucco wall. Honey mesquite branches soften the foreground, while gray desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri) provides a contrasting vertical form and color behind shrubbier turpentine bush (Ericameria laricifolia) and creosote bush (Larrea tridentata). Like many desert plants, the two shrubs bear tiny leaves, which help plants retain moisture. If these plants won’t grow where you live, get a desert look by incorporating small-leaf shrubs, such as potentilla or caryopteris, with plants with sword-like leaves, such as Adam’s needle (Yucca filamentosa).

Add Architectural Interest

landscape

Stucco-walled raised beds show how desert plants can be combined to create more traditional gardens. “The idea here was to use plants to visually shorten the tall walls,” Rasmussen says. “So we planted trailing rosemary to spill over the upper walls and then planted vertical yuccas in the beds below to fill out the lower walls.” Red-flowering yucca, a pink-blooming Mexican oregano shrub, and smoky-blue spires of Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) work in concert to brighten the upper tier. Pops of red emanate from dwarf oleanders (Nerium oleander), a mounding shrub with large clusters of blooms from spring into fall. Upright myrtle spurge (Euphorbia rigida), yellow-blooming paper flower (Psilostrophe tagetina), and pots of agave and yucca anchor the terraces.

If you live in areas where there’s plentiful rainfall and high humidity, you can still create desertlike vignettes using plants suited to your region. Jeff Clark, a horticulturist at High Country Gardens in Santa Fe, recommends a sun-heated site with quick-draining soil; you’ll find microclimates suited to xeriscape plants bordering west- and south-facing foundations, stone paths, rock walls, and in the “inferno strip” between sidewalk and street. Lighten soils with compost and coarse sand or crushed gravel. A good growing mix for xeric plants is 2 parts coarse sand to 1 part organic matter or soil topped with a gravel mulch.

Skip the Lawn

plants

Instead of a water-hogging lawn, plant a desert garden suited to natural conditions. Rasmussen did just that across a client’s front yard. He used a bed of chat and some strategically scattered lava rocks to tie the plantings with the adjoining landscape. Quick-growing clumps of Russian sage ably fill out the background, providing needed height and long-lasting color. Parry’s century plant (Agave parryi) and yellow barrel cactus mix in varying forms and textures. Yellow-blooming desert marigolds (Baileya multiradiata) add splashes of sunshine amid the cacti and sage. They’ll readily reseed themselves and naturalize among their companion plants.

Learn More about the Plants

Artemesia

Caryopteris

Century plant

Desert spoon

Oleander

Potentilla

Prickly pear cactus

Red autumn sage

Russian sage

Spurge

Verbena

Yucca

Source: Easy-Care Desert Landscaping Ideas | Better Homes & Gardens (bhg.com)

How to Use Weeds to Read Soil

Article by Tom Oder

How to read a weed

Lawn weeds fall into two broad categories: broadleaf weeds and grassy weeds. Broadleaf weeds are generally the easiest to recognize because, as their name implies, they have a stem that often produces wide leaves frequently in pairs or groups. Exceptions are weeds such as dandelions, which have just a single leaf. In short, a broadleaf weed doesn’t resemble a grass, which is what can sometimes make grassy weeds a little difficult to recognize — at first glance, these weeds do look like grass.

Here are some of the most common broadleaf and grassy weeds that Waltz says are most likely to occur in home landscapes, as well as how to identify them and the problems they may indicate.

Prostrate spurge (Chamaesyce maculata and Euphorbia supina)

Prostrate spurge in your yard could be a sign that your soil needs to be aerated.  MaryAnne Campbell/Shutterstock

This is a vigorous, low-growing, broadleaf summer annual that forms a mat up to three feet in diameter. It’s often found in newly established or thin lawns. It gets its name from freely branching prostrate stems that usually have a reddish spot. It can indicate several possible problems with your soil. One is that the soil may be compacted and needs aeration. This plant, for example, will grow on cracks in sidewalks and parking lots. It may also indicate the presence of nematodes.

“If you have a high spurge population in your lawn, it’s worth at least taking a soil sample and sending in that soil sample to see if nematodes are really the problem with your lawn, not so much the weeds,” says Waltz. “It’s not foolproof, of course, but it is an indicator plant of nematodes.”

Annual bluegrass (Poa annua) and goosegrass (Eleusine indica)

poa annua weed
Annual bluegrass grows in clumps and can spread easily across a lawn. Stephen VanHorn/Shutterstock

Annual bluegrass is a cool season, grassy weed that is light green in color and grows in small tufts or clumps. Goosegrass, also called crowfoot and silver crabgrass, is a tough, clumped summer annual grass, generally with a “whitish to silverfish” coloration at the center of the plant. They are indicators of compacted soil. “Both of these do very well on shallow soils where the (desirable grass) roots can’t get down deep into the soil,” says Waltz.

Yellow woodsorrel (Oxalis stricta)

Oxalis stricta weed
Yellow woodsorrel grows in both full sun and shade. Ian Redding/Shutterstock

This is a broadleaf weed with three heart-shaped leaves that produces yellow flowers. Other forms of this plant that gardeners may encounter include creeping woodsorrel, (Oxalis corniculata), which has a more prostrate growth habit than yellow woodsorrel but may be green to reddish purple, and Florida yellow woodsorrel, which is similar in appearance to yellow woodsorrel. These weeds are sometimes an indication of low soil fertility, says Waltz.

Broom sedge (Andropogon virginicus)

Andropogon virginicus
Broom sedge can grow several feet tall and produces lots of seeds that are easily spread by the wind. Nicole Keathley/Shutterstock

This is a perennial grassy weed that sends up several tall stems from a basal crown. Its flowers are green to reddish-purple and will turn the color of straw when the seed heads mature. “If you see this, odds are good your soil is going to be a little low in pH,” says Waltz. To determine if this is the case, send a soil sample to your extension office. In pastures or hayfields with a lot of broom sedge, farmers are sometimes urged to put lime on their pastures because lime will raise the pH of the soil. “Many times, that will take care of the broom sedge because it doesn’t like the pH that pastures and forage grasses will grow in,” says Waltz.

Some weeds are hard to read

Eupatorium capillifolium
Dog fennel can spread aggressively and is grown from seeds and rootstocks. Jetsadaphoto/Shutterstock

Some common weeds grow in so many environmental niches they don’t provide a clear indication of a soil condition.

One of those is the frequently seen dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). Dandelions are a broadleaf weed with a deep tap root, which Waltz found to his great surprise that some people view in a different light than he does. He encountered such a person at an extension talk on weed control he was giving as a graduate student at Clemson University.

“I thought I had not knocked it out of the park, and this guy raises his hand and says, ‘You know what weeds are in my lawn?’ I said, ‘No sir. What?’ He said. ‘They are a salad.'” While there are certainly weeds like dandelions that are edible, Waltz suggests caution if you see weeds as a chance to eat your yard. “If you pick the wrong thing, it can cause a little intestinal distress,” he points out.

Wild garlic (Allium vineale) and dog fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium) are two other common weeds that don’t indicate a particular soil type or condition. “I have seen them in clay and sandy soils,” says Waltz.

Sometimes the problem is you

Conyza Canadensis weed
Marestail is resistant to glyphosate and most herbicides. Vahan Abrahamyan/Shutterstock

Sometimes weeds set up shop in your yard because of poor lawn management practices.

“If I’m seeing certain weeds like dog fennel, American burnweed (Erechtites hieraciifolia) or marestail (Conyza Canadensis)that gives me an indication of poor maintenance,” says Waltz. “Some of those weeds like to grow up head high, five to seven feet tall. If you are seeing a lot of those, it gives me an indication the homeowner is not doing what they need to do to maintain the lawn at proper mowing heights.”

Because these weeds want to grow tall, even though they germinate and begin growing, they can’t survive in a lawn that is mowed frequently at the proper height. Regular maintenance just puts too much pressure on them, Waltz adds.

Are some grasses more susceptible to weeds than others?

Because of differences in their growth habits, some grasses are more likely to provide an environment that’s more conducive to weeds than other grasses. Lawns of tall fescue, which has a clumping and open growth habit, are more likely to have weed issues than lawns with thick-growing grasses such as zoysia grass, Bermuda grass, St. Augustine grass and centipede grass.

“Tall fescue is a cool-season species that can have a more open canopy following summer heat stress that promotes an environment for weeds,” says Waltz. “Likewise, it is more susceptible to disease. So, when it gets a pathogen or disease, it opens up the canopy so light and water get down to the soil and allow the weed seed to germinate and come up. Zoysia grass has a much denser canopy and excludes more light and, as a result, the grass will many times out-compete the weeds. Therefore, we tend to have fewer weed issues in zoysia grass than we do in other grass species.”

How to take a soil sample

Your local extension service is a good first contact to confirm what type of weed, disease or insect problem you might have in your lawn. They may suggest you email them a photograph of the weed or grass stems or suggest you send a soil sample to the extension’s lab at your state’s land grant university.

If they suggest a soil sample, here’s how Waltz suggests taking that sample based on an average-size lawn of 5,000-8,000 square feet: Pull 15-20 samples, 1/2 to 3/4 inches in diameter in the upper 3 to 4 inches of your soil, which is the root zone for most turf species. Take the turf canopy off the samples, mix the soil together, securely seal it in a plastic bag and take it to your local county office. They will then send it to your state’s extension lab.

Rules are made to be broken

Waltz acknowledges that there are no hard-and-fast rules about weeds as indicator plants; they’re more like guidelines. “When you see (weeds), it triggers another thing to consider about why the lawn may be less healthy than it should be and where you might want to tweak or address an issue.”

If you come across an oxalis in your lawn, for instance, he said you might want to take a soil sample, send it to the extension office and see if you need to make a nitrogen application. “Unfortunately,” he says, “on that one just increasing the fertility doesn’t always get rid of the weeds. That’s not a herbicidal strategy. It’s just an indicator that the weed is more competitive in that soil than the turf itself. This gets back to the definition of a weed — it’s competing for light, water, space and nutrients.”

Source: How to Use Weeds to Read Soil (treehugger.com)

5 Spring Plants That Could Save Monarch Butterflies

Spring is an extremely important time for monarch butterflies. The overwintering populations will soon head north to lay the first monarch eggs of the season. These butterflies need new milkweed to feed monarch caterpillars, and nectar flowers to inspire weary females to lay the groundwork (eggs) for future generations.

Many butterfly gardeners prefer summer plants that are in their prime during the height of monarch season. But to ensure there is a “height” to the season, it’s important to provide the returning ‘migration generation’ the breakfast it needs for a productive season.

Here are 5 spring butterfly plants to consider for your garden if you want to help returning monarch butterflies get off to a flying start:

1. Spider Milkweed (Asclepias viridis)- This early milkweed variety is a shorter species that would make a great garden border for either taller milkweeds plants or nectar flowers.

A hairstreak butterfly rests its wings on spring blooming green antelopehorn milkweed (Asclepias viridis)
© Pimmimemom | Dreamstime.com
  • Perennial most common in USDA plant hardiness zones 5-9
  • Essential milkweed for monarch butterflies returning north from Mexico
  • Height 1 to 2.5 feet
  • Bloom time May- July
  • Purple and green blooms also attract other pollinators like the Hairstreak above
  • Plant in full sun – drought tolerant

2. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)- A low maintenance plant with fragrant purple flowers that can also be used to impart a more ‘subtle’ onion flavor into your culinary creations.

The bountiful blooms of purple-flowered Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) will attract and support spring monarchs and other important pollinators.
© Paul Phillips | Dreamstime.com
  • Perennial recommended in USDA plant hardiness zones 4-9
  • Colder zones can grow annually
  • Height 1 to 2 feet
  • Container garden option
  • allium plants have been shown to repel aphids
  • Bloom time April-June
  • Showy purple blooms on green stalks
  • Plant in full sun


3. Siberian Wallflower (Erysimum x marshallii)- A winning combination of brilliant orange flowers with an intoxicating aroma that attracts monarchs, other butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. Click the play button to watch a feeding monarch butterfly:https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/lTZ94MCeH_U?rel=0

  • Biennial most common in USDA plant hardiness zones 3-9
  • Colder zones might try starting seeds indoors or plant annually
  • Height 1.5 to 2 feet
  • Good option for container gardening
  • Bloom time March-May
  • Vibrant orange flowers
  • Full sun to partial shade


4. May Night Salvia (Salvia x superba ‘Mainacht’)- Striking blue and purple spikes make this hybrid of S.nemorosa and S. sylvestris a winner with butterflies and gardeners alike. The parent varieties are also excellent butterfly attractors!

5 Spring Plants that could save Monarch butterflies? 'May night' salvia is an early blooming variety that can sustain monarchs early in the butterfly season. See all five spring plant ideas for monarchs here...
The Sweet Sights of Spring
  • Perennial most common in USDA plant hardiness zones 3-9
  • Perennial plant of the year in 1997
  • Height 1.5 to 3 foot spikes
  • Excellent container garden idea
  • Bloom time March-May (reblooms w/deadheading)
  • Deep blue and purple blooms
  • Plant in full sun


5. Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)- One of the earliest sprouting milkweed varieties, this is a preferred spring milkweed because of its large, thick leaves that can sustain many monarch caterpillars.

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is a hardy perennial that is one of the first returning milkweeds to greet monarchs each spring
Off to a Rocky Start
  • Perennial most common in USDA plant hardiness zones 4-9
  • Many other butterflies and bees use this as a nectar source
  • Height 4-6 feet – we have some that eclipse 7!
  • Bloom time June-August
  • Fragrant pink and white flowers
  • Plant in full sun – drought resistant
  • Can be invasive with underground rhizomes – tips to control common
  • Find Reliable Asclepias Syriaca for spring monarchs


These, of course, aren’t the only  options that can sustain early monarch generations, but they are some of the most reliable plants in my experience. They are also commonly reported to be ‘spring monarch magnets’ by other butterfly gardeners.

Source: 5 Spring Plants That Could Save Monarch Butterflies (monarchbutterflygarden.net)

Creating A Magical Moon Garden

As you plan your spring garden, why not create a backyard oasis with a Moon Garden that you can enjoy on moonlit night? Try these easy ideas to create yours!

by Sheryl Normandeau for Farmers Almanac©

Tropical white morning-glory - Flowering plant

Celebrate moonlit nights by relaxing in your very own Moon Garden, planted specifically to show off the lunar glow! A Moon Garden is an oasis you create, whose design features plants with white flowers and silver foliage, as well as highly fragrant blossoms, and plants with blooms that open only at night. This type of beautiful sensory garden design is easy to accomplish—try these tips to create yours!

How To Plant A Moon Garden

Mock orange is a perfect addition to your Moon Garden.

Plant in big groupings. Make a huge statement with bold drifts of white flowers, which will stand out in the pale light of the Moon. Try these selections for a bright impact:

  • Snow-in-Summer (this has the added bonus of silver foliage)
  • Snowdrop
  • White Bleeding Heart
  • White Daffodil
  • Bacopa
  • Sweet Alyssum
  • Mock orange (the fragrance is outstanding, as well)
  • Hydrangea
Closeup of big white hydrangea on dark background
Hydrangea

Choose The Right Foliage

Moon Garden plants
Dusty Miller

Display plants with silver or gray foliage, or even variegated foliage. The subdued light from the Moon will beautifully reflect these colors. Try plants such as:

  • Artemisia
  • Dusty Miller
  • Variegated Hosta
  • Variegated Euonymus
  • Lamb’s Ear

Use Night-Blooming Flowers

While they don’t always sport white flowers, plants with blooms that only open late in the day or at night are often used in Moon Gardens. Four o’clocks, moonflower, and evening primrose are delightful examples. Relaxing in your Moon Garden offers the opportunity to enjoy these pretty plants that may be overlooked during the daytime.

Moon Garden
Plants with blooms that only open late in the day or at night, like moonflowers, are often used in Moon Gardens.

Go For The Scents Appeal

Moon Garden plants
Night Scented Stock

At night, when the light is low, it is important to appeal to other senses besides sight. The scent of some well-chosen plants is important in a Moon Garden. Consider these selections:

  • Night Scented Stock
  • Lilac
  • Rose
  • Anise Hyssop
  • Lavender
  • Nicotiana

Add Soothing Sounds

Moon Garden plants
Small fountains and other water features create soothing sounds in your Moon Garden.

The sound of small tabletop fountains and other water features are pleasing to the ear, and moonlight will shimmer in the gently moving water. If the noise won’t annoy your neighbors, softly tinkling wind chimes may be a wonderful addition. Ornamental grasses, with their rustling seed heads and stems, are another option to bring soothing sound to the Moon Garden.

What Size Should Your Moon Garden Be?

Your Moon Garden may be any size you wish; it can be part of a larger bed or even smaller beds, joined by pathways. Consider using white gravel in walkways to further capture the effect of the light. If you have a very small space, fill containers with plants suitable for Moon Garden and group the planters together.

White flowers and silver foliage are complementary with nearly any other color scheme in the garden so it is usually easy to add Moon Garden elements to your existing plantings. Don’t be afraid to mix annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs for maximum impact. To increase the enjoyment of your Moon Garden, plan your plantings so that bloom time is staggered throughout the growing season.

Site your Moon Garden so that it enjoys maximum exposure to lunar light. Deeply shaded locations will not usually work as the light cannot penetrate. Additionally, flowers like moonflower need full sun to grow and bloom and don’t like shady spots.

When the Moon isn’t full, subtle accent lights may be incorporated. Use solar lanterns, stake lights, or LED candles to show off your Moon plants.

Don’t forget to create a seating area so that you and your family and friends can unwind after a long day and enjoy your garden in the moonlight!

Source: Creating A Magical Moon Garden – Farmers’ Almanac (farmersalmanac.com)

60 Landscaping Ideas to Steal for a Magical Outdoor Space

By Caroline Pickard and Hadley Mendelsohn for House Beautiful©

Here is just a sample of the 60 design ideas waiting for you:

Photo by Trevor Tondro

Spilling Bougainvillea

A lawn isn’t the only landscape design that’ll brighten up your front yard. Madeline Stuart gives this SoCal home by architects Wallace Neff and John Byers a sense of place with agave plants flanking the entrance and blooming bougainvillea spilling over the wall.

Ngoc Minh Ngo photo

Mid-Garden Dining Area

Landscape designer Lisa Bynon turned her vegetable garden in Southampton, New York, into a dreamy outdoor dining area complete with a 10-foot-long table and a cedar deer fence.

For 58 more views, click on the source link.

Source: 60 Beautiful Landscaping Ideas – Best Backyard Landscape Design Tips With Pictures (housebeautiful.com)

Common mistakes made with shade, soil and plant selection

By Tim Johnson,  Senior director of horticulture at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

See the source image

Gardening as a hobby has really taken off since last year, and there are many plants to choose from for your garden. I often see new plants installed in home gardens that will not perform at their best or will eventually fade away because of where they are installed.

It is easy to get confused when looking through books, magazines and plant catalogs or browsing at a garden center for plant ideas and purchases. Rest assured that there are many great plants to choose from that will thrive in your garden.

Plants perform better, have fewer pest problems and require less maintenance if you match the plants’ cultural preferences with the conditions in your garden. Focus on choosing the right plant for your particular site instead of a plant’s individual beauty or what you see in flower at the local garden centers. Just because there is a plant for sale at your local store does not necessarily mean it will be a good choice for your garden.

The amount of sun and shade in your garden are a couple of key factors to use to guide your plant choices and a good place to start when evaluating whether or not a plant is good fit for your garden.

Placing sun-loving plants in a shady site usually results in spindly growth and few, if any, flowers. The plants will gradually wither away. Similarly, planting a shade-loving plant in too much sun will cause scorched leaves and plants that fade over time.

Knowing a plant needs a half-day of sun may not always be enough information. Keep in mind that a half-day of morning sun will be much different from a half-day of afternoon sun — a partial shade-loving plant may be OK with full sun in morning and shade in the afternoon, but will burn with full afternoon sun.

The west side of your home will be hotter than the east side. Some hostas perform well on the east side of the house with morning sun, while the hot afternoon sun on the west side would burn the foliage, even though both sites have a half-day of sun. There are many different hosta cultivars to pick from, with some having more sun tolerance.

The amount of shade in your garden is also important — is it a light shade, like under a honey locust tree, or deep shade, like that in a more heavily wooded area? A plant that prefers light shade or a half-day of sun will typically struggle in a full, more deeply shaded site.

The type of soil that is in your garden is another important factor to keep in mind when choosing plants. Parts of Evanston have sandy soils that drain well and dry out quickly, while others have the heavy, clay loam soils more typically found in the Chicago region.

Astilbe is a common garden plant that generally prefers light shade and moist, but well-drained soil. If it is planted in full sun and in soil that is sandy and dry, then it will die out, while catmint (Nepeta), another perennial, will prosper in those conditions.

Many gardens in this area have soils with a high pH, in which more acidic, soil-loving plants such as river birch and rhododendrons perform poorly. In time, a river birch growing in a heavy clay and high pH soil will develop chlorosis (yellowing) in the leaves and perform poorly and eventually die.Read up on the plant’s cultural needs to match it to what it prefers to grow in and skip planting it if its needs cannot be met by your garden’s growing conditions.

Many gardeners like to push plants’ limits in order to grow favorite plants, which results in the plants being installed in conditions that they tolerate versus prefer. Special site preparation and maintenance practices can also allow one to grow the plants that are more demanding or not ideally suited to your site’s conditions, if you are willing to put in some extra effort. It is important to buy plants that are hardy in this area, indicated by having USDA Zone 5 within their hardiness range. Plants only hardy to Zone 6 or higher will likely not survive a typical Chicago winter.

Some things to consider about the individual plants include their size, habit, foliage and seasonal interest, such as flowers and fall color. Evergreens provide good structure for winter. There are plants that are resistant to deer browsing; deer will generally eat yews and arborvitae, but leave boxwood alone.

Look for disease- and pest-resistant plants. Powdery mildew is a common disease on phlox — ‘David’ is a phlox cultivar that is resistant to powdery mildew. Go to the Chicago Botanic Garden’s website, chicagobotanic.org, to access Plant Evaluation Notes, which are reports on the performance of cultivars of various plant genera, such as Phlox, to find the cultivars that grew best at the Garden.

Understanding the growing conditions in your garden is an important first step in making good plant choices. Use this information as you research plant choices, or consult experts for advice. The better information you have about your site, the better advice you will get.

For more plant advice, contact the Plant Information Service at the Chicago Botanic Garden at plantinfo@chicagobotanic.org

Source: Haunted by last year’s garden fails? Here are common mistakes with shade, soil and plant selection to avoid this spring (msn.com)

This article first appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

The Most Beautiful Agave Plants and How to Care For Them

 Jerry Pavia

Use these versatile and stunning succulents for adding drama to pots and sunny gardens

When Sunset published its book Succulents and Cacti in 1970, agaves definitely took a back seat to sedums—there were only about a half dozen species mentioned. Now, we could fill a whole book on these knockouts alone. Growing beautiful agave plants has never been easier — there’s a variety for every garden and more choices than ever. Grow them alone as a specimen for dramatic statement, or combine with other succulents for a stunning sea creature landscape. Check out these agave images for inspiration (or just because they’re drop-dead gorgeous) and pick up a few tips for how to grow them while you’re at it.

Source: The Most Beautiful Agave Plants and How to Care For Them – Sunset – Sunset Magazine

All agaves do best in full sun and sandy, well-drained soil, and thrive on the scantest amount of water. Some are more cold-tolerant than others, but they can’t handle damp cold. When they do bloom—a rare feat—these slow-growing yucca-cousins eject a giant asparagus-looking flower spike straight to the heavens.

If you want more pointers on how to grow agave, check out these care tips.

Get Rid of Fungus Gnats in Houseplants Soil

Fungus gnats are probably the most annoying indoor plant pests. And, the worst part about them is that they can infest any plant that is growing in soil. You will see them crawling out of the potting soil. Probably, most of them will also be flying around your plant when you are watering them. Thus, if you face this problem, keep reading and see how to get rid of fungus gnats with safe methods for your plants.

A fungus gnats infestation will come from anywhere. They can get into your house or they are either already in the soil, especially if it is a newly purchased plant. Furthermore, fungus gnats can also come in with a plant that was outside during the summer. So, we can all agree that fungus gnats are difficult to eliminate when you have a large number of indoor plants. However, there’s no need to resort to toxic synthetic pesticides, they can easily be eliminated using just natural prevention methods.

1. Control soil moisture

Fungus gnat larvae thrive in moist soil, and they can’t survive in dry soil. So, the easiest and most effective method of plant gnats control, and ultimately eliminating fungus gnats, is to make sure you never overwater your plants. Thus, use a soil moisture gauge to help maintain the perfect level of moisture for your houseplants, and get rid of gnats in plant soil.

2. Use yellow houseplant sticky stakes

Putting a yellow sticky trap near the plant is a super safe pest control method that will attract and capture the adult fungus gnats. This will only be effective to control the adult population, it will not take care of the problem at the source.

3. Apply organic pest control products

Pour or spray an organic insecticidal soap or a soapy water mix or neem oil mixture into the top of the soil to kill gnats in potted plants. These natural gnat pesticide treatments should be effective after a few applications. Neem oil works great to kill houseplant pests and has a residual effect that helps with pest prevention.

4. Remove the gnat infested soil

Remove the top inch of potting soil and replace it with new, sterile potting soil. This will remove fungus gnat eggs and larvae, and make it easier to gain the upper hand.

5. Use soil covers

Replace the top inch of soil with a layer of sand, gravel or decorative moss soil covers. This will help control gnats in the soil, and deter them from laying eggs. Plus soil covers also add a nice decorative touch.

6. Never reuse potting soil

I know it’s tempting to pinch pennies by reusing potting soil for indoor plants, but you’re just asking for trouble. Always use a fresh, sterile potting soil mix when repotting your plants.

Source: Get Rid of Fungus Gnats in Houseplants Soil – GetGardenTips.com