Quick & Easy Tips

BHG Guest Blogger

Small Garden Design Strategies – Keeping Color in Check

The following is a guest blog post from Susan Morrison, a Northern California landscape designer and blogger. 

 

Small gardens offer many advantages over their larger cousins—less weeding comes to mind—but having less space to work with brings a unique set of challenges. If you’re a plant and accessories lover, you might be torn between the desire to cram in every bright bloom or vivid pot that catches your eye, and the knowledge that too many competing colors can lead to chaos. With a little planning, however, a small garden can be colorful without being overwhelming.

Plan for container colors in advance

When Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist, asked for my help designing a new cocktail garden for her narrow side yard, I knew we’d be relying heavily on containers. To satisfy Amy’s desire for bold color, we chose a palette of rich blues anchored by deep purple on one end and lime green on the other – before purchasing anything. Instead of endless days spent shopping in an effort to find containers that conformed to her swatches, Amy asked a local handyman to build them to her specifications out of unfinished wood—then painted them herself. (You can also find unfinished wood containers online.) If choosing a color palette seems daunting, sites like Adobe Kuler provide a range of color palettes, and a menu of easy-to-use tools that allow you to experiment with an infinite number of combinations, while still ensuring your ultimate choices will coordinate.

Build your beds around pastel blooms

When it comes to flower color, an exclusive palette of pastel blooms will blend together much more harmoniously than one that mixes soft colors with bold ones. Pastel shades always combine well with one another, no matter how many different flowers you include. As the speaker at a recent talk on color that I attended explained it: if you washed all your clothes 200 times, they would eventually fade to the point where you could wear anything with anything. Sticking to the paler shades found in the innermost circle of the color wheel is a great strategy for impulse shoppers, as it gives you a substantial number of plants to choose from, with no need to worry that the ultimate effect will overpower the garden.

Keep accessories and plants cohesive

On the other hand, if you’re the type who wouldn’t be caught dead planting pale pink anything, it’s possible to make a bold design statement without sacrificing harmony. Once you’ve chosen the colors that speak to you, the secret is to repeat them everywhere, including accessories like furniture, containers and artwork.

Artist and garden designer Keeyla Meadows is not the type to shy away from splashy shades. Sizzling reds, bright oranges and shocking pinks dominate in her small, sunny garden, but by pulling these colors through in her handmade benches and containers, the end result is harmonious.

In their small, showcase water garden, Potomac Waterworks choose only two high-contrast colors, red and chartreuse, then repeated them not only in a range of foliage plants, but in the accessories and artwork as well. The ultimate effect is a garden that is simultaneously energizing and restful.

Whether your style is softly romantic or outspokenly edgy, stick to a few simple color strategies for a garden that reflects the real you—without sacrificing harmony.

 

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Susan Morrison is a Northern California landscape designer with Creative Exteriors Landscape Design,  blogger at Blue Planet Garden Blog and the co-author of Garden Up! Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces, an Amazon “Best Books of 2011” selection.

Susan knows first-hand the challenges and rewards of gardening in a small space. Her own 18 by 50 foot back yard serves as her laboratory for fresh ideas, and is the inspiration for her iTunes garden app Foolproof Plants for Small Gardens.
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BHG Guest Blogger

Get Your Garden Off the Ground (And Into the Air)

The following is a guest blog post from Chris McLaughlin.

 

If you’re interested in gardening on any level, it’s nearly impossible not to notice that vegetables are once again enjoying the gardening spotlight.  Like everything else, the gardening trend has taken a twist. Large expanses of cultivated land have been swapped out for raised beds, containers, and one of the easiest and rewarding veggie gardening practices — vertical gardening. Take advantage of the prime real estate located above the soil! It just might be the perfect produce practice.

Naturally, the first reason that gardening vertically makes sense is that many of us are limited (sometimes drastically so) as far as gardening space and we’d like to make the most of our small-space gardens. In fact, when I lived in the suburbs, I started gardening vertically because most of my life was spent living in the suburbs and I had very few places around my home for a vegetable garden.

In my book Vertical Vegetable Gardening (Alpha Books, December 2012) I get into the nitty gritty on why those of us that have started growing vegetables and fruits vertically instead of horizontally have never looked back. In a nutshell, vertical gardening will have you:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using Less Garden Space
Typically the first reason that gardeners consider growing up instead of out is due to lack of space. This may seem like a no-brainer when speaking in terms of urban, apartment, and condominium living. But you would be amazed at how little land suburbanites have to work with, too. Vertical gardening opens doors for almost anybody.

 

Spending Less Money
You’ll save money from the get-go on purchasing soil if you’re building raised garden beds. This is because your beds won’t have to be very large because the plants and fruit will be hanging around happily above the soil.  You’ll need only enough soil to accommodate plant roots.

Smaller beds (smaller growing surface) means you’ll be watering less. Combine this with a watering system that delivers water directly to the root zone such as a drip system, plus rich, loamy soil (for moisture retention) and you’ll have a smaller water bill, too.

 

Doing Less Work in Less Time
I don’t have to have met you to know that you lead a very full life. We’re all moving right along at a fast pace just to stay afloat; so planting a garden may feel like a big endeavor. But I’m here to tell you that there’s less time commitment involved with vertical gardening.

First of all, there’s very little soil for you to deal with — especially if you’re using containers. Less soil, means less time watering and weeding. In fact, pulling the one or two weeds that pop up takes minutes or even no time if you’re planting in just enough soil for the vertical plants. Plus you’ll harvest vegetables and fruit in a flash when it’s at eye level and can be easily seen and picked.

Gardeners in wheel chairs or those with other physical challenges find that growing up makes their hobby that much easier — or perhaps even possible where it may not have been before.

 

Dealing with Less Weeds, Pests, & Disease
This perk is a biggie — you’ll have very few weeds and you’ll have those yanked out in seconds. It’s simple; less soil surface = less weeds, plus your soil will most likely have come bagged as opposed to outside soil that can potentially be riddles with weed seed.

Plants grown vertically have the advantage of excellent air circulation. More air circulation around plant foliage means less trouble with pests and disease than thus, creates a  stronger plant and more unblemished fruit. Much less food wasted due to rotting, as well. Plants grown up instead of out limits their physical contact to neighboring plants (that might carry disease).

 

Harvesting More Crops than You Thought
Gardening vertically can actually increase your vegetable production and offer you a bigger bounty. All that air circulation and sunlight helps maintain healthy foliage and healthy plants (with little or no pests and disease) offer bigger yields — even if it is in a smaller space.

By the way, vertical gardening isn’t just about vining plants. Hanging baskets, stackable containers, and wall pockets are all ways to grow non-climbing crops such as lettuce, strawberries, and radishes up.

 

Beautifying Your Yard
If you haven’t noticed that vegetable plants can be downright beautiful, take another look; veggies can be botanical eye candy, too! Tomatoes not only come in bold red, but also yellow, orange, purple, white, green, white, and striped; Eggplant offers white, lavender, purple, and striped varieties; cabbages come in blues, grays, and greens; lettuce are red, green, purple, and all shades between.

Another ting that many gardeners notice is the leaves of vining plants such as zucchini or squash grown along the soil in the traditional way become yellow, sparse, and scraggly. Grown vertically the bottom of these plants are full with leaves. In fact, your vining and fruiting vegetables can actually be a surprising focal point in your garden landscape.

Along with the various colors the shape, size, and texture of plants and fruit will add to the view. Upright crops such as espaliered fruit trees and grapevines offer many months of structural beauty in the garden, as well.

Even today, on five acres and I can honestly tell you that I grow more vegetables vertically than I ever did when I had much less land. The space above the traditional garden bed is underused as a growing resource, yet it offers some surprising benefits! You just have to stop looking out and start looking up.

 

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Chris McLaughlin has been gardening for over 35 years and became a California Master Gardener in 2000. She’s the author of four gardening books including Vertical Vegetable Gardening (Alpha, December 2012). Her work can also be found in Urban Farm Magazine, Hobby Farm Home Magazine, The Heirloom Gardener and is a staff columnist at Vegetable Gardener.com. 

Today, Chris is working on her current book project for a spring 2014 release, getting ready to launch the Mother Lode Seed Library in Placerville, California, attempting to keep up with her own site, A Suburban Farmer.com, as well as practicing home ag in Northern California’s Gold Country.
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BHG Guest Blogger

Big Impact in a Small Space

The following is a guest blog post from Kathleen Hennessy.

 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, average lot sizes in the U.S. are getting smaller and that means less space for landscaping. As a result, many plant breeders are working to create smaller, more compact shrubs for homeowners.

That breeding work is developing great new varieties that create big impact without taking up a lot of space in your yard.

Bailey Nurseries, the company that brings you Endless Summer® Hydrangeas, Easy Elegance® Roses and the First Editions® new plants brand, has several new varieties that fit. “These shrubs pair low maintenance with great color, all wrapped up in a smaller package,” says Natalia Hamill Brand and Business Development Manager at Bailey’s. “Best of all, they’re really easy to grow.”


First Editions® Little Devil ninebark is the perfect example of smaller size shrub creating a big statement. Typical ninebark varieties can reach 6- to 10-feet tall. Little Devil tops out at just four feet. It offers all the great attributes of ninebark including beautiful burgundy foliage and white-pink flowers in June.


Little Devil is easy to grow and needs little pruning. Its compact size makes it the perfect fit for any landscape. I love Little Devil in containers too. Little Devil can be grown in Zones 3-7.


The First Editions® Magic crape myrtle series offers great disease resistance and richer colors. Midnight Magic blooms with stunning, dark pink flowers backed by deep purple foliage. It’s more compact, growing from only 4- to 6-feet, and keeps a nice rounded shape in Zones 6-9.

For Southern gardeners, Zones 7-9, First Editions® Crimson Fire fringe flower is a small space star.  Neon-pink flowers cover the plant in spring, while the deep, ruby foliage adds interest all season long.

Its compact, low spreading form makes it a great foundation plant. Since it only grows 2- to 3-feet in height and width, it’s also a stunning in a container.

For more info, visit FirstEditionsNewPlants.com.

 

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Kathleen Hennessy has been writing on gardening and DIY topics for more than 15 years. You can read more about her Zone 3 and Zone 4 gardening challenges in her blog at 29minutegardener.com, or follow her on Twitter @29mingardener.
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BHG Guest Blogger

Wild Mushroom and Pasta Dinner

The following is a guest blog post from Bren Haas – blogger at BG Garden. 

This is one of my family’s favorite quick dishes to prepare in spring and autumn.  It is quick meal and super fun to add a few mushrooms that were hunted in our woods here in Ohio. Not all mushrooms are edible so be sure to check species information.  I recommend and trust the OSU  Extension website.
 

Ingredients
6 oz wild mixed mushrooms (morels, shiitake, porcini and portobello are my favorite)
4 tablespoons olive oil infused with red pepper
2 clove garlic, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lemon, juiced
8 oz of prepared linguine pasta
3 oz of fresh grated Parmesan
fresh parsley

Directions
Be sure to clean wild mushrooms by brushing off any dirt  using a pastry brush or dabbing with a clean towel.

Mushrooms should be sliced thinly.

Add infused olive oil into a very hot skillet carefully add finely chopped garlic.

Add the mushrooms to the skillet and let fry fast being sure to toss the mix once or twice. Let mushroom and garlic fry fast, tossing once or twice for about 5-10 minutes.

Add pepper and squeeze fresh lemon juice.

In another skillet add prepared pasta and 3 tablespoons of chicken broth.

Remove pasta once it is hot.

In your favorite serving dish add warm pasta, mushrooms, with the Parmesan and parsley.

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Bren Haas started her blogging ( http://www.bggarden.com)  career 5 years ago as a way to share her hidden garden out in the country. Even though her kids are now teenagers she remains busy raising them and adding landscaped gardens filled with veggies,herbs, shrubs and perennials to their 16 acres of Ohio property. For the past 3 years Bren has been growing year-round in her 10’x12’ home greenhouse and recently started raising fish with her husband in the structure as well.  Be sure to check out #gardenchat (http://www.connect-share-grow.com ) network if you would like to connect with other garden enthusiasts were Bren is the administrator of this huge Twitter based network.

 

 

 

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Katie Ketelsen

Treat Yourself This Holiday Season — Let the Pros Do the Decor

I happened across this festive infographic from the folks at Neave Decor and thought it was absolutely genius. Number one is me in a nutshell. But seriously….sometimes decorating for the holidays just doesn’t sound all that appealing. Especially when Iowa’s winter is knocking at the door. (Too bad these folks aren’t in my neck of the woods!) And frankly, neither I or my husband (whom I fear will definitely fall off the roof someday, much like number ten alludes to)  have the skills to pull of  holiday lighting like this….

By the way….I’d live in this in a heartbeat! Isn’t this house gorgeous!?! Here’s a quick link to see more holiday lighting ideas from Neave.

Some awesome companies will even decorate the INSIDE of your house too! Double bonus!

Now…if you’re questioning why you should even think about hiring a professional to do all that tough, tedious, light-busting grunt work – read this – overwhelming reasons why you should consult the pros. Plus, I’d add, it might just allow you to spend more time with your family and keep the old man’s back in tact.

If you’ve got a professional holiday decorating company in your area you’d like to recommend give them a shout-out in the comments below! Share the holiday goodness people!

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Everyday Gardeners

Defy the drought

Des Moines is suffering under one of the worst droughts in decades. My garden has received less than 1/2 inch of rain in the past month. That, coupled with days on end of temperatures exceeding 100 degrees F has created extreme stress on plants. I seldom water established plantings, but this year I’ve resorted to rescue watering for most of the plants in my yard. I’m not trying to keep everything in photo-shoot-ready condition. I’m simply trying to make certain the plants will survive.

Perennials, trees, and shrubs planted within the past two or three years are most vulnerable, but many well-established plants are also showing signs of drought stress. The shrub pictured below is growing on the south side of a parking garage. Reflected heat off the concrete wall creates a desertlike microclimate in this spot. The shrub should have been watered long ago. At this stage, it likely will suffer dieback of the growing tips. But if it gets water right away, it likely will resprout from the base.

Because water is in short supply during a drought, it’s important to water efficiently. Sprinklers can spread water over large areas, but they lose some water to evaporation as they sprinkle. And usually they also over spray onto sidewalks and driveways, where the water will simply run off. If you don’t have large expanses to water, consider using soaker hoses that ooze water the full length of the hose. For trees and shrubs, you can fashion a drip watering system by drilling a few holes into the bottom of a five-gallon bucket, filling it with water, and placing it near a tree to slowly distribute the water to the root zone. For large, well-established trees use several of the bucket to deliver more water.

What drought-defying tricks do you use in your garden?

Drill several holes in the bottom of a 5-gallon bucket to create a homemade drip irrigation system for trees and shrubs.

Wind a soaker hose around perennials such as hosta to get the water to the roots without wetting the foliage.