Fall is the best time to plant perennials in many locations across the country. Why not rebuild that barren side yard garden bed that has been plaguing you this fall? Several years ago I had a rather desolate area on the side of my home (see photo right) that I converted into a flagstone walking path surrounded by shade perennials.
Side yards often come with adverse conditions. In my case, I have an oak tree planted on the side of my house that gives shade to cool our home, but is located in such a way as to prevent most light from making an appearance in the side garden. This is common in side yards and I have a solution: a quiet path combined with shade plants.
Flagstone can be a large investment, however, it is also possible to make a path from old bark or mulch. I placed lots of organic matter in the soil then planted it up with a mixture of ferns, hostas, and other part-shade to shade loving perennials.
2 Awesome Perennials For Shade
Dependent upon the variety of fern, you can plant a native to your region, which can be a beneficial home for small mammals like lizards and songbirds. I have often seen frogs and turtles hide in ferns as well. In the photo at top you see Lady Ferns which can grow up to 3 feet tall in my garden. They were given to me as pass-along plants by my mother-in-law and I love them. Squirrels often romp at the base of the oak tree in the ferns. In a dry year the plants will fall to the ground in drought, but will recover in the spring and sprout new fronds reliably. Ferns typically like a rich soil and shady conditions, so they do very well here. Lady Fern, Cinnamon Fern, and New York Fern are some of the easiest to grow.
While not native plants, I find hostas to be great hummingbird and pollinator attractors. Hosta leaves can be amazingly colorful as well and do a lot to brighten up a dull space. Hostas prefer rich, well drained, and moist soil. This area of my garden can be rather dry. Therefore, I plant the hostas, then mulch well in anticipation of drier conditions. I planted several varieties along the walk way including Hosta ‘Honeybells’, ‘Guacamole’, and ‘Halcyon’ – all favorite’s within my garden.
Try one of these plants out in your side yard for an easy solution to shady conditions. Plant before the first frost and water well until established.
Fall is almost upon us, so it is time to start planning for how you are going to extend those garden crops for as long as possible through the frost season (see the before picture on the right). Helping your vegetables survive through fall means a longer growing season and money saved in the bank. There are two types of frosts to be aware of. Advective Frosts are plant killers; very cold temperatures that drop below plant hardiness levels. Radiation Frosts are survivable for your plants if they are covered and generally represent the frosts most likely to occur in early fall.
Below are three super-easy ways to help save your crops from a radiation type of frost. Advective frosts are tough to fight and you might need more powerful protection tools. All the below concepts involve covering the crop and trapping the heat of the soil beneath the covering. These coverings work as long as they do not get wet. A wet cover makes the temperatures surrounding the plant cooler.
1. Blanket and Sheet Covers
These are the simplest to use. Simply toss a lightweight blanket or sheet over the area of garden you are trying to protect. I have been known to use all the blankets in my house and ask my neighbors for theirs, but have had regular success in saving the garden for many weeks if there is only a one or two night frost situation; the covers help the plants survive those two nights in order to enjoy the Indian Summer later in the fall. Be sure to remove the blanket in the morning so the plants receive sunlight and warmth during the day.
2. Floating Row Crop Covers
Floating covers keep frost and insects off the plants, but allow daylight to provide enough light for growth. Depending on the plant, you can leave the row cover up all day without a problem. Do not forget to water the plants that are beneath the floating row covers.
3. Plastic and Garden Covers
Plastic covers work, particularly if you have a supportive frame to cover the planting bed. If you like, you can add lights at night to increase warmth within the protective frame. In the top photo you see the miniature greenhouse garden cover I have placed over my raised beds from Greenland Gardener. The garden cover is easy to assemble – it took me less than 15 minutes to put this together and place it properly. Unfold, assemble support pole, place in position, tighten Velcro (see photo below), tie the poles together at the top, place over beds, and DONE!
According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them. They worked well and I am happy about that.
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This year I expanded my front patio to include sedum lined tiles, more space for seating, and a cocktail herb garden. This spot is a delicious smelling niche that has become the focus of outdoor room entertaining in my front garden. Many of my friends and family discover birds and other pollinators like bees and butterflies flitting all around the herbs while we are out on the front patio spending time together.
Inspired by Amy Stewart’s latest book, The Drunken Botanist, this garden design was intended to be a relaxing place that bathes you in delightful scents as you sip herbal cocktails and watch the wildlife. Pollinators love the plants that surround the patio. I planted basil, thyme, and plants from The Drunken Botanist plant collection such as, the “Old Tom Gin Garden” and the “Old Havana Rum Garden”. Sitting out front has become an amazing experience because of the bees and butterflies that dance through the herb garden as much as for the delicious herbal cocktails.
Bird watching is a part of this experience as well. We have a wonderful little hummingbird that flies in and out of the hostas and herbs. She loves the sage flowers, bee balm, cat mint, and my little red hummingbird feeder. I keep it stocked up with nectar just for her so she can entertain us with her antics.
Building an herbal garden with the goal of attracting the birds and bees and a few dozen cocktail aficionados could be just the fantastic late summer project you need to end your summer with a garden bang. Plan the lay-out, amend the soil, and then toss in a few perennial herbs such as lemon thyme, tricolor sage, and lavender. You can enjoy the herbs this fall and be surprised by new growth in the early spring for the first outdoor garden cocktail parties of the season.
According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.
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Outdoor garden rooms are all the rage right now and having a unique spot in the garden to call my own sounded pretty appealing. My goal: Transform my haphazard back potting patio into a better looking space that serves the dual purpose of both being an outdoor room and a storage area for my container planting supplies.
My home exterior is an odd mixture of suburban siding and 1970′s design – I’m always trying to switch it about or update it. We resided the house a few years ago, which was a tremendous change for the exterior image of the garden and home itself, but the back patio really needed some help. It’s an odd shaped deck enclosed by fencing and used as a storage place for the garbage cans and a landing spot for anything and everything [see above].
Removing the extra fencing was the first step, then the garbage cans and old seating. After that I decided what my goal was for an outdoor garden potting bench room — I wanted a functional area I could store my containers, layer my bagged potting soil, sit and entertain friends, and enjoy a beautiful view.
TOP 3 MUST HAVES FOR AN OUTDOOR GARDEN POTTING BENCH ROOM
1. Potting Bench – My husband built my bench – he had no plan, just used 4×4′s, wood planks, galvanized nails, and his amazing engineering-based imagination.
2. Seating - The two bright orange Adirondack chairs came from Freecycle.org. A local family in the community gave them to me unpainted and covered in moss. I bleached the chairs, sanded them, then painted them with brightly colored exterior paint.
3. A View – By removing the deck fencing I opened up the view significantly. Then I built a colorful outdoor fireplace photo and chandelier wall as a centerpiece for the deck (here is the how to do – LINK). A container tower acts as a median view between the garden room and the garden itself.
Transforming your deck or patio into a garden potting bench area that also serves as an outdoor garden room is a great way to combine two needs into your outdoor design plan. Building a room with a view and reusing older things to help with the transformation is a terrific way to make the garden more green and sustainable as well. Build a patio room in your garden this summer that is functional, fun, and a nice place to spend time.
Want container gardens without the pain of regular watering? Planting succulents in creative container gardens usually means you water less, but still have all the beauty of gorgeous plants on your patio or balcony. In the photo right I have combined three succulents in individual pots (Rainbow Bush – Variegated Elephant Plant, Coppertone Stonecrop, and Jet Beads Stonecrop). Top photo shows several succulents within a single container (Ghost Plant, Paddle Plant, and Sedum ‘Bertram Anderson’).
Top 3 Tips for Growing Succulents
1. Use a loose soil that drains freely. Too much water is the curse of death for a succulent. Buy commercial succulent and cactus soil or make your own using 1/3 course sand, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 grit (usually a mix of lava fines, pumice, and/or perlite).
2. Position succulent containers in bright growing conditions or in direct full sunlight.
3. Never let water stand in a succulent container and feed with an organic cactus fertilizer.
Ideas for Standard Containers
What about the standard containers you have out now? Perhaps the hot late August weather is encouraging them to dry out a bit. I have an awesome solution: Plant Nanny’s!
Plant Nanny’s are glass watering globes that help you water without constant hovering over your containers. Insert the Plant Nanny stake into moist soil, then fill the watering globe and place into the stake. When the water gets low, you know you need to water again.
Both ideas above offer great late summer time saving ideas for containers. All the beauty with far less watering worries!
According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.
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I’ve mentioned here before how I use a gardening journal to keep track of what I’ve planted, where I planted and how plants fare in my garden. Here’s how I use mine and a few tips if you’d like to start a garden journal of your own. It’s always been really helpful to look back on these notes!
1. Save Your Tags
I have three types of gardenias in various places around my garden and sometimes I need to reference which ones are in which places. Someday I might want to add another plant of the same variety or if one plant dies I will need to know the what kind it was so I can replace it easily. Plus, some annuals have done much better than others, so I keep track of which pansies or calibrachoas are my favorites. I promise, it makes everything easier!
2. What You Planted Where
Last year I planted a beautiful, bushy bleeding heart beside a lovely old bench in my garden. It was a lovely scene for a few months until winter came and bit everything back. Then this spring, I had almost completely forgotten about it when I noticed a bleeding heart that was blooming in a friends’ garden. Where was mine?! I checked everywhere as soon as I got home. My precious bleeding heart was no where to be found! I have no idea what happened to it and I’m so disappointed. It’s good to know though, when you plant something and it doesn’t come back, so that you avoid making the same mistake twice. I’ll likely try again with a bleeding heart, in a different location this time.
I like to keep track of how much sunlight different areas of my garden get during all the seasons. The backyard, except for early spring, can only be defined as one word: shady. But I have one sunny garden bed (you can see it here) that gets plenty of light around mid-day. When I was first starting my garden, I used to run outside and check if the sun had popped over my neighbors roof yet or if it had fallen down behind the trees across the street to set. I wanted to keep track of the sunlight so I’d know what type of plants would do best in that environment.
When we started our garden plans, there was literally nothing in our yard. Since we were starting from nothing, it was easy to write down our plan. We planted three ligustrum shrubs for structure, a little Solomon’s Seal here, groups of hostas there, and a few ferns sprinkled in between. These plants have become the backbone of my garden and I love to look back at sketches of what we planned to do. We’ve created a little haven here and I love seeing how far we’ve come.
(The brick garden path I drew here doesn’t look like this anymore! It had a small brick patio at the end there, but this past spring we got rid of the end “patio” and laid the bricks to continue the winding path around to the right. It’s fun to look back and remember structures of the garden too, not just the plants.)
Now, this reminds me that I need to update my garden journal on our projects from this past spring and summer – what worked and what didn’t and what’s growing and what’s not. Next year, I’ll be glad I took the time to write it down. Do you all keep a gardening journal? What’s most helpful to keep track of? I’d love to hear your suggestions for what I should add!