Winter Care for Potted Plants

If you wish to include plants in containers in your garden, you have to make sure you care both for plants and containers during the winter.
Here are few tips to follow for best results:

  • Plant early – to get container plants off to a good start, you have to plant early. You cannot expect to plant them in the winter and see them thrive. According to expert gardeners, container plants need at least a month of warmer weather. It is good to start them in the autumn so that they can establish their roots before freezing weather sets in.
  • Pick the right pots – there are many pot types you can pick from. Resist the urge to go with beautiful clay or concrete pots. These absorb a certain amount of moisture, which can freeze in low temperature and thus crack the container. Plastic and resin are much better in that regard since they retain no moisture and those will not break or crack in the winter weather.
  • Don’t forget to water potted plants – winter damage most frequently occurs due to desiccation (drying out). You must not forget to water containers when they are dry, especially before you expect a hard freeze. It is best to water in the morning because that is when the soil is warming up.
  • Plants need good drainage – when you water plants, you have to ensure the water drains properly. Otherwise, it will accumulate, expand and possibly break the container. The planters need to have drainage holes and well-draining potting soil. Also, don’t let plants sit in a tray of water, as most winter plants don’t like soggy conditions.
  • Pick your plants wisely – container soil can get colder than ground soil, so it is important to select plants that do well at least one zone colder than the area you are located in.
  • Placement is essential – although sunlight is rather weak in the winter, you should still locate your potted plants in the sunniest possible spot. Also, make sure they are away from any strong winds that can dry the plants or topple over the pots.
    Protect pots – group your pots together for better protection and place them against a sheltered location. You can also wrap them in burlap if you suspect winter weather can cause them some damage.
  • Feed them slowly – one thing you should know about plants in the winter is that they actually absorb fewer nutrients then. Don’t even try to overwater and overfeed them – it won’t help them one bit. What you can do for them is use enriched soil and a well-balanced organic fertiliser when you plant them. This will give them a good supply of nutrients for the winter.

Grow Herbs Successfully

If you have no garden or very little space for growing crops, then herbs are the choice before any other. They can be grown in borders with flowers because they often have attractive foliage. They can be grown in small raised beds or containers in courtyards or on sheltered balconies. If you have no outside space in which to grow plants, herbs can be grown in pots on a kitchen windowsill.

If herbs are to be left outside over winter, it would be best to keep them by the back door for easy access in the cold weather. Some plants like French tarragon, rosemary, sage and marjoram will survive through the winter months. These perennials benefit from being cut back in the summer after flowering. This keeps the bush compact and the fresh, new leaves are good for picking. Others like bay will have to be kept in a frost-free greenhouse or conservatory over winter.

Herbs are a perfect crop for children to grow because you only need small pots to grow enough for your needs and those pots can be in the shape of objects or characters to make the experience more fun. Herbs can also be grown as individual plants in the children’s flower or vegetable patch if they have one.

Then the fresh herbs can be added to simple dishes like salads or omelets. Children can make these using their own crops. Parsley can be added to egg sandwiches and basil to cheese and tomato sandwiches. Chives can be added to omelets.

If you have heavy soil in your garden, putting herbs in a container with free-draining soil is your only option to ensure they will grow well. Put broken crocks at the bottom of the pot and use compost suitable for herbs. Grit added to the compost can help to improve drainage. All herbs benefit well from organic matter added to the soil.

Mediterranean herbs such as marjoram, rosemary and thyme like a position in full sun and will need well-drained ground. They can cope with growing in quite poor soil. Marjoram is loved by bees and butterflies and grows best in full sun but the variegated varieties can stand a little shade.

Some other herbs like parsley and chives prefer moister conditions and will tolerate some shade. Mint has similar requirements but must have its roots restricted in a container because of its invasive habit. The container can be sunk into the ground but any escaping roots should be kept in check.

Basil, dill and coriander are annuals and will have to be sown from seed each spring or early summer. Kept inside, basil may last for more than one growing season but it will become leggy. Basil grown outside likes full sun and heat; it is thought to originate from tropical Asia. Parsley is a biennial plant which flowers in its second year but can be sown every spring to ensure a continuing crop.

Sow a few seeds every two or three weeks from mid-spring to mid-summer to ensure a constant crop for harvesting. This won’t be too time-consuming if each new crop is planted into a single pot. Sowing instructions come on seed packets. Keep the packets for future reference if you intend collecting your own seed. Keep seed in labelled paper bags or envelopes to keep it dry, never in plastic bags.

The whole planting project can become a learning experience for your children.

If they are going to sow seeds in pots, get them to devise a planting programme on a calendar. They can count days and weeks to set out a plan for succession sowing.

Furthermore, they can draw a diagram for a planting scheme on a plain sheet of paper if they are going to plant up a small herb bed. This could be in a window box, an old sink or small raised bed.

They can keep a folder containing empty seed packets to remind them of a plant’s needs and sowing instructions. They can keep a gardening dairy with notes of their ideas, activities and results.

Save Water Outdoors

  • Avoid watering the lawn every single day. This is really wasteful considering that weekly watering is enough for the lawn even during summer months. You should actually avoid watering the lawn for some time when there has been a heavy downpour.
  • Plant your plants in such a way that they can make use of your roof runoff when it rains. Landscaping should actually be done smartly in that you can have water thirsty plants around areas where water collects and takes time to drain away.
  • If you must water your plans and the lawn, then make sure that you do this during early mornings before the temperatures rise and wind speed increases. When you time your watering schedules you will be able to minimize evaporation that can be wasteful. Consider the weather conditions before watering.
  • Use a broom to sweep clean your sidewalk or driveway instead of using a hose that uses gallons of water to clean off the debris and leaves from these areas. Alternatively, you can use an energy efficient blower for the same task.
  • Position your sprinklers so that your water does not get wasted on paved areas and instead lands where it is really needed. You should also consider irrigation devices that are water efficient such as drip irrigation and soaker hoses which go a long way in saving water.
  • Consider a higher cut for your lawn so as to promote deeper grass root growth, hold soil moisture and to offer shade for the root system so moisture is not lost faster. It is also very important that you avoid using fertilizer for your lawn because it increases the water need by the grass. If you must, then choose fertilizers that have nitrogen that is water soluble.
  • Consider a shut-off nozzle for your hoses so you are able to adjust the spray as needed for different areas. Once finished, you should remember to turn off your faucet instead of the nozzle because it can leak even when shut. It also helps to ensure that your sprinklers and hoses remain attended because you end up wasting too much water when you forget to turn them off. Make use of a timer to make sure you give only the intended amount of water to your garden.

About Snow and Landscaping

Snow acts as a natural insulator, so your landscaping will survive under snow all season, it’s when we come to shovel it that it may cause a problem or two. If everything is under a foot of snow, do you know where your driveway starts and ends? What about your walkway?

The most important and obvious thing is to keep your shovel on hard ground. Seems easy, but it is a lot harder than you may think. Where that landscaping starts is lost in a sea of white. This is why it is a good idea to use driveway reflectors to mark the boundaries of your hard surfaces. This way, you’ll know when to stop shoveling and hopefully you won’t have gone into any trees or shrubs that are hidden.

If there is a lot of snow it’s a good idea to shake it off of trees and shrubs that you can see, just so that the branches aren’t burdened with the extra weight. The roots will thank you for the added protection, but the branches, especially if they are on the small side will not.

Don’t pile the snow that you have shoveled onto your landscaping if you can help it. This just adds more weight. Instead try to pile it on the side of the driveway or walkway with no landscaping, or put it on the lawn itself. Remember to keep it away from public sidewalks and the road or you may end up with a fine.

If you are using a snowblower, be careful where you shoot the snow. Again, avoid trees and landscaping and the public walkways around your property. People don’t want to be blasted with snow from a snowblower and trees don’t either!

Lastly, be careful where you salt. Remember that during a thaw and in the spring the water will carry the salt residue with it and you don’t want that ending up on your plants or trees. You don’t want them damaged so limit the salt to areas away from landscaping if you can.

Wooden Garden Shed

Most garden sheds are used:

  1. To store small hand-held and large garden tools; manual and electrical
  2. A place to park the lawn mower, tiller, and other large gardening equipment
  3. Storing vegetables
  4. Cutting, planting, and transplanting plants
  5. Tool repairs

Many people prefer wooden constructed garden sheds rather than vinyl, resin, plastic, and various metal type sheds. It may be more expensive up-front, but lumber seems to have a longer life and therefore is less expensive. Wood is also easier to repair. The other types of sheds would need to be discarded and a new one purchased.

Plan before you start building. There are important considerations which need attention. Decide if you would like to build it or hire a contractor. Do you wish to assemble a shed kit or build it from scratch?

There is a wide variety of wooden type garden sheds which may be ordered from local sources or from online. Note any additional items which may be needed. These items may be concrete blocks, tools and other hardware accessories.

Manufactured sheds can be erected in a few hours or over a weekend. The do it yourself shed may also take the same amount of time or longer. There are variables for both situations.

If you’re anything like me I did window shopping, comparative price shopping, and talked to my friends and neighbors who had garden sheds for their opinions and experiences. Then I made my decision. In case you are curious, we decided to build a wooden shed as it could be designed and customized to meet our requirements.

Before you setup this is a list to review:

  1. Location
  2. Size
  3. Utility outlets (if electric and plumbing are to be installed)
  4. Local residential building codes, licenses, and permits
  5. Zoning requirements
  6. Location of underground cables
  7. Neighborhood restrictions
  8. Building inspections

The location of the shed needs to be in a clearing within short access to the garden areas and pathways for loading and unloading heavy gardening supplies. The size of this structure is determined by the tools and garden equipment which will be stored.

It is also critical to check overhead, underground, and around the placement of the proposed site. Are there any trees, shrubbery, or overhead wiring which may interfere with the structure? Before digging locate any underground cables, plumbing, or electrical wires.

Water and electrical utilities may or may not be essential. But if it is, planning is critical.

Pick Sod for Yard

Cool Season Grasses

If you live in a region with cold winters and hot summers and has regular periods of rain. Three of the most common cool season grasses are Kentucky bluegrass, Ryegrass, and Bentgrass.These grasses can go dormant during times of droughts and experience two periods of shoot growth annually, once in mid-spring and again in early fall.

Warm Season Grasses

If you live in the hot and humid climates found in places like the southern United States, one should choose warm season grasses. Warm season grasses only have a single expanded shoot growth during the summer. Many kinds of warm season grasses require special care during the winter months when blades tend to turn brown and may require reseeding in areas damaged by the cold. Popular warm season grasses include St. Augustine, Bermuda, and Centipede.

What Will Your Grass Be Used For?

If your lawn will be heavily used by kids who play on it or you have frequent outdoor get togethers or BBQ’s. Then consider grass that can withstand a lot of foot traffic. Two options would be Bermuda or Zoysia. Both of these withstand heavy use better than most other types.

If your yard has little sunlight or is heavily shaded both St. Augustine and Centipede mixtures are excellent choices. If you get plenty of bright sunlight Bermuda is a great choice.

For large yards, Centipede is not only a popular choice in warm regions because it requires no liming to remove acidity but it also requires infrequent mowing. More expensive sods however, like Zoysia, as beautiful as it is, might be more expensive than ones budget allows.

All grass will do well in with rich topsoil. But homeowners who live in places with little rain and desert-like regions have limited options when choosing their sod. Bahia is popular because it can grow in infertile and sandy ground. Where as Centipede grass, also known as the “lazy man’s” grass, can withstand acidic soil.

About Wire Mesh

It’s preferred by many people due to the benefits that it comes with. Some of the benefits include:

  • Cost: wire mesh is cost effective thus you can afford it even if you aren’t operating of a large budget.
  • Versatile: as mentioned above you can use it in a wide range of applications. For example, you can use it in fences, in screens and many other applications.
  • Easy to install: although, it’s recommended that you hire a professional to install the mesh for you, you can also install it if you have the right skills.
  • Durability: since it’s made from stainless steel wire, you are guaranteed that it will last for a long time. There are some types of meshes that are galvanized to reduce the chances of corrosion.

There are many types of mesh that you can go with:

  • Woven: also known as wire cloth, this unit is characterized by very small openings. It’s the most popular and it’s used in door and window screens. It’s also ideal for enclosing patio and porch.
  • The mesh is recommended for areas that require extra security. These areas include: stock rooms, window barns, and storage facilities. Its primary function is to prevent outsiders from getting into the facility through the window.
  • Welded: here the wires are welded together to form a very firm product. They are often used for fencing where they come in different gauges. One of the most common applications is in the construction of perimeter wall both at home and industries.

It’s also used in highway and railway fencing where it’s used in preventing animals and people from trying to cross highway roads and rail tracks. This prevents damage on the tracks.

If you want to protect your garden, you can use the mesh to provide additional security. You can also use it as an alternative wire for climbing plants.

  • Knit wire: popularly known as chicken wire. It serves as an inexpensive barrier for livestock. When used in livestock fencing, the wire comes in different gauges and hole sizes. All you need to do is to choose the wire that is ideal for your application. Some of the animals that you can secure with it include: chicken, horses, cows and rabbits.

Simple Residential Landscaping Maintenance

  • Before planting anything, talk to some of the local nurseries or those in your area with particularly beautiful landscapes and learn as much as you can about the soil conditions and what type of plants and grass do best. If you are new to the area, be sure to also ask about the weather and light throughout the year. Knowing this will help you choose plants that will be successful.
  • Take some time to sketch out any ideas you may have your yard. Be sure to indicate areas for trees, hedges, flower gardens and edges. Often, local nurseries have people who can come to your residence and help you plan this out.
  • Plan on planting trees and shrubs that require minimal maintenance, but will grow and flourish for years. Be sure there are some shade trees included in your selection! After all, no residential landscape should be without shaded areas where one can sit outside and just relax.
  • Select flowers and trees that are native to your area. Plant these items in their sun preferred area and you will find that little to no work will be required for them to look fabulous.
  • Rather than trying to maintain numerous gardens and landscaped areas at once, start small. Choose 1 or 2 key areas to focus on. In subsequent years you can add more areas, just be sure to know your time limits, and plant accordingly.
  • Plant similar types of plants together. Not will this look great, but it will be easier to maintain.
  • Use borders and walkways to add interest as well as keep grass from creeping into the garden areas.

Decorating the Pathway to Front Door

Pathways are extremely important when it comes to homes. People don’t want to step on the grass in order to get to the door in case there is damp sand that gets stuck to their shoe. It does not need to be anything special but there has to be some kind of guideline.

People love the idea of walking between rose bushes or trees to get to their final destination. To the guest or the homeowner, that greenery can seem like a path to a sanctuary. In many fairy tales, a hidden cottage is found in the middle of a beautiful forest that can only be seen by a special person.

Be careful of creating paths or patterns in perfect geometric shapes. It may seem pleasing to the perfectionist but a person who has to take a turn at a sharp corner may simply cut across the grass because it would be easier that way. If you really want to keep people on the pathway, you can add a few leafy plants along the side of the walkway which will encourage people to remain on it and not cut across the grass.

You need this kind of pleasant atmosphere to lead the person to the front door. A door is a threshold that shows a person where the property of another person starts. An outsider who opens it with permission understands that they are welcome and it is important to make that person feel welcome. To achieve this, a door with sidelights or glass panels works perfectly. This is where you can experiment with perfect geometric shapes. Just like many houses have these same kinds of shapes so should your door.

A good way to work with contrasting coloured doors is by making the frame white which will oppose the colour of the door which is mahogany or chestnut. This will add lovely character to your home and will not make the dark of the wood seem so intimidating.

Elegant Azaleas

I bought this evergreen azalea last spring and transplanted it this winter into a larger container where it busted out in a plethora of new growth filled with blossoms for the spring fashion show, the only thing missing is fragrance. The good news: azaleas can bloom for several weeks.

Two years ago, I planted a Red Bird Azalea that expanded and I had to transplant it after it doubled in size in one year. Some varieties are smaller and more compact and it is good to choose the correct size for your garden area.

When I was young, we lived in Chamblee, Georgia near Atlanta. At our new house, my Dad planted several azaleas in the front yard and they looked grand with their cranberry blossoms each spring. The azaleas grew well under the pine and dogwood trees in the right environment, in the shade with acidic soil.

This spring, I added eight new azaleas for containers throughout my front and backyard. Azaleas prefer shade or tree cover with acidic soil either in the ground or containers. I have them in containers on the side of the house, on the front porch, on the deck, and on the patio. As long as they have some shade, they develop profusely.

Azaleas are either evergreen or deciduous plants; my plants are evergreen, providing green serenity in between numerous flowering plants in my garden.

During planting, I add soil amendments prepared specifically for azaleas, organic acidic azalea food, seaweed organic fertilizer, rainwater. These organic planting methods ensure healthy soil, healthy leaves and roots, prolific blooms, and sturdy growth.

Prune the plants soon after they bloom to avoid reducing next year’s buds. You can prune some of the branches every other year to ensure buds for the next spring. Mulch your plants two to three inches deep with pine straw, leaves or bark.

By providing azaleas with their favorite environment, your plants can produce abundant blossoms and healthy foliage for you to enjoy in your garden setting throughout the year. As a shrub, azaleas provide formal foliage throughout the year or you can prune them in a more casual, branching style.

Perhaps I can help you with your garden design or container gardening to make an impact at your entranceway, porch, or deck. For your commercial business or residential property, I will prepare a plan for your microclimate to make your entrance more inviting with a sense of place and beauty.