As summer gardening season wanes, it’s time to get the most out of the end of the growing season and set up your garden for next year.
Plant Spring Bulbs
Plant bulbs like tulips, irises and crocuses in the fall, since they need a winter freeze to begin their growing process. Plant when temperatures are in 40s and 50s but several weeks before a complete freeze.
Stock Up at Discount Prices
Purchase gardening equipment, seeds and plants at discounted prices, as many garden centers slash prices in the fall to clear out unsold inventory. Store seed packets in the freezer to maintain freshness, and maintain seedlings indoors until safe to replant them in the spring.
Repot Overgrown Plants
If your plants have outgrown their locations, replant in larger containers or move to a location that will accommodate their size. Signs that plants are root-bound and require more space are dense or compacted soil, poor drainage, or roots growing out of the bottom of a planter.
Plant Winter-Loving Specimens
Summer isn’t the only time to grow vegetables. Depending on your growing region, plants like kale, lettuce, broccoli and chard can thrive in colder temperatures and even tolerate occasional frost. As long as there’s no snow on the ground and the mercury doesn’t linger below freezing, these plants will grow well into the winter. (Continued)
Fountains and small ornamental pools built among complementary landscaping provide cooling, soothing reminders of creeks and rivers and, many owners attest, relief from the stresses of work and family obligations. Aquatic features also pull the garden together visually by focusing eyes on the water and may increase a property’s value.
However, water features can set off other problems – mosquitoes, clogged filters and leaky liners, for example – that require sometimes costly attention. As a result, many people wind up spending money on maintenance they may not recover when selling the property. In addition, many house shoppers are intimidated by fish ponds or a fountain, no matter how well designed, because of the thought of the cost and effort required for maintenance. The same concerns can frighten away prospective buyers when they see swimming pools.
If you decide to add a water feature, fountains and pools can run smoothly – even year-round – with the right planning and design. Also, if properly installed, a water feature need not require a lot of maintenance. For example, aquatic plants are key to keeping the water clean. Water lilies, water hyacinths, cattails and other vegetation increase oxygen levels and filter and shade the water. The water will be cleaner the more plants there are. Approximately 66 percent of the water surface should be covered with plants.
Try adding goldfish to your water feature. The fish benefit the pond’s (and your) health by eating mosquito larvae and algae. The fish will require water at least 18 inches deep; I recently read about one owner whose pool is 2½ feet deep so the water doesn’t freeze, and the fish are kept alive, during winter months. Absent plants and fish, some ponds and pools may suffer from too much sunlight and low oxygen levels; and, as a result, an abundance of slimy algae develops. You can solve this problem by adding chemicals to the water. Or, tossing a few (about five to seven) pre-1982 copper pennies can prevent algae growth in bird baths. Pennies issued before 1982 contain copper, a natural algicide. A small piece of copper pipe or tubing or other copper coin will work, too. Don’t use this trick in ponds or pools containing fish, as the metal may be detrimental to their health.
Try using half the amount of fertilizer recommended on the product label to help increase bloom yield instead of additional leafy growth.
Relocate your bushes to a more hospitable location (see previous post). Prune mature shrubs to a manageable size, and dig up as large a root ball as you can handle. Place root ball in a new hole, fill in, add a slow-release fertilizer, water well, and cover with two inches of organic compost. It’s best to move hydrangeas when the bushes are dormant in early spring or late fall.
If you want to share your hydrangeas with friends or family, or spread them around your yard, several propagation techniques work well, including layering and dividing. The following method for rooting softwood cuttings in summer should yield many new plants in about four weeks.
Locate a stem of softwood between the hard, woody growth at the bottom of the plant and the fleshy green tip by bending it; softwood should snap cleanly. Cut a softwood shoot that has several leaves. Trim into 5-inch-long pieces each with a leaf toward the top. Remove extra leaves. Cut remaining leaf at the top in half (minimizes evaporation and the need to water). Dip other end in powdered rooting hormone. Plant cuttings in trays filled with soilless mix and perlite. Cover with a plastic bag, and place in a shady location. Raised garden boxes may provide a safe location for your trays. Mist regularly to maintain leaf hydration. After four weeks, tug on the cutting to check for roots. When roots are developed, transplant to a bigger pot and feed with a slow-release fertilizer. If successful, these cuttings should be ready to plant next spring.
We called them snowball bushes when I was young. They are hydrangeas, a colorful summertime staple in yards across the country. The hydrangea is usually a reliable, months-long bloomer. However, in many areas of the United States, last winter’s “polar vortex” devastated many otherwise reliable plants, such as camellias, hybrid tea roses, rosemaries and, yes, hydrangeas. An expert at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., reported that for hydrangeas suffering from winter kill, she had to remove all the old top growth (instead of the usual one-third of old branches) to allow fresh growth. No blooms are expected from these plants this season. If you did the same, I hope you removed dead branches and not old wood. The old wood is the source of buds for new growth.
If your hydrangeas are doing relatively well, you can coax them to perform better. Hydrangeas need some sun and like some shade. The farther north they are, the more sun they can tolerate; in the South, maybe three hours of sun. Many types love a coastal setting, where breezes can dissipate heat. Other varieties tolerate high heat and sun exposure, while others are bred for more-shady conditions.
(To be continued)
Is your deck décor looking drab and tired? You can rehab it with a few new pieces of furniture and some planters and rugs. Here are some ideas to get you started … just in time for Labor Day festivities!
Wicker furniture paired with cushions (use bright colors and designs) manufactured for the outdoors (moisture-, mildew-, soil- and ultraviolet-light-resistant) create a lovely, comfortable, living-room-style seating arrangement for reading, relaxing and entertaining. If you have enough space, arrange separate areas for dining and relaxing. Use umbrellas in both areas to provide shade. Scatter some outdoor rugs in colorful designs to provide a change in pattern for the neutral deck. Scatter container gardens in a variety of planters (cedar, ceramic, plastic, even metal) to add pops of color throughout the deck.
Finally, (again, if you have the room) arrange a bar area between two arbors or behind one arbor, which should be able to accommodate at least one and maybe two bar stools.
The July 4th holiday is a few days away. Now is the time to decide what to offer your guests on the barbecue/cookout menu. Burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, chips, ribs, maybe some French fries and watermelon can become predictable and boring after a while, don’t you think?
It isn’t too late to do a bit of shopping for your holiday eats, so I’m passing along links to Fourth of July recipes that can also be found on The Washington Post‘s Lifestyle/Home-Garden Page on its Web site. Most of the recipes are variations on traditional items, such as cole slaw and burgers. http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/recipes-for-a-scrumptious-fourth-of-july/2011/06/30/AGPsrbtH_gallery.html#photo=1. Also, try the scrumptious-looking dessert recipes provided by Better Homes & Gardens at http://www.bhg.com/holidays/july-4th/recipes/july-4th-desserts/?sssdmh=dm17.744337&esrc=nwwr062314. (If the links don’t work, copy and paste them into your browser.)
If you’re looking for something new and different this July 4th, try one or two of these. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. And to provide plenty of room for your spread, check out one of my table sets, such as the Teak Oval Extension Table Set … with umbrella, of course! Your purchase might be late for July 4th; but there’s always Labor Day! Happy Independence Day!
The front porch as a “necessity” for a well-designed home was popularized more than 170 years ago. The concept is that “a welcoming home begins at the front door.” Many of us don’t have a long or wraparound porch; but even a tiny, 5-square-foot space beside your townhouse front door can be accessorized stylishly. Start with seating.
A long or wraparound porch will accommodate a variety of seating arrangements: a group of two or more rocking chairs and/or a bench or love seat. A tête-de-tête (either side by side or angled as if for a corner) or bistro set located strategically beside the door or at either end of the porch provides comfortable seating á deux plus a table for beverages and snacks. Porch swings are always in style; but if you can’t hang a swing, try a glider. Don’t be afraid to mix and match your seating choices!
Dress up your seating arrangements: colorful, seasonal throws and pillows; plants (flowers, small trees, ferns, etc., as your space allows); wreaths, signs, decorative house numbers, even picture frames! Try a fancy doormat or indoor/outdoor rug for comfort under foot. Hanging lanterns or decorative ceiling lights and a bright-color paint job on the door and/or porch floor can complete your welcoming space.
It’s Memorial Day weekend … time to haul out the grill (or prepare the gas-fired grill or brick barbecue grill) for a lovely afternoon or evening of food, drink and fun with family and friends. Instead of your time-tested or family traditional recipes, why not vary the menu with different dishes or a different cooking method or recipe.
Try the links below (copy and paste into your browser) for recipes for side dishes, chicken, burgers and desserts. Try the Smoked Macaroni and Cheese with Grilled Chicken. Yes, you’ve cooked macaroni and cheese with chicken before. The twist is you cook this cheesy casserole on the grill with the chicken. It adds extra smokiness. You’ll also find recipes for Chicken Caesar Burger and Chicken and Artichoke Carbonara (a great way to serve pasta with the grilled chicken).
Load your picnic or market table with delicious side dishes. The second link leads to a Classic Potato Salad and variations thereof. Finally, there’s a link to a variety of side dishes like a grilled vegetable platter, Twice-Baked New Potatoes and Grilled-Corn Salad. Happy Memorial Day!
Over the past couple of months, I have accumulated a trove of gardening/outdoor tips. I thought I’d share a few in-season ones with you in this blog. NOTE: Watch for tips (according to the seasons) as the year goes by.
ROSES. Looking for natural aids to help your roses? Try Epsom salts to encourage bushiness and promote flowering. Banana skins, too, help by providing potassium. Just don’t use skins if your yard’s in an area where critters like raccoons and rats roam.
MULCH VS. MANURE. According to a local (Washington, D.C., area) garden columnist, repeatedly layering bark or wood mulch might be harmful to the soil due to the high levels of manganese that result. Leaf mold or compost is healthier for the soil.
GREEN “FENCE” OR SCREEN. Mountain laurels (with their glossy, evergreen foliage, lovely blooms and manageable size) can make an ideal living “fence” or screen between properties. However, these plants are difficult to establish. Try some viburnums (evergreen or deciduous), oleanders, lilacs or some hibiscus. Try blueberry bushes if you have acidic soil you can water during droughts.
The long, harsh winter that finally ended has bestowed some late-occurring events upon us: pollen from trees and plants has been late arriving, so late-remaining. And winter weeds that usually disappear by late April (lamium, chickweed and hairy bittercress) are now joined by usual spring suspects like wild onion, common blue violet and dandelion.
If lamium crams your vegetable garden, turn the bed with a garden fork, pulling out the weeds as you go and bagging them. DON’T COMPOST THEM! The seeds will return like bad pennies! To remove lawn weeds, don’t use herbicides, either yourself or through a landscaping service. These chemicals can cause other problems. Use a fishtail weeder on deep-rooted dandelions, onions and violets. Remove other weeds with a hoe. A “standard-issue,” clunky hoe that you pull is not the proper tool. Use a hoe with a straight, razor-sharp blade (a draw hoe or a Dutch hoe) that you push. Find one at a garden center, in a garden-supply catalog or online.
Removing lingering winter weeds now will reduce next year’s seeding. If not removed, they’ll leave holes in the lawn as they die naturally. Wire grass, crabgrass and chicory will fill these gaps, requiring additional attention.