Free Book Giveaway: Big Ideas for Small Gardens + Free Seeds!

100608 contest1 300x200 Free Book Giveaway: Big Ideas for Small Gardens + Free Seeds!My friend Fern over at Life on the Balcony has a contest going on with a great prize that I want to encourage everyone to sign up for!  I’ll be putting together a post with my guess soon, but before I do, I encourage everyone else to do the same!  She’s giving away a great book called Big Ideas for Small Gardens, plus a $10 gift certificate for seeds from Renee’s Garden Seeds.

Here’s the link to the contest:

Good luck, and thanks Fern for the great contest!  I’m looking forward to guessing!  icon smile Free Book Giveaway: Big Ideas for Small Gardens + Free Seeds!

The Barrel Water Garden, Zen Style

img 0392 205x300 The Barrel Water Garden, Zen Style

Spring and fall are great times to establish a water feature in your yard. You don’t need a ton of space, or know-how to create a diverting water feature that can house fish, and you can make one more easily than you think!

The barrel water garden is a quick way to incorporate a water garden in a small space. I borrowed this idea from a gentleman at the local community garden, who created this clever zen motif with only a few materials!

What You Need To Create This:

  • One 20-24 inch wide half barrel (new, or vineyard recycled)
  • One and a half quarts of “Pond Armor” pond shield and epoxy
  • One 2 inch paintbrush
  • One sheet of 60 grit sandpaper
  • A leveling tool
  • One large narrow stone for the focal point (available from stone specialty stores)
  • River Rocks (enough to cover the slope you create around the barrel)
  • Two four foot Bamboo planting stakes
  • Topsoil as needed
  • A saw to cut the Bamboo into segments
  • A pre-formed 30 gallon pond liner (from Depot or Lowes) can be substituted in place of the “Pond Armor,” and should fit inside your barrel as your waterproofer. Make sure to check the measurements of your barrel to ensure a liner will fit before you purchase either a barrel, or a liner.
How To Install:
  1. Identify the area you will build this water garden in, and decide on the shape the garden will take around the barrel. This design borrows from traditional Japanese water gardening the use of raised, free-form shapes in the planting area. For this “Zen Barrel Water Garden,” the barrel is mostly hidden inside the planting bed.
  2. Run over the interior of your barrel with a 60 grit sandpaper to prepare the container for the waterproof seal.
  3. Apply the “Pond  Armor” seal and epoxy to the inside of your barrel to provide protection against leaks, and, in the case of recycled wine barrels, to protect your fish and plants from wine residue left in the grain of the wood. Barrels are often waterproof to an extent, but for the purpose of a long lasting waterfeature, a protective coating in your barrel is ideal, providing up to 25 years of protection. [Read more...]

Fall/Autumn Container Garden Design Idea: Scarecrow #002

fall pots 2 003 225x300 Fall/Autumn Container Garden Design Idea: Scarecrow #002For the black-thumbed, or uber creative types, here is another idea for you to adapt while creating your own welcoming harvest displays, or container designs.

I’ve said it before, but the fall is my favorite season, and I try and celebrate that fact uniquely in each artificial pot design I create. One thing I have learned, is that in order to create a visually believable decoration for a given season you don’t have to  bind yourself strictly to the artificial flowers and decorations that would naturally be in bloom, or the most appropriate at that specific time. For instance, a harvest themed container design like this may hold Sunflowers, Mums, and spring wildflowers in it that would never bloom at the same time in the real world- let alone all be looking perky for your Thanksgiving Dinner guests!  The key to making a variety of  flowers work together in your design is in deciding on a color palette before you begin, and choosing flowers, leaves, and accents that work together well in shape and visual feel.

In this design, the warm tones of the light orange sunflowers, work with the red tones in the grasses, mums, and autumn leaves in the pot.  I chose to use warm tones of brown, and purple to accent this, tying the harvest theme together. Since all of these flowers are associated with “informal” flower arrangements (as opposed to the formality of rose arrangements), they work well together, when grounded with overtly fall accents like the scarecrow, and the harvest leaf garland covering the dirt. I also chose to include a simple (and inexpensive) unfinished birdhouse from Michaels Crafts into this design to add a country feel to it!

I’m happy with this design! Stay tuned for more fall ideas coming soon!

The Value Of Core Aeration

img 0399 225x300 The Value Of Core AerationIf you can only afford to do one thing to your yard this year, core aeration is what you should do! Core aeration is the hands-down best thing for the long term health of any lawn, regardless of the organic make-up of your soil, or variety of grass you have planted.

Core aeration benefits all soil types, and mature or juvenile lawns, here’s how:

The best soil in the world needs three things to provide for plant’s needs, those things are water, air, and organic matter. Soil without these three things can’t provide a healthy balance of organisms, and nutrition in the soil to encourage a healthy lawn. Whether your lawn is new or old, it can always benefit from aeration either alone, or in tandem with a re-seeding program, to ensure a healthy balance of the three things a lawn needs most!

  1. For rocky, or nutrient lacking soil, core aeration breaks up the soil, loosening hard-pan dirt, and allowing oxygen, and moisture into the root area. Core aeration then becomes a tool that can better prepare your soil for “top dressing”, seed, or fertilizer.
  2. In compacted soil, aeration provides your grass with a better chance of survival, giving roots looser areas to grow in, thereby encouraging deeper root growth. Aerating compacted soil also reduces the water run-off.
  3. For new lawns, core aeration gives you a great head start in preparing your yard for seed, fulfilling the three basic need of a yard, and providing holes deeper in the ground for young shoots to begin life. Often core aeration can often give your yard a jump start after “clean slate overseeding” (beginning a new yard from scratch), producing quick “plugs” of grass across your yard that will fill in the lawn faster than simple overseeding alone.
  4. For older lawns, aeration can loosen, and prevent excessive thatching of the lawn as well as allowing deeper penetration of water, minerals, and air. With a thick, lush lawn, aeration can be used as a quick refresher, balancing out the three basic needs of the grass, and preventing the overcrowding in a lawn that can open your yard up to pests and disease.

The bottom line with core aeration is that it is a quick and “green” way to make a real difference in the overall health of your lawn no matter your circumstances, and a healthy lawn requires fewer pesticides, fertilizers, and time to maintain! Check your budget this year, and consider whether you can impliment core aeration as part of your lawn care program.

For more great tips on lawn core aeration and how best to aerate your lawn, read Home Construction Improvement’s article on what you need to know to aerate your lawn yourself.

Book Review: “An Essential Guide to Choosing Your Pond Fish and Aquatic Plants”

guide to aquatic life book cover 300x300 Book Review: “An Essential Guide to Choosing Your Pond Fish and Aquatic Plants”I found this great light read recently on everything pond related, and made sure to add it to my gardening shelf! This hard-cover book, An Essential Guide to Choosing Your Pond Fish and Aquatic Plants, Book Review: “An Essential Guide to Choosing Your Pond Fish and Aquatic Plants” is 80 glossy pages of photos and tips guaranteed to help you build and run a successful pond or water feature, and take your water gardening skills to the next level buy introducing you to a wider variety of fish and plant life to build a dynamic backyard ecosystem!

Covering topics ranging from water feature creation, plant selection, fish varieties, and DIY tips for the weekend water gardener, this book is thorough and written simply and concisely. The format is easy to read, but with an information pool of a much larger book. The chapters are broken down by topic, and each point is illustrated thoroughly through detailed photographs and step by step instructions, or one sentence tips in the photo margins. The basic pond topics are expanded to provide new information for every level of water gardener, while not overwhelming the novice. The writing and visual style of this book is unique, as it alternates between classic paragraph style and and almost scrapbook feel on pages heavier in photography, with tips and pointers artistically arranged around diagrams and pictures.

This book is a great resource for every water gardener, and one that I recommend for the home library for quick topical searches. I particularly appreciated the full page spreads dedicated to the needs and habits of pond fish varieties, and the section on pond and bog plants that included many native plants unmentioned in other pond resources I have read! Check it out today at your local library or on amazon, and create a beautiful water feature around your home or apartment.

Keeping Dracaena Spikes As Outdoor Perennials

fall decos 014 225x300 Keeping Dracaena Spikes As Outdoor PerennialsDracaena Spikes are often sold as annuals in nurseries, but just because the summer is over doesn’t mean you need to pull this plant and discard it. Spikes are actually a cold hardy plant in USDA planting zones 7-11, and can grow up to 2 feet in height, returning year after year when left outdoors. If you live in one of these zones there’s no need to move your spikes indoors for the winter months, or toss the plant in the trash.

Spikes are sold initially in small sizes for easy use in container gardens. After 4 or 5 months in a pot Dracaena Spikes may begin to take over valuable space, and hide your lower growing plants. If you want to reclaim space in your outdoor containers for new plants, you can dig out this plant and move it to your main garden. Use the cooler fall and winter months to create a plan that incorporates these heat and cold tolerant plants into one of your garden beds.

I saved a few spikes from planters to fill in the space between a brick wall and a seasonally rotating planting section, and they have become a stable perennial in that area. After two years the spikes are large and soften the appearance of the brick wall beautifully.

Try incorporating spikes into your yard, and let me know how you like to display yours!