The Signs of Fall: early, late and unusual

By Debra Knapke

On the morning of November 10th I woke up to the first frost in my garden caused by temperatures in the high 20s. The overnight temperatures dipped into the low 30s the week before, but because of microclimates caused by tree cover and topography, no frost touched my plants.

We are experiencing what some call seasonal shift. Weather is variable. This is a given. Two years ago Central Ohio experienced an early frost – October 3rd – which was followed by an extended warm spell. This year the occurrence of the first frost in early November makes it the latest in my gardening life.

What does this mean for our plants? On the bright side, if you were behind in your vegetable garden clean-up, you have enjoyed an extension of the tomato, pepper and squash season. But the weather could interfere with plants going dormant for winter.  The ground has stayed warmer longer and this could interfere with the process of plants getting ready for the winter; “going” dormant. If our temperatures take a rapid dive down and stay there, this could affect growth for next year.

Think of it this way. The soil is still warm which promotes growth. But the ambient air temperature is cold so the signal to the plant is: go dormant. (Temperature is not the only factor that affects a plant’s dormancy process. Decreasing light levels have an effect on the dormancy “countdown”, too.)

Talk about conflicting messages! Which signal should the plant respond to? Send energy to support new growth at shoot and branch tips or keep the carbohydrates stored in the roots for next year’s growth? It is a plant dilemma.

fall-16-11-8-echinacea-last-gasp-cropTomatoes and squash aren’t the only confused plants. Here purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is sending out a few late October flowers. Note that there are new leaves emerging from the crown and the new flowering stems are short; about 6” tall. Contrast that with the stems from summer which are brown and done for the season. The only reason the stems are still there is the seedheads – not present in this picture – which I have left to feed the birds that visit my garden. This plant is responding to an extended warm fall. You also see fall blooms on magnolias, rhododendrons, and other woody plants that have already produced their flower buds for 2017.

Will this affect next year’s growth? Probably not for most herbaceous plants. For woody plants it depends on the species, how much growth is pushed out-of-season and how quickly the temperatures fall and then stay in the teens, 20s, and low 30s.

While the fall growth and bloom of the purple coneflower is uncharacteristic, consider the blooms and leaves of the hardy cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium). Its life cycle is opposite most of our garden plants. It blooms in late August though early October then its leaves emerge in late September, last through the winter, and go into dormancy in late spring when temperatures rise. This year, the flowers started later and lasted until October 31st.

fall-16-10-2-cyclamen-curled-stem-resizeAbove is hardy cyclamen in full bloom on October 2nd. This is later than in previous years. Usually full bloom is mid-September with a few flowers remaining in early to mid-October. Notice the coiled flower stems; these are the developing seedheads. The coiled stems bring the seedheads close to the ground where ants harvest the seeds for the coating on the surface. After removing the coating, the ants discard the seeds. I mention this in case you have wondered how some of your hardy cyclamen moved up to 50 feet away from the main planting.

fall-16-10-31-cyclamen-hederifolium-leaves-resizeOn October 31st there are still a few flowers and the leaves have fully emerged. These leaves will remain under my dawn redwood through winter and early spring.

fall-16-11-8-nasturtium-resizeAnother sign of a later-than-usual fall is the blooming of the nasturtiums along the deer fence around our vegetable garden. These tender annuals from Central and South America usually succumb to light frosts. This is November 8th which is unprecedented in my garden. However, after an overnight low of 28 in the early hours of November 10th, it became a pile of mush.

fall-16-11-8-borage-borego-officinalis-cropBorage, a prolific self-seeding annual, also took advantage of a late fall. This is a seedling of a plant that I removed from the garden because it had reached the end of its flowering life. I scattered its seeds so that I would have a full stand of borage for next year. But what I have is a lot of seedlings now. My fingers are crossed; hoping some seeds did not germinate so that there will be a 2017 stand of borage.

fall-16-11-8-salvia-elegans-golden-delicious-cropGolden Delicious pineapple sage (Salvia elegans ‘Golden Delicious’) is a tender perennial from Mexico and Guatemala, cold hardy in Zones 8-10. Usually it blooms in September, in time to be one of the last food sources for hummingbirds. This year its blooms were too late. Hummingbirds take off for warmer climes by October 1st, and my pineapple sage plants did not bloom until the second week of October.

Over the years I have observed the differences between the plants in my backyard and front yard with respect to plant emergence, bloom times and senescence. It is a mixed bag of results, but one species I felt I could count on to be “on schedule” is Ginkgo biloba. The trees in the backyard show their fall colors at least three weeks before the one tree in the front yard. The back trees drop their leaves by the first week of November, and the front tree starts dropping leaves a day or two before Veteran’s Day.

fall-16-11-8-ginkgo-stupka-resizeAbove is Stupka ginkgo in the backyard that still has some green-tinged leaves and as of Veterans Day, dropped few leaves. Below is a branch from the front tree on Nov. 10th, but the fall color is only edging the leaves. On the 11th, more branches have solid golden leaves, and there is no sign that the rain of ginkgo leaves is about to begin. That may not seem like a significant difference, but I have watched this tree for 30 years and have raked leaves out of the thyme lawn under the ginkgo every year before Veterans Day. November 12th update: ginkgo rain has begun, but it is slow and intermittent. The overnight low was 28 degrees and that frost signaled the ginkgo to let go. The leaves on the ground are all gold. I’m predicting that the gold-edged leaves will fall last without transforming into gold.

fall-16-11-8-ginkgo-front-egded-in-gold-cropAutumn Glory Comes in Many Ways

The perennial queens of the fall garden are the asters. They offer butterflies, bees, wasps, flies and more the last nectar feast of the season. My asters are always late, often not blooming until mid-October and continuing until a hard frost. I have taken them for granted. So I have no data for you, just an entreaty to plant them as they support so many of our garden residents. Below is October Skies aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ‘October Skies’) cascading over a log. The other aster image shows a bumble bee caught by cold temperatures. She was not moving early (7:00 am) on the 10th.

Unfortunately I had to remove an ailing Engelmann spruce. In the top branches, I found another sign of fall: an eggcase of a Carolina mantis. I am ecstatic. I saw a pregnant female during the 2015 gardening season, but hadn’t seen any of her progeny this past season. Here’s proof that someone was here. I tied this branch to another tree outside and look forward to seeing baby Carolina mantids next spring.

carolina-egg-case-11-2-16-in-engelmann-spruce-cropOne last example of the variability of fall and this season in particular is expressed below. The spicebush – deep gold color in front – is on time with its color and leaf drop, but the pawpaw in the background are not quite at their peak, solid golden color. Usually these two plants are in color together. Please pardon my anthropomorphic wonderings… but, it seems that the spicebush kept to its schedule, but the pawpaws took advantage of the extended, warmer fall by not shutting down their chlorophyll factories. This led me to think about which attributes will determine the success of a plant in a time of climate change. Flexibility and the ability to adapt will be high on the list.

fall-16-11-8-sun-sculpture-black-walnut-bed-resize

Wishing you a lovely fall . . .

Coda — November 13 in the early morning hours, the temperature fell to 23.1 degrees. While at breakfast I watched as the front yard ginkgo lost all of its leaves except for the ones that had not changed. Now at 9:30 a.m., one by one, even the green leaves are falling. It is mesmerizing.

 

 

 

Autumn Glory Comes in Many Small Ways

By Michael Leach

Traffic-stopping maples and forests aflame in gold, red, yellow and maroon foliage grab most of the attention in autumn. They should. Yet nature also offers visual delight that must be carefully sought out when scanning the fall scene. The rewards of such a leisurely pursuit are the grace notes of this splendid season. These small treasures range from dogwoods to tomatoes.

Dogwood trees are among those that make spectacles of themselves with dark red fall leaves. Their berrylike fruit adds a bit of sparkle — and a popular bird food.

red-foilage

Avian visitors, however, ignore the almost gaudy fruit of Callicarpa or beauty berry. These remain until early winter in my garden.

 beauty-berry

Autumn crocus flowers last only a few days but their overnight appearance surprises and delights. Plus they serve as a hope-filled reminder their spring-flowering cousins are only a few months away.

fall-crocus

Raindrops on fallen and fading leaves show nature’s magnificent artistry can be found on the forest floor as well as in the branches overhead. fall-leaves

While the flavor of tomatoes fades at bit with cool weather, their jaunty, party look lasts until frost.

cherry-tomatoes

The woody stem and smooth skin of a pumpkin makes an appealing combination that lasts far longer than a mere jack-o-lantern.

fall-pumpkin

Garden Downsizing

How can I bid farewell to a jealous lover?
 By Michael Leach
There was no plan to create a lovely but demanding mistress some 30 years ago. Back then, the goal was to grow a beautiful view framed by the sunporch windows, create a sense of privacy in the backyard and reduce mowing time on the narrow acre-plus lot. No matter what the end result might look like, anything would beat gazing at the neglected border along the garage, the overgrown round flower bed in the center of the back lawn, the aesthetically challenged auto body shop next door, and the rear ends of the modest tract houses along the back lot. Attention would be given only when necessary to the family home place that had stood for about a century when I returned to help my ailing father.
First on the agenda, revive the perennial border, eliminate the round bed and cut mowing time. About half the vast lawn was dotted with shrubs and trees planted higgledy-piggledy. It took over an hour just to trim around them with a push mower. Then came the three-plus-hour ride atop the lawn tractor to cut the rest.
The dots eventually were connected to make an eye-pleasing whole in wide beds covered with English ivy and vinca (highly recommended at that time). Transplanting existing small trees and shrubs, planting new woodies and perennials, faithful mowing and regular edgings, building a low wall of salvaged stones, and endless weeding gradually transformed not only the appearance of the sunporch view windows but also my goals.
After only a few years of intense labor my vision of those borders and beds brimming with perennial color was amended to adding splashes of spot color and bursts of seasonal extravagance, such as the hundreds (maybe a couple thousand) daffodils glowing in the spring sunshine. Abandoned was an ambitious scheme for a fanciful gazebo sitting beside a large pond on the former horse pasture known as the back 40. This idea remains only a successful landscape design class project.
Though my jealous mistress held first place in my heart, loyalties were divided between a journalism career, travel whenever  and wherever possible, and necessary — but dull — house work and renovation. This sapped enthusiasm and energy. The garden, meanwhile, evolved into a high-maintenance landscape.
This evolution went unnoticed until  three or four years ago when a gardening friend asked what new projects I planned for the season. None. All I hoped to do was keep up appearances. Gone were the occasional and pleasurable hours of dabbling in the dirt and playing with plants, some of the simple joys afforded by gardening. Instead, I faced weekly hours of repeat and seasonal chores: weeding, edging, pruning, raking, watering, leaf management, bed cleanup, over and over and over. I rarely took time to smell the roses or anything else as I raced from one chore to the next. Even with hiring a couple of guys to mow, there never seemed enough energy or time to properly manage the half-acre or so of borders and beds or groom the small vegetable garden.
How did this happen? I totally ignored the key factor in the equation. Over time bodies decline, plants keep growing bigger. It doesn’t matter how much effort I give, the flora retains the upper and increasingly heavy hand.
Three decades ago it was easy to do 6 to 8 hours of work on Saturdays and other off days and be ready to do almost that much again the next day. The readiness and desire for dirt therapy remain but not the stamina.
So the time is approaching, perhaps next year, perhaps five from now, to scale back. Reality, or is it the wisdom gained with age, seems to be winning over the idealist, the dreamer, the one who never imagined he would think wistfully back to age 50— or be stunned at facing 68 in a few weeks.
Routine maintenance, whether indoors or out, erodes my enthusiasm as I trudge along in vain hopes of checking off items on an endless to-do list. I assure myself there’s more to life than weeding, watering and stooping (or dusting and vacuuming for that matter.)  A condo with a balcony or tiny house with postage stamp yard are current dreams. It’s time to scale back, I assure myself.
Such assurance fades as I stroll along the brick garden path that I laid down after building a small brick-paved patio adjacent to the sunporch perhaps 25 years ago. I cross a swath of lawn to view the little goldfish pool (a family project about 50 years ago), and then wander a few yards more to sit on the bench under the sycamore tree. Was it really 40 years ago I tugged the little sycamore whip from a stream bank in Adams County (Ohio) and brought it home to plant? Little did I know that when the time came for me to hold down the home place, the tree would offer welcome shade on countless breaks from toil and long pauses to simply sit and gaze in wonder at the green and flowery world all around.
After I walk the little brick path the last time, what will become of the flowers that have been in my life for decades? Some of the plants, the peonies for instance, have been part of my life from earliest memories. Grandma Leach and Papaw Stewart passed along peonies from their gardens as soon as we moved here in 1952. These have no names, but their blooms are as familiar and welcome as the faces of friends.
Even when I can no longer pinch back faded flowers and plant seeds, I shall still treasure plants — and the memories of creating (and maintaining) a living landscape painting that grew and bloomed beyond the sunporch windows.
But enough musing, the ivy needs cut back from the sidewalk again and those impatiens are begging for water as usual.
Scaling back — Surely there are readers who’ve scaled back and lived to tell about it. I’m looking for suggestions on how to approach it and no doubt others are, too. So please share suggestions. What worked or is working for you?

Garden Moment at ATL

magical-garden-artArt brings garden feel to subway tunnel

 By Michael Leach

I didn’t expect to have a garden moment in the subway of the Atlanta airport, but it happened. 

Shunning the train to get  in some needed walking en route to my gate, I passed several pieces of sculpture by African artists in one of the connecting tunnels between concourses. The greenish color of some of the stones, the serene faces and fluid lines suggested life outdoors and fresh air. I coveted several as focal points in my landscape.

Among my favorites were Galactic Dancer by Tapfuma Gutsa, Woman Showing Traditional Salute by Edronce Rukodzi, and Caring Mother, by Lameck Bonjisi.

galactic-dancer-statue

“Galactic Dancer” by Tapfuma Gutsa

woman-showing-traditional-salute-statue

“Woman Showing Traditional Salute” by Edronce Rukodzi

 

 

caring-mother-statue

“Caring Mother” by Lameck Bonjisi


Adding further outdoor ambience was a colorful installation suggesting a leafy canopy running the entire length of another connecting tunnel.  Recorded tweets and trills of bird songs added to the fantastical effect of being deep in a whimsical, shaded garden.

Had I known my flight would be delayed by nearly an hour, I’d have hoofed it through the rest of the tunnels to see what was on exhibit. Or backtracked to look more closely at the photo exhibit and permanent exhibit of Atlanta’s history. 

To learn more about art in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport visit: http://www.atl.com/about-atl/airport-art-program/.

Ten Trends in Outdoor Furnishings

20160919_102020By Teresa Woodard

Heartland Gardening headed to the International Gift and Home Furnishings Market at AmericasMart Atlanta to uncover trends in outdoor furnishings. Here are a few to inspire your outdoor spaces.

1)      Upgraded Recycled Furniture – One furniture manufacturer is transforming landfill waste into attractive, all-weather furniture.20160919_101725

2)      Retro Camp Gear – The growing fireplace craze is generating renewed interest in camp tools like pie irons, marshmallow sticks and popcorn poppers.

20160919_101907_001

3)      Cutting-edge Metal Furnishings – The laser-cut trend of the fashion industry is now entering the outdoor furnishings industry with metal benches cut in intricate patterns.

20160919_101550_001

 

 

4)      New Heights for Miniatures –The miniature craze remains strong with holiday additions and whimsical nature-inspired abodes.

5)      Parisian Bistro-Weave  –The classic French bistro chairs of the 19th century cafes are popping up inside kitchens and outside on patios. Available in a variety of colors and patterns, they easily mix with rustic or sophisticated pieces.

20160919_103152

6)      Tiki Fun – The Tiki culture, more of 1930s Hollywood than true Polynesia, is enjoying a revival in today’s backyards as homeowners create tropical backyard vacation destinations.

20160919_103924

7)      Modern Zen – Stone sculptures make striking centerpieces in minimalist and meditative gardens.

20160919_103952_001

8)      Statement Containers – Today’s containers go luxe in grand scale, jewel-tone colors and stone and metallic finishes.

9)      Stacked stone fountains – These smaller bubbling water features offer the alluring sound and wildlife water source without the stagnant water of traditional bird baths or the maintenance hassles of larger water features.

20160919_103751

10)   Salvaged wood furnishings – Look for painted pieces to add some colorful funk to your backyard.

20160919_103356

Plant Lust: Part 2

 

Professional Conferences and Trade Shows = More Plants, People and Gardens

By Debra Knapke

I have been attending the Annual Symposium of the Perennial Plant Association since 1992. This conference is held in different locations in the United States and Canada. It combines education sessions and tours geared toward designers, growers and retailers for whom herbaceous perennials are a part of their business focus. I have visited many prestigious Botanical Gardens and Arboretums and countless private gardens that are not often open to the public. This year, I travelled to Minneapolis, and this was the best yet (I say this, every year).

Below is a very small sample (out of 110 images) of what I experienced in early August.

Plants, Plants and more Plants

salvia-armistad-lyndley-park-ppa-8-3-16Sages are among my favorite plants: gorgeous flowers, hummingbird and other pollinator attractors, herbal uses, and easy to grow. Above is one of the Brazilian sage species (Salvia guaranitica ‘Amistadt’). Its electric purple blooms call you from across the garden. An older sibling (below) is Black and Blue sage (Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’). When you grow this sage in your garden be prepared to be strafed by hummingbirds if you happen to be weeding when they wish to feed.

salvia-gauranitica-black-and-blue-lyndley-park-ppa-8-3-16isotoma-axillaris-avant-garde-white-laurentia-noerenberg-minneapolis-ppa-8-3-16From time the time, the experts are stumped. This lovely little annual had many of us asking: “What is this?” When we found a docent who had the plant list and learned that we were looking at a large-flowered laurentia (Isotoma axillaris ‘Avant Garde White’), there were more than a few sheepish expressions. The flowers were approximately 1.5” in diameter – they are usually much smaller – and they danced in the breeze. And, another plant goes on the list for next year!

allium-pink-planet-kelly-garden-minneapolis-ppa-8-3-16Alliums are another useful plant in the garden. One downside is their excessive seeding. After three to four years, you may have only alliums in your garden. Enter some of the new hybrids that make few to no fertile seeds. Pink Planet allium (above) is one of those new hybrids; Millennium is another – Millennium allium is now in my garden. I will let you know about its fecundity.

ginkgo-espalier-kelly-and-kelly-minneapolis-ppa-8-3-16At Kelly and Kelly Nursery, we saw what patience and vision can achieve. Need a fence? Create a ginkgo espalier. If you start this project now, you can have this in 10 to 15 years, or so.

 

malus-dolgo-mn-landscape-arb-8-3-16I would be remiss if I didn’t include a picture from the edible garden at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. If you are looking for the tastiest crabapple for jams and jellies then Dolgo crabapple (Malus ‘Dolgo’) is your tree. What is the only difference between a crabapple and an apple? The diameter of a crabapple is two inches or less; an apple is larger than two inches.

lily-de-historia-stirpium-leonhart-fuchs-1542-minn-landscape-arb-ppa-8-3-16Not all of the plants we see are in pots or gardens. The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum has an extensive collection of rare books in its library. This gorgeous lily was hand-colored and sold in limited folios to those who could afford books back in 1542 — 50 years after Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  (De Historia Stirpium, Leonhart Fuchs, 1542)

 

 

Design!

design-border-noerneberg-memorial-gardens-ppa-8-3-16Plants are the designer’s medium. We use the tools of line, form, texture and color to create borders, beds and vignettes. We make places of order, activity, privacy and repose. Here is a border that is peaceful and textural in nature.annual-garden-mn-landscape-arb-ppa-8-3-16

 

… while this border is a riot of hot colors. It also happens to be complimented by a “Big Bug” assassin bug.

 

 

 

Speaking of insects: bee hotels have been making appearances in all the best gardens. I’ve seen recommendations for creating tubes from paper or thin cardboard. If you look closely, you can see that all of the materials in the houses are from the garden: small drilled branches and herbaceous plant stems that are usually relegated to the compost pile. Here are two versions — a multi-level hotel and a simple bee hostal.

 

Coda

 

tree-frog-on-ligularia-minneapolis-ppa-8-3-16Being a plant addict is not a hopeless condition. There are times when something other than a plant grabs my attention. This green tree frog nestled in a ligularia leaf may have been one of the most photographed garden visitors on the garden tour. Of course we were discussing the perfect color harmony of the reddish-brown markings on the frog with the veins on the leaf. Get a bunch of designers together and what do you get? Endless discussions of color, form and texture in the garden!

 

Wishing you a beautiful fall!

Plant Lust (Part 1)

Professional Conferences and Trade Shows = Plants, People and Gardens

By Debra Knapke
One of the joys of my profession is being surrounded by plants. Discovery of “new” plants is a main occupation at the professional meetings and tradeshows that I attend throughout the year. These meetings are filled with anticipation, excitement, revelation, and, for lack of a better word: plant lust.
Two recent conferences re-affirmed my third choice of career in horticulture. In July, Columbus, Ohio hosts Cultivate. This four-day event, organized by AmericanHort, is the largest Horticulture-Greenhouse-Landscape Trade Show and Educational Short Course in the United States. It offers an international assemblage of companies and an amazing array of plants and products. I take lots of pictures and notes to remind myself of what I want to use in my courses and design work, and what must be tried this year or next.
Below is a very small sample (out of 89 images) of the variety of what I saw in June.
Strange Plants for Special Situations;
 Imagine rows and rows of tables holding new plants for 2016. There is something for everyone! Many were snapping pictures of the above spiny specimen. Dyckias (Dyckia brevifolia) look like they are either from outer space or from the deep ocean. They require lean and dry soils and will “melt” during an extended wet spell.  Last year and this year my plants had to return to the greenhouse during our rainy spells.
Celosia Dracula Cultivate 7-11-16 crop
All I could think was –The bold puckered leaves and deep maroon inflorescences of Dracula celosia are just begging to be combined with a fine to medium silver foliaged plant. Not usually an admirer of celosia, I realized that I was feeling a bit of plant lust for this audacious annual. Dracula will be in one of my containers next year; possibly with dusty miller or one of the silvery helichrysums (Helichysum petiolare).
A Beautiful Blender
Begoniz Mistral Yellow Cultivate 7-11-16
Soft yellow flowers combined with dark green to maroon foliage placed in part to medium shade is like a breath of cool air similar to the winter wind that this plant was named for: Mistral Yellow begonia. I am currently growing the orange selection in my garden; next year I will grow yellow.
Plants in Combination

Helianthus Vincent's Choice Cultivate 7-11-16 cropSunflowers (Helianthus Vincent Choice) in combination with lisianthus (Eustoma grandifloruim ‘Black Pearl’ and ‘Rosanne’) make a luscious combination in a vase. Plant lust hit again…


Talented designers compete in several categories. One category is: here is your plant, create an arrangement around it for a center piece, a mantlepiece or a bridal bouquet. The plant this year was one of the tender hen and chicks (Echeveria hybrid). This is not your grandmother’s bridal bouquet.
succulents framed Cultivate 7-11-16Carrying on our current love affair with succulents in the home and garden, many framed displays of succulents were scattered around the trade show. This “picture” was one of three set up along one of the primary cross-paths in the show. I was trying to think where a four by four foot display would fit in my living room.
succulents 3 frames Cultivate 7-11-16The other two easels were mixes of succulents, grasses and ferns. Note the potted plants close to the center of the picture. These turmeric plants (Curcuma hybrid) were selected for their gorgeous flowers. I grew turmeric years ago thinking that I would harvest and dry the rhizome for use in the kitchen. The flowers were beautiful, but not as free-flowering as the new hybrids. Note to self: another plant that will be grown next season.

Proven Winners sets up booths that showed how their plants could be used on decks and porches. While you might not want as many plants in the above two “idea rooms”, it definitely makes you think of fall display possibilities; and then, there is next year…

perfect garden Hieft Seed Cultivate 7-11-16
Lastly, here is the perfect garden: buy everything in bloom, arrange, plant, add water, and sit back and enjoy with a glass of wine in hand.
Stay tuned for Part 2.

Garden Tour Round-Up

Twelve Ideas You’ll Dig

 By Teresa Woodard

Throughout the heartland this summer, private gardeners have graciously opened their garden gates for public garden tours. Whether it’s a pocket garden, estate landscape or suburban backyards, I always find plenty of inspiration. I jot down notes on new plants to try, clever plant combinations and innovative design details to borrow.

Here are a dozen of my favorites.

1)      Design a seating area around a container water garden. It’s a conservation piece, easier to install than an in-ground water feature and adds to the view from indoors.

20160626_102413

20160626_1026512)      Look for a spot to plant an allee of trees like this one of hornbeams.

 

20160626_105758

3)      Vertical gardening: Whether its a wall with fabric pockets, cement blocks or pots on a fence, these vertical gardening options offer a new way to garden up and maximize tight spaces.

IMG_9243

IMG_9882

P1030352

4)      Underplant shade tree and garden bench with liriope. The plant blooms purple flowers in the spring and offers an attractive groundcover to thwart weeds. Simply weed-wack the liriope in the late fall or early spring.

IMG_9910

IMG_9886

5)      Support the craft brew craze and plant some hops.

hops

20160712_095015

 

6)      Be more creative and try the unexpected.

 IMG_0028

 

7)      Spray paint salvaged finds blue then add them to an all-green landscape bed like this one filled with hostas.

IMG_9897

 

8)      Add this native Queen of the Prairie to a moist spot in the yard.  I love its showy June blooms.

 IMG_1687

9)      Go beyond the conventional turf.

IMG_9206

IMG_3787-1280x960-1024x768

10)   Find a spot for water-loving spring primrose.

 20160502_071646 

11)   Incorporate more annuals. They add seasonal color and fill bare spots in the landscape.

 IMG_7522

 

IMG_752512)   Create a small bog garden and fill it with pitcher plants like these.

20160526_12052120160526_120540

 

 

 

Save time and work with no-till approach

Mulch layer of maple leaves

A 2-foot layer of maple leaves are down to about 3 inches in just a few months.

By Michael Leach

One of our readers, Rebecca Stultz,  asked about bringing no-till farming practices into the home garden. This was in early March, just as the spring rush burst upon us. Thank you for your patience, Rebecca. We hope this guides you in making yours a more sustainable landscape.

At first, no-till may sound exotic but probably most gardeners use aspects of this approach to agriculture. Do you mulch to reduce watering, weeding and improve the soil? Have you spread sheets of cardboard or layers of newspapers to transform a portion of lawn into a new garden or landscape bed to spare your aching back? That’s part of no-till.

No-till has been out on the farm for years. Time, fuel and soil erosion are reduced simply by skipping traditional plowing. Remains of the old crops serve as mulch that eventually decomposes into organic matter that enhances soil quality. Cover crops are planted to enhance soil nutrition and tilth. This approach requires special seeding devices to minimize soil disturbance that brings fresh weed seeds to the surface where they sprout and cause trouble.

Now to Rebecca’s questions.

When and how should compost and/or fertilizer be added/incorporated in each year’s cycle for no-till?

A professional soil test will show what type soil and its nutrient content, the amount of organic matter and other aspects of your soil so you can tailor amendments precisely.

Some anecdotal information I found shows that Ruth Stout, garden author and contributor to Organic Gardening used no-till for decades. At planting time, she scratched the soil’s surface enough for the seeds to make contact, lightly covered them, and sprinkled cottonseed meal along the “furrow.” Her 8-inch layer of hay (preferably slightly spoiled) continually decomposed and was renewed, so compost, cover crops or other amendments weren’t necessary. She touted thick mulch as a way to eliminate watering, weeding and most other maintenance. That amount of mulch seems excessive but it quickly settles to a 2- to 3-inch mat.

Lee Reich, a national garden writer and no-till fan for 20 years, prepares the planting area by covering it with a 1-inch layer of compost at planting time.

Leaf and grass clippings mulchIf fall leaves are not tilled or forked in, how thick a layer is practical to leave on the beds and still plant rows of seeds?

Remember the mulch is pulled back at planting time  to expose only the soil you want to plant in. You don’t cover the seeds with mulch.

As for handling leaves, personal experience shows that 2-foot layers of sugar maple leaves “stored” overwinter in a vacant bed become a 3- to 4-inch layer by late May. This layer goes to nothing before the next leaf drop. No forking or spading is needed.

Because my leaves are collected with the help of a lawn mower, they mix with grass clippings, that probably speeds decomposition. Even without being chopped and mixed with grass clippings, autumn leaves in the forest all but vanish by mid-summer.

The more mulch the better

“Whatever you use, don’t skimp on mulch,” Barb Flick says in an Oregon State University Extension article.  “A heavy layer not only keeps weeds from growing, it also keeps the underlying soil moist, greatly reducing the amount of watering you need in the summer.”

Using a thick mulch over several years adds more organic matter helps soil become like a sponge in absorbing water, says Mike Hogan, Ohio State University Extension educator and professor.

If the recommended 8 to 10 inches of mulch is hard to come by, Flick suggests using sheets of cardboard or layers of newspaper on the ground. This smothers out most weeds and keeps weed seeds from germinating. Cover this with a layer of mulch.

This is what Christine Voise does. In addition to her regular job as geographic information system and accession specialist at Ohio State University’s Chadwick Arboretum, she grows fresh vegetables for restaurants. Thick mulch keeps plants — and gardener — cleaner because there’s no mud to splash onto leaves, fruit or track inside.

Water once

Voise only waters the plants after planting and relies on a thick mulch around to get them through. Years of heavy mulching has enriched the soil to that sponge-like quality.

If straw is used as a mulch around plants, in the fall should it be left on the beds under the leaves or put in the compost bin?

Add mulch whenever it’s needed. Whatever the material — leaves, straw, hay, compost, grass clippings — it all eventually decomposes. If there’s still several inches of straw or other mulch on the beds, fewer leaves will be needed to maintain the desired cover depth.

What cover crops work well in suburban garden beds? 

There’s plenty to learn about cover crops in an article in the July 8, 2015 edition of Organic Life.  Cover crop benefits include suppressing weeds, building productive soil and helping control pests and diseases.

You may not need to use them. A thick mulch also cuts weeding, watering, soil erosion, while improving soil quality after it decomposes.

Personal experience makes me leery of cover crops. The only one I tried was so vigorous it took weeks to kill and delayed planting.

Precautions — Common sense dictates some basic sanitation no matter what approach you use to gardening. Reduce chances of diseases or pesky insects hanging around to attack future vegetable crops by collecting vegetable leaves as they fall off. Remove spent plants for municipal composting collection. If you have a hot compost pile, such debris can be disposed of there because high temperatures kill pathogens.

 

 

City Parklets

20160622_133501A Big Idea for Pint-Sized Urban Green Spaces

By Teresa Woodard

Two Midwestern cities — Chicago and Columbus — are converting public parking spaces into postage-stamp-sized parks called “parklets.” And, thankfully, they’re outfitting them with plants and seating areas.

According to Governing Magazine, the parklet idea started in 2005 in San Francisco when a design company descended on a downtown parking space, fed the meter and created a p0p-up park complete with sod, public benches and leafy trees.  They called it Park(ing) Day, which eventually became an annual event.

overviewPaley Park 7-7-03

Pocket Park in New York City

Late in 2009, New York City adopted the idea of pint-sized parks as it converted street spaces into pedestrian-only plazas.  San Francisco opened its first permanent parklet in March 2010 and has since completed 27 parklets and has plans for another 40.

 

In Chicago, the parklets are called “People Spots.” The first opened in 2012 in Andersonville, and five more followed as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Make Way for People program to turn streets, alleys and vacant city-owned parcels into vibrant urban hubs.

WWFPspots

People Spots (Images from City of Chicago website)

 

In Columbus, a non-profit group PlaceMakes has opened four microparks, including three temporary parklets and its latest West Cherry Street project.  Here, two underused city blocks have been temporarily closed and turned into a dynamic public space. Community residents painted the street bright blue with big red and small yellow polka dots. They further enhanced the space with picnic tables, planters and a community mural – all funded by grants, business donations and volunteers. They’ve also organized a “Cherry Sunday” series including events from poetry readings to vertical gardening workshops.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A few blocks away, the latest Columbus parklet stands in a parking space in front of a cafe and just got approval from the city to remain two months longer than planned – until September – because it’s been so successful. The parklet features a wooden structure with seating, planters and two semi-transparent lithographs of Columbus buildings by local artist Leah Storrs. The parklet is also equipped with solar panels that power the letters “A,R,T” on a sign mounted on the street side that reads “PARKT.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Check out these websites to find a parklet or build one near you.

 

 

 

Garden Topics

%d bloggers like this: