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Walkway to GH Walkway to GH

It's easy to feel overwhelmed when starting out, but by developing a new landscape in stages/areas, it's easier. Transform one area into one garden then plant with shrubs and perennials that are in scale to that space.

Try to create a shady sanctuary where you can sit comfortably, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Within each area, create strong focal points, where the eye can naturally land/rest. Privacy screens can be created with densely planted shrubs that also serve as a perennial garden backdrop. Garden edges need to be clearly defined using durable, long-lasting material. Likewise, utilize inorganic materials to create long-term, low-maintenance walkways and pathways that allow for ease of movement through and to developed areas.

View From Deck

Nearest to the deck and gazebo we have lawn areas. The benefits are numerous and not just about aesthetics. At 5,000 square feet, the three lawn areas we have keep our home and outdoor entertaining spaces cooler and relaxing through the heat of summer. The shrub border serves as a windbreak so the lawn is easier to maintain.

October

Gardens that include shrubs for fall foliage color add the four-season beauty sought after. Density and diversity can be achieved through layering with tall shrubs (10'+) towards the back and medium height shrubs (6-8') planted between them. Consider a wide trench for planting the screen rather than individual holes. 

Summer garden

Fall cutback

Once the landscape is developed, the garden areas require minimal time, energy, and resources to maintain. I'm in the gardens in early summer to do required weeding and again in late fall to cutback the perennials.

    Winter Landscape

Winter can be the best time to take a look at the overall landscape design. Densely planted fruiting shrubs provide food and shelter for birds as storms move through. They also continue to serve as privacy screens.

Seasonal changes are one reason so many of us enjoy living in this area. Year-round interest in the landscape lies in planting a balanced mix of well-suited trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals. An over reliance on any one feature can leave the gardens looking dull through much of the year. Designs that include a diversity of plantings are aesthetically pleasing, provide four season interest, and are easier to maintain. Plant communities in the home landscape provide food and shelter for wildlife, attract (and keep) beneficial insects, and allow us to enjoy spending time outdoors. Gardeners now realize the harmful affects of broad spectrum pesticides on beneficials and have moved away from the use of toxic chemicals in the landscape.

SUMMER GARDENING CHECKLIST

ChecklistLawn and rangeland grasses overshadow colorful shrubs and perennials and pull vital water away from the roots so I have been spending spend those cool morning hours in the gardens weeding and shearing away the grass at the base of ornamentals with a cordless grass shear. The weed wacker works well to get towards the plants, but can quickly nick shrubs and trees causing severe damage, so I like to do the base of those by hand.

ChecklistSchedule watering zones. The Excel program works great for putting our 12 gardens on a watering schedule. Through July and August, the gardens are watered every four days. Most are on soaker hoses, so the water is delivered to the roots rather than overhead. Soaker hoses are great since I can have the faucet barely turned on and the garden is soaked overnight. I'm careful not to nick the soaker hoses with my pruners or shears, but am quick to mend those that do occur.

ChecklistCheck pop-up sprinklers on lawn areas to make sure they are working properly. The heads need to have the grass cut away from them so that they can rise far enough to broadcast the water the full head radius. The lawn gets mowed weekly and the blades are at the next-to-highest setting. Cutting grass too short causes premature drying and a host of other problems. The sprinklers for the lawn are programed to run every three days, with two-20 minute cycles; the first starts at 10:PM and the second at 2:AM. Because we are on a well, each station has a 10 minute delay to allow water pressure to build back up.

ChecklistImprove/amend areas with heavy, clay soils that: fail to drain properly, bind rather than release water and nutrients, and inhibit root growth and development. This chore is by far easier to achieve prior to planting the area. We topdress with organic matter, lightly till to incorporate, and mulch after planting. In developed gardens, after the perennials are cutback in October, I topdress with compost, manure, and other organic matter.

ChecklistWatch for nitrogen and iron deficiencies. Through the heat of summer we water more frequently and nutrient deficiencies are more common. Revealed as yellowing foliage, the plants will benefit from an application of either water-soluble (quickly absorbed) or a slow-release fertilizer. Our well water averages a pH level of 7.9 making the iron in the soil unavailable. To avoid plants with bright yellow tip growth, we use a combination of a 14-14-14 slow-release fertilizer and Ironite on lawn areas, trees, shrubs, and in gardens throughout the landscape since it's a readily available form of iron and is quickly absorbed.

ChecklistCut back the Orientale Poppies that have finished blooming. The foliage dies back through the heat of summer anyway, so by pruning the foliage down to a few inches now, I can open up the area for my mid-summer bloomers.

ChecklistDevelop the landscape by small, defined areas/rooms rather than taking on the entire landscape in one season. This includes creating a shady sanctuary where you can sit comfortably, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Within each area, create strong focal points, where the eye can naturally land/rest. Privacy screens can be created with 6-8' densely planted shrubs that also serve as a perennial garden backdrop. Garden edges need to be clearly defined using durable, long-lasting material. Likewise, utilize inorganic materials to create long-term, low-maintenance walkways and pathways that allow for ease of movement through and to developed areas.

ChecklistRepeat successful hardscape materials to achieve similar continuity. Common hardscape materials include: Wood, brick, concrete, vinyl, and metal. Design manageable gardens in scale to surrounding hardscapes, including your home and overall lot size, then choose plants that are in scale to the size of the garden.

ChecklistAvoid overestimating the amount of time and energy you will be able to devote towards maintaining your landscape. Avoid underestimating the sensory satisfaction and tranquility that can be acheived by spending time outdoors, surrounded by nature, and a beauty that you created to enhance your outdoor living spaces.

 

Playing Outside

When developing a landscape, consider some lawn space that provides a place to crawl, jump, run, and fall down without injury. Including colorful shrubs and perennials provides food and shelter for songbirds & bugs along with berries and colorful leaves, all adding to the sensory pleasure of being outside.

Ideally, the play space is near an adjoining area where you can relax and watch children play. Picnic tables are fun snack areas and provide a place for sit and play activities.

Spending time playing outside can be a child's favorite time of the day.

Playing Outside


Play Time For Big Kids

If you're planting, digging, tilling, spading, pruning, shearing, heading, trimming, thinning, deadheading, transplanting, dividing, fertilizing, composting, mulching, topdressing, amending...you're gardening.

It's only work if you would rather be doing something else.

Playtime For Big Kids


Have Fun In The Sun

Granted it does help to know about drainage, tilth, pH, topsoil, clay, humus, soiless potting mix, perlite, peatmoss, zone maps, what an annual is, what a perennial is, planting depth, crown, spacing, suckering, bulb, rhizome, corm, tuber, vine, beneficials, pollinators, deciduous, evergreen...

Enjoy the simplicity and add some whimsy.

Garden Whimsy  Miniature Garden

Enjoy The Gardens

Learn Everyday

And there's what we learn along the way: Edging, borders, hardscapes, anchor, planting to scale, continuity, screening, backdrop, linear, focal points, naturalized, asymmetrical, formal, symetrical, negative space, contrast, canopy, understory, graft, flare, viable seeds, invasive...

Learn Everyday