Raised beds – huh? We’re talking about sideboards that hold dirt in place to make a raised garden bed. Raised beds are the fastest and easiest way to grow vegetables in high-performing soil.Great dirt might not sound sexy, but it’s REALLY important for growing those delicious, juicy tomatoes, plump peas, and perfect peppers.
Square foot gardens - raised beds for growing vegetables
Why raised bed vegetable gardens?
- It’s the dirt! Great soil is the key to growing an abundant crop of vegetables. With the sideboards that raised beds provide, you can mix your own high-performing blend of soil and put it right on top of whatever inferior dirt (or even grass) may exist underneath. Wala – instant garden! Continue reading
It’s amazing how people are growing vegetables just about anywhere that there’s sunlight. From hanging bags for tomatoes and strawberries to container peas to backyards consumed by vegetables, fruits and herbs, gardens are popping up all over the place. Gardens aren’t being restricted to backyards or large acreage on country properties.
How to choose a location to grow vegetables:
- Sunlight – Most vegetables need at least 6 hours sun exposure every day. Check target areas for sun vs. shade at different times of the day to find sufficient sunlight.
- Close to the house – Try to put a vegetable or herb garden in an area you’ll often see and walk through. Benefits: convenient to the kitchen, easier to be attentive to problems like deer or thirsty plants, and enjoyable to see the garden grow. Continue reading
What’s up with the increasing popularity of home gardening? People are growing strawberries out of bags, planting potatoes in buckets on patios, turning suburban backyards into orchards…finding lots of creative ways to grow their own food. Here are 9 reasons to consider growing your own vegetables, fruits and herbs:
- Tastes great! – There’s nothing like the taste of a sun-ripened tomato just plucked from the vine or a juicy strawberry. The taste of hand-picked fruits and vegetables are gloriously superior to their counterparts shipped from across the nation or around the world.
- More nutritious – From the time food is picked, it naturally degrades and experiences loss in nutrients. Continue reading
Lilacs – now here’s a plant that just doesn’t belong on a 0.25 acre plot. If it happens to be on a neighbor’s property, that’s great! OPL (other people’s lilacs) is a wonderful thing!
I know it’s tempting to rush out to the local garden center and snap up a lilac bush (and yes, my defenses are weakened by the scent). They have some luring qualities:
- can take partial shade, which is a rare find for a flowering bush
- are so aromatic, and
- hold up well in a vase!
But don’t do let a lilac bush take up precious space on a small lot. As Dennis Hillerud of DNS Gardens teaches in his Perpetual Gardening course, it’s a single play. In spring, we get those dainty, aromatic, lavender plumes. Then, we’re left with rather boring green leaves summer to fall (that are prone to powdery mildew). Worse yet, we then face straggly, unappealing branches through winter and into early spring.
For the all-seasons garden, skip lilacs — or plant one on a remote part of your multi-acre property.
Grounds for Sculpture - Hamilton, NJ
Looking for a nice way to spend an afternoon outside? Head to Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ (about 1.25 hours from NY and also easily accessed from Philadelphia, PA). It’s an amazing place at the intersection of gardens and art.
Grounds for Sculpture is a 35-acre sculpture garden located on the site of the former NJ state fairgrounds — the domestic arts building is still there.
Bonus: Saturday, April 15, 2012 is a Day at the Fair event, complete with a flea circus and fair food. Continue reading
Facebook now has its timeline. Flowers have always had a timeline — a sequence of bloom timing across the seasons. And in my opinion, there’s a lot more to love about the Blooming Timeline.
Understanding the sequence of blooms is key to having a constant pop of color and excitement in your garden. Many gardeners use a carefully planned arrangement of perennials (bloom year after year) to achieve a harmonious blend of color, texture, height and bloom time for continuous eye candy. Of course, annuals (die off in a hard freeze) have their place in the mix.
Here’s a rough sketch of the sequence of bloom for popular perennials. Bonus: most of them are great cutting flowers that can go from garden to vase. Continue reading
Early spring is the ideal time to plant trees and shrubs in cold-weather climates. Take advantage of the typical spring rain to make it easier for you and for the trees. Most experts will say spring or fall for typical nursery stock (fancy word for trees and shrubs). Some trees come “balled and burlapped”, which can be planted anytime of the year as long as the soil is not frozen. However, planting trees and shrubs in the summer heat requires more care and tending — not a good idea for our time-starved gardeners.
Desiring instant gratification to complete a project, we planted 10 evergreens in July — oh my, not recommended if you have goals for marriage bliss. If you’ve been thinking of adding trees or shrubs to your landscape, do it now. Here are some tips on selecting and planting. Continue reading
I love snap peas! I knew we had a winner in our garden the first time I saw my daughter eating them from the vine when she was 5 years old. She carries a bowl of water to the garden, picks snap peas, rinses, and eats! And peas are great to grow with the kids, because you can practically watch the vines grow by the inch.
Bonus: they pack nutritional punch! Peas are rich in vitamins A, B1, C…even iron. And they’re low in calories.
When to plant peas: Now!
It’s time to poke some seed in the ground and get started. National pea planting day has actually passed us by – March 17th, yep, it was St. Patrick’s day. Continue reading
Forsythia bushes as a hedge
Goldilocks, who are you? Those goldenrod yellow bushes are called forsythia, though often misspelled as forsynthia or forcynthia. Their stunning blooms are an early sign of spring that can be seen everywhere — as hedges, as stand-alone bushes, alongside houses, even next to highways. These spring flowering shrubs are also called “Golden bells”.
These very speedy growers are quite versatile, grow well in sun or partial shade, and are relatively inexpensive. However, if you’re the kind of person who wants everything tidy and in its place, this may not be the bush for you. Forsythia bushes are fast-growers, spreaders, and can easily look a little wild. That said, forsythia is an excellent choice for a groomed hedge. Continue reading
Early spring is a good time to start seeds indoors for some vegetables and flowers, and it’s a great project to do with the kids. Here are some quick tips for what to plant and how to do it.
Why start seeds indoors?
- Fun project with the kids – it’s a fun science experiment to learn how things grow and get them interested in eating more vegetables
- Extend the growing season – an early start to seeds means earlier harvest of tasty veggies
- Save money – $1.29 for 50-100 seeds vs. say $3.00 for a 4-pack of plants
- Grow interesting or even whacky varieties that you can’t find to buy as plants — purple beans, anyone? Continue reading
Here’s a primer on the basics of spring bulbs like tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, etc. and why they are the time-starved gardener’s best friend. We’re talking an amazing ratio of low effort to high joy here, folks.
- They’re perennials — plant once and enjoy for years to come. You might lose some year to year, but you can generally get 4-5 years (and sometimes 15-20 years)
- They require almost no care — you don’t even have to water them. In fact, watering tulips can cause them to rot and not bloom the next year.
- The one downside: you have to plan two seasons ahead as spring bulbs are planted in the fall.
Quick Tip: Take a picture of your flower beds now! This way, you can make informed choices about what to plant where when fall rolls around. Continue reading
For inspiration or just a nice family outing, enjoy the cherry blossom festivals.
Washington, DC Cherry Blossom Festival
Washington, DC cherry blossoms
It’s definitely worth the trip to check out the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC. The backdrop of the Potomac River, Lincoln Memorial and more create stunning views of the over 3,000 Japanese cherry trees. If you’re going this year, go soon! The festivities have already begun as of March 20th and peak bloom (70%) is anticipated to be around April 1st. With this whacky weather, who knows. To get more specifics, check out the Washington D.C. cherry tree bloom watch. And while you’re there, enjoy several of the many Smithsonian museums — one of my favorites is the Hirshhorn museum and sculpture garden for contemporary art.
Newark, NJ Branchbrook Park Festival
If you’re in the New York city area, head on over to Branchbrook Park in Newark, New Jersey to enjoy the glory of soft pink blossoms filling the air. Branch Brook Park, the nation’s first county park, has 4,300 cherry blossom trees — that’s 600 more than D.C. has. The Essex County Bloom Festival at Branchbrook Park is April 7th – 22nd, 2012. However, the park is gorgeous now. Peak may come early this year. More photos and information are available from the Petersonlive.com Branchbrook Park bloom watch. If you go, I recommend bringing some bikes or scooters to enjoy more of the park. There are some great spaces for flying a kite, too. Get details about events (10K, demonstrations, family day, etc.) at essexcherryblossom.com. Bloomfest on Sunday, April 22nd (11am-5pm) is worth checking out.
What are your favorite places to take in the sights of cherry blossoms?