October 31, 2008
Volume 1, Number 9
Inside this issue…
Good Garden hedges make for good neighbors
To dig or not to dig? Questions surrounding flower beds…
Perhaps the most basic element in the garden is the hedge. Hedges provide shelter, privacy and define the garden’s perimeter. They can also become a sanctuary for birds, wildlife and insects. Hedges can be formal, clipped evergreens, or native hedgerows that can even incorporate trees and flowers. We’ll explain how to plant one.
One of the physically hardest gardening tasks is digging and preparing a flower bed. A well-prepared garden bed promotes healthy blooms and keeps garden pests in check. We discuss site selection, traditional flower bed digging, and the benefits of the organic no-dig method of preparing a flower bed. What’s more, you don’t even have to invest in back-breaking manual labor.
Good hedges make for good neighbors
A hedge is a basic element of garden design. It provides not only privacy, shelter and a natural decorative boundary, but it can also become a haven for birds and insects. Because a hedge is a permanent feature, a bit of planning and preparation is necessary to make sure that your hedge planting will be a success.
Before rushing out and buying the hedge plants, the first step in the planning process is to decide on the type of hedge you want — the choices certainly abound. Depending on the look and feel of your garden and its surroundings you can choose to have a formal, clipped hedge that will provide year-round shelter and privacy — such as an evergreen or deciduous species — or you can go for an informal native hedge with colorful berries, foliage, and flowers, such as field maple or hawthorn. If your hedge covers a large space and you want extra privacy you may want to consider including hedgerow trees such as ash, oak or wild cherry into the hedge design. An informal hedge design could include roses and decorative shrubs. The height and thickness of your hedge should be determined by its location and function in the garden. You must also decide if you are going to plant in a single or staggered row.
After you’ve got your hedge design all worked out, it’s time to buy the hedge plants. Whatever hedge design you’ve decided on, it’s common sense to buy a disease-resistant species. It’s also better to buy small plants as they grow into a denser hedge. The best planting time is from fall through early spring as long as there’s no frost and the ground isn’t waterlogged, although if you’re buying container-grown plants you can plant them whenever you like. Just remember that they are likely to cost more than plants sold in bare-rooted bundles and you need a lot of plants to make a good hedge.
Whatever type of hedge you are planting, you need to prepare the site by digging over the soil, adding compost and getting rid of debris and weeds\. The length of your hedge will be determined by its place in the garden, but the width of the trench is usually two spades wide (around 2-3 feet) and one spade deep. Spacing depends on the plant species, and whether you are planting in a straight row or staggered. Plants in a formal, clipped hedge are planted closer together than those in an informal native hedge, which might also incorporate flowers and trees.
A hedge might be a hedge, but it needs as much care as your other garden plants. In order to keep your new hedge happy it needs to be mulched, watered and trimmed. A formal hedge should be kept tidy by pruning in early summer and fall while an informal hedge needs minimal clipping. If you are pruning an informal, native hedge just remove any dead or diseased growth; try to avoid removing flowers, berries and seeds.
To dig or not to dig? Questions surrounding flower beds…
Starting a new garden bed is not the easiest of gardening tasks; many variables come into the equation and, for the venture to be a success, some basic issues must be resolved before you get out that shovel.
To grow the best blooms, you need to select a sunny spot that has good drainage – most plants need around ten hours of sunlight. If you are redesigning a small space you could consider creating several small beds in unusual shapes like a circle or even a heart shape (who says a flower bed has to be rectangular?). Raised beds can work better in a small area as you don’t run the risk of compacting the soil by walking on it. They are also easier to reach for planting and weeding and you can construct a decorative edging around your raised bed with materials such as timber, or concrete painted with motifs that add charm to your garden theme.
You will probably need to remove some grass and prepare the soil of your selected site. There are several ways to do this and the method you choose will depend largely on how soon you want to get the plants into the ground. If you want to plant in the same season there’s no choice but to get digging with the shovel. If you’re not in a hurry though there’s the wonderful, eco-friendly, no-dig method which gets rid of the grass by blocking the light and putting the earthworms to work.
The no-dig method is perhaps the easiest way to create a new garden bed and is especially useful if you are starting out with poor or compacted soil. Instead of back-breaking digging, this method puts Mother Nature to work. If you go for this method, it’s best to start in late summer for planting the following spring. Start by cordoning off the new bed with stones, or string and stakes, then place layers of newspaper or cardboard over the area — it needs to be around 5-10 layers thick. Soak it well using the garden hose, and then spread a thick (around 3-6 inches) layer of compost over the wet newspaper. Any type of organic material will do, but compost is best. Place a layer of top soil on top of the organic material and wet everything thoroughly with the garden hose. As the grass, organic material and newspaper decompose they provide lots of food for the earthworms and soil creatures. By planting time next spring the mixture will have broken down into a garden bed full of lovely, rich soil just waiting to welcome your new plants. No digging, no weeding and no sweat!
If you can’t wait, then there’s no choice but to dig by hand. You need to turn the bed thoroughly in order to ensure good drainage which will increase the flow of nutrients to the plant roots and prevent disease. Start by digging a small area to check the soil quality and compensate with soil additives, if necessary. This is also the time to deal with any weed problems. Be sure to add lots of compost or other organic material to your new bed. Like in the no-dig method, the mulch breaks down and feeds the earthworms. After the garden bed is thoroughly prepared, you can begin planting right away
It’s time to get those spring planting bulbs into the ground for summer flowering. BloomingBulbs has a great selection of beautiful, colorful blooms with showy flowers and lots of foliage. We like their selection. Click here to visit BloomingBulb.com
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