Monthly Archives: September 2017

Grow a Fall Garden, ways and Shortcuts

Fall can be a great time to grow a vegetable garden. We typically think of spring as the best planting season, but believe it or not fall can be an even better time of year to grow a garden. Even though summer is coming to an end, it’s not too late to grow a fall garden. Fall gardens work best with a little advanced planning, but I can help you throw one together quickly.

If you’re interested in planting a fall garden now, you can! I know you’re busy, that’s the way of the world. We are constantly over-booked and running from one responsibility to the next. In the essence of time, I will give you some great short-cuts. You can order mostly everything you need right now while you’re searching the web. Then, within the next few days or by this weekend you can start growing a fall garden. It should take you an hour or less to get it going. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s get too it!

Tips and Shortcuts:
• Use the internet to reduce shopping time
• Order plants today
• Order an easy to assemble raised garden bed
• Determine your growing climate
• Buy Gardening Soil & Organic Fertilizer
• Set aside time and start your garden

PURCHASE ONLINE
I know how busy life can be. Who has time to drive from store to store looking for the right plants and materials to set-up a garden? I know I don’t have that much time, so I’m sure you don’t either. Hey, since you’re sitting here learning about how to grow a fall garden, I bet you can spend another 15 minutes ordering all the supplies you need to get started. I promise that’s all the time it will take you. I will give you links to quickly direct you to the information you need to get a jump start on growing your garden.

ORDER PLANTS TODAY
I have to admit, we’re getting a late start on our fall garden. Since fall is just a few days away, the best thing to do is to start with seedlings or pre-sprouted plants. There are many good options for direct sow seeds that can be used in fall gardens, but at this time I think we should start with pre-grown plants. That way we can avoid the dreaded freezing of our lovely crops. Burpee.com is a great site to visit when planning your fall garden. You can order just about any plant you’re looking for, and in my experience the plants you get from Burpee are healthy and grow very well.

ORDER AN EASY-TO ASSEMBLE-RAISED GARDEN BED
The best way to get a garden growing quickly is by purchasing an easy to assemble raised garden bed. By doing this you can avoid tilling up your yard and will minimize the amount of digging required. There are many easy to assemble garden beds available for online purchase. Both Burpee and Amazon have some great products. I will give you direct links to a few of these products on my website if you want to quickly link to them and get them shipped to you in a hurry.

DETERMINE YOUR GROWING CLIMATE
One of the most important steps in growing a fall garden is to determine your growing climate and choose the right plants. It’s easy to get lost in a slew of maps on the internet. I am a big fan of the Burpee website; they make it easy for the typical gardener. They have a growing calendar tool. All you do is enter your zip code and boom there’s a list of the crops you can grow throughout the year. This awesome tool even gives you information on which method to use for planting (direct sow, indoor sow or transplant). If this sounds like something of interest to you, I will give direct links on my website so you don’t have to spend too much time searching around. I’ll do the leg-work for you to make this process as quick as possible.

BUY GARDENING SOIL AND ORGANIC FERTILIZER
Since we will be using an easy to assemble raised garden bed, our plants will get fresh healthy soil. This makes plants happy! It also makes gardeners happy because it eliminates the step of having to till and dig up our yard in order to get the ground ready for planting. This is the most simple and effective way to get a fall garden growing quickly with healthy plants.

Get this:
• Two bags of topsoil
• 1-2 Bags of more expensive garden soil/compost
• Organic Fertilizer

You can just buy these things from your local garden store. You can stop by on your way home from work and run in, it should only take you a few minutes. Remember, we’re doing this quickly. You will also need a few handfuls of grass clippings or leaves to spread over the top. You can have your kids collect these from your yard. It shouldn’t be too hard, and it gives your garden some nice organic material.

SET ASIDE TIME TO SET-UP AND PLANT YOUR GARDEN
You should set aside about an hour to get your garden set-up. Depending on which raised garden bed model you choose, your time commitment for setting-up the garden may be more or less. This is a simple process. Here we go!

Prepare the Bed:
• Choose a location for your garden
• Take your raised garden bed assembly kit, plants, soil and fertilizer to your garden location
• Make sure you have a garden hose nearby
• Assemble the raised garden bed kit
• Take your top soil bags and lay them down near the garden bed
• Poke several holes in the bottom of the bags
• Lay the bags inside the raised garden bed
• Cut off the tops of the top soil bags
• Pour the garden soil/compost, little by little on the top soil mixing the soils as you go
• Add the organic fertilizer to your top soil/compost mixture, mix again with your hands

Basically, what we’ve done here is create a quick and effortless healthy soil for your plants to thrive in. By leaving the top-soil bags partially in-tact we are reducing the amount of weeds that will attack your veggie garden. Don’t forget to cut holes in the bottom of the top soil bags though. This ensures proper drainage of the soil. We also combined healthy garden soil/compost with a cheaper top-soil to cut cost. By blending in the fertilizer, we are ensuring your garden will have a healthy start.

Now it’s time to plant:
• When planting, be sure to leave a small pathway between your rows of plants
• Take the plants, one at a time and wet them well with the garden hose
• Remove the plants from their containers, one at a time
• Plant in rows, close enough to prevent weeds from taking over bare spots
• Once you’ve planted all your seedlings, top with grass clippings or leaves

It’s important to plant your vegetables close together. It may seem counterproductive, but this will reduce the weeds in your garden. By wetting the plants before removing them from the pots, we are giving them a nice and minimizing the amount of root damage upon removal. Topping the garden with grass clippings or leaves adds organic matter, further preventing weeds and other undesirables.

FLAT Garden Could Be A Simple Answer

Flat gardens or Hira-niwa in Japanese do not have hills and do not have any water in the way that a western garden would. The flat area which is essentially made of either sand or more usually gravel IS the water. All Japanese gardens tend to be a lesson in environment and space.

Just like in a Zen garden the gravel is raked into swirls and different shapes to give the impression of the movement in a body of water. The ground is usually covered this way and on occasions I have seen flat gardens that use very small pebbles,once again raked in circles and straight lines to give the impression of water ripples.

A flat garden can include many familiar ingredients that you would expect when making a Japanese garden. Stones, Rocks, Trees and Shrubs are very common.The trees although natural will be pruned and the low level shrubs and bushes shaped on the edge of the water space.

Flat gardens were first designed to interpret and in miniature mimic Japan’s seaside landscapes or some of its grander lakes, a journey through Japanese garden history points to war and water shortages as to why water was replaced by gravel as a ‘dry’ substitute. This is a trend that has continued for hundreds of years even in peacetime and with abundant supplies of water. The Edo period of Japanese history is when flat gardens became very popular.

Interestingly water features apart from a body of water are fairly common in a Japanese ‘Flat’ garden. For example, large upright stones can symbolise a waterfall and this something that you can copy for a garden space that you have in mind however large or small.

Use non sharp edged rocks or stones (Granite) to depict islands within your gravel water area. 3 together is a popular representation of ‘The Isles of The Immortals’.The Japanese Circle and Gourd Islands are often copied and represented in the gravel water area to add the spirit of enlightenment. You will be able to get the correct rocks and stones from your local aggregate supplier – take some time to consider the shapes that you want and strictly speaking for authenticity you should not use rounded stones.

Other ingredients that you may wish to add to a flat garden are stone lanterns, included for the illumination of parts of the garden at night, basins and if you are very ambitious even a well! Well’s are normally constructed out of wood and have some way of getting the water out of the well – a pulley and bucket or a large wooden spoon are common.

Stepping stones can be placed across the gravel water area and look very effective if they lead to the far side of the gravel area where a rustic hut or pagoda is located. After the 16th century this was a popular type of design where the hut would be used for the slow and meaningful Tea ceremony.

A completed flat garden will give a real impression of depth of space to the viewer as the eye is drawn into the water area with the clipped shrubs on the faraway edge. The stones or rocks placed carefully within the raked gravel ‘water’ area give a feeling of depth and perspective relative to the scale of the garden.

As a Zen garden is designed to be viewed from a single space it is exactly the same with a Japanese flat garden. The view is sometimes ‘framed’ when a veranda door is opened or when looking through a larger window into the garden itself.

The viewer’s eyes are drawn across the water to the carefully clipped low level shrubs and plants like Lilies or Azeleas. In Japan plantings are deliberately made in a flat garden to show off the seasons.

Maples for the autumn, Cherry blossom looks its best in Spring, the soothing impression of water signifies summer and something like a Black Pine denotes the winter.

Flat gardens became an alternative to hill gardens in Japan as were amongst the first residential gardens added to the homes of ordinary Japanese people and they continue to be a wonderful type of garden today for any yard or garden area.

I believe a ‘Flat’ or Hira-niwa garden is a cost effective and beautiful option for a domestic Japanese garden as it includes some of the essential ingredients needed for a Japanese garden as well as the classic Japanese garden design method of borrowed scenery. This is where the designer either copies a specific landscape in miniature or use existing scenery such as a hill located outside of the flat garden space to include it in the overall garden view.

Tips on How to Design a Sloping Garden

A good design can transform a sloping site into a spectacular garden. I have designed many sloping gardens, I love doing them but know how tricky they can be to get right. You need a thorough understanding of site topography and a detailed plan to address the level changes in order to avoid the many pitfalls of creating gardens on slopes.

The best way to design gardens on sloping sites is to create terraces using retaining walls to provide flat areas that can be used as functional spaces within the garden. The level changes in a sloping garden dictate naturally the creation of outdoor rooms at different heights each with a unique atmosphere. The spaces can be enclosed and/or sunken for privacy and intimacy or opened up creating a sunny terrace with a fabulous view. The steps and ramps needed to navigate and access the levels can provide different journeys around the garden as well as being sculptural design features.

The garden must be structured to create useable spaces that work with the level changes and meet the clients brief. In the UK, retaining walls can be no more than 1m high adjoining the roadway or 1.8m high elsewhere in the garden without needing planning permission. Always check house deeds as some have covenants that relate to maximum permissible heights of garden walls.

It is rarely feasible or desirable to create one large retaining wall to reduce the garden to a single level. Other than on a very small slope this would be overbearing, make some parts of the garden hard to access, and almost certainly raise the garden so that it infringes on neighbors privacy. Avoid very high retaining walls, and split the garden into fewer, shallower levels.

The new garden levels must not be raised so high that they are overlooking neighboring gardens. It may not be possible to construct a large terrace adjacent to the house if it sits on top of a steep bank. This would create a platform from which people could see directly into neighboring gardens and houses and this is neither desirable nor legal. In the UK, deck may not be raised more than 30cm from the existing ground level without planning permission. The solution is to create a seating area in a lower part of the garden – not quite so convenient, but more private for everyone concerned.

The height differences between various parts of the garden dictate how high any retaining wall needs to be for any given distance away from the house. The further any terrace extends out over or into a slope the higher the retaining wall required.

There are many different material options for constructing retaining walls, the most common is concrete blocks. Concrete blocks are relatively cheap and create robust, stable and long-lasting retaining walls. A blockwork wall can be rendered or faced with a wide variety of materials including brick, stone and even stainless steel sheets. I like facing retaining walls with slate cladding and pebble mosaic sheets to give textural contrast to other hard landscaping materials. Other options for wall construction include brick, stone, gabion cages, poured concrete, railway sleepers, timber and even compacted earth.

The choice of building materials depends on budget, the style of the garden and what the wall is to support. Railway sleepers are cheap and quick to erect, but they are not as robust or long lasting as blockwork and are not recommended for higher retaining walls that must support large volumes of soil. Although they often seem like a cheap option, gabion cages can be time consuming to erect and more expensive than a stone-faced concrete blockwork wall.

Getting rid of excavated soil is another important consideration. Excavating the levels and digging footings will create a surprisingly large pile of soil. Some, if not all, of this soil can be used to back fill the new terraced levels. But there is usually some excess and this needs to be factored into the project costs. Grab loaders and skips are expensive and it’s surprising how many people overlook this element when estimating project costs. A couple of sections through the various garden levels will enable some idea of how much soil will be left over after ‘cut and fill’.

Plans for any garden construction project should always include a construction detail and setting out drawing. These are particularly important for facilitating the construction of a sloping garden. One or both of these drawings should include multiple sections through the garden showing existing garden levels and new finished levels of each garden terrace as well as the positions and finished heights of each retaining wall. This allows for accurate quotations as well as ensuring the build goes smoothly.

Once all the terraces and heights of the retaining walls needed to create them have been established the next thing to do is decide how to access the various garden levels. Steps are a logical and obvious choice for getting from one level to another, but a winding ramp will create a lovely informal journey around the garden and break the harshness of the hard landscaping. If the garden includes a children’s play area some fun ways to navigate this area include a helter skelter, rope ladder and a fireman’s pole.

If steps are being used to link the levels then creating walls with a finished height that is a multiple of the ideal step riser height of 150mm will make construction much easier. Ramps should have a slope of no more than 1:12 so this will also dictate the height of retaining walls.

All raised garden areas should be secured with railings. There are many elegant options that avoid the construction of a hefty wooden barrier that interferes with a view or the overall garden aesthetic. Steel or wooden posts with tensioned wires look fabulous in a contemporary scheme. Glass panels can be used to give an unimpeded view of the garden or countryside beyond. There are many metalworkers who will fabricate unique railings that serve as sculptural additions to the garden as well as providing safety for its users.

There are many considerations when creating a garden on a sloping site and many potential pitfalls. But having a good design with clear construction detailing, an experienced contractor and a realistic budget will produce an exceptional garden.

How to Design a Small Garden but Adorable

Designing a small garden involves making use of every centimetre of space, and using visual tricks to make the garden seem larger. The plan for a small garden must be millimeter accurate as there is no room for adjustment if the plan is found to be incorrect when constructing the garden.

Many people think a plan is not necessary when they are landscaping a very small garden, whereas the absolute opposite is true. It is especially important to prepare a plan where space is limited to ensure that the finished garden meets the practical requirements and looks great too. Preparing a detailed garden design plan will ensure all the functional areas are the correct size for their purpose and will fit into the garden. A good garden design plan allows you to check that the garden will work before you approach landscaping contractors and start spending money. Some well-prepared 3-D visuals bring the garden to life and help you see how the garden will feel once it is constructed. The garden model and visuals are the final check that the spaces all work in harmony with one another ensuring that the garden is a comfortable, relaxing space in which to spend time.

When designing a small garden a simple layout with clean lines and strong geometric shapes works best. The design should not be overly complicated. If curves are required a central circle which can be either lawn, planting, paving or a path is better than fussy freehand curves.

Although it is tempting to scale down the garden features to avoid cluttering the space this will result in a muddle of insignificant elements that does the exact opposite. Including a single bold structure like a chunky pergola or a rendered blockwork wall around a seating area creates a sense of enclosure, introduces a touch of drama and holds focus inside the garden. Textured finishes like slate or pebble cladding can be used on courtyard walls to add interest and also stop the boundaries from becoming overbearing.

Wooden structures like pergolas and arches enable vertical planting and provide height. A heavily planted pergola placed against a boundary wall blurs the edges of the garden and suggests extra space beyond. Paint a black rectangle on the wall at the end of the pergola to suggest an entrance to another garden area beyond the wall to increase the sense of depth in the garden. Another extremely good way to add height and drama to a garden is to include a tree. A well-chosen tree will give immediate internal focus to the garden as well as adding an essential 3-D element. There are small trees suitable for even the tiniest garden.

A gate fixed to a wall or fence surrounded with climbing plants creates the illusion that the garden continues beyond the boundaries. A well-executed trompe l’oeil doorway painted on a wall framed with evergreen planting and climbers is a simple, fun way to add interest and give the appearance of more space. Using diminishing sized pots, plants or statuary, or narrowing a path as it approaches the boundary will create a false perspective that makes the garden seem larger.

Level changes like steps, raised beds, or a raised pool give the garden an extra dimension, make it appear more interesting and distract attention away from the boundaries. Raised beds and retaining walls for pools can also double as seats if they are between 450mm and 600mm high. Creating extra useable space in the garden by introducing features that have a dual purpose it more useable as well as more attractive and this automatically gives the illusion of more space.

Using contrasting colours is another way to suggest that the garden extends beyond its actual boundaries. A pale wall with a door-sized rectangle painted in a darker colour framed by some climbers and planted pots looks like a passageway. Contrasting flower and foliage colours are also effective for creating interest, contrast, directing focus and adding the illusion of extra depth.

When there isn’t much ground area using the vertical space helps to provide more visual interest without cluttering the garden. Some ways of doing this include attaching planters to walls, hanging baskets and troughs from fence posts or mounting them along the top of fence panels.

In a small garden is it essential to use a limited plant palette – too many different plant species will make the space seem busy and closed in. It is also important to make clever use of all available planting space. Climbers are a great way to introduce greenery without taking up valuable space, and shrubs like Garrya elliptica, Fatshedera lizeii and Itea illicifolia, Ceanothus and Rhamnus alaternus perform well when secured to a wall or fence. In courtyards where there are no borders place trellis panels in floor mounted troughs. Green walls work extremely well in small spaces. Sedum roofs on sheds, bin stores, and other covered spaces are a great way to introduce low-maintenance planting into smaller gardens.

A small garden does not have to be boring and featureless. With some careful planning and creativity smaller spaces can make stunning gardens and wonderful, low-maintenance places to de-stress and entertain.