Tag: tips

September Garden To Do List

“In the garden, Autumn is, indeed the crowning glory of the year, bringing us the fruition of months of thought and care and toil. And at no season, safe perhaps in Daffodil time, do we get such superb colour effects as from August to November.”
– Rose G. Kingsley, The Autumn Garden, 1905

In my mid-South garden fall is a slow transformation into winter.  The heat may not break until late September with the first frost occurring at the end of November.  I no longer think of fall as a time to put the garden away, but rather the season for reaping all that I’ve sown during spring and summer.  The colors are so saturated and there is such a bounty of fruits, flowers and vegetables.  As I write this I feel a twinge of betrayal, but I’ve come to love autumn even more than spring.

  • Start a compost bin. A circle of woven wire fence is a simple way to contain leaves and garden debris. Fill the bin with alternating layers of leaves and green plant material, like grass clippings. Avoid adding sticks, diseased plant material, and weeds. Lightly water and turn about once a week. After the blend decomposes into dark, fertile organic matter, add it to your flower and vegetable beds to enrich the soil.
  • Keep treating roses, lilacs and phlox for powdery mildew.
  • If you didn’t get all your seeds sown this summer, save some for next year. Store left over seeds in a labeled, airtight baggie or glass jar in a cool, dry location. You’ll have better luck if you keep them indoors rather than a garage or tool shed.
  • Build a cold frame to extend the growing season.
  • Begin holding back on water and fertilizer on Christmas cactus until buds appear.
  • Move your houseplants indoors before the first hard frost. The best time to make the move is when inside temperatures are similar to those outdoors. Wash the leaves with a diluted mixture of mild soap and water. This will help your plants breathe and respond better to light. Then to eliminate any pests they may have picked up during the summer, treat with an insecticidal soap.
  • Early fall is the best time to sow many types of wildflower seeds. The key to success is to make sure that your plants have enough time to germinate and establish themselves before the first hard frost. That’s usually about 8 weeks.
  • Sow arugula seeds. Sprinkle the seeds in narrow furrows that are 5 inches apart and cover with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil. Keep the soil evenly moist and the seeds will germinate in about 10 days. The plants are ready to harvest in 5 weeks when the leaves are about 4 to 6 inches tall and just beginning to form lobes.
  • Stake tall growing autumn blooms such as salvia, dahlias and chrysanthemums.
  • Gather green tomatoes before the first killing frost. Wrap them in paper and store at 60 to 65 degrees F.
  • If you live in a region where winter temperatures typically drop below 20 degrees F for extended periods, you will need to lift and store tender bulbs such as elephant ears, dahlias and calla lilies after the first frost.
  • Freeze corn on the cob to use in soups and casseroles this winter. To freeze sweet corn simply leave the husks on and cut an inch or so off the tip of the ear then slide the corn into plastic bags to store in the freezer.
  • Selective applications of herbicides on perennial weeds are especially effective during the fall while the weeds are storing nutrients in their roots for winter.
  • If you live in an area that is colder than zone 7 (0 to 10 degrees F in winter) move your banana trees indoors before the first frost.
  • Root crops such as carrots, radishes and potatoes may be left in the ground well into winter. Mulch heavily and harvest as needed.
  • Add well-rotted manure and organic humus to your flowerbeds. Your plants will thank you for it next spring.

Good to Know

I garden in zone 7b.  Spring usually starts in March and fall extends through November.  The summers are long and hot.  I write these tips with the idea that they are applicable to all zones during a general period of time. However, given microclimates and weather extremes timing can vary.  Observe the conditions in your garden and apply them accordingly.

Garden To Do List November

It’s hard to believe that the end of Daylight Savings Time is already here.  It seems like just yesterday that we were springing forward.  Now it’s dark by the time I get home from work, so my time is really limited in the garden.  Fortunately there isn’t much on my to do list other than a few final tasks before winter.


  • If you live in a cold climate that is sure to get bitter winter storms, don’t wait until one is predicted to protect your evergreens. Take the time to complete this task now. Your trees may need to be shielded from more than just wind and snow: Use burlap to cover evergreens located near a road that will get salt sprayed.
  • Wait to apply winter mulch until the ground is frozen.
  • Keep the mulch away from tree trunks and plant crowns to prevent rodents from damaging them.
  • Aerate existing lawns to improve root development and drainage. This can be done with a garden fork. Simply push the fork into the lawn and wiggle it gently. Repeat the process every 4 inches or so. You can also purchase manual aerating tools or rent a power aerator.
  • Unless you live in a really cold climate, fall is a great time to prune evergreen hedges because they are more visible once the rest of the garden goes dormant. Shear them on a slight bevel so that the bottom sticks out a little further than the top.
  • Cut back asparagus fronds after they turn brown from a hard freeze.
  • Fall is a great time for planting trees, but some varieties prefer a spring planting. Conifers, Japanese maples, dogwoods, sweetgums, oaks, crabapples, and birches should be planted or transplanted in the spring.
  • Detach watering hoses from outdoor spigots. Drain them, roll them up and store in a dry location. If your outdoor water is on a separate system from your indoor pipes, shut it off and then turn the faucet on until all the water runs out. Place an insulating foam cover over the spigot to keep ice from cracking the metal.
  • Cover strawberries with a straw mulch. Wait to mulch your beds until after the first hard freeze, when the soil is frozen to a depth of about 1/2 inch.
  • In areas of the country where winters are mild, sow sweet peas. The variety ‘Winter’s Elegance’ blooms well during the short days and reduced light of the season.
  • Remove saucers from under terra cotta containers on surfaces where they won’t leave a stain. This will help keep the pots dry. Dry pots are less likely to crack and the soil will hold less moisture. Soggy soil in winter can lead to root rot. Keep in mind that plants don’t need as much water during this time.
  • Plant Oriental and Asiatic lily bulbs in late fall for showy blooms next spring. If the ground is already frozen in your area, pot the bulbs up in containers; store them in locations where they will stay cool, dry and won’t freeze; and then plant the bulbs next spring. Lily bulbs never really go dormant so be gentle in handling them.
  • Cut back on water and stop feeding houseplants. As the days become shorter your plants shift from an active growth cycle so they take up less moisture and don’t require additional nutrients.
  • Make sure your greenhouse heaters are in working order. In many parts of the country a simple electrical oscillating space heater will do the trick, but if your daytime temperatures fall below freezing you may want to look into something more powerful.
  • As long as the ground is not frozen, you can still plant daffodil bulbs.
  • Are you getting a live Christmas tree this year? Dig the hole now, before the ground freezes. Keep the garden soil you removed from the hole in an area where it won’t freeze or wash away.
  • Make sure your climbing roses are tied securely to their supports to prevent wind damage this winter.  Read more about protecting roses in winter

Good to Know

I garden in zone 7b.  Spring usually starts in March and fall extends through November.  The summers are long and hot.  I write these tips with the idea that they are applicable to all zones during a general period of time. However, given microclimates and weather extremes timing can vary.  Observe the conditions in your garden and apply them accordingly.

Garden To Do List May

In my garden every season has its peak and May is definitely the best month of spring. The roses are in full bloom, cool season vegetables such a lettuce, broccoli and peas are ready to harvest, and there’s not a pest or disease in sight. I try to make my garden to do list as long as possible so I can spend every day working outside.

Here’s a list of things to do in your garden during May that may be helpful for you:

  • Enclose your veggie garden with a rabbit proof fence. A 30-inch tall chicken wire fence will keep rabbits out of your garden. To keep them from digging under the fence bury the wire about 1-foot deep and bend the top of the wire outward about a foot so they can’t hop over.
  • Evergreen magnolias such a M. grandiflora should be planted in late spring when their roots are actively growing.  If transplanted in late fall or winter their roots will not be able to grow quickly enough to become established.
  • Wrap tomato seedling stems with aluminum foil to deter cutworms. Once the plants mature the stem will thicken enough that these pests won’t be a problem and you can remove the foil.
  • Deadhead rhododendron blooms. This will direct the plants energy toward producing flower buds for next year rather than seeds.
  • Repot houseplants that have outgrown their accommodations. Move them outdoors for their summer vacation when nighttime temperatures stay consistently above 60 degrees F.
  • Change the color of your old-fashioned hydrangea blooms. If you have a blue hydrangea, and would like it to have lavender to pink flowers, raise the alkalinity in your soil by adding 4 ounces of lime around the base of the shrub. Do this incrementally until you get the color you want. Depending on your soil, it could take a few growing seasons. To turn a pink hydrangea blue, add aluminum sulfate to the soil around the base of your plant. Follow the label directions carefully and don’t overdo it.
  • Before planting in clay pots, pre-soak them in a wheelbarrow of water for 5 or 10 minutes. If you plant in terra-cotta when it is dry, it wicks moisture from the soil and the new plantings.
  • Fertilize and deadhead your repeat blooming roses after the flowers fade to encourage a second round in early summer. When applying granular fertilizer, avoid getting it on foliage to prevent fertilizer burn.
  • Are you battling powdery mildew on tall garden phlox? Try one of these fungus resistant varieties: Phlox ‘Miss Kelly’, Phlox ‘Katherine’, Phlox ‘Bright Eyes’, Phlox ‘David’, Phlox ‘Franz Schubert’.
  • Welcome toads to your garden by offering them a source of water and a place to stay. One toad can eat from ten to twenty thousand insects a year. You can make a toad house by partially burying a terra cotta pot on its side.
  • To help your garden mums maintain a more compact form, pinch them back after they are 6 to 8 inches tall. The idea is to reduce the height by about half. Repeat the process again in mid-July.
  • Fertilize your warm season lawn grass in June. If using a granular fertilizer, add flour to the spreader. This will help you see where you’ve been so you won’t over fertilize. For the least impact on the environment, choose an organic fertilizer blend.
  • Sow the seeds of summer annuals such as cosmos, celosia, sunflowers and globe amaranth. These can be sown directly in the garden after the last frost date has passed and the soil has warmed.

Garden To Do List December

It seems like it was just yesterday that I was compiling a list of garden to dos for last January and here it is December!  As you can imagine most of the chores this month are centered around the holidays and take place indoors where it’s warm.

  • Spice up your holiday decorations with orange clove pomanders. They also make wonderfully fragrant gifts.
  • If you are "going green" this holiday season and are using a live tree so you can plant it outdoors, do not keep it inside for more than 6 days. It will come out of dormancy and the shock of moving it back outside might prove to be too much for it to survive.
  • Cut back on watering and fertilizing your houseplants.  Plants aren’t in an active growth stage during winter and don’t need as much moisture or nutrients.  Water when the soil is dry to the touch and hold off on fertilizing the plants until March.
  • To keep holiday greenery fresh longer, prepare the boughs by re-cutting the stems, and soak the entire limb in water overnight. Completely submerge garlands and wreaths in a galvanized tub or bathtub for 12 hours. For evergreens like fir and spruce that tend to shed their needles, you can also spray the boughs with a floral fixative available at a craft store or garden center. Follow label directions.
  • Few indoor plants offer more color and drama than the amaryllis. To prolong the bloom of this magnificent flower try this method. Once the flower bud opens, remove the yellow anthers inside the flower with tweezers before they shed pollen.  The flowers will also last longer if the plant is moved to a cooler room at night (55-65 degrees) and out of direct sunlight during the day.
  • To prolong poinsettia color, keep the plants in rooms where the temperature is around 60 degrees at night and 72 degrees during the daytime and out of direct sunlight. The flowers will also last longer if the plants are moved to a cooler room at night.
  • Be sure the trees you planted this year are staked and supported with guy wire.  The weight of ice combined with the force of strong winds can literally uproot newly planted trees.
  • You can still plant daffodil bulbs as long as the ground is not frozen. 
  • Open a window in your greenhouse on warm winter days to create good ventilation.  Be sure to shut it before nightfall.
  • Check drying gourds.  A certain amount of mold growth can be expected.  Discard any that are rotting.
  • Late fall and early winter are ideal for soil testing.  If the soil is workable you can make any changes now and get a jump start on spring.   
  • Pot up paperwhites every week for continuous bloom well into the New Year.
  • Avoid using salt based chemical de-icers on sidewalks because salt is bad for nearby plants.  Choose a potassium or calcium based mix or plain old sand instead.
  • Celebrate the winter solstice on December 21st.  Now the days will be gradually getting longer, which means spring is on its way!



Good to Know

I garden in zone 7b.  Spring usually starts in March and fall extends through November.  The summers are long and hot.  I write these tips with the idea that they are applicable to all zones during a general period of time. However, given microclimates and weather extremes timing can vary.  Observe the conditions in your garden and apply them accordingly.

Garden To Do List July

The dog days of summer are upon us, which means plenty of hot weather. Between now and mid August everything slows down in the garden so we can start spending less time doing and more time enjoying. But for those who need to keep busy, there are always a few things you can do to keep your garden looking beautiful. Whenever it’s hot, try to schedule these tasks for morning or early afternoon.

  • If the weather turns dry, avoid fertilizing your plants. It will further stress your plants to put energy into new growth during periods of drought.
  • Protect your emerging corn crop from critters by placing a paper bag over each ear. Secure the bag with a rubber band. Do this just as the corn begins to mature. Remove the bag once the corn is ripe.
  • Raise the blade on your lawn mower. The tall grass will keep the roots cool and conserve moisture – a must during the hot, dry weather typical of July.
  • Order Colchicum autumnale bulbs for planting in August and September. Also known as autumn crocus, these petite pale pink to lavender blooms will appear in fall.
  • If you’ve been pinching back your garden mums to encourage a more compact shape, it’s time to stop and allow them to set flower buds.
  • Now is a good time to make rose cuttings. Choose stems that are just under the diameter of a pencil. Make your cut at an angle just above a leaf node. Be sure the cutting is at least 4 to 5 inches long and has a couple sets of leaves.
  • Tomato horn worms are large with green and white stripes and a red “horn” near the end. Hand picking is the best method of control. However, if you see one covered in tiny, upright eggs leave it be. These are cocoons of the braconid wasp, a predator of the tomato horn worm.
  • Some potted plants may need daily watering. Small pots, hanging baskets and window boxes in sunny locations may even need to be watered twice a day. If the top few inches of the soil are dry or the stems are wilting, it’s time to water.
  • It’s time to start planning for your fall vegetable garden. For plants grown from seed, make sure they have enough time to mature before the first autumn freeze. Check the back of the seed packet to find the number of days until harvest to determine when you should plant.
  • Keep those weeds pulled – especially those that spread by reseeding. If you can get rid of them before they go to seed you’ll have less work next year.
  • Morning glories don’t like soil that’s too rich. In fact, if it’s too rich they will produce lots of vine and not many flowers, so be easy on the fertilizer.
  • As gourds begin to form use a nail to scratch a pattern into the shell. The pattern will expand as the gourd matures.
  • Provide a source of clean water to attract birds to your garden. Bird baths should be shallow with a rough surface for the birds to stand on. Place the bath at least 4 to 5 feet away from feeders to prevent droppings and seed debris from contaminating the water.
  • Use an old phone book as a flower press to preserve late summer blossoms. Choose flowers with flat or small centers so they will compress easily. Arrange the flowers on a piece of cardboard and hold them in place with a little clear tape. Label each one and write something about where it was growing, put it in the phone book and add a weight on top. Check after a couple of days. Once dried, the flowers can be glued onto cards to make pictures, or to embellish photos and letters.

Good to Know

I garden in zone 8a.  Spring usually starts in March and fall extends through November.  The summers are long and hot.  I write these tips with the idea that they are applicable to all zones during a general period of time. However, given microclimates and weather extremes timing can vary.  Observe the conditions in your garden and apply them accordingly.

Garden To Do List August

It’s hard to believe that it’s back-to-school time. By the end of the month yellow school buses will be rumbling down roads across the country. It’s a not so subtle reminder that summer’s end is just a few weeks away. In my mid-South garden it’s still as hot as blue blazes and will continue to be so until late September. In spite of the heat, it’s time to start preparing for autumn, so this month’s to do list involves plant purchasing, clean up and harvesting.

  • After Oriental and Asiatic lilies bloom, cut off the top of the stalk taking no more than one third of the stem. The idea is to leave enough foliage so the plant can build up energy in the bulb for next year’s blooms.
  • Stop fertilizing roses.
  • Stop deadheading your repeat blooming roses now so they can produce rose hips for fall.
  • If your community is under watering restrictions, you may have to let your lawn go thirsty. Most varieties of grass will go dormant, but recover when rain returns. Don’t abruptly stop watering, instead gradually cut down to minimize stress.
  • When combating weeds always use the least toxic methods first, but certain pesky plants like poison ivy or other invasive nuisances need to be eliminated with a selective weed killer. To prevent the spray from drifting onto other garden plants, cut the end out of an inexpensive foam cooler. Then turn the cooler upside down to form a hood over the targeted weeds and use a spray bottle inside the cooler. This keeps the spray away from nearby plants.
  • Freeze summer berries for winter use. Spread the berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place the cookie sheet in the freezer. Once the berries have frozen, toss them into an air tight bag and store in your freezer. This works for blackberries, blueberries and raspberries.
  • Sun dry Roma tomatoes for use this winter. Cut them into thin slices and lay them on a cookie sheet. Salt and pepper the pieces and place the tray in the sun. Once dried, just place them in airtight bags and put them into your freezer.
  • An easy way to dry hot peppers is to pull the entire plant from the ground and hang it upside down in a cool, dry location. Remove the peppers when they turn dry and the make a decorative wreath.
  • Continue harvesting vegetables from the garden. Some varieties such as okra, snap beans, squash and cucumbers will stop producing if fruits are allowed to over ripen on the plant.
  • If ants have invaded your potted plants, place the container in a saucer filled with water. The ants will move on to drier ground.
  • Late summer and early fall is the time to treat your lawn for grubs, which mature into Japanese beetles and attract digging animals such as moles and raccoons. A small number of grubs are beneficial, but if you have more than 10 per square foot or have a problem with foraging animals tearing up you lawn, now is the time to take action.
  • Fall is now considered a third growing season. Check garden centers for new arrivals that are suited for the cooler temperatures and shorter days of autumn.
  • Get your orders placed for spring flowering bulbs. Try my favorite tulip combination: ‘Perestroika’, ‘Menton’ and ‘Temple of Beauty’. It’s a fiery blend of salmon, pink and orange.
  • Order peonies for fall planting.
  • When selecting mums, go for healthy looking plants with moist soil in the container. Dry soil conditions cause stems to shrivel and cut down on blooms. And for a longer flowering time, select plants that are heavily budded rather than in full bloom.
  • On Labor Day move your poinsettia indoors and place it in an area where it can receive at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. Starting in early October, confine the plant to 14 hours of total darkness and 10 hours of light per day. Do this until mid-December. This should force the green bracts to color again.
  • Fall is the time to divide summer blooming perennials such as peonies and daylilies.
  • As you begin your fall garden clean up, be sure remove and throw away diseased foliage. Don’t put it in the compost pile. This will help prevent fungi like black spot and powdery mildew from carrying over to next year.

Good to Know

I garden in zone 7b.  Spring usually starts in March and fall extends through November.  The summers are long and hot.  I write these tips with the idea that they are applicable to all zones during a general period of time. However, given microclimates and weather extremes timing can vary.  Observe the conditions in your garden and apply them accordingly.

For more August garden tips, check out the video below!

Garden To Do List April

I hope you’ve gotten plenty of rest over the past few months because spring is here. It’s time to come out of dormancy and get to work in the garden.

  • Make it easy to create container gardens. If you’re planting several containers, use a lazy Susan and place the pot on the turntable and spin it around as you plant.
  • Save a spot for fall bulb planting. If you are planting a new flowerbed and know that in the fall you’ll want to add some spring flowering bulbs, here is an easy way to hold a place for them in the border. Amid the spring plants, dig holes where you’ll want to later plant the bulbs. Make sure the holes are large enough to accommodate a good size plastic nursery pot that has drainage holes. Put the pots in the holes, and then refill the pots with the dug soil. In the fall, lift the pots, place the bulbs in the bottom of the holes and dump the soil over them.
  • After daffodil blooms have faded, snap off the blossoms before they go to seed, and make sure you leave the foliage for at least 8 weeks to recharge the bulbs. Feed your flowers with an all-purpose dry fertilizer (5-10-5). Just sprinkle a tablespoon at the base of each daffodil, but avoid spreading it on the leaves of the plants.
  • Spring frosts may zap emerging foliage, but the plant will rebound. You can remove the wilted leaves, but wait to do any pruning on woody perennials, shrubs and trees until new growth emerges later this spring. To decide where to make the cut, scratch stems to check for green tissue beneath the bark.
  • April weather can be fickle. Resist the urge to plant warm season annuals and vegetables until the last frost date has passed in your area.
  • To avoid pulling out desirable hardy volunteers (annuals that reseed themselves) such as larkspur, old-fashioned petunias and nicotiana, learn to identify the seedlings before you start weeding and applying mulch.
  • The best way to remove dandelions from your lawn, and the most earth-friendly, is to dig them out with a long forked tool. It’s important to dig out the dandelion’s taproot.
  • If you planted garlic last fall or in early spring, keep the flowers pinched off. This will direct all the plant’s energy toward growing a large bulb. Garlic is ready to harvest as soon as the foliage turns brown and falls over.
  • Get staking supports in place before plants get too tall.
  • Why spend another summer fighting with your garden hose? Before the growing season gets underway invest in quality hoses that won’t kink, crack or misbehave.
  • Apply mulch after the soil warms to 55 – 60 degrees F.
  • Pinch back faded sweet pea flowers to keep them from going to seed. This will prolong the bloom time of the plant.

Five Tips for Mail Order Plants

In January and February, just when gardeners are the most color-starved, our snail mail and email boxes begin filling up with catalogs displaying beautiful flowers and foliage that urge us to get our credit cards and buy, buy, buy! While this is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, it’s a good idea to arm yourself with some information before you commit to your purchase.

Here are five tips to make sure the plants you buy will be as beautiful in your real garden as they are in your imagined one.

Consider the advantages.

Ordering bare root trees, shrubs and perennials saves money if you don’t need mature plants or if you want a large number of plants. Growing plants from seeds is also a penny-saver. For the price of a single six pack of annuals, you can purchase enough seeds to grow dozens of plants.

Stay rooted in reality.

Don’t get swept away and order one of everything you see. Make a plan of what you want and where you will plant it. It’s not as thrilling as purchasing what catches your eye, but if you make a list of the colors, heights and types of plants you’re looking for, the end result will be a cohesive design rather than a botanical hodgepodge. Of course, it’s also good to live a little so budget for a few whims.

Read the fine print.

Take time to read the description of the plant’s growing requirements. Make sure they match your garden’s light, water and soil conditions. USDA hardiness zones should be checked on perennials, trees and shrubs.

Garden thug or just what you are looking for?

A plant described as a “vigorous grower” or “spreads quickly” might be ideal if you are looking for a fast-growing ground cover. Be careful, though, because plants with these qualities may become invasive garden thugs. Also note words such as “hardy volunteer”, and “naturalizes”, as these plants may colonize, spread or self-sow. (Again, those characteristics may be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on what you are looking for.)

Look for improved plant varieties.

Plant breeders have developed varieties with unique characteristics that make them easier to grow. Now you can find perennials that will flower the first year even when started from seeds. Self-cleaning annuals don’t require deadheading to remove spent flowers and self-branching plants don’t need to be pinched back to keep a bushy
form. Some plants are bred to be disease- or insect-resistant so you don’t have to worry about pest and disease control.

Understand garden collections.

Some catalogs offer ready-made garden designs that have the included plants available as a collection. Be aware that these borders are often planned so different plants in the collection will flower at different times, giving you multiple seasons of color. Don’t expect everything to bloom at once as some illustrations of these collections imply. If it’s non-stop color you’re after, look for a garden collection that incorporates mainly annuals, which will bloom all growing season. Before you purchase any type of pre-planned garden, make sure the size of the garden plan is close to the size of your planting site so you can be sure you’re buying the right number of plants.

11 Tips To Save You Hours in the Garden

These days it seems like most of the timelines for my work are a bit  hazy.  Goals are intangible, deadlines shiftand projects are never really completed.  There doesn’t seem to be a point where I can stop and say, “Job well done!  Now let’s move on to the next thing.”   That is one reason why working the in garden is therapeutic for me.  Aside from being outdoors and close to nature, I can tackle a task and know that it has a beginning and end.  That being said, there are some jobs that I enjoy more than others.  In this slide show you’ll find tips that will help you spend less time wrestling with your garden and allow you more time to plant, harvest and relax.

Time-savers for the Garden

How to make a perennial cage

Perennial Cages
Staking tall growing plants early in the season will prevent time consuming labor later.  An easy and inexpensive way to do this to cage the plants with a circle of concrete reinforcing wire.  Choose a light gauge wire that is easy to work with.  Cut the wire creating long tines at the base to push them into the ground and on the ends to latch the cage together.

Save Money on Garden Stakes by Using Twigs

Twig Supports
A natural and inexpensive approach to keeping your flowers from flopping over is to use twigs. This is particularly effective for light and airy perennials like baby’s breath. It’s simple to use them. Just push the sticks into the ground and weave the plants up through the twigs.

Slow release fertilizer

Slow Release Fertilizers
Slow release fertilizers help you  reduce the amount of time you spend feeding your plants.  When potting up container gardens, select a bagged soil medium that includes slow release fertilizer and water retentive polymers.


Double Duty Bird Feeders
Plant mammoth sunflowers that grow into  bird feeders that you never have to refill and beautiful cut flowers to enjoy indoors.  Sunflowers require full sun, good soil, consistent moisture and room to grow.  Sow seeds outdoors after the last frost date.


Continuous Color with a Single Planting
When you plant early, mid and late blooming varieties of one plant type such as tulips, iris, peonies, daylilies or daffodils, you’ll enjoy weeks of continuous blooms.  Just one day of planting will produce weeks of enjoyment.

Elephant ears planted in a glazed container

Focal Point
Create an instant focal point in your garden with a large container garden.  A mass planting of a bold foliage plant such as elephant ears or bright colored blooms can be changed seasonally.  Or for something more permanent try a shrub with multiple seasons of interest.

How to repair a bare spot in the lawn

Recipe for Repairing Bare Patches in the Lawn
Instead of measuring cups, use a shovel. Combine 5 shovelfulls of sand, 1 shovel full of sterilized topsoil, 1 shovel full of grass seed and 1 cup of slow release of fertilizer.  Spread the mix over the bare spot and water.  If your lawn grass is a variety that puts out runners or stolens like Bermuda or St. Augustine, you don’t even have to bother with the seed just use the sand/topsoil/fertilizer mixture.

Hyacinth Bean Vine

Cover Up with Annual Vines
If you have something you need to camouflage or would like to create a privacy screen, try an annual vine such as moonflower, morning glory or hyacinth bean vine.  These fast growing, flowering vines will cover a trellis in a single growing season.  Because they are annual they will die back in winter, but they produce seeds that can be sown again next year.

Shearing a hedge with a template

Scalloped Hedges
It’s easier and faster to shape hedges if you have a guide.  A piece of plywood can be cut into a handy template.  Use a piece of plywood that is the height of your hedge.  Simply stand the plywood next to the hedge and cut the shape with sharp shears.

Weed barrier helps keep weeds at bay

Weed Control Fabric
Use weed control fabric to reduce weeds, keep the soil cool and retain moisture. Topped with a layer of mulch, this fabric will cut down on a ton of work this summer. Choose a durable product that is constructed in a way that prevents weeds from penetrating while allowing water, air and fertilizer to pass through.

Ten Money Saving Tips for your Garden

Contrary to popular opinion, gardening isn’t necessarily expensive. In fact, gardening lends itself quite well to the budget-conscious. Mother Nature will provide much of the materials and there are ways to save on the things you need to purchase.

Gardening Tips that will Save Your Budget

Build a Compost Bin – Soil amendments are a big expense, but you can cut down on or completely eliminate this cost with a compost bin. You can get one of those fancy tumblers or build one yourself out of landscape timbers or hog wire or even a rubber trash can. If you have the space you can just have a pile. Whatever compost bin you choose remember to layer brown and green materials, keep the pile moist and turn it every so often.

Adding materials to a compost bin.

Save on Supplements – Wood ashes, banana peels and egg shells can be applied to the garden to help enrich the soil. Use wood ash to sweeten the soil for alkaline-loving plants such as broccoli and peonies. Banana peels are a great source of potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. Ground eggshells will help prevent blossom end rot by supplying calcium to tomatoes.

Eggshells on the kitchen countertop.

Make More Plants – Choose plants that multiply. What could be more thrifty that free plants? Many species will multiple and spread. You can dig them up and divide them for more plants. Daffodils, hellebores, daylilies, hostas and many types of ferns are prolific spreaders. You can propagate other plants such as hydrangeas and roses from cuttings. And finally, many annuals and biennials will produce seeds for saving.

Proven Winners Primal Scream Daylilies

Think Native – Plants that are native to your region are better adapted for the challenges in your garden. You’ll save on water, pest and disease control and fertilizer. Your favorite local independent garden center will have the best selection of plants.

Aster tataricus Jin-Dai

Buy in Bulk – Bagged soil, mulch and humus are convenient, but you’ll save a bundle by ordering these by the cubic yard. One cubic yard covers 108 square feet 3 inches deep. And be sure to check to see if your community offers free mulch made from collected yard waste. Compost too.

Cubic yards of soil amendments.

Invest in Expert Advice – Starting a new garden or overhauling an existing one? Splurge on a professional consultation. You don’t have to commit to a full set of drawings to get help from a garden designer. Paying a small consultation fee will save you money in the long run. Even if you have a clear picture of what you want to do, you will benefit from a conversation with a designer.

P. Allen Smith with garden design client.

Use What You Have for Paths – Save money on pathways by using inexpensive or free materials such as mulch, pine needles and pea gravel. Line the path with newspaper to suppress weeds and top with your chosen material.

Straw path through the vegetable garden.

Take Advantage of Rain &ndash Set up a rain barrel or two under downspouts to collect rain water. Similar to compost bins, the device you use can be as simple or sophisticated as you want. A few key things to keep in mind are: use a food-grade container, elevate the barrel to improve the flow of water and cap the barrel with a screen to keep out debris, critters and mosquitoes. Water collected in a rain barrel isn’t safe for drinking, but it is suitable for a lot more than watering your garden. Use it to wash your car, rinse muddy shoes and hose off the sidewalk.

A rain barrel in the garden.

Get Crafty with Straw Bales &ndash Much like duct tape, there isn’t much you can’t do with a straw bale. Make a straw bale cold frame or winter shelter, a raised bed and you can even plant right in them. Break the bale apart to spread on the ground as mulch or for erosion control. I use wheat straw as a path material between my raised vegetable beds. Be sure to get straw and not hay, which will sprout in your garden. When you are done with the straw bale add it to you compost pile.

A straw bale corral for protecting tulips from cold.

Buy Small – The beauty of plants is they grow so you can purchase small plants that are less expense than mature ones. Purchase bare root roses and fruit trees, gallon shrubs and quart perennials, start plants from seeds.