Author Archives: The Garden Guy

Birdbath Feature adds Looks and Interest

By   March 18, 2016

Are your birds dirty?  Do they need a birdbath?  Joking aside, birds like baths.  Feathers can trap all sorts of dust, dirt, and mold. Most birds molt (shed and grow new feathers) only twice a year and dirty or damaged feathers can affect their flight effectiveness.  And there are loads of insects, mites, fleas, and other bugs that are looking for feathered homes.

A birdbath in a garden

A birdbath is fun to watch and can add an interesting focal point to your garden

So for some people, providing a bird bath is a way to help nature.  Others just like to watch birds.  Whatever your reason, a bird bath makes a great addition to just about any garden.  Birds aren’t picky about the looks and design of their baths.  They just want clean water, a place to perch, and a location that is safe.

Birdbath Choices

People are pickier!  We look for aesthetics and easy maintenance.  Birdbaths come in all sorts of designs and materials.  Pick one that suits your style with just a few requirements:

  • Your bath needs to be anchored or heavy enough to stand up to winds, storms, and an occasional wild animal jumping up for a drink.
  • The water needs to be shallow so that your birds can bathe.  Only ducks and water birds want deep water. The deepest part shouldn’t be more than 2 inches with a taper up to the edges.
  • Place it in the shade if possible, but separated from any potential hiding places for predators.
  • And it needs to be easy to clean.  The simplest method is a top that can be removed and tipped.

There are a couple more features that you can add if you want to get fancy.  Birds love running or trickling water.  It can be part of an elaborate fountain or an inexpensive solar pump.   And birds need baths year around, so a heater is a great addition for the winter.

Keep your birdbathbath clean.  Dirt accumulates quickly in the open and mosquitos will breed in any stagnant water.  Change the water every two or three days.  Just dumping and replacing the water will do.  If you let it go too long and algae start to grow (green water); it might need a heavier cleaning.  Scrub it out and use hot water.  Don’t use any chemicals, detergents, or additives as birds may not like the residue and most aren’t healthy for them.

Keeping a birdbath clean takes just a few minutes two or three times a week, and the show that the birds will put on for you is well worth the trouble.  A birdbath fits in well with the idea of an easy garden.

Container Gardening

By   March 12, 2016

Container Gardening – 8 BIG Benefits

What’s so great about container gardening anyway?

Container gardening has big benefits. Maybe that’s why it’s one of the fastest-growing areas of gardening. Why?

pots for container gardening

There are lots of options for containers. Use regular pots or household items or anything that will hold enough soil.

Because the benefits of container gardening far outweigh its challenges.

Yes, you have to think about weight on a roof or balcony garden. Yes, you need to think about pot drainage on your deck.

And yes—let’s be frank—some of you will need to secure that big, expensive urn out in front of your urban brownstone.

But these are simple problems to solve—really! Soilless potting mix on the balcony, self-watering containers or catch plates on the deck. And slip a chain through your urn’s drain hole, padlock it to your wrought iron fence, and you’re ready to go. (Plus—who can lift a concrete urn anyway?)

Want specifics? For starters, container gardening in containers is foolproof (or nearly so), versatile, and inexpensive.

Container Gardening — 8 Big Benefits

window boxes on a patio for a container garden

Window and patio boxes bring your garden to anyplace that has enough room and sun.

1) Chuck it! Pots are nearly Foolproof. If you make a mistake, and the darned thing dries out or just looks like it’s on its last leg—Pitch it.

2) Make the most of Versatility! Pots give you the option of year-round plantings. You can start with early spring bulbs, pull and replant as the season progresses. The advantage? You’ve got an ever-changing array of color through all the seasons.

3) Lots of design Options! Pots have garden design appeal. You can use them as blasts of annual color in an existing garden, in groups on your deck, singly or in pairs at the front entrance. Move them around—you’ll get the benefit of a new look and feel by putting them in different groupings and spots.

urn container garden with flowers4) Explore color, form, and style! Pots let you experiment. Try a monochromatic garden in fall, then shift to a complimentary color scheme of crocus and tulips for spring. You can switch up the colors, design, amount, and placement as much as you like.

5) Diversity. In the garden, you’d never see a bunch of succulents and cacti planted with peonies and hostas—they take very different soil mixtures, sun, and watering. But you can individualize soils in pots, place them strategically along your deck, and mix plants that you wouldn’t see together in one garden bed.

6) Easy on the Pocket! Pots are a small investment. These days, that’s a big benefit! You can spend loads or a little on one or a dozen pots. And you can re-use them the next year . . . And the next. You can add one or two a year if you’re on a budget and want nicely designed pots. When and how many you get is completely up to you.

tire on a wall used as a planter

Use your imagination for containers!

7) No Mistakes! Pots are mistake-proof. Well, pretty much. Maybe a plant looks great at the nursery, but when you finally get home and pot it up you realize you don’t like it so much after all. That’s ok. Unlike the row of expensive perennials the person in back of you bought, you have only to give this one away and start over.

8) Great for anyone! Maybe the biggest benefit of all. Pots are suited to every level of gardener. Whether you’ve been around flowers, herbs, and gardens all your life, or are just starting out—pots, planters, hanging baskets—anyone can plant them!

 

 

Growing Peas

By   March 10, 2016

Growing peas is particularly satisfying for gardeners who are just starting out, or for anyone who likes to see fast results.

growing peas in bloom

Peas in bloom

Snow peas are particularly delicious picked and eaten raw straight from the vine. Wait until the peas just start to swell so you can see their outline through the snow pea pod for the sweetest taste. You’ll want to check your garden frequently when your peas start to ripen. The pods can grow almost an inch in just a day.

Snow peas, sugar peas, and garden (English) peas are good choices for late winter and early spring vegetables. They take only 50-70 days from seed planting to harvest. The heat of summer can quickly kill these plants or significantly slow their growth and production rate. They like cool weather above freezing. So, try growing peas as a fall crop as well as a spring crop depending on your zone.

Soil Requirements

Soil pH should be near neutral (somewhere around 6.8). If your soil is too acidic, you may need to add dolomitic limestone. Snow peas prefer full sun in soil that retains moisture well. Use soil amendments that contain plenty of organic matter for robust growth and a plentiful harvest. The ground should be rich in phosphorus and potassium. Since peas are true legumes, they are nitrogen fixers. In other words, they don’t need any nitrogen fertilizers.

Planting & Care

Plant seeds about 1 inch deep and about 2” apart (wider spacing may work best in poor soil). Mulch will help slow weed growth and retain moisture in the soil during dry spells in the early summer. This is particularly important for maturing plants. Just be careful not to mulch too soon. This can actually impede early crop growth. Wait until the plants are well-established and climbing vertically before mulching.

What about weeding your growing peas? These plants have shallow roots which make them prone to damage from weed pulling near the plant stems. Weed very carefully around your plants (if at all). Root disruption from vigorous weeding makes pea plants particularly susceptible to the effects of drought.

Although peas will sometimes grow in partial shade, they need more care in these conditions and your yield will be much lower. Proper garden placement should allow these plants to grow 3-6 feet tall depending on the variety. With enough light and space, a single plant can grow multiple stems. Pea plants can rapidly cover an entire garden trellis.

Growing peas can withstand a light frost fairly easily when the seedlings are young. The key to success is to never plant too early or too late. A deep freeze can kill or severely damage a mature crop. Large late season plants are more prone to damage because of a smaller root to stem ratio. Thorough watering can help protect them from extreme conditions (both heat and cold).

Tips for Growing Peas

peas-655267_1280If you time your planting properly, you can harvest ‘earlies’ two to three weeks in advance of what it is typically considered normal for your area. A late harvest in the fall before the first major freeze can provide delicious snacks for several weeks into the winter season, especially in southern zones.

Snow peas will bloom almost as soon as their tendrils start to grab hold of the nearest plant, pole, fence, or trellis. It’s best to provide a wire trellis to keep peas from straggling all over your garden. Growing peas that are well supported tend to develop faster and bloom earlier.

When you harvest peas, don’t let any part of the pod remain on the vine – break it off above the stem. Regular picking every other day will stimulate the formation of additional blooms. This will also guard against the pods becoming tough and unappetizing. Many gardeners like to gather slightly immature snow pea pods to ensure their tenderness. Snow pea pods typically only take a few days to mature enough to pick after a full bloom under the best growing conditions.

Sugar snap peas should be harvested after the peas inside the pod have filled out but before the peas start to harden. They should still be edible, pod and all. If you accidentally wait too long before harvesting, shell the sugar peas and compost the tough pods just as you would with English peas.

Storage Tips

Fresh peas don’t tend to keep well. For best results, eat your peas raw, steamed, or sautéed within 48 hours of harvest. Store surplus peas in a sealed container and refrigerate immediately to preserve freshness, crispness, and flavor.

Vegetable Garden

By   February 28, 2016

The most rewarding part of my gardening task is my vegetable garden.  It can get out of hand easily and escape from the “easy gardening” definition, but it’s a labor of love.

I try not to go overboard.  Seeds are cheap, and the temptation to plant the whole pack is high.  And hey, if tomato seedlings are less expensive in 6 packs rather than buying individual plants, why not buy the six pack!

So here’s my rules of easy gardening for your vegetable garden:

  1. Plant only what you need, plus a little bit of bragging when you give them away.
  2. Plant only what you can grow better than the farmer’s market down the street.
  3. Choose low maintenance and disease resistant varieties wherever possible.
  4. Don’t go overboard.
Radish seeds are small and it seems like there are a million in the pack.  Plant only what you need and stager your plantings.  Plant a few seeds each week so there will always be some ready.

Radish seeds are small and it seems like there are a million in the pack. Plant only what you need and stager your plantings. Plant a few seeds each week so there will always be some ready.

As I mentioned, rule 1 is the toughest for me.  Just remember, everything that you plant is going to need some care, watering, weeding, picking, and processing.  A couple of tomatoes can be tended after dinner, a long row of tomatoes will take all afternoon.

My father in law was famous for ignoring rule 2.  He wanted to be self-sufficient, and for him, that involved growing enough potatoes for the year.  Potatoes grow well in New England, but they require a lot of work.  It starts out with a large space, and then seed potatoes have to be cut and planted, the potato patch needs weeding all summer, and then it needs to be dug up for harvest.  It doesn’t end there: then he had hundreds of pounds of potatoes that needed to be cleaned, sorted, and stored.

Watermelon on vine

Squash and melons take a lot of room and only produce a few per vine. It’s sometimes best to skip planting vines that need big spaces in your easy garden.

Some vegetables taste better when freshly picked from your garden.  Tomatoes are juicier, cukes are crunchier, herbs are fresher, but a potato isn’t one of them.  A potato is a potato, and after subtracting out his costs for seed, fertilizer, spray, gas for the tractor, and beers for after the work, he could have bought store potatoes for less!

Rule 3 is often ignored but still important.  Choose plants and varieties that fit your vegetable garden, take minimum care, grow well in your area.  For an easy gardener, this might mean choosing bush beans that grow in a row rather than pole beans that need poles or teepees to grow on, and need to be hilled or trained often.  Bush tomatoes are time savers too and fit in better with small gardens.

Early Girl tomatoes ready to plant in your vegetable garden

Early Girl tomatoes ready to plant in your vegetable garden. Creative Commons License

Look for disease resistant varieties.  Most types of vegetables are susceptible to mold mildew, and disease.  Up here in New England, it’s not unusual to see tomato leaves yellow up and fall off mid-season, or zucchini with mildew covered leaves.  Some breeds are resistant to these maladies. Your choice is to spend a few minutes and maybe a few extra dollars picking out the right ones, or spend time and money spraying and praying, which is often unsuccessful.  Get advice from a good garden shop or nursery.  Sure, their plants will be a few cents more, but the clerk at Walmart probably doesn’t have a clue.

And finally, rule 4 is don’t go overboard to keep it as an easy vegetable garden.  Our goal is to have some fun growing vegetables, get some food from it, keep it looking good, and enjoy yourself.

Like most rules, there are exceptions and workarounds t  hat can make your job easier.  We’ll look at some in later posts.

 

Growing a Butterfly Garden

By   February 17, 2016

Everyone likes butterflies, and a butterfly garden can attract them to your yard.  The types of butterflies that live in your garden will depend on your climate zone and what you plant.  The North American Butterfly Association reports over 725 species residing in North America, with just about a hundred in any area.

You can successfully hatch, attract, and feed these beautiful insects if you know these three essentials–what plants host them, what plants feed them, what kind of culture they need to thrive.

Host Plants for a Butterfly Garden

Butterfly on a flower in a butterfly garden.

Butterflies drink nectar from flowers and they like some types of flowers more than others.

Here’s the ugly truth–at least for those of us who want pretty container flowers or small space gardens (I would count myself among you!). If you want a butterfly garden, you’re going to have to put up with chewed-up, ugly plants.This is because you’ll need plants that attract and host the caterpillars that feed them. And there are very specific flowers (primarily, as you’ll see, sun flowers), plants, and trees that do this.

And when I say “specific,” that means if you provide just any old plant and aren’t aware of what plants host which butterflies, you won’t have any. They are very particular about which plants they’ll use as hosts.

For example, milkweed is very specific for monarch butterflies, while swallowtails will lay eggs on dill, fennel, and parsley. (You can see, even a container herb garden can play host to butterflies.) Other host plants include clover, violets, and hollyhocks.

As you can see, your success depends on knowing not just how to attract butterflies, but which types of flowers and plants each butterfly will lay its eggs on.

Food

Butterfly feeding on fruit peels

Many butterflies feed on fruit. A discarded orange or banana peel is like a banquet.

Butterflies need nutrition, and for them, it comes in the form of nectar. And while many types of flowers produce great nectar, it’s not always available to the insects.  This is because they feed through a long, narrow tube, and if the flowers harbor nectar too deep within the bloom, butterflies can’t reach it.

Canna lilies have lovely, large blooms, but you wouldn’t want to plant them for a butterfly garden. The nectar is housed so deep that the insects won’t be able to retrieve the nectar. Usually, butterfly gardens are filled with full sun plants. And these are also generally perennial flowers–examples include bee balm, lavender plants, and the butterfly bush.

You can grow lots of these perennial flowers in garden pots to attract butterflies–they aren’t just for garden beds. And for some–like Black-eyed Susan, containers are great choices to avoid invasive spreading.

There are also some annual flowers you can use in your butterfly garden pots–verbena (hummingbirds like these, too) and marigolds are two great choices.

Two Last Tips

Butterflies love bright colors, such as the flower pictured above. Try to plant lively red, yellow, pink, and orange flowers. Also, try to plant a variety of shapes, since that’s also of interest to them.  And if you have space, plant masses of bright flowers. Butterflies are more easily attracted to a multitude of blooms, rather than just one or two.(Here’s where those plain clay flower pots come in handy–when you’re planting a lot of pots, inexpensive ones are welcome.)

Here are a few culture issues you need to be aware of:

A Monarch Butterfly feeding in a butterfly garden.

A Monarch Butterfly feeding in a butterfly garden.

It’s not surprising that you should tend your butterfly garden plants as well as your other annual and perennial flowers. But there is one important distinction about caring for flowers that host or feed butterflies. Never use pesticides. (This is why many people use natural gardening techniques and organic gardening principles when cultivating butterfly gardens.)

The “no pesticides” rule is likely obvious, but it’s always good to mention it because once your milkweed plants start to look ravaged, you’ll want to reach for the insecticide. Or maybe you have aphids or whiteflies.

Just set the host plants off to one side or out of direct view, and this won’t be a temptation.  Butterflies are cold-blooded, so they need warmth to stick around. A very simple way to make sure your butterflies are comfortable is to place some large, flat stones in and around your gardening pots.

Butterflies will land on the stones to sun themselves and absorb the heat the stones have stored.  Finally, butterflies need water. It’s essential to have a shallow bowl, small birdbath, or even a saucer filled with water so they can quench their thirst.

 

Roses – Queens of the Garden

By   February 17, 2016

Roses are the queen of the garden. There may be other flowers that are more familiar or individual species that are prettier, but nothing beats the look and experience of a well-built rose garden.

It’s not by chance that “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden” was a top hit, and I have never heard of a song about a peony patch.

Pink wild rose in bloom

Blooms on a wild rose.

There are many different types of roses. They started out as wild plants like all other garden plants. They can be found growing wild in fields and meadows. Wild roses have simple flowers, almost always five petals and short blooms. Most also have big hips: no, they’re not fat. The hip is the seed pod and a type of fruit. Rose hips are often cultivated for their herbal medicinal values. Some garden catalogs feature wild roses, notably Rosa Rugosa, as hedges or large landscape plants.

Over the years, selective crossbreeding tamed some of the wild rose characteristics and led to what we now call Old Roses or Heritage Roses. These were identified in the mid-1800s as the first Rose Societies were formed. Old roses have bigger and longer lasting flowers than wild roses, but still bloom only once a year and usually in the early summer. Being close to their ancestors, they’re very hardy and require little care.

Blooms on a Red Cream hybrid tea rose.

Blooms on a Red Cream hybrid tea rose.

As plant breeders did their magic, Old Roses led to the Modern Roses. Cross breeding combined the best of different types into new plants, incorporating longer bloom time, more compact habit, more color choices, and pleasant fragrance. Modern rose development went in two different directions. One led to the floribunda varieties. Floribunda roses bloom all season in clusters of smaller, brightly colored and fragrant flowers. The other branch, Grandiflora features larger flowers on long stems.

From these bases, breeders have brought us today’s most popular rose varieties, the Hybrid Tea Rose. Hybrid teas are what you see at the florist and most of what is seen in today’s rose gardens. There are hundreds of styles with more being introduced every year. Here at Easy Lawns and Gardens, we lean more towards the casual side of rose growing, but there are many hobbyists that compete with commercial breeders for awards and honors given to the next great rose.

Forms of Roses

Red climbing roses

Red climbing rose

Each of the rose types can include different forms. Shrub size roses are, as the name implies, shrub size. They grow 4 to 6 feet high without support, sometimes taller if you let them go, and are great for landscaping. Climbing roses are the next step up in size. They don’t actually climb but have long stalks that can be anchored on a trellis or fence.

Miniature roses are opposite of the climbers. They grow a few feet tall at most and do well in pots and planters. And the fourth form is the Tree Rose. Tree Roses are created by grafting the cane of a strong shooted type of rose onto the roots of a strongly rooted one. The result is, as the name implies, a Rose that resembles a small tree.

Hummingbird Feeder for Small Guests

By   January 28, 2016

If I could have only one bird feeder, it would be a hummingbird feeder!  These little guys are sources of constant amusement.  They dart in and out, take a sip, call their mate over, go off for a while, then come back for another sip.

Hummingbird sipping from a hummingbird feeder

Hummingbird sipping from a hummingbird feeder

Place your feeder close as they are real small.  Most are in the 3 to 5-inch range from beak to tail and weigh just north of nothing.  Their name comes because they beat their little wings so fast that it makes a humming sound.  They’re also one of the few birds that can hover in place or even fly backward.

Hummingbirds are territorial and will try to chase away competitors by harassment and “dive-bombing”. It makes for interesting viewing, and they all seem to get their turns at the feeder eventually.

Hang your hummingbird feeder close for easy viewing

Hang your hummingbird feeder close for easy viewing

Their small size and fast flight requires an enormous amount of energy.  Nectar is their favorite food.  It’s almost pure sugar water and digests quickly.  Hummingbird feeders are distinctly different from other types of bird feeders as they dispense liquid.

Hummingbird food is available commercially but is very easy (and cheaper) to make at home.  Just boil some water, mix in sugar at a 1:4 ratio (1 cup sugar to 4 cups water), and let it cool.  Pour some in the feeder and refrigerate the rest.

This mix can spoil, so clean the feeder at least once a week and with each refill.  Boiling the water kills any bacteria so that it keeps better.  Don’t use honey for the mix.  The birds love it, but it isn’t as pure as crystal sugar and will spoil quickly.  Commercial food mixes often contain a preservative, so they keep longer, but the safety of the preservatives is questionable.

It’s not necessary to add any coloring to your hummingbird food.  Hummingbirds are attracted to red flowers, so most hummingbird feeders are colored red.  The nectar color doesn’t make a difference.

We leave our feeder up from spring to fall in New England.  Hummingbirds show up as the first flowers are blooming and stay around until the weather chills.  The surprising thing is that these little birds migrate hundreds or even thousands of miles for the winter.  Our Connecticut Ruby Throated friends winter in Mexico or Central America. We’ll see them sitting on the deck rail looking around if we’re late putting the feeder out.

Selecting a Hummingbird Feeder

Hummingbird feeders are fairly simple consisting of nectar reservoirs with feeding ports.  They usually have some red on them for attraction.  Some have perches; we prefer them for viewing, but the birds don’t seem to care as in nature they rarely perch on flowers when they feed. Bee guards are important, though.  The birds may not mind sharing, but we like to attract hummingbirds, not bees.

Bird Feeder Choices

By   January 18, 2016

Selecting a bird feeder is a bit more complicated than it appears.  Your choice of style and where it’s placed can make a big difference in what type of birds show up for dinner.

Some birds prefer to feed on the ground.  Mourning doves, sparrows, juncos, and towhees fit in this category.  You might see them on a hanging feeder once in a while, but their body shape and vision make ground feeding their top choice.

Cardinals, finches, and Jay’s prefer a table feeder.  That’s a stable and open platform.  They too will visit a hanging feeder once in a while but probably won’t stay long.  Woodpeckers, nuthatches, and wrens are tree feeders.  They naturally prefer to eat on the side of a tree.  Hanging feeders are best for titmice, goldfinches, and chickadees.

Choice of food can also make a big difference in what types of birds accept your dinner invitation.  Some like larger seeds, some like different kinds, and some prefer fruit or fat (suet) over seed.  We’ll write a separate post on seed types later.

Going off topic for a moment, More important than what birds like are the foods that are harmful or dangerous to birds.  Bread and crackers are at the top of this list.  They like to eat it, but there’s not enough calories and nutrition in them for their health.  Birds need a lot of energy to survive, and bread fills them up without providing enough energy in return.  Avoid anything with chocolate too as it’s toxic to them (and dogs too).  And be careful with food scraps.  Although the birds mike like them, they can also attract predators and vermin.

My personal preference is to avoid bird seed that contains cracked corn, milo, or wheat.  These are inexpensive fillers that are often added to bargain seed mixtures.  Although some birds will eat them, most will just toss it to the ground.  And cracked corn or anything ground tends to cake up when they get wet, making a mess of your feeder and eventually rotting.

Bird Feeder Styles

There are several styles of feeders available to fill these different needs:

A covered table type bird feeder.

A covered table type bird feeder.

Tray or table feeders are simply platforms to hold the seed.  Some have a roof, but the sides are open.  Many types of birds are wary of roof models; they feel safer when they can see the sky.  The downside to tray feeders is that they are open.  You might also be feeding mice, squirrels, raccoons, and others.

 

 

 

A hopper type bird feeder filled with striped sunflower seeds.

A hopper type bird feeder filled with striped sunflower seeds.

Hopper feeders hold extra seed inside and are often hung off the ground for protection.  The convenience of having extra seed in the hopper has to be balanced with the task of keeping them clean.  Seed in the hopper, especially milled or cracked grains, can rot and make a mess.  Hopper feeders are the most popular and attract a wide variety of birds including buntings, finches, jay’s, starlings, sparrows, chickadees, grosbeaks, and titmice.

    • Window feeders are small, usually plastic, feeders that attach to a window with suction cups.  They’re great for viewing but need frequent attention.

 

A tube type bird feeder with a table feeder and hopper feeder in the background.

A tube type bird feeder with a table feeder and hopper feeder in the background.

Tube feeders are metal or plastic tubes that attract tree feeding birds.  Some are screened; others have feeding ports.  It’s interesting that some birds eat facing up the tree or feeder while others eat facing down.  Tube feeders may have perches or screen webs for holding on to either above or below the feeding ports.

Some birds like thistle or Niger seed that is very fine.  There are specialized feeders designed for them.

 

Suet is fat, and necessary food for some birds who’s diet is based on bugs.  A suet feeder is often a wire or mesh cage that holds the suet up off the ground and away from vermin.  Mesh onion bags make good suet feeders.  My preference is an inexpensive wire cage that contains preformed blocks of fat.

Add a Garden Fountain Feature

By   January 8, 2016

There’s something about a garden fountain that adds appeal to a garden.  Maybe it’s the architectural design or maybe it’s the bubbling or trickling water that attracts us.  Or maybe it’s just that we need something simple to occupy our mind.

Whatever the reason, a garden fountain has become very popular as a centerpiece feature.  They’re smaller relatives of the big ones that grace parks and landmarks and are surprisingly affordable.  A handy person can build their own, but hey, this blog is named “easy gardens”, so we’re going to look at the easy way and see what is available ready made.

Garden Fountain Location

A popular garden fountain made of driftwood

Driftwood Fountain. Click for more information.

The first step is to plan your garden fountain location.  Where a park fountain is big enough to grab your attention anywhere, most garden fountains would look lost in the middle of the lawn.  Yours will be better near a patio or sitting area and surrounded by seating and plantings.  It doesn’t take much; often an existing flower bed is adequate.

Until recently, your fountain had to be near an electric source that added a bit of work.  Hard wiring or extension cords are still the preferred installations for fountains that are close to a power source; but pace solar fountains just about anywhere.  Fountains are made out of all sorts of materials.  There are lots of styles to choose from.  Choose a garden fountain that matches your attitude, decor, and location.  The only important requirements are that they are made from corrosion resistant materials and that the electrical components are safe.

Stone and porcelain are traditional materials, but synthetic stone or fiberglass can be indistinguishable from natural materials unless you look at the price tag.  A cast fountain is much less expensive than one that has been hand chiseled.  Copper and stainless steel are also popular.  Insist on UL listed pumps and wiring, CUL in Canada.

Check out this link Outdoor Fountains for ideas.  They’re the online leader and have been around for a long time.

I’ll include some others in later posts.
Garden fountain ad

Adding a Flower Bed

By   December 13, 2015

A garden isn’t a garden without a flower bed.  Let’s look at some ways to make yours an easy garden.

Red flowers in a flower bed

Red flowers in a flower bed

If it’s an existing flower bed, prepare your bed by removing any weeds or dead leftover materials from last year.  If it’s a new bed, start by removing any sod and save it somewhere else for compost.  Don’t just turn it in or you’ll be pulling grass and weeds all summer.

There are a couple of alternatives to new bed construction.  I started to type shortcut rather than alternative, but these methods aren’t always easier.  One option is to build a raised bed.  Surround your bed area with landscape timbers or bricks, and then fill it with loam.  Most grass or weeds present will die out when covered with 3 or more inches.  Or, the real easy way, cover your flower bed area with thick black plastic.  Then plant established plants through cutouts in the plastic.  Most everything under the plastic will die out in the first year and the plastic can be removed.

Next, choose your plants.  You have a choice of annuals or perennials, and plants or seed.

Annuals or Perennial Flower Bed

Annuals live only one year and will need replacement annually (hence the name!).  As compensation for their short lifespan, Mother Nature gives annuals the ability to produce lots of seed-bearing flowers.  Plant breeders have added to their traits and many annuals now flower almost continuously through the season.

Bee balm is a flower bed perennial that attracts hummingbirds , butterflies, and bees

Bee balm is a perennial that attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees

Perennials come up year after year, which sounds great, but Mother Nature is at work here too.  Most perennials bloom for only a short period, then save their energy to be able to survive the offseason.

Growing flowers from seed is usually much less expensive but adds a lot of work.  And since the title of this blog is Easy Gardens, plants are the way to go.  It’s ok to save a few bucks by buying smaller annuals.  They grow quickly, and smaller, small healthy ones are better than larger annuals that might be root bound.  Perennials are slower growing so there might be a benefit to selecting larger plants.

Dig a hole larger than your plant.  If it’s new soil, mix in some kind of soil enhancer.  Use compost if it’s available, otherwise, add a commercial supplement of soil enhancer or manure.  Yeah, I know manure sounds yuck, but it really does work.  Use peat moss if manure bothers you.

Next is the “gardens secret sauce”.  One of the biggest time consumers for flower beds is weeding. The great news is that there are now chemical weed preventers available.  Use a product like Preen every few weeks and weeds won’t sprout.  It works by preventing weed seeds from sprouting.  If you forget and thy get started, just scrape them off with a hoe while they are small.  Don’t let them grow too big or you’ll need to weed by hand.