Raised Bed Gardening: Willow Branches
Say cool. I've never seen anything like this before: raised planting beds made out of willow branches. And the prices are not as expensive as using cedar. Be sure to use good soil!
The mastergardenproducts.com site is interesting. They have bamboo too. Readers' caveat: the site loads very slowly.
Willow Raised Beds
Say soil. That's where it all begins. You can dig and plant, water and fertilize, hope and pray all you want, but if you don't start with good soil, you're always playing catch-up. Do yourself a favor. For indoor gardening and outdoor container gardening, use the "potting soil" you can buy from your supermarket or garden center. It's not exactly soil, but that's what they call it. Most any brand you find will do. Scotts Hyponex is an organic variety from the fertilizer people. Available online from Shop.com for $2.99 per 40# bag. (plus shipping of course)
For outdoor "earth gardening", dig generous quantities of compost, treated manure, or other soil amendment into your garden plot. You can find everything you need in big bags and bigger bags and really big bags from the garden centers in Home Depot, Wal-Mart or Lowe's as well as your local nursery. Buy it. Dig it in. Water it well. Sure it's a pain...a little boring...and messy, but you are laying a foundation as important, relative to your garden, as the one your house is built on. Now you're ready for fun.
Spring has come and all through the land trowels are trembling in eagerness. Whether you want to create a dish garden for your apartment or a vast vegetable and flower garden on your ten acre estate, this is the place for garden news, the latest garden products, idea, tips and hints and total immersion in the joy of gardening. Let's get going...
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Sink Top Compost Crock
Gardens love compost. We've covered some great outdoor composters like the multi-purpose wine barrel a few days ago, but this is a nice one for your kitchen sink. Love that beautiful blue, like the sky on a summer day when you're out digging the compost into your favorite bed of flowers. At the very least you'll feel so righteous!
Pretty Crock Composter
Update on Sprout Garden
Remember the sprouting device I bought for a Christmas gift? Well, it has turned out to be really great. We get lots of organic sprouts with very little work, and I'm very pleased with the product. This is one I can enthusiastically recommend based on my own use. (The Sprout Garden)
No, they don't advertise on this site. This is free love.
Composting Flower Wine Barrel
Nice! A container garden grown in a converted wine barrel (Bordeaux, solid oak) that functions as a first class composter. This is from a company called SunFrost (interesting name) that specializes in energy efficient refrigerators and freezers. They also carry several heliodons, in case you've been looking for a source. (If we don't know what a heliodon is, then undoubtedly we don't need one, do we?) Their product is aptly called a "Scrap Eater," and the website has a nice overview of composting with kitchen scraps and a great diagram of the way this one works. No price on the website, but you can call them or wait for me to do it and tell you what I've found. :-)
The Scrap Eating Composter
Gardeners are such smart people! Did you know that more and more urban gardeners are raising chickens in their backyards, not as pets necessarily, but as garden helpers? No kidding. Many communities across the land allow city folk to keep a few chickens, and people are using them for insect control (they eat bugs and dig up worms) and to fertilize lawns and gardens. Take Seattle. You can have one bird for every 1000 square feet, which means three chickens on the typical 50X100 foot city lot. The worries about sanitation, avian flu and undesirable odors disappear when you have such a small number of fowl together. And guess what, you get eggs too!
I could write pages about all the fun things people are doing, but one of my favorites is the "chicken tractor," a bottomless pen that encloses and protects the chickens and can be moved from area to area so the chickens can do their work and leave their droppings behind–chicken manure, the easy way. We can do this, friends. There are whole websites devoted to this hobby like backyardchickens.com and thecitychicken.com (see links below). The City Chicken site has a gallery of chicken tractor photos. Handy gardeners can build their own hen houses and tractors.
I first read about this in the May/June issue of "Natural Home and Garden," unfortunately not on the web, which tells about the city of Diest in Flanders, Belgium, that gave three chickens each to 2,000 homeowners, not for eggs, not for manure, not for pets, but for...garbage collection! According to the article, chickens are omnivores and can consume something like nine pounds of garbage in a month, so Diest is trying chickens to solve the expensive problem of what to do with biodegradable trash. If they eat leftovers, that tells me that feeding them isn't going to cost any money.
Chickens can make really good pets if you pick the right variety and, no, you don't have to have a rooster, unless you and all your neighbors thrill to the sound of crowing at 4:30 am every day. To have fertile eggs you need the male, but hens lay unfertile eggs all by themselves. If you have small children, you could start by hatching some chicks in the kitchen, and they could have the fun of seeing them grow up. Then you'll have some to share as you spread the word about backyard chickens.
The City Chicken
Chickens in Seattle
A Chicken Tractor
Annuals: Bright Pink Petunias
Does this photo stir your gardening passions? Me, too. This supertunia petunia is one of the "Proven Winners" series and new this spring. It has bright pink flowers, is self-cleaning, grows up to 24" tall and spreads 2-3 feet. Look here to see all the awards it has won: Vista Bubblegum Great plant, but WHERE do they get those ridiculous names? On the site I linked to you can also learn about the Proven Winners program. Most nurseries carry these plants. If not, ask for them!
Look here for a concise primer on how to plant annuals.
April Gardening Tips
See this brief overview of ideas and tasks for the April gardener in most every region in the U.S. and tips for the southern hemisphere gardener as well.
April's Regional Guide
What Next? Soil Prep
We've got our hammock and fountain ready for resting when the work just gets to be too much, and the structure of the garden has been analyzed, a new path put in, and unsightly features covered up. Now's the time for the single most important work in gardening. Yes, I meant what I said. The MOST important. That's soil prep. Do it. There is nothing that will help your plants more than amending the soil before planting. Here's a simple one page overview that hits the highlights. Preparing Garden Soil
For more information on your particular area, contact your state college extension or visit your local nursery.
Garden Paths, Magical Walkways
Plan the path before planting the garden. Now is the time to address the structure of your outdoor space, whether a small scrap of nature or a large and lavish acre of green. We all love a path curving into another space hidden by shrubs and trees. It's not only inviting, but a garden path is also a way to create interest in an otherwise boring area. Sunset has a nice slide show of garden paths to excite your imagination. Follow the link.
Great Garden Paths
Mock Boulders for the Garden
Now is this not a really cool idea? Haven't seen these up close but the concept is great. These hollow "mock rocks" come in several sizes and colors mimicking various types of stone. They are made from a plastic composite and are shipped with ground stakes. Cover that unsightly feature in your backyard that you can't get rid of, and then maybe plant a vine nearby to grow over it and make it look natural. Could be the perfect solution.
I don't know about you, but in my experience, nothing is more relaxing than lying in a three-point hammock as you listen to water flowing over natural slate and dream about how beautiful your garden will be. This 30"x12"x9" fountain will fit nicely beside the hammock we covered in the last post, and can be brought indoors too, in case your garden is on your windowsill.
Let's start now. Gardening is hard work, and summer is not that far away. So why not invest in a good, solid three-point hammock right now? It also, by the way, fits in tight spaces in case your garden is on your porch. Catch a few winks in between planting flats of annuals, pruning the roses and setting out the veggie seedlings. First things first.
Ultra-Stable Wishbone Hammock
The vernal equinox has passed, spring is officially abroad in the land, and Leafy Life is here to provide you an abundance of exciting garden news. Those of us in the mountains of Zone 4 are watching our tulips grow by the hour and waiting eagerly for the first blossoms, and I have a flat of oh so fragrant sweet violets, stock, and snap dragons to plant on this lovely Easter day.
Stay tuned for lots of good garden tips, ideas, news, and the latest products to thrill and amaze you. Happy Easter!
In parts of the world where the deciduous trees lose their leaves in winter, conifers stand out this time of year. They can form the backbone of a garden or landscape, require little care, and give so much beauty in return. This is a good time to study the ones in your region to appreciate their shape and size without their leafy cousins obscuring the view. Maybe you'll want to add some come spring to anchor a corner of the garden or create a backdrop as in this photograph. Follow the link to see Sunset Magazine's recent list of their favorites.
Hedger/Trimmer Tool from Yardshark
Yardshark tools are made from high-carbon Japanese steel, double-tempered using a pressed steel technology that creates a super-sharp blade that stays sharp longer. The oval handles are aluminum and have a soft elastomer grip for comfort. (Frankly, I don't know what that is but it sounds nice.) This particular tool has a flip-lock mechanism that allows it to extend from 31 to 46 inches so it can be used for hedge trimming, pruning high tree branches up to 3/8", and for trimming the inside of thorny bushes and other tasks. Along with a hand pruner and tree saw, it would make a versatile set of handy tools.
Books, Books, Books
New from respected U of Georgia horticulturist Allan Armitage is this one on native plants for North American gardens. Published by Timber Press, it would be a nice companion for his earlier volumes on annual and perennials. As a deeply committed native plants gardener, I'm delighted to feature this beautiful new book.
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