Happy Labor Day!

There’s excitement in the air!

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It’s Labor Day weekend; traditionally a lazy weekend to close-out the summer and relax. Because after this weekend we will be getting ready to plan ahead for the fall!  Most of us know that after this weekend things will change.

But for the Southern Gardner, it is more than just a lazy weekend. There’s a little bit of excitement and expectation, because we know that there’s a new season of planting about to begin.

I caught a glimpse of this for myself yesterday as I was driving by the local greenhouses. Inside, the workers were busy preparing containers and benches for their fall crops. They were planting geraniums and other fall annuals! Planting those little tiny cuttings into carefully prepared grow-pots,  that within a few weeks will turn into the beautiful blooms of the fall.

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And as I saw the workers filling the pots with soil and gently placing each cutting into it’s the center of the pot I knew that it was time to start planning for my coming season. Gardens need to be planned, pots need to be chosen, and colors need to be selected. Yes, it’s an exciting time. Now is the time to change your ideas from last year to add something new, something interesting, something unexpected to your garden. Down here in the South, winter gardening is exciting because you know that you’re the only place that many of your friends may see with color for months; because while we are enjoying the bright colors of inpatients and geraniums and pansies, they’re looking at endless white banks of snow.

So although we may not be planting in the ground for another six weeks (that’s about how long it’ll take for those little tiny cuttings to be ready) we can be planning and getting excited about what we can introduce to our gardens this season. Are you going to just plant flowers this year? Maybe you are going to incorporate some herbs or a few vegetables to make your containers into sustainable gardens and not just a beautiful garden.

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Is this the year that you add a statue or fountain? Is there an unusual piece of artwork you have your eye on for that empty courtyard wall? Make your yard and an extension of your living area and enjoy every piece of land you have to the fullest.

After all, many of us moved south for the weather and to be outside to enjoy it!

Gardening ABC’s

The ABC’s of Gardening.

Teaching a novice to have a successful experience in gardening can be as easy as teaching a child  their ABC’s. Regardless of whether the gardening experience will be for a few houseplants, a container garden, a large courtyard garden or even your entire landscape; these three principles apply to all. And if you follow them you have a successful gardening experience. Let me explain more…

Custom-Letters-A A is Anticipation.

When you walk into your garden, look around you before you do anything. Anticipate what your garden needs are.

Do you have some wilting plants? Watering is an issue here.

Are the leaves yellow and pale? Maybe you need to consider a fertilizer application.

Do you see webbing or curling leaves? It could be a have an insect problem that needs your attention.

Looking around your garden before you start can give you an idea of what jobs lies head of you. This can also help you be prepared and have all of the essential tools that you’ll need to get your job done completely and correctly.

bB it’s for Balance.

There has to be a balance between what you want the plant to do and what the plant is physically capable of doing. You need to know what your plant’s needs are; does it need highlight, low water, or good air circulation. Placing plants in a location that doesn’t provide what they need, is the surest avenue for poor growing results.

CC is for Consistency.

It is important to be consistent on your maintenance methods when you’re dealing with plants. A good example is this; if you water to your houseplants every Saturday afternoon, then you should do it each and every Saturday afternoon. It might even be a good idea to keep log of you gardening activities, to be clear on what you have done and still need to do.

The plants will adapt to the way they are treated, but if there’s too much time between maintenance the plants get confused and they don’t know whether they should be stressed out or whether they are in a normal pattern. Consistency should also be for your fertilizing methods, your cleaning process, and your pruning techniques. Waiting until a plant is in need of something may not be the best way to be consistent in your gardening habits.

Be proactive; anticipate, balance, and be consistent for a successful gardening experience!

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Of course there are a lot more steps to a successful garden, but if you can start with these three basic steps, then you will enjoy your time with the plants and gardening all that much more.

Enjoy the Tree’s Gift

 

“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” 
by Warren Buffett

The wisest people tell you to save and invest in your future and that’s really good advice. But there’s another way to invest in your future as well. That is to plant a tree that’s going to give you shade in the years to come. That small tree planted may look small in your landscape at first, compared to what your ultimate goal is, but before long with proper care; that tree will grow into a substantial part of your landscape that will give you years of benefits.

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There’s nothing more rewarding than on a hot summer day to be able to sit under a shade tree and feel the difference of 4 or 5° and get away from the glare of the sun! Children seem to instinctively know to play in the shade. They build treehouses that serve as clubhouses, swing on swings, or just lay on a blanket to play with their toys. Some trees, like an old Weeping Willow can become anything from an old fort to an enchanted kingdom. All it takes is a imaginative child, and there will be hours of entertainment on a summer’s day.

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As an adult, I love to layout the blankets and read under an old shade tree.  And without a doubt, there’s something romantic and old fashioned about having a picnic under shade tree. Can you picture it?: a checkered blanket, wicker basket overflowing with food and an open bottle of wine.

But the properly chosen shade tree can also be an investment for you and can improve the property value. Placed in the right location, pruned and fertilized to encourage optimum growth; your investment is sure to pay off. With the maturity, the shade from that tree can even help lower your air conditioning bills.

There’s one other benefit that I personally enjoy is the fact that the tree becomes a home for many birds and animals that need it’s protection from the elements. There’s nothing more enjoyable than sitting out in your backyard under the shade tree listening to the birds chirp and feeling at peace.

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So, when the sun feels too overwhelming, grab that book, a chair and a tall ice tea.  Make your way across the lawn, and settle yourself under the protective, shady canopy your tree provides, just for you.

Rain; Good or Bad?

  

Rain is a good thing? Is it a bad thing?

There’s a country song out there that says Rain is a good thing; rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey. That’s one way to look at it, but from the landscaping point of view rain also be a bad thing if there’s too much of it and all at once.

Too much rain can play havoc not only with your plant’s growth but in your planting schedule (there’s nothing worse than sitting in a car with the rain beating down on the roof, waiting to get out there and get some work done). A day wasted is a day of no growth.

More seriously than just lost time and money is that too much rain can damage your crops, your landscaping and your favorite potted plants. Too much rain can be damaging to the plants foliage, rot roots and cause stagnant soil that will need to be replaced. Of course you can’t do anything to stop the rain, but there are preventative measures that you can take to help your plants along; at least your potted plants.

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First and foremost make sure your plants are not sitting in standing water. Remove saucers from underneath plants, turn them upside down they don’t hold water. Turnover empty pots that do not have the drain holes so that they don’t hold water. If you’re not using your garbage cans or containers, turn them upside down until you need them. This will not only help keep the smell of stagnant water away from your living area, but it will also help deter production of mosquitoes.

Even though there are some items in the landscaping items that need to hold water (examples are birdbath the small fountains) the last thing that you want is to have them holding stagnant water. So periodically empty the old water and put in fresh.

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But don’t be discouraged by the weather, and don’t let all that rainwater go to waste. Collections of rain in a proper rain barrel attach it to your gutters gives you access to bring water for times of drought. This rain water will be collected in a safe place that is sealed and closed and so the mosquitoes can get in there and breed. Then, when you need the water, you have a safe supply to water your plants with.

Don’t let the rain get you down take the opportunity for rainy days to do something extra special that you normally wouldn’t do. Go visit a museum, go shopping with a friend, maybe catch that movie that you wanted to see. Or, if you’re a really serious gardener, now is the perfect time to sit down the dining table with a piece of paper and layout your plans for your next garden. The next season is never far off, and soon you’ll be itching to get your hands in that dirt and start planting again.

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And don’t be discourage if you have to replace some plants that didn’t care for the extra moisture. Who knows, you might find something you like even better the second time around. Be creative be willing to explore and most of all be willing to follow God’s lead and enjoy all the nature that surrounds, you regardless of the weather conditions.

So, Rain IS a good thing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Four Elemants-Are they in your Garden?

The four elements – you hear about them often;

Earth, Wind, Water and Fire.

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Those four elements you’ll find in the garden as well. Earth, of course, is your garden’s anchor. Whether it be in a container, in the ground or in a hanging basket; the earth element supports your plants. The second element is water. Of course water comes from the rain and gives life to your plants. It’s often an added element in the forms of the bird bath, a fountain or small pond.

Then there is something that you really can’t add and have to rely on nature to provide; wind. You can enjoy the benefits of cooling breeze, the sounds of your wind chimes as the wind pushes through them, or the results of pollination from the wind pushing pollen out of one flower to the next.

The fourth element is fire and it is little bit harder to add. It’s making a big splash on today’s landscape garden, and there are many forms that you can bring it into your garden. Artificially, you can add fire by adding lighting landscape, or hanging lanterns or using Tiki-Torches. But now the biggest trend is fire pits.

Fire Pits seems to bring with them a feeling of closeness and community. They become a gathering spot for friends and family to share, and catch up on the day’s activities with each other. They can be a place of laughter and good times or maybe a solitude spot for a bit of romance.

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You can go to the web and find all kinds of sources for fire pits; do-it-yourself or premade- your imagination is all that holds you back from creating a special location in your landscape than everyone will want to enjoy. Not all fire pits are equal. Some actually use traditional wood that you burn, or some of the new trends that I really like are propane gas pits. You have no mess and all you have to do is turn the switch on and off. Some bit think it’s a bit lazy, not quite the traditional approach, but it works.

And a new item that I’ve recently seen is Fire Glass. This is added to your container and produces no smoke, order or ash. It comes in a range of colors and sizes, which makes it pretty even when not lit.

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So your garden is an extension of your world; a small little microclimate, a place where you can use the four elements of Earth, Wind, Water and Fire to create a beautiful atmosphere just for you.

Do you have all these elements in your garden?

The Gift of Rain

The Gift of Rain.

The gift of rain can do so many things for us; water the crops so that we can eat, fill the lakes and ponds so that we can drink. The rain does so much more than that and it truly is a gift.

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Have you ever noticed how some  much-needed rain can change your whole attitude? It can wash off the dust, clear the cobwebs to refresh and renew you. Not only can the rain renew you, the rain can change your whole outlook. On a gloomy, dismal day the sun breaks out in amongst the rain and it can create a rainbow. But, remember, that rainbow wouldn’t be possible without the rain. The gentle rainfall can be relaxing and peaceful versus the thunder and lightning and pounding rain of a good storm can be frightening. Yet, without that change of rain types we would never be able to experience all that rain has to offer.

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Rain has many benefits, as you well know. It opens up the flowers, which produces seeds, which produces food. The results of a good rain will green-up your lawn and open the leaves on the trees giving this world the oxygen that it needs. And that oxygen wouldn’t be there without the green plants and the green plants wouldn’t be able to survive without the rain; are you seeing the circle we live within? Sometimes that gift of rain comes in abundance and it’s almost too much for us to handle. Other times we find ourselves praying for rain to save our farms and livestock. Whatever amounts of rain that we get we should always be grateful, because it means that our world, our precious earth, is producing and growing and surviving.

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So the next time you find yourself caught in a rain storm, will you moan and groan about the inconvenience –

Or, will you be grateful for the gift of rain?

Changing of the Guard

The changing of the guard.

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Down here in the south, we have more than one flower season, which means we rotate our flowers from winter annuals to summer annuals.

Worn-out flowers that are just past the stage of perfection are now being replaced with summer flowers of a tougher nature. These are flowers and plants that will tolerate intense southern sun during the daytime hours. These flowers must be heartier and very tough varieties because we have such extremes down here: we can have intense thunderstorms every afternoon at 3 o’clock or we can go for a week with no rain and high 90s. So these plants have to be durable and yet still beautiful so we can enjoy them.

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But as we’re getting ready to put in the new summer annuals, does anybody really look at their old winter annuals does anybody say thank you for the months of beauty and enjoyment they gave us? Probably not. Most of us just get in there and remove the old plants, turn over the soil, add a little bit of fertilizer and get ready to plant the next batch.

Yet, those flowers we’re ripping out to throw in the garbage did give us many hours of beautiful calming enjoyment. It almost feels like we should be paying a homage to those spent flowers, just being trashed. We make no attempts to save them, really it’s not economical, but I think we should at least take pictures of that we can look back and say “wow that was really something”.

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So as you change the guard with your flowers going from one season to the next take a moment and be thankful for the beauty and enjoyment that you had with last season’s batch of annuals.