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garden maintenance

sun exposure

Even though the three basic sun exposures are full sun, part sun and shade, the latter comes in so many variations, all with their own little quirks, that it deserves a full chapter all to itself.

Full sun exposure means eight hours or more of direct sunlight a day, without any large elements casting shade at any point. Full sun exposure is the beloved of all annuals, vegetables, roses and a good chunk of herbaceous perennials. With very few exceptions, given a chance, a plant will do better in the sunlight. No plant designated for full sun exposure will thrive in any type of shade or part shade. Don’t waste your efforts planting them there. Read more…

all about roses

Whether rose pruning is best done in the fall or spring is a matter of preference. I usually leave it for spring, for some reason I feel the plants will fare better over the winter if they keep the growth from the previous year. If you do choose to prune before winter, do so, keeping in mind that you’ll have to go back to them in spring and clean out any canes that had suffered winter damage.

For the roses which need regular pruning, which do not include most of the once blooming roses and the climbers, keep three or four canes, that are sturdy enough but steel green and not woody, and trim them down to one third of their length. Read more…

how to care for bulbs

When you plant bulbs, whether that happens in fall or spring, don’t forget to mix in a good measure of bone meal into the dirt, to help them set in and give them some food for the first year. Other than that, bulbs don’t need a lot of care.

Because they are usually sprinkled among other perennials, they benefit from the regular feedings and waterings that happen throughout the summer. Don’t cut off their unsightly yellowing leaves after their bloom is spent, they still need them to feed the roots for the following season. Read more…

fall schedule

If only a little late in the season, here are a few things for the fall gardener’s schedule. I haven’t even started most of mine yet, sadly.

Mid-fall is the best time to move, divide or plant spring and summer blooming perennials. Fall perennials can be moved and divided at this time too, if you really feel like you must, but as a rule, this is an activity best left for spring. Read more…

toad lilies

Toad lilies are the last flowers of the year, at least in the garden. They start blooming mid-October, to keep company to the already brown seed heads of the sedums, and they stay in bloom until November, braving the first frosts.

People tend to associate bulbs with spring, and ignore their potential in the garden during summer and fall. I really miss the Casablanca lilies, I don’t even know if they reached the end of their natural life cycle or succumbed to the unforgiving winter, but they all vanished one year, for no apparent reason. Read more…

almost time for bulbs

I really need to pick and plant spring bulbs, it’s been so warm so late into the fall that I almost forgot about them. They can be planted any time before winter, as long as the ground is not frozen. I have some pretty daffodils that I planted in the middle of December as proof of that.

There are a few good gardening practice rules that ensure the success of bulbs, even though they’re pretty forgiving plants and will do well anyway. Read more…

rainwater harvesting

Harvesting the rain doesn’t stop at installing rain barrels, it involves the entire garden and its principal goal is to keep the water from running off the plot onto paved areas, only to eventually end up in the storm drains.

Careful planning can create places for the rain water to slow down enough to percolate into the soil, as well as ways to move it through the landscape and places for it to settle in. Depressed spots are not desirable features, since nobody wants to end up with a lawn full of puddles, so the water catchment area needs to blend naturally into the design and be populated with rain garden plants. Read more…

easy color schemes

Unless it was designed that way, it is kind of hard to impose a color scheme on an established garden, especially if you have a spontaneous personality type that succumbs to the charms of any special-special plant seeming to speak to you and you alone at the plant nursery, and have to bring it home despite the fact that it doesn’t fit into your existing garden design.

If you do have the discipline and willpower to stick to the plan, some color themes are easier to maintain than others, because nature itself designed them that way. For instance, a white, yellow and purple theme will last indefinitely; those are the colors wild flowers come in, these hues are part of a packet of dominant traits which impart on the plants resilience and adaptability.  White, yellow and purple perennials make for the most efficient color palette, they tend to live longer, need less maintenance and be healthier than the rest.
Read more…

perennial groundcovers

I can’t figure out the precise point when a fast spreading plant becomes a ground cover. Some, like ivy, periwinkle and the beautiful blue flowering plumbago in the picture, are quite obvious, others, like lily of the valley and sweet violets, take you by surprise, starting with a shy little clump in spring and filling the garden with their prolific progeny in one season.

I guess if we define as perennial ground cover any plant that fills up all the space it occupies, we can expand the list to include daylilies, beebalms, tickseed, irises, raspberry thickets and strawberry patches. Read more…

what a mess!

You will not believe the level of chaos nature can impose on a reasonably well tended garden in three weeks. It took the plants that long to look scary and me one week to salvage the back yard from the wilderness. Five foot tall weeds, cracked nutshells, broken branches, vines grown out of control, covering pathways, grabbing onto everything in sight and smothering their defenseless neighbors. And this is the extent of my whining. Seriously, it was offensive.

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