July 8, 2011

Views of the Gardens

Summertime means looking at gardens. Here are some pictures of gardens in my yard and my clients' yards to give you a feel for what's possible with no chemicals, little water, and the right plant choices. All are nature friendly and regionally appropriate! 

Are you inspired yet? You too can do a bit of garden design in your yard! Let me help you plan and plant for a yard you'll love.

April 28, 2011

Great Garden Design Starts with Site Analysis

Taking the time to determine what your site provides will result
 in better growth, less maintenance and a beautiful result!

Let's face it, everyone wants a garden that is low maintenance, waterwise, eco-friendly, and beautiful. It often takes many hours of research and observation to come up with the perfectly planned garden. Usually it's tempting and easier to just go to one of the local nurseries or big box stores, fill your cart with pretty looking flowers, and plant them in the ground. But this will normally end up costing you more money and frustration in the long run. Want to have a great garden?  Then take a little time to learn about where you live and what lives beneath your feet.

Choosing the right plants for any place in your yard may seem overwhelming at times. There are so many colors, textures, shapes and sizes. Not to mention moisture, light, weather and planting zone requirements.  And planting for nature, pollinators and wildlife should not only be considered but be foremost in your design. 

Planning for your gardens, whether it is updating an existing garden, or starting a whole new one, is one of the three most important factors in having a great result. In a previous post, Start Thinking about Compost, I covered the importance of feeding the soil by using compost. Now we can concentrate on how to determine what to plant where, and why knowing your yard is so important. Since everybody's site situation is unique, there really is no "best" set of plants to depend on. However, there are many plants that do extremely well in our environment. The trick is to map out your yard, including sunny areas, shady areas, areas that are either very wet or very dry, foot paths, dog runs, kids' play areas, and other specifics for your site. This step is called a site analysis. Once that's completed then it's time for some searching and reading about plants.

Before you can tell what plants to put in your gardens,
you need to know what your soil, light 
and moisture conditions are.

Finding good information on plant choices can be difficult because there's so much out there, and it's hard to tell which of it is reliable. You can use the Internet, library, Extension Services, Master Gardeners, and gardening businesses. If you are interested in learning about designing a great garden I will be most happy to teach you! You can schedule "Garden Coaching" by the hour, so send me an email and tell me what you would like to learn. Or, if you'd rather have me design your gardens and landscapes for you, please see the Services page for more information. 

Spending the time and money up front to get a well working design saves you time, money and frustration in the future, and gives you a beautiful, sustainable and unique place to enjoy. And isn't that what you want for your yard?

March 29, 2011

Cold Frames are Easy!

Have you ever seen cold frames, hoop houses or other season extenders in catalogs, magazines or on the television? They're much easier to make than you might think. Cold frames give you additional ways to start seeds early, overwinter veggies, save some herbs for you or your dinner, or grow some nice native plants to put out in your gardens. Here in the Pikes Peak region we have a very short growing season, mine is approximately 90 days from last frost to first frost, so any help in extending it is most welcome!

This is the space the cold frame sets into - about 5 feet wide
and 6 feet deep. The flagstone was set in previously, 
with gravel for drainage.  The half-height walls provide extra
insulation and wind protection.

Here's a simple slide show to give you an example of how to build a walk-in cold frame in the window well of your house. We built this 1 1/2 years ago to overwinter plants, and take off the plastic during the summer. You can build it to your exact specifications, and the parts can be purchased at any hardware store. It cost less than $30.00 to build, not including the shelving. Enjoy!

Having trouble viewing the slideshow?  Here's a direct link.

After having the walk-in cold frame up for a year, there's a few things I would change:

  • The plastic sheeting needs to be cut into 3 pieces to make it easier to open/close. A front, back and side piece would also allow better venting.
  • I would add extra supports along the top between each hoop because of the very strong winds we have here.
  • I'd remember to take off the window screen during the winter to be able to reach into the plants from inside the basement!
  • The low shelves I added last year (not shown) were made of repurposed boards that were not waterproof and so warped and expanded too much when wet. My new low shelves will have drainage to prevent that!

We also have hoop houses over the raised garden beds in the backyard, which can be taken down over the winter.  I'll post pictures of them soon, as they're very useful for season extenders, keeping critters out and are so easy to make!

If you'd like to find out more about building one of these in your yard and would like some hands-on help, contact me and we can setup a time to get started!

March 2, 2011

March Gardening in the Pikes Peak Area

5 Easy Tasks to help your Garden Flourish
Here at our high altitudes, it might seem that it takes forever for spring to arrive and plants to start growing again. We've had an abnormally dry winter along the Front Range, and in my gardens the soil could really use some of those late winter blizzards we often times receive. If the ground is warming up around your gardens, remember to do a check at least once a week to see if you need to do some watering. Mid-March is also a good time to check your trees and shrubs for any that may need pruning. This is best done while the plants are dormant. There are some plants that you should not prune in spring, such as lilacs, which bloom on last years growth.

1. If you are planting a vegetable garden this year, the end of March is a good time to start your tomato and pepper seeds indoors. In our area, the last frost date is usually about June 1st, not the May 15th that is quoted for Denver or Colorado Springs. For more exact date information, please check with your local county Extension Office or consult the lists of Average Frost Dates and Length of Growing Season. Remember that seedlings need a lot of light to grow well.  A simple shelf and light set-up lets you start many types of plants and can be re-used for several seasons.

2.  Clean up your tools and buckets. Use a bleach solution on your tools to get rid of any problems that might be hanging around from last year. Remember to dry them well and oil them before storing.

3. Walk around to see what is sprouting in your gardens. March usually means the crocus are up, some of the low growing ground covers are turning green, and perennials are starting to put out some new growth. It is still too early here to remove most of your protective mulches and/or last years leaves. Ornamental grasses may be showing signs of new green shoots. If they are, you can give them a hair cut by simply taking the plant, wrapping a string or cord around it about 6 inches from the bottom, and cutting off the top. Throw the old grass blades into the compost bin if you have one.

4. As noted above, you should prune your dormant woody shrubs and trees at this time. However, leave your rose bushes alone. If you prune them now, they will try to put out new growth, which will freeze out later in the spring. Also, leave the Russian Sage, Butterfly Bush, Spireas, and other sub-shrubs alone until sometime in Mid-April, when you should see new growth starting up at the bottom.

5. March is usually our snowiest month, with heavy wet snow and sometimes blizzard conditions. This beneficial moisture is great for the plant roots. If you are shoveling, put some of that snow onto the gardens instead of piling it along the driveway. This way, the water can soak into where it's most useful, and you will not have to start watering as soon. Taking the time to do this simple task translates into great savings on your water bill.

Remember, gardening is supposed to be fun, relaxing and enjoyable. It allows you to be out in nature, observing all the interactions between plants and wildlife of all sorts. Take it from me, you can always learn something new in your gardens!

February 18, 2011

Start Thinking about Compost

My front yard is full of beautiful gardens that make 
use of compost. Although they look like they belong 
in a moisture rich environment,
they get very little supplemental water.  

Here in the Pikes Peak area, as well as many other places in Colorado, our soils are far from perfect. They are typically alkaline, sometimes sandy or rocky, and do not have much in the form of organic matter. Compost is the best thing that you can put into your gardens to help your plants grow. Feeding the soil results in healthier plants, fewer pests, and lower water requirements. Compost provides beneficial organisms, increases spaces in the soil for air and water, and contains trace minerals that you cannot get from artificial fertilizers.

This soil definitely needs some compost to 
make it a better growing place for plants.

You can get your compost in various ways. Start a compost pile in your backyard with grass clippings, leaves, pine needles, kitchen scraps, and garden waste. Or, if you want to have an indoor composting bin, look into vermi-composting. This is composting with worms. There are many great articles on the web about this. Well aged (6 months or more) dairy cow, rabbit, poultry, and alpaca manure can be used as compost if you are fortunate enough to have a friend or neighbor who wants to get rid of some. Alpaca compost is supposed to be the best. Horse and cattle manure many time has too many weed seeds in it, so if you use it make sure it has been "hot composted" or "aged". If you would rather have finished compost that you just add to the gardens, go to your local nursery or rock yard, and buy it by the bag or by the yard.

The soil in this newly constructed garden is a combination of 
top soil, compost and aged cow manure.  You can see by the rich 
color that it will provide nutrients, moisture holding capabilities, 
and also good tilth for the plants.

Since compost is not regulated by the State of Colorado, make sure to do some checking before you purchase. Finally, if you are adding compost to a vegetable garden, make sure it is not made from the biosludge that is composted from the sewage utilities. While biosludge might be a great fertilizer, it does not belong on your veggies.

February 4, 2011

Valentine's Day Garden Coaching Package!

Not all Valentine's Day flowers have to come from a florist.  While bouquets of roses are beautiful, they are fleeting in their beauty.  Your yard and gardens can be someplace beautiful for many seasons to come.  So why not take advantage of this Special Garden Coaching Package for you and your Gardens?

Valentine's Day Garden Coaching Package!

Looking for a gift for your Valentine or yourself? 
 I'm offering 3 hours of Garden Coaching for only $100! 
That's a savings of $80 dollars over the normal hourly rate.
Buy your Garden Coaching Package now and use it by September 2011.
Offer Good From February 2nd - February 14th, 2011.
You will get a Gift Certificate (email or snail mail) to give to you or your sweetie!

For Local Clients (less than 30 miles away), this includes travel time, all other visits require travel charge.  
Must use in 1 hour minimum blocks.

 I also offer "virtual Coaching" over the phone and online consultations.
Call (719) 481-5659 or email me for Payment, Details and to setup a Schedule. 
I can't wait to work with you in your gardens!

For more information on what Garden Coaching is and how it helps you be a better gardener, check the Garden Coaching page.  

February 1, 2011

Our Website has Changed!

Now that we are in a new year, it is time to have a nicer looking website for you to read and enjoy. And, I really wanted a way to easily update you with timely information and photos of beautiful nature filled gardens. So, I decided to move everything to a new platform to better serve you! I would really appreciate any and all feedback you might want to contribute. As always, I really believe that we all learn from each other, so if there's something you're curious about, speak up and start a conversation! And one last thing, Thank You so much for all of your support and business. I love working with all of you to create beautiful gardens!

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