Making A Peaceful Place In Your Garden

You should arrange at least some part of your limited “man-made landscape” to provide an area where you can rest and think, a peaceful observation point. I prefer a natural “planted” space instead of the old-fashioned gazebo garden-house structure. Though we all want some gay flowers and brilliant sunshine, we also need the seclusion of a quiet area, a cool reflective private spot. Here you will almost taste the freshness of the air you breathe. You can listen to the mourning doves, and the phoebe—the wind rustling the maple leaves. Smell the warm dry scent of summer, the fragrance of the lilac drifting on the breeze.

courtyard800x600Our own private retreat is a cool shady spot—a hillside above the brook. A hillside and a brook are, of course, not essential. They just happened to be there for us.

Bulldozed level, this terrace hideaway is twenty feet long and fourteen wide. Two spreading maples provide shade. We made a small retaining wall about two stones high (three in some places) to hold back the bank on one side, and hold the land up on the other side. A rope hammock is attached at one end to a cedar post, set for the purpose, and at the other end to one of the maples.

Bird and Worm`s Eye View

When you are in the hammock you are sometimes beneath the world and sometimes above it—depending on which side of the hammock you look from. Out one side you look up at the curve of the meadow. The land lies above, and you beneath. Out the other side you are in the greenery of tree tops looking down through leaves to the brook with a totally different perspective. This is, to our way of thinking, a pretty neat trick and it makes the hammock an ever-fascinating place to be.

The terrace-retreat itself is shady, but beyond the limbs of the maples the sun shines. Japanese iris grows in the sun fringing the area where we sit; so does Jacob’s ladder, blooming from May on into July, the violet flowers touched with white, and each stalk of delightful foliage a small green ladder.

On the other side of the terrace a stretch of Dutchman’s breeches spills down a steep rocky bank to the brook edge. The blossoms greet us in late April when the first days of the hammock begin. A pink and a white dogwood add to the shade and beauty. Lilies-of-the-valley (especially for fragrance) cluster beneath; foam flower parades in soft white along the bank; gold thread peeks from the leaves; jack-in-the-pulpit rises in dignity in the lea of the wall; white trillium, bloodroot, and red and yellow wild columbine bloom in succession; blue forget-me-nots and cardinal flowers thrive at the brook’s edge; Virginia bluebells nod their bell-like flowers flanking the terrace up and down the hillside, and maidenhair, cinnamon, and royal ferns grace the area.

Though no pines stand in the vicinity, pine needles cover the terrace floor, for we have access to a fine source of them. Each spring we spread a carpet of fresh and fragrant needles gathered in two old bedspreads dumped in the back of the car and carted home. They contribute a pungent scent, a rich brownness, and a pleasant four-inch-deep rug, soft and resilient to walk upon.

A Place To Call Your Own

Haven’t you some small area of similar possibility, a remote corner with no sun, an area of trees, a thicket perhaps, even a shady spot where growing things has been difficult? If so, with some pruning, replanning, and possibly additional planting you can create an ideal retreat complete with hammock, simple comfortable outdoor furniture, and possibly a few old stumps of special character. The area can be large or small—really tiny —and still achieve its purpose, still become an inviting spot to while away an hour or a day, a place dedicated not to doing, but to the simple art of being.

Our shady retreat has given us the opportunity to grow some of the loveliest of plants, ferns, some evergreens, certain shrubs, and many flowers. Most shade-loving plants need no special care after they are established.

Mountain laurel is a grand broad-leaved evergreen for the secluded shady area. It wants sandy, peaty soil, always acid (no lime). Rhododendron is another fine flowering evergreen. When you look out the window in winter, rhododendron tells you the temperature.   When you see the leaves curled like cigars, it is very, very cold and you had better put on that extra sweater.

Moist & Acid

Azaleas in shades of crimson, pink, flame, white and yellow are especially successful in a woodland setting. Some are fragrant. The plants grow from two to ten feet tall. Acid soil and oak leaf mulch are beneficial. The white fragrant blooms of the swamp azalea open in July, later than the others. It does not need its feet in a swamp to thrive, but do give it shade and rich leaf mold soil.

Other favorite plants for shade are crested iris, countless varieties of native wild violets, and myrtle or periwinkle (Vinca minor). Bleeding heart (the tall variety) and begonias (especially tuberous) add loveliness. Blue phlox is lavender-colored with a meadow scent. Spiderwort has white and blue flowers and spidery gray-green leaves. Each bloom lasts only for a day, but many flowers continually come. Japanese anemone bears sturdy rose-colored blossoms. Mist-flower unfolds furry blue-violet blossoms in autumn, and spreads marvellously.

This shady area provides a splendid summering place for many of the houseplants which will also add a decorative note. Tuberous begonias in tubs will be lovely, and if by chance you are orchid raisers, as we are, here is the dream spot for the orchids to summer. They like morning or afternoon sun, so we hang ours (using cut up re-shaped old wire coat hangers) in the trees at the edges of the area, and set some on the retaining walls where they get sun until about eleven in the morning and again after four in the afternoon.

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What Veggies and When…

Crop rotation means never growing the same thing nor its relatives in the same place two seasons in a row, as this can lead to pest and disease build up in the soil. By rotating crops, the pest or disease is deprived of its favourite host and serious infestations are avoided. As well different vegies have different nutrient requirements. Where possible green manure is sown after harvesting the tender vegies (autumn) and dug in winter to replenish nutrients and condition the soil. Sheep manure and compost are added when required.

Vegetable Planting
  December Australia  = June USA

Bed 1  The Root bed  Growing on Carrot ‘Manchester Table’, ‘Majestic Red’ ‘Koroda’ and ‘Berlicum’, Parsnip ‘Yatesnip’, Swede ‘Champion Purple Top‘, Beetroot ‘Golden’ and ‘Bulls Blood’, Turnip ‘Early Purple’ and ‘Hakurei’

Bed 2  The Legume Bed   Growing on Climbing Peas ‘Yakumo’ and ‘Roi de Carouby’ and Bush Peas ‘Sugar Snap’ and ‘Kelvedon’. Cabbage ‘Green Gold’ and Kale ‘Red Russian’

Bed 3   The Onion Bed   Growing Garlic, Potato Onions and Shallots, Onion ‘Red Odourless’, ‘Cream Gold’ and ‘Brown’ and Leek ‘Blue’ and ‘Musselborough’

Bed 4  The Tomato Capsicum Bed   Growing on Tomato ‘Tigeralla’, ‘1st Prize’, ‘Patio Prize’, ‘Tommy Toe’, ‘Money Maker’, ‘Red Fig’, and ‘Black Russian’. Soon to plant capsicums and eggplants.

Bed 5   The Sweetcorn Bed  Growing on Sweetcorn ‘Honeysweet’, Pumpkin ‘Sugar Pie’, ‘Green Hubbard’, ‘Table King Acorn’ and ‘Waltham Butternut’. Zuccini ‘Rondo De Nice’

Bed 6   The Potato Bed   This year we are growing 3 varieties – Kennebec, Pink Eye and Nicola.
Kennebec are slow to shoot and are just appearing above the soil surface.

March  Australia =  September  USA

Bed 1 Root Bed Growing on Carrot ‘Kuroda’ ‘Manchester Table’ ‘Majestic Red’ ‘Berlicum’, Beetroot ‘Golden’ and ‘Bulls Blood’, Turnip ‘Hakurei’ ‘Early Purple’ and Parsnip ‘Yatesnip’

Bed 2 Legume Bed Growing on Bean ‘Purple Queen’ ‘Redlands’ ‘Zebra’ ‘Blue Lake’. Preparing bed for sowing spinach.

Bed 3 Onion Bed Growing on Leek ‘Giant Musselborough’ Just sown Radish and Spring onions

Bed 4 Tomato / Capsicum Bed Growing on Tomato ‘Money Maker’ ‘Red Fig’ ‘Black Russian’ ‘1st Prize’ ‘Tigerella’ ‘Tommy Toe’, Chilli ‘Super F1’, Capsicum ‘Lipstick’, Eggplant ‘Ping Tung’ and ‘Florida’
Bed 5 Sweetcorn / Pumpkin Bed Getting ready to harvest pumpkins and remove finished sweetcorn. Then sow green manure.

Bed 6 Potato Bed Growing crop of lettuces before sowing green manure crop

June Australia  = December USA

Bed 1  Root Bed  Growing on Carrot ‘Kuroda’ ‘Manchester Table’ ‘Majestic Red’ ‘Berlicum’, Beetroot ‘Golden’ and ‘Bulls Blood’, Turnip ‘Hakurei’ ‘Early Purple’ and Parsnip ‘Yatesnip’

Bed 2  Legume Bed  Growing on Mizuna, Celery ‘Tendercrisp’, Spinach ‘American Curled’ and ‘English Giant’ Kohl Rabi ‘White and Purple Vienna’ and Broccoli ‘Green Dragon’

Bed 3  Onion Bed  Growing on Leek ‘Giant Musselborough’ Broad Beans ‘Aquadulce’ Spring Onions ‘Straightleaf’ and ‘Winter King’ and Asian Flat Chives

Bed 4  Tomato / Capisum Bed  Just planted Garlic, Potato onion, Spring onions, and onions

Bed 5  Sweetcorn / Pumpkin Bed  Green manure dug in and getting ready to plant out lettuce seedlings

Bed 6  Potato Bed  Getting ready to dig in crop of green manure consisting of Wheat, Oats, Sunflower, Mustard and Beans

September Australia   March USA

Bed 1 Root Bed  Green manure has now been dug in and we are preparing to sow seed of carrots, parsnips etc.
Bed 2 Legume bed   Growing Broad Bean ‘Early long Pod’. Just sown climbing peas ‘Yakumo’ and ‘Roi de Carouby’ and bush peas ‘Sugar Snap’ and ‘Kelvedon’
Bed 3 Onion Bed  Growing garlic, Potato onions and shallots, just planted onion seedlings of ‘Red Odourless’, ‘Cream Gold’ and ‘Brown’
Bed 4 Tomato / Capsicum Bed   Green manure has been dug in and now is breaking down in readiness for planting of tomatoes and capsicums
Bed 5 Brassica & Leafy Green Bed   Growing Broccoli ‘Green Dragon’ Rainbow Chard, Spinach ‘English’ and ‘Medania’
Bed 6 Potato Bed   This year we are growing 3 varieties – Kennebec, Pink Eye and Nicola

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Organic Gardening

Few pursuits are as rewarding as growing your own organic garden. Not only do you get to enjoy the fruits of your own labor, but you have the satisfaction of knowing that the produce you are eating was grown without chemicals, pesticides, or herbicides. Supporters of organic gardening stress that it produces healthy, more diverse ecosystems, which are better able to resist significant pest damage through their own natural way and that every single individual should consider shifting to organic gardening. The reason they provide is simple; we need to take this big step so as to stop poisoning the food we eat and the earth we stand on.

Organic gardening is a form of gardening that uses substantial diversity in pest control so as to reduce the use of pesticides and to provide as much fertility as possible, based on local nutrients rather than purchased fertilizers.

A professional gardener for over 25-years once told me that he had spent a fortune to purchase chemical substances that large companies produce since this road was the easiest at the time to protect plants. After probably spraying 10,000 gallons of pesticide in his career, he chose not to continue doing it any more. He urged me to consider not only my body’s health but that of my future children, and grand children, and to give up just one of my garden chemicals, for good. Whether it would be a fungicide, a herbicide or a fertilizer, I was advised to choose at least one and take it to the local toxic collection day hosted at my city. I was convinced and so I did.

Thus, my advice to you is that if you decide to do only one thing this season for your garden, consider making it friendlier by switching to alternative methods of pest control. It’s time for all of us gardeners to examine and begin to make a few changes in the way we do things in our gardens. We have got to think about putting an end to the old ways of gardening – and by that I mean our chemical arsenal of pesticides and fertilizers. Even if you are afraid of doing it all at once-old habits are hard to break-consider changing your usual methods month over month one step at a time. Next time you are out taking care of your garden, do just one thing to make it more earth and human friendly.

Finally, avoid some common mistakes beginning organic gardeners make. Do not water plants too much, as over watering prevents the plants from creating deep root systems. Over watering as well as under watering are both bad for the plants. Thus, maintain a stable watering schedule and water your plants deeply once a week. Do not use inorganic fertilizers. Although you might think this is harmless, these heavy on salts crystals do not feed the soil and are a magnet for bugs. You are much better off with natural slow release organic amendments and compost. Not only they provide major nutrients, but let your plants use them over an extended time period. You should be using a balanced approach and feeding the soil and not your plants; they know how much to feed themselves. Finally, do not use too many fertilizers. Even organic ones are advised only when used in the appropriate quantity.

Start Planning for Your Backyard Water Garden or Pond

Water gardens are great focal points for any backyard

With spring in the air, now is the time to start planning for your backyard garden. For many homeowners, a backyard pond is a perfect supplement to your existing layout. The trickling of water in the background is the ideal way to supplement the natural, serene and relaxing atmosphere that the outdoors should offer.

A pond or water garden will likely become the focal point for your entire backyard. Backyard ponds and water gardens will attract birds, butterflies, wildlife, and family members. Ponds are usually small and no larger than 3 to 4 feet in diameter, and often can be used to raise fish. At night-time, a garden pond can be lit up with both surrounding and submersible lighting. An extravagant light show can be produced by projecting underwater lighting directly onto trickling or falling water.

In the past, the installation of a water garden was a convoluted process that either involved the expense of a landscaper, or trial and error to perfect the art of pond installation. However, preformed pond kits are now available that can make pond installation relatively straightforward. Preformed pond kits are affordable, lessen the risk of mistakes, and come complete with all the accessories that you will need to complete a garden pond installation.

Before purchasing a preformed pond kit, make sure that it fulfills all of your requirements. How large of a pond are you looking for? Do you want to raise fish? Would you like water to trickle down a waterfall? How long is the warranty on the pond kit?

One preformed pond kit that comes highly recommended is the Algreen 180 gallon folding preformed pond kit. New to the Algreen line of products, this kit includes easy-to-follow instructions. The instructions minimize the effort required to install the pond, after a hole is dug. The pieces in the kit fit easily together and leave you ample flexibility to creatively position and landscape the area around the pond, according to your heart’s desire.

The 180 gallon kit comes complete with both a preformed pond shell and a preformed watercourse that is manufactured from a revolutionary rubber/plastic composite (this composite material is guaranteed to be more durable and resist wear more than any other existing preformed pond kits). The kit includes a powerful 792 gallon-per-hour SuperFlo pump with flow control; this pump is used to feed varying flows of water to both the watercourse and the built-in fountain. The pump is purposely oversized to allow it to channel water to your watercourse and fountain, and to accommodate fish in your pond.

Up to 4 fountain heads are included with the kit, to allow you to vary your fountain according to your mood. An underwater light is also included free with the kit. This underwater light utilizes colored filters to shine luminous light from the bottom of your pond to accentuate the falling water from your fountain and/or your waterfall.

Small backyard garden ponds are usually low maintenance. The occasional debris from your pond can usually be trapped with a mechanical pre-filter, which is included with the SuperFlo pump. However, if you decide to raise fish in your pond, it is recommended that you increase your filtration capacity. Because the pump is purposely oversized, this can be easily accomplished by upgrading your pre-filter to a larger filtration device. Optional filtration devices include the mechanical and biological SuperFlo submersible filter, or the Algreen pressurized filter.

You will need to start planning for your water garden now in order to have it completed by spring. Before commencing any project, it is always recommended that you conduct research to learn as much as possible about the topic. Therefore, it is recommended that you use the early part of the season to read more about pond construction.

Gerry Fung is the Vice President of GardenSuperMart,


The Benefits of Organic Gardening

Organic Gardening refers to the system in which plants are grown in an organic environment. According to the USDA regulations, those who are involved in the process of organic gardening are prohibited from using irradiation, sewage sludge or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in organic production. This type of food production would be certified as organic farming or gardening.

Accordingly, the important aspects of organic gardening will include the following:

  • Those who engage in organic gardening or farming can’t use synthetic or chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
  • There should be a systematic approach in organic gardening. This means that a system needs to be implemented. This system will describe the methodologies about sowing, production and reaping of plants.
  • Records must be also kept which will keep a track of the products till they are sold.
  • Buffer zones should be maintained so that there are no inadvertent contaminations from the gardens and the farms, which use the conventional method of farming or gardening.

Those involved in organic gardening understand the importance of crops, the soil, the pests and the insects as well as the interdependency of all these factors. Organic gardening helps to care and the nurture the very soil of the crops. Thus the benefits that we get are naturally grown flowers, trees and plants.

Organic gardening can also be certified by state organizations and private organizations, which have been accredited by the USDA. The farms and gardens, which are looking to certify themselves, have to submit their organic systems on an annual basis.

Based upon these systems inspectors will come and inspect their establishments and verify with the systems that they have submitted. All facilities are included in the inspection and this includes pest control method, livestock, feedstock for livestock, soil management programs etc.

The organically grown products are minimally processed to retain their natural freshness and nutritious value. However irradiation, synthetic and genetically engineered foods and products can’t be used in organic farming or gardening.

The biggest advantage is that there are no chemicals and pesticides used. Hence there are no residues when we eat the fruits. There is nothing to wash off or fear like normal produce.

This means that we live a healthy life and we beget a healthy life for our children and the generations to come. As humans we want to lead a healthy life and this gives us a right to choose what foods we eat as well as how we get the foods.

Location, Location, Location: Where to Put Your Water Garden

Like so many things in life, the location is one of the most important aspects to consider when making any changes. Here are a couple of things to consider when you build your dream water garden:

1. Call Before You Dig

While this one seems obvious, its surprising the number of people who forget to call the appropriate utility companies about phone,gas and power lines, only to accidently cut them. One simple phone call avoids all sorts of problems, ensuring that you wont have to worry about delays to your project and iritate your neighbours when their phone or electricity no longer works.

2. Made In the Shade

Consider the pattern of the sun and its impacts on shadows in your yard. Also, remember that the direction the sun crosses the sky will change between spring and fall. The angle of the sun will dictate what type of shade you need to create, and where to place your trees and water pond. Many plants require 6 hours of direct sunlight.

3. Regional Considerations

What type of weather and soil conditions can you expect in the area you live in? You may find that the type of soil will dictate the types of plants and trees you can use to create your backyard paradise.

4. Existing Structures

Keep in mind existing structures such as trees, fences and patios. Will your plan mean removing trees? Will the design of your artificial water garden compliment your existing back yard, or will further changes have to be made? These considerations may add to the cost of your project. Keep your neighbours informed of your plans. You may find that they are willing to share in the cost of removing that tree or help in rebuilding the new fence.

5. Hows It Flowin?

Spend time tracking the direction and intensity of water flows that plants need and intensity of that water flow. You may find that some parts of your yard recieve more water than others based on the flow of the water in your yard. You may find that there is a sloping effect in your yard. This will impact your vegetation. Also check for pools of water that gather in certain spots. Raising the level of parts of your yard will ensure that all of your yard recieves the same amount of water.

6. Drawing the line

Remember to respect property codes for your city and wishes of your neighbours. Having an envious neighbour is one thing, violating their rights is another. When in doubt, check it out.

7. Whats the Plan?

Keep the focus of your site in mind throughout all aspects of your yard. Are you building a barrier, an escape from the rest of the city or just looking to make your yard look better for the next owners? This should weight in on all of your decisions.

Before you build your back yard retreat, plan, plan, plan. Remember, there are several factors to consider and the above lucky 7 tips should help you make the perfect water garden yours.

Anyone who has seen the magic of an artificial water garden is immediately taken by its beauty and peacefulness.

Top Tips For Juicy Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the easiest plants to grow at home. Of course, you will certainly want them to be as delicious as the tomatoes that you get at the grocer. It is not too difficult to start growing tomatoes at home provided you know what you are doing. Here are a few tips to help you start your own tomato garden.

Maintain Space between Seedlings


If you are growing tomatoes from seeds, you should make sure that the seedlings have enough space to grow. Crowded environments make it difficult for them to grow properly. In fact, it will be better if the seedlings are transplanted into individual pots as soon as they get their first leaves.

Provide Lot of Light

Tomato seedlings require a strong and direct light source so that they can grow properly. If you are planning on growing them during winter, you need to give them enough light. Sunlight may not be enough as days tend to be shorter. A greenhouse can be a good option. Alternatively, artificial plant lighting can be used.

It will be better if you keep the seedlings close to the light source as it allows them to grow stocky. Of course, the lights need to be raised to maintain sufficient height as the plants begin to grow. When the plants are ready to be transplanted outside, ensure that they are transplanted on to the sunniest areas of the garden.


Ensure that the Soil is Warm

Warmth is essential to the growth of tomatoes. Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that the soil has been properly warmed before the tomato plants are transplanted on to it. The area you have planned for placing the tomatoes can be covered with a plastic a few weeks in advance of the event. The warm soil will help the plants produce tomatoes earlier. Clear plastic can be a better choice than black or colored plastic. Clear plastic allows the heat from sunlight to penetrate the soil and then retain it. Of course, this step may be unnecessary if you have a greenhouse.

Delay the Mulching

You should not add mulch to the soil before the ground is sufficiently warm. While mulch is certainly beneficial, adding it early can cool down the soil which is harmful to the growth of tomatoes.

Cherry Toms

Pruning the Tomato Plants

Pruning the bottom leaves can help in maintaining the health of the tomato plants. Once they have attained a height of 3 feet, remove the bottommost leaves. Apart from being the oldest, these leaves are more likely to become diseased by fungus. You should also take time to pinch and eliminate the leaves and branches that develop between the joints of two branches. These branches will not develop and fruit but they need to energy to grow. Therefore, the plant will have less energy to use in the growth of the tomatoes. Avoid pruning the rest of the plant.

The weather does play a vital role in the growth of tomatoes or any plant for that matter. However, with the proper steps and precautions, it is possible to get a good harvest from your tomato plants.