Category Archives: Garden Design

Taking a look at the big picture of your garden. What plants can go next to each other? Which veggies need the most sun? If you have questions or need inspiration, Love Your Yard has you covered.

Consider safety concerns and entertainment needs when picking the right place for your fire pit.

Choosing the best place for a fire pit

Fire pits are a fun and useful addition to your patio or backyard. It instantly becomes a place in your backyard to gather and make memories.

Before you get your new fire pit home, there are a number of points to consider – the most important being location. Where you place your outdoor fire pit should be considered carefully, as it’s important to both your safety and your enjoyment of your new backyard feature.

IDEAL FIRE PIT LOCATIONS

Here’s a guide to choosing the position for your new outdoor fire pit.

  • WHAT’S THE LAW? Check your local ordinances. Many communities require a minimum distance of 10 feet from a building. Depending on the municipality, you may also need an inspection from local fire officials to ensure your location is safe.
  • WATCH THE DRIFT: You will need a large open space to make sure that flames and floating embers will not drift into any plants, trees, branches, sheds or combustible materials.
  • PLAN THE SPACE: Consider the size of your fire pit. Use tape or chalk to mark where the fire pit will be. Make sure chairs are able to fit around the entire perimeter so the fire pit can be enjoyed from all sides.
  • SUITABLE SURFACE: Portable fire pits can be set on natural surfaces such as concrete, stone or gravel. Do not place a fire pit on a wooden deck. A permanent fire pit is commonly built on a base of gravel
  • FLAT SURFACE: The fire pit must rest on a level surface.
  • ENTERTAINING: For your own convenience, you will want to place your fire pit near or adjacent to other social areas such as a hot tub, patio or grill area.
  • FIRE CONCERNS: It’s also best to have your fire pit located within reach of a water hose. If it’s too far from a hose, have a bucket of sand nearby that can be used to extinguish the fire in an emergency.

 Extra tip: You may wish to install outdoor lighting near the fire pit to create the right ambieance. Unless you use solar-powered lighting, you should consider how close your fire pit is to an electrical source.

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Your fire pit should be placed on a flat surface. It's best to put a fire pit on concrete.

Your fire pit should be placed on a flat surface. It’s best to put a fire pit on concrete.

 

Vertical Garden

All About Vertical Gardening: What is Vertical Gardening?

Vertical gardening is exactly what the name implies – gardening on a vertical, rather than a horizontal, surface. Vertical gardening can be accomplished in two major ways. First, many vertical gardens take advantage of the tendencies of some plants to grow up rather than out. But the effort is not just limited to plants that naturally grow up. Any plant that produces a vine can be “trained” to grow vertically with just a little extra attention.

Of course, your vertical garden won’t just be vining plants. Nearly any kind of plant can be grown on a vertical surface – just mount growing containers on a wall or other vertical surface. You can also use a framework that allows growing containers to be stacked from bottom to top.

The beauty of vertical gardening lies in several facets

1 — GOING UP: First, growing vegetables and other plants “up” instead of “out” saves space. That makes vertical gardening a perfect alternative for people with limited space or who are growing in urban environments.

2 — EASY TO PULL: Vertical growing makes vegetables easier to harvest. If your beans are growing at waist height rather than at ankle level, then you’re going to benefit. It’s a pretty safe bet that anyone would prefer reaching out to harvest rather than bending over

3 — GETTING AIR: Vertical gardening gives plants better air exposure through increased surface area. This leads to healthier – and therefore more productive – plants.

4 — PEST PROBLEMS? Growing plants vertically reduces the danger of soil-borne diseases, molds and crawling pests.

5 — THE SPACE IS THERE: Nearly any vertical surface or structure can be used to support your plants – walls, posts, trellises, frames made from wood or PVC pipe, old shipping pallets, or even other vertically growing plants like trees. You’ll also find that you’ll save money on materials such as fencing, gardening soil and mulch.

Planning

How To Plan and Plant Your Vertical Garden

Planning your Vertical Garden is different from planning a traditional garden, but shouldn’t be done with any less care.

Step One: Consider the location of your Vertical Garden

Ideally, vegetable plants in your Vertical Garden should get at least six hours of sustained sunlight a day. Pick a spot that will allow for maximum sun while minimizing filtered light through trees. If a large wall on the side of your house gets the best light, that’s a perfect spot to consider. Even well-lit balconies and porches will work. If it’s available, a south-facing location is the best.

A wonderful aspect of vertical gardening is choosing a location. You’re not as limited by space as you would be with a traditional garden. In fact, you’ll probably find that you have an abundance of available space to grow up rather than out. Remember that an area as small as an apartment balcony can serve as an excellent vertical gardening spot. Just a few containers and trellis supports will do the trick.

Step Two: Where’s the Water?

As with any vegetable garden, make sure that wherever you choose to place it is close to a convenient source of water. Ideally, your Vertical Garden can be reached by a garden hose.

Step Three: Soil for your Vertical Garden

Depending on your space, you’ll want to decide whether to plant your vegetables in soil at the base of your growing area or use containers. In either case, use a good gardening soil.  Augment it with rich compost to provide the nutrients your plants will need.

Step Four: Plant Choices

Carefully consider what you’re planning to grow in your Vertical Garden. Naturally vining vegetables are perfect, of course. However, don’t rule out other vegetables and herbs that grow closer to the ground. While vining plants will likely require a trellis or some other form of support, those that don’t vine can be planted in nearly anything that you can hang or mount on a vertical surface.

Step Five: Follow the Plan

Plant seeds just as you would in a traditional gardening. Take care to leave enough space according to the planting instructions. When planting vegetables that will need a support structure, don’t forget to install the supports at the same time you plant. Adding supports after the plants have sprouted can damage the young root systems.

Step Six: Training

As your vining plants sprout and mature, “train” them to grow upward. Simply manually thread the young vines up through the support system. This is an ongoing process and should be part of your regular Vertical Garden upkeep.

Shopping list

All About Vertical Gardening: Shopping List for Creating a Vertical Garden

Your vertical gardening shopping list, at first glance, will be very similar to that of a traditional horizontal garden, but there are some very important things to consider.

First, will you start your plants in the ground – such as in a small plot against your house – or will you use containers? By using containers for your vertical garden, you give yourself the ability to grow in unusual places such as apartment balconies.

Also, you’ll need to consider what sort of support you’ll need for the types of vegetables you intend to plant.

Here’s your Vertical Garden shopping list

  • Containers (if needed) – These can be as utilitarian as plastic storage bins or as decorative as galvanized steel tubs or traditional large planters. Just make sure you have or make holes in the bottom to allow for drainage of excess water.
  • Garden soil
  • Compost (to augment garden soil, if needed)
  • Support structure materials, which can include …
  • Trellis (wooden, bamboo, plastic or fabric, depending on your garden)
  • Wire fencing
  • Stakes
  • Natural twine
  • Tomato cages
  • Garden ties (to help secure vining plants to the support structure)
  • Seeds or seedlings (Where would your vertical garden be without them?)
  • Fertilizer
  • Watering can (if your garden is on an apartment balcony or not near a water source)
  • Insect killer or repellent
  • Fungicide
Vegetables to use

All About Vertical Gardening: Vegetables to Use in Vertical Gardening

Just because you’ve decided to try out vertical gardening doesn’t mean you can’t continue to grow most – if not all – the vegetables you’re used to growing in a traditional garden.

However, those vegetables that will naturally grow vertically by extending vines that attach to a supporting structure are naturally most conducive to vertical gardening. They include:

  • Cucumber
  • Squash
  • Tomato
  • Green beans
  • Peas
  • Lima beans
  • Melons

While all of these plants vine, not all will naturally grow up. Cucumbers and squash, for instance, will take some training on your part. This is as simple as threading new tendrils through your supporting structure to give them the chance to attach.

But suppose you’d like to include non-vining vegetables in your vertical garden? It’s not in any way out of the question, but will require that you rework your thinking on how your new garden is arranged.

What are the changes?

Home stores and garden supply companies have, in recent years, designed a number of products to help with this. They are typically shelf-type planters meant to be placed against an exterior wall, but nearly any container that can be adapted for vertical gardening use can serve as a great planter – old rain gutters, suspended two-liter soda bottles and shipping pallets can all be used. The options are limitless!

The plants that work best in this sort of vertical gardening arrangement are the non-climbing varieties, such as:

  • Peppers
  • Lettuce
  • Radishes
  • Onions
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes (regular or sweet)
  • Herbs

Just remember that soil depths and planting conditions – particularly for in-ground specialists like potatoes – should conform as closely to horizontal as possible horizontal conditions when planted in a vertical garden.

Planting and harvesting

All About Vertical Gardening: Planting and Harvesting Your Vertical Garden

When it comes to planting and harvesting, there are very few differences between horizontal and vertical gardening.

Before you plant

Whether you’re using a container or a strip of ground, the best place to start is by making sure you have soil conducive to growth. If you’re using containers, start with a good, nutrient-rich gardening soil from the gardening or home supply store.

Planting in the ground first? Start by creating a pit between 6 inches and a foot deep for each spot where you’ll be planting. The depth varies on the root system of the plant, of course. Take the soil you removed and create a half-and-half mix with compost, then refill the pit.

If you haven’t already decided what will go where in your vertical garden, this is good time to do so. Make sure to install all support structures for vining plants at this point. Doing so after you plant can damage the root systems of seedlings or mature plants. Make sure the structure is positioned over where you will plant to give the tendrils and vines the best chance to take hold.

Planting your vertical garden

Now it’s time to plant, following the package directions on your fruits or vegetables of choice. While you’ll ultimately be responsible for making sure the garden gets enough water, it never hurts to plant during a rainy period to ensure adequate moisture. Stick to about four seeds per planting area to avoid overcrowding; then water gently. As the seedlings emerge and get to about 4 inches high, you’ll want to thin them to ensure they don’t crowd each other out.

Check on your plants every day so you can monitor moisture and thread new tendrils or vines upward through your support structure. Some heavier vines might require a little extra help, so don’t be reluctant to use a natural twine or garden ties to secure them to the supports. Water as needed – especially until the plants are fully established – and check for disease growth and pests.

Harvesting

Once your vegetables or fruits have matured, harvest them as you normally would for each individual variety. Do take special care not to yank down your support structures in the process. A simple pair of garden shears will help you cut from the vine – rather than pull – heavy items like melons or squash.

For non-vining plants, there should be very few differences from traditional harvesting. Just take care to avoid significantly disturbing the soil, neighboring plants and the vertical structure itself.

Disease, cucumber plant.

All About Vertical Gardening: Protecting Vertical Gardens from Disease

Since vertical gardens grow up rather than along the ground, the risk of disease is significantly reduced with limited contact with the soil.

However, that doesn’t mean your plants will be disease free in a vertical garden.

As with any type of gardening, the first step to avoiding disease is the quality of the soil. If this is the first season for your vertical garden, make sure you start with soil from an area from which all weeds have been removed and the soil has been vigorously turned and mixed with clean compost. For an existing vertical garden, you’ll still want to weed and augment your soil with compost, but also make sure you have rotated your crops from their planting locations the previous year.

Plants such as squash, cucumber and peas are highly susceptible to disease when planted in the same spot as the previous year.

Two common diseases that affect vertical gardens

  • Anthracnose: This fungus most often affects cucumbers, watermelons and muskmelons, and is most prevalent during warm, humid conditions. To protect your plants, rotate crops annually, leave enough space between plants to let leaves dry out as quickly as possible and promptly remove/destroy affected leaves and fruit to prevent spreading. To help prevent or eliminate anthracnose, use Safer®Brand Garden Fungicide or Safer®Brand 3-in-1 Garden Spray, which acts as a fungicide, insecticide and miticide. Both are OMRI Listed® and compliant for use in organic gardening.
  • Bacterial wilt: This disease is indicated by vines that wilt in the day but recover at night. Try to purchase disease resistant species and watch for cucumber beetles, which spread the disease.
Pests

All About Vertical Gardening: Protecting Vertical Gardens from Pests

One great advantage of having a vertical garden is the limited exposure to soil-dwelling pests. Your vertical garden has less direct contact to the ground, after all. But don’t get lulled into a false sense of security when it comes to pest control – it will still be an issue.

Any insect or other critter that could infest your traditional horizontal garden can still gain access to your vertical garden, particularly if you’re using an in-ground plot for planting. Keep in mind that many notorious garden pests begin to fly at later life stages. They’re happy to leave eggs on your eggplant or helping the kids to gorge on your green beans.

To limit the potential destruction by garden pests, you’ll want to take many of the same measures you would to limit disease – clear yard debris from your planting areas, make sure to rotate crops, and use well-turned soil that’s been fortified with clean compost.

Still, you might find pests worm their way into your vertical garden.

Two vertical garden pests

  • Squash bug: Squash bugs are gray or brown and prefer pumpkins and squash, typically toward the end of the growing season. Rotating crops and cleaning fall debris will help discourage them come planting season. During growing season, check the undersides of leaves for egg masses and destroy any that you find.
  • Cucumber beetle: Usually black or yellow spotted or striped, these critters love your cucumbers. Larvae go after the roots while the adults gnaw on leaves, so your attack should be two-pronged as well. Products such as Safer®Brand 3-in-1 Garden Spray can help discourage both from overtaking your garden in either stage. A floating row cover will help protect from beetles in their flying stage.
Coral Honeysuckle

Plant These Flowers Now to Bring Birds, Bees, Butterflies (and Bats!)

This post was written and provided by Michelle Z. Donahue from the Plough & Furrow blog.

Though the flower shows are mostly done for the year, fall is a great time to get some planting done to bring your favorite fauna to the yard next year.

You’vbee on sedume probably read up on the different flowers that bring butterflies flocking, or the best types of plants to build a hummingbird garden.

But knowing why your winged visitors are drawn to these plants is important, and can help you bring even more activity to your garden.

 

The Science

Over millions of years, flowering plants and their pollinators changed shape and features together for their mutual benefit, a term biologists call co-evolution. (Kind of like what happens when people are married for a long time!)Agastache

To get their friends to come and take a closer look—and ensure its reproductive success—plants had to get creative with their flowers.

It’s one reason why hummingbird plants tend to have long, pipe-like flowers. The design is just as much to bring the bird in for a nectar snack as it is to enlist her in pollination efforts. A hummingbird’s head is the perfect shape to collect pollen, which she’ll take to the next flower in line—completing the pollination cycle.

A flower’s shape and color, as well as whether or not it has a nice aroma, are tip-offs to what kind of pollinator tends to seek out that plant. Pick your pollinator by choosing the right kind of plant!

Penstemon 'dark towers' For The Birds

Our feathered friends can see really well, but have awful sniffers, so plants attractive to birds are often bright red or orange. Anything with a tube-shaped flower almost guarantees a visit from a hummer.

Recommended Plants for Birds:

agastache, native columbine, coral honeysuckle, hibiscus, lobelia, penstemon, tall phlox, salvia.

 

Bees See in UV

Beesperceive flowers in a completely different spectrum: ultraviolet (UV) light. To them, blue, purple and yellow blooms pop like a neon sign. Many bee-friendly flowers also have soft, delicate scents.

Bee-friendly flowers also often feature “landing strips,” or platforms wPenstemon Attracts Beeshere bees can alight, along with patterns of lines that act to guide their visitors in for a landing.

Recommended Plants for Bees:

blanket flower, borage, bee balm, butterfly bush,  coneflower, fall asters, goldenrod, hosta, native passionflower, sedum.

 

 Butterflies Love Nectar

Monarch butterfly on BuddleiaLike hummingbirds, butterflies often target flowers in red, orange and purple, but color is really less of a factor than the flower’s overall shape—butterflies probe deep wells for nectar. This keeps other insects out, and the butterfly’s foraging also passes on pollen to neighboring plants.

Recommended Plants for Butterflies: aster, blazing star (Liatris), coneflower, goldenrod, milkweed, joe-pye weed, garden phlox, sedum. 

Feed the Night-Flying Moths

Indulge in a moon garden by planting white-flowered, night-blooming plants to feed moths, which are mainly active at night. Lucky gardeners who visit their bloomers by the light of a full moon will be rewarded with a garden full of strong, sweet smells, and perhaps a chance encounter with the huge, ethereal luna moth.

Datura at Brookside GardensBonus! Most moth plants also attract butterflies.

Recommended Plants for Moths:

angels’ trumpet, hosta, lavender, lily, nicotania, thyme, valerian, yucca.

 

 

Send Out the Bat-Signal

Bats are known for eating tons of bugs during their nighttime outings, but in warm, tropical areasGarden Plox they’re important pollinators. If you like tequila, you’ll be especially interested to know that agave, the plant source of the tipple, is almost wholly pollinated by bats.

In temperate areas, bats follow their food to night-scented flowers, so moon gardens also encourage bats to visit.

Recommended Plants for Bats:

Agave, banana, cocoa, guava, nicotania, phlox.

Bowls for Beetles

Though bees have been in the spotlight lately as an uber-important pollinator, beetles actually do a majority of the pollinating work in the plant kingdom. They’re thought to pollinate 88 percent of all flowering plants—there are over 30,000 species in North America alone!

Beetles love wide, bowl-shaped flowers or large, tightly clustered flowerheads, which tend to be deeply aromatic and pale yellow or white.

 

CalycanthusRecommended Plants for Beetles:

goldenrod, magnolia, poppies, sweet shrub, pond lily.

 

September Gardening To-Dos

September Gardening To-Do’s

What does September gardening look like? As the summer season winds down and fall slowly moves in, the garden is a busy place! Fluctuating daily temperatures mixed with cooler evenings can make knowing what to do next a little confusing. Let’s take a look at what you should spend the month planting, harvesting, and cleaning up!

Planting

Begin planning and planting your overwintering crops (link to main article). Most crops should be planted before the first frost. Apply a generous layer of compost to provide nutrients and cover with a thick layer of straw to protect your plants from winter’s elements. Use cold frames, polytunnels, or greenhouses to further protect your plants.

Bulbs should be put in the ground before it freezes and they’re unable to establish roots. Typically small bulbs are planted about 5 inches deep while larger bulbs are planted about 8 inches deep. Plant with the pointier side up, but if you don’t the bulb will eventually right itself within the soil. Bulbs appreciate soil that is well drained and mixed with compost.

Harvesting

Your garden has been busy all summer and fall is a great time to reap its rewards! Now is the time to harvest corn, potatoes, apples, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, and strawberries before being killed by a first frost. If your tomato plants are still bearing green fruit, it is suggested that you pull up the entire plant and hang it in your garage or basement to force the harvest to ripen.

Your harvest may be bountiful. Take time to freeze, can, or store it so you’re able to eat fresh garden foods throughout the winter.

Cleaning up

You’ll be busy this month getting your garden back into a state that is prepared for dormancy. Dig up tender plants and transplant them to small pots to be moved indoors for overwintering. Overgrown perennials should also be dug up, divided, and transplanted throughout your garden.

Gather dying and falling leaves from around your property and mix them in to your compost pile. To expedite their composting process, mix in a compost starter like Ringer® Compost Plus Organic Compost Starter. At the end of the month your lawn will benefit from an application of organic fertilizer.

September is a busy month in the garden. The combination of harvesting the old and preparing for the new will keep your gardening to-do list active, but with the right planning and execution you’ll be able to check things off your list.