Raised Bed: How to build and grow in a raised bed

Spring_beds_emailver

Hello all my Dragonfly friends! Check out my new ‘exclusive’ post at The Detroit News, The Good Life blog! Be sure to leave a comment, LIKE & SHARE! Hope to see you there!

http://blogs.detroitnews.com/thegoodlife/2013/03/27/how-to-build-a-raised-bed-grow-your-veggies-this-year-in-a-raised-bed-garden/

Happy day,
Jean

Plan Your Perennial Garden Now and Designing Plot Plans

This is a photo of one of my garden journal pages. It shows a section of  my
front porch and gives details on several things purchased!

“If ever I loved thee, my garden ’tis now…” Yes, I am longing for the beauty and relaxation of my gardens in these cold Michigan winter months. The garden is my place of rest… it’s where I go when I feel weary, when I need to wind down, when I long to escape the stresses of life… It is my Eden here on earth. Many people have strolled through my gardens in awe wondering when and how I manage to care for them all with my busy farm and market life. I always say, “This is not work! This is where I come to get away from the work!”  But alas, that is not true for all.  If you are a die hard gardener or someone looking to create your own little Eden, it doesn’t have to be difficult and it surely won’t happen all in one season. My gardens have been born over a period of seven years and they will continue to grow, change and flourish in my tender loving care for many more.  Now is the time to start planning and designing your new dream gardens. You may feel like how do I begin? What plants should I choose? Where am I going to put this bed?  The next couple months will give you ample time to decide on what, where, how and when and whether to order plants or wait for the nurseries. These are all important questions that need to be addressed before the big day of breaking ground. That day is right around the corner…don’t let your dreams sit stagnant and lifeless, start planning now.
     




Here is The Side Garden in early spring. You can see there are several Archi-
tectural elaments- picket fence, antique feed cart, step stones. Notice the thick
mulch cover early in the season. I will not have to worry about the weeds get-
ting a hold on me.  2012

 In the next few posts here I am planning on giving my own ‘renditions’ of my garden’s. I will show all the photo’s of them at my blog spot.  Hope you are inspired, enjoy friends!

There are several factors to take into consideration when you start the process of designing your garden plots.
1. Decide on Location: This is the first step. It will determine what type of plants you will purchase, whether irrigation will be necessary and if so, what type.  Will it be up against a building? In the middle of the yard? An extension of an existing garden?
2. Type of Garden: Do you want a perennial bed/border with a few annuals as fillers? Is this a small bed that you would like to plant up with annuals each year to have it different and versatile? Is it to be a split of both annuals and perennials?
Will it be a formal garden, herb garden, rose garden or kitchen garden?  These are all important factors that need to be made early on.
3. Plant Selection: Once location and type are determined you can start choosing the plants. Take into consideration if this is a shady, part shade/ part sun or direct sun all day location.  This will play a huge factor on plants. Decide whether you will order some and/or purchase at nurseries. What about getting started with plants from family and friends when they split their plants this spring?
For an extensive list of perennials follow this link: http://www.gardenguides.com/perennial-plants-flowers/
4. Architectural Elements: This is very important, but type of garden will determine what those elements will be. My gardens are Cottage Style, so I get to use all kinds of what I feel are cool Garden Junque items! Stone statuary, bird baths, arbors/trellis’, iron work, picket fences, wheel barrow, crates/drawers, buckets and boots… and the list can go on! Determining what you like can help in choosing the type of garden. Will you have walk ways? If so, what will be the stepping stones?
5. Irrigation: will you use sprinklers/hoses, underground sprinkler systems, above ground drip lines, soaker hoses?
6. Mulching: is so important! Mulch will help maintain moisture and hold back weeds. Again what you choose should fit with your garden style.  Mulch- what color, lava rock, white marble stones, bark, etc.


 

Documentation is a key element in helping you along the garden design path. I highly recommend that you Keep a Garden Journal for specific notes on what was planted where, where the plant was purchased, and any other important details.
1. Draw your Garden Plan layouts (see mine attached). This will give you something to work off. It may change from the original design, but having a place to start is so helpful. 
2. Keep all tags and receipts from plants that have a warranty in your journal. This is especially important for large, expensive items such as trees, shrub’s/bushes and fruit bearing plants. It is very frustrating when you loose a year of growth when a plant doesn’t make it through the winter. But if you have that receipt, at least you won’t have to ‘buy’ another one!
     

This was one of my first plot plans. At our first farm I had decided to tear up the entire front yard and design a 9 part garden with a pond in the center.  I then drew up each of the nine sub gardens as well with details.  This helped in all my planning.


3.Photograph your gardens. I suggest doing this in the early and late parts of each season (spring-fall). Each year you will have a wonderful and accurate account of how things grew.  If you really liked a particular planting or arrangement you created with annuals, be sure to include the tags with a photo of the bed, along with where you purchased the plants. It is very difficult to remember the varieties and where you got them. Not all nurseries/catalog’s carry the same items. 
4. Keep Ideas: I often see planting designs and architectural items in other gardens that I would like to replicate in my own. I take photo’s to put in my journal otherwise I would never remember everything. I also photocopy ideas out of gardening mag.’s and store them there as well- I don’t like to rip pages out!

My garden journals have been such a help to me over
the years.  They are not just helpful, but a lot of fun to
go back and look through.

When we purchased our farm seven years ago, it was an empty, foreclosed mess with not a flower bed to be found. Just one bare patch of dirt stared me in the face every time we walked into the back door.  This was the first bed I planted and I foolishly did so without a long term goal.  I wanted color and I wanted it now.  After the first year and the war against me from the quack grass, I was forced to dig up all the plants and do it again.  This time I did it right! We laid black ground cover over the dirt, set  rocks around the perimeter and then filled in with rich soil. I was able to replant most of what I had there while adding several new plants.


Here is my rendition of The Side Garden as it appears now. No longer a bare patch of dirt, but a work of art. Legend For “The Side Garden” please see attached drawing. This bed is just under 200 square feet.


The Side Garden is lined on both sides and the front with boiling ball size rocks. The back side is sloped down with pieces of slate about the size of a sheet of paper.
1. Peony- 3 plants, 2 Varieties- 1 early bloom and 1 mid bloom
2. Hollyhocks- Because these reseed prolifically I only allow about 7 plants. They are single flower pale pink and pale yellow.
3. Iris- Root beer
4. Hosta- 1 ‘Blue’
5. Aster- 3 in back center and 1 behind the antique metal feed cart – all purple
6. Lavender- Hidcotte, 2 plants on each corner
7. Creeping Phlox- 2 plants, both pink
8. Hardy Geranium- 3 plants, all pink
9. Lily- Tiger 1 plant
10. Sweet William- 3 to 5 plants, multi colors
11. Sea Lavender 1 plant
12. Calendula- multiple plants that flow over the side of the rocks along with Sweet Allysum
13. Double Pink Petunia’s are planted each year in this Antique Feed Cart that I pulled out of a junque pile behind a barn several years ago. It has moved three times with me.
14. Jack Mani Clematis growing up an Antique Iron Gate purchased at an Antique shoppe!
15. Several Terra Cotta clay tiles and a Chimney flu are planted each year with different annuals.
16. An old wooden chair has a tin bucket with geraniums planted in it.

Here are several shots of the side garden during different parts of the season.

Early spring in The Side Garden here. In the above photo you can see the tops of the Peony plant and spring tulips.  The photo to the left has a good shot of the Sweet Williams, Hosta, Sedum, Lily, Iris’s and the Terra Cotta clay tiles.  2012 and 2011

Once the Peonies start to bloom this garden gets quickly filled up.  The Hardy Geranium makes a wonderful ground cover across the front.  2012                 

Side and corner views show the growth of the gardens.
These two shots were from 2011. Photo to the right shows Lavender starting to bloom and Sweet William in bloom.

Above below left photo shows the bed nicely. Along the front corner under the Lavender you can see Alysum growing. I planted it the first year and have never had to again. It is a prolific reseeder. I have it through all my walkways and cascading over just about all the gardens. 

 Here we go in the fall! This is one of the Asters that is planted behind the Antique Feed Cart. Last year I planted Zinnias in it… but never again! I love Zinnias, but they have near the impact that I usually have with the double Petunias. The orange in the background are both Calendula (up front) and Nasturtiums in the back.

Here’s a sneak peak of the next garden I will show you all… The Bistro Garden!
Happy Day,
Jean

 

Landscape Design Tips, The Importance of Soil & Yummy Apple & Cinnamon Pancakes!

I am a Cottage Gardener through and through~ I love the free form it allows me to have… the natural flow that occurs with time… the feel that everything has been there forever.  Cottage gardens just seem happy and inviting to me~ they seem to say, ‘go ahead & pick a bouquet.. take it in the house, smell it…  gaze upon it’s beauty and wonder…’  Daisies, lupines, delphiniums and roses are just a few of the Cottage Gardens blooms that abound. I wouldn’t even know where to begin to explain how to do other garden types.  I believe your heart becomes a part of your garden over time, it calls out to you each time you pass by and invites you in like an old friend.  Landscaping can be fun and exciting, filled with anticipation of what each year will bring, what news plants will be added, new walkways, arbors… Enjoy your gardens and be one with it, it will bring you years of peaceful abundance.

There are several aspects to consider when considering your Landscape Design. These elements will effect the outcome quite drastically and need to be planned well in advance. 
*First make your Plan~  Walk through your yard and break it into three basic areas~1. Public Spaces- your front yard and driveway; these should be neat and organized; 2. Private Spaces- patios, pools areas and children’s play areas; these spaces allow for your personal creativity; 3. Utility Spaces- garbage cans, propane tanks, central air units, firewood piles and such- be practical when planning these areas. For instance, you don’t want to walk across your entire yard in the winter when you want to get some firewood 🙂
*Decide what your Personal Taste is~ this is probably going to be the easiest step in my opinion, unless of course you are not a gardener at heart and simply want a yard that is esthetically appealing to the eye and don’t really care about personal expression.  If this is the case, I would recommend going to a book store that has gobs of magazines; look at the covers of all the gardening magazine and see what catches your eye; decide what you like and then purchase several in that category of gardening;  what is your budget? what is your time limit to maintenance?
*Take into consideration the Style of your home when choosing your garden style.  You wouldn’t want to put a formal English garden with an old Victorian home.
*Blueprint your yard~  you don’t have to be an architect to do this.  You can actually purchase kits at garden centers to aid you, or do as I do, just take a pad of paper and rough draw your entire property or just the area in which you want to do the landscaping.  Take into consideration where all shade, all sun and partial shade/sun areas are located.  This will make a big difference in the plants that you finally choose.  Jot down where trees, fences, ditches, buildings, sidewalks, driveways, etc. are located. 
* Make a Plan of Action~ take time to develop your blueprint and plan.  Most well done gardens are a work in progress that require time and patience, not to mention funds! Decide on all the elements that you want to incorporate into the landscape and then decide what is the most practical thing to start with.  You will more than likely be incorporating hard scape elements into the design with the plants and maybe some garden art. These would include walkways, pergola’s, patios, pools, arbors and trellises. Also bird baths, sun dials, statues and any other ‘art’ you want.
*Choosing the plants will be another big decision.  You will need to decide on trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals.  This will need to be decided upon once you choose your style.
*When deciding on the Layout, if you choose to incorporate paths, make them winding if at all possible; this adds interest and creates a feeling of anticipation as to what is coming up around the bend.  This obviously is not possible in all yards, so a way to create that feel is in your flower beds.  Instead of making a straight line edge for your beds, put curves in them to create interest.  It is amazing how this creates a natural flow that is appealing to the on lookers eye.
Different things to consider when planning:
~ do you want a veggie & herb garden?
~ do you want shrubs and trees that require little pruning
~ do you want flowering or evergreen shrubs & trees? or a mixture of both.
~ take into consideration all four seasons when choosing your plants.
~ be sure to look at growth patterns- maturity height & width, shade or sun, dry or wet, etc.

Designing and planning your garden is the fun part of gardening, but there is another very important element that is the Key to Success~ your Soil.  The following information was found and adapted from “Michigan Gardener” magazine, April 2012 issue on page 9.
“Soil is comprised of three materials: sand, clay, and loam.  The best soil has equal parts of all three.  Problems arise when there is too much of one material. Sandy soil is too loose and drains too quickly… Clay soil is too hard when dry, repelling water and making it difficult for roots to grow. When wet, it holds too much water, leading to root rot….  Spending a little time becoming familiar with the soil type in your backyard will greatly improve your gardening success.  If you need help, bring a sample into your local garden center and an expert will help you determine your soil type….  You’re not necessarily stuck with the soil you’re given.  Adding amendments will help create a rich, loamy composition that’s a great environment for plants to thrive.  For sandy soil, add organic matter, such a peat moss or compost, to give it more texture add water holding properties.  To break up clay soil, add gypsum, pine bark fines or ceramic pellets.  It is also important to know your soil’s pH as well as nutrient composition before applying fertilizers…. Tests are available for about $20….”
There is much information to be had on this topic that I wouldn’t have time to get into here.  I would advise you to get a soil sample done and get your soil prepped for maximum benefits.
  
Yummy Apple & Cinnamon Pancakes!
Here is yet anther way to use Taylor’s awesome pancake mixes! Be sure to pick one up at the market!

1 Package of Taylor’s Bake Shoppe Regular Pancake Mix.  Follow package instructions for 1 recipe.
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 apple, cored, peeled, quartered, grated and divided
sugar for sprinkling
butter for melting to fry in

1. Make batter according to package instructions adding the cinnamon.
2. On a heated skillet melt 1 Tbsp. butter; sprinkle 1/2 tsp. sugar on top of melted butter; add 1 Tbsp. grated apple on top of this.
3. Immediately pour 1/4 cup of batter over top of apple, sugar & butter; cook until bubbles appear on the surface, about 1 to 2 minutes; turn and continue to fry for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until golden.
Serve warm with maple syrup , butter and whipped cream.

Happy Day,
Jean