Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Let's face it, very people are keen about change. This holds true for our gardens, whether that be minor (a plant dies and you need to find something else for that spot) or more substantial (you need to completely redo an area). The truth is, these unplanned changes also provide opportunities. We may not always follow through on our visions for the perfect garden but when an area in our garden requires reworking it provides the impetus to put a new plan into action.
Recently my landlord had to put in a new walkway and that meant me digging out the bed adjoining it. It was traumatic at first, removing bulbs and perennials there, but in putting it back together after the job was complete, I was able to modify the bed and improve it.
Sometimes, a tree is cut down on an adjoining property and completely changes the light pattern in one of your beds. That may mean re-evaluating the area and changing out some of the plants there.
While some of these jobs can be a lot of work -- I had to remove a great volume of cement and concrete from the corner of my back yard in order to get it ready to plant a semi-tropical bed -- the end results can be very satisfying.
So, embrace change. Consider it an opportunity to do something more creative in the area that needs reworking. Don't be afraid to think big or do something simple and clean. Our gardens are a reflection of Nature, constantly in change. Evolving. You sometimes are afforded the opportunity to not just go with the flow but to help it along.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Winter prep

Though we're enjoying the last of our Fall weather, now is the time to begin preparing our gardens for the winter months, or rather for next year's spring season. For vegetable gardeners now is the time to grow a cover crop like fava beans, in order to fix nitrogen into the soil. Otherwise, it's a good time to add compost materials to enrich the soil. For those of us with primarily flower gardens, we can top dress our perennial beds with soil amendments, to let these nutrients naturally settle into the soil. This is a good time of the year to finally get around to covering planting beds with bark mulch, or to replenish beds that have lost some of this covering.
Now is also the time for all you bulb lovers to get to work. Buy your favorite bulbs now before they've disappeared from your local nursery. For those of you that don't get a winter freeze, you'll need to refrigerate tulips, crocus and hyacinths. The other bulbs you can plant in the next month. For those of you who've discovered the joys of S. African bulbs, you probably are already seeing some new growth. I have babianas, lachenalias and moraeas above ground. Add to that list freesias and sparaxis, which some may not realize are also native to S. Africa. Perhaps not wanting to be left behind, the first of my Dutch iris have popped up as well as the early blooming ipheions. Ahh, the promise of spring.
November is also a good time to clean up your beds and pots, removing any dead annuals or plants that clearly are on their way out. I also rotate my potted plants, moving ones that are going to bloom in the late fall to early spring into valuable sunny locations.
And winter is always a good time to prune and/or cut back deciduous shrubs. And for rose lovers, mid December is the time when the fresh crop of bare root roses arrive in nurseries.
I always think of late fall/early winter as a "looking back and looking forward" season. The looking back part is the cleanup from all the summer blooming plants and the looking forward is the soil prep, the bulb planting and the other prep for next year's spring season.
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