Landscaping from the Inside Out is Like Putting a Picture on the Wall

A window picture

A window picture

In September I wrote an article titled, “Design a Landscape To Be Seen Through the Living Room Window.” My brother, Tom is a gifted artist and I have had paintings of his on my living room walls for years and years. I think it is fun now that, maybe, I can give him something for his wall. It’s not a picture but it is visible through the living room window.
Back in September, I had sprayed the weeds and set the plants out where they needed to be. Tom’s wife, Sheila, got a person to come and help with the labor a couple of weeks later. The window picture started changing rapidly:

The view changes

The view changes

The plants were installed and cypress chips were spread for an effective and attractive mulch. I like a shredded wood mulch on a hillside, too. It stays in place well and holds other things in place. The mulch also holds moisture well.
I like the way the color of the mulch turned this mountainside front yard into a river-like illusion.

hillside planted and mulched with cypress

hillside planted and mulched with cypress

I had also marked a lot of scrub trees that needed to be removed. I was happy to see a picture of the finished product. Sheila wanted white flowers and the “Emil Moliere” hydrangeas will make quite a show.

The wooded area has been cleaned up and mulched

The wooded area has been cleaned up and mulched

Interactions of Tom and Olive remind me of Christopher Robin and Pooh Bear. Olive remarked that things certainly did look different and that there would be no more worry about Tom having an accident while mowing that steep bank.

"Tom's gonna like this 'cause Ma likes it."

“Tom’s gonna like this ’cause Ma likes it.”

Sheila admires things from the street. All is well. Tom is grinning because of “happy wife, happy life,”

No mowing needed on this hillside.

No mowing needed on this hillside.

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As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

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Preparing for Planting a Shady Border Flower Garden—part one of a series

Judy Kerns Well, a Facebook friend from Darwin, Ohio asked me to do a series of articles on shade gardening. This was good timing for me because I had been studying the border of the yard that I became involved with after getting married a year ago and moving in with my wonderful wife, Dekie. It all worked together. Even though it was over a hundred degrees and a Saturday, I felt good and motivated and my friend Adrian wanted to help so we started putting the project together. I had a lot to work with, too. I had already sprayed the area to get rid of the weeds. Here’s Dekie in her yard for the ‘before’ picture:

shade garden preparation, 'before'  picture

shade garden preparation, ‘before’ picture

One of the first problems associated with planting in the shade is that the soil is usually compacted and full of roots from the trees and shrubs that cause the shade in the first place. The second problem is that these trees and shrubs drink up all the water. I decided that for success with the project, I would install a low volume watering system from the start. This took about two hours but I had already bought the parts which would add a couple more hours to the project. Here’s a picture of the problem. You can see the offending root and the black irrigation pipe:

Roots and compacted dirt are main problems in building a shade garden

Roots and compacted dirt are main problems in building a shade garden

I knew that if I tried to run a tiller or something like that, I would run into problems with roots and rocks. Messing with that would take the entire day, and because I believe in the KISS theory (“keep it simple, stupid), I brought in a lot of compost and raised the areas where I will plant the flowers. The technique is easy, cheap, and it works well. The mounds of compost will be raked out to the proper shape.

add a pile of good dirt or compost to plant in for success in most shady areas

add a pile of good dirt or compost to plant in for success in most shady areas

I like the moisture holding features of cypress mulch much more than pine straw. The cypress chips seem to be cost effective because even though they cost more to start with, they last much longer. The chips also do a good job of holding the compost in place and they turn into dirt when they rot out. Lowe’s had a “cypress blend” for $2.25 per bag and I got twenty of them. Here’s one of the prepared areas. I had turned on the irrigation system prior to raking out the compost so I would be sure that all of it would be watered.

shade garden --rake out the planting area and mulch with cypress chips.

shade garden –rake out the planting area and mulch with cypress chips.

Here is a picture of the border after I installed the chips. It looks a lot better already. I often tell clients that their yard needs “definition.” Definition sure did help the area here. It’s the first of July and I know it is late in the season, but I’m going to plant flowering annuals all along the border and then use every grower’s trick I have learned over the last 35 years to make them flourish and shine.

Notice that Sweetie was hiding in the house when I took this picture. It was 110 outside.

Notice that Sweetie was hiding in the house when I took this picture. It was 110 outside.

I spent last week repairing irrigation systems for people and I spent a lot of time driving from job to job and to lots of stores for parts. I really wanted a lot of impatiens but they just didn’t seem to be available. I didn’t quit, though and I ended up with a couple of flats of plants that really needed attention. They were all wilted an root bound, but a little care and water is bringing them back. I found green leafed begonias and a few other things that I can use. There are some nice coleus that will add a tall background.  I would like to get a few caladiums but they’re still pretty high priced right now. I will probably plant hostas for next year. Actually, right now I’m just playing—but I know it will look good when I get finished.

Collected plants for the shady border flower bed

Collected plants for the shady border flower bed

I plan to add to the shade gardening articles for the next two or three weeks. Stay tuned, or better yet, go to the top right hand corner of this article and sign up to get John The Plant Man sent straight to your email whenever I post an article.

AND REMEMBER

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

If you want a consultation in your yard in N.W. Georgia, send me an email at wherdepony@bellsouth.net

Weed free garden paths and moving a water faucet.

 I didn’t install this lovely vegetable garden, but Nancy asked us to do a little tweaking. I think the main problem was weeds in the pathway, but there was more to be done. The raised beds had settled and were covered with weeds, so we spent quite a bit of time pulling the weeds and then adding several inches of compost to raise the height of the growing medium. Here’s the overview:

A designer vegetable garden in progress

A designer vegetable garden in progress

On what I think is an amusing note, I forgot the camera on the first day and with my type of step by step description, there’s no going back. Added to that, Dekie had changed the camera settings to black and white for some of her art work—and I didn’t notice. It should be interesting. We decided to put landscape fabric in the pathways to help control the weeds. Notice the corner fastened by staples furnished with the fabric. When we ran out of staples, we used large nails to hold the fabric down.

Installing landscape fabric for weed control in garden pathways.

Installing landscape fabric for weed control in garden pathways.

It took a lot of cutting and fitting to get it just right, but when finished, the fabric job looked like this:

landscape fabric installed and fastened with pins

landscape fabric installed and fastened with pins

The person who did the initial installation had put a faucet down in the ground inside the center bed. This was hard to get to, plants grew over it and hid it in the growing season, and the location was just totally unsatisfactory. We decided to move it to a better location.

garden faucet in the wrong place

garden faucet in the wrong place

I decided that we would leave the faucet in the ground to be used as a shut off valve in the winter. This seemed to be the easiest and most effective manner for the hookup. We dug out around the faucet

step one in moving a faucet

step one in moving a faucet

I bought an adaptor to change the hose thread on the faucet to standard pipe threads. FHT=Female hose threads, FIP=female pipe threads.

I needed to change the direction of the pipe, so I used a ¾ street ell. Notice that the threads are wrapped with Teflon tape to keep the joint from leaking.

street ell with teflon tape

street ell with teflon tape

The street ell installed

Adapting garden faucet to pvc pipe

Adapting garden faucet to pvc pipe

I added a 90 degree elbow and turned it toward the direction the pipe would run.

add an elbow and twist to the right direction

add an elbow and twist to the right direction

Here’s the pipe in the ground running to the fence.

moving a garden faucet. pipe layout

moving a garden faucet. pipe layout

The faucet is installed (using Teflon tape) and the pipe is fastened to the fence post with zip ties.

move a garden faucet. finished project

move a garden faucet. finished project

Here’s a picture of the fabric and plumbing installed:

designer veggie garden with fabric and faucet relocated. Ready to add cypress mulch

designer veggie garden with fabric and faucet relocated. Ready to add cypress mulch

We talked about all sorts of coverings for the pathways and decided on cypress wood chips. We spread the chips and were very happy with the results. It took 50-2 cubic foot bags of cypress chips

Designer vegetable garden with weed free pathway of cypress mulch

Designer vegetable garden with weed free pathway of cypress mulch

Now, all Nancy has to do is add plants and water. Yay. (I’ll check the color settings before writing another post)

Click here to find more tips on working with pvc pipe

I hope you enjoyed the article. I’ll bet you will also enjoy my novel

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Which mulch do I use in the landscape garden?

Mulching the landscape garden—Which mulch to use for a low maintenance landscape?

One of the purposes of this blog is to answer lots of FAQ (frequently asked questions) that I run into on a daily basis.  Today, I will deal with the FAQ, “Which mulch should I use in my landscape garden?”  The main answer is, “It depends.”  Read on…..

fresh pine straw mulch in a natural area

pine straw mulch in a natural area

Mulching in the landscape garden—either around the plants or in bare spaces—is quite beneficial for the plants, as it helps with water retention and erosion control as well as providing a neat, well kept look.  The use of the proper mulch in just the right places can also be an art form, providing a subtle “picture frame” for plantings and natural areas.

The old folks around my home base in North Georgia have always used some kind of mulch for their flowers and gardens.  Some of them have recommended a mixture of newspaper, egg shells, and coffee grounds.  I agree that these are excellent mulching materials but they sort of miss it on the aesthetic level.  I thought about it and took a little ride with my trusty camera.  I started at Willow Creek Nursery in Rome, Ga.  The owner, Russ Head, carries a large variety of mulching materials

Independent nurseries like this one usually offer more expertise and more diversified products.

Independent nurseries like this one usually offer more expertise and more diversified products.

I guess the most popular mulching material in our area is pine straw.  The nursery keeps a trailer or two of pine straw bales on the lot at all times.  I have found that there is large variation in the quality of pine straw with different dealers.  I like the pine straw at Willow Creek because the bales are bigger, tighter, and cleaner (less sticks, leaves, and briars) than the bales at the box stores.  The price for the better bales is about the same, but I found that I can get 60 bales of box store pine straw in my truck and I can only get 50 of the better bales in there.  This means I get much more for my money.  So, if you’re looking for lots of straw, you may wish to shop around and include quality as well as price in your selection.

Over 1000 bales of nice pine straw from the wilds of south Georgia

Over 1000 bales of nice pine straw from the wilds of south Georgia

Hardwood mulch seems to be getting to be a big business these days.  Independent nurseries such as Willow Creek are starting to stock bulk hardwood mulches as well as different kinds of gravel for ground covers.  This nursery sells the wood mulch by the cubic yard and will load your truck or deliver for an additional fee.  This particular product runs about $25.00 per cubic yard and one yard will cover about 160 to 175 square feet.  And, I agree, I don’t like the red mulch, either, but lots of people do. But, then, the mulch comes in brown, black, and natural.

For large areas, you may purchase hardwood mulch by the truck load, picked up or delivered

For large areas, you may purchase hardwood mulch by the truck load, picked up or delivered

There are lots of different types of wood products for mulching packaged in plastic bags.  These products include pine bark nuggets, cypress mulch, ground hardwood mulch, and more. According to material and manufacturer, these bags will range in price from $2.50 up for two cubic feet which will cover about 6 sq. feet of bed area.  I prefer to use the bags on small to medium jobs because it is much easier to transport and spread.

The thing about wood mulch is that it turns to good dirt as it decomposes.

The thing about wood mulch is that it turns to good dirt as it decomposes.

Pea gravel is a popular item.  It may be bought in bags if you only need a little, but a visit to the nursery will save you lots and lots of money.  This gravel costs about $35.00 a cubic yard which is way cheaper than the bags.  If you just want a little bit, take a 5 gallon bucket to the nursery and fill it up.

If you need more than a few bags of pea gravel, buy it in bulk

If you need more than a few bags of pea gravel, buy it in bulk

Pea gravel doesn’t rot and go away like the organic mulches, but the most important thing about using pea gravel as a ground cover is that it needs to be contained.  Otherwise, it will get spread out all over the yard.  Below are pictures of a couple of applications of pea gravel.  Note the containment.

Pea gravel mulch in a pool area.  This ground cover was chosen here to provide ease in cleaning up behind a small dog.  It is more expensive to install, but never rots.  Note the containment

Pea gravel mulch in a pool area. This ground cover was chosen here to provide ease in cleaning up behind a small dog. It is more expensive to install, but never rots. Note the containment

Installation of a pea gravel walkway.  Note the containment border of cemented bricks.

Installation of a pea gravel walkway. Note the containment border of cemented bricks.

A good idea for covering natural areas is to plant a ground cover in your mulched areas so that you will eventually be free of having to add fresh mulch all the time.  One of my favorite ground covers for shady areas is vinca minor, or periwinkle.  (vinca minor has small leaves and is quite “tame”—DO NOT let anyone talk you into the larger leafed ‘vinca major’ as it will take over and become a pest.).  Here is a natural area that effectively uses vinca minor:

just the right groundcover like this vinca minor will soon diminish the need for expensive mulch.

just the right groundcover like this vinca minor will soon diminish the need for expensive mulch.

Here is a close up of the vinca minor.  These plants may be bought in a nursery or you may be fortunate enough to have a friend who will give you divisions.

Perennial periwinkle, or vinca minor as a ground cover in natural areas. It has pretty blue or white flowers in the spring.

perennial periwinkle, or vinca minor as a ground cover in natural areas. It has pretty blue or white flowers in the spring.

Lenten Rose (helleboris orientalis)  is also one of my favorite mulch savers.  One of the developing landscape gardens that I am working on features a hillside with flowering cherry trees, pine straw mulch, and a planting of Lenten roses. After two or three years, numerous seedlings from the lenten rose pop up, and if left to grow this bank will be covered in lovely winter blooming flowers in two or three more years.  At that point, there will be no more need for mulching.  It’s a good investment.

This bed under flowering cherry trees has lots of lenten rose seedlings which will shortly cover the entire bank and negate the need for pine straw.

This bed under flowering cherry trees has lots of lenten rose seedlings which will shortly cover the entire bank and negate the need for pine straw.

Wood chips may be used as a ground cover for many different applications.  A garden flagstone pathway bordered with wood chips is pleasing to look at or to walk on.  The flagstone and chips make for a good juxtaposition of textures.

Wood chip mulch gives definition and erosion control around stepping stones.

Wood chip mulch gives definition and erosion control around stepping stones.

Flagstone stepping stones also work well with pea gravel if installed properly

flagstone stepping stones with pea gravel

flagstone stepping stones with pea gravel

And, finally, since I took some of my pictures in Dot Fletcher’s lovely yard, I thought I might show you one of her window planters that she is rather proud of.  Can you see the little tube that takes the water to the planter from the drip irrigation system?  I can. It sure does make watering much easier.

Mrs. Fletcher's window planter

Mrs. Fletcher’s window planter

One last thing to think about.  If you have a tree surgeon friend who keeps really sharp blades on his chipper, you can get a deal on some really good wood chips.  These serve as a good mulch and as they decompose, the earthworms churn them into the dirt better than a tiller.

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As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Try “see inside the book” Harce’s picture is on the cover

 

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