Start a Backyard Garden With Raised Beds

There is nothing quite like producing your own fresh food and it is very easy to do. No matter what size your backyard may be, or even if you just have a patio or deck, you have room for a garden by building raised beds, pots, window boxes, or just about anything that will hold soil.

First, you must decide how much space and time you may want to devote to your new project. Like most new endeavors, starting small is a good idea, and as you learn from experience you can grow and grow from one season to the next. If all you have is a patio or deck, you should consider what we call “container gardening”. This is nothing more than something like a five gallon bucket or maybe a whiskey barrel or maybe a used wheelbarrow. Even an old bathtub would do the trick! Just fill them with clean composted soil and you are ready to plant.

If you have a little more space, raised beds are the way to go. These are constructed with organic pressure treated lumber and range in size from four feet wide, one foot deep and to as long as you would like (10 to 12 feet is most common). It is important to limit the width because you must be able to reach the center of the bed without stepping on the soil. If you are going to use raised beds, it is a good idea to put pencil to paper and figure out how large an area you are going to work with and how many beds you want to build.

Because your garden is new, this will be your best chance to fill it with clean weed free soil. If you are just doing container gardening, you can purchase bagged soil at any nursery or garden center. For raised beds, you will need to have soil or loam delivered by a local landscape service or mulch supplier. You will need approximately 3/4 of a cubic yard for each 4×12 foot bed. Make sure you specify composted loam for vegetable gardens. Upon delivery, mix in a small amount of peat moss to lighten up the soil, about 5%. Fill up your containers or beds and you are ready to plant.

Herbs are quite easy to grow and don’t require much space, which makes them ideal for container gardens. Select whatever varieties you commonly use such as dill, thyme, parsley, chives, sage, oregano, etc. Many herbs are perennials, meaning they will grow back year after year without replanting every season. Chives are wonderful because a small bed will come back to life early in the spring and require very little maintenance. Many herbs that you plant in containers can be over-wintered inside and returned to the patio the following spring.

Regarding vegetables, tomatoes are an obvious choice along with cucumbers, lettuce and peppers. These four items alone will provide you with salads all season long. Green beans are very popular too and with staggered planting, you will be able to harvest them for several weeks in a row. Onions grow very well throughout the United States and should be planted as “sets”. These are just immature onions about 4 inches tall that have been commercially grown for transplanting to home gardens early in the spring.

Build Pondless Waterfall

The key to making your waterfall look natural, is to be sure to remove plenty of dirt and recessing the waterfall into the ground. Many people make the mistake of constructing it above the natural grade level of the original grade. Rocks do not look natural sticking above the surface of the ground. This is especially true if the waterfall rocks are the only ones visible on the bank, hill or grade where the waterfall is located. The rocks of the waterfall should give the appearance that, over the years, water has washed down the hill or bank, eroding away the original surface soil and exposing the rocks hidden beneath.

Rebar

The next step is to apply the 3/8″ rebar 8 to 10 inches on center, criss-crossing each other, and fastening them together in a grid using a tie wire to fasten them together. Small 2″ x 2″ blocks called dobies are then placed under the grid to hold above the dirt. When concrete is applied, it must completely surround all the rebar. No rebar can be touching the soil or it will rust. And rust, like cancer, will spread and follow the rebar into the concrete structure. As the rebar rusts it swells, much like would when it gets moisture in it. The swollen rebar hydrologically causes the concrete to crack.

Plumbing

Use flexible PVC pipe, not rigid pipe, because it is easy to manipulate around the corners and over uneven ground. But most of all, by using flex you will eliminate the need for fittings such as elbows and couplings under ground, thus eliminating possible future sources of leaks.

You can install the flex under the rebar or alongside it, down the waterfall’s course. One of the major flaws with liner constructed pondless waterfalls is that they use sump pumps which suck energy (60% more than centrifugal pumps). They then fill the cistern containing the pump with gravel, reducing the available water space. Consequently, when the waterfall is started up, most of the catch basin or cistern is drained of water before the previously pumped water can return to the basin. This makes it necessary to regularly add water to the basin or the pump will run dry and burn up. It is very important to add a reliable water leveler to a pondless waterfall since you are not able to see the level of water in the catch basin.

Concrete Construction

In concrete construction, anti-vortex suction drains (just like what is used in swimming pools) can be installed in the bottom of the basin. Galvanized grating can then be spanned across the basin and rock placed on top of the grating to hide it.

Now the basin is empty and free of gravel to allow plenty of room for water storage. An out-of-pond, high-efficiency centrifugal pump can be used to circulate the water. Unlike sump pumps that are used in liner construction, a centrifugal pump uses 60% less energy, is easy to maintain, carries three times the warranty, has four to five times the life expectancy, and there is no need ever to access the basin or remove stinky, filthy gravel to get to the pump.

Concrete Application

Most concrete pumpers know how to apply concrete to waterfall rebar, and they only charge a couple of hundred dollars. Troweling is easy; anyone can do it because it does not need to be smooth. Just knock down the rough edges and smooth with a sponge.

The concrete itself only costs $100-$125 a yard with most pondless waterfalls requiring only 2 to 3 yards. Check out the cost of a liner kit alone (without any labor)! and search the internet under “Pond liners vs. concrete.”

Don’t waste your money on a temporary solution. Reinforced concrete actually cost less and will last decades longer.

Study With Online Horticulture Courses

  • Planting Design
    Even an experienced gardener may find that it’s easy to get in a slump when designing gardens. Planting design courses can enhance garden designs by teaching about specific plants and their characteristics and attributes. Once you understand more about plant textures, colors, form, seasonal colors, and more, your garden will come to life. You will understand how to properly select flowers, grasses, trees, bulbs, and shrubs in order to create a garden of vibrant color, form, and texture. These courses are valuable in designing any size of garden, large or small.
  • Vegetable Gardening
    If you’ve attempted to grow vegetables, you know that there is much more to it than planting a seed and watering it. Vegetable gardening courses can help you increase the yield of your vegetable garden by teaching principles of land selection, quantity of land necessary, and other factors that are important before you plant your garden. You will also learn about timing, increasing yield, and keeping the crops healthy. If organic produce is important to you, you can also learn about chemical-free fertilizers and pesticides. If self-sufficiency is your goal, you can learn the best ways to grow crops year-round in order to obtain this goal.
  • Architectural Rendering
    An important step in garden design is an actual visual rendering of the finished product. Hand rendering courses can teach you how to draw professional-looking designs that can not only guide you throughout the construction process but are extremely valuable for individuals who design gardens as a profession. Designers of any type are likely to benefit from learning these rendering techniques.
  • Floral Design
    Perhaps you don’t consider yourself to have a “green thumb” but enjoy horticulture immensely. You may want to consider floral design instead. Not only will you learn the practical aspects of floral design, such as the equipment necessary to hold together the arrangement, but your creativity can be enhanced as you learn about bouquet and arrangement design elements. You will also learn about contemporary ideas for containers and unique ways to present flowers.
  • Insects
    You may be surprised that you can learn more about insects as part of online horticulture courses. You can learn about trees, shrubs, and flowers that attract wildlife. This can help you learn if it’s possible to discourage undesirable wildlife, while attracting birds, bees, and other pollinators to your garden by using certain types of nectar, seeds, and pollen. You can also learn about natural bee keeping by understanding a bee’s life cycle and supporting their natural behaviors.

Simple Herb Garden

Review existing garden beds

How did your herbs perform last year? Do you need to test your soil to determine if fertilizer or organic nutrients need to be incorporated? This is also the time to figure out how much new potting soil you need to buy. Were you happy with the menu of plants from the previous year? Are there any you want to discontinue because they were a challenge to grow or you just didn’t find much use for them? Do you need to change the location of plants that require more or less sunlight? Maybe there were plants that would prosper more in the ground or, did you have vigorous herbs such as mint that took over your beds and need to be contained in a pot?

Spring Cleaning

Completely clearing out the weeds before planting will save you time and energy throughout the growing season. You’ll still have some invasive little sprouts that will pop up around your herbs but if you stay on top of it by pulling them as you’re watering and grooming your plants, weeding will not be overwhelming. First, dig up any dead debris from last year and dispose of it in the trash. Then, pull the weeds from the base so you remove the root as well. Carefully comb through the dirt with a hand-held 3-prong rake for any particles left behind.

If you need to test your soil to see if anything else besides soil is required now is the time. Otherwise, go ahead and add new top soil. If you’re planting in the ground or deck bed as I am, and your herbs have been doing well, you’ll end up blending new dirt with the old. Just make sure you’ve removed weeds and leftover stems so they do not root themselves in the middle of your current herbs. With containers, I dump them each season and start with all fresh soil.

Decide how many and which herbs you want to grow

While researching, decide how many herbs you need to create your garden oasis. Calculate the time you have for planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting. While herbs can be easy to grow, once your herb garden flourishes, it will require time and regular care. Plus, you’ll need to plan for recipes. One of the tastiest reasons to grow your own fresh herbs is the benefit of healthy, creative flavor you can add to every meal.

Sketch a diagram of your new herb garden

In order to make the most of the space you have, sketch a diagram of where each plant will rest. This helps you figure out how many containers you need, or how large of an area in the ground you need to prepare.

Companion planting is one of the most beneficial methods of repelling garden pests. Look up the herbs you’ve chosen, to see which ones will naturally benefit each other so you can make your pest control efforts easier. Consider the amount of sunlight, space, and drainage requirements for each one. Also, allow a few extra spots because as you’re shopping you may discover additional plants you want to try.

Shop around for prices and healthiness of plants

Stores and garden centers carry a different selection of herbs. You will also find them in different stages of growth and varying degrees of healthiness. So it’s important to shop around before you buy. You can check out their websites, but I enjoy visiting and browsing through the spring selections. Plus, it’s possible that they may not have all the products listed online.

Purchase your fresh herbs

Make sure warm weather is here to stay because you do not want much time to pass between purchase and planting. The big garden centers offer a great selection at reasonable prices and sometimes knowledgable staff. But if you can locate a smaller local shop you’re likely to find more personalized, consistent attention. And it’s great to support individual businesses too.

Plant

At last, you’re ready to nestle your new babies into their home. Follow your diagram and rest each herb on top of the dirt so you can make sure that everything is going to work out as you envisioned. You’ll need a small hand-held digging trowel and the water hose or a watering can. Dig each hole deep enough to settle the plant in securely but so that the leaves are left uncovered. Pour water around it to moisten the roots. Fill the hole in with soil and lightly pack it around the plant.

Lawn Sprinkler Heads

Having the best sprinkler system doesn’t mean you must dig up your yard and install sprinkler equipment. It can be as simple as using a tripod sprinkler with a good quality sprinkler head.

Your main goal is to be able to water your garden as thoroughly and easily as possible. So your best sprinkler system may be either an above ground or in ground system.

In finding the best sprinkler head for your particular needs I would take a look at Rainbird or Orbit first. You can easily go online and get to their websites.

Orbit is first class all the way. Their sprinkler heads are a professional grade quality that will give you years of trouble free use.

Orbit also offers every type of sprinkler in use today including tripod sprinkler heads and popup sprinkler heads.

Finding the right equipment for your watering needs will allow you to spend more time in your garden growing more plants, rather than having to try and fight to keep them alive.

Vegetable Garden Shade and Shelter

If shade is unavoidable for a few hours daily in parts of the garden try to plant these areas with cabbage, lettuce, Swiss chard and any other leaf crops that appear to tolerate such conditions for short periods. Even theses crops, however, require several hours’ full sunshine a day if they are to yield satisfactorily.

Shade from distant trees and from buildings is not as damaging as that thrown by overhanging trees nearby. In addition, trees in such close proximity to the growing crop rob growing vegetables of valuable moisture and plant food because of the extensive surface root systems they develop.

Shelter is different from shade and is often very necessary in low-lying exposed situations. A sheltered garden will allow the growing of tender plants such as bush beans and tomatoes to be continued during the colder months when field planting would be risky. Shelter also protects okra, staked tomatoes and other tall growing crops from damage caused by winds. Strong winds often cause considerable damage to staked tomatoes by whipping the plants and causing the immature green fruits to chafe against the support

Permanent shelter can be provided by a building, a wall, a substantial wooden fence, or by a hedge or even by a row or two of banana trees. A tall wooden fence, apart from acting as a windbreak, may also be useful as a permanent support for runner beans and other vine like vegetables When frost is expected it is often worthwhile to provide protection for tender crops by erecting a temporary windbreak of hessian or grass.

Care of Roses

Now that Spring is in the air and the soil in our garden is warming up, so the roots of our favourite plants are waking up from a long sleep. It’s time to don the gardening gloves, grab the secateurs, and make sure we give our roses the best possible chance for healthy growth and a long-lasting bloom of flowers in the summer and autumn months ahead.

While rose growers living in warmer climates generally prune over winter; for those people living in a cold climate, April is ideal the time to prune. Wait until the leaf buds begin to swell. For cold climate dwellers, this is also the time to clean up around the base of the bush, removing any old leaves or mulch that was used to protect the bush over winter.

The best time to feed your roses is at pruning time, so for those in cold climates this will be in early spring. Use a good quality all-purpose rose food. For those in warm climates, who pruned and fed their roses over winter, hold off on applying new fertilizer just now. This should be done in early summer.

In early spring it’s important to look out for aphids on new growth. If these tiny green insects appear, clustering on the new growth, use insect spray such as Pyrethrum or Confidor to deter them.

When buds start to appear on your roses, you can apply a foliar feed to encourage them. Try spraying them with Peter’s Multi Purpose Fertilizer or Miracle Gro Multipurpose Fertilizer. If you find any evidence of Black Spot on the leaves of your roses, use a fungicide spray to tackle the problem head on.

As the weather warms up, it pays to mulch well around the base of the plant with a pea straw or lucerne hay. As these mulches break down they add much needed nutrients to the soil, as well as protecting the roots from drying out. You will enjoy a magnificent flush of blooms by mid spring, but keep an eye out for black spot!

As your roses bloom and grow in the warmer weather, a constant deadheading will ensure a steady display of picture perfect roses well into summer and autumn. Now is the time to get out and visit gardens and see other roses in their full glory – a perfect opportunity to make note of all the roses you want to plant in your own garden for next year! Happy gardening!

Maintaining Landscaped Yard

In a perfect world, everything you’ve planned for your yard would be just that, perfect. It is not a perfect world, though, and there are several things to consider after you have finished the landscaping. Here are some simple maintenance tricks that might have escaped your mind.

The first thing that you should think about is the safety of your own kids. Weeds will grow and some of these weeds are harmful not only to your other plants but to your own children as well. You should check regularly for weeds and be prepared to immediately remove them from your garden.

Your kids are naturally curious and you make sure that thorns from your flowers (roses, etc.) are not problematic. You must also consider a tree’s branches, as big frail branches could easily fall, or may so low that they are easily a hazard. Prune them. Be sure that rocks and pebbles are not in your child’s way as they could stumble on them and hurt themselves.

After thinking about your kids, you must care for your plants. Plants need regular watering as they will wilt or die if not given taken care. Play areas that are too close to the play area can be destroyed by a stray ball or trampling.

Another thing to consider is making sure that the soil is suitable for growing plants. Fertilizers and/or constant tilling of the soil will make it more fertile and will enhance the growth of your plants.

Make sure that your yard is properly cleaned and that the grass is kept mowed. Trash can ruin the aesthetic value of your yard and can also be harmful to your health. Be sure to take out the trash at least every few days. You might also watch out for stagnant water areas as they are the favorite breeding places of mosquitoes.

Creating and landscaping your yard and garden does not end there, the work starts at this point and you must realize that every masterpiece needs proper care to maintain it’s beauty.

Invasive Plants of Sedona

Plants that grow out of control or spring up in unwanted spaces are a nuisance to the average gardener. Naïve homeowners who plant these species in the first place unknowingly are creating a potential maintenance headache. Some of these invasive species are so difficult to eradicate completely, that only containment is possible.

The Tree of Heaven or Alianthus is one of the worst culprits to fit the category of invasive plants of Sedona. It is also invasive across the entire United States and is extremely difficult to kill, let alone keep under control. It spreads from seeds that are so prolific and blow through an area, easily germinating in almost any conditions. Once it takes hold, it starts what is called a “colony.”

There are chemicals that are used to both spray the foliage as well as to inject or spray into a wedge cut into the trunk. Personally, I have tried using RoundUp on some small seedlings, but all that does it cause the leaves to wither and not really kill it down to the root. Best way to control young Tree of Heaven is to remove the entire plant. Knowing what these look like is important so if one pops up in your yard, you should remove it right away.

Vinca major, also called Periwinkle is an evergreen ground cover that likes shady areas and can be seen all over Oak Creek canyon under the shade of the Sycamores and Pines that line the canyon. In a garden, it can quickly take over by sending out new runners and rooting along the way. The good thing is the roots are not that difficult to remove and a patch out of control can be removed or contained provided you pay attention and spend the time to do it.

Another invasive plant of Sedona that I see much of is the Trumpet Creeper. Having an orange tubular flower in spring and summer, it is a popular deciduous vine that clings to walls. The problem is it seems to like to spread underground as well. It spreads like it has rhizomes for a root system. Fortunately, Trumpet Creeper does respond to RoundUp. I would not plant this plant in the first place though. It is perhaps better used as a container plant against a fence or wall.

Bamboo Horror Stories

Bamboo is a type of grass spreading by rhizomes that stem out from the mother root rhizome mass. Some are considered “clumping” while others are “running” types. For a thick screen, many people opt to plant the running kind because it will spread and fill in gaps better than the clumping varieties. The problem with the running bamboo is when a shoot comes up in a spot you don’t want it to. But it can be controlled by simply cutting the rhizome. Enough space must be given to allow the running bamboo to spread. The problem is not understanding how bamboo rhizomes grow and not paying attention.

Typically, the only bamboo you will see for sale in the Sedona area is Golden Bamboo or Phyllostachus aurea which does well in our Zone 7 climate. Bamboo is usually planted to create a screen. Golden bamboo typically reaches about 12 feet high. Planted along a property line or fence can be risky if it is not contained with a rhizome barrier. You wouldn’t want it popping up in your neighbor’s yard and answer to their complaints. Therefore, it is best to be prudent and do provide some kind of containment or barrier to the boundaries that you would like the bamboo to spread and cover. Thick plastic material that comes is rolls 24″ wide is available specifically for the purpose of containing bamboo or other root systems. The key is to not ignore the growth of your bamboo, rather keep an eye on it so that you will notice any new shoots popping up where you don’t want them and then can easily cut the rhizome. The reason bamboo is feared is that most people plant it and forget about it until it is too late to be easily controlled.

Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica) is an alternative that does not spread and would have to be planted fairly close together to provide a screening effect. If you like bamboo because of its Asian theme, consider planting it in containers in groups, otherwise do use a rhizome barrier and keep an eye on it.

Research Before you Buy

Many homeowners may the common mistake of buying the pretty plant at the nursery because of its flower and general form whether it’s a shrub, ground cover, vine or tree. Think about this: why would a vendor selling a plant at a retail nursery put a description on the plant label that it is invasive? Of course it would put up a red flag and discourage the sale. Descriptions about the characteristics of plant growth are best researched online or in a good gardening book such as Sunset Western Gardening. There you will find objective useful information whether a plant is considered invasive or not.

Fire Pits For Outdoor Decor

Imagine, you have parties and grill outs with the friends and family members and you will love the overall look of your home. Many people have outdoor landscaping, gardens, and / or other beautiful, creative environmental conditions in their own backyards, even if it is just decorative furniture. For example: a fire pit in your yard could be a perfect place to have a safe bonfire, a great barbeque, a wonderful outdoor party and more.

Sit outside and sip on your after dinner coffee or wine and enjoy the stars and the outdoor air around a beautiful antique outdoor fireplace. There are also heating lamps available – if yours is just a problem with the cold night time hours. In the desert, for example, when the dark sweeps over the land it takes with it about twenty degrees or more in some places.

Being an outdoor person, of course, in a safe thing in locations where the outdoor air is safe. Enjoy being outside as much as possible. You will appreciate the health as well as the relaxation benefits of spending time outdoors as well. You can even extend the amount of time you can enjoy your outdoor décor with all of the different kinds of outdoor accessories and outdoor furniture available on the market today.

From outdoor heaters, to fire pits, to outdoor fireplaces, to ponds, to wind chimes, to decorative furniture, to waterfalls, reflecting pools, and more, you can enhance the beauty of your home outdoors. Look around and find the very best outdoor accessories to best suit your personal taste. There are high quality kinds of furniture you can find easily over the internet from the comfort of your home. Never settle for less than what is perfect for you, you can create the ambiance in which to relax and unwind outside your own home.

There are special kinds of outdoor home furniture that you will love! Gnomes, stylish grills, oversized outdoor furniture, fabulous fire pits, and even clocks. Birdfeeders and outdoor waterfalls are also very popular for luring beautiful birds into your yard. Enjoy the outdoor ambiance even more with the sounds of nature all around you. When you have significant foliage in your landscaping, you will have plenty of wonderful, pure oxygen to breathe in, and, if you so choose, the fragrance of floral blooms – the most popular outdoor décor.

Set the tone for springtime, bring in the most beauty your yard and / or garden has ever had before, and increase your ability to relax and unwind during your downtime. Most of us understand the importance of being able to get some “me time” from time to time, in the little time you have to your self. Screens, tables, umbrellas, chairs, benches, planters, and much, much more outdoor accessories, outdoor furniture, and outdoor equipment, are all available at great prices when you look around and find the right stuff.