Plants for a Small Garden

All plants have specific needs for sun, shade, water etc. but small gardens, because of the restricted design of their layout, will exacerbate these needs. If you place the wrong plant in the wrong environment or simply buy a plant without doing your homework, you are setting yourself up for a lot of unnecessary heartache.

When I think of some examples of small gardens, I envision the front and rear yards in a Townhouse community. Planting are usually crammed together in very small beds, the back yard is usually enclosed by a fence allowing for a small lawn, and the soil is usually very poor and void of organic matter, because it was pulled from below ground during construction.

Since the houses are also crammed together, the roof drains, along with every neighbors roof drain, empties directly into the yard. With each yard having a fence or a neighbors fence and so on, airflow into these areas is extremely limited, allowing for the moisture to persist and cause not only major problems for the plants but also the siding on the home. Sound familiar?

Because of the potential problems mentioned above, it is imperative that you take some time to observe your garden at different times of the day and read up on the plants you like.

It’s important to know;

  • when your plants will be in the sun or shade during the day; morning sun is a cooler sun and a great spot for partial shade to shade loving plants; afternoon sun is a hot sun and plants here must be able to withstand intense heat
  • what your soil is made of- clay, loam (good organic mix) or sand – Clay soil stays wet longer and requires much less watering. Clay soil is the main culprit in the sickly, yellow leafed plantings that you see in the many commercial landscapes, the plants are simply drowning – Loam or Sandy soils, drain quicker and require more water and weekly monitoring
  • if you have wet areas or any drainage issues- where do your roof gutters drain; shady areas will remain wet longer and require less watering
  • if you have large trees shading beds, they will block rain from reaching the ground; plants here will need more water.
  • plants installed under a tree, in the root zone, will need more water and fertilizer as the tree will absorb most of it.
  • if you have wind issues… fences can decrease or increase wind and possibly dry out plants

Once you understand the different situations your garden may present over time, you can begin choosing the plants that will flourish with you over the years. Strive for a low maintenance gardening experience by installing plants that mature slow and fill in over time.

Adding shrubs like a Butterfly Bush, Spirea or Knock Out Rose not only increase seasonal color but also help keep your landscape manageable because you cut back or rejuvenate these shrubs every spring, reducing their size. Many perennials and ornamental grasses will have the same effect

By choosing plants that are low maintenance (slow growers, require less water and fertilizer, little to no disease or insect problems, rejuvenate or cut back every year), 95% of your yearly gardening is completed during your spring cleanup.

With that thought in mind, I recommend shrubs and perennials not to exceed 4-5 feet tall/ 3-4 feet wide and trees no taller than 15 feet. I also like to avoid any quick growing plants that involve maintenance pruning during the season.

The plantings below are mostly insect and disease free, require very little moisture once established and need very little maintenance during the year. All will bring years of enjoyment to you and your garden when placed in the environment mentioned.

Sessile Oak Tree

Identifying a Sessile Oak Tree

It is a huge deciduous tree and can grow up to a height of 40m. Unlike English and pedunculate oak, the acorns are stalkless. The trunk sits more upright and the branches are also straighter with longer leaf stalks than those of the English oak.

As oak’s age they form a wide crown that spreads right around and develops thick branches on the lower parts of the trunk. Since the tree has a light or open canopy, it allows wild flowers such as primroses and bluebells to grow on the woodland floor below. Before they mature the bark is very smooth with a greyish brown colour, once matured it becomes rough with deep fissures.

They have a monoecious reproductive system, meaning both male and female parts are located on the same tree. The green male flowers are catkins, while the female flowers (bracts) are red buds and hang in bunches. Once pollinated by wind, the red female buds turn into a large glistening seed with a wooden shell at the base. A young acorn is green but turns brown before falling.

The reason it is called sessile oak is because the acorns are not produced on stalks like English and pedunculate oak (peduncles), and instead grow on the outer twigs (sessile).

Significance to Wildlife

It does not particularly matter which oak animals and insects inhabit as they all support an abundance of wildlife. More than 280 insects inhabit the tree which also attracts many of their predators such as birds. You will often find lichens, mosses and liverworts growing on the bark of the tree and deadwood cracks provide a perfect habit for roosting bats and nesting birds. Small mammals such as red squirrels, badgers and jays also eat the acorns.

As the fallen leaves decompose during autumn, they develop into a thick mould on the woodland floor and in turn provide a good habitat for beetles and fungi.

How We Use Oak

One the toughest and most hard-wearing timbers known to man, it was used for many years, primarily for ship building until the mid-19 century and still remains a great choice for structural beams. Historically, all the main elements (leaves, acorns and bark) of the tree were thought to cure lots of medical problems such as inflammation, kidney stones and diarrhoea. Today we use it for things like wine barrels, firewood and flooring.

A long time ago, acorns were collected by humans and turned into flour to make bread. It is a technique that died out 10,000 years ago, mainly because of domestic wheat production. Now we just leave the acorns for mammals and birds.

Threats, Pests and Diseases

There are a high number of oak trees in Britain and they are protected from over harvest. However, there are still numerous pests and diseases that are affecting them. The foliage can be severely damaged by the oak Processionary moth which increases the changes of infection from yet more diseases. The moth is also a hazard to human health and can cause problems with breathing as well as itchy skin from the tiny hairs on its body.

Other diseases affecting the tree include chronic oak decline and acute oak decline. These conditions are serious threats to the trees health and can be caused by a number of factors. It was first brought to attention back in the 1920s that a large number of mature oaks were declining. The most affected are today are central and southern parts of England. You can usually spot this by a thin canopy and broken branches as well bleeding cankers on the trunk.

Grow a Bonsai From Seed

Purchasing the seeds

When purchasing a seed that you intend to train for bonsai, it is important to note the name of the seeds. Many sellers attempt to sell special bonsai tree seeds for a significantly higher than normal price. Don’t fall for this trick; remember that bonsai are grown from normal seeds that should not cost more than usual. We buy our seeds from Bonsaiofnewyork.com, where they are listed as bonsai tree seeds but are not overpriced.

Get ready to plant

While you are waiting to receive your seeds, you can gather your seed starting materials. These materials can vary greatly depending on how many seeds you intend to grow, and what your expectations are.

Soil

The first thing you will need is the most important ingredient to grow a plant: dirt. This can be obtained by going out behind your house with a shovel. If you are looking for better results, picking up some seed starting soil from your local gardening store will increase success. Seeds are susceptible to diseases that are found regularly in outdoor soil. Seed starting soil has been baked at a high temperature to become a sterile soil, without the added bacteria. If you are growing a small amount of seeds, backyard dirt is fine. A few of the seeds are likely to survive regardless of what soil you use.

Tray

Next, you will need somewhere to put that soil. Depending on the amount of seeds you intend to grow, you can use anything from a generic plastic cup with holes poked in the bottom to a divided seed tray. Anything that will hold the soil in place and allow excess water to escape will do the trick. Use of a humidity dome is recommended if you use a seedling tray; this will help the seedlings absorb water, since their root systems have not fully developed.

Location

After you have the supplies ready, you will need to pick a good location to plant your seeds. Whether you are growing an indoor or outdoor tree, we recommend that you plant the seeds indoors. This will let you fully control the environment while the trees are still developing. Make sure this location gets a good amount of sunlight.

Planting the seeds

Once you have your soil in a tray or pot, you can plant your seeds in the soil. Plant your seeds at the recommended depth on the package. Each tree variety does best if grown at a different depth, so ensure that you pay attention to the package. After you have placed the seeds in the dirt and covered them up, water the seeds and place them in the location your choice.

Water and wait…

Keep an eye on your seeds to ensure that the soil does not dry out. When you see the top of the soil start to look dry, it’s time to water. Depending on the species you chose, it could take days or weeks for the seeds to sprout. After they sprout, keep watering as normal until you see the first set of true leaves. The first leaves that seedlings produce are not “true leaves.” These are just leaves that are in the shape of the seed that held nutrients for the tree to begin its life. The true leaves will be the first set of leaves that are the correct shape for the species. After you see these, transplant the plant into a pot or cup if they are not already in one. Continue to water the trees and fertilize in accordance with species recommendations until winter.

First winter (if outside)

Your seedlings should be overwintered for the first winter. Overwintering is the process of protecting the tree from its first winter. This will give it a better chance to survive without any issues. Bury your pot into the soil, with mulch up to the first branch. This will give your tree the best chance of survival by keeping the roots warm. You should never leave your bonsai tree outdoors during the winter without the bottom of the pot in the ground, as this will allow the roots to freeze and kill the tree. If possible, protect the tree from the cold wind as well. Another possibility is to keep your tree in an unheated shed or garage.

Rearranging Garden

First, take a look at a plan of your yard. This plan should incorporate the current look of the garden and the future look of the garden. In your scale plan you should leave some space for the notes, abrupt ideas, plants’ names, and a lot of more. Do not forget to note how the light shifts in your area. Light is dramatically important for the plants and the need of the light for individual plants differ considerably. Later, decide where do you want to build your garden buildings. These buildings can be built in a sunny or shady area.

Moreover, carefully select the plants for your garden. And remember that not every plant in your yard must be moved or removed. You definitely have some great and beautiful plants. Let them grow in your yard. Gardeners think of the plants and trees throughout the year. Do not forget to pick the plants which will grow well in your climate. If you are not sure that your selected plants will grow well in your climate, you can always ask nurseries, country agriculture extension agents, and other institutions. They will recommend you suitable plants by climate zone. Pick proper trees, bushes and fences in order to form the structure for your yard.

You should think about the vertical landscape. It is recommended to choose tall plants and flowing vines in the garden because these plants can hide the walls and fences. What is more, these plants create a great atmosphere. Include big trees, plants, and walls as a background in your yard’s plan. Outline the items you want to add on tracing paper and lay the sketch over main drawings to see how the items look together. If you decided to try gardening, you may think about an area in your garden with as much sun as possible, because fruits and vegetables will not grow in a heavy shade. Be sure to grow recommended varieties of vegetables for your area. You can ask for help at the local garden store for varieties available. Usually it is better to buy high quality seeds and plant them not too deep.

If you want to have more space for unused garden tools and other equipment, it is important to decide which garden building you need in your garden area. There are several options for garden buildings. You can build a log cabin, wooden gazebo, garden shed, wooden garage or other building. Keeping gardening tools somewhere in a corner of your garage is not bad, but a lot of people want something more than this. For example, a beautiful garden shed or a log cabin where the garden tools, mower and other equipment have their place.

Of course, most of the gardeners can do a lot of work without an expensive garden shed, but when the gardener’s garage is full of gardening tools, a great garden shed no longer seems a ridiculous idea. It is said that a garden shed for the gardener is like a kitchen for a cook.

If you want to have a small garden and grow vegetables for your family, you need a place to keep all your gardening tools and equipment. There are different garden buildings because everybody has different needs. There are a lot of advantages of owning a garden building. Some garden sheds are used as gardeners’ offices with the space for tools, and a desk for writing gardening notes.

Plant a Water Saving

  • Plant Your Vegetables Early: Plant cool weather, short season vegetables in March. That way, crops will be ready to pick before the summer heat when vegetables require more water. Cool weather vegetables include beets, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, garlic, leeks, onions, peas and turnips. You can also plant carrots and radishes, which do well year round.
  • Plant Vegetables That Need Less Water: If summer vegetables are still desired, plant vegetables that do not require a lot of water. These include corn, mustard greens, spinach, certain types of tomatoes, some zucchini, chard, arugula, jalapenos, pole and snap beans and eggplant.
  • Prepare Your Soil: Soil is the key to a garden’s success. Mix compost into garden soil so the soil retains moisture better. Make sure the compost is designed for garden planting and for soil type (sandy or clay). Add a layer of mulch to the top of the soil to keep water from evaporating.
  • Place Plants Close Together: When possible, place plants close together so you are watering less square footage. The plants can then better “share” water.
  • Water Thoroughly, Less Often: Water only as needed in spring. There is still a chance of rain before summer. When rain is no longer in the forecast, however, give plants a good soak early in the morning no more than twice a week. This watering schedule forces plant roots to look for water deeper in the soil, which helps keep plants hydrated longer.
  • Replace Hard-to-Water Areas With Ground Cover: Some yards contain areas that are awkward to water, so often, water sprays onto patios, fences and walls. To avoid wasting water, replace these hard to water areas with drought-tolerant plants, rocks or wood mulch.
  • Fertilize trees and shrubs: Feed trees and shrubs with nitrogen fertilizer. Plants usually need to be fertilized twice a year–once in March at the beginning of the spring growing period and again in September. Feed avocado, citrus trees, fruit trees and roses with a well-balanced fertilizer. For fruit trees and roses, wait until the first sign of new leaves before fertilizing.
  • Mow lawn to the right height: cool season grass blades (bluegrass, ryegrasses, fescues) should be kept about two inches high. Mow regularly to keep weeds at bay and to promote thicker lawns. When the weather warms considerably in the summer, increase grass blade height to three inches. Warm season grass (Bermuda, St. Augustine and zoysia) should be cut at a steady two-inch level throughout spring and summer.

Get Rid of Bugs in Organic Garden

One easy way to get rid of bugs is by first identifying what type they are. Some bugs are extremely easy to get rid of if you know what they hate. For example, if you are dealing with insects such as grasshoppers, all you have to do is to spread some powdered flour over the leaves of the plants. Why does this work? When the grasshoppers ingest the flour, it causes all sorts of problems with their digestive system. Hence, they eventually die after their digestive system fails. A simple search on a search engine will tell you the best natural remedy against specific insects.

Another easy way to get rid of bugs is by introducing natural predators to you garden. For example, it may help a great deal if you have birds in your garden. To give them an incentive to stay in your garden, you can set up a small platform where the birds can relax. You might also want to provide some food here and then. Birds aren’t the only natural predators. It may also help to have small lizards in your garden. In southeastern countries such as Cambodia, it is normal to have geckos and lizards around the building. They do an extremely important job of eating all the pesky mosquitoes and flies.

Overall, the best way of getting rid of bugs in organic gardens is by preventing them from entering in the first place. For example, it may help to set up a small cage around your plants. It may also help to clear out any dead logs around your garden. Dead logs and damp rocks can attract all sorts of insects so it is in your best interest to get rid of them as soon as possible. Garden preparation is a very important step to creating a successful organic garden.

Orchids in Ancient Greece

Beautiful and delicate Orchids are seen everywhere in the history of the world. You can find them in traditional Chinese medicine, Darwin’s explorations, and in Ancient Greece. The Greek’s believed that Orchids could influence fertilization, depending on the size of flowers you ate. This theory came from classic mythology, which they based most of their beliefs.

The story was about a child named Orchis, the son of a nymph and a satyr. He was torn apart by wild beasts after attempting to rape a priestess. The story says that he metamorphosed into an Orchid after his death. This became the basis of how Ancient Greeks looked at fertility and sexual reproduction.

Ancient Greeks were the first to pen the name Orchid, which is translated to the Ancient Greek word for testicle. They picked this name because they believed that the psuedobulb that Orchids produce look like a testicle. From the story of Orchis and the name testicle, sprung many beliefs about how Orchids could influence sexual reproduction.

They believed that a male could east large orchid pedals to influence the conception of a boy over a girl. This was a very popular belief that was considered a proven fact in the Ancient Greek Culture. On the other spectrum, they believed that females could eat small Orchid petals to encourage the direct opposite. This theory could never be completely ignored because in most cases the woman would eat small petals at the same time as the male ate large, making It impossible to eliminate.

Other than sexual reproduction, the Ancient Greeks used Orchids to produce many other commodities. The most common product being Vanilla flavoring, produced originally from Vanilla Orchids. Other products that contained Orchids were food, medicine, aphrodisiacs, and perfumes. Over history, Orchids have been used to produce a wide range of products, covering just about anything that you can think of.

Use a Grub Hoe

Using an Azada is simple. Place your dominant hand on the top of the hoe and the other hand 1/3 to 1/2 of the way down, with both thumbs facing down towards the head. Lift the hoe to hip height and let the weight of the tool, gravity, and a little acceleration from your arms plunge the hoe into the ground in a chopping motion like a pick or mattock. Then use your body weight and arms to pull up on the slice of dirt you just cut. Two or three small chops can remove as much or more earth as a typical spade or shovel with 1/3 of the effort.

I can remember spending over an hour trying to cultivate a small garden plot with a shovel and a fork. My sore back and blistered hands led me to seek other solutions. The following year, I used an Azada and I was able to accomplish the same workload in about 20 minutes and back and hands felt great. In fact, because the Grub Hoe uses so many more muscle groups than a shovel or fork, I felt like I had just received a full body workout. The natural and ergonomic motions of the Grub Hoe made it an absolute joy to use.

A final important aspect of making the Azada work well for you is maintenance. Make sure that the blade is sharp! A sharp blade allows the tool to do its work properly. You wouldn’t want to work in your garden with your legs tied together would you? Using a dull tool is similar! After using your Azada, make sure to wipe off both the head and the handle and seal it with a rust-proofer at least once every season to prevent rust and wear.

Acacia Floral Beauty

Early shelters for the European settlers in Australia were made out of wattle branches from the black wattle or Acacia mearnsii and mud. Allowing protection from the elements in our harsh sometimes unforgiving climate. Later they would discover that this particular wattle also produces high amounts of tannin in its bark, which is widely used for the tanning of leather. An industry in high demand at this stage in history.

The Acacia varies greatly in size from species to species, they range from ground covers, shrubs to small & large trees. Almost all distinguishable by their golden yellow globular flowers except for a few, two of those are the Acacia purpureopetalain North Queensland Australia has mauve pink flowers and another from South Australia Acacia gilbertii which flowers white. This fascinating plant only has soft feather like leaves when it is young, as they mature they form phyllodes, losing their leaves all together. The foliage is generally either a blue-green or a silver-grey.

Although there has been an on going botanist debate concerning the reclassification of some species into five separate genera due to structural differences, ( a lot of species in Africa for example have thorns etc. ) it is still on going.

Acacia trees have a few fascinating defense systems in place, one of these is to produce gum from its bark when animals graze against them for protection. The scent of the gum travels through the air, causing other acacias in the vicinity to start excreting gum a very handy early warning system.

Another strange Acacia phenomenon is located in Coast a Rica these swollen thorn Acacia offer the Acacia ants a home, protein & carbohydrates in their hollow thorns and in return the ants defend the plant against herbivores. The plant controls the ant population by how much sugar it excrete’s for them to feast on.

Indigenous Australian’s had many uses for the wattle, most of the plant is used to make a variety of things including, sticks for digging, clap sticks, spear throwers, ax handles, shields, boomerangs, firewood, glue from the bark, dyes, spiritual ceremonial headdresses, seeds were ground with water to make a paste eaten fresh or cooked to make a damper like food.

Medicinal uses: teas could be brewed from specific parts of the roots, leaves & bark to treat cold, flu, sore throats, fever, headaches, stomach pains toothaches.

The gum excreted from the bark was also used, put in water with a high nectar flower such as the bottle brush to make a natural cordial like drink. The acacia kempeana is also the native home of the witchetty grub a great source of protein for the indigenous people.

Commercially today the Acacia family has many uses. It is used for erosion control revegetation programs and landscaping. Used in gums, soft drinks, candies, foods, paints, inks cosmetics & hair dyes just to name a few. The wood is used for firewood and furniture, the flowers for perfume and the bark produces tannin.

This awesome plant can not only thrive in arid climates and bush fire prone zones, it also naturally absorbs nitrogen and bacteria from the soil allowing a natural cleansing. An amazingly tough and resilient plant. Definitely appropriate for Australia’s floral emblem.

Grow Mushrooms

  • Determine the type of mushroom that you want to grow: Three types of mushrooms that can be grown easily at home are shitake, oyster and white button. The method used for growing all these mushrooms is similar. However, source material differs. White button mushrooms grow best in composted manure, oysters grow best in straw while shitakes grow best in sawdust. Which type of mushroom you choose to grow depends completely on your preferences of taste and health.
  • Buy mushroom spawn or spores: These are the “seeds” for growing mushrooms. Mushroom spawn serves as the root structure of fungus. Basically it includes sawdust permeated with mushroom mycelia. Several online retailers sell it or you can purchase it from your preferred offline gardening supply store too. On the other hand, spores also do the same but require a bit of practice and expertise in comparison to spawn. In short, if you aren’t a seasoned mushroom grower you should always avoid the spores and opt for spawn instead.
  • Spread mycelia into the growing medium by heating it: Before you start growing your favorite nutritious mushrooms, you’ll need to spread the mycelia equally and thoroughly in growing medium. Heat can help you out in this matter. For doing this place your preferred growing medium into a pan and mix mycelia into it from your hands. After mixing it place the pan on a heating pad that has temperature set to 21° C (or 70° F), which is the finest temperature for encouraging growth of mushrooms. After this you can leave the whole setup in a dark environment for 3 weeks.
  • Fuel the growth by providing proper environment: After 3 weeks you’ll have to place your setup in an environment that’s dark and cool. Your basement may work fine in many cases, but in winters a cabinet in unheated room will also be able to do the same job. Cover your growing medium with potting soil and spray of water. For preventing moisture loss you can place a wet towel over the pan if necessary. The key thing worth remembering here is that your medium should remain moist and cool as mushrooms grow. Keep checking them periodically and spray water if necessary.
  • Harvest them when they’re grown: Finally, by the end of a 3 weeks long period your mushrooms will be ready for harvesting. At first you’ll see small mushrooms appearing… keep encouraging their growth by keeping environment dark, moist, and cool. Harvest them once their caps get separated from the stems. You can easily pluck them from your fingers. Rinse them with water and they’re ready to be cooked!