Grasses Define A Garden

One of the benefits of planting ornamental grasses is that grasses define a garden.  Ornamental grasses are wonderful plantings that can serve as the centerpiece of a garden or as background plantings that will set off other plants.  Rob Rosser writes a detailed article about several kinds of grasses.  He writes about the characteristics of grasses and what you should consider in planting them.  I’ve never thought about some of the things he writes about in respect to how grasses define a garden.

Grasses define a garden.

Grasses define a garden.

Most grasses are superb planted as a specimen, as the focal point in an island bed or as a flowing, four-season hedge with dramatic winter effect. A good collection of ornamental grasses will provide your garden with graceful form, texture and colors that change throughout the year. The best way to display the full beauty of ornamental grasses is to make sure that the foliage is illuminated from the side or from behind with early morning or late afternoon sun.

I didn’t give thought to plant grasses in relation to the light they will receive throughout the day.  But I understand what Rob means, because grass plants seem to be more flexible and in motion than are some other garden ornamentals.  When the fronds move, they reflect light in a way that changes the appearance of the grass plant.  Good idea to make sure they are in a position to take advantage of illumination.  Rob also suggests that you consider several different varieties of grasses that he describes in his article.  Another thing he mentions, to which I’d not given a lot of thought, is to consider grasses and sound.

One of the most unique experiences in the garden is the sound of grasses. It’s one of my favorite secrets to share with a friend. Take the time to sit alone or with a silent friend and listen to the sound of grasses as they whisper in a gentle breeze or whistle and whip in the wind. Placement of ornamental grasses in a position where they catch the movement of air as it drifts through the garden is as important as planting to catch the light of day.

As I read that passage, Rob writes so descriptively that I can hear the sound of that grass.  You will enjoy reading Rob’s article by clicking here or on the link below.  Rob article about how grasses define a garden has given me a lot to think about regarding my own ornamental grass plant–yes, plant, singular.  I need to look to supplement my garden with some of the grasses Rob recommends, particularly around my deck, so I can enjoy their relaxing sounds as I sit on my andirondack chair sipping on my sweet tea.  Heaven!

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Photo by Macleay Grass Man

Thicken Your Lawn The Easy Way

If you’re looking for how to thicken your lawn the easy way, you’ve just found it.  A thin lawn needs to be overseeded.  A mistake people often make is to overseed in the fall, and too often that is when a gardening center will mistakenly tell you to do so.  Peter Bowden has written a blog post several years ago, and the information he wrote about then is still valid.  His post about how to thicken your lawn the easy way is really good information and tops what some gardening centers will tell you to do.

Thicken your lawn the easy way--dormant overseed.

Thicken your lawn the easy way–
dormant overseeding.

Dormant Overseeding
While I mowing my lawn yet again, I noticed some areas that are a bit thin. It is a little too late to put grass seed down now and have it sprout and mature enough to survive winter so I’ll need to resort to a little trick known as ‘dormant overseeding’. What I’ll do is wait until it’s cold enough so that there’s no possibility that grass seed can sprout and then overseed my thin areas with grass seed.

You don’t want to put down grass seed that still has a chance to sprout this fall and even into the early winter.  If it sprouts now and the winter weather hits with a vengeance, there is a good chance that your new grass that was looking good when it came up will not survive the winter.  Peter says to wait until there is no chance that the grass seed you plant will sprout until spring.  Here is the beauty of the idea of dormant overseeding.

Freezing won’t hurt grass seed. Over winter, rain and snow will press the seed into firm contact with the soil and soak the seeds so they’re “primed and ready” when warm spring days return. It’s a neat trick and can save you the time and hassle of dragging hoses around in spring trying to keep grass seed damp.

Now can you see why this is the easy way?  You don’t have to do any watering to get the seed to germinate, and your seed will be self-planted by the action of winter weather on the soil.  Read the rest of Peter’s interesting article by clicking here or on the link below.  If you want to thicken your lawn the easy way, and I surely do this year because of grass kill underneath my shade trees, you’ll give Peter’s idea a try.  His article also contains a link to a Purdue University article that will expand on Peter’s article, so you’ll want to read it, too.

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Leaves Make Great Compost

Did you know that leaves make great compost?  Fortunately I have several large trees in my yard.  Unfortunately I have several large trees in my yard.  Fortunate for the shade they provide in the summer, unfortunate for the leaves they deposit on the ground in the fall.  However, one of my favorite gardening writers has written a good article about what to do with those leaves that are hitting the ground this time of the year.  He writes a good article about how leaves make great compost.

Leaves make great compost.Don't throw they away!

Leaves make great compost.
Don’t throw they away!

A soft breeze is all it takes to separate deep red maple leaves from a tree. When it falls to the ground it will eventually decompose and feed that tree, it’s the cycle of life and something gardeners can mimic in their own gardens.

Doesn’t that make good sense?  Leaves in the forest decompose and provide nutrients for the trees.  It’s too often that I look at those leaves as nuisances that I have to deal with every fall.  I do as much mulching as I can with my mower, but eventually the 50-foot high oak and 40-foot high maple get ahead of me and drop more leaves than I can mulch.  Along I come eventually with the lawn sweeper to pick them up.  Here’s what I should consider doing with them after I sweep them up.

Today, most municipalities will collect leaves and make compost out of them. That’s a great way of recycling, but it can be done at home too. . .Leaves can be run over with the lawnmower or can be thrown into a trash can and shredded with a string trimmer. . .Shredded leaves make a great winter mulch too. Don’t throw your leaves away, use them as a resource for the garden. Mimicking nature works!

Thanks for the information, Doug.  You can read the rest of his article by clicking here or on the link below.  I really think those shredded leaves will find their way to my flower beds this fall to protect my perennials from the winter weather.  If leaves make great compost, I’m willing to give it a try.  How about you?

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Photo by noii’s

Help Perennials Survive The Winter

You may live in a part of the country where you need to help perennials survive the winter.  Winter can be hard on perennials, particularly the farther you live in the colder zones of the US.  Carol Galligan has written an article that is both informative and a help in doing the best you can to help perennials survive the winter.  They can experience significant damage during the winter, to the extent that some plants may not be able to survive the bitter cold.  Carol tells the reader the kind of problems perennials have in surviving the winter.

Help perennials survive the winter with this.

Help perennials survive the winter with this.

The damage to plants that occurs in winter has its origins usually in one of two sources: either severe cold or loss of moisture. If the cold is severe enough, the plant material will actually freeze, which means that cell tissue will break down. Twigs, branches, stems or roots can be damaged to the point that the plant will die.

Carol gives the reader some idea of how to protect plants from the severe cold.  Wouldn’t you know.  The way to protect plants from the cold is the way we protect ourselves from the cold.  You’ll need to lend a hand to your perennials, but just as you would cover up, you need to cover them up as well.  Carol is careful to note that you don’t want to inflict any damage to your plants in the covering up process.  You may have seen plants covered up with burlap wraps during the winter.  That’s the idea.  And, Carol suggests another–baby blankets, usually because they’re light weight.  Here’s what Carol has to say about the loss of moisture issue.

.  . . evaporation continues at a slow rate during the winter. In order to supply moisture the roots must continue to absorb water, otherwise branches or canes will shrivel. If the condition is severe enough, large sections of the plant or the plant itself will die. The best antidote for this is heavy fall watering, if rainfall has been light; the wetter the fall, the better the chances for the plant to winter successfully.

Carol brings winter indoors by telling the reader how to get carrot tops to start sprouting.  Disjointed from the rest of her article, at least her writing brings some wonder to a world that, when winter arrives, will need some wonder.  Read Carol’s article by clicking here or on the link below.  If you live in one of those more northerly climates and you have several of your perennials exposed to the ravages of winter weather, you may need to help perennials survive the winter.

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Photo by Internet Archive Book Images

Keep Plastic Out Of The Garden

There are people who believe that you should keep plastic out of the garden at all costs.  And they men anything plastic.  While Tom Atwell is not a proponent of using plastic in the garden, he does bend a little.  He has written an article about using plastic anything in the garden.  While he would advocate that you keep plastic out of the garden, he does leave a little shade of gray in what he writes.

Keep plastic out of the gardenand off your head, too!

Keep plastic out of the garden
and off your head, too!

Plastic is often seen as evil. It is derived from petroleum, and it does not decompose. Ever since Benjamin Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate,” was advised that the key to his career was plastics, it has symbolized everything phony. But plastic has a place in the garden, even organic gardens. It’s a question of balance – whether using the material does more good than harm.

Tom takes a relativistic rather than absolutistic position on the use of plastic in the garden.  Tom doesn’t like the words “always” or “never” when it comes to using plastic in the garden.  As long as there is more good to be gained than harm to occur from the use of plastic, Tom is for it.  Tom cites Eric Sideman, organic crop specialist with the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, when he talks about the benefit of a certain type of plastic in the garden.

Sideman cited floating row cover – Reemay is the best-known brand name – as an example.Because it keeps plants warm and prevents harmful insects from landing on them, “you reduce the amount of pesticides used,” he said, “and you can get a crop over a much longer season,” which extends consumers’ opportunities to buy local.

Tom writes in his article, that you can find by clicking here or on the link below, that floating row covers, high tunnels made of plastic and black plastic mulch would be acceptable kinds of plastic to use in the garden.  However, Tom is adamant about not using black plastic for ground cover in certain conditions.  In that case, he would argue vehemently to keep plastic out of the garden.  Read his article to find out why he is so opposed to its use in a particular situation.

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Photo by MissMessie


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