The Weather


A Garden by Firelight

A Garden by Firelight


Posted on Oct 27, 2016 | 0 comments

Autumn means the nights are longer and chillier, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be filled with light. Don’t shoo your garden parties inside when you can enjoy the crisp fall evening by the warm brightness of firelight.

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(Note: This is Part 3 in a series. For more info on this topic be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2).

If your problem is not too much rain, but too little, again we can look to nature for solutions. In nature you don’t see lush tropical plants trying to grow in the desert. Rather, the flora follows the climate, with plants growing only as full and lush as the local water sources allow. We can learn from nature’s wisdom by adapting our gardens to suit our climate and by making good use of every raindrop the sky gives us! We can mimic the water cycle by carefully conserving and re-using our water supplies. We can mimic deserts and prairies by landscaping with drought-tolerant native species rather than “thirsty” turfgrass and ornamentals. And for those of us that are really ambitious, we can mimic the way that forest landscapes hold onto rain by utilizing techniques like Hugelkultur and swales.

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One of the numerous negative ecological effects of urban development is a higher rate of soil erosion. Forests naturally hold on to soil with their roots. Trees slow the fall of raindrops to keep them from disrupting the soil. The natural bumps and hillocks in the landscape break up the flow of water, giving it more opportunity to be absorbed by plant roots and filtered through the soil before it winds its way into creeks, streams, and rivers. These natural soil-defense mechanisms do not exist in developed land, where rain falls on rooftops, asphalt, and flat lawns covered in relatively sparse, shallow-rooted plants. All this means that on developed land, wind and rain carries off much more top soil, dumping it into storm drains and into the water table. This not only degrades the soil quality, but also dumps soil into the local water supply, along with oils and often-toxic pollutants.

For the sustained health of your garden and your community, you should try and minimize erosion and runoff as much as possible with careful garden design. Where downspouts empty onto your yard or where storm waters flow through it, you should take every effort to absorb and filter this water. A well-designed garden will capture water effectively, keeping plant roots moist much longer while also holding on to the soil’s nutrients and keeping pollution out of the local water table.

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Gardeners have a love/hate relationship with winter. The cold is one of the biggest killers of plants, but at the same time many plants have a chilling requirement—having adapted to a cold climate, they now require a certain length of wintry conditions to allow them to undergo the mysterious process of vernalization. 

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Frost on plants

We’ve all seen it–one quick frost and all of your beautiful flowers and plants turn to green mush. Of course, the obvious answer is to bring them inside, but where do you put them? How much light do they need? How much water do they need? These things will all change when you move your plants to a different environment, and the shock of the change may be as damaging as the cold.

Here are a few ideas to help tender plants and gardeners survive the cold together:

  1. First, make sure your plants are in loose, sandy soil or a potting mix, and your pot has holes in the bottom. If the moisture can’t drain off  your plant the roots will surely rot.
  2. Next, Find a nice sunny spot in your home, preferably a south-facing window. Artificial light will work, but use florescent bulbs. The heat from incandescent bulbs will dry your plant out very quickly.
  3. Make sure the temperature stays above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, anything lower than that and you might as well have left them to the elements. Also, don’t sit your container plants too close to cold windows.
  4. Avoid drafty places near vents or frequently opened doors–your plants will dry out quickly. For most tender plants, the soil should be moist but not wet. Check your soil’s moisture daily.
  5. If you have potted tuberous plants that grow from bulbs or rhizomes like caladiums, tulips or dahlias, you can store those pots inside in a dark cool place, like a closet or cabinet.

Happy Gardening!

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Echinacea Kims Knee High is a beautiful pink Echinacea with great drought-tolerance
The weather has been going a little crazy the last few years, and each year it seems that more and more of the country is affected by drought conditions.  It’s no surprise, then, that drought landscaping (sometimes called xeriscaping) is becoming a hot topic.  There are a lot of easy things you can do in your garden to conserve water.  A rain barrel under your house gutters is an obvious solution, and one that’s becoming more and more popular (I’ll be installing a 55-gallon barrel at my parents’ house tomorrow).  Putting down a thick layer of mulch can help a lot of plants to retain moisture.  Many landscapers are recommending less grass, most types of which require a tremendous amount of water.  In the place of grass natural areas and planting beds are taking over.

Possibly the best way to save water with little effort is by choosing your plants with water conservation in mind.  Many slower-growing perennials need much less water, and can give you just as much beauty.  There are also a huge variety of drought-tolerant plants available that, once established, will do wonderfully with almost no irrigation.

Of course, true xeriscaping requires a great deal more than just putting in some drought tolerant plants.  The most advanced xeriscaping efforts require rethinking the entire landscaping from the bottom up, using specialty grasses, carefully built gradients to channel water in the appropriate ways, and careful balancing of shade and sun.  You don’t, however, have to be an advanced xeriscaper to get real water-saving benefits from your garden this year.

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