Organic Landscape Design

Photo by Laura Leavell

Photo by Laura Leavell

These days many people are taking the organic route by trying to do seemingly everything as earth friendly and natural as possible. Organic Landscaping is coming back. Fifty years ago it was a necessary practice but with the development of pesticides and fertilizers, using organic methods for landscaping became unpopular. No matter what your personal political views are on the rise of organic use in our country, it’s hard to deny that organic landscaping has several benefits. Fewer chemicals in the yard where the kids play is one that caters to me as a health conscious mom. Plus, organic landscaping can be less expensive than inorganic landscaping. You’re not buying chemicals since the big push in organic landscaping is to use elements of the natural world around you for fertilizers, pest control, and general softscape upkeep.

Sometimes the word “Organic” scares me. I see big dollar signs and complicated methods, but with landscaping it is simply a return to the old ways. Use the natural elements of your area to design and promote your landscape. Here are some ways to make your own property organic.

For The Lawn
Purchase organic fertilizer for your lawn. The initial cost is more, but over time it requires less application which means less expense.
Practice aeration in your yard. Punching little holes all over the yard is better for grass root growth and will allow friendly bugs like earthworms to move more freely.
Try top dressing. Create a mixture of half composted material and half sand to spread thinly over your lawn. This is good for lawn rooting and will yield hardier grass.
Over seeding is the use of more grass seed for your lawn than you need. Use 1 ½ times more grass seed to allow quicker germination, thicker grass, and natural weed control.

For The Plants
Make use of native plants. Exotic plants require more time and attention and chemicals to thrive.
Keep soil healthy like nature does by keeping it covered. Use mulch or aground cover plant to keep moisture and nutrients where they should be.
Grow plants in conditions as near to their natural habitat as possible. Don’t put plants that love the shade in the sunny spot of your yard.
Grow a “monoculture”. A monoculture is a wide range of plants grown close together instead of a just one plant. This is a natural practice. Trying to grow one single type of plant can require chemicals to flourish. You don’t see wild roses growing in straight lines and beds by themselves out in nature. They are surrounded by other plants and work together to be healthy.
Practice natural pest control. Allow plants that harbor friendly insect predators like the ladybug to grow in your landscaping. This will reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides to keep your plants looking great.

I enjoy a great looking landscape. I’m discovering that a great looking landscape doesn’t always require the use of potentially unhealthy chemicals. Organic landscaping will give you beauty and peace of mind by using natural practices and materials for landscape upkeep and design. Let me know if you’ve had success “going green” with your landscaping!

Raised Flower Beds

As we drive around town in the spring, I like to look at what other people have done with the landscaping of their property- particularly flower beds. We have a new house with basically no landscape design. And, with no money to hire a professional landscape designer, we are left to our own creative devices. Hence the driving around looking for real life examples. Raised flower beds have caught my attention.

Photo provided by ladyheart

Photo provided by ladyheart

Raised flower beds are creative alternatives to the traditional flower beds that lay flush with the ground. Raised flower bed design is extremely versatile and personal. You can raise a bed to waist height if you like or leave it a few inches off of the ground. It all depends on your own gardening needs. And, their design can be customized to compliment your landscaping style. They can be made of brick, stone, concrete, or wood. Here are a few features to raised gardening that make it a desirable option in your landscape design.

• You can create the right conditions for special plants that don’t thrive in your soil.

• A raised bed allows for better drainage and most plants do better in well-drained soil anyway.

• Raised beds make gardening easier for people with joint conditions because they don’t have to do as much bending and kneeling. They also work great for the wheelchair bound.

• They make beautiful, stylish additions to the hardscaping of a property as they add new depth and personalization.

• In small paved spaces, they are often the only means for gardening and displaying plants.

• They’re a great space saver. Without needing to till or cultivate between rows, you can plant rows of flowers closer together and have higher yields.

• The soil won’t wash away.

• You can hand cultivate since you’re dealing with nice top soil that isn’t compacted.

• If a raised bed is built with a wide enough coping, you can have extra seating in your garden.

Raised flower beds are a great alternative for use in landscaping. I love how they soften the contrast between the yard and paving or the wall and yard. It’s great to know your options when building flower beds and designing the landscape of your yard. What’s your favorite part about having a raised flower bed?

Planting a Hanging Basket

Photo Provided by Ulga

Photo Provided by Ulga

In mid to late spring, home improvement stores, garden centers, and even grocery stores come alive with beautiful displays of hanging baskets. Hanging baskets full of brilliant blossoms add character to any front porch. Perhaps you would like to purchase one but, these baskets seem too pricy. Or, the price isn’t so bad but the plastic basket the plant comes in is atrocious. You can solve these problems by making your own hanging basket. The added bonus to this is that you can place whatever plants you like in your home made basket.

1. First you must choose your basket. You can find various styles to choose from at your local garden center. Liners are next. There are several different types of liners to choose from:

Natural Liners
• Moss
• Coir fiber
• Wool
• Conifer clippings

Other Liners
• Pre-molded, Biodegradable
• Plastic
• Foam
• Coir Matting

2. Next choose your soil. It’s important to make sure water can drain through the soil mix. For hanging baskets use a lightweight mix that is based on peat, coir, or bark instead of soil. This will allow the water to be retained without water logging the soil.
3. You are ready to plant. It is helpful to rest the basket on the rim of a bucket while working with it. Place the liner in the basket and the soil half-way up the basket.
4. Plant plants that trail a along the sides of the basket first. This will allow them to dangle down the side of the basket. You can poke holes in the liner and gently send the roots of the plant through or go the other way and gently pull the top growth out of the liner. Cover the roots with soil.
5. Cover the roots of the side plants and then place a large plant in the middle of the basket, pressing it firmly into the soil. Fill the space around this large focal plant with smaller complimenting flowers.
6. Water the basket and then let it drain. Make sure the chains that suspend the basket are strong enough to hold it then get the plants used to the outdoors gradually.

Some helpful tips to keep that basket looking gorgeous are:
• Keep the soil moist. Water it when needed.
• Four weeks after planting, start regular liquid feedings unless you used a slow release soil mix.
• Remove faded or dead flowers right away. This will allow more flowers.
• If going on vacation, bring your baskets down and group them together in a slightly shaded area.

Creating your own flowering hanging basket is not as difficult as it would seem. You’ll feel great when you step back and see what you’ve done, plus it’s great to be able to make your own flower choices instead of purchasing someone else’s. What are some of your favorite plant combinations for hanging baskets?