Tips for Summer Veggie Gardening

It doesn’t get much better than biting into a plump, juicy garden-fresh tomato or slicing a cool chunk from a freshly-picked cucumber. If you’ve always been interested in starting a vegetable garden, but are too apprehensive to give it a shot, then read on. Veggie gardening can be a fun and rewarding experience provided you do your homework and properly plan before you dive into the planting process.

If you follow a few simple guidelines, when fall arrives, you will have a bountiful autumn harvest you can pick, eat, store, and share all winter long.

Plan Your Garden in the Winter

The New Year is a great time to start planning your summer vegetable garden. Ask yourself a few key questions before you decide what to plant:

  • Is this veggie compatible with the weather in my region, or will it have trouble growing?
  • Do I have the space to grow vegetables that need more room, such as corn or potatoes?
  • Does the soil in my space have enough nutrients to support a vegetable garden?

Most U.S. states have government-run agricultural websites that offer detailed (and free) advice, guidance, and planting schedules you can use as your garden’s cheat sheet. Choose veggies that will thrive in your region during the summer months. Different climates have different humidity levels and the warm summer weather lasts much longer in some regions than it does in others.

Start Your Plants Indoors

Once you select what you want to grow, start your seeds indoors. Use rich potting soil and fertilizer and plant your seeds in small pots. Make sure to house them somewhere warm in your home with plenty of access to sunlight. The idea is to keep your plants warm, fed, and sunned until they sprout. Then, in April or May depending on your region, plant your seedlings outside.

The process of slowly transferring indoor seedlings outdoors to grow is called “hardening off” and it’s a gradual process. If you rapidly remove your seedlings from their pots and plant them in the ground exposed to the elements, they may die of shock – literally.

Instead, gradually introduce your seedlings to the outdoors little by little over the span of a week. Take them outside during the day at first, and then bring them in at night. Stretch out the time they are outdoors incrementally until they are ready to spend 24/7 exposed to the elements. That’s when it’s time to plant your seedlings in the ground.

Be Vigilant

Even one missed day of watering can lead to the death of your vegetable garden. Once you transfer your seedlings into the ground, check them every single day for signs of wilting or droopiness.  Ensure you are not over-watering your plants, and that your soil has enough nutrients to get the job done.

If you follow these simple tips for starting a summer vegetable garden, you will be harvesting your very own fresh produce in no time – and you will save money and trips to the grocery store in the process.

Your Spring/Summer Landscape Garden Checklist

When the winter chill begins to subside and a glimmer of sunlight peers through the clouds, it’s time to get prepared for the months where your garden will shine. It’s not uncommon for homeowners to put off the inevitable and wait for summer to clean up the garden. This will be more of a challenge for busy homeowners, though not entirely impossible. It’s recommended to start spring cleanup as early as possible.

1. Cleanup

Ideally, the earlier you can get your garden ready the better. The first signs of spring signal the best times to start working before the warm weather causes the flowers and plants to grow. The first step is to clean up the area and all the debris Mother Nature so gracefully bestowed upon your property over the winter. Besides aesthetic purposes, a good cleanup will keep your lovely garden free of mold and rot that can wreak havoc on your garden beds.

2. Pruning

Those overgrown shrubs will require some TLC. Check your plants for any winter damage and remove any signs of destruction. Broken and bent branches must be cut cleanly which will help them return to normal quicker. For other shrubs, look for growth before pruning and be sure to trim those rose bushes so they are ready to bloom in the warm months. Be careful when pruning azaleas. Though they look dried up from the winter, they are most likely ready to flower. Wait until they flower to prune them.

3. Dividing

Dividing is one of those tasks gardeners like to put off. But unfortunately, if you don’t take care of it, the plants will grow too close and the job will get even tougher the longer you wait. Look for plants crowding one another. If you only have a little time, take care of the worst ones as soon as possible and save the others for a later date. It’s even advantageous to rectify the problem the moment you see encroaching even if it is in the fall or winter. Daylilies and irises are among the foliage that often need dividing come early spring. Once you finish dividing, mark the plants so you can get a head start next year.

4. Edging

Edging is an important task for the homeowners who love the manicured, polished look for their landscape. Use an edging tool to clean up the borders and cut down grasses trying to invade your garden space. Thankfully, if you forget to take care of edging in the spring, it can always wait for the summer.

If you can manage to accomplish some of these tasks in the spring, you will be one step ahead of the game. If you are behind schedule, make a list in the summer to prepare you for the fall and spring months of the next year. Whatever you can accomplish in the fall, do it, so you have less tasks to complete next spring. Write down your tasks and try to remember how good it feels when everything is done and your garden looks beautiful. It will give you motivation to get in high gear and tackle the project, same time, same place, next year!


10 Landscaping Tips of the Professionals

Do you wish you were a professional landscape designer? Many DIY landscapers struggle with landscape design and try to learn the ins and outs too fast. As a result, they make numerous mistakes and get overwhelmed by the stress of the entire process.

Landscape designers have many years of experience and practice and that isn’t something you can learn in three days. Regardless of your research (you should do some!), you could never amass the knowledge of a professional landscape designer. But, you can learn some of their tips and tricks to help you along the way.

Here are some tips from the pros that will help you make your landscape look more professional:

1. Add depth to the landscape by lining the outside of your property with taller trees. Smaller trees look better towards the front which creates more depth and an overall cohesive design. Taller trees also look nice framing the home.

2. Balance the planting. Don’t overpower the perimeter of your home with so many plants that it loses its style and beauty. Conversely, don’t leave it so sparse that you reveal too much of the home’s foundation.

3. Don’t plant foundation shrubs close together. They will mature over time and broaden their reach so give them ample space to grow.

4. Consider design lines when planting your shrub border. Don’t just plant them in any haphazard way. When the winter season arrives, you still want visual interest even though the plants may not be flowering. Use annuals, as well, to add interest to the winter landscape.

5. When planting shrubs under windows, consider lower-growing plants so maintenance is minimal. There is nothing worse than shrubs that grow past the window and block light from coming into the home. If you are willing to prune, don’t worry about it. But if you are a low maintenance person, go with the low-growing plants.

6. When choosing plants to be set together, match leaf size and texture. The leaves should be similar in appearance to create an overall aesthetic appeal.

7. Plan for the future. If you are thinking of having children, create a small area where kids can roam and play. The same principle applies to pets, especially dogs that need room to run.

8. Vegetable gardens need ample sunlight. During the planning stage, map out the vegetable garden area and work around it with the rest of your design.

9. Are there any items you want to hide? How about those ugly trash cans and power poles? Consider using trees, fences covered with vines, trellises and shrubs to cover unsightly areas and remove them from sight lines.

10. Beware of planting in areas where water runs down from the roof into the ground. Set plants away from your home’s foundation and anywhere excess water could cause a problem.

Remember, above all, not to overextend yourself. If you are a novice, start with plants that do not require much attention. As you become more experienced, you can alter whatever you want. Your landscape design will always be a creative work in progress.