Optimizing Your Garden for Drought or Water Conservation

Optimizing Your Garden for Drought or Water Conservation

Living in Colorado and being a gardener has been rather stressful in the past few years, as this state has been undergoing a rather severe drought. The city is imposing watering restrictions which are not giving enough water to lawns and plants. I’ve had to renovate my garden to make it more water efficient. Now, because of the techniques I’ve employed, I’m the only one in my neighborhood with a garden that isn’t completely brown. So if you live in an area that is going through a drought or if you just want to save water, I suggest you use some of these techniques as well.

First, I took out all my plants. The soil I was using didn’t retain water very well, so I had to water about twice as much as necessary in order to get it to actually absorb into the roots. If you have this same problem, you can fix it by loading the soil up with lots of compost. This not only prevents water from escaping, but encourages the plant’s roots to be healthy and able to survive more.

Once I was done optimizing the soil for my new low water consumption plan, I was ready to replace all my plants. I decided that the placement of all my plants would reflect the amount of water necessary to keep them alive. All the plants that don’t require much water I placed in on one side of my garden, and then just progressed in the amount of required water to the other side of the garden. As a result of my new arrangement, I don’t have to waste water on plants that don’t need it as much.

The installation of a drip irrigation system was another move on my part that reduced the amount of water I needed to fully water my garden. The great thing about these systems is that they constantly drip into your plants, so that every single drop is absorbed. With traditional watering systems, usually the roots get too overwhelmed with the sheer amount of water in the soil. Thus, lots just seeps right past. This is all taken care of with the drip system.

If you still seem to need more water than you can supply to your garden, you might consider which plants you could replace with less water dependent plants. If you want a good shrub that doesn’t use up more than its share of water, look for Heavenly Bamboo. It is not only tolerant of droughts, but looks rather decorative in any garden. Herbs such as rosemary are useful in preparing meals, and are rarely thirsty.

If you’re trying to find flowers that will still be lush and beautiful despite the lower amounts of water, look for penstemon varieties like Garnet, Apple Blossom, Moonbeam, and Midnight. You can attract hummingbirds and butterflies with varieties like Cosmos and Yarrow. The best part about all these plants is that they don’t look rugged and withstanding, but they sure are. Your neighbors wont be saying “Look at them, they downgraded their plants just to withstand the drought. What chumps!” Instead they will be marveling over how you keep your flowers so beautiful in the midst of the watering regulations.

One of my favorite drought resistant plants is the Lavender plant. I could go on for pages about it. A large group of Lavender plants looks unbelievably gorgeous in your garden, and hardly requires any water to flourish. Pineapple sage is another personal favorite. It is a 2+ foot shrub that smells strangely of pineapple. It’s another major attracter of hummingbirds, and the leaves are also useful to add taste to drinks.

So if you are in the position I was, and you’re dealing with a drought and perhaps watering regulations, I suggest you try some of the things I’ve mentioned. Even if you’re just trying to conserve water or be generally more efficient with it, I think you’ll still be able to benefit.

My First Gardening Experience

My First Gardening Experience

Ah, to this day I still remember my first gardening experience. It was such a disaster that I didn’t think I would ever want to garden again. I almost decided to turn my casual hobby into the most rage-inducing topic you could possibly bring up to me.

It all started a few weeks after I moved in to my first house. I was excited just to have my own grass to mow, since I had been in apartments and condos for quite a while. In between plans to paint walls and renovate the inside to exactly how I like, I thought it would be a good idea to start a fruit garden so that I could have some fresh produce and put my yard to use. At that point I didn’t really know anything at all about gardening. But still in my spunky youthful years, I decided I didn’t need help. How hard could it be to start a garden and grow stuff? After all, it happens in nature all the time and nobody even has to do anything.

I already had a grassless patch in my yard where it looked like the previous owner had attempted a garden. But any attempt they had made turned out to be an utter travesty. The area was full of rocks and weeds, with no signs of any agreeable plants. I spent several hours of work spread over several days to clear out the entire area, leaving nothing but dirt. At that point, however, I didn’t realize the difference between “dirt” and “soil”. I was dealing with barren, hard, nutritionless, and unforgiving land.

I made some attempt at making my garden look nice; although I think even Martha Stewart would have had difficulties. I took some stained boards that were sitting in my basement (quite convenient, no?) and used them as a border for my garden, to keep out all the pests that couldn’t jump more than a foot (I figured I would be safe from lawn gnomes). I used the pile of rocks I had collected from the garden to make a creepy shrine looking thing in front of it. I don’t know what I was thinking when I did that.

I went to the store that very day, and picked out whatever looked tasty. Strawberries? Sure! Watermelon? Yeah! I hacked away a hole in the rock-hard ground and poked the seed in. After that, I think I watered it faithfully every day for several weeks before realizing that it was not going to grow anything. But even after I had that realization, I continued to water in hopes that my seeds would pull a last minute sprout on me. But I knew there was no hope, and I was heartbroken. After all those hours of pulling up weeds and tossing rocks into a pile, I had no fruit to show for my labor.

So, feeling dejected and betrayed, I logged onto the internet and searched for a guide to gardening. I quickly ran across a site that led me to realize the true skill required for gardening. It was then I learned about soil consistency, nutrients, ideal watering conditions, seasons, and all those things. After I read up on my area and how to grow fruits, I learned exactly what to do. I learned how to get the ideal soil, when to plant the seeds, how much to water, etc. Just a night of browsing the internet and printing off sources, and I was totally ready for the next planting season.

If you’re in the position I was, and you’re just itching to start a new garden… I urge you to learn from my mistake. Make sure you do plenty of proper research on the types of plants you’re trying to grow, along with the climate. Spend money on good soil, good fertilizer, and good garden tools. Hopefully you don’t have to go through the emotional disaster that I went through.

Installing a Drip Irrigation System

Installing a Drip Irrigation System

If you’re looking for ways to keep your garden watered without wasting too much time and money, you’ve probably gone through a lot of options in your mind. Maybe you’ve considered a sprinkler, a hose, or a good old-fashioned watering can. All of these methods might be convenient, but most of the time you will end up wasting water on plants that don’t need any more. If you live in a drought stricken area like I do, you know that every bit of water counts. I ended up getting a drip irrigation system. I haven’t regretted this decision at all.

When you install a drip irrigation system, you can choose one of two varieties: above ground and below ground. The above ground version drips small amounts of water continuously onto the ground, and allows it to soak in. It is all regulated from a pressure controller, which ensures that the water just comes out at a drip instead of a spray or a stream. These pressure regulators are very inexpensive. The whole drip system can be set up with a pressure regulator and a garden hose with holes poked in it (although it is ideal for you to get a pipe designed for this type of use, I’ve found that the hose method works acceptably).

The underground system is a bit more of a pain to install and maintain. But if you’re really into the aesthetic aspect of your garden and don’t want any visible watering system, then you might consider it worth it. It’s essentially the same as the above ground version, only a small trench is dug for the hose or pipe prior to any planting. This allows the water direct access to the roots for the most watering efficiency. Plus, you can impress your neighbors by having a beautiful garden without ever going outside to water it! They’ll be baffled.

To choose between the two systems, you need to take several things into account. Do you have the same plant layout year round? If it is always changing, you probably won’t want to bury your hose. It can be a pain to dig it up and re-align it with all your new plants every year or so. Even if your plant layout never changes, you need to consider how much you really mind seeing a hose in your garden. If it really bothers you to the extent that you’re willing to work for a few hours to get rid of it, then by all means bury it. But otherwise I would suggest staying above ground if for nothing else than the convenience of repairing and rearranging. One of the main advantages of the drip irrigation system is its efficiency. Instead of spraying large amounts of water willy-nilly like a hose does, it makes the most of your precious water by putting it exactly
where it is needed. It can also provide your garden with constant watering, instead of just having to go thirsty whenever you’re not around to water it.

So if you’re looking for an easy, cheap, convenient, and efficient alternative watering method, you should go out to the gardening store today and purchase the necessary items to install a drip irrigation system. I think you’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to maintain a garden after you have it.

Improving Your Garden by Adding a Fountain

Improving Your Garden by Adding a Fountain

A great way to spice up your garden is to add a water feature. These can be both soothing and aesthetically appealing. I’ve found that there’s nothing more relaxing than sitting on a bench next to my garden and listening to my fountain while I read a good book or do some studying. Putting in a water feature is fairly easy and relatively inexpensive, and will add immensely to the pleasantness of your garden. Also, the maintenance level is minimal.

Usually, people install fountains for the benefit of the natural ambience it provides. For some reason, being around a gorgeous scene of water gives you a positive energy. This is also good if you practice Tai Chi or some form of yoga or meditation. The constant drone of the water is exactly what most people need to concentrate on what they are doing. Even if you’re not into that kind of stuff, just being in a garden with a fountain has a sort of meditative quality to it, even if you’re not trying to do so. I recommend it to anyone.

When you first decide to put in a fountain, you need to put great care into picking out one that will go well with the rest of your garden. If you have any other decorations, you want to consider if it goes well with your motif. Does the fountain you’re considering stand out in your garden like a sore thumb, or does it look like it was meant to be there? If you’re like me, you can’t naturally tell whether the fountain will be a good addition to your garden just by looking at it. So my solution was to bring my sister (a natural at fashion design and that kind of stuff) along with a picture of my garden to the store. I was able to get her expert opinion, as well as see for myself what it would look like. By doing this I was able to pick a beautiful rock fountain that goes marvelously with
the rest of my garden.

However, I still had a slight problem with supplying my fountain with power. You see, my garden isn’t very close to my house. I thought it would look pretty tacky to run an extension cord across my yard, so I had to come up with another solution. I discussed my situation with a Home Depot employee, and he quickly found me the exact solution I needed: an extension cord meant for being buried! All it took was a few hours of digging a small trench across my yard, and I had power to my fountain without an unsightly cord running across my yard. After I got over this little hitch, my fountain plan went beautifully.

So if you’re looking for a way to make your garden a more classy and beautiful place to be, I hope you consider installing a fountain. The whole process is surprisingly inexpensive, and I think that you will be very happy with the results. Having a fountain in your garden is not only soothing, but it also adds a lot of character to an otherwise bland garden. Remember, gardens are not just for giving us vegetables! A garden is a place to go when you want to retreat from the outside world and dwell in your own thoughts with no disturbance.

Creating Microclimates to Facilitate Growth

Microclimates to Facilitate Growth

Many gardeners live in areas where almost anything can grow effortlessly. Just plant the seeds and water it for a few weeks, and you’ve got a beautifully lush plant. But if you live in somewhere like Colorado, you’ll understand what its like to have a slim selection of plants that naturally grow. It can be quite a challenge to facilitate the growth of a large variety of plants, especially when the very world you live in seems to be rooting against you.

Some people solve this problem by loading up their plants with every type of chemical and fertilizer known to man. This usually works, but to me it seems kind of unnatural to rely on man made materials to keep your plants alive. Also, if I’m growing fruits or vegetables, I don’t feel very comfortable eating something that is entirely composed of chemicals.

A gardening theory that I have relied on in the past to grow many types of plants is that of creating a “microclimate” for each type of plant. This is when you regulate the sunlight, shade, moisture, and wind factors for each separate plant. It sounds like a challenge, and it is. But you can regulate these factors in such a way that the plant feels just like it is in the ideal growing conditions. This can be achieved by the use of wind barriers, shading umbrellas, extra water, or different types or amounts of compost.

If you’re ready to make an attempt at creating microclimates, you’ll need to make a detailed plan in advanced. You should start by finding a large shade providing bush or tree that will grow fast and naturally in your area. Just look at some undeveloped plots of land and see what is there. Most likely it grew on its own without any planting or care. This is what you want to happen. Usually the growing of one plant can bring about the growing of another more desirable plant.

If you have a fence in your backyard (you would be surprised at how many people don’t) then you already have a good amount of shade to work with. You can start the microclimate process using just the shade of the fence, combined with (perhaps) a screen or large bush to shade your new plant for the other half of the day that the fence doesn’t take care of. The fence is also useful for shading against wind for very fragile plants.

Once you have established the shade, be it natural or unnatural, you have created a slightly less harsh miniature environment. You must remember this is a gradual process, and find a new plant to put in the shade of the other one. Now your choices are a little more open. You don’t have to go with a rugged plant like the one you did before; you can now choose a plant that survives in cooler weather.

If the plant you are trying to grow next requires more moisture in the air than your area provides, installing a fountain or small pond can fix this problem due to the evaporation. You may think you don’t want to waste water on a pond or fountain, but it’s all going toward the betterment of your garden. It’s just like the watering process, only indirect. As an added benefit, usually fountains are quite aesthetically attractive and a great addition to your garden.

I can’t explain every stage of the process, because everyone’s goals and setups are slightly different. But to reach your goal, you should do research on every plant that you would like to have in your garden. Find out everything you can about the zone that it flourishes in, and ask yourself how you can emulate that zone within your own backyard. Almost always you can take control of the environment and recreate whatever you wish. Usually all it takes is some  planning and strategy.

Creating a Raised Bed

Creating a Raised Bed

If your current planting goals involve plants that require good water drainage, I am sure you know how frustrating it is to have a yard that just won’t cooperate. Some plants can handle the excess water that comes about from being in an area that doesn’t drain properly. In fact, it might just cause them to bloom more lushly. However, other plants don’t cope as well, and it will cause them to die a gruesome, bloated death. You should always find out about the drainage required for every plant you buy, and make sure that it won’t conflict with any of the areas you are considering planting it in.

In order to test how much water your designated patch of soil will retain, dig a hole approximately ten inches deep. Fill it with water, and come back in a day when all the water had disappeared. Fill it back up again. If the 2nd hole full of water isn’t gone in 10 hours, your soil has a low saturation point. This means that when water soaks into it, it will stick around for a long time before dissipating. This is unacceptable for almost any plant, and you are going to have to do something to remedy it if you want your plants to survive.

The usual method for improving drainage in your garden is to create a raised bed. This involves creating a border for a small bed, and adding enough soil and compost to it to raise it above the rest of the yard by at least 5 inches. You’ll be amazed at how much your water drainage will be improved by this small modification. If you’re planning to build a raised bed, your prospective area is either on grass or on dirt. For each of these situations, you should build it slightly differently.

If you want to start a raised garden in a non grassy area, you won’t have much trouble. Just find some sort of border to retain the dirt you will be adding. I’ve found that there is nothing that works quite as well as a few two by fours. After you’ve created the wall, you must put in the proper amount soil and steer manure. Depending on how long you plan to wait before planting, you will want to adjust the ratio to allow for any deteriorating that may occur.

If you’re trying to install a raised bed where sod already exists, you will have a slightly more difficult time. You will need to cut the sod around the perimeter of the garden, and flip it over. This may sound simple, but you will need something with a very sharp edge to slice the edges of the sod and get under it. Once you have turned it all upside down, it is best to add a layer of straw to discourage the grass from growing back up. After the layer of straw, simply add all the soil and steer manure that a normal garden would need.

Planting your plants in your new area shouldn’t pose much difficulty. It is essentially the same process as your usual planting session. Just be sure that the roots don’t extent too far into the original ground level. The whole point of creating the raised bed is to keep the roots out of the soil which saturates easily. Having long roots that extend that far completely destroys the point.

Once you have plants in your new bed, you’ll notice an almost immediate improvement. The added soil facilitates better root development. At the same time, evaporation is prevented and decomposition is discouraged. All of these things added together makes for an ideal environment for almost any plant to grow in. So don’t be intimidated by the thought of adjusting the very topography of your yard. It is a simple process as I’m sure you’ve realized, and the long term results are worth every bit of work.

Choosing a Garden that is Perfect for You

Choosing a Garden that is Perfect for You

If you’re thinking about starting a garden, the first thing you need to consider is what type of garden you will have. There are many different choices and often it can be hard to pick just one, but hopefully you can narrow it down. But by narrowing it down, you’ll make the gardening experience easier on yourself and the plants. If all your plants are similar, then it shouldn’t be very hard to care for them all. So here are some of the main garden ideas for you to choose from.

If you’re just looking for something to look nice in your yard, you’ll want a flower garden. These are usually filled with perennial flower. Perennial flowers are flowers which stay healthy year-round. They’re basically weeds because of their hardiness, only nice looking. Different areas and climates have different flowers which are considered perennials. If you do a quick internet search for your area, you can probably find a list of flowers that will bring your flower garden to life. These usually only require work in the planting stage – after that, the flower take care of themselves. The only downside to this is that you don’t have any product to show for it.

Another choice for your garden is to have a vegetable garden. These usually require a little more work and research than a flower garden, but can be much more rewarding. No matter what time of the year it is, you can usually find one vegetable that is still prospering. That way you can have your garden be giving you produce almost every day of the year! When starting a vegetable garden, you should build it with the thought in mind that you will be adding more types of veggies in later. This will help your expandability. Once all your current crops are out of season, you won’t be stuck with almost nowhere to put the new crops. A vegetable garden is ideal for someone who wants some produce, but doesn’t want to devote every waking hour to perfecting their garden (see below.)

One of the more difficult types of gardens to manage is a fruit garden. It’s definitely the most high-maintenance. When growing fruits, many more pests will be attracted due to the sweetness. You not only have to deal with having just the right dirt and fertilizer, you have to deal with choosing a pesticide that won’t kill whoever eats the fruits. Your fruit garden will probably not produce year-round. The soil needs to be just right for the plants to grow, and putting in another crop during its off-season could be disastrous to its growth process. If you’re willing to put lots of work into maintaining a garden, then a fruit garden could be a good choice for you.

So now that I’ve outlined some of the main garden types that people choose, I hope you can make a good decision. Basically, the garden type comes down to what kind of product you want, and how much work you want to put into it. If you’re looking for no product with no work, go with a flower garden. If you want lots of delicious product, but you are willing to spend hours in your garden each day, then go for a fruit garden. Just make sure you don’t get into something you can’t handle!