Do you love to garden? Are seed catalogs part of your current library? What about counting the days until spring? Does the person who does your nails cringe when you walk through the door and ask what on earth have you been doing? Then you my friend are looking at me. I love to garden but also have a “life after frost” as my family likes to put it. I am retired but spend my days in the Midwest home of the best black earth in the country. We live among fields of corn and soybeans but live a few hours away from Chicago. I like to think we have it all, country and city both in the same place. So I hope you enjoy my posts.Even if you don’t garden enjoy the pictures.
Let’s face it growing anything today can be a daunting task. Walk through the rows and rows of plants and vegetables in a nursery or big box store can be like a scavenger hunt. Just try to ask a clerk for help there is a pretty good chance they may not know the difference between an annual and a perennial. Have no fear I can help. Growing plants especially flowers is my passion.
Let’s start at the beginning. Have you seen the Lowe’s commercial? The one where the gardener rolls out a “blanket” of plants and like magic it’s a beautiful floral masterpiece. Wow how misleading! Does anyone think it’s that easy? I wish it was, but the truth be told ” a little knowledge goes a long way” Picking a spot and knowing the right kind of plants is a good start. Flowers are classified as either annuals or perennials. An annual is a plant that completes its life cycle in one year. A perennial is a plant that lives for 3 years or more.
Full sun plants require 6 or more hours of full sun. Plants that require partial sunlight need 3 to 5 hours of light each day. Full shade plants do no like any sunlight at all. The varieties of full sun flowers are enormous. It seems as if all flowers love the sun. Do not despair if your garden is in the shade. Some of the most lovely flowers are shade loving. Knowing what kind of flowers you need sun or shade is half the battle.
The internet is a great place to find beautiful gardens. I could spend a rainy afternoon admiring stunning gardens on Pinterest. The midwest is home to many gardens check out my Facebook page it is totally devoted to flowers from my garden and plants that I love. Once you have an idea to what kind of flowers you love you are ready for the next step.
Make a sketch of your space. Tall flowers should be close to the back. Shorter to the front. Planting in groups of 3 to 5 provide for splashes of color instead of small dots of color. Lastly make a list of possible flowers you wish to purchase. A word of advice, not all nurseries may have the flower you are looking for. Listing a variety of flowers that will work well in your spot will save you from frustration. I can’t tell you how many times I plan on buying a certain variety of plant and come home with another. Here is a list of flowers I have grown with description as well as helpful hints.
Common edging plant that can be used in pots baskets or containers. It grows short 4 to 6 inches tall and spreads. It comes in shades of white, purple and pink. Available at most nurseries it is a tiny flower whose bloom is no bigger than the cursor on a computer screen. It has a sweet scent and a good pollinator. It loves cool rainy weather and will bloom well into the fall. For this reason it is a good plant for beginners.
Easy full sun annual. The plant Love Lies Bleeding is an old-time flower producing tassels of deep red flowers. Plant at back of border near a wall or fence as the plant can grow up to four feet. Head to the seed rack at your local store as this plant is started from seed directly into your garden.
Another easy sun-loving annual. Each plant produces white umbrellas of lacy flowers. Here in the midwest there is a wild flower called Queen Anne’s Lace that blankets the roadsides and parkways. Amni is a relative of that flower but produces larger flower heads that make for stunning floral arrangements. Where can you find these beauties? Unfortunately the only place I have seen them is through seed catalogs.
My mission in life is to teach people ordinary people how to garden. There is a war among gardeners and food producers on synthetic fertilizers and chemicals versus organic gardening. I am not going to give you my opinions just facts. Most people are pretty savvy and can find their way around the internet and there are hundreds of people ready to tell you which side of the fence you should be on. I am not one of them. As long as you read the labeling and handle the chemicals the way they were meant to be used and as long as you wear protective clothing including a mask by all means use chemicals responsibly. I only use chemicals as a last resort. The older and wiser I get I realize proper gardening techniques usually result in healthy plants without the chemicals. Victory gardeners did not use chemicals they simply weren’t available and they had beautiful bounties of luscious veggies and fruits.
So you want to start a garden in a new spot that has grass or maybe weeds. There are plenty of sites that will tell you to use herbicides. I can show you an easy way without using chemicals. So easy you may have seen or heard of this already. Once you find a spot in full sun that is near a water source find an old box break it down so it lays flat.
Here you see an old staples box. I want to expand an existing bed to make it larger for next year. Next get leaves, lots and lots spreading them over the cardboard.
Once the cardboard is completely covered you are almost through. I will add grass clippings or cornstalks to weigh the cardboard down to prevent it and the leaves from blowing away. Technically what you have done is limit light exposure. Light is needed for germination of grass and weeds and without it you will have bare soil. Have you ever left a Slip and Slide toy out in the sun for a couple od days? What happens? It kills the grass. I don’t recommend plastic as it doesn’t decompose like paper. How easy and I bet you are thinking why did I not think of that.
I love to grow everything. If it needs sun and soil and water I will try my magic to see it to see it grow from seed to plant. My obsession has turned from a hobby into teaching others how to be successful at gardening. The general population has no clue where their food comes from. So where do I go from here?
There are several hundreds possibly thousands of websites teaching the latest and greatest techniques. Why do we not go back to the basics of what our parents and grandparents methods.That’s why I write. People have forgotten about good and wise advice on how to grow food that not only tastes good but is good for you. I don’t represent any chemical or seed company. I have no agenda. I write to inform the average person the joy of gardening and harvesting their own food.