Gardening the Easy Way: Finding the Best Fit for Your Personal Lifestyle
What defines a garden?
A garden can be anywhere one chooses to grow favorite things: succulents, herbs, edibles, flowers, trees or shrubbery. There is no rule about the size or location of your plot. Your garden can be as unique as you, the gardener, and should suit what you are willing to give it in terms of time and effort. A container garden or two can be just as satisfying to one as a planted acre is to someone else.
Are you one who loves fresh picked fruits and vegetables and the spontaneous snip of herbs for your latest dish? Perhaps you love to arrange flowers, or you just enjoy relaxing in your private Eden where the birds sing and butterflies flit about. The first step is to consider your expectations. Second, evaluate your available space. Third, study your sunlight exposure. Lastly, think about the time you wish to devote to your garden.
Veggies, fruits, and herbs:
Urban gardens can be very successfully grown on balconies in containers and Earth Boxes or planted compactly in a backyard raised bed. If your soil is hardpan or dusty, and the expense and time of digging and amending doesn't appeal to you, a raised bed is the perfect solution. Stacking stones or building one from cedar planks to a height of 2 feet by 4 feet width by 6 or 8 feet in length will provide enough space to feed a family of four or more from a variety of edibles. The framework will need to be filled with a combination of compost and topsoil- approx. 48 to 64 cubic feet. Irrigation can be set up w/ drip systems or soaker hoses on a timer, so the garden wil receive consistent amounts of water even during vacation time. PVC pipes can be arched over the bed and attached with covers for cold protection, shade screens, or bird netting as needed. Raised beds are the basis of the French intensive gardening method and can support many plants for large harvests with less water, fewer weeds, and healthier outcomes.
On a smaller scale, pots can be filled much the same way and watered by hand. The EarthBox System is designed to be self-watering and weed free and has an optional staking kit. It only takes a 1.5 cubic foot. bag of potting soil and can support enough veggies to easily feed 2 people.
Dwarf fruit trees including tropical varieties and berries of all kinds do as well in pots as in the ground, so there really are no limitations to growing edibles except for the full sun requirements of 6 or more hours daily. Leafy greens and tubers can grow in less light.
Vegetable varieties are plentiful from hearty hybrids, to openly-pollinated heirlooms, to grafted combinations. If growing in containers, look for determinate type tomatoes and compact melons and squashes. There are even upside down planting bags for those with small spaces who like to grow tomatoes w/o staking them.
Growing a cutting garden:
Who doesn't love a fragrant garden full of lovely flowers? It can enliven one's spirits and brighten the dreariest day. Flower arrangements bring nature's beauty inside, provide calming aromatheraphy, and tell our visiting friends how special they are. The real beauty is that it doesn't take a large space for loads of blooms. Unlike edibles, you can grow gorgeous specimens in either sun or shade.
Flowers can be planted from seeds, bulbs, flats, and containers. There are the seasonal annuals with the showiest color for our flower beds, flowering shrubs like roses, camellias, and gardenias, and the hearty perennials that repeat their cycles year after year. I think the perfect gardens use all of these for non-stop performance. It may be a bit of work up-front, but those bulbs and perennials will pop up each season like clockwork. Lilies, tulips, peonies, Irises, alstromeria, ranunculus, dahlias, gladiolas, and narcissus are all examples of bulbs that are ideal for cutting. Biennials that grow one season and bloom the second include foxgloves, hollyhocks,delphiniums, and Canterbury Bells. Perennials include geraniums, penstemon, coreopsis, Shasta Daisy, Black-Eyed Susan, Coneflower, Gerbera Daisy, lupines, columbines, and many wildflowers- all spectacular in bouquets! Evergreens, ornamental grasses and ferns, berry sprigs, fruits, rose-hips, and vining tendrils all make excellent accents in flower arrangements. Again, most things can be grown equally well in containers, beds, and side-yards. It is just important to make sure that your selections have the same light and watering needs when combined in a planter or bed. Container gardens offer the freedom to change a look easily with limited expense and effort.
Create inviting and peaceful retreats.
Creating a peaceful place to relax:
When creating a personal outdoor haven, think about the things that help you relax. Perhaps it's the soothing sound of a trickling water feature, the chirps and songs of feeding birds or the swaying of palms and ornamental grasses. Whatever it is that you wish to have surround you, you will want to have a place to sit to enjoy it all. If your space allows for it, an outdoor room with deep cushioned seating arrangements, lanterns, outdoor grilling and dining might be great- especially for entertaining. How lovely to experience a beautiful sunset with the fragrant waft from a flowering jasmine or a statuary garden with white iceberg roses reflected by a full moon! A small bistro table and hanging votives in the midst of planted containers might provide the perfect setting for a romantic glass of wine with your partner. For others, a short walk to a small sheltered, secret garden in an unused sideyard might be a slice of heaven. Your only limit is your imagination!
Consider the ambiance of a fire pit.
Make a cozy outdoor room.
Bringing it all together:
Stately trees, shrubs, lawns, and flower beds compliment each other nicely on a larger property and help define main entrances and specific areas of use. On a smaller scale, trees and shrubs work to provide privacy or give shade and curb appeal. Trees also serve as play places for children.and markers for the seasons as they bloom, change color, and drop leaves. Patios and balconies are more intimate but can contain the same elements often utilizing "up spaces" like walls or tiered containers. Side yards and backends of garages offer secret places and areas of sun for sprawling veggies like zucchini and watermelon.
When choosing plants, pick for seasonal interest and attraction of birds and butterflies. Also think about what you want most from your garden. Is it edibles, flowers, relaxation or a combination? How involved do you wish to be? Time savers might be slow- release fertilizers, weed cloths and mulches, and timed water delivery. I garden organically and attract birds and beneficial insects by adding water features and growing a pollination bed. I keep weeding and pests to a minimum by adding layers of compost, leaf mulch, and worm castings to my garden. It needs little care, and is a wldlife haven!
There is a garden for every personality and every need. The "perfect garden" can only be defined by the individual. Whatever it is for you, no matter your budget, it is within reach and can be had with a vision and a bit of passion to get the job done. No doubt, it is worth the effort!
© 2012 Catherine Tally