People talk a lot about landscaping but once in a while someone mentions “hardscaping”. So what is “hardscaping”? “Hardscaping” is the non-living additions to our gardens that we may or may not have any control over such as driveways, sidewalks, a neighbor’s wall, or a solid fence. Things like “blacktop” driveways and walkways can absorb heat, and cement foundations can leak lime to raise the pH of the soil near the house. When you take inventory of your yard to plan where to put your plants, all of these things must be noted.  For example, a Rhododendron that likes acid soil, is quite often put near the north foundation of the house for shade and protection from the wind.  In the mean time it receives lime from the cement blocks to its roots. If you don’t add something to the soil to lower the pH, your Rhododendron will struggle. I use granular sulfur on my acid loving plants.

          What about your car on the driveway dripping oil and blowing out fumes. What kind of a plant can stand that? If there is a Lily pond you would like, or a patio covering a fairly large part of your yard, how will these “hardscapes” affect drainage?

          You want to have a gazebo but how much land will it use? How will you get there? What kind of walkway will look best? How will all this affect your plants? All of these are a part of “hardscaping” and must be considered. Some authors recommend that when you move to a new home, live in your new house a year before you plant or build so you can note all of these things.

          Intensive Gardening” is another term we often hear.  By definition it is a method you use to get the most crop possible from a given area. Since you will be demanding a lot, you will need to have the best soil possible such as compost for drainage, and raised beds to warm up early. You will also want to plant a second crop as soon as the first is harvested, which is called succession planting. Intensive planting quite often does not use rows but scatters seeds close together in a wide bed making your plants very close together which will shade out weeds as well as keeping the soil shaded, saving moisture.  You will want to plant early crops, such as spinach and radishes, as well as having late crops, such as kale or cabbage, that will stand a light frost. Not everything is an advantage as more plants will need more water and are more likely to get fungous infections as air cannot circulate as well.

          Usually my very first blooms are from SNOW DROPS. The bulbs are tiny and need to be close together.  I like them near a doorway in order to find them.  A general rule is to plant bulbs 2 to 3 times their size in depth.     Seeds have about the same rule but for very tiny seeds, I scatter them on top of the soil and then walk on them to be sure they touch the soil. Shallow planting also dries out very fast so I like to put a board on top and remove it when I see the plants starting.  If you water the area the seeds may be washed in too deep using up their stored food before the leaves start “manufacturing” food.  If the soil seems dry, I may make the row and fill it with water and let it drain away before planting.  Then put a very fine layer of soil on top of the seeds. With some small seeds, carrots for example, I plant bigger radish seeds at the same time. The radish seeds are strong and will break a path through the soil for the smaller plants.

          The first seed catalog arrived just before Halloween. It seems like one or two more arrive each day. I don’t know how many I have now. I have been collecting all the different kinds of beans seeds for several years and there are many of different sizes, shapes (even square ones), colors, and patterns. Now one of the catalogs has about as many colors, sizes, and shapes of corn. This includes the little STRAWBERRY POPCORN (maroon), the pink, blue, and yellow of the INDIAN CORN, and the whites, yellows, and bicolors of SWEET CORN. They even have a black corn!!! I suppose I need to find another big jar with a lid and start collecting. There are even seeds for the little ears that people pickle, plus the corn that is used to make brooms.  Wouldn’t it be fun to have an acreage so you could grow all those different plants.  One catalog “STRICTLY TOMATOES” has tomatoes of every size, shape, and color.  Have you ever eaten a black tomato?

          Something that I have been seeing more of is an island bed .  Building lots are getting smaller and so there is less room for large areas, so island beds are planted in the lawn that can be reached from all sides. They are easier to plant and weed than a large border bed.  People with children want as big a play area as possible in the backyard, so islands in the front yard are showing up. A few have a small tree such as a REDBUD for center interest surrounded by an oval, round, or free form area. Quite often the plants are shorter ones like PEONIES, or DAYLILIES that need very little care except for spring and fall. This eliminates supports that tall plants might need.

          There are some plants that can be reproduced by root cuttings.  It isn’t hard to do but my percentage of success hasn’t been too high. I have had the most success with ORIENTAL POPPIES. It is usually done in fall or very early spring. It is generally easier to take root cuttings and divide most plants when they come up in the spring. One thing to remember is to mark your cuttings when you get them as they won’t grow if they are upside down.  You can do this by making the top cut straight across and the lower one slanted.  Very thin roots can be planted on their side, for example PHLOX. It is easier for me to put them in pots of potting soil. Bury the pots and cover with compost if you decide to leave them outside in the winter.  I do 4-6 more cuttings than I want, as success rate is not 100%.  Better yet, use a cold frame during the winter months if you have one.

Copyright 2009