A homeowner’s guide to landscaping and gardening
Landscaping their yards and planting beautiful gardens are a point of pride for many homeowners. Not only does this natural beauty delight them, but it also adds curb appeal and value to their homes.
Vegetable gardens are now embraced by many people who want to grow their own food, putting a harvest bounty on their tables with fresh-grown, fresh-picked tomatoes, melons, radishes, cucumbers, peppers, collards, zucchini, herbs, spices and much more.
While great landscaping and an abundant garden are easy to enjoy, they do need some garden planning and rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty to achieve the best results. But the joy of planting and maintaining a garden is that you can see the results of your DIY efforts sprouting up day by day.
To have your own garden and landscaping beautiful and bountiful, here are some gardening tips and advice to get you growing. You don’t need to be a master gardener to create something special.
How to plan your home landscape design
At a garden store, some home gardeners might be tempted to buy the first great-looking plants they see. But they’ll need to rein in their zeal for horticulture. It’s best to have a garden plan first, so that the good-looking flower or plant in the store doesn’t clash with your home’s architecture or seem mismatched with other choices for your flower and vegetable gardening.
First, you need to know what the climate in your area and growing zone is, what type of soil you have, how shady and sunny the different parts of your yard are, and how long the growing season is. All these factors can play an important part in what kind of plants you buy. You can even divide your yard into microclimates — full sun, partial shade, shade or deep shade — and plan accordingly.
It sometimes helps to have a theme for your landscaping, pulling together all the different elements. You might have a color theme or one that complements the lines of your house. You could use geometric shapes and lines or go for softer, more natural lines.
You need to think about how your yard will be used. Will kids and dogs play in it a lot, or is its primary purpose for entertaining? Do you want to avoid lawncare and replace it with wild growth or sturdy plantings? How you answer these questions will influence your landscape design. You might want to create a series of linked spaces in the garden, each with its own ambience and purpose. Then, you can manage accessibility with a series of openings and paths that naturally lead people from one part of the garden to another. Plants can be used as borders for the paths, leading people and defining the outer limits of your landscaping.
You should have a structure for your planting. You might want flowers and vegetables that bloom and ripen at different times so you can enjoy the bounty throughout the growing season. You could then plant taller plants in the back of the garden with smaller plants and ground cover in front, so they can be seen and not have their light blocked.
Do you have environmental concerns? You might choose plants that require less water and fertilizer and fewer pesticides. Using green hardscapes and non-toxic preservatives, paints, stains and cleaners are other ways to be environmentally friendly.
Finally, it might be too much if you create a huge garden the first time. It’s better to start small and grow in subsequent seasons as you get a feel for gardening.
Home landscaping ideas
When it comes to cool home landscaping ideas, your imagination is the limit (as well as the limits imposed by the plants, your climate, garden soil and sun conditions). Here are five landscaping ideas to get you going.
This idea is basic but has lasting appeal. Plant your front yard with a combination of evergreens and colorful flowers, so you have year-round greenery and flowering plants that can be added or replaced as the season changes (or brought inside to serve as houseplants). If your climate supports them, you can even use flowering greens, such as azaleas, to welcome guests.
Country-style planted wheelbarrow
If you can source an old wooden wheelbarrow, you can impart a country charm to your landscaping by filling it with soil and overflowing with colorful hanging-basket-style flowers, such as fuschias, begonias, impatiens and petunias.
Climbing wall of clematis
Whether you want to have flowers running up the side of your house or to hide an ugly fence, it’s nice to have an alternative to the usual ivy. Set up trellises for a rising wall of clematis — a flamboyant flower that comes in many colors, ranging from purple and pink to bright red and indigo.
Lighted driveway edge
Create a narrow garden bed along one side or both sides of a driveway, edged with stone, planted with small boxwood shrubs between solar lanterns that light the way when the family returns from a night out. The earth can be covered with a mulch of compositing materials, wood chips or other organic matter.
Modern stone gravel beds
If you’re attracted to clean lines and serene elegance, think about installing a low-maintenance stone gravel bed planted with perennials and shrubs between large stone boulders, rounding out the effect.
How to start home gardening
Creating your own home vegetable garden sprinkled with flowers for cheerful, colorful effects, pays in a couple of ways. It provides you with food for your table at a bargain cost, and many people find gardening a soothing, natural activity. To get your garden growing, here are some of the things you need to do.
Decide where to place your home garden
For the best vegetables, you need the best location for your garden. Many vegetables — such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant — require six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily to grow properly. That said, there are some vegetables, especially leafy ones, which can do with less sunlight, including salad greens, beets and leafy greens.
You should have nutrient-rich soil that is well-drained (constantly wet soil can lead to rotted roots) and not exposed to strong winds. The garden should also be easily accessible to a water source, such as the garden hose (a watering can serve for tiny gardens).
Buy some home gardening tools
The job of gardening is made easier if you have the right tools to do it. It’s worth investing in durable, well-sized tools made of solid metal and wood, rather than cheaper plastic ones. Basics include:
- Garden hoe - Used to shape soil, remove weeds. Best used when soil is dry.
- Scuffle hoe - Used for weeding.
- Dirt rake - Used to shape soil or materials, remove debris.
- Leaf rake - Used in leaf removal.
- Garden shovel - Used to dig and move dirt or materials.
- Hand spade shovel - Used for planting small plants.
- Garden scissors - Used to edge grass and prune plants.
- Spade fork - Used to aerate soil or dig out grass.
Plan your garden beds
When you know where you want your garden to be, it’s time to plan your garden beds. Raised garden beds are always an attractive option and make it a bit easier on your knees and back to work with their added height. However, they can sometimes dry out more quickly, so that has to be taken into consideration. Sunken garden beds are good for dry areas, making the most of available moisture in the earth.
To optimize your garden space, you might want to arrange it in beds or blocks, rather than in single rows. They should be no more than three or four feet in width, so you can reach their center from either side.
You can maximize small space with container gardening or vertical gardening, using trellises, fences and vertical planters to grow tomatoes, beans, peas, cucumbers and other vegetables growing up and taking a smaller footprint on the land.
Determine what to grow
When deciding what to grow in your vegetable garden, you should start with what your family likes to eat. If your kids prefer sweet carrots over Brussels sprouts, you should focus on the former. You may want to concentrate on vegetables that aren’t readily available at the local grocery store, such as tomatillos, or on ones that represent a huge savings over store-bought, such as many herbs and spices.
While they may take more work, seeds are cheaper than buying established plants from the garden store. Different types of vegetable seeds include:
- Organic seeds - Seeds derived from plants which had no fertilizers, pesticides, etc. while growing.
- Hybrid seeds - Seeds derived from deliberate crossing of different varieties of the same plant species.
- Open-pollinated seeds - Seeds that will produce a plant which produces seeds genetically similar to the parent plant.
- Heirloom seeds - Seeds from open-pollinated plants.
- Genetically modified organism (GMO) seeds - Seeds that were bred using biotechnology techniques.
Spending a few cents more on seeds from this year will pay off in higher yields of grown vegetables.
Plant your garden
You probably won’t just plant your garden once; you’ll have to do a few plantings. Cool-season vegetables, such as lettuce and peas, grow in the cooler weather of early spring and fall. Warm-season vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers, are usually planted when things warm up in late spring and summer. If you have a shaded part of the garden, it might be a good place to put cool-season vegetables.
Some vegetables have a short growing season and harvesting time, such as radishes and bush beans. Others, such as tomatoes, require a longer growing season but also produce for a longer period of time.
Tall vegetables, such as sweet corn or pole beans in a vertical planter, shouldn’t be placed so that they block the sunlight of other plants.
You should plant seeds about as deep as the diameter of the seed, unless the package specifies otherwise. To germinate, some seeds need light. Most transplanted vegetables are planted at the same depth as the pot they were sold in. Tomatoes, however, can be planted deeper than this.
Maintaining your home garden
Of course, planting your garden is just the beginning of the process. You need to maintain the garden to enjoy its fruits, including watering it and checking for issues like bugs and diseases, before you get to the reward of the harvest.
As a general rule, the flowers and vegetables you planted need about one inch of water per week during the growing season. If it doesn’t rain that much, you’ll have to do it yourself with a watering can, hose or sprinkling system.
But this doesn’t mean you should water the garden once a week. Seeds and seedlings need to be watered every day and perhaps a couple of times a day in very dry climates.
Watering a garden too much is just as bad as watering it too little. Garden soil that has become water sodden can cause seeds and roots to rot.
Checking for bugs and diseases
For the most part, bugs are attracted to plants that are stressed or deficient, so one of the best protections against them is to have plants that are properly nourished and healthy. If you get an infestation, you don’t necessarily have to buy pesticides. There are natural ways to control pests, such as homemade bug sprays and beneficial insects and animals.
Diseases can be caused by different tiny pathogens, such as fungi, bacteria, viruses and nematodes. Preventative measures you can take include keeping the soil healthy, cleaning the garden at the end of the growing season, rotating the location of plants every three years, buying disease-resistant varieties when possible and spacing plants so that there is good air circulation around them. Generally, the bug varieties to look out for are those which belong to the homoptera (plant eating) type. However, the most common threats are aphids, caterpillars, cutworms, and beetles.
Check plants often for signs of disease and bug infestation regularly. It’s easier to come up with a solution if you catch the problem in the bud.
Harvesting your vegetable crops
You want to harvest your veggies at the right time when they are at their sweetest and tenderest. Harvesting times for ripe vegetables vary. For example, lima beans should be picked when pods and seeds are full size and before pods turn yellow. Eggplant should be harvested when the plant is four to six inches in diameter, with shiny, dark purple skin.
With leafy greens, such as lettuce, you can cut some leaves and they’ll grow back for another harvest. Or you can pick beans and peas every two days. You can leave tomatoes on the vine to ripen or take them off when partially ripened and put them on a windowsill to finish the process.
The plants need to be handled with care so they don’t become bruised or damaged during harvesting, causing decay. If a ripe vegetable doesn’t come off the plant easily, cut it off with a knife.
Protect your home systems with Cinch
While gardens can beautify homes on the outside, Cinch Home Services can protect what’s on the inside, such as your appliances and major home systems like heating and cooling. We provide home protection plans that can help cover the cost of repairing or replacing many built-in systems and major appliances due to normal wear and tear. Cinch helps ensure the kind of peace of mind that usually comes from sitting in a tranquil garden.
Request a free quote today to help protect your budget and find the right coverage for your needs.