A garden can be a thing of beauty, but it takes time and commitment to plan, plant and enjoy a garden that the neighbors will admire. Gardening has become ever more popular within the past decade or two, partly because people enjoy growing healthy vegetables as well as colorful flowers. It is not necessary to choose between growing flowers or vegetables because with the right information and careful planning, many plants are compatible and can grow next to each other.
Location is Important
Experienced gardeners know their plants will grow and produce more abundantly when the soil composition and available sunlight needs are met. Most plants, like elephant ears, need a minimum amount of sunlight and fertile soil to thrive. Before deciding where to locate the garden, a homeowner must evaluate the type of soil and how much sunlight is available during an average sunny day. The garden plot should receive at least six hours of sunlight each day, preferably during the midday hours.
Once the most favorable location so far as sunlight has been determined, a soil test kit should be purchased to evaluate the type of fertilizer and compost is needed to properly amend the garden plot. If the garden space is taken from an existing lawn, it will be necessary to completely remove the sod and a few inches of dirt to make sure all the grass roots are gone. Dependent on the type of soil beneath the sod, bagged garden dirt and compost can then be tilled in as deep as possible. A small percentage of sand can help loosen the soil if it contains a lot of clay.
It is best to prepare the garden space in the fall prior to the planned spring planting. Several inches of compost and mulch should be spread over the ground and worked in with a tiller, giving it time to break down, soften and become part of the existing soil. Fertilizer that also contains a weed prevention ingredient can be worked into the top layer of soil so weed seeds will not germinate and invade the garden before spring planting. The soil can be covered with a layer of heavy black plastic during the winter months to help control invading weeds.
Climate Zones are a Great Guide for Successful Gardening
Whether the garden is large or small, flowers and vegetables both do best when they are planted according to the correct zone. Most packets of vegetable seeds and pots of purchased seedlings provide information about the number of days to maturity. For example, if it takes 75 days for a certain variety of sweet corn to produce edible ears, that type of corn needs a growing season of at least three months. Valuable information about growing all types of vegetables can be found online and also at the local gardening center or greenhouse.
Planning and growing a flower garden takes the same amount of research and planning as a vegetable garden. Planting according to the climate is essential for colorful and abundant blossoms on healthy plants. Flowers differ from vegetables in one important way; some are perennials and some are annuals.
Annual flowers are seasonal and need to be replanted every year in zones where the temperature plummets to below freezing during the winter months. Most gardeners put in some annuals every spring simply because they tend to be more colorful than most perennial flowers. Some varieties of annual flowers will reseed themselves and return the following spring, and these plants are classified as bi-annuals.
Perennial flowers and plants are the basis of most flower gardens since they do not need to be replanted in the spring. Once these plants have become established, they will likely grow larger and stronger each passing season. Rose bushes, lilacs, hosta plants and peonies are popular perennials that gardeners have grown to love over the years.
There are many different ways a homeowner may choose to create a garden that stands out from the rest. Whether it is large, small or somewhere in the middle, neat rows of healthy plants in a weed-free garden plot is certainly to be admired. While most people prefer to keep their vegetable garden and flower gardens separate, planting certain flowers along the edge of a vegetable patch has certain advantages. Some flowers are repulsive to insects and pests that might otherwise do some serious damage to veggies that are nearly at the edible stage. Marigolds are a brightly colored annual that blooms from early summer and well into the fall. While the plant has abundant and attractive blooms, it has a strong odor that rabbits and many insects typically avoid according to P. Allen Smith of The Garden Home.
Most gardeners like to add some sort of seating near their garden, or install an attractive fence to separate the space from the rest of the landscape. An arched gateway through the fencing or an arbor that has seating where friends can relax on a summer day is very attractive. A perimeter fence could also be a picturesque and useful way to prevent destructive pests from damaging the plants. As the years pass, garden décor may grow to include a relaxing water fountain, a birdbath or a couple garden gnomes.
Flower gardens add great curb appeal to the landscape in front of a home, but with careful planning various flowers that bloom in different seasons can provide color and beauty all summer. A beautifully orchestrated landscape welcomes spring with fragrant lilac blooms, blossoming fruit trees and seasonal bulbs. This colorful show is no sooner ended than rose buds pop open along with day lilies of varying hues. Midsummer annuals are next in line, and climbing vines such as clematis and morning glories produce an abundance of eye-popping blooms. Hydrangeas and Azaleas and Weigela retain their blooms well into the fall when hardy mums, ornamental kale and dusty miller continue to color the landscape after the first frost.
Although tender vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and beans no longer produce after a frost, root crops and winter squash are safe in the garden until a hard freeze. When all the vegetables are finally harvested, it is time to once again prepare the garden for winter and spring planting. After all the plant matter is removed the soil should be amended with compost, tilled and covered with black plastic so the following spring will find it ready to once again grow a healthy and amazing garden.