Saturday, January 30, 2016

A New Year ... A New Garden!

January of each year provides motivation to improve our lives in some manner by altering our lifestyle, or redirecting our energy to a new cause.   Although many New Year’s resolutions are already discarded and forgotten by late January, we are still energized by the concept of making changes in our lives.  Some of this energy might be directed toward planning a new garden for spring.  Garden designs should never seem tired or stale—they might simply need a new design element, or some unique new cultivars to continue looking fresh and intriguing.

You might wake up your garden space with any of the following design elements:

Ornamental vegetable garden:   Veggies are usually grown in rows when produced commercially, but YOUR garden can exhibit a more interesting layout.  Try your hand at planting assorted veggies in clusters within your garden; create pathways around these clusters made of stepping stones or straw (not hay, which contains seeds).   Include some new cultivars so your veggie ornamental garden has something colorful at every turn.  Even green beans aren’t ordinary anymore—some are deep purple when raw (but turn green when cooked.) 

Salad garden:  This section of your garden could include new varieties of leaf lettuce—some tasty and tender varieties are now red or bronze toned— and make an interesting addition to any tossed salad.   You could include radishes, carrots, spinach and kale in this section also, but I would dedicate a separate space to your tomato plants.  (Some indeterminate varieties of tomatoes can grow over six feet tall and will shade neighboring crops.)

Culinary herb garden:   Herbs… always a favorite, even for a novice gardener.  Herbs are suitable for small-space gardens, since you need only one or two plants of each variety.  Choose a sunny location with fertile soil enriched with organic matter and compost; your herbs will be happy there!   HINT #1:  some herbs, like certain oregano and mint plants, are perennials and might overtake your designated space; grow those herbs in large terra cotta pots.  HINT #2: don’t forget to USE the herbs you grow!  They taste best before plants produce flowers.

Fairy garden:   This would not require a large portion of your garden… fairies are tiny, right?  The mantra for a fairy garden design is “THINK SMALL!”   Some figurines and accessories can be purchased, but often household items can be cleverly incorporated into a fairy garden to add charm.  Flowering annuals like alyssum work nicely, as well as creeping thyme and other plants with dainty features.  NOTE: If you wish to introduce the joy of gardening to young children, a fairy garden might be the answer!  You will want to assemble your plant selections and small rocks and accessories in advance.  Then enjoy the sparkle in their eyes as your children see their fairy garden come to life!
M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
 A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture