Posts Tagged ‘home gardening’
Even though it’s really hard to remove little baby fruit from fruit trees, it can be a very important step. Not only do you get much better fruit but the tree is better able to bear the fruit while it grows and ripens.
When our peach trees became laden with fruit we had to remove quiet a bit of it. Since this is just their third summer we were worried about such an abundant crop. We learned that removing the fruit is called ‘circumcising’ the tree. Well all 5 of our trees got circumcised. Apparently we weren’t thorough enough because just as the fruit on our Red Haven ripened the trunk of the tree split right down the middle all the way to the ground. I ran out with baskets and was going to pick the fruit and then take out the tree.
“Slow down”, my husband said, “let’s just think about this a minute.” So I stand there tapping my foot impatiently, knowing I’d have to do something with all those peaches right away. He headed for the garage saying we were going to pull the tree back up and strap it together.
Ha! I thought he was delusional. This was a young tree but it was already big, at least 12′. I tried to budge one side of it and I might as well have tried to lift our deck. But back he comes with pulleys and come-alongs and bungee cords and ropes and boards and a drill? Then he reaches down and smooth as can be he lifts one side up and braces it then pulls the other side up and braces it. He straps them together tightly and supports those heavy limbs. Then he gets out the drill and drills two holes through that poor tree. He used bolts and nuts and things and bolts the trunk together in two places. Poor tree had surgery with no anesthesia. I thought that by the next morning all the leaves would be wilting and the fruit would began to drop.
Except for the support straps still in the branches, you’d never know anything had happened to that tree. The fruit stayed on and ripened and was delicious. Now the tree will grow around those bolts and it’ll be impossible to tell what once happened. Isn’t that amazing?
An unexpected thing I enjoy about our garden is getting to talk to so many people as they pass by, some strolling, some on bikes and many in cars. We live on a corner just off Main Street in our little town of about 40,000 and so it feels like we live in Mayberry, with so many friendly people. Anyway, one day a man walking his dog stopped to talk and was telling me how much he appreciated me putting the names by the plants so passersby could know what they were. I told him I hadn’t thought about the people passing by, I was just trying to remember the names of plants and what was planted where.
I moved out here to the West almost 3 years ago and even though I’d gardened for such a long time in the south (zones 7 & 8), there were so many plants out here (zone 5b/6a and elevation ca.5000′) that I’d never heard of and didn’t recognize. Really, there were very few of the ones I was use to growing that would grow out here. So if you think you have to know a lot to be a gardener, then I’m living proof that you don’t. I started reading a lot, I now have 154 gardening books (I just counted out of curiosity), almost all second hand. I like to be able to look up anything I need to know about. I do use the internet a lot but I get a lot of help from books.
Back to the names on the plants…I use metal wire stakes with a metal plate to write on. They work great for helping me to remember the plant name and to mark the spot where it’s planted so in the spring when I’m looking for places to put new plants I’ll know that place is reserved for something that will be coming up soon.
When I have spaces to fill I like to plant annuals that have plenty of blooms to use and share, like Cosmos and Zinnias, which can grow quite tall if they’re happy. Last year I had a profusion of blooms along the sidewalk outside the picket fence on the South side of our yard (our house faces West) and large areas covered in blooms inside the fence.I try to get everyone to come and cut bouquets from the zinnias and cosmos because it encourages more blooms and it makes people happy.
One afternoon as I was sitting on a little stool weeding by the front sidewalk a little girl, about 8 years old, came riding by on her bike and stopped to talk. She gave me one of my favorite compliments when she said, “Your yard looks like a flower forest.”
How could I not like that?
I’m trying to decide whether to began at the end or the beginning. Maybe I’ll just jump back and forth.
I mentioned in “About Us” that in 2009 we’d bought a very old home in the Rocky Mountains (zone 5b-6a) and had taken up most of our lawn. I didn’t mention that we also took down four huge trees and many large, old shrubs. You can imagine what a mess our yard looked. But…we had a plan.
Here is a picture of our yard when we began laying it out. The big crater is where a large stump was ground out and where the Queen Elizabeth roses now stand beside the deck. You can see 2 of the 5 little peach trees planted early that spring. The small one on the end is stunted because deer ate the top out of it when it first put on leaves.
I think the neighbors were a little worried about the nut jobs that had moved in next door. It did look pretty bad but we did put up a privacy fence to protect their eyes. Of course the picket fence in the front yard didn’t hide very much and the front yard looked this bad too.
Limelight Hydrangeas and Japanese Anemone – How To Grow Perennials, When to Plant & How To Use In Landscape Gardens
When we bought our house a couple of years ago there was a small varigated Dogwood Tree beside the front porch with Sweet Woodruff and Lamium growing thickly under it. Late in the summer some pretty foliage started coming up. It only grew to be about a foot high and since I didn’t know what it was I just let it grow there. Since the foliage was so pretty and was coming up in little sprigs all through the Lamium I decided to move some of it around the yard. Most of these sprigs soon looked dead and I regretted moving them.
Since the Lamium is a low grower I planted Limelight Hydrangeas in front of the Dogwood. In September the little plant I didn’t recognize began to bloom and were beautiful. Well the next year those little plants, which I finally identified as Japanese Anemonies, grew huge and practically covered up the Hydrangeas.
The ones I had moved the year before had been just playing possum and they began to grow too. Now I’ve moved sprigs all over the garden. It’s a beautiful plant and still tries to outgrow the Hydrangeas but I’ve decided it’s survival of the fittest because I don’t want to move either of them. That next year too there were pink ones where there had just been white ones the first year. By the way, there is a Hydrangea behind that mass of white blooms.
I’ve since learned that they can be considered invasive but they are such a hardy plant and so pretty and best of all bloom in the fall when
almost everything else is finished up. I hope they invade my whole garden. Maybe I’d better be careful what I wish for.
I started growing herbs when my Aunt Pearl, who lives in Georgia and is also a gardener, gave me a large pot planted with herbs. I’ve been growing them ever since. I like to mix them in among other perennials, although I have had beds with just herbs in them. Herbs are so easy to grow and since you need to keep pinching them back to make the plant fuller and to prevent blooming, you have plenty to use in cooking and you’ll have plenty to share, since it really is good for the plant to get pinched back. In most cases it would be hard to use that much of any herb. When I prune them back I put the clippings I’m not going to use in a basket on my kitchen counter. The smell is wonderful.
Put the ones you are planning on using in a glass with water in the fridge and they will stay fresh until you need them. When using fresh herbs in recipes you’ll need to use a larger amount (about 2-3 times as much) because measurements are usually for dried herbs, which have much less volume. Fresh herbs make such a difference in foods. For example, potato salad is a whole different dish when prepared with fresh oregano, thyme, parsley and chives. The flavors are so fresh and wonderful.
Some can be grown from seeds and some can’t. Some can be dried and used, some frozen. If you’re interested in planting herbs, now is a good time for planting the hardy ones. Depending on where you live, Rosemary is iffy, and basil surely can’t take the cold but most others are pretty hardy. I’ll talk more about herbs later, but for now you really should consider herbs for your garden. You’ll fall in love.
This question comes up a lot and I think the best place to start a garden is not with a shovel and dirt but with pencil and paper.
Gardening is a growing interest and a lot of people, even though they want to garden, just don’t know how to get started. Even a small bed can produce a great amount of flowers or vegetables.
Here is a link to an article I’d written that might be of some help. Check it out.
Everybody enjoys looking at a garden or being in a garden, but not everybody actually enjoys getting in and getting their hands dirty and their backs tired. The rewards are so great though, it’s worth the effort, time and money.
Here are just 10 very good reasons to garden.
- I want a beautiful yard and can’t afford a gardener.
- I need the exercise.
- It keeps me out of the house so I don’t have to see that it needs cleaning.
- I get fresh fruits and vegetables that are way too expensive in the store.
- I get a sense of accomplishment.
- I get an opportunity to talk to neighbors and passers-by that I would miss cooped up inside.
- I can take my frustration out on the weeds instead of my sweet husband.
- It creates beautiful, relaxing places to spend time with family and friends.
- It gives me a great reason to get out of bed in the morning.
- It’s in my blood and I just can’t help it!
This is a re-post from last September. I’m re-posting it because before we know it, it will be time to get out in the garden. Sometimes we have to replace garden hoses because of winter damage. Before you rush out to buy yet another vinyl garden hose…
I just discovered something last spring that I wish I’d known before.
I realize that everybody but me may already be aware of this, but for the ones like me, who weren’t, I want to talk about rubber garden hoses. Not vinyl, rubber. A world of difference in the two.
In our front and side yard we have a sprinkler system that pretty much takes care of everything. Well, we have one in the back yard too but it doesn’t work well with the way the yard is planted, so I water by hand with a hose and nozzle. I was so tired of fighting those stiff garden hoses, which were always getting tangled.
We use one of those attachments on the faucet that lets you attach 4 hoses at a time and then each hose goes to a different area of the yard.This Spring when one of our hoses split and needed replacing, I went to Lowe’s and was looking at all the hoses. The one that split had a lifetime guarantee so I just got my money back. As I was looking at the hoses trying to decide whether to get the same kind again or not, I spotted a small display of rubber hoses, one black and one a clay red. Since it cost about the same as the one I was replacing and this one also had a guarantee, I decided to try one.
All I can say is “Where have you been all my life?” Watering is such a pleasure…well, it always was, because I enjoy just studying the plants and flowers, but to use a hose that doesn’t fight you is wonderful. The rubber hose is so flexible and limp and easy to manage. I’ve used it all Spring and Summer with no problems. If I have a problem I’ll let you know, but so far I really love it and wish I could afford to replace all of my garden hoses right now. Gradually I will though.
So when you have to replace one of your garden hoses you might give a rubber hose a try.
Soon the leaves will be turning some beautiful colors, and don’t you know, those leaves WILL come down. I’ve always loved the look of the colorful leaves all over the yard but they soon turn brown and they won’t stay dry and crispy. During the winter, whether from snow or rain, they’ll get wet and slimy, and pretty much stay wet. They’ll become a slippery, sludgy mess. So it’s important to remove them from walkways and steps to prevent accidents.The leaves should also be removed from the lawn, as well as flower and vegetable beds. There are plants that need mulching for protection during the winter, but it’s better to use mulch or pine needles. Using straw can cause problems because of the possible grains of wheat etc, it could contain, which could attract mice to your garden. The mice would then began to feed on the stems of plants, such as roses.
The leaves can be shredded and added to the compost pile. We even gather up bags of leaves left at the curbs for the city to pick up, to add to our compost.
Cut down perennials that have finished blooming. Annuals and vegetables should be pulled up when they’re spent. If not diseased, tossed all of these clippings and spent plants into the compost. Some plants can be left, if they add interest to the winter garden or if they have seed heads that can feed the birds.
Autumn is a good time to divide perennials, which can then be planted in other areas of the yard or shared with friends. It’s also time to dig up tender bulbs, like Tuberous Begonias and Dahlias (wait till frost has turned the leaves black), and store in a cool, dark place.
To strengthen roots through the winter, apply bonemeal to perennial beds and around shrubs and trees.
Tidying up the garden not only makes the yard/garden look better through the winter, but spring gardening will be so much easier and more enjoyable. If you’ve planted spring bulbs, with cleaned out flower beds, you’ll have something wonderful to anticipate and look forward to.
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If you haven’t discovered raised bed gardening yet, then listen up.
There are some real advantages to gardening in raised beds, especially if you have poor soil or a lot of tree roots etc. Raised beds don’t get walked on, so they don’t get all packed down. Weeds aren’t a problem either. Plus, as you get older, it’s nice not to have to bend over so far.
You’ll need a place in your yard that gets plenty of sun and is pretty level. If possible the bed should run north and south so that the sun can get on both sides equally. That is the ideal, but all of ours run east and west and do fine.
Raised beds can be built out of bricks, blocks, cement or lumber. Lumber is the most common material used, with cedar or redwood being the best because it will last longer. If you live in an arid climate, you can even use pine. If you use lumber, then you have a choice of just nailing the box together or using metal corners that you just slip the lumber into and screw it together. We have both kinds and both work great.
You have to decide how big you’ll make the beds. If you make them 4′ wide then you’ll be able to reach the center from both sides. You can make them as long as you like, keeping in mind the lengths that lumber comes in will save you some money. We have 16′ x 4′ beds with one cross board in the middle. So it looks like two 8′ x 4′ beds attached end to end. You can make square beds or any size you need that will fit on your available space. You’ll also want to make the beds at least 3′ apart if you’re making more than one bed. This allows you working space in between them. Also, you need to consider how deep you want it to be. Boards come in 6″, 8″, 10″, 12″. Realize that the deeper the bed the more growing medium you’ll need. Plants usually need at least 6″, but we have ours at 8″. Also the roots can go past the mixture and into the soil.
To fill a raised bed, don’t use garden soil. There are a few things to use in the planting mixture and you can create your own mixture from these ingredients.
These ingredients are:
Peat moss, sawdust (not wood shavings), sand, Perlite and/or Vermiculite, compost, dry fertilizer (in even numbers, i.e.8-8-8 or 10-10-10). Mix it all really well either before you put it into the bed or layer it and mix it well in the bed. Level it off and don’t mound it up in the center. Water it really well to moisten the peat and perlite/vermiculite.
You’ll be able to grow a lot more plants in this rich, well drained mixture than you’d be able to in the ground. Earthworms love these beds and multiply really fast and make the mixture even more fertile.
You can build your raised beds in the fall for very early spring planting. Another something to look forward to after a long, cold winter.
My husband Mike is very detail oriented. And I don’t just mean the twenty minutes he spends ironing one shirt or the forty five minutes he can spend cleaning a single toilet. Mike notices everything. We can’t drive down the street or go on a walk without him calling our attention to something. Whether it is a sunset, the buds forming on a tree, the architecture of a building or the way a shadow or lighting falls on an object. Mike notices it all.
It’s never been one of my favorite qualities of his. When I’m at Disneyland, I want to enjoy the rides, the characters and the atmosphere. Not the flowerbeds or the brickwork. When I’m at Buckingham Palace in London, I do not want to stop and look at the type of sprinkler heads they use. When we are driving south on I-15 on our honeymoon, I want to talk about US, not be told to look out the window at every passing mountain peak and every tree full of spring blossoms.
As our children have gotten older, they are the same way. Mike and now our children notice EVERYTHING. There is rarely peace and quiet on our car-rides or family walks. (And it isn’t JUST because of the fighting.) It’s because of the never ending:
“Oh look at that.”
“Look over there, hurry, don’t miss it.”
“Did you see that?”
“Now that is pretty.”
Though I certainly appreciate a beautiful landscape and the wonders of nature, I don’t usually notice them as frequently as Mike (or my children).
But I’m learning to.
Recently, while walking around acres of beautiful lush gardens, as is usually the case, I was walking too quickly and too rushed ahead of everyone else. Interrupting my declaration of, “Keep up kids” was my nine year old son saying, “Mom, you’ve go to see this. There are peppers in the flowerbeds!”
It wasn’t just my quick pace that slowed, my mind relaxed of the thoughts of where to be next, and instead I caught the wonder and awe in the eyes of my children as we viewed what seemed to be a pepper plant amidst the landscape.
That my nine year old son had to point out.
I can’t help but wonder exactly what I was doing as we were meandering through the gardens supposedly to enjoy the beauties around us. Was I too busy checking everyone was still with us? Too busy worrying about who was holding whose hand? Too concerned with wondering what time it was and how much longer we should stay?
I was in one of the most beautiful flower gardens in our state. And I had to be told to look at what was surrounding me! Obviously one of my husband’s finest qualities of appreciating his surroundings has rubbed off onto my children. And I want to join them.
I’ve decided I’m not going to snap responses as much anymore that sound like, “No, I didn’t see it, maybe I was looking at something else.” or “It’s a tree. Big deal.” or “Aagh, let’s just have quiet time and enjoy the walk.”
I’m going to follow the example of my husband and kids on this one, I’m not simply going to appreciate living in beautiful surroundings, I’m going to notice them.
I’ll tell you what I’ve learned about strawberry plants since I’ve moved to zone 6. They can be about as fast growing and invasive as Kudzu, you know, the vine that ate the south. When we bought this place there was a sickly little strawberry patch about 2′x2′ and the plants were pitiful, since they were in heavy shade all day.
I designed a little berry patch with strawberries growing low and blackberries on a little trellis (which they quickly outgrew). It is about 10′x8′ and gets sun most of the day. It had a wooden border from 4′x4′ posts left over from building the grape arbor and the deck.
Well…in no time at all they had jumped that border and were headed cross country. I cut them way back, but that only slowed them down for a couple of weeks. Now I know that I have to be vigilant about chopping runners off before they can make it to the border. They do have really good berries, but not as many of them as I would think they would with such prolific plants. I wish I knew what kind they were. Any suggestions would be welcomed.
I learned recently that after strawberries quit bearing, the leaves and runners should all be cut off, being careful not to injure the new growth. Maybe that is part of my problem, I haven’t been pruning them back like that and they just got too rambunctious. They’ve been pruned back now and we’ll see if they’ve been tamed a little.
My very first job, when I was 15 years old, was planting seeds at a local nursery. To me, it was just a part-time job that provided a little teenage spending money. Eight years later, I found myself married to a landscaper, living in a brand new home, with a brand new landscape to design.
It isn’t because I have a fantastic memory that I remember one of our very first fights as a newly married couple. It probably has more to do with the fact that my husband reminds me of it all of these years later. He doesn’t remind me to be unkind, nor to remind me that I was the one in the wrong. Instead, he reminds me because it is something we laugh at almost fifteen years later.
We laugh at the memory of the ‘discussion’ we had over how to landscape a four foot wide flower bed stretching out along a 50 foot driveway. My husband, a LANDSCAPER, and me a new bride, who had six months experience planting seeds along a conveyor belt, and a few weed pulling sessions in her youth. To say we had very different views about the design is an understatement. I suggested a patch of grass would be nice. My husband, putting aside all newly-wed sensitivity, laughed out loud at my suggestion, (I think that is when the ‘argument’ started) and instead suggested trees, shrubs and perennials.
I have thanked my husband for his wisdom ever since.
After my husband planted four beautiful towering oaks, and placed a few Spireas, Potentillas, and Barberry shrubs here and there, in a peace agreement of sorts, my husband left the rest of the design to me. I spent hours perusing greenhouses of a nearby nursery and became acquainted with Stella D’oro Day Lilies, Echinacea, and what became my favorite, Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia).
Within a year and a half our landscaped areas increased and I had three more good sized flowerbeds to take care of. Again after some careful placement of trees and shrubs by my husband, I was left to the flowers.
This round of landscaping, I fell in love with Forget-Me-Nots, Jupiter’s Beard and Woodruff. (And quickly learned to never again plant the ever-seeding Mexican Primroses.)
I’ll never forget that early summer day, just four years after our first fight as a married couple, when a city official knocked on my door and declared my yard as the recipient of the city’s ‘Yard of the Month’ award!
My husband is not often found sending me beautiful bouquets of flowers, but instead he has taught me an appreciation and love of flowers that last far longer than some store-bought flowers in a vase. I am a lucky woman.
And what a lucky man my husband is. He has beautiful flower beds AND a wife that can admit she is wrong.
I’m so excited to be able to say that a friend, Tiffany, who is a gardener as well as a published author, will be blogging on this site. She has such a beautiful yard and has shared plants with me when I was planting my garden.
I’m sure you’ll love, and look forward to, her posts. She is Tiffany Sowby of Happy Most of the Time blog.
Never having grown Rhubarb before, I hadn’t realized how big they actually get. Not only did I plant 1 in the wrong place, I put 2 in there, side by side. This is one of those mistakes I was talking about that you can learn from and not repeat.
The bed was plenty large enough when I put the two of them in there, but as I began to add other plants, and they began to grow, well, those giant leaves started trying to shade all the other plants around it. So…it has to go. I’ll find a sunny spot on the south, side yard and when the weather is cool enough, I’ll transplant those large Rhubarb plants.
Here is a video of the Rhubarb and the bed it’s in now.
As I move it I’ll post videos of that process.
I have planted clematis all over the garden because they can co-mingle with other climbing plants and not be invasive or intrusive. One of the clematis has out performed all the others. The Reiman Clematis has been in continuous bloom since it started blooming early in the summer. It has grown more than any of the others and it has a beautiful blue/violet color. I’m so glad I have two of them. As they grow and cover the gate and arbor I’ll post pics or videos.
I’m sure in time the other clematis in the garden will began to perform, but if you want one that will be beautiful from the very start, try a Reiman.
Check out this video of the Reiman Clematis on the gate attached to our grape arbor.
Roses have been stuck with a bad (undeserved) reputation for being difficult or hard to grow. I think that’s a bunch of hooey!
Now, in some climates (too humid or too hot) they can be a challenge, but even in those areas there are roses that can take the heat and/or the humidity. If you give them what they need, lots of sunshine, well drained soil, good air circulation, plenty of food and water, you’ll be rewarded a 100 times over with beautiful plants that give you gorgeous, sweet smelling flowers. Flowers to enjoy in the yard or in bouquets inside, or to share with friends and family.
I know I’m partial to roses, but I’m not blind to their little faults, like thorns and the need to be pruned occasionally. If you use the right gloves (deerskin) the thorns are not a problem. Pruning basics are easy and unless you cut the plant down to the ground, it’s hard to really do much damage.
Like other perennials, roses can be planted now, whether bare-root (see planting guide at: http://ezinearticles.com/?5-Mistakes-Homeowners-Usually-Make-When-Planting-Bare-Root-Roses-and-Fruit-Trees&id=6546666) or potted, they will need protection with a little mulch this winter. Then in the spring they’ll have a head start and will be beautiful, flower producing plants that first spring and summer.
When buying roses, potted or bare-root, just know that the potted ones were bare-root earlier in the year and some of the roots were probably removed so that it could fit into the pot. So the potted ones may look better but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll perform better in the ground. The main advantage of the potted roses is being able to see the foliage ad possibly the blooms. Look for sturdy plants with 3 good (1/2″-3/4″) stems.
Do a little research to know what kind of rose you’re looking for, hybrid teas – one bloom per stem, floribunda or grandiflora – multiple blooms per stem, or climbing roses to go up over an arbor or column, just to name a few. There’s so many to choose from and that is a lot of the fun, looking at all the different roses and picturing where you’ll put them in your yard.
I have favorites, some because of their color, some their perfume and some because of the way they grow. You’ll want to consider all of these traits when choosing your roses.
Don’t be intimidated by what you may have heard about growing roses. At least give them a try and see if you don’t fall in love with them too.
Have you considered growing herbs? Herbs can make a beautiful perennial bed or be mixed in among other plants.
You know there are different kinds of herbs, not all are for cooking. Some are medicinal and some just smell good and are for potpourri. Some, the all-stars, are all three, culinary, medicinal and aromatic.
Since Tarragon is my favorite herb I’ll just touch on it today, but there are so many wonderful herbs to use in your garden and almost all of them are perennial, unfortunately basil isn’t one of these.
Tarragon is a beautiful plant on its own, and I’m talking about French Tarragon here not Russian T. which has little flavor nor aroma or Mexican T. which is a little weedy with little flavor.When you cut it to use the plant becomes bushier as you can see from the photo above. The stems that have been cut are about to send out several stems each. French T. will get 2′-3′ tall, in warmer climates than here, and has long slender leaves of a beautiful green. It may have blooms late in the fall but rarely sets seeds. So it is propagated by cuttings or divisions.
It smells wonderful, like anise or licorice.
The best thing about it though is the taste. you can put the leaves in a cruet or bottle and add hot vinegar, cork it or cap it and in a few weeks you’ll have an amazing vinegar to use on salads or with fish etc. It can also be used to flavor meats, sauces, vegetables, eggs etc.
My favorite way to use it is in making tea. Hot or iced, they are both delicious. To make the tea just pull a hand full of leaves, rinse and chop them. Put in a teapot or use a 2 cup glass measuring cup (fancy) and pour almost boiling water over them. Let them steep for 3-5 minutes. Not too long though as it can get bitter. To make iced tea I just add more leaves so when diluted with the ice it will be just right.
Now for the medicinal…tarragon tea is a mild diuretic. In other words it makes you go, so I guess that makes it perfect to drink with salty foods. Mixed with chamomile it will help induce sleep.
No wonder I love Tarragon so much. When I moved from the South to the West it was the only plant I dug up to bring with me. Even though it is my favorite, I will talk about others soon.
I just mention the herbs because, like other perennials, now is the time to plant some.
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In our yard we have a sidewalk that is all the way around the house, up next to the house. Since we live on a corner, we have a public sidewalk that goes across the front and down the south side of our property. (See the diagram below) There are connecting sidewalks in the front and on each side. That leaves a lot of area for flower beds. Flower beds that couldn’t be accessed if there weren’t pathways winding through the garden. Besides for convenience, garden paths are appealing, drawing you into the garden. If I could use any material I wanted for the pathways, I would use old, reclaimed paving bricks. I’d have tiny little plants growing between them and beautiful green moss growing on them.
In the real world though, we’ve found something that is within our budget and looks pretty good. We use wood chips spread pretty deeply (4-6″). They began to break down a bit and we’ve even had to add more, here and there. The older they get, the better they look. They do a pretty good job of holding down the weeds and they aren’t bad to walk on.
Okay, where do we get these chips? When we began work on the yard in 2009, we had 3 huge trees removed. The guys cutting them down ran all of the limbs that they could, through the chipper. We had quite a few to use, which was great. The next year we noticed there were a couple of spots that needed more chips. We saw a tree trimming crew in the neighborhood and stopped and asked if we could have the chips. Sure, because they were going to have to take them to the city dump and pay to deposit them there. A win/win situation. Keep your eyes out for crews cutting down trees or trimming trees and direct them to your yard.
Another thing that would work, would be pine straw. Until it breaks down a little, it could be a little slippery, but if you have access to lots of pine straw it would really be put to good use. Plus, pine straw smells so good. I love that about it. Smells like you’re in the woods.
You could even use grass, if you don’t mind mowing it. If you already have a lawn and would like to have more bedding space to grow things, then mark the pathways and remove the rest of the sod to prepare the beds for planting. If you did this it might be best to edge the pathway with something to prevent the grass from growing into the beds. We’ve used large rocks because here in the mountains, that’s what we have access to. I’ve also used old railroad ties or Monkey Grass (Loriope). Both of those work great.
There are so many possibilities, but the idea is to provide a place to stroll through the garden. If you have room for it, along the path would be a really good place for a park bench. Let your imagination run wild as you plan your garden paths.