Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Growing Vegetables in Containers

If you use clean potting soil, container plantings will eliminate problems with:

  • Soil borne diseases 
  • Infestations by harmful nematodes 
  • An invasion of weeds

Try these vegetables in a container:
Green Onions
Squash (Bush varieties) 
Cucumbers (Bush varieties)

Vine vegetables such as cucumbers and pole beans will also do well if they’re given some sort of support in the form of a pole, cage or trellis.

Choosing Containers
Use certain containers, wooden tubs, planter boxes, bushel baskets or anything deep enough to accommodate roots. Lettuce, peppers, radishes, herbs and the leafy vegetables need to be in a container that holds about eight inches of soil. Plant tomatoes in containers that are at least two feet wide and two feet deep.
Make sure you have drainage. Drill holes along the bottom edge of the container about a half-inch up from the bottom. If you’ve chosen a container that can’t be drilled, add two inches of coarse gravel in the bottom.

Container plantings might have to be watered more than garden plantings, particularly if the container is porous, such as a bushel basket or an un- glazed terra cotta container.

9 Easy Summer Flowers

These garden beauties thrive in summer heat and bloom nearly nonstop into fall.

These daisy-like flowers are available in lavender, pink, or white. Three varieties we like: A. cordifolius 'Cape Cod' (Sunset climate zones 1-10, 14-21), A. c. 'Little Carlow' (zones 1-10, 14-21), and A. novi-belgii 'Melody' (zones 1-24).

Coreopsis (C. grandiflora)
Fluffy, golden yellow blooms atop tall stems. 'Sunray' is a dense, compact selection with double and semidouble flowers. Zones 2-24, H1, H2.

Bold blooms in a range of vibrant colors grow from tuberous roots. We planted pink and coral decorative dahlias and a red-and-yellow, cactus-flowered variety. Provide light shade in hot areas. Zones 1-24.

Gloriosa Daisy
DaisyDeep golden petals radiate from chocolate centers on 2- to 4-inch-wide flowers. Plants reach 3 to 4 feet tall and 1 ½ feet wide. Shorter varieties such as ‘Goldilocks’ and ‘Toto’ top out at 10 inches tall.

Guara (G. linheimeri)
White flowers cluster like butterflies atop tall spikes on these airy 2½- to 4-foot-tall plants. Selected forms include 'Siskiyou Pink' (to 2 feet tall), with rose-pink flowers and 'Whirling Butterflies' (to 3 feet tall), with white flowers.

"Moonshine" Yarrow
One of the most carefree and generous bloomers, yarrow has tight clusters of deep yellow flowers on 2-foot tall plants. Pair it with blue flowered catmint.

Penstemon (P. gloxinioides)
These bushy plants are fairly short lived, but to make up for it, they produce lots of trumpet-shaped blooms over a long period. Deep purple ‘Midnight’ and scarlet ‘Firebird’ are standouts for their vivid, south-of-the-border colors. Pink and white ‘Appleblossom’ looks fresh and springlike.

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Daisy flowers of rosy purple with knobby orange-brown centers, which resemble small beehives, atop clumps of bristly oblong leaves. Grows to 4 feet tall. Zones A2, A3, 1-24.

Purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum'Rubrum')
Feathery, rose-colored plumes fade to beige atop clumps of reddish brown foliage. Grown as an annual in cold climates, it is especially pretty beside gloriosa daisies or purple coneflower. Zones 8-24.

Best Time of Day to Mow the Lawn

There are varying opinions on this … Some professionals say it doesn't matter, so long as you do not mow when the ground is very wet, as this can cause damage to the turf, and also rutting if you have a riding mower.  If you are flexible there is an optimal moment for lawn mowing
However, there are some pros that say mid-morning this the optimum time of day to mow the lawn. The logic behind this is that the lawn needs time to heal before evening, that the freshly shorn grass blades are susceptible to fungus and disease and really need the benefit of the day to dry and heal before evening sets in.  So, if you have the luxury of choosing when to mow in the day, there is a case that mid-morning is the optimal time of the day.
Now, more importantly make sure that your blades are sharp, as this will affect the lawn more so than the time of day that you mow.  IF your blades are not sharp then the lawn is torn as the dull blades hits it, this causes damage to your turf and makes it more susceptible to disease and damage.
Keep in mind, if you are going to be working with a professional service you will probably have to pay a premium if you are wanting to have the lawn mowed at specific time of day.  These professionals make their schedules out by route density. Meaning they complete their stops in the most efficient manner possible as they navigate their way throughout the neighborhood, town, or city.  So asking for a specific time will be invasive to their schedule, and you will probably have to pay extra.  Take for example a St. Augustine turf that grows in Florida, it would be extremely hard for a lawn service provider to bag and haul all those clippings off.
The Street Smart Gardener recommends keeping your lawn mowing blades higher during the summer heat. 

Source: http://www.yourgreenpal.com/blog/when-is-the-best-time-of-day-to-mow-my-lawn-morning-afternoon-does-it-matter

Attracting Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are attracted to a bird garden habitat:

  • Make fresh water available for drinking and bathing. 
  • Provide both sun and shade areas. Hummingbirds need shade to perch and to build their tiny nests. 
  • Hummingbirds may become reliant on your garden. When there are no blossoms, provide hummingbird feeders hung 30 feet apart throughout your garden. The best color for a feeder is red. 
  • Fill feeders with a sugar-water mix of one part sugar to four parts water. 
  • Keep feeders clean and filled. 
  • Never use honey that can develop a fungus fatal to hummingbirds. 
  • Hummingbirds are attracted to flower colors and nectar, not fragrances.

Favorite Flowers—Perennials
Bee balm .................. Monarda didyma 
Butterfly weed......Ascelpias tuberosa 
Columbine........................Aquilegia sp. 
Coral bells ......... Heuchera sanguinea 
Cosmos...............................Cosmos sp. 
Dahlia.....................................Dahlia sp. 
Delphinium...........Delphinium elatum 
Foxglove ................................... Digitalis 
Geranium....................Pelargonium sp. 
Hollyhock........ Althea rosea (biennial) 
Lupine..........................Lupinus hybrids 
Penstemon.................... Penstemon sp. 
Red Hot Poker ........ Kniphofia uvaria 
Sage ..............................Salvia officinalis 
Speedwell...................Veronica hybrids

Favorite Flowers—Annuals
Mountain garland ...... Clarkia elegans 
Touch-me-not ................ Impatiens sp. 
Flowering tobacco .... Nicotiana alata 
Nasturtium............Tropaeolum majus 
Petunia..........................Petunia hybrids 
Spider flower ....... Cleome hasslerana 
Zinnia.....................................Zinnia sp. 
Verbena .............................. Verbena sp.

Bulbs, Corms and Tubers
Tuberous begonia............. Begonia sp. 
Canna.....................................Canna sp. 
Gladiolus .......................... Gladiolus sp. 
Iris.................................................Iris sp. 
Montbretia..................... Crocosmia sp.

Bougainvillea..............Bougainvillea sp. 
Cardinal climber..Ipomoea quamoclit 
Honeysuckle......................Lonicera sp. 
Lantana...............................Lantana sp. 
Rosary Vine.............. Ceropegia woodii 
Trumpet vines.....Campsis grandiflora

Shrubs and Trees
Abelia........................Abelia grandiflora 
Azalea ...................... Rhododendron sp. 
Bottlebrush....Callistemon lanceolatus 
Butterfly bush ............Buddleia davidii 
Cotoneaster............... Cotoneaster sp. 
Eucalyptus......................Eucalyptus sp. 
Flowering quince.....Chaenomeles sp. 
Fuchsia.................Fuchsia arborescens 
Hibiscus..............................Hiviscus sp. 
Lilac ...................................... Syringa sp. 
Weigela.......................... Weigela rosea

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Common Pests of Indoor Plants

Scale Insects
Typical damage: Clustered or single green-to- brown disc-like scales under leaves and on stems; also mottling of foliage when seen against the light. Leaves may turn yellow and have a sticky substance on them. Timely attention is essential because bad infestations are difficult to eradicate.

Control measures: Rub off scales with moist cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol or—on thick leaves—a soft toothbrush soaked in rubbing alcohol. Check plant for sensitivity by wiping only one leaf and waiting 24 hours to check for adverse reaction. Spray with Horticultural Oil Spray to smother adult insects. Pyrethrin, Neem Oil and Insecticidal Soap will help control the immature crawlers. Systemic Houseplant Insect Control may control both stage. Repeat one week later.

Red Spider Mites
Typical damage: Tiny white or yellow spots on leaves, later becoming a mottled and dusty residue or webbing. Fine webs under leaves and in growing tips. Leaves may curl and dry. Mites thrive in hot, dry weather.
Control measures: Wash with a clean, strong spray of warm water several times over two to three weeks. Also apply a miticide, Horticultural Oil Spray, Neem Oil or Systemic Houseplant Insect Control.

Typical damage: Streaked, flecked or distorted leaves and flowers remain after insects have sucked plant juices.
Control measures: Remove flowers and buds on infested plants, as insects hide inside them. Apply Insecticidal Soap as recommended. Control thrips with insecticide containing Pyrethrin, Insecticidal Soap, Neem Oil, Horticultural Oil Spray, or Systematic Houseplant Insect Control.
Note: Insecticidal Soap may be purchased at W&W Nursery & Garden Center, and is composed of potassium salts of fatty acids. It is not the equivalent of the common household dish soap.

Aphids (pictured above)
Typical damage: Green, red/orange or black/ gray insects visibly sucking plant juices. Cause small, distorted, weak growth and leave a sticky, clear residue. Shoot tips and flower buds most susceptible. Control measures: Apply Insecticidal Soap, Pyrethrin, Neem Oil, Horticultural Oil Spray, or Systematic Houseplant Insect Control as recommended.
Fungus Gnat
Typical damage: Harmless tiny black insects fly up when disturbed. Destructive white larvae come to soil surface, feed on nutrients in soil and occasionally on young roots.
Control measures: Water plant less frequently; discard drained water from saucer. Spray soil and plant with Garden Safe Houseplant & Garden Insect Spray. Place a venus flytrap plant near affected plants. Place a sticky trap on the soil to catch adults as they emerge from the soil.

Leaf Miners
Typical damage: Irregular yellow, cream or brown channels across leaves.
Control measures: Spray with Isotox or treat the soil with a granular systemic insecticide.
Typical damage: Tiny white fly-like insects fly up when plant is disturbed. Larvae suck plant juices, causing general weakening and yellowing. Thrive in dry climates, generally on flowering plants. Can spread rapidly. Timely attention is key.
Control measures: Remove leaves that have a large number of larvae on them. Flying adults can be caught with a vacuum cleaner. Spray with Pyrethrin, Insecticidal Soap, Neem Oil, Horticultural Oil Spray, or Systematic Houseplant Insect Control.

Typical damage: Cottony white masses along stems and under leaves. Small flat insects move very slowly. Leaves may have a sticky substance on them and be distorted.
Control measures: Kill by wiping or spraying with rubbing alcohol after first checking plant’s tolerance: Apply alcohol to one leaf. Wait 24 hours to check for harmful reaction. Spray Insecticidal Soap, Pyrethrin, Neem Oil, Horticultural Oil, or Systematic Houseplant Insect Control as recommended. Remove cottony masses (egg sacs) from under pot rims, shelving, stakes and under pots.

Front Yard Walkway Ideas

Walkways are an important part of front yard landscaping. A beautiful walkway will greatly enhance your home's curb appeal and provide a way for you and guests to get to your front door. You'll want the walkway to look nice and be easy to walk on since it will serve as an entrance to your home. Whether it will lead straight to your front door, or to a small courtyard garden or porch, there are many design options for front yard walkways.
Three important front walkway design considerations:
  • Width
  • Shape
  • Paving Materials
Determining Front Walkway WidthWhether your walkway leads from the street to the front door, from the driveway to the front door, or from the front yard to the backyard, the walkway width is very important. When you are hosting parties or family gatherings it is likely that many people will be using the walkway. It should be wide enough that two people can comfortably walk side-by-side. Four feet is the minimum width for a front walkway, but five feet is preferred. Get more information about walkway dimensions.
Choosing the Shape of a Front Yard WalkwayThere are a few factors that should be considered when deciding on your front walkway shape. The first factor is the size of your yard. Typically, small front yards look best with a simple straight walkway, while a curved walkway can add much needed design interest to a large front garden. The second factor is the style of your home. If your home has a traditional colonial or Victorian style than a formal, straight path is the best option. A straight entry walkway will help to emphasize your front door as the focal point of your home. If your home has a ranch or Mediterranean style an informal, curved path is the best option. However, be careful not to overdo the curves because then people will take shortcuts through your front lawn.
Selecting Paving Materials for a Front WalkwaySince a front walkway is a big part of your home's curb appeal you should select materials that complement the exterior of your home. For example, if your house has brick accents a concrete walkway with a brick border would look especially nice. When selecting materials for your walkway, keep in mind that solid paving, such as concrete, stone or pavers, is easier and safer to walk on than stepping stones or gravel.

Ground Covers

Ground covers are any woody or herbaceous perennial plant that spreads to cover an area. They are usually low maintenance. Secondarily, they may provide seasonal interest from flowers, fruit, and interesting textures. Often they are used to stabilize slopes, thereby controlling erosion to areas with poor growing conditions. Most ground covers are low growing, while a few are not low growing to the ground.

• Best planting time is in the spring, allowing plants to have a long growing season.
• Arrange new plants in staggered rows. 
• Mulch new plants to control weed growth and to retain soil moisture. 
• Water regularly when first planted using a slow drip irrigation. This is especially beneficial where slopes are involved as water tends to run off when applied at high rates. Once established, water it in times of drought.
• Fertilize lightly after first year with an appropriate fertilizer.

Ground Cover Spacing and How to Figure the Number of Plants You Will Need
Select the required spacing of the ground cover plants in the left column. Divide the number of square feet in your planting area by the corresponding number in the right column. The resulting figure is the number of plants required to cover the area.

Space Denominator
4” ...................................................... 0.11 
5” ...................................................... 0.25 
8” ...................................................... 0.44 
10” .................................................... 0.70 
12” .................................................... 1.00 
15” .................................................... 1.56 
18” .................................................... 2.25 
24” .................................................... 4.00 
36” .................................................... 9.00 
48” .................................................. 16.00

Example: To cover a 10’ x 10’ planting bed with plants spaced at 15”, determine the square footage (10’ x 10’ = 100 sq. feet). Then divide by 1.56 (from chart). The answer is 64.10, or 64 plants.

Planting Near or Within a Leach Field

Planting over a septic system’s leach field can be a challenge because every drain field is unique. But, there are a few hard and fast rules to what can be planted. You decide what will work best in your situation by following a few simple guidelines:
If possible, plant between the drainage lines and at the ends because it will be dryer.

For larger trees (30 feet or taller), plant, if possible, the same number of feet away from the leach field as the tree is tall at its maximum height (i.e. plant a 50 ft. maximum height tree, 50 feet from the leach field.)

Trees and Shrubs that are OK to plant near/within a leach field:
Ornamental Cherries 
Ornamental Crabapples 
Dogwood (tree and shrub) 
Serviceberry (tree and shrub) 

Perennials that are OK to plant near/within leach fields:

Do NOT plant the following trees within your leach field:
Red Maple 
Silver Maple 

Hanging Baskets - Good Care & Good Grooming

Hanging Baskets for Shade
Begonia-Dragon Wing 
Boston Fern

Hanging Baskets for the Sun
Black-eyed Susan 
Million Bells

Water before wilting
Because they’re exposed to more wind and warmer temperatures, hanging baskets dry out faster than garden bed plants. Check soil daily, using a moisture meter if necessary. Water deeply when the top two inches of soil are dry.
Tip: Adding a moisture retaining product, such as “Soil Moist Spikes” or “Soil Moist Beads” will help to maintain your plant’s water needs.

If you notice yellowing leaves or poor flowering, the plant is sending a message that it needs more light or some fertilizing. Use a water-soluble fertilizer at half-strength every time you water, or when you first get your hanging basket, sprinkle over the soil one or two tablespoons of slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote. This amount will keep the plant well fed all season. 
Tip: A little fertilizer is good, too much is deadly. Don't overfeed your plants. Excessive fertilizer will burn roots. Follow directions on the label. 

Vacation care
When you leave for vacation, take hanging baskets down and put them on the ground in a shady, protected spot. Water thoroughly before you leave. Trimming your plants back slightly will help reduce the water needs. Better still, ask a friend or neighbor to water while you’re away.

For good appearance and to encourage vigorous flowering, remove spent blossoms and seedpods. If plants become overgrown and scraggly, trim them back.

10 Beginning Gardener Mistakes to Avoid

Gardening Mistake No. 1: Starting Out Too Big
It’s difficult to resist those tempting photos of perfectly ripe vegetables and fruits in seed and nursery catalogs. It’s all too easy to order more vegetable varieties than your garden space and time will permit. Planting too large a garden is a mistake that can place too heavy a workload on a gardener and lead to frustration and burnout.

A better gardening strategy is to start small in the first year and plant only a few of your favorite veggies. This will allow you more gardening success and a greater feeling of accomplishment. In succeeding years, as practice builds your gardening skills, you can increase the size of your garden each planting season.

Gardening Mistake No. 2: Not Properly Preparing the Soil
Without good soil, no vegetable garden can thrive. Any preparation that the soil needs must be done before planting. Once those seeds begin to establish a root system, the soil cannot be disturbed without endangering the tender, young plants.

Prepare the soil as early in spring as you can work it without creating mud pies. Let the soil rest until the weather is warm enough to sprout seeds and support the growth of young plants. Then you can plant your vegetable garden and watch it spring to life.

Gardening Mistake No. 3: Ignoring Light Requirements
Vegetable plants need sunlight to grow properly and process soil and water nutrients. When choosing your garden spot, make sure that the area gets enough sun to grow the plants you want to put there. Some plants require more sun than others, and those light requirements must be honored when planting your garden.

Check planting recommendations on seed packets before you decide where to plant each seed variety. Some plants need full sun; other plants do well in partial shade. The directions on seed packets will tell you. Plan your vegetable garden before you plant, giving full-sun spots to veggies with the greatest sunlight requirements.

Gardening Mistake No. 4: Over- or Underfertilizing
Too much, too little or the wrong type or timing of fertilizer will not allow your garden plants to produce healthy, vigorous growth. For example, all plants require nitrogen, and high-nitrogen fertilizer will produce vigorous top growth—which is what you want for leafy green vegetables like chard, cabbage and lettuce. That same amount of nitrogen, however, will create such vigorous top growth that it can hold back ripening.

Excess nitrogen can have a similar effect on root vegetables. Robert Thomas of Tonasket, Wash., warns enthusiastic new gardeners: "Please, go easy on that wonderfully rich manure and homemade compost where you are going to plant your potatoes.” Manure and compost are such rich sources of nitrogen that putting too much on a potato patch can cause excessive top growth and delay the development of the edible tubers.

Gardening Mistake No. 5: Over- or Underwatering
Plants need water to metabolize nutrients and grow, but different types of vegetable plants need different amounts of water. Too little water will cause plants to dry up and wilt. Once seriously wilted, most plants will not recover, even if watered, so do your best to keep your vegetable plants from wilting. Too much water can rot the root system, and only healthy roots can absorb nutrients from the soil and hold the plant upright. Once rot afflicts the root system, the plant is done for.

Most vegetable plants prefer a good, deep watering one to three times each week. If you water too shallowly, the roots will grow near the surface instead of downward to seek water.

"If you don’t water your vegetable garden deeply and thoroughly, you might end up with shallow roots that cannot tolerate any drought at all," warns Rebekah James Pless of Spencer, N.C.

When you water your vegetable garden, ensure that the roots receive moisture. If you don’t know whether you’re watering deeply enough, check soil moisture by inserting the probe of a moisture gauge to the depth of the plant’s roots.

Gardening Mistake No. 7: Planting Bulbs Upside-down
Onions, garlic and other bulbs have a root-growing end and a stem-growing end. Make sure that you know which is which before you plant these seeds.

Planting bulbs wrong-end up will cause delayed growth as the root and top try to find the right direction to grow. This can use so much of the energy stored in the bulb that by the time the sprout reaches sunlight, the plant is weak and will fail to thrive. In most cases, the top of a bulb comes to more of a point than the bottom, so it’s not too difficult to tell which end should be up when planting.

Gardening Mistake No 8: Planting Too Closely—and Not Thinning
If you plant your seeds or transplants too closely, you’ll create too much competition for the nutrients in sunlight, soil and water. Seed packet instructions include advice on plant spacing, but it’s tempting to ignore it because seeds seem so tiny when you’re planting a patch of bare soil. It’s difficult to imagine how much space the plants that sprout from those seeds will need once they start to grow.

Not every seed planted will germinate and not every sprout will survive, so it’s OK to plant seeds closer than the spacing needed by mature vegetable plants. It’s important to thin the patch or row when plants are a few inches tall, removing enough of the seedlings to make room for the remaining plants to grow. Many vegetable plant thinnings are edible — young carrots and greens are tender and delicious—so enjoy your thinnings in an early-spring salad. Vegetable plant thinnings also can be left on the soil around remaining plants to serve as light mulch.

Gardening Mistake No. 9: Letting Weeds Grow Too Large
The best time to pull a weed is when it’s tiny and its root system is small. Pulling weeds at that stage of growth won’t disrupt the roots of your vegetable plants.

The longer you let a weed grow, the stronger a root system it will develop and the more nutrients it will steal from your vegetable plants. Keep weed growth to a minimum by mulching soil around your vegetable plants or disturbing the surface of the soil by regularly hoeing between your plants.

Gardening Mistake No. 10: Overmulching 
Mulch is a good thing, but too much of a good thing usually isn’t. Mulching with organic matter—like straw, dry leaves or grass clippings—helps keep weeds from sprouting, retains moisture in the soil, keeps the root zone cool and provides nutrients for the plants as the mulch decays.

A light mulch is fine after planting, but don’t mulch too deeply or seed sprouts might not be able to push through into the sunlight. To retain soil moisture and discourage weeds, gently add more mulch as the plants grow. After mulching, draw the mulch back 1 inch or so from the stems of the young plants so it doesn’t create too much heat as it decomposes or trap dampness against the stem and cause rot.

Take special care when using green mulches like fresh grass clippings, as these materials produce heat while decomposing, which can harm the plant and even kill it. Green mulches are very rich in nitrogen, which they release as they decompose. This nitrogen boost will fuel top growth in vegetable plants, which you might not desire.

Don’t use grass hay as mulch. It often contains seeds of weeds that can spread rapidly and become very difficult to remove once they’ve established themselves in a vegetable garden. Wheat straw contains fewer weed seeds, so it is usually a safer mulch than hay.
A lot of gardening questions become common sense to a gardener after a few seasons of experience. There’s a lot to learn along the way, but you will learn how to avoid a bunch of common gardening mistakes.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

You can minimize the negative impacts of materials and product manufacturing by strictly adopting this mantra: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.  Reuse is one of the most effective strategies for offsetting the environmental and human health impacts of material or products. When you reuse reclaimed brick, for example, you do not need to mine the raw material or fire it in a kiln.  If it is already on site, you don’t need to expel greenhouse gases in transporting it. Nor do you need to send the old brick to the landfill.
Reclaimed materials can provide  design details and a historic perspective that makes the landscape unique, and it is likely to save money.
  • Consider the many options. Reclaimed materials can be used in whole form or deconstructed and dismantled for reuse as a completely new object.
  • Be creative.   Homeowners should be open to new and creative ways in which materials may be incorporated into the landscape.  When reusing materials it is often helpful to let the material inspire the design.
  • Locate materials early in the design process.  Determining what materials are available for reuse early in the design process will allow time for creativity and design exploration.
  • Select materials that can be reused.  When designing new site features, select durable and non-toxic materials  in modular and or standard sizes.
  • Design for deconstruction.  Design site features to be disassembled without unreasonable effort or extensive damage to the material.  For example, use screws instead of nails and avoid the use of glues or other liquid adhesives.
How to locate reclaimed materials
When shopping for reclaimed materials, homeowners now have a variety of options.  In this section, the instructor will need to research local resources for reclaimed materials and provide students with a list of vendors in the area.  Common suppliers include recycling centers, salvage stores, Habitat for Humanity and websites like freecycle.com or craigslist.
Materials that are collected, reprocessed and used again to make a new product are known as recycled materials.  Recycled materials lessen the need for virgin feedstock and avoid sending useful materials to the landfill; however, significant energy and other resources are often required during the recycling process (Calkins 2009).  Because of this, recycled materials should be considered after options to reduce or reuse materials have been fully explored.
Landscapes can support the use of recycled materials two ways.  First, by purchasing materials with recycled content.  Typically the higher the recycled content the better.  And second, by purchasing materials that can be easily recycled in the local area.
Post-consumer vs. pre-consumer content
Materials can contain either post-consumer or pre-consumer recycled content.  Of the two, post-consumer items are preferred because they are made from materials that were once consumer items and have now been diverted from the landfill.  Pre-consumer content typically comes from the manufacturing process, and can often be broken down and remade into similar or different materials.
What materials can be recycled locally?  Where are the recycling centers?
Unfortunately, all materials cannot be recycled in all areas.  Knowing the materials accepted by local recycling centers can help homeowners make more informed decisions.  
Use minimally processed materials
The ecological and human health impacts of materials typically increase which each additional  manufacturing phase.  Therefore materials that have reduced manufacturing and processing requirements often pose fewer environmental and human health risks.  Examples of minimally processed materials include:
  • Uncut stone
  • Earth materials
  • Wood
  • Bamboo

6 Tips for Rooftop Gardens

Creating a personal outdoor living space on your rooftop, terrace or balcony provides a place to go outdoors for welcome relief from the hustle of high density urban living. Good design can bring precious additional living space to small condos and apartments. These landscapes are different from anywhere else because they are elevated, from a few feet to many stories above the earth. They are also on-structure, which necessitates many unique requirements to ensure you project is buildable, visually appealing and supportive of green plants.
1. Preserve the ViewThe view from a rooftop living space is your most valuable amenity, so all design decisions must preserve and maximize it. Solving practical problems must be done in a way that does not diminish the view. For example, changing a solid wall to a transparent wrought iron railing can greatly enhance the view, and borrow space to make your project seem larger. But if there's an eyesore, replacing a transparent rail with a solid wall may be the perfect solution for retaining the view while screening this undesirable segment.
2. Enhance PrivacyOften balconies are constructed to serve many units, not just yours. To create a private space for relaxation, screening off your neighbors can be paramount. Keep in mind that all solid partitions will influence air movement. This may be a good thing if you have problem wind from that direction, or it can be undesirable in summer when the partition creates stagnant air. This is why partitions are most often made of open material such as lattice or metal grids enhanced with vines. When considering privacy, be aware of your standing privacy needs as well as those when you're sitting down. Discuss this with your designer to find the least imposing solution for privacy while maintaining air movement and view so you don't end up with a potentially claustrophobic space.
3. Mitigate the EnvironmentWhen you invest a lot of money in an outdoor living space, it must be comfortable for you and your plants in as many seasons as possible. In the colder months when you live indoors, the planting and decor should make this space equally as attractive to look at through windows. Your designer's biggest challenge is to put into place elements that mitigate your unique set of climatic challenges with attractive components that work well with your interior style.
Some of the typical problems include west facing units where afternoon heat and full exposure in the summer months can be overwhelming. Here you will need seasonal shade or an umbrella or another creative shade source for you and your plants. Those units located in wind corridors where gales rip through the spaces between large buildings will definitely need protection. Wind screens or selection of plants that tolerate this buffeting may be essential.
4. Furniture: Comfort vs. SizeThe most important commodity in any city is space, where every square inch matters. That's why selecting furniture is so difficult. Big bulky pieces are out, small and well designed is in. Your choice must demand as little square footage as possible without compromising comfort. Strive for a balance of style and versatility. Furniture that blends with that of the adjacent room helps to blend interior and exterior style.
Due to spatial limitations, selecting furniture while designing the space, rather than furnishing as an afterthought, is the best way to preserve every square foot of open space you can. Keep it simple. Otherwise a visually pleasing terrace can feel cluttered, and that makes it far too similar to the rest of the crowded city. In addition, furniture is seasonal. If it must be stored indoors for the winter, be sure it is small and light weight enough to bring in and out easily. Furniture that remains outdoors year around must be sufficiently weatherproof.
5. Accent with PotsWhich is more important, the plant or the pot? The answer is neither. The plant and pot are equally as important, which emphasizes how the right pair turns this practical planting option into living sculpture. Your designer will see these as columns, masses, backgrounds and focal points, and they constitute the most visually dynamic element within the space. In these small urban spaces, your pots are viewed at close range, and the hotter they look the better.
Your designer will have to use great care to obtain the perfectly sized pots to spice up these outdoor spaces, and ensure they are large enough to support the root ball of the designated species. Some will remain outdoors year around, and these must be thick walled and weather proof. If these contain rugged evergreen conifers that are capable of surviving the winter on the terrace, they will become the most important element outside during winter. These may even be used for holiday lighting or become the subject of ambient up-lighting to softly illuminate the space without sacrificing the view.
6. Water for SoundEngineers know that sound travels upward. The din of heavy traffic can be louder a few floors up than it is on street level. This and the general noise of city life can spoil the sense of peaceful separation you are trying to achieve in the living space. This places a high value on the sound of water as a masking device. Due to the unique constraints of on-structure landscapes, this will require both a good designer and an experienced contractor.
Wall fountains make the most space saving style. They stand at the edge of the space against a wall or may even be hung upon the wall, asking for little to no square footage to be devoted to its base. Freestanding fountains are far more demanding. No matter what style of fountain you use, it must above all be variable from a lot of sound to a minimal flow rate during quieter times of the day or night.

Shade Vegetable Gardens

You can still grow healthy, delicious vegetables in areas where you only have dappled shade, or you only have a few hours of morning sun and shade the rest of the day.

The following do well with less than full sun:

Brussel Sprouts 
Mustard Greens 
Pak Choi 
Swiss Chard 
Pole Beans 
Perpetual Spinach





Maximizing Small Yard Landscapes

Creating truly outstanding small space landscapes is a specialty of certain well known designers. Their fame is based on a firm grasp of three valuable techniques that your designer can exploit just as easily. When you hire a company to help design your outdoor living spaces for the condo, the townhouse or just a not-so-large yard, here are the basics for getting it right in cramped quarters.
Concept #1 Plan for multiple focal points.
The single biggest problem of small space design is that there are no grand views, nor is there enough space to create an outstanding focal point. This results in limited visual appeal. The solution is to create many tiny focal points throughout these spaces that can become surprises when unexpectedly discovered. Gathering them is a great opportunity to shop for delightful objects of art that are weatherproof enough to live outside. Whether they are stone, ceramic, glass or metals, these are for you to choose and your designer to arrange them in the most optimal place.
Keep in mind that you need not have all these objects at the start of the project. Opportunities will arise both during and after the design process. Avoid mass produced items that may be seen elsewhere. Make your small space landscape uniquely yours by searching for one of a kind architectural salvage, antiques and original works of garden art.
Don't make the mistake of putting all these focal points front and center. Certainly one or two may be outstanding in the garden as a basis for surrounding spatial or planting design. The others are best sequestered amidst the plants, looking as though they have always been there. Remember, it's about visual discovery, so when a guest suddenly spots one there in the green or amidst the blooms, it offers the joy of surprise. Imagine dining in a garden where these carefully composed surprises positioned for the guest to find throughout an evening compared to a space featuring just a single focal point.
Concept #2 Design in inches rather than feet.
Within a large landscape there are always parts overlooked by the designer, but this isn't a problem because they are rarely noticed. But in a small space landscape, every ill-conceived detail and each omission will be highly visible at close range. In some high end resort communities, property may sell for thousands of dollars per square foot, and here the emphasis is on obtaining the greatest benefit out of each inch of precious space. Thus, this most important concept illustrates how important it is that you and your designer consider every bit of ground and maximize its detailing and usability.
Standard design utilizes square feet as its typical unit of measure. Small space gardens must think in square inches because fitting all the amenities you want in that limited area requires a very precise layout. The difference of six inches here or there can determine whether or not you can add a water feature or a fire pit. Two inches may be the deciding factor on whether you can expand your raised planter wall to seat wall width. Failing to work in such detail means you may miss out on valuable opportunities that make the spaces more useful, diverse or attractive.
Concept #3 Indulge in high quality materials.
Today's construction materials are more varied and luscious than ever before. The global economy allows import of exotic stone from far corners of the world or just across America. New manufacturing technology makes a much wider range of innovative ceramics readily available for residential landscapes and outdoor living spaces. In larger landscapes though, the expansive spaces drive cost of using such unique materials out of most budgets, even high end ones. The real beauty of small spaces is they allow you to afford the lavish materials you only dreamed of in the past, simply because you need only a small amount of it to get the job done. With the door open to such affordability, don't miss out on making truly exceptional choices for your masonry.
Always consider your paving materials relative to the interior floor materials to match them as cleanly as possible. If you are using travertine marble on the inside, use a porcelain tile that mimics its color and texture outside. Another technique for small spaces allows exciting accent materials too. When your designer has options for creating bi-colored effects just like accent tiles in kitchen and bath, the resulting design can make close range inspection a delight. If these accent bands or fields are made of the outstanding new colored glass tiles, for example, there are many opportunities for integrating them with an outdoor lighting system for creative illumination after dark.
When it comes to design of small space, attend to the details, design every inch, integrate surprise and splurge on materials. Whether you decide to create a very powerful and exciting small space design or a Spartan modern minimalist one, remember always that less is more.

Planting Trees & Shrubs

Choose the right spot. Does the plant need sun? Shade? Wind protection?
1. Dig the right hole! Dig the hole up to 50% wider than the root ball width and only the depth of the root ball. When the plant is in the hole the top of the ball or root system should be slightly above ground level.

2. Base. The base or bottom of the hole should be undisturbed soil to support the root ball and reduce settling.
3. Burlap covered root balls should not be disturbed. Put ball in prepared hole. Remove twine from top of ball, pull burlap away from top. Leave the wire basket in place so root ball will not be injured. Bend down the edges of the basket below soil line.
4. For container-grown plants, remove the pot and slice the roots 1/2 inch deep, several times around from top to bottom of root system.
5. Backfill. Using a mixture of the topsoil from the hole, add 25% of a soil amendment such as organic compost. Shovel the mixture around the roots. Do not heap soil around the trunk of the plants. Tamp lightly to remove air pockets. Make a shallow rim around the root ball to prevent water runoff.
6. Water thoroughly. Use a how and turn water pressure down low and allow the water to slowly run through the soil of the new planting, deep into the root system. Mix root stimulator, such as Starter Plus, in a watering can and apply around root zone.
Regular watering is essential to the survival of the plant. New plantings need to receive a thorough watering several times a week, soaking the entire root system. This should occur for four to six weeks, then weekly thereafter. However, be careful not to overwater the plant. Check the soil before and after watering.
7. Apply mulch at a depth of two to three inches around the base of the plant. Keep mulch away from the trunk.
8. There is no need to fertilize until the follow- ing spring. Use a slow-release fertilizer such as Osmocote, Tree-Tone or Jobes spikes. Evergreens prefer an acid plant food such as Holly-tone or Miracid.

Special planting instructions for Rhododendrons and Yews: Plant them high! Rhododendrons and yews do not tolerate wet soil and should be planted only in well-drained soil. to keep the roots drier, they should be planted with up to 1/4 of the root ball depth above the existing soil level. If wrapped in burlap, carefully cut away as much of the burlap as possible, once placed in the hole.

What is the drip line?
The drip line is where the water drips from the outermost edge of the plant’s canopy.
My tree is not producing leaves. Is it dead?
Trees and shrubs have different dormant periods and different growth periods. Viability is determined by the presence or absence of green tissue under the bark.
How can I tell if I am watering my tree too much or too little? Slow drip watering is best for newly planted materials. Turn hose on with 1/4” stream of water running at the base of the plant. water trees for 1/2 hour and shrubs for 15 minutes. Water 1–3 times per week, as needed (with consideration to natural rainfall). Use a moisture meter to determine how moist the soil is prior to watering.
What is the scratch test?
Take a sharp object and scratch a small area of surface bark off to determine if there is healthy tissue (usually green) beneath the bark.