Contemporary landscapes are known for having a clean, minimalist look with no clutter. In contrast to the naturalistic, wavy borders popular in many landscapes, this style emphasizes straight lines and geometric forms which better reflect and relate to the architecture.
David Wilson, the award-winning designer behind David Wilson Garden Design, says “One of the key ways I know my design is successful is when every element in the landscape is essential. If nothing can be removed without leaving a void, you’re left with the simple beauty of a modern design.” Here, Wilson shares his tips for designing in this style.
Do choose pale colors for your modern landscape. “There’s something honest and simple about a lack of strong color,” says Wilson. By using neutral, naturally-colored materials like ipe wood, limestone, weathered steel, concrete and pea gravel, you allow the sleek lines of the architecture and the landscaping to shine.
Do choose plants with a distinct form. Japanese boxwood is a favorite because it can be clipped and manipulated into shapes, but spiky plants, soft-textured weeping plants, and anything with a strong visual punch can create the right effect when used skillfully.
Do choose one type of plant or one color to take center stage in your design. “The minute you begin mixing plants or layering different colors in your borders, the landscape takes on a traditional design style rather than a contemporary one,” says Wilson. “Editing is key.”
Do utilize straight lines and shapes such as rectangles and circles in your design. “I’ve always appreciated the effect of a long clean line or a beautifully-measured radius,” says Wilson. You can break up long lines of shrubbery by adding a parterre or geometrically-shaped bed at the end of them.
Don’t be lured by hot new color trends for any permanent element in the landscape. “Using a trendy color on tile or other long-lasting features is a quick route to a dated landscape,” says Wilson. “Instead, incorporate color trends by using cushions, towels, or annual flowers which can be switched out as tastes change.”
Don’t use organic mulch in your garden beds. “The neutral color of pea gravel creates a contrast between the foliage and the ground, showcasing the minimal use of plant material,” explains Wilson.
Don’t choose ornate furniture or decor in your modern landscape. Instead, go for a more streamlined look. Wilson recommends starting your search at Brown Jordan, an outdoor furniture retailer with a number of modern and mid-century modern pieces.
Don’t use organic shapes in your pathways, borders or materials. Naturalistic curves do little to enhance the relationship of the landscape with the architecture. Even when choosing natural materials like stone, cut them into elongated rectangles or create a geometric pattern so they relate to the home and take on a contemporary look.
Above all, remember that when in doubt, it’s better to edit than to add new elements. While this goes contrary to our first instinct, minimalism is critical in the modern aesthetic. As Wilson points out, “If everything is a feature, nothing is a feature.”
By midsummer, our gardens have reached their zenith. We can almost watch our squash vining, tomatoes ripening and corn stretching for the sky. While we begin to enjoy the fruits and vegetables of our labors, plenty of work still needs our attention. Most of the chores during this part of the growing season are in maintaining the garden’s appearance and good health.
Weeding, Spacing, Pruning, Staking
Frequent and shallow cultivation is the best means of weed control, according to Bob Olen, University of Minnesota extension educator. Cultivating serves two purposes: It loosens the soil, allowing air and moisture to circulate around the crop’s roots, and it controls weeds. Beginning as soon as plants are recognizable, cultivate lightly, loosening the top 1/2 inch of soil. It’s best done early and often so the garden looks good and the plant can grow without competition. Weeds vie for water and nutrients.
My husband has fabricated a handy tool he calls “the weeder.” He simply attached a loop of 1- to 1½-inch steel banding to the end of a broom handle. Every few days, he walks through our vegetable garden wielding the weeder. It’s much easier on the back than bending to pull weeds, and it loosens the soil, easing the way for air and moisture to circulate around a crop’s roots.
If every seed sown in the vegetable garden were guaranteed to germinate, we could sow single seeds at predetermined intervals along a row and thinning would be unnecessary. Because no such guarantee exists, it’s common to sow many more seeds than needed and then thin the row after germination. Yanking healthy seedlings out of the ground goes against the grain for most gardeners, but it must be done, because crowded seedlings grow into miserable, leggy, unproductive plants. Thinning is easier after a rain when the soil is still moist and the unwanted plants slip from the soil with a minimum of disturbance. If there hasn’t been a recent rain, water your garden the day before you plan to thin your crops.
Vince Fritz, director of operations at the University of Minnesota North Central Research and Outreach Center, thinks that putting things too close together is one of the biggest mistakes gardeners make.
“It looks great in June, and in August, it’s a jungle,” he says. “Radishes, for example, you can control based on just putting in so many seeds per linear foot.” Most seed packets spell out this information for you.
Although it goes against my conservative nature to uproot healthy seedlings, carrots should stand 1 inch apart in the row to do their best. Beets and parsnips should be thinned to 2- or 3-inch intervals, and kohlrabi plants should be 4 to 6 inches apart. Another way to eliminate having to thin thickly planted rows is using pelleted seed or seed tapes.
Fritz also emphasizes the importance of pruning tomato plants regularly.
“A lot of gardeners will forget to pinch off the suckers—those shoots that grow out from the axil between the main stalk (leader) and leaves,” he says. “So now you’ve got this beautiful tomato bush trapping a lot of nutrients and moisture, and it delays flowering. Those suckers should be pinched off just as they’re starting to grow. One of the ways we can encourage timely fruit set is by pruning the tomato plant down to one or two main leaders.”
Caging or staking tomato plants does two important things: It keeps them from rotting because they are vertical rather than in contact with the soil horizontally, and it helps prevent or minimize foliar disease because the foliage won’t be wet.
Harvesting, Watering, Mulching, Fertilizing
PanAmerican Seed vegetable business and product manager Josh Kirschenbaum describes midsummer as when crops start to become harvestable.
“Keeping on top of the harvest is really important as well as exciting because that means all the work you’ve done prior to midsummer is starting to pay off,” he says. He side-dresses with somenatural fertilizer to give the plants an extra boost in midsummer. “If you regularly harvest fruiting vegetables, such as tomatoes, squash, peppers, the plants will continue to produce.” Olen harvests spinach, lettuce and radishes early and on a timely basis but stops harvesting rhubarb and asparagus by the Fourth of July.
Watering is critical.
“Typically a vegetable garden at full throttle needs a good 1½ to 2 inches of water a week, especially when crops go from a vegetative to a reproductive state—plants going from green leaf tissue to flowering and fruiting, like peppers, squash and broccoli,” Fritz says. “Good continuous moisture supply is really important, especially on sandy soils.” He uses soaker hoses rather than overhead watering to minimize foliar wetness and prevent foliar disease. Trickle irrigation uses less water than most other forms of irrigation.
Water early in the morning on a sunny day to allow the foliage to dry and minimize the amount of water lost to evaporation. If you wait till midday when the sun is hot, you lose much of the water. If you irrigate late in the day, you run the risk of the plants going into the evening with wet foliage, which invites disease. Whenever you water, do so for fairly long periods so the soil is well-soaked occasionally rather than lightly moistened frequently.
Watering is never more important than during a plant’s first days in the ground. If newly sown seeds dry out, they will not germinate; if newly emerging plants, which lack the root structure to delve deeply for moisture, dry out, they die. It’s especially critical that carrot seeds be kept moist until they germinate. Vegetables planted in containers need to be watered every day in summer.
Mulches keep the soil moist and cool, conserve water, present a neat appearance and cut down on weeds. Wood chips, shredded pine bark, pine needles, grass clippings or shredded leaves are possible choices. Try to keep mulch about 2 inches from plant stems, and remember that mulch depletes nitrogen from the soil as it decays, so some additional fertilizer will be required.
Midsummer is a good time to do a soil test and fertilize as recommended.
“Whatever the nitrogen recommendations for a crop are, do a split application,” Fritz says. “Apply 50 percent of the total nitrogen needs to the crop at transplanting time, and the other half about four to five weeks after that so you are not losing the nitrogen from rainfall.”
Many plants benefit from the addition of some type of fertilizer to give them a boost in midsummer. For instance, I side-dress all brassicas every three to four weeks during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer, such as 19-19-19, at the rate of about 1/2 pound to a 10-foot row. I scratch fertilizer into the soil on either side of the row and water to dissolve it and make it available to the plants. Cucurbits also need side-dressing, as do tomatoes and peppers.
After harvesting early-maturing vegetables, such as salad greens, radishes, peas and spinach, gardeners can plant other crops in midsummer for a fall harvest. It’s important to know the average first frost date in your area in order to calculate when to plant late vegetables so they’ll mature before being killed by cold weather.
“Lettuce you can plant later in the summer because it will have less danger of bolting, and you will still get a fair amount of yield out of it,” Fritz says. “Plant it in a partially shaded area.”
He says all brassicas are less bitter and tend to be sweeter when planted to mature in the fall.
Olen plants romaine lettuces in midsummer since they are more heat-tolerant than leaf or buttercrunch types. He harvests the main heads of broccoli to encourage development of the side shoots. Iowa gardener David Cavagnaro plants fall-heading Chinese cabbage and other mustards, a late crop of cucumbers and summer squash in early July. He plants fall lettuce and cilantro at various intervals through the summer.
Steve Bellavia, who works on crop production at Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine, does succession planting of beans, lettuce, beets, Swiss chard and radishes in midsummer.
“Too many gardeners only plant a crop once or twice rather than multiple times,” he says.
Cavagnaro increases policing for mice and voles in midsummer.
“They love the lush midsummer cover and developing root crops, such as sweet potatoes, beets, carrots and winter squash,” he says. “Voles must be killed with rat traps, not mouse traps, set with chunks of carrot and covered from above.”
Cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli all face the threat of the cabbageworm caterpillar, a green worm that riddles the leaves with holes and hides in the broccoli heads. To protect against this pest, Fritz uses plant protectants rather than pesticides and insecticides.
“Physical barriers such as Reemay or floating row covers work well on the brassicas,” he says. “They are semipermeable to wind and water gets through. They’re expensive, but home gardeners can rinse them off, sterilize them and reuse for several years. Use a row cover like that if you really want to have an organic garden. However, if you’re seeing butterflies, there are probably eggs already, so if you put a row cover over it, those eggs will hatch and those caterpillars will have a wonderful party.”
University of Minnesota Extension horticulturist Cindy Tong uses low tunnels with sparkly netting for insect and rabbit deterrence. “The sparkly part is probably acting like reflective mulch that can repel some aphids,” she says.
Fritz adds that there are organic products you can use. “Bacillus thuringiensis comes in different applications, and it works,” he says. “If you have a rain, you have to reapply because it doesn’t have long-term residual effect.” He also suggests peeling off the outer leaves of cabbage. “It depends on what you’re after,” Fritz says. “Do you want an absolutely gorgeous garden you can showcase, or are you really after the productivity of the garden?”
Summer droughts can be brutal. Often referred to as a "creeping phenomenon," droughts are a hazard of nature and are inevitable in various parts of the country. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, a drought originates from a deficiency of precipitation over an extended period of time resulting in a water shortage for some activity, group, or environmental sector. In other words, it hasn’t rained in a while.
Droughts can cause major strains economically, environmentally, and socially. Economic impacts can include wildfires from such dry condition. Environmental impacts include poor soil quality, migration of wildlife, and loss of wetlands. Social impacts include health problems related to dust & poor water quality.
Our lawns are our gateway to our homes. Its normally the first thing you notice driving through a neighborhood and pulling into someone's driveway. Having a beautiful, green, luscious lawn is our way of showing our attention to detail, our nurturing instincts, and our creativity.
With that being said, during a drought, our lawns are the ones that suffer. All of the hard work to get your lawn looking perfect can be ruined after a few weeks of no rain. So what GreenPal did was gather the best tips for what do during and after a drought to get your lawn looking healthy again.
We asked Chad with Florida Green Works in Pinellas Park, FL to help lend us a hand on exactly what to do during a drought. Due to city regulations and water shortages, there may be a ban on using your sprinkler system so watering your lawn during this drought may not be an option so follow the steps below to ensure you are protecting your "grasset."
This helps to absorb any moisture that is available. Removing thatch is important any time of year but especially during a drought.
Punching holes in the ground is what this means. Those holes will deliver any moisture directly to the roots of your lawn.
Your grass will eventually stop growing but mow when it's necessary but don’t bag the clippings as those will provide moisture. Also, keep your lawn mower blades sharp so they cut the grass not rip it.
Stay Off My Lawn
There is no better time to blow up your "Stay Off My Grass Sign." During a drought, even foot traffic will compact the soil and not allow your lawn to absorb moisture.
Now after all this is said and done and your lawn has barely survived the drought and has a horrible brownish tint to it, it could be weeks before you can get it back into shape. We asked Thomas Workman of Workman Lawn Services in Nashville, Tn what he tells his customers to do after a drought.
This one is a no-brainer once water restrictions are lifted. Soaking your lawn will help restore the moisture and help with new root growth. Don’t forget to water on grass that’s growing on any hills where the wind can dry out the lawn and also on any sloped areas where water may run off.Water early in the morning between the hours of 4am to 8am so that you are not fighting evaporation from the hot summer son.
After a two good week watering cycle, apply balanced fertilizer like Scotts Turf Builder with proportions as close to 4-1-2 for Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. High nitrogen ferts could hurt the lawn if the hot, dry weather returns.
Once the grass is back alive and kicking, treat the individual weeds, not the entire lawn with an herbacide like Roundups Concentrate Weed and Grass Killer. Treating these individually will not force your lawn to fight with those weeds for moisture and nutrients.
Return to Regular Maintenance
Resume your schedule with your GreenPal vendor. Mowing regularly at around 3 inches will ensure that your lawn will not be scalped and expose the brown areas at the base of your grass causing ugly patches.
Mums make a good impression no matter what you're looking for in a fall flower.
The Versatile Mum
When fall arrives, it's hard not to regret the passing of all the summer blooms we love so much: pompon dahlias, Shasta daisies, African daisies, little zinnias, asters, coreopsis, and calendulas.
But take heart, for the fall garden offers all these flower shapes from just one plant, the chrysanthemum. Hundreds of hardy cultivars provide an array of colors and bloom shapes, making mums the divas of the autumn garden. The blooms last for weeks, not days, and the sheer number of flowers per plant will convince anyone that this flower really likes to show off. Add the mum's impressionistic abilities to its longevity, and you have a plant that pulls its weight in the garden.
Because of their tight, mounded habit and stunning bloom cover, garden mums are perfect for mass plantings. To get the maximum effect from far away, stick to only one or two colors. Another possibility is to arrange a gradual transition of related colors. Look around your yard to see what colors would best complement the existing landscape.
If you decorate for fall with pumpkins and gourds, choose orange, bronze, yellow, and creamy white mums. If you have a lot of evergreen plants that provide a backdrop of varying shades of green foliage, try bright pinks, lavenders, pure whites, or reds. With such bold colors, a large grouping of mums can excite even the most drab of fall landscapes.
Garden mums also make great container plants. They're just right for popping into a clay pot, lining up in a row in a window box, or placing in the center of a mixed container with trailing foliage plants all around. Many landscape plants can provide a backdrop for groupings of mums. For texture, choose ornamental grasses or the neon purple berries of the beautyberry shrub (Callicarpa). You also can pair mums with smoke tree (Cotinus), variegated sedum, the deciduous dwarf Fothergilla gardenii, or almost any conifer.
To get the most from your mums, choose cultivars according to their bloom times. It also helps to coordinate bloom time with the length of fall in your location. Most garden mums will withstand a light fall frost, but finding the right cultivars will provide the longest possible amount of pleasure.
Annual or Perennial?
Mums aren't as expensive as many perennials, so if you choose to, you can plant them as annuals without worrying that you've spent too much money on something that might not live more than one season. If you're an impulse buyer, you'll probably seepots of colorful mums this fall and not be able to resist.
Fall planting lessens the chance of winter survival, however, since roots don't have time to establish themselves. If you want something more permanent and are willing to provide proper care such as mulching and pinching to encourage compact growth and more blooms, plant mums in the spring and allow them to get established in the garden. This will improve their chances of overwintering and reblooming the next year. Some plants will even produce a few blooms in the spring before being pinched for fall flowers.
Hardy vs. Florist Mums
Florist (or cutting) mums and hardy (or garden) mums come from the same original parent -- a golden-yellow daisylike mum from China. Today's hybrids in both categories are the results of endless crosses between several species from China and Japan. The result of such hybridization performed over hundreds of years is different types of mums that perform for two distinct purposes.
Florist mums are large-flower plants with many possible bloom forms, from quilled to pompon to spider and more. Grown in greenhouses and used only as indoor plants, florist mums produce few, if any, underground stolens, which are necessary if the mum is to survive cold weather. Florist mums planted outside are most likely being used as short-term bedding plants that will be removed when the blooms are spent. You can plant a potted florist mum you receive as a gift, and it may grow for the summer, but it will not survive the winter, no matter how much protection you give it. Garden mums, on the other hand, produce underground stolens and can survive cold better. Most garden mums are perennials in Zones 5 to 9 and much tougher than florist types. Some cultivars are less hardy than others and can be killed by an early spring frost.
Whether you're looking for a quick splash of color or a fixture for your border, mums are the pick for a fabulous fall.
When it comes time to plant mums, consider these factors:
Location. Choose a spot that gets at least six hours of sun a day. Plants that don't get enough sunlight will be tall and leggy and produce fewer, smaller flowers.
Soil preparation. Mums thrive in well-drained soil. Heavy clay soil should be amended. If your yard is soggy after the slightest rain, grow mums in raised beds with friable soil for good root growth.
If the soil is too dense, add compost and prepare to a depth of 8-12 inches for best performance. Mums' roots are shallow, and they don't like competition. Plant mums about 1 inch deeper than they were in the nursery pot, being careful with the roots as you spread them.
Trim off the previous year's stems as soon as the new spring growth begins to show.
Watering. Water newly planted mums thoroughly, and never let them wilt. After they are established, give mums about an inch of water per week. When bottom leaves look limp or start to turn brown, water more often. Avoid soaking the foliage, which encourages disease.
Fertilizer. Plants set out in spring should get a 5-10-10 fertilizer once or twice a month until cooler weather sets in. Don't fertilize plants set out in fall as annuals, but plants you hope to overwinter should get high-phosphorus fertilizer to stimulate root growth.
Overwintering. Prepare mums for winter after the first hard frost. Mulch up to 4 inches with straw or shredded hardwood. Fill in around the entire plant, spreading well between branches. Pinch off dead blooms to clean up the plant, but leave branches intact. Mums have a better chance of surviving if you wait to prune old stems until spring. As soon as the weather warms, pull away mulch to allow new shoots to pop up.
Dividing. Mums grown as perennials need to be divided every couple of years. Divide in the spring after the last hard frost and after you see new growth starting. Dig up the plant in one piece and separate outer pieces from the center with a clean sharpspade or large knife. Replant the outer portions into a rejuvenated bed, and discard the original center of the plant.
Pests. You may notice aphids, leafhoppers, or spider mites, but they are not likely to harm the plant.
Pinching Mums for Better Bloom
The key to those full, rounded domes of blooms that you associate with mums is pinching to create more branching and keep plants compact. Don't hold back -- just a few minutes here and there will reward you with a thick, solid-looking plant.
If you've bought large, full plants in the fall, they have already been pinched and are ready for planting. Young spring plants will need pinching for maximum bloom and best plant shape.
Start pinching as soon as you see a good flush of buds. Pinch about half of the tender new growth at the top of the shoot; choose some stems with buds and some without. Repeat the process with every 3 to 5 inches of growth (about every two to four weeks) until July 4. Stopping then ensures you will get good bud formation and blooms in fall.
Varieties to Look For
Look for these recently introduced cultivars at your local nursery.
'Blizzard' This extra-late variety offers the largest (2-1/2-inch) and whitest flower available in a daisy garden mum. It develops into an almost ball-shaped plant covered with bright white blooms over extra-dark green foliage.
'Bold Felicia' The early blooms are an unbelievable neon-hot pink daisy with a bright yellow center disk.
'Carrie' A hard-to-find two-tone decorative flower that is a dark red-bronze in the center with golden-yellow outer petals. This extra-late cultivar shows none of the discoloration of aging petals seen in some older varieties.
'Melissa' This extra-late mum blooms through late October and was bred for excellent flower form, flower color, color retention, and growth habit. The bright lavender-rose flowers combine beautifully with 'Erica', 'Ingrid', and 'Taffy'.
'Vicki' Another bright "wow" of a plant, these decorative blooms are rich orange with a darker orange center. They have awesome color and a full spreading plant habit.
'Zesty Jean' An unusual pastel peach-coral color, the early decorative flowers are more fully petaled and retain their color longer than others of this hue.
Mums come in an array of bloom forms. The most common bloom shapes are:
Decorative Long, tightly overlapping petals. They can be either incurve (where petals curve up and in toward the flower center) or reflex (where petals curve out and down, away from the flower center).
Pompon Small, globe-shape flowers that are petal-packed
Single or Daisy One row of long petals around a flat center disk.
Types of Mums
Anemone One or more rows of single flat petals topped with a raised center of tiny disk florets. The florets are usually a darker color.
Semidouble Two or three rows of long petals around the center disk.
Single Quilled The single daisy type, but with tubular petals. This is different from the full quill flower form, which is almost always seen only in florist mums.
GARLIC is one of the easiest crops you can grow. The only tricky part is that in most regions of the country, garlic is planted in the fall for harvest the following summer. Planting should occur about four to six weeks before the ground freezes. By that time, many summer crops have already been harvested, leaving behind some free garden space. Just remember that the space where you plant garlic won't be available for another type of crop until late next summer.
In most parts of the country, late fall is the best time of year to plant garlic. The cloves establish roots before the ground freezes and when spring comes the plants are ready to charge out of the ground. Bulbs usually mature by late July.
If you're replanting garlic from your own stock, choose the biggest and best heads from last summer's harvest.
Here in Vermont it's easy to tell when the garlic should be planted. Look up at the hillsides. If they're a blaze of red, orange and yellow, it's time. Planting is fast and easy. I can plant enough garlic to last 12 months in about an hour. I might put in a few minutes weeding in early June, and I usually spend about 10 minutes cutting off the flower heads when they appear in early July. But, other than that, there's nothing to do until the heads are ready to harvest
DETERMINING when garlic is ready to harvest is one of the trickiest parts about growing it. If you harvest too soon the cloves will be small and underdeveloped (certainly usable but not as big and plump as possible). If you wait too long, as the heads dry the cloves will begin to separate and the head won't be tight and firm (also not a disaster, but the cloves will be more vulnerable to decay and drying out so they won't store as long).
Though it depends somewhat on the growing season and where you live, garlic is usually ready to harvest in late July. The slideshow below, with photos from my own garden, shows what to watch for. Properly curing the heads is also important and you'll see that as well.
I select and replant the biggest and best cloves each year. At this point, the cloves are almost as big as elephant garlic. When following recipes, I figure one of these cloves is equal to three regular size cloves.