Planning a garden around geography of area

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username5
Joined: 7/14/2006
Location: zone 5 wisconsin
Posts: 49
Posted: Aug/18/2006 2:31 PM PST

designed with low maintenance in mind I would say gardens are far less work to maintain than lawns.

Critical to a low maintenance garden is working organic matter like compost into the soil in large amounts before planting anything. Much harder to improve soil once there are growing plants to be careful of.

Also critical, particularly in hot climates is mulch and lots of it to keep the soil in good shape and conserve water. Watering every day is a hassle and can get expensive. A thick mulch also keeps weeding chores to a minimum.

Also critical is plant selection. Wildflowers adapted to the climate and soils (ie natives) are ideal as they can grow in the area with little to no human interaction and are either perennial (will come back each year) or are free seeding annuals (meaning they will drop seed that will produce new plants for the next season.

Installation of a low cost soaker hose system with a timer also goes a long way to reducing labor.
sweetlebee blog photos
Joined: 5/09/2005
Location:
Posts: 19587
Posted: Aug/18/2006 3:47 PM PST

What I did my first year gardening is read! I got a book about Northwest gardening for Christmas and I read it cover-to-cover over the winter. Not that it made me an expert...I still go back and reread chapters now that I have a better understanding of gardening. I would highly recommend that you get a good regional gardening book as a first step. My neighbors are from Austin and have had a heck of a time growing things here because they don't understand the climate and soil of the Northwest. They expect plants to perform the way they do in Texas. Consequently, they've lost 2 new cedar trees, lots of perennials, and they struggle constantly with their grass.

Fall is the best time to plant, but you should be learning about and preparing your soil before you even think about putting a plant in the ground. I know, it's not much fun when you see all the lovely plants at the nurseries and you're anxious to get something growing. But you can get some compost delivered in September and have your soil ready to go for October planting. Focus on planting shrubs and spring and early summer blooming perennials now, and in the spring you can plant the summer and fall bloomers. And keep asking questions!
TedSimons
Joined: 8/16/2006
Location:
Posts: 84
Posted: Aug/18/2006 4:05 PM PST

I had forgotten about the Blue Bonnets. Saw them in a picture when I stayed with a family in Maine that had moved there from Texas.

Low mainenence was definitely in mind! lol I've been checking out the xeriscaping discussion and trying to pick up on some tips from that. I might make a lot of yard drought resistant plants but leave a couple corners for specialties. A quiet area, one or two areas I might have to water a bit more, etc.
TedSimons
Joined: 8/16/2006
Location:
Posts: 84
Posted: Aug/18/2006 4:22 PM PST

I'll definitely keep asking questions!

With me not moving in till Jan, it sounds like I'd have to spend late December till about August working the yard, getting it tilled, etc., and getting the compost ready. I guess in the mean time as I'm getting the soil ready though, once I have picked out what I want where I want it, I could start setting up those areas (marking them out, etc), huh?

Questions on the compost and mulch:

1) How thick should the mulch/compost be to keep weeds out and water in?
2) I've noticed at home in Kentucky that whenever we cut our grass if any stray blades of grass land in a flower bed the grass spreads like crazy in the flower bed. I don't have a self-bagging mower, so how far do you all think I should place any grass from the flower beds?
3) With the compost pile, how long do I need to wait till I can use the compost? I'm also concerned about smell. Is it a good idea to make a little bin to put everything in and get what I need when I need it, or is that a really bad idea?

Thanks guys for all the help in this! Sad to hear I won't be able to start planting when I get down there, but from my understanding doing it this way will make an even better flower area than I originally planned for.
fozbot3 blog photos
Joined: 1/18/2005
Location: Michigan
Posts: 7893
Posted: Aug/18/2006 4:58 PM PST

Ted, you've already been given some very sound advice. i started out doing 1-2 beds each year. otherwise i would've been overwhelmed. ideally, you should set up 3 compost bins. bins should be [U]at least 3' square[/U]. one that's new for fresh leaves, grass clippings, etc., one for partially composted material and the third for finished compost. this way you always have a steady supply ready to go. keep your compost moist,(finished compost shouldn't be moistened) not wet and the more you turn it the faster it will be ready. if you're composting correctly the piles shouldn't smell bad.

if the area in Texas that you'll be gardening in is very dry i'd suggest spreading about 2-3" of mulch/compost...at least. are you planning to use compost as mulch? you'll want to till in as much compost beforehand as the ground will take. it's gold for the garden. you may want to get a soil test done before you start to see what other amendments you'll need.

as far as the grass is concerned, i'm not sure what types of grass you'll be dealing w/down there. here i remove clippings by hand after mowing but i have small areas to deal with. you can buy plastic edging from big box stores that's pretty cheap to stop grass rhizomes from creeping into your gardens.
sweetlebee blog photos
Joined: 5/09/2005
Location:
Posts: 19587
Posted: Aug/18/2006 5:11 PM PST

I think if you have a good layer of mulch on your flower beds, the grass won't get out of hand in your flower beds. Grass should be easier to hand-pull if it creeps into a mulched bed--I'm able to pull mine right out. I was talking to my neighbor last night about grass and he told me they have a creeping type of grass in Texas though. I'm sure different grasses have different habits.
TedSimons
Joined: 8/16/2006
Location:
Posts: 84
Posted: Aug/18/2006 6:24 PM PST

Quote:
Originally posted by fozbot3
are you planning to use compost as mulch? you'll want to till in as much compost beforehand as the ground will take. it's gold for the garden. you may want to get a soil test done before you start to see what other amendments you'll need.


I'll probably use a mixture of wood mulch and compost. Is there any way of telling that the ground is saturated with the compost? How do I get a soil test done?

Thanks again all!
fozbot3 blog photos
Joined: 1/18/2005
Location: Michigan
Posts: 7893
Posted: Aug/18/2006 6:33 PM PST

Ted, till down as far as you can but don't over till. i'd recommend about 50/50 compost to ground soil. some may disagree w/me here but that's what i did.
locate the county extension branch in the area and take soil samples from all the places you plan to garden to them. there are at-home soil test kits you can buy but i wouldn't rely on them. here's a link that may help: http://rg.console.net/articles/Crafts/Step_by_S tep/1042.html
Ldy3stp
Joined: 8/25/2006
Location:
Posts: 5
Posted: Aug/26/2006 12:58 AM PST

Quote:
Originally posted by Ted Simons
I'm looking into moving into a house in Abilene, Texas around December, and wanting to begin considering how to design the landscaping (sorry if this is in the wrong forum). From what I can tell of the house so far, I'll have plenty of space to work with. One thing I was considering doing was to try and make at least one section dedicated to flowers and such that are kind of native to the area. Sorry I don't know what zone that puts me in, but any help would be appreciated.

Hi Ted, I noticed in one of your postings you indicated you live(d) in an apartment and were moving back to Texas. Well, I've lived in houses in Kansas and I'm currently living in apartments in Texas. Wherever I go, I take pots and pots and pots and pots of plants with me. I am often referred to as the plant lady at every apartment where I have stayed. I use my balcony, I've used my walk way, I've used the common areas. On the second floor it's a little more difficult to grow things in common areas and to water them. Do you have suggestions of what has worked for you in apartments?
TedSimons
Joined: 8/16/2006
Location:
Posts: 84
Posted: Aug/26/2006 1:21 AM PST

lol Well, to be honest I didn't start keeping pots in my apartments till this year. I was in an off-campus apartment this past school year, went strolling through the gardening section at Walmart (a nice and yet dangerous haven for college students. ) and saw some hyacinths were available. Now, my family has had lilacs since we lived in St. Louis 18 years ago, and we had hyacinths and lilacs in our Kentucky house, so I was determined to get those. Got some daffodils as well. They worked really well. But that's about all the experience I've really had. The others on here would probably have better experience than me. I'm really here to learn more, because I don't have much to give! lol There is a thread on here you might find interesting called "Hard Liquor for Potted Plants"
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