Beautiful Blooming Bulbs

Flowering BulbsThere’s nothing more exciting after a long winter than seeing little shoots of green popping up through the ground and new flowers showing their faces soon after. In order to have spring blooms, however, there’s some planning ahead that is required. Here are some of our favorite tips for choosing and planting bulbs that will make your spring yard a blooming paradise:

Choose quality bulbs

Beautiful blooms start with high quality bulbs. Be sure to check them for firmness and freshness (you want them firm and full, not mushy and moldy). In general, the larger the bulb the larger the bloom. Purchasing bulbs locally from the garden center will allow you to personally inspect them before you buy.

Pick the right planting area

Like any plant, bulbs require proper conditions in order to survive and thrive. Most prefer full sun and soil that drains well, both of which will help prevent bulb rot, but be sure to ask us if you are unsure of the ideal planting area for the bulbs you have chosen.

Plant at the proper time

What time of year you plant the bulbs is determined by when you want to see blooms. For early spring flowers, bulbs should be planted in the fall when the soil is cooler. For summer blooms, plant bulbs in the spring after the last frost date.

Plant at the right depth and position

One of the most common concerns regarding bulb planting is how deep and in which direction to plant them. In general, they should be planted in a hole that is two or three times the height of the bulb. Not every bulb is exactly the same, however, so be sure to read instructions carefully or ask us for help. If the bulb has a pointed end, plant it with that end up; otherwise, look for roots and they should be planted down.

Soil, water, and mulch

To ensure that your bulbs get the nutrients they need, add compost to the soil and make sure that the soil drains well. Furthermore, bulbs require watering, just like any other plant- just make sure they don’t stay too wet. Adding several inches of mulch on top of the planting area will help keep weeds at bay and won’t prevent the bulbs from poking through.

10 Simple Tips for How to Garden in Small Spaces

If you live in an urban area, don’t want the maintenance of a big garden, or simply don’t have the space for very many plants, your green thumb might need a little help growing the garden of your dreams in the space that you have. With the right design and the proper planning, however, you can do a lot with small space gardening. Here are some helpful tips to get you growing:

1. Decide what to grow

Choose appropriate plants for where you are going to plant them. Some plants must be planted side by side, while others, such as climbing vines, can be planted vertically, giving you color and texture and saving space at the same time.

2. Decide where to grow

If you live in a city apartment, you may only be able to grow plants on your porch or balcony, but if you have a small yard, you may be able to plant directly in the ground. Growing can be successful in either place but location does affect what varieties of plants you can grow.

3. Watering considerations

All plants need water so determine where you will get it from before you plant. Ideally, choose a growing place that is close to an outside water source or not too far from your door if you have to water with a watering can.

4. Decide how to grow

Some plants take a long time to produce either flowers or fruit, while others take less. Decide ahead of time whether you want to plant something that will grow and produce all season, or whether you want to rotate crops. This is true for both flowers and vegetables.

5. Planting budget

Determine how much you want to spend and then find the best price. Sales around holidays such as Memorial Day, Father’s Day, or July 4th are great for saving you a little money.

6. Time and maintenance

If you’re short on time as well as space, choose plants that require less for daily maintenance, are drought and disease tolerant, and can be planted in pots where weeding will be less of a concern.

7. Function or beauty

Before shopping, decide whether you want plants that provide function, beauty, or both. For example, some lilies are beautiful to look at but can also be put on top of salads so you get two-for-one in the same space.

8. Plan for sunshine or shade

Pay close attention to how much sun your chosen garden spot gets every day and at what time of day it gets it. This will help you choose whether you need to buy full-sun plants or ones that are shade tolerant.

9. Use existing structures

Look at how you can add to or enhance existing landscape features. Planting vines that grow up a wall or annuals around an existing lawn statue can provide more color and texture without taking up a lot of space.

10. Have fun

Gardening should be enjoyable so have fun with it! Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time- evaluate what works and what doesn’t and soon you’ll be gardening like a pro!

Now, it’s time to get to work! Following these simple tips will get you growing in the right direction but if you still need a little help, give us a call or stop in to the garden center.    

Choosing Your Lilac

There’s nothing quite like the sight and smell of lilacs in the spring! Along with their beauty and fragrance, they are a low maintenance shrub and really thrive here in upstate NY. With proper maintenance and care, they can last for years in your garden.

Spring or fall is the best time for planting lilac bushes. When planting, you will need to make your hole deep enough and wide enough to accomodate the roots spread out vertically in the ground. You can plant multiple bushes together to create a nice hedgerow, just make sure to space them at least 5 feet apart to prevent overcrowding.

Lilacs need an area with plenty of afternoon sun and good drainage. They do especially well when planted in a slightly elevated area since the drainage tends to be better. Once planted, make sure to water them thoroughly and add a layer of loose mulch for protection. The mulch should be thick enough to prevent weed growth and maintain adequate moisture but not so thick that it holds too much moisture.

The flowers of lilacs range in color from pink to purple; however, white and yellow varieties are also available. Their size can also range from dwarf varieties up to 8 feet tall to much larger varieties reaching up to 30 feet tall. Check out our listing of lilacs to see which one is right for your space.

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Agincourt Beauty
Height:  10­-12 ft.
Spacing: 8­-10 ft.

The Agincourt Beauty has deep purple fragrant flowers that are single, and each floret is very large; has the largest florets of all  lilacs. It is one of the best purples available today.

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Albert F. Holden
Height:  8­-10 ft.
Spacing: 8­-10 ft.

The deep‐purple buds open to deep‐violet flowers with a silvery blush on the back side,  creating a striking two‐tone effect. The unusual blossoms of “Albert F. Holden” also have an unforgettable fragrance.

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Beauty of Moscow
Height:  10-­12 ft.
Spacing: 8 ft.

Beauty of Moscow is one of the finest lilacs with fragrant, double, delicate pink flowers. It is excellent as a cut flower and provides years of satisfaction.

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Bloomerang
Height:  4-­6 ft.
Spacing: 5­-6 ft.

Enjoy classic lilac fragrance for months instead of weeks! A revolutionary new kind of lilac, Bloomerang blooms in spring and then again throughout the summer. It  does go through a rest period in the heat of the summer, then flowers.

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Charles Joly
Height:  10­-12 ft.
Spacing: 8­-10 ft.

Charles Joly is a French Hybrid with shiny purple buds opening into double, magenta flowers that are very fragrant and excellent for cutting. It is considered to be the best in its color class.

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Common Purple
Height:  8-­10 ft.
Spacing: 8-10 ft.

One of the most popular lilacs is the Common Purple. This shrub has been a favorite for decades because you can essentially ignore it and it will give you a fantastic spring color show full of fabulous fragrance every single year, without fail. Lovely lavender flower clusters sit against dark‐green, heart‐shaped leaves, and the fragrance is just captivating.

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Common White
Height: 12-15 ft.
Spacing: 8-12 ft.

The Common White is well‐known and loved by gardeners all over the world for its beauty and fragrance; one of the most powerful fragrances emitted by a plant. It has white flowers occurring in clusters amid the dark‐green heart‐shaped leaves.

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Donald Wyman
Height:  10 ft.
Spacing: 8 ft.

Deep pink to almost reddish single flowers that bloom in early June. Sturdy, dense and upright growth. Blooms  2 weeks later than other lilacs. Yellow fall color.

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Dwarf Korean
Height:  4-­5 ft.
Spacing: 8­-10 ft.

The Dwarf Korean Lilac is known as a compact but spreading, small-foliaged Lilac with showy May lavender purple flowers that are spread over the entire shrub canopy.

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Ivory Silk
Height:  20-­25 ft.
Spacing: 20-­25 ft.

The Japanese Ivory Silk Tree Lilac produces  ravishingly fragrant, creamy‐white panicles.  Landscapers love this plant for its interesting  spreading branches and vase shaped crown, its long June through July blooming season and easy care. Ruddy, cherry like bark and neat, dark green leaves contrast nicely with the creaminess of the flowers.

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James MacFarlane
Height:  8 ft.
Spacing: 6-­10 ft.

The James Macfarlane blooms two weeks later than Syringa vulgaris types. The single true pink flowers bloom freely. It is extremely hardy and adaptable, withstanding moisture conditions fatal to vulgaris hybrids.

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Katherine Havermeyer
Height:  10-­12 ft.
Spacing: 8­-10 ft.

Katherine Havemeyer is an early blooming French Hybrid that produces abundant clusters of double, lavender‐pink, fragrant flowers among dark green, disease resistant foliage.

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Ludwig Spaeth
Height:  10­-12 ft.
Spacing: 6-­8 ft.

Ludwig Spaeth is a French Hybrid with single dark purple flowers in early June that are excellent as cut flowers because of their very fine fragrance.

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Meyeri Palibin
Height:  4­-6 ft.
Spacing: 6­-8 ft.

A true slow growing dwarf. It is a small  leafed cultivar with deep purple buds opening into fragrant violet‐purple flowers in abundance early in the season.

How Flowering Herbs Can Contribute to Your Garden

lavenderIt’s time to start planning your garden! Spring has arrived (even though the snow makes it hard to remember which season it really is) and summer will be here before we know it. It’s time to think about what we want to grow and plant in our gardens and our landscapes this year. We have so many new plants for 2018, and we can’t wait to show you! But one thing we think would be a great addition to your garden are flowering herbs – they’re nice to look at, smell great and are a great addition to a healthy lifestyle!

Considering that we live in a pretty northern climate, you’ll need to do some garden planning beforehand, so you know which ones to choose. Our landscape designers recommend selecting herbs that will complement existing elements in your garden. You’ll need to consider the size of your garden, how quickly your herbs will reseed, when your region’s blooming season occurs, and the color and scent that you’re hoping for.

Cultivating herbs to stand side-by-side with perennials is a tradition going back centuries. It will give your garden that “cottage feel,” by adding a layer of romanticism, interest and freshness.

Our Favorite Flowering Herbs

Lavender is the perfect addition, if you’re looking for some color and fragrance. It blooms mid-summer and can tolerate heat. The most common types are English and French lavender. Lavender is also a natural pest repellent. Consider planting it near outdoor seating to repel mosquitos and attract butterflies. A tough perennial, lavender will last for several years if conditions are right.

Anise hyssop is another delicate and aromatic herb that grows well in gardens. It is a flowering perennial of the mint family, well suited as an ornamental. Experts say that a location with full or partial sun works best. Anise hyssop prefers well-drained soil, attracts butterflies, and is a low-maintenance addition to any garden.

Sage is another great addition for your garden. It is an herb with a pine-like aroma, delicate flowers, and soft foliage. Sage can be a perennial or an annual and comes in both blooming and non-blooming varieties. It can basically grow anywhere and one of the best advantages is that the flowers are edible as decorations on cakes, in salads, or as a garnish!

coneflowerThe purple coneflower is another one to consider. It is bred in a wide variety of colors and this tends to be a very visible plant. They grow, on average, two to four feet tall and need at least five hours of sunlight each day. Coneflowers bloom from early- to mid-summer and will thrive until the first frost. They’re rich in nectar, making them popular with bees and butterflies.

Catmint is another great flowering herb to consider with its slight aromatic scent. Do you have deer in your yard? Catmint is a tough, deer-resistant perennial that’s also drought-tolerant. It comes in a variety of soft colors too.

Lemon verbena is also a great choice in the garden. It is a bushy herb with a sweet, lemony scent and delicate pink or white flowers.

Looking for even more? There’s rosemary, ornamental oregano, lemon-scented thyme – all of which you can use for cooking or boiling for their scent.

These are just some of the best flowering herbs you can add to your garden this summer. Part of the fun of mastering the art of gardening is to try new combination! Try your hand at growing some new plants and herbs and see what other types of things you can utilize as you cultivate them. There’s nothing better than finding success in your own efforts. We can help you with every part of the process. Come on in to our garden center this spring and let’s get your garden plan ready for the summer months.

Landscape Lighting is the Secret to an Outstanding Space

Nightscaping is one of the hottest trends in home improvement today. It is an often overlooked design feature outside your home but is something you’re bound to enjoy as it will call you outside on those perfect evenings.   Most of us spend our days working inside rather than outside. Many nights, once we get home, fix dinner, take care of the kids or finish up chores the sunlight has faded. Without the right landscape lighting, there may not even be a reason to go outside at all. Soft outdoor lighting will not only enhance your deck, patio or yard, it has the ability to transform it into a place you’ll love to be – no matter if it is already dark out or not.   Imagine a warm summer night, a soft breeze in the air, an inviting patio with soft landscape lighting and your favorite relaxing playlist. Pure bliss, right? A well designed and lit outdoor space is exactly what you need to enjoy your home just a little bit more. Whether you are alone with the family or entertaining guests – it can set the mood and expand your living space into the great outdoors.  

Advantages of Landscape Lighting

 
  • Provide a warm, inviting ambience for you and your guests
  • Create any type of mood you’d like it to – romantic, dramatic and intriguing designs are all options
  • Highlight your plants and flowers around the garden or landscape setting
  • Highlight the focal points of your outdoor area
  • Hide eyesores
  • Accent special plants or trees
  • Add security for your home – lights often deter burglars and crime
  • Add a layer of safety by highlighting paths for walking or avoiding dangerous things around the yard
  • Highlight the beautiful architectural features of your home
  • Create a festive place to entertain your guests
Our landscape design specialists can help you plan the perfect nightscape setting for your home. When you have a beautiful space to come home and relax in, you will enjoy life just a little bit more.   Whether you use your outdoor space to entertain friends and family, or you prefer to use it as your own quiet little oasis, outdoor lighting can create the perfect atmosphere for enjoying outdoor living. We encourage you to give our landscape designers a call and see how we can help you create a landscape lighting plan, utilizing the latest design techniques, that will work within your space and your budget.

How to Attract Birds in the Winter

Have you ever spent any time trying to attract birds to your garden? It’s an entertaining pastime, and can even be quite rewarding, to tally up the various species that visit the feeders and bird friendly landscaping in the garden. While many homeowners look for their birds during the spring and summer months, there is actually a great need to help our fine feathered friends during the long cold days of winter.

During the winter months, birds spend most of their time and energy seeking out food, water and shelter. It can be a desperate time for them, especially here in Upstate New York when the temperatures plummet and snow blankets most of their feeding grounds. With a little bit of planning, however, you can transform your garden into a prime location for birds to find both shelter and sustenance.

The selection of trees, plants and shrubs you choose for your landscaping can offer birds both the food and shelter they need to survive. Not only will you be providing a refuge for them, you will be able to enjoy seeing and hearing them all year long. You will also be providing some much-needed color and contrast into your winter landscape as well!

Plant in Layers

Some birds prefer higher trees for shelter and food, while others prefer to be closer to the grounds. So when you look around your yard, consider the differing layers – a canopy of tall trees, an under-canopy of smaller trees, a shrub layer, and various ground covers and/or vines. The more variety your offer, the greater the variety of birds you’re likely to attract.

Provide Adequate Food Sources

Food is the single most important thing you can provide for your feathered friends. Food can be rather scarce during the winter months and trying to find enough food consumes most of their time. By providing a source of seed and nut bearing trees to your yard, you make their hunt much easier.

Consider adding evergreens, junipers, firs, hemlock and spruces to your yard, which will provide both shelter and food. These trees provide a great food source for birds such as chickadees, woodpeckers and grosbeaks.

Trees such as oaks, walnuts and hickories won’t necessarily provide much in the way of shelter, but the nuts they provide are an excellent source of food for many different birds.

Don’t forget about fruit-bearing trees and shrubs as well. There are varieties that hold onto their fruit throughout the winter months. Winterberry, holly, bayberry, viburnum and photinia will provide food all winter long. Flowering crabapple trees and dogwoods are also a winter favorite of birds. As an added bonus, they all provide some amazing color and interest in your garden as well.

Go WILD with your Landscape

What we mean by this is don’t immediately cut everything back in the fall. Sure, it will look nice and give you that well-manicured look, but you will be taking away a fantastic source of food and shelter. Native grasses that emerge later in the season will provide flower seeds for your birds to feast on as well as good coverage for them. Many of them also put on a beautiful show of color during the fall and winter months as well. Hair grass, switch glass and bluestem are all great choices.

You can also leave your perennials as is throughout the winter months. Just like the native grasses, perennial flowers produce seeds that provide much needed nutrients. If you can refrain from snipping their seed heads back until springtime, the birds will thank you! Birds love Coneflowers, sunflowers, Black-eyed Susans and Coreopsis for their abundant seeds.

Offer Plenty of Water

It might seem like birds would have plenty of access to water during the winter, but they really don’t. Having access to a clean source of water is critical for survival during the winter. Make sure your birdbath is still accessible during the winter months and that the water doesn’t stay frozen.

There are portable warming devices you can utilize that will de-ice your birdbath during the cold months. You might also want to consider investing in a heated birdbath. As long as they have access to fresh water daily they have a much greater chance of survival.

Even the smallest changes in your landscaping can make a huge impact for the birds in your area. By just adding a few bird friendly shrubs or trees, your garden will soon become a valuable resource for your feathered friends.

Garden Planning in Upstate New York

Gardening can be a means to produce food for your family, produce to sell, or a personal hobby that you just enjoy. No matter what your purpose, gardening takes planning in order to experience success.  There are not many homeowners out there who have the perfect garden location or all of the necessary knowledge to perfect the art of gardening, but we have put together some of the most critical information to help you make the most out of your plants and enjoy the many benefits that growing vegetables and feeding your family with healthy foods can bring.

The perfect location is not always possible, but there are a few important things to remember when planning the area you will use.

  • Sunlight is important and your garden will do best if it gets full sun
  • 6 hours a day of direct sun is the minimum needed by most vegetable plants for optimum growth
  • Leafy crops like lettuce and spinach produce reasonably well in a partly shaded location
  • Root crops such as carrots and beets need more light than leafy vegetables, but may do well in a garden that receives only morning sun
  • Fruiting plants such as peppers, tomatoes, and beans are sun worshipers and will yield poorly, if at all, with less than 6 hours of direct sun
  • If your garden is shaded, experiment with the more shade‐tolerant vegetables to see which do best and put the full‐sun plants in containers that can be placed in a sunny area of your yard.

Just like some farm animals, there are also some vegetables that when planted next to one another, do not grow well. Companion planning is something that many amateur gardeners overlook but it could mean the difference between producing crops or not. Certain plants love each other and certain plants hate each other. This system of planning can be complex and even overwhelming, but planning and preparation can often alleviate that. As you gain more knowledge and experience as a gardener, companion planting will become clearer. Some planting techniques are related to health, nutrition, physical compliments, weeds, insect and animal relationships.

Companion Planting Chart for Vegetables

Plant (Vegetable)
Good Companions
Bad Companions
Asparagus
Tomatoes, parsley, basil
Beans
Potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower,
cabbage, eggplant, summer savory, most
other vegetables and herbs
Onions, garlic, gladiolus, chives
Beans, bushPotatoes, cucumbers, corn, strawberries, celery, summer savoryOnions
Beans, poleCorn, summer savory, sunflowerOnions, beets, kohlrabi, cabbage
BeetsOnions, KohlrabiPole beans
Cabbage family (cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, broccoli)Aromatic plants, potatoes, celery, dill, hyssop, chamomile, sage, peppermint, rosemary, beets, onionsStrawberries, tomatoes, pole beans
Carrots
Peas, leaf lettuce, chives, onions, leeks,
rosemary, sage, tomatoes
Dill
CeleryLeeks, tomatoes, bush beans, cauliflower,cabbage
ChivesCarrots, tomatoesPeas, beans
CornPotatoes, peas, beans, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, squashTomato
CucumbersBeans, corn, peas, radishes, sunflowers, lettucePotatoes, aromatic herbs
EggplantBeans, potatoes, spinach
LeeksOnions, celery, carrots
LettuceCarrots and radishes (lettuce, carrots, and radishes make a strong team grown together), strawberries, cucumbers, onions
MelonsCorn, Nasturtium, Radish
Onions(garlic)Beets, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, summer savory, leeks, chamomile (sparsely), pepperPeas, beans
ParsleyTomatoes, asparagus
PeasCarrots, turnips, radishes, cucumbers, corn, beans, most vegetables and herbsonions, garlic, gladiolus, potatoes, chives
PotatoesBeans, corn, cabbage, horseradish (should be planted at the corners of the patch), marigolds, eggplant (as a lure for the Colorado potato beetle)Pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, sunflowers, tomatoes, raspberries
PepperOnion
PumpkinsCornPotatoes
RadishesPeas, nasturtiums, lettuce, melons, cucumbersHyssop
SoybeansGrows with anything, helps everything
SpinachStrawberries, eggplant
SquashNasturtiums, cornPotatoes
StrawberriesBush beans, spinach, borage, lettuce (as a border), onionsCabbage
SunflowersCucumbersPotatoes
TomatoesChives, onions, parsley, asparagus, marigolds, nasturtiums, carrotsCorn, Kohlrabi
TurnipsPeas

Table courtesy of http://www.thevegetablegarden.info/companion‐plants

Knowing your hardy zones can also help give you an idea of when to plant vegetables. While many factors such as temperatures, weather patterns and your specific area can determine more details about your planting, it is still helpful for all gardeners to know what to expect and when. Our particular area in South Glens Falls is categorized as a 5A zone.

Each USDA planting zone has its own schedule for sowing seeds. If you’re new to vegetable gardening, you’ll want to know that there is a right time to sow each variety of vegetable seed. By following the rules for both cool and warm season vegetables, you’ll be sure to sow your seeds in the correct window of time, enabling optimum sprouting and yield.

Where and when you plant is vital, but it is also important for gardeners to understand other environmental factors that could hinder crops. Most insects found in gardens are not pests. Many are beneficial, preying on pests or performing other useful tasks.  Many experts agree that gardeners should know the strategies for dealing with insects. This begins with learning about insect life cycles, behaviors, habitats, and diets, and to recognize which are pests and which are actually lending you a helping hand. Experts also suggest the following gardening tips to damage caused by insect pests without harming beneficial insects or drowning your food in harsh chemicals.

  • Grow vigorous, healthy plants.
  • Rotate crops.
  • Choose varieties carefully.
  • Use proper sanitation practices.
  • Check over transplants.
  • Time your plantings carefully according to season and growing patterns.
  • Pick out pests and remove by hand when possible.
  • Use barriers.
  • Consider the use of row covers.
  • Mulch with aluminum foil for small area.
  • Take advantage of natural enemies.
  • Consider natural pesticides when all else fails.
Remember, however, that when managing pests, beneficial insects will move elsewhere if there aren’t enough pests to feed on. Also keep in mind that most pesticides don’t discriminate between beneficial insects and pests. Follow all label directions carefully!

Sometimes, vegetables also get sick and gardeners need to know how to fend off disease‐causing bacteria, viruses, and fungi. But if conditions favor the disease and your plants are weak, the disease sometimes gains the upper hand, often leading to early death of the plants. To minimize the effects of plant diseases on your garden by keeping plants as strong and healthy as you can and to minimize the conditions that favor disease and make it easy to spread.

Vegetables need room to eat and grow and flourish amongst your garden. Square foot gardening is one technique and one way to plant your vegetables. One way to ensure a constant harvest of vegetables is to plant using the square foot method. Select a 4‐foot‐by‐4‐foot section of your garden and divide it into 16 squares (each section is 1 square foot). Each square will have a different number of plants, depending on what you’re growing. Gardening author Charlie Nardozzi suggests:

  • 1 plant per square: Tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, corn, melon, squash
  • 4 plants per square: Lettuce, garlic, Swiss chard
  • 8 plants per square: Pole beans, peas, spinach
  • 16 plants per square: Beets, carrots, radishes, onions

Unless you have a large area for gardening, you are probably confined to a smaller space like most people. The best way to keep a successful garden with organically grown produce on your dining room table is to grow as much as you can, and preserve plenty to eat for when your garden isn’t producing. Consider growing vegetables in 3‐ to 4‐foot‐wide beds with paths in between instead of just creating one large area for your garden. This will maximize space and still give you an opportunity to grow your favorite variety of vegetables.

Grow what you can and grow what you love, but have fun doing it and know that you are doing something healthy and positive for your family when you can put homegrown, fresh vegetables on the table straight from your own garden. When you find vegetables that excel in your garden, growing as much of them as your family can eat will take you a huge step closer to food self‐sufficiency. At the same time, think about what you and your family really like to eat before planning your garden. Vegetables will go to waste if what you grow doesn’t match what you eat. Organic, homegrown produce is more nutritious, delicious and sustainable than the typical store‐bought fare. As you attempt to grow more organic food, be realistic about the time you have to maintain your garden and manage its harvest, and don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Enjoy your garden and reap the benefits by preparing ahead of time, learning as you grow, and finding the little successes when helping your garden reach its potential.

Best Perennial Ground Covers for Zone 5a

Best Perennial Ground CoverFew gardening areas are as daunting as U.S. Department of Agriculture Zone 5a, with its winter lows reaching -20 to -15 degrees Fahrenheit and short growing season. Even Zone 4 has specific needs and techniques for successful gardening. When looking for the best perennials for these zones, you typically want to look for plants that can handle low temperatures and extreme weather.

Virginia Creeper

Hardy in zones 3-9, this great plant has five-leaflet leaves, and displays a bright scarlet-red fall color. It attaches itself to any vertical support and climbs quickly, but on flat surfaces makes a dense ground cover that discourages weeds. It grows in sun or shade, and puts out greenish-white flowers in midsummer that are followed by ornamental but poisonous blue berries.

Snow-in-Summer

This ground cover grows 6-12 inches tall, and looks like a carpet of grayish-green foliage covered with white flowers in midsummer. It thrives in zones 3-7 in full sun and can tolerate both dry and moist soil.

Stonecrops

This beautiful little plant grows well in zones 4-9, forming a 1-2 inch mat of foliage in sun or light-shade, and has golden yellow flowers in spring.

Common bearberry

It’s a hardy, prostrate shrub with intricate branching that often forms mats up to 3 feet wide, by runners. Fragrant, white bell-shaped flowers tinged with pink are borne in May and followed later in the season by red berries. The common bearberry’s stunning red stems are studded with small, glossy, evergreen leaves.

Northern maidenhair fern

Northern maidenhair fern’s curved fronds have wiry black stems that wave in the wind. This plant spreads slowly (by branching rhizomes) and eventually forms large colonies. Its delicate texture looks most beautiful when paired with broad-leaved plants.

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the valley’s bell-shaped, sweetly scented flowers bloom in early spring. It likes partial to full shade and is perfect for a woodland garden. It may not be the best choice for your beds and borders because it tends to spread, but it is a perfect ground cover if you have a large shady spot under some trees.