dishin' the DIRT on hit and myth landscaping

Archive for the tag “organic landscaping”

Best fertilizer? Holy crap, BATMAN!

We’ve put in some new plants this spring and wondered what type of fertilizer you’d recommend.

Depends. What type of plants? What type of soil?  The best fertilizer for all plants and all soil types is rich soil. Don’t have that yet? Here’s my favorite fertility Rxs for the plantings here in my Texas garden. Here goes:

Crap happens. And when it does, let it rot and put it on your garden!

Crap happens. And when it does, let it rot and put it on your garden. Great soil is the best fertilizer for ANY plant!

ALL: Add 1-2″ composted manure over the whole landscape at least once per year. I try to do this Valentine’s Day. Why Valentine’s Day? It’s important this process occurs in cool months so plants or lawn won’t burn. The other reason for that date is I can remember it…fertility & Valentine’s go hand-in-hand…. or, well, you get the idea. For how long? I plan to stop with my annual cupid compost ceremony when I die, move, or my soil morphs into a rich loam yielding not only great produce, but also a shovel full of earthworms every time I effortlessly dig a hole. By the way, this is NOT mulch; it’s besides and underneath a spring application of mulch.

Osmaco&MedinaVEGGIES, FLOWERS, ETC. – Used as a foliar spray or poured-on soil activator, I keep a jug of Medina’s MEDINA PLUS  handy for monthly after-planting-pep-ups. This is also what I put into my compost to heat it up.

My double compost tumbler also boasts a spigot and container on bottom for an easy compost tea treat.

My double compost tumbler also boasts a spigot and container on bottom for an easy compost tea treat.

Speaking of which,  COMPOST TEA is a cheap – as in FREE – fertilizer. At my house, making compost tea is easy because of the composter I use: a double barrel tumbler with tea spout in the bottom. Never heard of compost tea? Here’s how to make it happen.

A local company (in Houston) called MICROLIFE has come up with great all-around organic fertilizers in several formulations for the different applications in the garden. They also have specialty formulations for specific plants, like azaleas and citrus, as well as for problems in the lawn, like brown patch. Their nifty online chart tells you what to use and when. I buy MicroLife by the 40 lb. bag, I’m such a fan.

When I tuck in just about any flowering/fruiting plant, I often add a dash of Osmocote for Flowers & Vegetables. This slow release, balanced (14-14-14) formula feeds the babies without burning or giving too much nitrogen (the 1st number in the 3 part formulation numbers, N-P-K), which makes it develop gorgeous green but few flowers. NEVER use lawn fertilizer in flowerbeds with blooming plants or they’ll spend all of their energy on the leaves and none on the blooms.

Another commonly used fertilizer that has no place in my garden is a “weed and feed” product. I absolutely hate these for many reasons, only one of which is how destructive it can be to plants other than lawn grasses. So if you have a grudge against me, you now know the chink in my armor!

NOTE: I am not paid, nor do I receive these products to endorse. I buy them at my local garden center just like you will.


“Low-maintenance garden”… an oxymoron?

We just bought a vacation home and need ideas on what types of low-maintenance flowers, bushes, landscaping we can plant. There is no watering system, so the yard and beds must thrive on natural rainfall except for our quarterly visits. Also, how do you prevent ‘stick-tites’ or kill existing ones?  Jeri in Missouri

tools for a low-maintenance landscape

Maintenance problems in the landscape are often the result of lack of planning.  You are ahead of the game spending time looking at how you will use your vacation home before you spend $$$.  Here are some principles that apply to anyone wanting to relax in their garden instead of just making it another entry on the to-do list.

  1. MAKE A REAL CHOICE:  How will you use the space?  Think about your property like you do your home, designating areas for specific activities.  Do you need a dining room, or just an eat-in kitchen?   If a playroom’s on your list, do you need a spot for horseshoes or a soft-ball field?  How about a living area?  How many will you need to seat?  Do these spaces connect to one another?  Be realistic and consider your lifestyle, year-round outdoor conditions and how many people will usually be in the spaces.

    HIT: create a 1 year, 5 year and forever plan for your landscape

  2. MAKE A REAL PLAN:  Using graph paper, lay out the property showing existing plants that will remain.  Note topographic highlights of your yard, including low spots and berms, great views and not-so-great, then add in your wish list of garden rooms and where they’ll best fit into your landscape and your life.  Don’t forget to leave space for utility items, such as trashcans/recycling bins and lawn equipment.  (cherie’s tip: Make spaces convenient to one another and to your home or you won’t use them!)

    plan for success in your landscape

  3. MAKE YOUR PLAN REAL:  How will you maintain the property?  Even if it’s your primary residence, a busy schedule might require your landscape still be low-maintenance.  If you can’t constantly keep your eye on it, consider hiring someone to do that for you.  If that’s not feasible, maybe “naturalizing” the property with only the designated spaces as maintained areas will better suit your lifestyle.  Add paths to get from one “room” to the next, but pick not only your plant materials but also your hardscape materials intentionally to avoid high maintenance.  A path or patio can be of many different materials, from bark mulch to lawn to pavers to concrete. Mulch and grass will require weekly or monthly maintenance; pavers and concrete will not.  When it comes to plant materials, look around you at what is native.  Contact the local agricultural extension  or state-wide native plant society for a list of appropriate plants, then keep them mulched well.  Use rainwater efficiently by grouping like-minded plants with low-water plants in the high spots and more-water plants in the low spots.  Check to see if a rain-water harvesting system would work in your area, too.

    MYTH: NO-maintenance landscapes

As far as getting rid of grass-burs or stick-tights or any other pest plant, organic methods abound with some more effective than others.  Several websites offer proven ways including the old-fashioned way:  hand-pulling.  But weeds are opportunists.   Bare spots, dry spots and wet spots are all accidents waiting to weed.  If this is a turf area, you might look at installing a native grass and allow it to grow to mature height, crowding and shading out warm-season weeds.

Whether part-time, full-time or all-time, your home’s landscape can be a labor and cost intensive proposition.  Even a little cabin in the woods begs for extra planning on the front end to ensure a low-maintenance garden, giving you the time to vacation wherever you are.

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