Blog

Book Review: Home Landscaping

If you’d like to leran a thing or two about lawn and landscape, you might pick up a book titled “Home Landscaping” by the good folks over at Better Homes and Gardens. This is a pretty good book for the niche of landscaping or the niche of lawn maintenance.   Included is an excerpt, below, to give you some idea:

The front yard

Putting a pretty face on your property by landscaping your front yard makes a good sense. The front yard is the face your house turns to the world, and everyone likes to make a good impression.
A beautiful front yard welcomes you home with style, reflecting your sense of beauty and satisfying your need for harmony.  It provides spaces to showcase features like flower beds and borders, a beautiful wall, an interesting flagstone walkway, and even pols  and water plants. And it adds value to your property should it come time to sell. Real estate agents estimate handsome landscaping can boost the value of a property by as much as a third.
The typical front yard contains considerable unused and wasted space. Often a high-maintenance turf lawn starts as the street and runs to the front of a house that rises from a border of evergreen shrubbery. If you want to use the lawn as a place to relax and read the paper, play badminton, or practice chipping golf balls, you do it in full view of everyone in the neighborhood. The front yard often provides little privacy, interest, and value.  Instead, it is a place of work, a vast expanse that needs to be mowerd and trimmed again and again throughout the summer.

On the following pages, we’ll suggest ways you can gain some privacy, show you how to add interest to your yard, and assess your front yard’s value as a place you and your family can use and enjoy.

Fences and Walls
Nothing enhances privacy more than a fence with a gated entrance. One of the prettiest entrances can be created by raining “New Dawn”–a well-behaved, semidouble rambling rose of softest blush pink–over  trellised archway above a garden gate.
Not every home and front yard should be fenced, but its an option to consider. Fencing a front yard provides security, keeps pets and children from roaming the neighborhood, supports climbing and flowering plants such as roses and clematis, and provides a backdrop for beds of perennial and annual flowering plants around its perimeter.

Book Review: Landscape Planning

Here is another useful lesson on lawn maintenance from Judith Adam’s book “Landscape Planning.”  This is a handy book for anyone interested in the niche of landscaping or lawn care.  Below is a snippet from the book, to give you a picture of what it contains:

Ten steps to a better lawn:

  1. Select the right -kind of grass for your garden. Lawns made from seed or sod can include several kinds of grass plants, and some may perform better than others in your garden. Getting the right kind of seed can make all the difference between a lawn that’s chronically thin and another that’s thick and lustrous.
    Most general-purpose seed mixes contain a portion of the three main lawn grasses: Kentucky bluegrass, perennial rye and fescue. The bluegrass has a thick and lush blade with blue-green color and requires a lot of moisture and a sunny site. Perennial ryegrass is a medium textured green blade with a good drought resistance. And fescue grasses are able to establish a greensward in shady locations.
    You can customize your lawn by over-seeding with the grass best for your conditions. Grass seeds germinate best in cool, dam seasons, so early spring or mid-autumn are good times to overseed. First mow the lawn and use a rake to rough up areas of bare soil. then scatter the appropriate grass seed generously over areas where the turf is thin. Cover and mulch the seed with 1 inch of peat moss or rotted manure and keep it wet until the seeds germinate and area growing. You can cut the new grass when it reaches a height of 3 inches.

2. Keep the mower blades sharp.

Dull blades rip and shred the grass, giving it a ragged appearance and inviting plant problems. The ragged edges are slow to heal and make an easy entry point for the many fungus diseases that can affect lawns. Clean-cutting mower blades are an investment in the health of your lawn; they can be sharpened at a hardware store in spring.

3. Cut the lawn high.
The roots of grass plants grow in direct proportion to blade length.  Short blades will curtail the growth of roots and make the lawn vulnerable to drought conditions.  To encourage longer roots that can reach ground water, set the mower high so that the lawn is between 2-3 inches in height. You’ll get used to the longer look and the lawn will stay green longer when drought hits. A taller lawn  will shade the soil…

4. Leave lawn clippings in place.

5. Don’t overfeed the lawn.

6. Water less often, for longer periods.

(and so on and so forth. )

Book Review: Natural Landscaping: Gardening With Nature To Create a Backyard Paradise

HOw-to books are a useful tool to help the landscape hobbyist improve his lawn and garden.  One such book I picked up recently was Sally Roth’s Natural Landscaping: Gardening With Nature To Create a Backyard Paradise.  This is a helpful book that deals with the subject of lawn care and landscaping.  Here is an excerpt from that book, to give you an idea of the valuable tips inside:

Section: A partnership with nature

Meadow gardening makes you a careful observer” says Mark Trela, owner of Fragrant Farms in New Harmony, Indiana. “You become a student of nature” he says. “You can see the interplay of different insects birds rabbits moles voles—everything working together.”
One thing Mark likes about being a partner with nature instead of an adversary: “your role is to be much less invasive than you’d be in a traditional more structured garden. Its more of a partnership.”
Today’s gardens look too much alike, says Mark. “You see the same types of plants, even the same cultivars, in garden after garden.” But a meadow garden is different. Its always a work in progress and always includes an incredible diversity of plants, some invited, other happy accidents.
Mark’s meadow gardens, which include several areas, none bigger than a quarter acre, begin with a combination of seeds and plants. He prefers not to go into an area with major equipment and rip it up. Instead, he digs by hand and often plants his wildflowers through existing grasses. he mulches thickly around his new plants to smother the grass.  After the first year, he says, “I just stand back and watch as things reseed and spread.”

Grasses are crucial to a successful meadow garden, says Mark. They’re the backbone of the garden, keeping it interesting in fall and winter. He’s also fond of stalwart perennials like ironweed, monarda, and small white late-blooming heath aster. Self-sowing balsam and larkspur and stands of hollyhocks give his gardens an old-fashioned “grandma’s garden” air. A beautiful soft apricot-colored hollyhock bloomed one summer after years of mixed colors growing together . Mark liked it so much he saved the seed and grows it every year to perpetuate the strain.
Making a meadow garden requires a shift in perspective, says Mark. “In a typical,  normal” landscape, we’re not thinking in wholes anymore—its something for the front and something for the back or the side. A meadow garden is a whole unit. As soon as you add coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, and milkweeds to the grasses, you’ll have butterflies and insects.  And after them will come the birds. “Just by virtue of being there, a meadow garden becomes an ecosystem. It’s an ecology of the whole, not just a few plants stuck in a traditional garden to attract butterflies who will only stick around long enough to eat.”

Mark likes to use a lot of native plants in his meadow gardens . He not only finds the plants beautiful but also points out that they offer sustenance to many insects and birds. “Swamp milkweed is one of my favorites,” he notes.  “It has that beautiful, pale pink-purple color and the butterflies just love it. Cardinal flower is wonderful, too. Black-eyed Susans bloom all summer, and asters are really glorious in the fall. I love to watch the birds in the meadow. They’re mostly small songbirds–a lot of sparrows, indigo buntings–coming for the bugs on the plants or the seeds later in the season.  They make it alive.”
Mark has a hard time naming the single favorite season for his meadow garden, because he finds beauty in it all year long. “”In springtime, things are greening up, and there’s that surge of growth. Flowers hit their peak in late June through midJuly, and the peak of flowers means the peak of insects. Then fall brings the rich, , mellow colors of the grasses

Book Review: Care and Repair of Lawn and Garden Tools

This is a how-to book that I picked up for the purpose of caring for tools and implements.  The title is “Care And Repair of Lawn And Garden Tools” by Homer L. Davidson.  This book goes into detail about a wide variety of machines and hand tools that the gardener or landscaper will need, so i recommend it for anyone who wants to learn more about lawn care tools or landscape equipment.
Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 3 so you can get a sense for the quality of the writing:

Servicing small hand tools:

Small hand tools keep the lawn, shrubs, trees and garden in top-top shape.  Many of these hand tools can last a lifetime if they are properly cared for. All small tool should be cleaned up after each use and properly lubricaed. Tools should also be hung up after each use to prevent rust and possible injury.

Replacing Handles:
Wooden handles often break in the middle or right where they enter the tool. Repair handles cost about a third of the price of a new tool.  To make a temporary repair,place two layers of plastic tape around the split handle. Remove metal rivets by grinding them off on a portable or bench grinder. Either replace metal rivets or install  bolts and nuts to hold the wooden handle in the tool.

Wooden handles can also be repaired with a good cleanup and cement. Sand down all rough spots and place a coat of wood glue between broken areas. Spray on a coat of paint or clear varnish to brighten.

Handles that turn within a hand trowel or cultivator can be repaired with epoxy.   Mix up a batch of epoxy and fill up the holes around the metal handle.  Let set up for a whole day.  Grind off any surplus epoxy.  Also, rubber silicone cement can be worked own inside the handle area to keep the handle from turning.

Handles that will not stay on lopping shears can be repaired in the same manner. When the wooden or metal handle keeps dropping off the metal shear end, place epoxy on the long handle piece before inserting it into the handle. Fill up the handle area with epoxy. Work the epoxy down.

Review: The Low-Maintenance Garden

Picked up an older gardening book recently, titled “The Low-Maintenance Garden” by Susan Berry  and Steve Bradley.  This is an easy-to-read book for the home gardener or anyone who wants some fresh ideas on sprucing up your yard and lawn.
I would recommend this book to anyone who gardens, or who wants to improve your landscaping. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 2:

GRAVEL
By far the cheapest of all hard surfacing materials, gravel is attractive to look at, helps to reduce moisture loss, and allows a natural and relaxed style of planting in and around it.

There are three types generally used in gardens– pea gravel, river washed pebbles or sandstone, which has a softer texture and more muted colors.
The Japanese have long used gravel raked into patterns, as a design feature in their gardens. This looks laborious but in fact is not, provided the ravel is in an area where it is not talked upon. It will simply need to be raked over every few weeks–unless there are deciduous trees and shrubs that drop leaves onto it, in which case raking in fall will need to be more frequent. Gravel is not the most comfortable surface to walk on, so the best solution is to lay a stepping stone path through it. The steps can be of natural stone, concrete or wood, as preferred. Gravel can also be used in conjunction with railroad ties to construct low-maintenance paths (see pages 22-23).
Before laying gravel, make sure the area has been cleared of perennial weeds, which should be burned. Once you have cleared the ground in this way, you can lay a heavy-duty black plastic membrane (or old carpet) over the soil before laying the gravel, which acts as a weed suppressant. Failure to do this may cause problems…..