Have you seen the television show where people use coupons to get thousands of dollars of grocery and household items for free? It is called Extreme Couponing. Boy, is it fascinating! (oh, I saw you rolling your eyes!) Believe me, it really is. The people on these shows have rooms full of products that they bought for pennies! They buy hundreds of identical products at a time even if they have no idea if they like the products. If it’s cheap or free, they’ll buy it.
You can find coupons for all sorts of items from grocery to household goods. It made me start to wonder if there are ever coupons for plants or landscaping supplies. I have not seen any around our town. Have you? If you have, I would love to hear where you found them and what you were able to buy. Mulch? Flowers? Baskets? Where do you get your best landscape deals?
Raised garden beds can be a great answer for plants who need perfect soil conditions or gardeners who need a little extra help establishing and maintaining that beautiful landscape. These garden beds have many advantages because they are easier to tend due to their elevation and superior drainage, you can use optimal garden soil rather than amending the soil in your yard, the soil generally requires less yearly upkeep than traditional gardens and they work well with shrubs, flowers and vegetables.
If you are super handy and enjoy a little construction project you can build the raised by yourself using wood or rock slabs such as granite or sandstone. Alternatively, there are a myriad of raised bed kits available at garden centers and online that make easy and attractive additions to your yard. For rustic gardens, you can simply create a free-form pile of soil as your raised bed rather than going to the expense and of using wood or stone to create edging.
Once your raised garden bed is together, simply fill it with a good garden soil and top mulch that is appropriate for your plants. You can add more soil and mulch as necessary each growing season. Raised beds drain well so choose a good quality soil with enough organic content to retain moisture. Always check the recommended uses on the bags of soil when you buy them at the garden center.
For small areas try this Easy Gardener 48-inch by 6-inch round raised garden kit. This kit allows you to quickly set up a garden bed in almost any area of your yard. This little gem allows you to quickly assemble the sidewalls that are made of weather resistant composites and recycled wood flour. The wall height is six inches making it perfect for a showy garden of colorful flowers or vegetables.
Larger areas can handle this Greenes raised garden bed that measures 4-foot by 6-foot rectangle that is 9-inches high. This beautiful raised bed is constructed of sustainably harvested wood and is perfect for larger areas when you have significant space to cover or have a large variety of plants that need a home.
My next raised garden is going to be a salsa garden. This is a great starter garden for non-gardeners and children because after your vegetables grow, you can make a great salsa. A salsa garden is exactly as it sounds – a garden with plants that grow the ingredients for your favorite salsa recipe. Choose plants such as cilantro, tomato, tomatillos, jalapeno pepper, habanero pepper (if you are truly brave), and onion. Yummy!
Now that you have chosen your blueberry plants, we should prepare your soil and installation plan for your shrubs. These popular fruits are easy to care for if you give them a well-prepared home to start. After your initial soil adjustments, you can easily fine-tune your garden area each year for optimum growth and berry production. Home garden soil test kits can be a useful tool in evaluating and preparing your soil before you plant your blueberries. These test kits can give you information about the pH and nutrient levels in your garden.
Best Soil Type
The best soil type for blueberry plants is a mixture of sand, silt, clay and organics. You may hear gardeners refer to this type of soil as a loam. If your garden soil is not a loam, you can add organic matter to make it more suitable for your plants. Blueberries like soil with at least two to three percent organics. Approximately two inches of organic matter, such as peat moss, worked into your soil before you plant, should be sufficient.
For blueberry plants to grow efficiently and produce plump, juicy berries the soil must drain well and at the same time retain enough moisture and nutrients to fuel growth. Therefore, you should construct your garden in an area that does not produce standing water during a rain storm. Blueberry roots are very shallow and will die in boggy areas. If your property does not have a suitable location for your shrubs you can plant your blueberries in large pots or construct a raised garden bed, which will increase the drainage and allow you to use the best soil type available for your shrubs.
pH Level in Soil
Soil pH of four to five is best for blueberry shrubs. If your soil in either above or below the pH range, you can adjust the pH to bring the soil to within the preferred range. Lime will raise the soil pH and elemental sulfur will lower the pH. The manufacturer or the lime or sulfur will provide guidelines that you can follow to make sure that the pH adjusts between four and five. Sometimes it takes months for the pH to adjust so start your soil amendment early.
Nutrient Levels in Soil
Phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium are the necessary nutrients for blueberry plants to grow. Phosphorous encourages early development while nitrogen helps the plants to sustain long-term growth rates. If you have issues with high pH and low nutrient levels, an acidic fertilizer will help you combat both problems at once. The potassium helps the berries to ripen on the shrub. You should follow the manufacturer’s recommended application rates to ensure that you apply enough, but not too much to the plants.
Now you have a game plan for developing great garden soil for your blueberry shrubs. Take your time to test and amend your soil properly and your plants will thank you with large, juicy fruit for years to come!
Rabbiteye blueberries are more hardy that other varieties and prefer USDA Zones seven through nine although they can adapt to a more varied range. These cultivars are generally pest tolerant and produce large crops of fruit. Before you plant one of these in your garden, make sure that you have significant area for the height. These shrubs can grow to heights of 12 to 15 feet. Like highbush cultivars, Rabbiteye shrubs benefit from cross-pollination between more than one variety. Cross-pollination will help all of the blueberries in the garden to increase the amount of fruit that each bush produces for harvest.
Popular Rabbiteye Blueberry Varieties:
Lowbush blueberry plants grow well in the colder, northern climates of USDA zones two through six. Lowbush cultivars are generally wild blueberries although some commercial farmers will plant lowbush varieties purposefully. These blueberries make nice additions to home gardens because they are low to the ground (one to two feet in height) and consistently produce lovely flowers and fruits.
Popular varieties of Lowbush Blueberries:
- North County
- Pretty Yellow
Highbush blueberry varieties grow throughout the United States. Northern highbush blueberries prefer colder climates (Zones 7 through 9) while southern highbush shrubs prefer the warmth of the south (Zones 3 through 8). If you do not know your zone, review the USDA Zone map. When you are choosing your plants, pick several cultivars to promote cross-pollination in the garden. Cross-pollination is not required for highbush varieties; however, it will help your blueberry bushes to grow larger with more abundant blueberry fruit over a longer growing season.
Popular Highbush Blueberry Varieties that Ripen Early Season (May and June)
- Northland Short
Popular Highbush Blueberry Varieties that Ripen Mid Season (July and early August)
- Patriot Short
- Cape Fear
- St. Cloud Short
- Blue Ridge
- Georgia Gem
- Blue Gold Short
Popular Highbush Blueberry Varieties that Ripen Late Season (late July through early September)
This year, I have decided to plant some blueberries. A friend of mine has several blueberry bushes in her backyard that produce so many blueberries that she gives away pies all summer long. My kids love blueberries so I thought it was time to try my hand at growing them. I did some research to learn a little about blueberries and I want to share this information with you so that you can join me in planting these fantastic plants in your own garden.
Deciduous blueberry shrubs have an open form and are generally two to eight feet tall depending on the variety. However, some types may reach 12 to 15 feet tall. When you are choosing plants for your garden, make sure that you have the space necessary, both width and height. Blueberry plants have leaves that are typically one half to three inches long and are a pointed, oval shape that alternate sides along the thin branches of the shrub. The green leaves have a white to gray color on the underside. The leaves turn an attractive bright red color in the autumn each year, which enhances the look of your garden in the cooler months.
Blueberry shrubs produce small, white bell-shaped flowers that bloom from spring to early summer. Some flowers may have a green or pink look as well. The flowers form in clusters and yield to the development of the blueberry fruit In the summer. Blueberry fruit is one quarter to one half inch in diameter at maturity. Initially, the berry is green, then turns to a pink hue and finally a light purple when it is ripe. As the fruit grows, it has a powdery coating for protection that will rub off onto your fingers when you touch the berry. There are three main varieties of blueberries that grow in different regions around the country: the Lowbush, Highbush and Rabbiteye. We will talk about each those next.
The warm weather here in the south left a breeding ground in my yard for the biggest mushroom EVER! The good thing about mushrooms is that, while they may be ugly, they are not usually detrimental to a lawn. Mushrooms usually grow from the presence of dead organic matter and high moisture in the lawn. Dead organic matter that supports mushroom growth is often manure, thatch, sawdust and plant debris like leaves, needles, bark or stumps.
There are no confirmed chemical treatments for mushrooms; although, you can perform control measures to help reduce their appearance in your lawn. First, inspect your lawn during periods of high rain and pick the mushrooms as soon as they begin to grow. Picking the mushrooms will not remove the fungi that allow them to grow, but it reduces the number of spores that spread from the mushrooms to other areas of the lawn.
You can remove or treat the dead organic matter using a garden trowel, shovel and aerator. Remove a section of grass that is deep enough to reach through the lawn thatch and into the soil. If the thickness of the thatch and fungal mat is less than three inches thick, simply treat the lawn with an aerator. You can repeat this process several times each year to promote air movement, which will help to reduce the thatch and dry the lawn by allowing water to penetrate through the grass into the soil.
If your lawn has buried wood or extremely thick thatch, you can fully remove the material with a shovel. The fungus cannot thrive if you remove the source material for their growth. In addition, the water drainage will increase through the grass and dry soil when you remove the thatch and wood, inhibiting mushroom growth. If removing the thick thatch or the wood is impossible, apply nitrogen to the area to help break down the material. Once the fungal source is completely decomposed, you should see a decrease in the appearance of our friends, the mushrooms.
Up first in my garden transformation is to fix the problem with the hanging baskets on the front porch. Every year, my kids help me pick flowers to grow in our hanging baskets. We have long planters on the railings (shown left) and hooks for hanging pots above.
In the past, we grew flowers from seed and young plants that we purchased at heights of 4 to 6 inches with blooms. I’ve tried begonias, zinnias, marigolds, morning glory and several others. None of these flowers made it through the summer. We live in the suburbs of Charleston, South Carolina and when the temperatures reach 100 degrees F, I have not been able to save any of the flowers. I also use upside down pots above the railing baskets with the same success rate for similar plants.
As you can see from this photo, the front of our house around the porch is fairly plain. We have a white house with a black door. My new strategy is to plant perennials in the fall. First, I must research which plants can survive the climate here. Because the house is plain, I need something with color and texture to spice up the front of the house.
I also want to find an inventive way to use some rock in the front of the house to add some more interest in the design. Step 1 will be to research the perfect plants for my railing and hanging baskets. Stay tuned!