Friday, January 22, 2010

Frosting the Garden

January along the Front Range of Colorado is deceptively mild and usually snow free. Every few years we have piles of snow, and it truly is a winter wonderland.

Outside of our driveway, a snowy path for walking

Sometimes it takes more than 3 days before this road is driveable

2 short winters ago, there was more snow than we could shovel

Our winter this year is just brown, with the sight of decomposing gardens.  So a little frosting on the garden works wonders to show us the beauty of nature.

native grasses all nicely frosted

snowflake looking sweet woodruff

This yarrow "Moonshine" looks perfectly coated

Even the Ponderosa Pine needles look better with a little frosting

Gambel Oak take on a muted look with frosted tips

Just a little touch of frost works its magic in the garden

Most of our snow will come later this winter, and even through the spring.  For those of us who have lived here long enough, we know that January and February are the teaser months for the gardens and the nature that resides here.  March and April will bring us our moisture once again.

Nature always surprises us,
bringing unexpected snows even when the birds think it is spring.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Time to see your Garden from a new Perspective

Creating a garden design is all about perspective. The owner's, designers, neighborhood's, friend's, spouse's, and maybe even your conscience's perspective. But how many people really take into account Nature's perspective?

Looking up into the canopy from the bathroom skylight

There are many planes to view when deciding what a garden should look like and how it should function. It's part of human nature that we're very used to looking at what is in front of us, what we are used to, and what current trends and products tell us we need. But what if we stepped back, and looked at garden design from a new perspective, that of designing our gardens with nature's needs and gifts in mind. What would we do different? What would we gain in return?

Deer are welcome in parts of the ecosystem garden

These lady bugs are found in their native habitat on the top of Mount Herman

This hawk nests every year in the same tree at the bottom of our property

Gardening for nature takes into account what nature already gives us to help us create a habitat that's easy to take care, and gives back to the earth. One of the easiest ways to start is by observing your environment. This doesn't mean taking a quick stroll through the back yard, and then jumping into designing a garden. It means really observing what goes on in nature, even if you live in the middle of the city. Once you see how things in nature interact with each other, you can design your gardens or landscapes to do the same thing.

Fruits are eaten by the birds each fall and winter

Crabapple trees are pollinated each spring

Let's take the example of designing a new garden that lays in part shade. We could just get a book, look at some planting plans, and modify them to fit our space. It would probably turn out very pretty, but not do much to help nature, or even make the best use of the environment at hand. If we instead looked up at the canopy and watched what happened there we would probably be able to create a habitat. We would choose plants that feed the birds, attract the right kind of insects, make use of the mulch that fell from the trees, and co-exist with the amount of moisture found in that area. Our plants would grow better and the insects and wildlife would be happy since we wouldn't need lots of fertilizers, pesticides, or extra water to coax along the garden.

All three of these ecosystems are significantly different, so design accordingly

Designing a nature-centric garden creates something very individualized, since it interacts and reflects what is going on in your ecosystem.  If done correctly, it doesn't follow fads, but aims for sustainability.  It rewards you with sights and sounds of birds, butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.  Doesn't that sound nice to you?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Can Gardening Neutralize our Technology Crazed Carbon Buzz?

Anyone reading this blog post probably loves to garden, or at least is thinking about gardening. At the same time, you are reading this post because of the wonders of technology.

We Google, blog, Tweet, Facebook and iPhone our way across each day, using a lot of technology in the process.  That technology uses a lot of energy, and in turn produces pollution.  So, my question to you is, how much gardening does it take to offset our need for daily snippets of news?  Can we become Carbon Neutral in our own yards and homes by gardening?

How many carbon emissions do these plants and trees in the garden offset?

I can't answer this question myself, but I am sure there are many people and organizations out there who could.  However, I can try to limit my computer use, phone use, and other personal electronics use by simply getting outside more and leaving the world of technology behind. 

Get out and listen to this buzz instead! 
Nature will  teach you the most about gardening if you only stop to listen.

You say that you want to know more about gardening?  Then get outside and start doing it. It doesn't have to be an elaborate "garden space", "outdoor room" or "fantasy living area".  Start simple.  Plant some seeds, dig up some lawn, play in the dirt, look for bugs, get your children involved.  Organic gardening at its finest.  It's that easy to start.  And leave your cordless phone, cell phone or iPhone in the house.  Turned off.  You really won't miss all that technology buzz, and you might just start hearing the buzz of nature instead.

Monday, January 4, 2010

An Orange a Day keeps the Deer Away

We've all heard the saying "An apple a day keeps the doctor away". Well, I would like to teach you a new one: "An orange a day keeps the deer away".

We have lots of Mule deer where I live, and they love to visit the gardens.  And, as much as I love nature and wildlife, I don't like it when deer eat my flowers and veggies. So, I have my own way of repelling deer, and it doesn't involve spraying chemicals, mixing garlic and onions, stinky coyote urine, putting up fences, or spending lots of money.  It's also good for me, organic, is sustainable, and supports reuse.  It's orange peels.

Mule deer in the backyard - sometimes there are 14 at a time.

Orange peels are probably not what you would think of when looking for deer repellent, and they are certainly not a research-based solution (although my research tells me otherwise). But, here in my gardens, as well as some of my clients, they seem to work wonders at keeping the deer from eating the plants. My method is simple: I take the orange peels, not orange pieces or whole oranges, rip them into about 2 -3 inch pieces, and scatter them around in my garden beds and at the edges of the paths.  By using only the peels I avoid animals coming into the yard to eat the orange meat itself, and the peels decompose slowly so I don't have to reapply my deer repellent very often.

Sometimes I can get within a foot of the deer, as in this picture.

I realize that many of you are probably thinking by now that my method seems very odd, but what's not to like about it?  You don't have to spray every time it rains, most of us eat oranges or know someone that does, the orange peels don't have any chemicals to harm the environment, it's a completely organic solution, and you don't have to spend any money that you haven't already spent for food. 

The deer don't eat these lilies, even though they are right along the path.

So if you have a deer problem, why not give it a try?  The next time you eat an orange, take the peels out to the garden, and see what happens.  If you currently use other methods, try this as a test case in a small area.  If it works, you have a better way to deter deer.  If not, you haven't done any harm to the earth.  And if you think I am "fruity" well that's ok too.  You wouldn't be the first person.
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