Tag: landscape design

Thank you, Next…

I hope everyone is enjoying their first week of Summer (or Winter for my Southern Hemi Friends)!!

Here’s the bad news first. The Naturarian is going into hibernation at the end of the month. I like the name (although no one seems to be able to pronounce it ;-), so I’m not going to delete it. I don’t have the time to promote my new biz and keep writing here, tho.

The good news is that I am going to start blogging at my new ‘honed’ business of Wellness Garden Design. I won’t be posting as regularly however, if you go there now, I’ve written some posts to give you an idea of what will be going on there. It’s not going to be a normal landscaping/plant kinda site like this one, but there will surely be some plants posts coming in the future. I know this new format may not be appealing to some of you, so I wish you well in your blogging futures if you chose not to follow me over there!

Whew, that was a long one. I just wanted to explain my situation because there have been blogs I’ve followed in the past that just end. Just stop. No explanation, whatsoever. I always assume that the person died and it makes me sad. 😉 I didn’t want anyone to be sad and thought I had croaked. Ha!! This is a happy ending!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Bulbs Aren’t Happy Looking Up Annuals Butts…

orange tulipsI was asked by a client the other day if we could plant her annual flowers right over her tulips, with the intent to allow the bulbs to ‘multiply’. I had to pass on bad news. Bulbs and annuals don’t play nicey-nice together. At least not with the selection we have here in the Midwest…

  • Bulbs should be planted at the correct depth for the bulb. If a bulb is planted too deep, to make room for the annual above, it may not grow.
  • Tulip foliage must be allowed to die-back naturally and will make an annual display look a bit messy until the foliage has died back and been removed. If you must prune the leaves back, there’s very little chance you’ll see tulips next Spring.
  • Bulbs, tulips in particular, do not multiply*, rather they disintegrate over time in the ground unless removed after the foliage has died back naturally, are stored properly and replanted in the fall. (Side note: Tulips give 3 years of service, in my opinion.)
  • Annuals planted over bulbs will remove all the nutrients from the surrounding soil leaving the bulb starved.
  • Bulbs need dry conditions, if annuals are planted above bulbs they will rot from the added water annual flowers require.

*Daffodils do multiply, however all the rest of the conditions would not be good for daffodil bulbs either.

 

© The Naturarian

Use Landscaping to Save on Energy Bills

Landscaping can significantly reduce the costs of heating and cooling the home. Some well-placed shade trees, evergreens and shrubs not only look great, but also keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Not much solar energy enters our homes through the walls and roof because of the insulation. Sun shining through the windows accounts for about half of the unwanted heat in a house during the summer. Twice as much solar energy enters through the east and west windows as the south windows, particularly if there is a roof overhang on the south side of the house.

The sun and wind both affect the temperature of residences in winter. A substantial amount of warmth can be gained from the sun shining through a southern facing window in the winter when the sun is low in the sky. East and west windows can also provide solar energy gain in the winter. The solar energy from the windows may provide 4-18% of the total energy needed to heat the home. Although, escaping warm air, along with cold wind penetrating a home, increase the heating costs and account for 24-39% of the heating requirements.

How to Utilize Landscape to Save Energy

When planting trees for energy conservation, try to:

• Create windbreaks to block harsh winter winds, generally using evergreens and different sized shrubs.

• Enlarge the deciduous tree canopy in specific areas to either shade or not obstruct the solar energy.using trees as a windbreak to your houseCommonly, the harsh winter winds come from a different direction than the cool summer breezes. Begin by placing an effective windbreak on the side of the house where the winter winds prevail. This can provide shelter for the home from cold winds, and therefore reduce heating energy costs.

When a windbreak is planted correctly, a larger area of relatively calm air is formed downwind from the windbreak.

To be effective, the windbreak should contain trees and shrubs that are the right height, thick enough, and in a long enough row to protect the house. The most proficient windbreaks will made of at least one row of dense evergreen trees whose branches extend to ground level. Windbreaks are planted in rows perpendicular to the wind direction.

winter landscape drawingFor us in the Midwest, the windbreak will run to the north and west of the home. A windbreak that permits 50-60% of the wind to penetrate (such as plant material) is superior to a solid barrier (such as a solid fence) because it creates a larger area of protection on the leeward (downwind) side.

Smaller yards do not have space for large evergreen trees, but the canopy of tall deciduous trees can provide a great deal of protection. To be effective, mature trees should cover at least half the canopy space. This will provide some defense from winter winds, and a significant amount of shading from hot summer sun.

summer landscape drawingDeciduous shade trees should be planted due west and east of windows. Shade trees in these locations will shade the late morning and afternoon sun, which produces the most heat to homes in summer. Be sure to research and choose the right tree for the location, it should grow within 20 feet of windows and should grow to a mature size of at least 10 feet higher than the windows they are shading.

Trees planted to the south of the home will have an opposing result on energy savings. In the summer, the midday sun is high, almost directly overhead. The resulting shadow of a tree will fall directly under the tree, and miss the house, providing no shading. Alternatively, in winter, when the sun is at a much lower angle, the branches will shade to the house, rather than letting the full solar heating benefits get through. Mature deciduous trees in summer block 60 to 90% of the sun. In winter, a mature tree’s branches and twigs will block approximately 30 to 50% of the sun.

In addition to shading the house, trees or shrubs should be planted to provide shade to air conditioners. Be aware of where the fans discharge on the unit, as this could cause drying and death to the herbaceous screen. Keeping the surfaces of the air conditioner allows it to run more efficiently.

Foundation plantings of shrubs and small trees can also considerably reduce energy costs. In addition to reducing the amount of wind that hits a home, shrubs planted next to the house can provide insulation as it creates a dead airspace next to the foundation. Plant the shrubs so at mature size there will be approximately 1 foot of space between the plants and the building wall.

If drifting snow is a problem in the yard, windbreaks of trees and shrubs can act as living snow fences to control the location of snowdrifts. Lower shrubs planted on the windward side of the windbreak will trap snow before it blows next to the home. Winds will funnel around the ends of a snow fence. If possible, the row of plants should extend beyond the snowdrift area. A minimum of two rows of deciduous shrubs and/or one row of evergreens are most effective for snow control.

© The Naturarian

Why Native Plants Rock – Part 2 of 4

Dutchman's breeches white flower
Dicentra cucullaria – Dutchman’s breeches

OUR NATIVE PLANT SPECIES

Encouraging native plant use in the landscape can help the community save local native species, help with water related issues, and reduce pollution. Using native plants will help correct the problems connected with compaction and soil health.

Native plants can be defined as being indigenous or occurring naturally in a given geographic area and not introduced to that area by humans. When it comes to native plants, the “geographical area” is a 50-mile radius. The distinction between native and non-native species is important because native species have generally adapted and evolved with the competing species, predators, and diseases of an area over many thousands of years. Native species are therefore generally in reasonable ecological balance with their associates and competitors, and have pests, predators, or diseases that limit their abundance.

chart showing how deep our native plant roots goThe Lake County area was part of the tall grass prairie lands, and the soils are the richest of all the soil orders. The reason for this is native plants have extensive root systems which improve the ability of the soil to infiltrate water and withstand wet or erosive conditions. When comparing root systems of non-native to native plants, the differences are obvious. Most native plants roots are 2-3 times longer and more fibrous than non-natives are. The root systems of a native plant are on an average 7′ feet deep, with some reaching up to 15′ feet. Because roots reach these depths, the soil becomes very rich with nutrients at lower levels.

Soil taxonomists have assigned the name “Mollisol” (soil order) to this type of soil, characterized as having a dark-colored organic surface layer of approximately 1”-3” (O horizon), and an extensive next layer of dark loamy soil (A horizon) from 3’ – 18” down.

A homeowner can reduce their time input, money, water use and pollution output by just reducing the lawn size of their property and adding native plant gardens. After a native plant garden establishes itself (1 – 3 years), the maintenance time involved plummets. More garden areas mean less lawn areas, and all the maintenance requirements of it. The cost of a native garden can be very affordable, as seeds can cost as little as $30 covering a 500 square feet area. After removal of the lawn (sod remover rental of $48/day), installation is as easy as a disk tiller (rental for the day $32), some hard work, and the seed. This method is for a patient person, as some flowering, native plants (forbs = flowering plants) can take up to 3 years to bloom. Most homeowners would like to have something to look at quickly, so mature plants would be best, or another possibility is a mix of plugs (immature plants) and seed.

The newly seeded/planted area will need extra water to germinate/get started and throughout the first season. However, after a native garden becomes established, the plants can withstand most droughts, only needing a small amount of water in desperate times. This saves time, money and resources.

Lastly, native plants do not need any commercial fertilizer, which pollutes the environment. Natives are happy to receive compost as a method to get vitamins. Compost application can be as easy as leaving vegetation and leaf residues to over-winter, taking free manure from any of the horse farms nearby (remember to dig deep for the good stuff!!) or from your compost bin. Many natives, mostly of the wetland type, can actually extract toxins from the soil, mitigating damage done from commercial fertilizers.

Stay tuned! Tomorrow we’ll discuss some ‘lawn substitutions’ for those die-hard lawn fans.

© The Naturarian

Why Native Plants Rock – Part 1 of 4

canadian white violet flower
Canadian White Violet

Many native plants, animals and insects have become endangered as the world’s population grows and expands into areas previously untouched by humans. To mitigate these issues, residents should be encouraged to use native plants in their landscape. Not only do natives promote habitats, a community can save water and reduce erosion and flooding problems.

Lake County, Illinois’s 2010 census has the population at 703,462 with projections of 786,000 by 2020. Lake County is one of the fastest growing counties in Illinois, and that will mean many, large subdivisions being built here.

dead dirt
The ‘Dirt-Pile-Of-Death’…..

One of the problems is the builders of these new communities strip off a deep, top-layer of earth before building, and pile it up in the corner of the land. This “top-soil” looses nutrients, becomes compacted, and looses it’s air circulation promoting harmful, bacterial growth within it. As the houses are being built, heavy construction equipment collapses and compacts the lower horizon of soil (generally clay here) promoting poor drainage. After building is complete, the piled up, nutrient poor, mediocre topsoil is replaced. Aside from installing a water greedy lawn, the neighborhood is usually left with little other vegetation.

NON-NATIVE AND INVASIVE SPECIES

Another problem is when new people move to a new area, they want to bring or install the plants they remember from home. Most non-native plants are not deleterious, but they will use up more of your time and resources. However, sometimes these non-native plants can become extreme bothers; these species are called invasive species. A fable many, naive people believe is that an area overrun with non-natives will “go back” to native plants if an area is left alone; this is untrue!

There are many non-native plants that are generally no danger to the local environment. Though many of the non-invasive, non-native plants that people use in their gardens are stressed in the different environment, they may acclimate over a few years. Despite the fact that the plant may look healthy, it may be because of all the additional water, fertilizer and care a person must give to it. Because of all these added requirements these plants often become a maintenance issue, pollution concern (fertilizer run-off) and accrue costs accordingly.

burning bush type of plant with red leaves not on fire haha
Euonymus alaus – Burning bush

The real danger to the native landscape is non-native, invasive species. An invasive plant has the ability to thrive and multiply aggressively outside its natural range (everything is native to somewhere). Some invasive plants are worse than others.  Many invasive plants continue to be admired by gardeners, and sold illegally by nurseries that may not be aware of their weedy nature, or just want to make money. Others are recognized as weeds but property owners fail to do their part in preventing their spread.

Examples of some of the plants that were just recently added to the invasive species list for this area were: Acer platanoides – Norway Maple, Berberis thunbergii – Japanese Barberry, Euonymus alata – Burning Bush, Viburnum opulus – European Cranberry Bush, and Lonicera spp. – all exotic honeysuckles, to name a few.

Some of the characteristics used to classify an invasive species are:

  • They produce large numbers of plants seasonally.
  • They tolerate many weather conditions and soil types.
  • They spread proficiently by wind, water, and animals.
  • They grow rapidly, allowing them to displace slower growing plants.
  • They spread rampantly and are free of the checks and balances of their native range.

If people continue to use non-native plants in the landscape, many native species of plants, insects and animals will be lost. Aside from this, the cost of non-invasive plant maintenance and the time needed to care for them are higher, as the non-natives cannot fight out the invasives (increased weeding time and/or herbicide use). However, a native plant garden that is established and has it’s biosphere in check will be able to fend off most non-natives.

Check in tomorrow for the next part of the four day series

© The Naturarian

Identifying Diplodia Tip Blight in Pines

Diplodia tip blight is a disease of pines in the Midwest area and the treatment window will soon be upon us. This disease is caused by the fungus Sphaeropsis sapinea and highly effects two-needled pines such as Austrian, scotch, mugo and red, but can infect all evergreens. Here, our Austrian Pines are the most affected and are no longer planted here.

pine with blight on needles

The disease will eventually kill the tree, but can take a long time, without treatment (5 years-ish). Although treatments can slow the process, careful thought is needed in a budgetary sense. The tree will begin to have die-back (larger branch death) and will require regular pruning to be aesthetically pleasing… if that’s even possible. Treatments can be costly, worse-case ineffective, if not applied correctly. The cost of removal will go up as the tree gets larger or becomes more hazardous to fell. In the end, depending where the tree is located, along with the ‘value’ placed on the tree, it may be more cost-effective to remove the tree and replace it as soon as diagnosed.

blight on pine needle

The Diplodia fungus overwinters on infected needles, cones, and within the bark of twigs. Spores are released from spring through late fall. New shoots are infected during the spring from bud break to the end of the growing season. The cones are infected during the spring of the second season, as it takes two years for cones to mature.

Spread of the disease is by the splashing of water, be it rain or over-head irrigation. Because this disease tends to overwinter and spread from infected cones, symptoms are first noticeable on the lower branches, as old cones collect under the tree. Symptoms of infected trees become visible in summer through fall and resemble stunted needle growth and yellowing. Spores can be seen on the needles & old cones as black dots. Because cones are more susceptible to infection, younger, non-cone bearing trees are often symptom-free.

Managing Diplodia tip blight focuses on tree health and sanitation. Providing proper care such as no overhead (and proper) watering, mulching, pest management and fertilization, helps suppress the disease. Removal of diseased cones from the ground helps, but is not practical in large stands of pines. Pruning of infected tips will aesthetically improve the tree, but will do little in the stop of the disease.

Severely infected trees should be removed. A fungicide spray program needs to be implemented in the spring and includes at least three applications. Make the first application just prior to bud break* (which will be soon) and make two additional applications at 10-day intervals. It is important to get the first application on the trees before any bud sheaths have broken (the papery tan cover). If the tree you’re trying to save is of high value, consult a licensed ISA arborist, as the chemicals available to professionals are usually more effective.

* Indicator plants to watch for blooming that coincide with bud break:

  • Spiraea x vanhouttei – Vanhoutti Spirea
  • Cercis canadensis – Eastern Redbud
  • Chaenomeles speciosa – Quince
  • Syringa vulgaris – Common Lilac

© The Naturarian

Successful Gardening Requires Good Organization

The 3-Ring bible of my yard.

Staying organized is an important part of successful gardening. Utilizing the off-season to organize affords more time during the growing season to dedicate to the plants. It also helps me pass the long, dark months of winter!

Start by creating something to accumulate records in such as a 3-ring binder, calendar or file box. Training oneself during the growing season to take quick notes, photos and to keep the information together (I have a basket I throw it all in).

Information that should be recorded:

  • Planting dates with the receipt – some nurseries offer a 1-year warranty
  • After replacing store tags with longer lasting ones, write the install date on it
  • Photos should be downloaded, printed and identified
  • Vegetable plot layouts – as crop rotation is essential
  • Names and locations of seeds collected
  • Ornamental layouts to help with identification
  • Annuals that have worked in the past and flat quantities
  • Insect and disease problems, along with remedies used in the past
  • Plants to thin and share with others
  • Note of fertilization times – not just a date, but the surrounding conditions and weather as well
  • Overwintered bulb names can be directly written on with water soluble pen
  • Pest spray times [although not calendar specific] for reminders

Labeling plants within the garden helps develop identification skills & saves memory cells 😉 Labels can be ready-made ceramic, bamboo, metal, actual seed packets or cut up plastic recyclables into strips. Labels should always be placed similarly such as always at the north side of the plant to easily find them later. When attaching a tag to a plant using a wire or string, don’t strangle the branch, apply loosely to allow for growth.

Another great way to keep organized is to start a garden blog! Take photos of each area of your garden on a scheduled basis. If you’re really ambitious, take photos of each plant. Even if you don’t know the name of the plant, by publishing the photo, someone may comment the name. WordPress is a great (free) platform to use for this. (WP did not pay me to write that!)

Lastly, if you are in Northeastern Illinois or Southern Wisconsin, you can take advantage of a coaching session with me that can produce a list of your plants, along with gardening tasks and when to perform them.

© The Naturarian