The success of your vegetable garden can be determined in the planning stages, including the clearing out and having your junk removed. Therefore, it is important to choose and follow a vegetable garden layout for your garden. But with so many options available, which vegetable garden layout will work for you?
The space and shape of the land you have available for your garden is perhaps the most limiting factor. You simply cannot fit a sprawling vegetable garden layout with dozens of different kinds of plants into a small space of only a dozen square feet. Also, if your land is in a shaded area you need to put those plants that require the most sun in the precious small space that gets regular, good sunshine.
If your space is small or irregular, square foot gardening might work best for you. Designed and popularized by Mel Bartholomew, square foot gardening involves plotting your garden in square foot plots – meaning it can be done in spaces as small as 4 square feet. A square foot garden plot can even be done in a constructed box if your soil is not ideal, so that a fresh mix of potting soil or better topsoil can be used for your garden. Square foot gardening might be an ideal vegetable garden layout for you if you have an irregular plot of land in which to garden, due to its flexibility in small spaces. Bartholomew claims that square foot gardening can generate as much as five times the harvest of a traditional garden of the same space, due to the precise arrangement and placement of plants in square-foot sections.
Another way to layout your garden is to arrange your plants, be they flowers or vegetables, by how much water they need. Corn, tomatoes, squash and melons, for example, consume a large amount of water and therefore should be placed near each other. Otherwise, you could end up over-watering some plants while not giving the vegetables next to it enough water to survive. Arranging the plants by water requirements (called hydro zoning) resolves this problem. If you are in a dry climate where watering is critical, or have a very large garden, this layout might be the most efficient and cost-effective vegetable garden layout for you. Keep in mind that if you are using a sprinkler system to water your plants to minimize open space. Sprinklers water an entire area, and any space not populated by plants will be rapidly filled in by unwelcome weeds.
Regardless of the layout you choose, there are some general rules of thumb for setting up your vegetable garden layout. As the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, your garden rows should run north to south, with tall plants in the northern ends of the rows and low-lying plants in the southern ends of the rows. Otherwise, if the rows ran east to west, the eastern most rows would shade the other rows early in the day, and in the afternoon and evening the western rows would shade the more eastern rows. Also, if tall plants are on the eastern or western side of the garden, they might possibly shade the entire plot at certain times of day.
In your own garden’s case, it is important not to neglect the unique characteristics of your locations. Consult with gardening experts at your local hardware or lawn and garden store about your regions environment. The proximity of buildings or other plants, on your own land or that of your neighbors, must also be taken into account when planning your vegetable garden layout.
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Imagine peering down from the window of an airplane that’s flying over a major city and seeing a veritable forest of green below. Sound like the Utopian vision of a science fiction novel? This scenario is actually becoming a reality, albeit gradually, as more and more urban buildings are using their only available space – their rooftops – to cultivate gardens that can work wonders on the surrounding environment.
America has been a little slow in comprehending and capitalizing on green roof technologies, and its markets remain immature in comparison to many countries across the Atlantic. Roof gardens, which feature layers of soil deliberately placed over roofs to support vegetation, were first developed in Germany in the 1960’s. From there they spread to other European countries. It’s estimated that 10 percent of German rooftops have become “greened”. In America, the practice is becoming more common in cities like Chicago, Atlanta, and Portland, where legislation encourages it.
Chicago’s City Hall roof garden, one of the most prominent and well-known in the U.S., is significantly cooler during hot summer months than the surrounding area. The “heat island effect” occurs in cities when traditional building materials reflect the sun’s radiation back as heat, making these urban environments at least 7 degrees hotter than other areas where the overall temperature would otherwise be the same. Gardens offset this problem by absorbing the heat into their soil and organic matter.
Rooftop gardens offer a slew of other advantages as well. They can produce food, as well as plants that are useful for other purposes (like botanical medicine). They store water, which can reduce flooding (and wastewater contamination) from stormwater runoff. Buildings with roof gardens benefit from increased thermal as well as noise insulation. There is simply no other way to bring nature’s bounty into tightly-enclosed city environments than by taking advantage of unused roof space.
The gardens grown on these otherwise vacant spaces work to combat pollution, as well. Rooftop plants filter Carbon Dioxide and other pollutants out of the air. Their roots drink up the rainwater, removing pollutants and heavy metals out of it in the process. Rooftop gardens also encourage “green” practices in their tenants, like organic waste recycling through composting. All in all, they are increasingly becoming a focus for reducing the negative environmental impact of cities.
Last but not least, they can serve as feeding stations. A variation known as “brown roofs” – which consist of a thin layer of crushed ribble and gravel – are intended to be colonized by spiders and insects, which then provide food for birds.
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There is a high risk of frost damage in the Atlanta landscape this winter. The metro Atlanta area, especially the Buckhead area and the northern suburbs, has been shocked with extraordinarily low temperatures, snow and ice. Normally, most of our plants can handle a bit of severe winter weather. This year, however, the particular set of weather circumstances created a perfect storm for frost damage in Atlanta landscapes.
Unlike our residents, most of the plant material in the Buckhead / Atlanta landscape is capable of handling 12 to 15 degree temperatures without significant frost damage. This year, however, has a much higher risk of frost damage due to the fact that we are coming off one of the longest summers in our history. Our October temperatures hovered near 90 degrees early in the month, and our average lows in November were a balmy 42 degrees.
Why, you may ask, does a warm autumn affect frost damage? Because these warm temperatures kept our grasses, plants and trees from preparing for winter. Some were still sprouting new growth at Thanksgiving when they should have been shutting down for the winter. If December stayed mild and we would have gradually worked our way down to the freezing mark, all would be good. Instead, December came with a vengeance and our low temperatures dropped like a rock from the 40s to the low teens. Those plants and trees, many still green and growing, suffered quite a shock from such an extreme and rapid temperature swing. Historically, by the time the Atlanta landscape sees temperatures in the teens we have had weeks, if not months, of temperatures dipping into the upper 20s. This winter we went from the low 40s to the low teens in a matter of weeks.
So what can you do to minimize the damage? First and foremost, don’t over-react. Remember this about garden maintenance and lawn care: Every application, treatment or cut temporarily adds stress to plant material. So your best immediate response is no response at all. Suspend everything until we reach seasonal temperatures – no fertilization, no weed control, no lime applications and no pruning**.
Second, make sure you water before the next round of harsh weather. A well-watered plant is far more resilient than a drought-stressed plant. We would like to think we won’t see any more temperatures in the teens, but that’s just wishful thinking.
**Since the most important pruning of the year takes place in winter, you may wonder why we suggest not pruning now, so keep reading. We’ll tell you.
Cool Season Grasses (Fescues)
This has been a terrible year for Fescue grasses. Fescue is a cool-season grass, grown for temperatures between 50 and 85 degrees, and we haven’t had many days between 50 and 85. Because of the extremely hot fall, the window to re-seed Fescue was short and didn’t give the newly-seeded grass to mature before temperatures plummeted into the teens.
To repair any frost damage to Fescue lawns, carefully re-seed the damaged areas in the February timeframe. If you have a landscape service, they will probably do this automatically. February is early and temperatures will still be low, but you want to get some germination going as much before spring as possible. Be careful not to put down too much seed. Yes, you can put down too much seed and it will never perform well because the grass will be too crowded. “More” is not always “better”. It takes a long time for seed to germinate this time of year, so don’t add more seed a week later thinking your first application washed away.
Warm Season Grasses
Warm season grasses like Zoysia and Bermuda can generally withstand temperatures of 10 degrees or so and suffer only minimal frost damage. But when temperatures are in the 80s in October, warm season grasses think its still summer. Instead of gradually shutting down for the winter, they stay green and keep growing. These grasses are most sensitive during the transition into and out of dormancy and during this sensitive period, these grasses were shell-shocked with temperatures in the low teens.
Since these grasses are now dormant there is nothing we can do to assess or repair the damage. Perform your usual pre-emergent applications but other than that, leave them alone. In spring you can begin to assess the damage and begin the repair process. Minor damage can be raked out, fertilized and watered generously and the grass will repair itself with a little time. More extensive damage may need to be cut out and patched with sod. If you go this route just make sure you know what kind of grass you have. Patching Bermuda with Zoysia, or worse, Zoysia with Bermuda, will give you a major headache.
Plants, Trees and Shrubs
With such extreme temperature swings we could see frost damage throughout the Atlanta landscape. With the extremely cold temperatures and the amount of snow we have already seen, even Pansies will be impacted. Your first priority in a frozen garden is to make sure you don’t do more harm than good. Don’t recklessly knock the snow of Pansies, Boxwoods or even trees. Remember, in freezing temperatures plants are brittle and branches can snap. Most important, be careful not to slip on ice or snow and hurt yourself. Whatever damage there may be is already done and rushing out to prune a branch or knock the snow off isn’t going to make it better.
Here is where some good news comes in. Winter is the best time to prune just about everything! And with proper pruning you can cure almost all ills, including frost damage. It is almost the time to begin, but earlier we suggested you wait for a bit longer because we prefer to start our heavy pruning in early February. With the bizarre weather we experience in the Atlanta area, waiting until February gives us a little more confidence that dormant plants and trees are truly dormant.
Soon you can begin all of your winter pruning. Use these cold winter months to keep your foundation plants in scale or just to keep them healthy and flowering. This is also the time to rejuvenate plants that are damaged or unhealthy. Many can be pruned to one or two feet tall, after which they will come to life as a healthy, full, new plant. The winter is the time for all of your rejuvenation pruning, but make sure you know your plants and you ask, like how I would ask for a tree service near me, before you embark on something like this.
Happy gardening. And remember, in the garden be bold when it’s cold!
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