Any yard – any yard – can benefit from a garden full of flowers, vegetables, and herbs, and because there’s such a wide range of plants to choose from, with just a little planning, you can enjoy bursts of color all season long with just a little maintenance. Here are some tips to help you plan and maintain a colorful garden for months of enjoyment:
- Start with perennials. Perennials come back year after year, so although they may be a little more costly than annuals, they’re a great investment for your garden. Most perennials only bloom for a limited period of time, so consider buying several different types of consecutive blooms throughout the summer.
- Add annuals for season-long color. Annuals last only one season, but they typically bloom throughout the entire summer. They’re a great way to add bursts of color, and if you find one you’re not crazy about, the good news is, they don’t cost a lot – plus, next year, you’ll have the chance to choose another type.
- Mix vegetables with flowers. It’s a common practice in Europe, but here in the U.S., we tend to keep our veggies and flowers in separate beds. Leafy greens like lettuce (for spring and fall) and chard (which withstands summer heat) can add a lot of interest, and so can the ferny tops of carrots. Herbs are also a good choice for inter-planting, and many offer scents that are enhanced by hot summer sun.
- Pick some colorful shrubs for the back of the garden. Shrubs can provide an effective backdrop for flowers, and many shrubs offer the added advantage of colorful fall foliage or interesting wintertime bark or berries that are attractive to birds. Viburnum and callicarpa are a couple of good choices for our area, offering multi-season interest.
- “V” is for vertical – and vine. A great way to make sure your garden looks great all season is to add color and foliage beyond the borders and beds. Vines are a great way to do that. Like shrubs, many vines offer colorful fall leaves, spring flowers or summer berries. Let one ramble aimlessly along a fence or cover the side of a shed. Like flowers, vines can be annual or perennial. Make your vines do double-duty and choose vegetable-bearing varieties like beans or squash.
- Don’t forget containers. Containers are great for brightening up decks, patios or otherwise dull areas of your yard, and they don’t require you to dig up your lawn. When planting in containers, add interest by thinking beyond the traditional flowerpot. Consider a galvanized pail or an old wooden crate, or use an old funnel for a hanging planter (plug the end with peat moss to allow drainage and prevent soil from sifting out).
Once your garden is planted, you need to maintain it to keep it looking its best. These tips can help:
- When buying plants, take note of watering and feeding requirements, and try to group plants with similar requirements to make these tasks easier. Keep a note on your calendar to remind you when it’s time to feed.
- Consider using a mulch to keep weeds under control and prevent roots from drying out. Just be on the lookout for insects that might decide to make the mulch their home.
- Be sure your irrigation system is positioned correctly to provide the right amount of watering. No irrigation system? Consider having one installed; it’s a huge timesaver, and regular watering keeps plants healthy and preserves your investment.
- Keep an eye out for weeds and pests. A little vigilance means you can avoid pesticides and herbicides so your plants can provide enjoyment for birds, butterflies and honeybees, too.
Having a garden can increase your own enjoyment of your yard tenfold – at least. If you’ve never gardened before, start small so you don’t get overwhelmed. Add a couple of garden chairs, and you’ll be all set to enjoy beautiful blooms all season long!