Sunshine, precipitation, heat, cold, seasonal variations, altitude; all are critical considerations when planning and maintaining a successful garden. Knowing which plants do best in your climate, which conditions encourage growth, and how drought and other weather changes can affect what and how you grow is essential to wise gardeners. We discuss the issues — from shade and frost-tolerant plants to heat and drought-resistant gardens — important to every grower.
Greenhouses are wonderful places, especially in the spring when benches are filled with brilliant green starts, and in the summer, its doors and roof vents propped open, with cucumbers trailing from the ceiling and tomatoes ready for picking. But in winter? Not so much. Overwintering herbs and potted plants cluster together for warmth. A few brown, leafless cucumber vines hang from an overhead trellis. Kale and spinach are over-picked and the seeds you planted have yet to sprout.
It’s a winter-time fact in most parts of the country: greenhouses, even those that might be attached to the house or garage, need some kind of heat source (of course, supplying appropriate light is equally important). (more…)
Ordering seeds? Don’t forget vegetables for fall planting and winter gardens.
We know some gardeners who do more than order seed in February. They’re out in their patch, cutting kale and other greens, pulling a leek or two and generally bringing in fresh veggies they’ve dug out from under mulches or hoop shelters.
Granted, these gardeners mostly don’t live in Montana as we do. They’re situated in the maritime Northwest and in the wide inland river valleys of Oregon and in coastal regions of the south and in the Midwest, even in those areas that suffer frost and the infrequent snow cover. In hardiness zones where you least expect it, winter gardens are producing salads and braising greens, beets and turnips and maybe a green onion, often a volunteer missed the previous season. (more…)
Reduce inside building temperatures and save money on air conditioning with white roofs.
Cities are heat sinks. Their black asphalt parking lots and tar-black rooftops absorb the sun’s energy and give off the heat. The result, says the White Roof Project, is as much as an 80-degree difference on sunny-day roof tops, as black roofs absorb the light and white roofs reflect it back into the atmosphere.
White roofs can help keep building temperatures as much as 35 degrees cooler, saving huge amounts of energy and money spent on air conditioning. (more…)
Lawn and garden watering jumps in the summer. Here’s how to save water and money at the same time.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 30% to 70% of the water consumed by America’s residential homes is used outdoors. Summertime lawn and garden watering can multiply household water use two to four times over what is used the rest of the year.
The shocker: half the water used outdoors is wasted.
While the EPA’s website on outdoor water use is promoting their “Water Sense” certification of approved products — and using the highest quality, water-wise products can make a difference — much of water conservation comes from the design of your landscape, especially the plants you choose to grow, and the ways water is applied to that landscape. (more…)
How lack of water, poor soil and other plant stresses make your garden vulnerable to pests and disease.
Plants are like us people. No matter which biological classification kingdom we’re in, all of us are affected by stress. In humans, stress comes from an infinite variety of circumstances that involve family, health, work conditions, finances, social contact and just plain worry. Plants are stressed in physical ways and not that many.
Give plants enough sunlight and moisture in the right soil conditions and, other than whatever thinning is required to establish non-competitive space, they’ll thrive pretty much stress free. (more…)
How to design environmentally friendly, water-efficient gardens using natural rainfall.
Rain gardens catch and channel the environment’s natural precipitation, delivering it where it will most benefit our plants. At the same time they protect the environment by keeping polluted runoff out of municipal storm sewers. They allow water to percolate into the soil where its needed, avoiding erosion. A well-designed rain garden is sustainable, requiring little or no additional water to maintain life.
Unlike active rainwater harvesting, where runoff from roofs, pavement, and other impermeable surfaces is collected and stored in barrels and cisterns, passive rainwater collection takes moisture when it falls and puts it to best use. But its water may also be collected from those impermeable surfaces, like driveways, and channeled directly to growing things. (more…)
How to reduce water use, save money, and fight drought by harvesting and collecting rainwater.
Rainwater collection and storage systems capture a gift from the sky. They’ve been used for centuries where and when rains are absent. Today, in the face of persistent drought and depleted aquifers, rain water harvesting makes more sense than ever.
No matter how it’s collected or what it’s used for, utilizing rainwater lessens the pressure on our water supply. Rainwater harvest is appropriate in desert climates with monsoon seasons or infrequent thunderstorms as well as regions with adequate rainfall. Like solar-generated electricity stored in a battery, harvested rainwater is there when you need it. (more…)
Take advantage of warm winter weather to sow kale, spinach, and other greens for early spring harvest. Here’s how.
Our far-flung correspondents in the west, unlike those in the east and midwest, are all reporting balmy weather these first weeks of February. It’s as if we’ve skipped spring fever this year and gone directly to spring.
Warm temperatures in the Pacific Northwest are bringing early blossoms to ornamental trees, explosions of blooms from some rhododendrons and everywhere thick, lush grass. Even at 7,000 feet above sea level, Santa Fe New Mexico is recording daytime temps in the 60s. Folks are planting greens and perennials, often in containers, and the whole country side is greening up. (more…)
Growing evergreens takes planning, care … and water.
Our latest cold snap here in Bozeman is breaking and the forecast says that tomorrow the temperature will rise above freezing for the first time in, well, I don’t even want to think about it. As winter sets in more than a month before its calendar arrival, it reminds us how much we love evergreens. With the leaves dead and mostly gone from the deciduous trees, we never lack in our favorite color. Luckily conifers of all types keep us in green through the long winter.
We in the West love our pines and firs and spruce and junipers. Not only are there native varieties to plant, but grafted or otherwise naturally altered evergreens will also do well in cold and colder environments.The native conifers tend to be water-wise plants, able to exist in your natural xeriscape. (more…)
Why gardeners are more sensitive to the weather.
Your warm and friendly Planet Natural Blogger was all smug over finishing his last post about sticking bulbs in the ground late in the fall when Mother Nature delivered a well-deserved lesson. Almost everything depends on her.
So with the surface soil frozen solid and snow covering it anyway, bulb planting season is probably over for us here in Montana and in other parts of the country as well.
The temperatures are so cold that a friend who was hoping to keep a crop of greens going in his cold frame until Thanksgiving reports that despite plenty of mulch over the greens and a tarp over the frame (securely anchored) he’s lost his crop, except for maybe the kale. (more…)
Understanding hardiness zones and climactic conditions guarantees growing success.
The amount of light, food, and water an organic garden receives is only part of what determines whether the plants in the garden will thrive. Climate also plays a big role. The United States is a large country with many different regions and different climates. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Hardiness Zones map attempts to take the guesswork out of gardening by describing the average lowest temperatures for each area. But, hardiness zones only tell part of the story when it comes to deciding on the best plants to grow in each area of the country.
The Northeast makes up the states from Maryland up to Maine. Hardiness zones for the region range from zone 8a, with a minimum temperature of 10 degrees Fahrenheit to zone 3b, with a minimum temperature of -35 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, the gardening season kicks off in late March and early April in the Northeast. (more…)