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Sedum: A Sunny Ground Cover Solution

Is your landscape afflicted with poor, low-quality soil? Areas of scorching sun? A problematic bank or steep drop? Sedums can be the answer!

Why You Will Love Sedums

There is no reason any area of your landscape should go bare when there are so many spreading sedums that thrive under what would otherwise be adverse conditions. Easy-to-grow, sedums are available in a wide variety of leaf textures and heights to fit even awkward corners, narrow terraces or thin alleyways. Low-growing sedums not only act as a great ground cover for problem areas but also work well in unusual landscape designs such as rock gardens or on green roofs. Taller sedums look great when planted with ornamental grasses and easy perennials such as cone flowers and black-eyed-susans.

The thick, lush succulent can have any shade of green, gold, purple, red and even blue leaves, adding stunning color to your yard. Variegated foliage varieties add visual interest even when the plant is not blooming, ensuring a beautiful plant for a much longer season. Once planted, sedum varieties require very little care and do well even if neglected.

Our Favorite Sedums

Because sedums come in a variety of sizes, be sure to choose a plant with a mature size that will match your landscaping space. In addition to considering the plant’s horizontal spread, also consider its height to get the full visual impact of these great landscape additions.

The best tall sedums include…

  • Autumn Joy – 2’ tall with pink flowers
  • Autumn Fire – 2’ tall with rose flowers that mature to a deeper coppery red
  • Black Jack – 2’ tall featuring deep purple foliage with brighter pink flowers
  • Carl – 2’ tall with magenta flowers that bloom in late summer
  • Matrona – 3’ tall with pale pink blooms and gray-green foliage that shows a hint of pink
  • Purple Emperor – 1 ½’ tall featuring red flowers and dramatically deep purple foliage

For smaller spaces when a low-growing plant is needed, consider these low-growing sedums…

  • Angelina – needle-like, yellowish-peach foliage with yellow flowers
  • Blue Spruce – needle-like blue foliage with contrasting yellow flowers
  • Bronze Carpet – green foliage tinged white and pink and featuring red flowers
  • Dragon’s Blood – dramatic bronze-red foliage with deep pink flowers
  • John Creech – scalloped green foliage with pink flowers
  • Larinem Park – grey-green rounded foliage with white flowers
  • Vera Jameson – pink-tinged grey-green foliage with coordinating pink flowers

No matter what your landscaping needs and preferences – filling an awkward area, opting for an easy-care plant, adding drama and color to your garden plan – sedums can be the perfect solution.

Butterfly Bush

What could be more enjoyable than relaxing in your favorite lawn chair or hammock, your sunglasses on and a cool beverage in hand, staring at an enchanting array of colorful butterflies milling around their favorite plant? What could possibly be an easier way to accomplish this vision than by planting a simple butterfly bush?

About Butterfly Bush

Buddleia davidii, the butterfly bush, is a flowering maniac. It pushes its proliferation of perfumed blooms straight through summer and well into fall, providing nourishment to butterflies all season long. Available in a multitude of colors ranging from white to pink to red to purple, there are colorful butterfly bushes to match any garden or landscape color scheme. The fragrant, long, spiked panicles are borne in profusion on long, gracefully arching branches that add drama and elegance to the yard. And it really is a butterfly magnet!

Growing Butterfly Bush

This quick growing, deciduous, woody shrub is winter hardy in zones 5-10. In the northernmost areas of its hardiness range, Buddleia behaves like a herbaceous perennial, dying back to the ground in very cold winters. In the southernmost areas, Buddleia is grown as large shrub and can flourish all year. In either location, however, you should treat this plant as a cut back shrub. Because butterfly bush blooms on new wood, it benefits the plant to be cut back to the ground each spring. This judicious pruning will stimulate lavish new growth and an abundance of flowers. It will also keep some of the larger varieties at a manageable size, particularly in smaller yards, corners or other confined spaces.

Plant your butterfly bush in full sun in just about any type of soil and it will thrive. Don’t worry about fertilizing as over-fertilization can encourage too much leaf growth over flower formation. Deadheading will encourage additional growth and new flower buds to extend the blooming season. Buddleia has a good tolerance for drought once established, but should be carefully watered when young. A good, thick layer of mulch will help maintain soil moisture and keep weeds down to keep the shrub healthy. Just be sure not to use insecticides or pesticides on your butterfly bush or you may be harming the very fluttering fliers you hope to attract.

Not sure which butterfly bush to try? Consider these varieties to choose the perfect color and style to suit your yard.

Recommended Buddleia Varieties by Color

White Butterfly Bushes

  • ‘Nanho Alba’: 6-8’ height, blue-green leaves, mildly fragrant
  • ‘Silver Frost’: 5-6’ height, silver-gray leaves
  • ‘White Ball’: 3-4’ height, silver foliage, compact habit
  • ‘White Bouquet’: 8-10’ height, gray-green leaves, flowers have orange throat
  • ‘White Cloud’: 8-10’ height, gray-green leaves, flowers have yellow eye
  • ‘White Harlequin’: 8-10’ height, variegated leaves

Pink Butterfly Bushes

  • ‘Charming’: 6-10’ height, blue-green leaves, flowers have orange throat
  • ‘Fascination’: 8-12’ height, lilac-pink flowers with cupped petals
  • ‘Pink Delight’: 4-7’ height, gray-green leaves, true pink flowers, fragrant
  • ‘Summer Beauty’: 5-6’ height, silvery leaves, pink-rose flowers
  • ‘Summer Roae’: 8-10’ height, mauve-rose flowers, strong fragrance

Red Butterfly Bushes

  • ‘Burgundy’: 8-10’ height, magenta-red flowers, fragrant
  • ‘Dartmoor’: 8-10’ height, magenta flowers
  • ‘Harlequin’: 6-8’ height, variegated leaves, reddish-purple flowers
  • ‘Royal Red’: 10-12’ height, purple-red flowers, fragrant

Purple / Blue Butterfly Bushes

  • ‘Black Knight’: 8-10’ height, deep violet-dark purple flowers
  • ‘Bonnie’: 8-10’ height, light lavender flowers with orange eye, sweet fragrance
  • ‘Ellen’s Blue’: 5-6’ height, silver leaves, deep blue flowers, orange eye, fragrant
  • ‘Moon Shadow’: 3-4’ height, lilac purple buds open to lavender flowers
  • ‘Nanho Blue’: 6-8’ height, gray-green leaves, mauve-blue flowers, fragrant
  • ‘Orchid Beauty’: 6-8’ height, lavender-blue flowers, fragrant
  • ‘Potter’s Purple’: 6-10’ height, deep purple flowers, mild fragrance

Protecting Trees From Drought Stress

Summer can be the most stressful time of year for landscape plants with heat and drought being the main offenders. When not receiving sufficient moisture, plants are much more susceptible to insect and disease damage. Trees are the most valuable landscape plants and can be the most difficult to replace, so it is sensible that they should be given priority during periods of drought.

Identify Drought Trouble

Lack of water is not a clear indication of a drought when it comes to trees. Many trees have deep, active roots that can easily survive short periods without rain or moisture, but it is important to notice when they are starting to become drought-stressed. Wilting and curling leaves will appear on drought-stressed deciduous trees. Leaf edges will eventually turn brown and crispy and may drop prematurely. Evergreen needles will begin to turn brown at the tips. As the drought continues, the entire needle will turn brown.

Prioritize Which Trees to Help

Generally, the trees most at risk are those that are newly planted or transplanted, as well as any younger trees. The root system of these plants is underdeveloped or has been damaged by the planting. Trees that are growing in a restricted area should also be of greater concern. This includes trees planted in containers, the narrow grass strip between the street and sidewalk and trees grown adjacent to your house or driveway where they suffer more from reflected heat and have less underground space to spread their roots to collect sufficient moisture. Drought-sensitive plants like birches, beeches, dogwoods, Japanese maples and magnolias should also be given priority during drought conditions.

Watering During a Drought

It is best to begin good watering practices before the tree succumbs to drought stress. Trees need approximately one inch of water per week. If Mother Nature is not supplying it then you should.

It is best for the tree if the required water is applied all at one time to the soil, slowly and deeply. This can be accomplished by using irrigation bags on newly planted or small trees. Trees in a restricted area are best watered with a slow dripping hose placed at the base of the tree and moved frequently for even distribution. For larger trees, a soaker hose laid in a spiral pattern, radiating from the tree trunk out to the drip line, works well.

Take care that if your community has watering restrictions during drought conditions, you follow approved practices to maintain your trees without risking fines or fees from illegal watering.

Tips for Helping Drought-Stressed Trees

  • Always water the soil and not the leaves or needles of the tree.
  • 2-4 inches of mulch placed over the soil, under the tree, from the trunk to just beyond the drip line, will help conserve soil moisture. Do not mound mulch against the tree trunk, which can encourage insects.
  • Water on overcast days, early in the morning or in the evening. Evaporation is slower during these times and more water will soak down to the roots.
  • Fertilizer can injure tree roots during times of limited soil moisture. Avoid using fertilizer during drought conditions. If amendments are necessary, choose compost or other gentle options instead of harsher fertilizers.

You can help your trees resist drought conditions with a little thoughtful care, and they will continue to thrive to help provide shade and beauty in your landscape.

The Cottage Garden

English in origin, the primary function of the cottage garden was for growing vegetables, fruit and herbs for the home. Most herbs were used for medicinal purposes while the vegetables and fruit were a food source. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, however, the use of the cottage garden went from utilitarian to romantic and decorative. Today the cottage garden is full of color and variety with a cheerful disorder that is surprisingly contemporary and appealing to many gardeners.

Planning Your Cottage Garden

For the most authentic look, locate your garden in a sunny area on either side of the path leading to the front or kitchen door so everything growing in the garden is easily accessible. Cottage gardens are typically enclosed in a hedged, fenced or walled area and may extend right up to and even surround the house.

The classic charming English cottage garden will contain a tightly packed, random assortment of perennials, annuals and edible plants with a natural-looking path winding through the middle. Use mulch, stones or pavers for the walkway where a permanent one does not exist, but keep the path narrow to maximize growing space.

Another important addition to the cottage garden is a vertical element that enhances and expands growing space. Try a climbing rose on an arbor or fence, a honeysuckle, clematis or annual vine on a trellis or obelisk or a climbing hydrangea on a wall. A vertical element is a very important dimension in the cottage garden that will provide structure. Additional welcomed features to the cottage garden include vibrant hanging baskets hung from shepherds’ crooks and window boxes overflowing with color attached to your windowsills, garage or sat atop of a stone or brick wall. Cocoa-lined hayracks and hanging baskets will give a real Victorian look to your garden.

Enjoying Your Cottage Garden

The delightful informality of the cottage garden makes it a perfect place for garden accessories. If you have the space, include a bench or small seating area, ideally under an arbor or alongside a trellis. A small fountain, statue, gazing ball or bird bath can also add enjoyable elements to the garden. Opt for a bit of movement with hanging features such as wind chimes or decorative flags, or add a touch of whimsy with a fairy garden aspect, gnomes or toadstools. Around every corner, your cottage garden will have surprises to delight any visitor!

Growing Zucchini

Zucchini is one of the most popular vegetables choices for growing in the home garden. Not only is zucchini easy to grow, it is also tasty and nutritious, as well as versatile in a number of recipes. All summer squash, including zucchini, are rich in beta-carotene, folic acid, vitamins C and E and numerous healthful minerals. Zucchini can be eaten fresh, baked into bread, roasted, grilled, added to salads and so much more. So, grow zucchini, eat up and get healthy – we’ll supply the tips you need for successful growing and a bountiful harvest.

Planting

Sow zucchini seeds or seedlings about 2 weeks after the last frost date in full sun and well-drained, nutritious garden soil. It is best to plant zucchini in hills, three plants in each, to ensure warm soil and good drainage. Hills should be about 8 inches high and 12 inches in diameter. Set hills at least three feet apart, as these plants are dense and require plenty of room for good air circulation.

Care

Zucchini plants will thrive in regular garden soil. If your soil is poor then you may wish to fertilize or amend the soil with compost. Keep zucchini plants evenly watered throughout the season. Mulch the garden bed with salt hay to keep it free of weeds and to retain soil moisture. If growing zucchini horizontally, mulch will keep the fruit clean by preventing it from coming into contact with the soil.

Staking

Zucchini is a vine and may be grown vertically, with assistance, on vegetable netting or a fence, trellis or lattice. Plants and fruit are heavy, so be certain to secure the vine carefully as it grows and watch for any signs of breakage that could damage maturing vegetables.

Harvesting

Zucchini is best and has the best flavor if it is harvested when young and tender, about 6 inches long. Use pruning shears or a garden knife to cut zucchini from the vine. Never pull the fruit off, which can damage the vine as well as the vegetable.

Pests

A number of pests will like zucchini just as much as you do, but there are steps you can take to keep your zucchini patch pest-free.

  • Cucumber Beetle: These insects will skeletonize the zucchini leaves, resulting in lower yields and smaller vegetables. Plant resistant varieties and hand pick the beetles.
  • Squash Bugs: Yellow spotting on zucchini leaves that turn brown identifies squash bug damage. Eventually the leaves then turn black and crispy. Control this pest when plants are young. Look for eggs on the underside of zucchini leaves and crush them.
  • Squash Vine Borer: This pest first presents itself with wilting leaves. Upon inspection you will see orange ‘sawdust’ at the base of the plant. Use floating row covers if planting early or hold off on planting zucchini until after July 4th when the insect egg laying is completed.
  • Blossom End Rot: This disease appears as a dark, leathery patch on the blossom end of the zucchini. It is caused by either uneven soil moisture or a soil calcium deficiency. Do not allow soil to dry out between watering, and add calcium to the soil with dolomitic lime or gypsum to ensure proper nutrition.

Recipes

Try these delicious treats to make the most of your zucchini harvest!

Grilled Zucchini

Ingredients

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1/4 cup Italian-style salad dressing

Directions

  • Slice zucchini into 1/4 inch thick slices (peel first if desired). Toss in a bowl with Italian dressing.
  • Place on a hot grill about 4 to 5 minutes or until nice grill marks appear and the zucchini is slightly limp. Serve and enjoy.

Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups peeled, grated zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch bread pans.
  • Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda and cinnamon together in a bowl.
  • Beat eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar together in a large bowl.
  • Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture and beat well.
  • Stir in zucchini and nuts (if desired) until well combined.
  • Pour batter into prepared pans.
  • Bake for 40-60 minutes or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes.

Remove bread from pan, and cool completely.

Naturescaping With Regional Perennial Wildflowers

There’s no need to sacrifice beauty when designing or redesigning your yard or garden to be more nature-friendly. Naturescaping is an approach to garden and landscape design that will help save time, money and energy while providing an attractive and healthy habitat for wildlife and people. Readily available native wildflowers can add remarkable beauty to your environment, and since they are adapted to our climate and soils, they require little, if any, supplemental watering, fertilizing or care and are less susceptible to pests and disease. Native plants also attract a variety of native birds, butterflies, moths and bees essential for pollination. As an added bonus, native wildflowers are often less expensive to purchase, and you may even be able to get some varieties free by sharing with neighbors, botanical gardens, wildlife centers or extension services that are encouraging more native planting.

Choosing Native Flowers

There are many beautiful native flowers to choose from, but they won’t all thrive in every yard. When selecting, be certain to match the plant’s moisture requirements and exposure preferences to your site, taking into consideration growth patterns, available space and mature sizes. Also consider choosing flowers with different bloom times so your yard puts on a native show all season long, and tier different plant heights to create layers of natural color and beauty. Then plant, sit back, relax and enjoy!

Of the Variegated Variety: Variegated Shrubs for the Landscape

Variegated shrubs can brighten up a dull or shady border and add interest in the garden when flowers are scarce but more drama is desired. But which variegated shrubs are best for your landscape, without creating too much patterning or distractions?

How to Plant Variegated Shrubs

While a variegated shrub with its eye-catching foliage can be a lovely addition to the yard, too many of these unusual plants can overwhelm your landscape. Avoid planting variegated shrubs next to each other or too close together where different foliage patterns can clash. Instead, plant them among plain foliage plants where the leaf coloring will be highlighted and therefore better appreciated. At the same time, avoid creating distinct stripes, polka dots or other predictable patterns in the yard, and instead opt for more organic, flowing lines that will add elegance to the natural variegation of the foliage.

Top Variegated Shrubs

There are many beautiful variegated shrubs you can choose from, and it is best to investigate tried-and-true options at your local nursery or note what showy shrubs you like best at a local park or botanical garden. To get you started, consider these amazing and popular variations…

  • Carol Mackie Daphne (Daphne x burkwodii ‘Carol Mackie’) – Semi-evergreen. Yellow leaf margins that mature to creamy-white. Part shade.
  • Dappled Willow (Salix integra ‘Hakuro-nishiki’) – Deciduous. Emerging pink foliage matures to variegated creamy-white and green. Sun to part shade.
  • Emerald-N-Gold Euonymous (Euonymous fortune ‘Emerald n Gold’) – Evergreen. Rounded, olive-green leaves with bright yellow margins turn pinkish-burgundy in the winter. Sun to part shade.
  • Gold Dust Aucuba (Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’) – Evergreen. Large, glossy, green foliage splattered with yellow. Part shade.
  • Variegated Boxwood (Buxus semperivrens ‘Elegantissima’) – Evergreen. Small, medium-green leaves with creamy white to gold margins. Sun to part shade.
  • Variegated English Holly (Ilex aquifolium ‘Argenteo Mariginata’) – Evergreen. Dark, shiny green leaves with creamy-white margins. Sun to part shade.
  • Variegated Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Variegata’) – Deciduous. Large leaves with bright-white, uneven margins. Dappled sun with afternoon shade.
  • Variegated Japanese Kerria (Kerria japonica ‘Variegata’) – Deciduous. White-edged narrow green leaves. Part shade to shade.
  • Variegated Japanese Pieris (Pieris japonica ‘Variegata’) – Evergreen. Deep green leaves with a wide, white margin. Part shade.
  • Variegated Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’) – Deciduous. Leaves mottled and edged with white. Sun to part shade.
  • Variegated Wegelia (Wegelia florida ‘Variegata’) – Deciduous. Medium-green leaves broadly edged in creamy-white maturing to lime-green. Sun to part shade.
  • Variegated Yellow Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Silver and Gold’) – Deciduous. Creamy-white wavy margins. Sun to part shade.
  • Variegated Winter Daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureo-marginata’) – Semi-evergreen. Gold-edged green leaves. Part shade.

Whichever variegated shrub you prefer, be sure you choose a variety that will thrive in your yard. Pay close attention to soil quality, watering and sunlight needs, or else the foliage coloration may be far less brilliant than expected. Take steps to minimize pests or wildlife that may nibble on leaves, and carefully nurture the shrubs until they are well-established. By choosing a variegated shrub thoughtfully and providing it the proper care, you can easily add dramatic, multi-colored foliage to your landscape.

Perennial Flowering Vines

Vines are valuable and versatile plants that provide a remarkable vertical display while using minimal ground space. Offering an extensive mixture of decorative foliage, flowers, fruits and fragrance, vines are generally fast-growing, relatively pest-free and require minimal maintenance.

Why Choose Vines?

There are numerous uses for vines in the landscape. They can visually soften fences, walls and trellises or dress-up a lamp or mailbox post. They will provide summer shade when grown over an arbor, gazebo frame or pergola. Vines may be used to provide privacy by screening a patio or porch and can define any outdoor living space when used to create living outdoor walls or green barriers.

Three things should be considered when selecting a vine for your garden:

  1. Intended Use
    If you want a thick barrier or screening look, opt for vines that will provide dense foliage, but if you prefer a more delicate vine, choose plants with more space in their foliage. Check flowering options, growth speed and how much training the vine will need to reach its full potential. At the same time, consider how the foliage is shed in autumn and how much care the vine may need to stay in good condition.
  2. Planting Location
    Like any plant in your landscaping, vines will have specific needs for sunlight, soil condition and watering. Also consider the size of the space where your vine will live to be sure it won’t crowd out nearby plants or be stunted in a too-small space. Condition the soil appropriately to nourish your vine, and adjust a drip system or sprinklers to provide adequate water as needed.
  3. Vine Support
    Vines need adequate support to stay upright and sturdy. Because vines climb in several different ways, support is critical. Wires, spirals, trellises, fences or arbors should support vines that use tendrils or a twining stem. Other vines attach themselves with aerial rootlets. These vines grow best on brick or stone walls. Some vines have no natural method to attach to a vertical structure and will just sprawl if not manually assisted with garden wire or string to an appropriate support.

You will want your vine to thrive for many years to come, therefore you must select the right vine for your chosen location. Use the chart below to learn about some of the more common, landscape-friendly vines you can welcome into your yard.

Click the image above to view full size.

Summer Blooming Trees

When choosing flowering trees for the landscape, we often tend to make our selections from the long list of ostentatious spring blooming trees that are all so common and familiar in every yard. At the same time, we tend to overlook the more reserved, yet exceptionally elegant, summer blooming trees that can add so much drama and beauty to every space. Check out this selection and consider one or two to round out the seasons when considering your next landscape addition.

  • Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
    Delicate crepe paper like flowers flourish in mid- to late summer in an assortment of colors like pink, fuchsia, coral, lavender, violet and red.
  • Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus)
    This small, multi-stemmed, native tree features fragrant, showy, fringe-like white flowers in early summer just as many spring bloomers are fading.
  • Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria paniculata)
    This medium tree is a showstopper with small, yellow flowers borne in large, upright panicles in July, just in time for summer parties.
  • Japanese Pagoda Tree (Sophora japonica)
    A medium-large tree with creamy-white, slightly fragrant flowers borne in hanging drapes 6-12” long, this beauty offers late summer elegance from August through early September.
  • Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia)
    Pure white, camellia-like flowers with orange anthers bloom solitary in succession from June to August, giving plenty of drama and beauty through the season.
  • Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulate)
    This small tree offers fragrant, off-white, tiny flowers borne in showy, large, terminal panicles in early summer.
  • Korean Dogwood (Cornus kousa)
    Dramatic flowers with four large, showy, white bracts that age to a delicate pink sit atop tree foliage for up to six weeks in early summer.
  • Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboretum)
    Fragrant, lily-of-the-valley-like flowers drip from branch tips in summer with excellent scarlet fall color, making this tree both a summer and autumn favorite.
  • Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)
    Flowers, borne singly, have large, 6-8 inches wide, pure white petals. These trees bloom sporadically through the summer months.
  • Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)
    Fragrant, showy, white flowers appear throughout the summer, similar to but smaller than those of the Southern Magnolia.
  • Yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea)
    A native tree with fragrant, white flowers borne in summer on pendulous, wisteria-like panicles. This tree often flowers on alternate years but is stunning when it does.

Any of these beauties can be a dramatic and welcome addition to summer landscaping, reaching their peak just at the time when spring blooms are fading and autumn flowers and foliage are weeks away from brilliance.

General Soil Amendments

We’ve all heard of the importance of amending the soil properly for gardening and landscaping, but the number of soil amendments sold in garden centers often confuses gardeners. Which is which, and which will work best for your soil conditioning needs?

Types of Soil Amendments

Soil amendments fall into two basic categories, inorganic and organic. Inorganic amendments come from non-living materials such as sand, perlite, vermiculite and crushed stone. With the exception of limestone and gypsum, which are used to increase soil calcium, these are not commonly used in the garden.

However, organic amendments are the opposite. They come from previously living materials such as peat, manures and composts. When leaves, bark, peat, animals and animal wastes are mixed together to decompose, compost or “humus” is the final product. Very commonly used, these materials enrich the soil by increasing the air spaces, adding extra nutrients to the soil, improving the absorption of those nutrients and increasing overall soil fertility.

Why You Need Soil Amendments

Excellent soil is not common around most homes. Even if it was initially, house construction and roadwork often removes the good soil and construction equipment compacts the remaining soil. Furthermore, heavy use of the remaining turf – children and pets playing, for example – continues to compact the soil. Chemical treatments, runoff from gutters and downspouts, removal of existing plants, changes in local wildlife – all of these factors can wreak havoc on soil.

Adding organics loosens compacted soil and results in better gardens. Incorporate organics into the beds throughout the year by working evergreen needles, leaves and lawn clippings into the soil. Amendments such as peat or lime can improve a pH problem, if one exists. Calcium and magnesium deficiencies can be corrected using organic materials such as bone meal or wood ashes, or inorganic materials such as limestone, gypsum or soft rock phosphate.

Mulching is another simple way to add biodegradable materials to the soil. Simply place mulch around the plant, leaving several inches bare closest to the stem to discourage insect invasions and rot. In addition to slowly providing nutrients as it decomposes, mulching is attractive, reduces weeds and erosion, maintains soil temperature and prevents “crusting” that occurs when soil becomes too dry.

Another advantage of adding organics is the attraction of worms. They further assist in the decomposition, increase aeration and leave worm castings, a valuable organic material, behind. A healthy garden is home to many worms, and it all starts with adding organic soil amendments.

Whether you opt for organic or inorganic soil amendments, if you use them properly, you soil will improve and your landscaping, flowerbeds and garden will look better than ever.