The Art of Great Gardening: Plant a chemical-free garden
I am often asked how to create beautiful flower gardens without chemical weed killers and fertilizers.ﾠ There are many ways to create and maintain beautiful ornamental gardens.ﾠ You can plan your garden as to front of border, mid-group planting and back of border ﾖ creating on paper the colors and forms you want to appear in the garden.ﾠ ﾠ
I, myself, am more of the school of ﾓwhere do I put this plant or plant these seeds?ﾔﾠ Should the plant be in sun, shade, north facing, east facing, partial shade, full sun?ﾠ And, how do I enhance the buildings or sculptures, the pond, etc. on the property? In other words what is the natural setting of my garden in relation to the buildings and the lay-out of the land.ﾠ I find, that for myself, that, as in nature, every color and form tend to complement everything else.ﾠﾠ
Of course, this makes for a wild and rather uncontrolled garden with deep purple gladiolus coming up next to lavender coneflower, white amni, and with a yellow ground cover of Creeping Lizzie!ﾠﾠ I have learned over the years that you can easily lift out something that doesnﾒt work and plant it elsewhere.ﾠ Sometimes I have changed the location of a plant two or three times till I find the right spot aesthetically or for environmental factors, such as protection from winter winds, more or less shade, for example.
The only fertilizer I use is compost unless a plant specifically needs an amendment such as sweet peas that need lime or a good bulb food for my bulbs, but I suspect that well made compost will provide the same benefit for the bulbs.ﾠ The only weed killer I use is, myself, is digging them out or using any grandchildren, other family members or friends or strangers I can bribe, persuade or flirt with to get to help.ﾠ Seriously, although I do the weed digging by hand, I do use the garden knife, a hari hari, which I find indispensible for getting out only what you want.ﾠ By the way, you can do almost any garden chore with one of these knives.ﾠ It will cut through grasses, bulb clumps, roots, etc.ﾠ I wouldnﾒt be without one.
For weed suppression and moisture retention I use wood chips.ﾠ If you start a garden from scratch you can lay down weed barrier materials that allow light and moisture in, but prevent weeds from growing up through the barrier.ﾠ This can be costly, but if your garden is small it could be worth it.ﾠ If certain plants such as my willows, roses, mallow or hollyhocks get hit with Japanese beetles, pyrethrin/ rotenone will knock them down or control them at any rate.ﾠ For deer predation I control with Liquid Fence, which I find the best for me to keep deer away.
I love ground covers as a living mulch.ﾠ My favorites are ajuga (bugleweed) and Vinca (periwinkle).ﾠ These ground covers suppress weeds and if they get overgrown in the garden bed or you want to make more room for other plants, you can simply dig them out and transplant them to other locations or give them to friends.ﾠ I particularly love ajuga because of its beauty, both leaves and flowers, its compatability with all kinds of soil, including our more acid soil, and it will thrive in shade, partial shade or full sun.ﾠ It spreads inﾠ clumps, blooms with purple spikes first thing in spring and again in fall when everything else is dying back except the mums.ﾠ The purple of the ajuga sets off any color of mum beautifully.
Vinca is a great ground cover for hillsides and we see it used that way most commonly.ﾠ When hiking deep in forests I have found it along streams or at abandoned old homesteads.ﾠ In fact, whenever I see vinca in the woods I know there was a homestead there at one time.ﾠ Vinca has a lovely glossy green leaf and the most beautiful periwinkle blue flower.ﾠ It has now been cultivated to have pink or white flowers.ﾠ I am particularly partial to white in the ornamental garden.ﾠ The use of the color white throughout the beds will bring out the colors in everything else.ﾠ I would suggest you go with what works for you and donﾒt forget to mix flowering shrubs and trees in with your flowers.
Some annuals will self-seed and even though not perennial, will come back year after year.ﾠ Some of these annuals are Love In A Mist, Honeywort, Petunias and many, many others ﾠﾠThere are also seeds that need planting in fall or in late winter or very early spring.ﾠ Those seeds need the cold and rough of winter, the freezes and thaws of the soil to reproduce themselves.ﾠ One clue about this is to watch when flowers set and drop their seeds.ﾠ A plant such as a lupine form and drop their seeds in fall and if you collect these seeds and plant each one individually in the garden at that time, they will be there for you early next spring.ﾠ When aﾠ flower produces many, many seeds it will have a higher ratio of not producing from each seed. ﾠﾠYou may want to scatter these throughout your garden.ﾠ Itﾒs nice to have the same flowers reappear here and there in your gardens, creating a kind of theme to the garden.
If you donﾒt have compost (perish the thought!) there are many organic fertilizers on the market.ﾠ More and more people do not want chemicals in their gardens.ﾠ I like to feel my grandchildren are safe in among the flowers and that picking them wonﾒt expose them to unnecessary chemicals.
There is a large demand now for organically grown cut flowers.ﾠ You can market at farmers markets, restaurants, hotels, spas, flowers for weddings and other special events.ﾠ Organic is the keyword here for any fine restaurant that wants to promote healthy eating and the demand for these flowers is growing.ﾠ We will be doing this locally so watch for our flowers and bouquets at various establishments.ﾠ ﾠ
Gail Hyer, of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, once told me she loved every flower in Godﾒs creation.ﾠ Junior Wilson told me that if heﾒs broken down somewhere and needs to use a phone, if thereﾒs a mansion with no flowers around it or a shack with flowers, he would always choose the shack.ﾠ Helen Bentley of Peaceful Mountain Nursery on Rt. 219 gets a lovely beatific expression whenever she talks about flowers!
Flowers can smell luscious such as roses and phlox and lilies, some are edible such as nasturtiums and all do restore our souls, soothe our eyes and can be so spectacularly beautiful as to take our breath away.