Blooming in spring and summer, the hydrangea is considered a shrub. But despite their ability to be rather large showstoppers in your yard, how to grow hydrangeas isn’t a question even the novice gardener will need to ask – these beauties all but grow themselves. Reaching up to 15 feet in height, the hydrangea grows quickly and often fills in a space in just one summer. You’ll find hydrangeas growing in hardiness Zones 3 to 7 as perennials. With flowers starting in spring and often last throughout summer into early fall, hydrangea flowers can be the foundation plant of your landscape.
Plant this Looking for a flowering shrub with zing? Try hydrangea ‘Kardinal Violet’. On acidic soil, its flowers are violet and purple; on neutral or alkaline soil, they are pink. Bred to flower all summer, at 1.5m x 1.5m it is compact enough for most gardens. It likes a moist spot in full sun or partial shade.
Hydrangea Aspera Sargentiana
Sun tolerance: partial sun Bloom size: 8″ plus Mature size (feet): 10 x 10
Hydrangea sargentiana, knows as Sargent’s hydrangea, is an upright, rounded, deciduous shrub
Best grown in rich, evenly moist, well-drained soils in part shade. Tolerates full sun only if grown with consistently moist soils.
Add aluminum sulfate to the soil to make the flowers bluer or add lime to the soil to make the flowers pinker. Soil treatments should be commenced well in advance of flowering. Flowers bloom on old wood. Prune after flowering by cutting back the flowering stems to a pair of healthy buds. Prune out weak or winter-damaged stems in early spring.
Here’s a great tip from the organic gardening channel MIGardener. He shows how to flick your tomato flowers to increase your harvest from about 25% to about 100%. What would be some other great plants to try this method with?
When digging a hole for your roses, size matters and is a key factor in giving them a great start.
Whether you’re planting container roses or bare-root roses, you will need to dig a hole that is both wide enough to accomodate the root structure. Having your hole deep enough is paramount to good drainage.
Give at least three feet of space between your rose bushes when planting to allow for room to grow as your plants mature.
Research has shown that spending time outside is good for our bodies and our minds. I’m sure you’ve experienced these benefits: After feeling stressed out or bored indoors, you step outside and your spirits lift.
One great way to spend time outdoors is to garden. My dad always had a garden when I was a kid, and now I understand more about what drew him to it. I’ve always enjoyed being outside and gardening, but it took on special significance for me when I was recovering from an extended illness. As I began to recover, I felt compelled to greatly expand my garden beds and the things I planted, even though I was still struggling physically and mentally.
The experience seemed to accelerate my own healing. It felt like even as I was building the garden, it was helping me come back to life. One day as I stood in the afternoon sunlight and looked with amazement at all that had grown, I felt my own strength that had returned over the same stretch of time.
This personal experience along with numerous studies about the positive effects of time outside made me curious to explore the many benefits of gardening.
Recently I discussed this topic on the Think Act Be podcast with professional gardener Joe Lamp’l, creator of joe gardener®.
Here are 10 benefits of gardening that emerged from our conversation:
1. Practicing Acceptance. Most of our suffering comes from trying to control things that we can’t. The more we can accept the limits of our control and the unpredictability of life, the more peace of mind we can find—and gardening is a great way to practice. “Every day is one more reminder from Mother Nature that I’m not in control,” Lamp’l said, which he finds helpful as a self-described “control freak.”
I learned to practice acceptance in my own garden as the first baby lettuces were ready to harvest in mid-April. I had looked forward to spending time in the garden with my family, but when my 4- and 8-year-old daughters asked if they could help me harvest the lettuce, I was less than enthusiastic. What if they “messed up” my carefully planted garden? What if they broke off the stem instead of a leaf?
Thankfully I managed to get over myself and welcome them into the garden even with the possibility that they could break something. I realized that a “perfect garden” could wind up being a pretty lonely place, which wasn’t my idea of perfection.
Acceptance in the garden or elsewhere doesn’t mean giving up, of course. We bring our best efforts to what we can control, and we let go of the rest. With gardening that means “preparing the best environment you can possibly make for your plants,” said Lamp’l, and allowing nature to take it from there. Your garden (like your life) is in bigger hands than yours.
2. Moving Beyond Perfectionism. If you’re prone to perfectionism, you’re probably well aware of the costs. Trying to make things perfect can lead to frustration, missed deadlines and opportunities, and strained relationships. It can also lead to not even trying to do something, with a mentality of “why bother if it can’t be perfect?”
Given the lack of control we have, gardening can be a good antidote for perfectionism. No matter how carefully you plan and execute your garden, there are countless factors you can’t predict—invasions by bugs, inclement weather, hungry rodents. Years ago one of our neighbors had a beautiful garden growing until a neighboring resident sprayed weed killer on a windy day, damaging many of my neighbor’s vegetable plants.
Gardening offers an endless supply of these kinds of “neutralizers for perfectionism,” as Lamp’l called them. He confessed to being a perfectionist himself and knows firsthand that “pursuit of perfection is a waste of time—especially in the garden. So don’t bother!”
3. Developing a Growth Mindset. The inability to garden perfectly is actually cause for celebration. Psychologist Carol Dweck developed the distinction between “fixed” and “growth” mindsets, and gardening is a great opportunity to develop the latter. With a growth mindset, we assume that we’re constantly learning. When something doesn’t work out the way we had hoped, we view it as a learning opportunity rather than as a “failure.”
We can even look forward to our mistakes. “I love making mistakes,” said Lamp’l, “because I look at them as a chance to learn something new. Through those mishaps, you can understand what happened and why, and you can be empowered to relate that learning to new things.” So more mistakes just mean more learning and more growing.
I certainly make my share of gardening mistakes and find a growth mindset to be so helpful. For example, this season I experimented with a seeding method that I didn’t do quite right and ended up with plants that were overcrowded and nearly impossible to disentangle when it came time to put the seedlings in the garden beds. My initial reaction was to feel stress about needing to “do it the right way,” and then I realized all I had to do was the best I could do, and I would learn something for my fall planting.
4. Connecting with Others. Few things boost our well-being like good relationships, and gardening offers ample opportunities to connect with others. Lamp’l noted that “gardening is one of the best ways to connect strangers” and quickly become friends “because we have that gardening thing in common.”
I’ve experienced that quick connection myself when meeting other gardeners, and there’s so much to talk about—not only the nuts and bolts of gardening but the emotional and spiritual connections we can experience with our gardens. “It’s a collective effort,” said Lamp’l, “and we’re all better together when we share our experiences.”
5. Connecting to Your World. Gardening provides a connection not just to other people but to our world. Many people feel that connection in a visceral way when they eat food they’ve just harvested. “We all have an innate connection to the earth,” said Lamp’l, “and that connection manifests itself when we consume what came from the ground—which is where we came from and where we all end up.”
Having a garden really means having a relationship with the plot of ground you’re tending. Since I’ve gotten more into gardening I’ve had to be much more aware of the elements: the first and last frosts of the season, how much rain we’ve had, the temperature, where sunlight falls throughout the day. Gardening also connects us intimately with the cycle of the seasons.
And as Lamp’l described, it’s easy to feel “like a parent” to one’s growing plants. “You nurture the seedlings and do everything you can for them,” he said, “and then it’s like you’re putting your babies in the soil”—much as we might nurture a young child who eventually heads out to meet the world. “They don’t call it a ‘nursery’ for nothing!” Lamp’l continued. “I put a lot of care and emotion into the garden.”
6. Bathing in Green. The Japanese expression “shinrin-yoku” can be translated “forest bathing,” which nicely captures the experience of being immersed in green. A growing body of research has found all kinds of benefits from being in natural landscapes.
These studies have found evidence that being in green, or even being able to look out on a green landscape, is linked with better recovery from surgery, less anxiety and depression, better stress management, and many other positive effects.
The nice thing about a garden is that it can be right out your back door. And while you could just as easily spend time sitting in your yard, you’re much more likely to be outside consistently when the work of a garden requires it.
7. Being Present. Mindful presence is tied to a long list of positive outcomes, like relationship satisfaction and less emotional reactivity. The garden can be a protected place where we practice being where we are and actually doing what we’re doing.
Lamp’l described finding his “Zen moment” in his garden, where he tunes in to his experience. For example, while he generally loves to listen to podcasts, he doesn’t when he’s in the garden. “That’s sacred time for me,” he said. “When I’m out there weeding, I want to hear the birds. I don’t want to hear anything else. It’s a quiet time, and I relish it.”
I often find that centering effect in my own garden. Just last night after heavy rain I sat in my garden in the dying light of the day and took in what was around me. It was striking how quickly I felt a sense of ease.
8. Physical Exercise. Moving your body regularly is an effective way to boost mood and lower anxiety, and gardening offers “no shortage of opportunities for physical activity,” said Lamp’l. Even when he’s not able to get to the gym consistently, he maintains muscle tone and feels good through daily work in his garden.
The movements are varied, too, which may mean fewer repetitive use injuries compared to more structured exercise. “When I do my weeding, I’m on my belly, on my butt, lying on my side—doing a lot of things you probably do in a yoga class,” he said. “I can give up my gym membership.”
9. Reducing Stress. Not surprisingly, time in your garden can be a great way to release stress. There’s something about feeling the life all around you, the warmth of the sun, the soil in your hands. As I sit in my own garden these days I see rainbow Swiss chard and lettuces shaking in the wind, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries ripening, and feel the breeze as clouds move across the blue sky.
Just don’t forget to spend time simply being in your garden. There’s always the next thing to do, as Lamp’l pointed out, so take time deliberately to step away from activity and experience what’s around you.
10. Eating Healthfully. Last but not least, a garden can yield the freshest and healthiest foods available—the types of food that can have a significant impact on our mental health. For example, two studies showed that dietary changes can be an effective treatment for depression.
Studies in this area tend to find benefits of the “Mediterranean” (and similar) diet, which emphasizes consuming minimally processed whole foods—exactly the types of food that your garden will yield. Plus there’s the added benefit of knowing you played a role in growing the food.
How to Get Started
Ready to start a garden of your own? Here are six quick tips that Lamp’l recommends for beginners.
Just start. Decide that you’re going to get started, even though you don’t know how it’s going to go or even exactly what you’re doing. “Try it, and so what if you fail?” asked Lamp’l. “The worst that will happen is you’ll learn something. And that’s worth the price of a plant, every time.”
Start slow. Lamp’l noted that it’s easy to get excited when starting out and plant too much, which ends up being hard to keep up with. As a result, you could end up feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. So get started, but don’t overdo it. You can always add to your garden over time. A simple first step is to grow something in a container that you can put close to your house, so it’s easy to take care of and enjoy seeing every day.
Focus on healthy soil. Successful gardening starts literally from the ground up, according to Lamp’l. “Soil is life. When you focus on that, good things happen.” He strongly advises gardeners to avoid synthetic chemicals and “start feeding the soil with organic material.” That can include compost, the “single best thing you can add to the soil because there’s so much in it,” and anything else that nature provides, like shredded leaves, shredded bark, or aged manure.
Grow what you like. Choose fruits and vegetables to grow based on “what you want to eat or what you like looking at,” advised Lamp’l. “Grow something that’s easy and that grows quickly, like a radish or lettuce.” The ease and quick reward will be motivation to stick with it.
Know your plants’ needs. “Learn something about the plant before you stick it in the ground,” said Lamp’l. “Read the plant tag so you know if it likes sun or shade and wet or dry, and do your best to give it the environment it wants to thrive in.” After all, plants can’t move themselves, so it’s up to us to “put the right plant in the right place.” Your plants will reward you for it.
Pay attention to your plants. Spend at least a little time in your garden every day observing what’s happening. That way you can “be proactive when problems arise and can circumvent potentially bigger problems,” said Lamp’l. Besides, there’s really no downside to spending time in your garden, given all the benefits discussed here.
Between the convenience of having flavourful herbs on hand whenever you need, and the satisfaction that comes with knowing you grew them yourself, there are lots of reasons to consider starting an indoor herb garden. Imagine seasoning your fresh tomato sauce with a few leaves of freshly picked basil, sprinkling a pinch of cilantro in your homemade guacamole, or tossing a sprig of rosemary on your roasted vegetables. As idyllic as it sounds, though, these little herbs pose big challenges for the aspiring indoor gardener. Most require at least six to eight hours of bright light each day and enough water to thrive – but not so much water that their roots will rot.
Here’s a list of great herbs that you can grow right in your home!
Grow lemon balm plants for a single year for best flavor. Plant it indoors in the fall, grow indoors through winter, then you can plant it outside for spring and summer.
Chives grow almost anywhere. Harvest them at the base (like cutting grass), no more than one third of the bunch at a time.
Growing mint indoors may be the best plan for most of us. Containerizing mint keeps it from growing all over the yard and garden. All varieties are suitable for indoors.
If you choose to start parsley from seed, soak it in warm water to crack the seed coat before sowing it.
Use the smaller globe types of basil for indoor growing. Many of the larger types are too large and will cause space problems.
Also known as bay leaf. This shrub can get quite large if left unpruned. It works well indoors through the cold months, but performs best if kept outdoors in warm weather.
Cilantro is short-lived by its nature. Start a succession of seedlings at two or three week intervals to keep a supply going all the time.
Thyme is adaptable to pots as small as four to six inches. Simply repot it from a nursery plant, or divide a larger plant that has grown outdoors. Like rosemary and sage, it is easy to propagate from cuttings as well.
Lemongrass can be grown from seed, purchased as a starter plant, or propagated in water from the fresh herb in the grocery store.
Oregano is easy to propagate from cuttings or by division. Take a few cuttings at the end of summer and root out in a cup of water. Fresh oregano is much milder than dried. Use it at the end of the cooking process so that its flavor is not lost.
Take cuttings of outdoor rosemary at the end of summer to grow indoors through winter. Start with a four inch cutting from a branch tip, strip the lower foliage and stick it into potting soil. Cover with plastic to retain humidity as it roots.
Buy a starter plant or start it from cuttings off an established plant. Simply snip off the growing tips from a plant outdoors and stick them in a pot with good potting soil. Keep the cutting moist and it will root in a few weeks.
Kaffir lime is another woody plant used for its foliage. As with bay laurel, give it outdoor time in the summer if possible.
Use an ice cream cone In the short video, a dry wafer ice cream cone is used to place seeds inside to help them grow. After the seeds have blossomed, the cone is then placed into a larger pot outside where it will eventually naturally decompose. It acts a biodegradable seed starter and will help flowering plants.
Growing green onions in an empty egg carton The next brilliant tip is to regrow green onions in an empty egg carton, instead of throwing them away. Turn the egg container upside down, pierce a small hole in the top and place in the ends of the green onions. Ensure there is water in the bottom and watch them grow overnight.
Rusty nails can help revive plants Not sure how to put your old rusty nails to use? This trick is an easy and smart way to save your plants, using something as simple as an old metal nail. Simply place rusty metal nails with water into a bottle and leave for a few days until the water has turned a brown-like colour. Then pour the water onto your wilting plants and watch their leaves revive again. The rust releases iron which is crucial in helping to nourish dying plants.
One of the most joyous times of year is during the first days of spring when you can watch your garden come to life. Fragrance is bursting forth from beautifully coloured beds and the chirping of happy little birds and lush greenery are all around you.
A springtime garden is a real delight, so full of life and potential, however, there’s also a bit of work involved in maintaining a healthy, beautiful garden so here are some great spring gardening tips.
After winter, you may find that your raised beds are now filled with mud, vegetation laying on the ground needs to be cleaned up and your tools may need a thorough cleaning.
Before starting any large tasks, make sure to check your inventory. Figure out what you have on hand make a list of what you need. This is a great time to stock up on supplies as there may be spring gardening sales near you. Creating a list will help keep you on track and prevent over-buying of things you may not need.
Examine and care for your raised beds.
After winter, your beds may need to be repaired or even replaced. Check to see if there’s anything left alive in them and clear out any dead plants and leaves. Make sure to remove all the weeds and prune overgrown shrubs. Early spring is the best time to work on your raised beds to make sure they will be fresh and ready for planting. This is also the time to Divide your perennials if they’re getting to big. Simply dig them up and divide them. If you have extra, you can give them to your friends, family or neighbors. It’s a nice way to share your gardening experience and you just never know what you might get in return.
Planting, sorting and preparing.
Your ground may be too soggy to plant in right now. If that’s the case, use this time to organize. Sort your plants, cuttings and seeds. Decide which you will plant first, maybe even mark the planting locations on paper or actually at each location with a marker. Kudos to you if you already had your seeds sorted into warm and cold weather categories so you don’t need to do it now, in the spring.
Once your soil is dry enough, start planting your spring cool weather plants. There are many choice when it comes to planting in the spring, including kale, lettuce, radish, broccoli, spinach and peas just to name a few. Remember to use your organic compost to add important nutrients to your soil.
Since seeds are less expensive than plants, you can save some money by planting warm weather plants, indoors and then relocated to the garden once it warms up. These warm weather plants include cucumbers, runner beans, tomatoes, peppers and melons just to name a few.
Repair damage from pests.
Look for mounds of soil which could be indicative of gopher and mole tunnels. Fill in the holes and collapse all the tunnels. Reseed with grass and keep checking to make sure these pests don’t return. Check also for rodents that may have gnawed on your wood, wires, strings and ropes. Also check your bags for chewed holes. Check to make sure pests haven’t moved into your birdhouses.
How are your garden stones structures doing?
After a long winter, take some time to examine your garden stones. Are the stepping stones in your pathway uneven, are there cracks or missing stones in your walls? Do you have tumbling or crooked dry stacked stone walls? Right now is the best time to repair or replace these stone structures.
Take care of your birdhouses.
Spring is a great time of year to clean out your birdhouses. Make sure there’s no mold, mildew or parasites living in them and make sure they are firmly attached and in good condition. If you want to be really helpful, you can leave some piles of nesting material near the birdhouses, which will surely make our feathered friends happy. After you take care of the birdhouses, make sure you don’t neglect the bird feeders and bird baths. These should be scrubbed and carefully examined.
Proper gardening can be a very rewarding, year round endeavor, however here are some ideas for springtime gardening chores:
Remove debris from ponds and other water features.
Clean gutters to facilitate proper plant to water disbursement.
Remove dead wood from trees.
Remove suckers from shrubbery and trees.
Cut perennials back to almost to ground level.
Remove parasites from trees and shrubs.
This is the time to move or plant dormant shrubs and trees.
Scrub out your pots.
Check hoses for leaks, kinks and clogs.
Here are some more simple tips for springtime gardening:
Rotate your crops. This reduces crop specific diseases from building up in the soil and keeps the soil from being depleted of certain nutrients the previous plants thrived on.
Avoid gardening in the rain or walking on wet ground. Doing so can cause the ground to become compacted, ruining the structure of your soil which can cause your roots to suffocate.
When planting rows, run them north to south to allow your crop equal exposure to the sun.
Remember, to use care when digging early in the season as some of your perennials may be slow to appear and difficult to see.
Plant half of your vegetable rows now and the rest a couple of weeks later so you don’t get overwhelmed when it’s time to harvest.
Wondering what UK gardening zone you’re in? Here’s a helpful list of gardening hardiness zones from PlantMaps.com
We are Cowen Landscapes, and landscape gardening and design is our passion. We’d love to speak with you about your garden and landscaping needs in Kent. https://www.cowenlandscapes.co.uk Please give us a call or send us a message.
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A winter frost can be such a beautiful thing. White and
sparkling like little diamonds. It can also be deadly for your plants.
When plants freeze, the water in the cells expand causing
the cell walls to break. Since the cells of the plant carry the nutrient rich
sap the plants require to live, the plant can die.
Frost can form when water vapour in cool air condenses into
droplet of water that form dew on the ground and on your plants. Then, when the
temperature drops below 0 °C, all this moisture freezes, creating those
beautiful but deadly ice crystals.
There are three types of frost, including ground frost which covers the ground, trees and other objects that have a freezing or below temperature. This frost is also called the white frost.
Hoar frost is similar to ground frost in that it’s composed
of ice crystals that formed in the same way as dew however the surface temperatures
were already below freezing point. This type of frost will have a beautiful
There’s also “air frost” which occurs when the temperature of
the air is below the freezing point of water and at least a metre above the
ground. This air frost damages plant stems, fruits and flowers and can even
kill them. Occasionally you can have ground frost without having air frost If
the ground freezes before the air does.
Not all plants will die all the time from frost. Some
plants are much more hardy and their leaves and stems may survive. Evergreen trees and Evergreen
bushes are a great example however even Evergreens and other hardy plants may
be damaged or killed by extended periods of freezing, especially when the soil
freezes. Frozen roots can no longer absorb water and the plant may die from
way to tell if your plants have been damaged by frost is when the above ground
parts of the plant may blacken. You can also expect to see wilting, damaged
fruit, flowers and buds may become brown and drop to the ground.
far, the most damaging frost is in the late spring. Plants with tender new growths
are very susceptible to frost and quickly die.
probably didn’t come here for a lesson on plant biology or an explanation of
what causes frost. You want to gain some insight into how to protect your
plants from frost. One of the first things I’d suggest is to include frost in
your initial garden planning. If you live somewhere were frost may be a
problem, pick hardy plants that are known to withstand the damaging effects of
frost. You can ask your local garden centre which plants they would recommend for
you do choose plants that are susceptible to frost, try to plant them in
against walls and shrubs or under trees to reduce wind and help protect them during
the winter. If possible, do not plant your early flowering plants in the east
facing section of your garden as the first warmth of the sun can quickly thaw
them causing shock when the plants are unable to acclimate quickly. You can
also leave old growth, leaves, etc. over your plants to help protect against
frost. If you prune and cut back your plants in Autumn your new growths are
more susceptible to frost. Remember that frost and cold air will descend to the
lowest parts of your garden, so plan accordingly when planting tender plants.
you have potted plants which you kept inside during the winter, take your time
putting them back outside. Make sure there’s no chance of a surprise frost
which could quickly kill them.
You can also use horticultural fleece [Amazon] [eBay] to protect your plants. To be doubly sure you can put a layer of straw, plant material or old leaves between two layers of the fleece to provide the best insulation against frost.
If you need to
immediately protect your plants from frost, use an upturned bucket, bin or box
to cover the plants. This is a quick protection however you must remember to
uncover your plants later in the day so they get sunlight.
Some plants with
flowering bulbs and perennials that die back can be covered with leaves, manure
mulch or straw to prevent the soil from freezing. Make sure you remove the
mulch in the spring or it may act as an insulator, trapping the coldness in the
Even though Evergreens
are hardy, you can protect them from ground frost with a thick layer of mulch.
This will help prevent the roots from freezing under the soil which could cause
the plant to become dehydrated.
small trees and ferns can be protected by wrapping the crowns and trunks layers
of fleece stuffed with straw.
When using outdoor
pots in the winter, make sure they are frost proof. Also, place pots on sticks
or feet to prevent them from becoming waterlogged when the bottoms freeze to
the ground. You can insulate the inside of your pots with a layer of hessian or
even bubble wrap.
My plants have frost
damage, are they going to die? Now what do I do?
Even if your plants have been damaged by frost, they may survive and you can greatly assist them by minimising the frost damage.
In the spring cut back any damaged growth on your plants to encourage
new growth. If your frost damaged plants are small enough, dig them up and
bring them into your greenhouse. They may recover quickly.
According to the Doubleday Research Association; Giving your
frost damaged plants liquid feed, such as Comfrey tea, will encourage new
We would love to hear about your experiences with frost. Let us know if you have any good tips to share with our readers. Good luck!
Neither. Don’t use chipped mulch OR shredded mulch. Both of those will rob the precious nitrogen from the ground that your plants need.
Nitrogen is vital for healthy plants because it’s a major component of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the compound by which plants convert sunlight into sugars from water and carbon dioxide. Nitrogen is also a major component of amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins.
Plants are unable to use or take nitrogen directly from the atmosphere. They must uptake it through nitrogen forms that include ammonium and nitrate.
So, what should you use instead of chipped or shredded mulch? Composted mulch!