Drop the Watering Can and Enjoy These Low Maintenance Outdoor Plants

Gardening is just one of the many joys that come with homeownership. However, watering can often feel like a labor of love we could do without. This is the first year I have had a garden and I can already say I am kind of over lugging heavy watering cans and fighting with a hose that seems to kink with every step I take. Next year I plan on planting a few less plants that require so much water and thought I would share some of my favorite finds with you.

Do you have any low-maintenance beauties to share? Please let me know about them in the comments section below.

Butterfly Bush

These small, fragrant blossoms grow in spikelike clusters and attract butterflies to your garden. Learn more from sunset.com.

Purple Coneflower

A beautiful perennial that was described as “We’re talking the lowest maintenance possible,” by Chip Tynan at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.

Blue Eyed Grass

 laspilitas.com

Blue Eyed Grass has small, iris-like leaves and is drought tolerant . Learn more here.

Bee Balm

 homedepot.com

Sounds kind of like a chapstick right? This brilliant addition to your garden only requires water if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week

 

Salvia

gardeningknowhow.com

According to gardeningknowhow.com, growing salvia is something every gardener should try. This plant is not only beautiful but it can also withstand extreme weather conditions.

 

The post Drop the Watering Can and Enjoy These Low Maintenance Outdoor Plants appeared first on Coldwell Banker Blue Matter.

How to Prolong the Life of Your Plants During Summer

After a cold and rainy first half of the year, many people thought summer and sunshine would never come. Well, it is certainly here now! While it may be easy for us to beat the heat by staying indoors with air conditioning, visiting the beach, or even taking a dip in our backyard pools— for plants staying cool and alive is significantly harder.  A lot of us take pride in our perfectly manicured lawns and gardens and understandably become brokenhearted to see them wilt, discolor, and even die during the tough dog days of summer. However, there are some tips and tricks that can help to prolong the life of your plants this summer.

1. Set a feeding schedule
One of the most common mistakes people make, that actually helps to speed up the deterioration of their plants and lawn, is to water at the wrong time of day. The best time to water your greenery is either in the morning, before the sun comes up, or in the afternoon, when the sun is beginning to go down. The key is to never water when the sun is out and beaming. If you do, the water almost becomes like oil, and it will certainly fry your precious plants. The same goes with lawns. Moreover, aim to use water that is as close to air temperature as possible. Too hot or too cold may send your plants into shock. (Hey, we didn’t say this was an easy job!)

2. Choose wisely
While they may all seem beautiful, be very choosy when it comes to deciding which plants and flowers to grow for your space. Not all are created equal, meaning that not all greenery can survive in all climates. Speak to a professional, or even an attendant at your local plant store to decide together which plants are best suited for your region. If you live in a very hot area, sensitive plants aren’t the best option. Look into some beautiful annuals like Bells of Ireland, Pansies, and Black-Eyed Susans.

3. To Go Organic or Not
Many believe that going organic in the food we eat and the food we feed our plants is pointless. However, there is a point to changing up the diet and going healthier with organic alternatives. In regard to your greenery, using organic fertilizer is better for plants and lawns because it provides sustained nourishment. On the other-hand, chemical fertilizer is more like fast-food–it delivers a quick fix but its results and benefits are not sustainable.

We here at Coldwell Banker hope that these few tips will help you to improve your lawn and garden’s condition this summer. Best of luck! If you have any other tips or tricks, leave a comment below!

Information courtesy of The Daily Green.

Grow Your Groceries

As a girl from the Garden State it is my duty to show you one of my new favorite websites! Are you one of those people who has every intention of starting a garden but always seem to miss the right time to plant?  Then SproutRobot is for you. Basically, SproutRobot is gardening for Dummies. (Totally not calling you a dummy though!)

This is a super easy to use website and a fun way to grow your groceries. Tell them where your garden is by providing your zip code and what you want to grow and they make you a personalized planting calendar. When it’s time to plant, they mail you seeds and/or send you an email.

I typed in the zip code for my town, West Orange, and this is what I got back:

This Week 300x230 Grow Your Groceries

It also showed me what to expect for upcoming weeks:

nextweek 258x300 Grow Your Groceries

According to their site, all their seeds are high quality non-GMO seeds from Botanical Interests. All transactions are done through Amazon.com which I also thought was pretty cool.

SproutRobot is free to sign up for and they also have paid packages that offer a variety of cool tools and functions.

Lawn and Garden Month: Planning a Low Maintenance Garden

The reward of a beautiful garden is well worth the work you put into it.

I know what some of you are thinking, “this woman is crazy, the words low maintenance and gardening go together like orange juice and toothpaste (not well)!” I have tried this before and wasted my money. I am not home enough and simply do not have the time to pay attention to a garden. Excuses Excuses, this time is different. Don’t miss out on the benefits of gardening!  Check out these tips and give it another go.

Face the Facts: There’s Good News & Bad News

Bad News: Maintaining a beautiful garden often takes hard work. From planning, to planting, to proper maintenance, gardens require one of the most valuable things you have…your time.

Good News: Well thought planning prior to planting can save both time and money and we have the tips to do it!

Do Your Homework

The first step to planning a garden is deciding how you plan to use it. Will you be growing your own vegetables (there is nothing like fresh basil, YUM) or do you simply want a flower garden that will add beauty to your yard? Keep in mind those who will be sharing in the beauty of your garden. Do you have kids or pets that may affect the area where your garden will grow?

After you decide what function your garden will serve it is important to study your yard prior to planting. Note the health of your yard, where do current plants thrive? Do certain areas receive more sunlight than others? Are there any weeds? Is there a place where water accumulates?

Once you assess the current status of your yard, jot down some notes and head to the store to seek professional advice on which low maintenance plants fit the following criteria:

  • Thrives in soil, sun and your climate
  • Looks good for more than one season
  • Perennial (A plant that has a life cycle that lasts more than two years)
  • Will not outgrow the space you plant it into

Keep in mind that native plants grow on their own and don’t require a lot of attention.

Make Smart Choices

Here are ten perennial plants that blogger Marie Ianotti from About.com Gardening suggests as smart choices for a low maintenance garden:

  1. Blazing Star: Blooms: Mid-summer through fall  Colors: Purples or white
  2. Coneflowers: Blooms: Summer  Colors: Purple, white, orange, yellow, pink & red
  3. Coral Bells: Blooms: Late spring / Early summer, but grown for its foliage. Colors: White, pink or red
  4. Foam Flower: Blooms: Late spring / Early summer Colors: White or pink
  5. Globe Thistle: Blooms: Early summer to Early Fall Colors: Blue or white
  6. Hosta: Blooms: Generally mid-Summer Colors: Purples or white
  7. Peony: Blooms: Late spring / Early summer Colors: Pinks, white, reds or yellow
  8. Russian Sage: Blooms: Mid-summer to Fall Colors: Blue
  9. Sea Thrift: Blooms: Spring to Early summer Colors: Pink, rose, lilac, red or white
  10. Siberian Iris Blooms: Late spring Colors: Blues, purples or white

A popular, “out of the box”, solution is growing a garden out of the basket of an old bicycle.

Consider Container Gardening

A great solution for a “wannabe green thumb” that doesn’t have hours to spend on their garden is opting to use the container gardening method. Let your creative juices flow when selecting your container and think beyond planter boxes and hanging baskets. Some of the most beautiful container gardens are grown out of household items that you may look at as junk. A popular, “out of the box”, solution is growing a garden out of the basket of an old bicycle. Other fun ideas include cowboy boots, wheel barrows, bird feeders, dresser drawers and rain barrels.

One benefit of container gardening is that you don’t even need a yard. Decks, windows, balconies and front porches can all be used as a starting point for your garden. For more information on container gardening check out “What is container gardening?”  by TLC.

 

Avoid Common Garden Mistakes

Check out our blog post on avoiding common garden mistakes on tips. This post is packed with goodies and secrets that will guide you through common mistakes that may have tripped you up in the past.

Stick With It

Commit to giving your garden the TLC that it needs and deserves. Be patient and give your garden time to grow before giving up on it. If you see your garden going downhill don’t give up! Seek the help of fellow gardeners in your neighborhood, local nursery or go online and reach out to the garden community.  Share your passion for your garden with a family member or neighbor. Hobbies that are shared with loved ones are always more enjoyable.  The reward of a beautiful garden is well worth the work you put into it.

Good luck and happy planting! Enjoy the extra time you will have after planting your low maintenance garden!

Lawn & Garden Month: Avoid Common Garden Mistakes

Nip these common garden mistakes in the bud and enjoy gardening this year.

Resist the urge to plant too early in the season!

Timing

A few beautiful days of 70 degree weather is enough for anyone to catch spring fever. But before you say ready, set, grow; do your homework. Resist the urge to rush into breaking out your gardening arsenal of tools too early! As many seasoned gardeners know, patience is key.

First things first. Understand your local climate. A great resource which will help you to understand your planting zone’s climate is the United States Department of Agriculture’s interactive map.

Planning

 Having a plan will not only ensure that your garden has a theme but will also help you to stand firm against impulse buying once you get to the store. Write down a list of what you will need prior to purchasing seeds, soils, tools and all other garden essentials and stick to it. The bare minimum that any green thumb needs to get the job done includes a shovel, spade, garden fork, pruners and a hose (splurge on one that won’t kink up).

Water

It may sound like common sense but many people aren’t aware that it is possible to drown a plant. Too much water can be deadly to a plant. Conversely, relying on rain alone as your plants source of water is a mistake as well.  There are three keys to ensuring that your plants are being water properly:

1) Touch Test: This is an easy one! Stick your finger in the dirt, if it is wet then skip watering until the soil feels dry again. When the time comes to water, focus on the soil, not the leaves. Again, this may sound silly but this is a very common mistake.

2) Time of Day: Prime watering time is in the morning. By giving your plants a drink in the morning you will avoid water evaporation.

3) Amount: When it is time to water make sure you water deeply, meaning water your plants with at least an inch of water. It is better saturate your plants less often than to water only a bit at a time.

Ladybugs are good for gardens

Good Guys and Bad Guys

While many cringe at the sight of bugs in their garden it is important to understand that many bugs do play an important role in cultivating healthy gardens.  Many bugs are good for soil, others help to pollinate flowers and some even eat other bugs which could be potentially harmful to your garden.

According to http://www.varanasiestate.com these are some of the good guys:

  • Ladybug
  • Dragonfly
  • Ground beetle
  • Hover fly
  • Beneficial nematodes
  • Big-eyed bug
  • Braconid wasps
  • Damsel bugs
  • Minute pirate bug
  • Rove beetles
  • Honeybee
  • Assassin Bug

Animal control *TOP SECRET*

One of my mom’s best kept gardening secrets (don’t tell her I told you) is shaving Irish Spring soap bars over all of her flowers. This trick does a great job deterring deer, rabbits and other animals from munching on her beautiful flowers.

What are your green thumb secrets? Please share with us in the comments section and feel free to post pictures of your gardens on our Facebook page.

Lawn & Garden Month: 5 Steps to a Lush, Almost Perfect Lawn

Did you know that April is Lawn & Garden month?

Last week Tara Rodman-Marine guest blogged  about how her garden has added to the value of her home. You can check out her post here: Here’s To Gardens. In her post, Tara talked about the impact that her garden has made on her homeowner experience.

In honor of Lawn and Garden month, we will post tips through out the month of April to help you prepare your lawn and garden  for a beautiful spring. We encourage you to share your green thumb tricks and tips in the comments section.

To kick off this month of great lawn and garden tips I had to share this post I found from American Lawn!

5 Steps to a Lush, Almost Perfect Lawn

Get the mowing height right for the right time of year.

1)  Get the mowing height right for the right time of year.
There’s a lot more to mowing than just cutting the grass every Saturday. One of the most fundamental steps to a perfect lawn is getting the mowing height right for your type of lawn and for a particular season.

Most grasses can survive with a length of 2″ – 3″. This applies for spring and early fall. In the summer, if possible, set it a little higher*. Never go below the minimum recommended height except for the last mowing of the season which should be around 1.5″ for most turf grasses. There are exceptions to this, but if you have a lawn that requires that exception, you already should know your mowing height.

Mowing height is important because the length of that grass blade is the part that absorbs sunshine which the grass blade then miraculously converts into food! Imagine if you were a blade of grass and got hungry, all you had to do was stand outside and soak up some rays!

There are many that think fertilizer is lawn food, but that’s not true. Plants actually make their own food using sunlight. It needs to grow and develop into a healthy plant.

In fact, fertilizer isn’t even absorbed by the plant as it’s put down on the soil. In laymen’s terms, the fertilizer that gets put down on the lawn must first go through the digestive juices of a lot of tiny microbes that live in the soil. Only then is it in a form that can be absorbed and used by the plant, not as a food, but as building blocks to build more cells and carry on the process of converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.

Never remove more than 1/3 at any one mowing. This may mean you’ll have to mow more often during prime growing times (usually spring and early fall).

Leave the clippings on the lawn after you mow. This not only saves time and energy, but the clippings decompose and add vital nutrients back into the soil. Grass cycling recycles plant nutrients back into the soil. Clippings contain the same beneficial nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium nutrients as that expensive bag of fertilizer. In fact, clippings can provide up to one-third of the annual feeding requirement for your lawn.

Use a sharp blade

2)  Use a sharp blade.
The type of mower doesn’t matter, but the blade’s condition does. A dull blade tears at the grass. Take a close look at a grass blade a few days after mowing. If the blade is dull you’ll notice a jagged brown line across the tip of the cut grass. This is a good indication that your blade needs sharpening. Professional mowers sharpen their blades about every 8 hours of use. For most homeowners, twice a year is recommended.

The jagged edges caused by a dull mower blade make it more difficult for the grass to fight off pests and disease.

 

 

 

Regulate the water intake

3)  Regulate the water intake
Over watering your lawn causes more damage than a lack of water. Most turf grasses can handle dry spells, but not flooding. Most grasses require 1″ – 1.5″ of water per week. This is enough water to moisten the soil to 4″ – 6″ below the surface for clay soils and 8 – 10″ for sandy soils.

Don’t guess at how much water your lawn is getting. For measuring Mother Nature’s contribution, invest in a rain gauge. If at the end of the week she’s contributed enough, hold off adding more. If she comes up short, you’ll want to add some supplemental watering. Again, measure how much water your sprinkler is putting down.

You’ll have to follow local regulations when there are watering bans, but just remember that less water is acceptable and grass is a very resilient plant. When the rains do return your lawn will come back with a little encouragement on your part.

Give your lawn a regular, balanced diet

4)  Give your lawn a regular, balanced diet– just don’t over-do it!
Don’t over-fertilize your lawn with too much of a good thing. 4 balanced fertilizer applications a year is plenty: spring, summer, early fall and after the first frost for cool season grasses. If you’re in drought conditions, skip the summer application. Never skip the fall application. It’s important to use lawn products by following label instructions. Get the best results by following the directions. Over application will not improve performance. As mentioned above, fertilizers are processed through their interaction with tiny microbes before they can be used. Over-applying fertilizers can create unfavorable conditions for those microbes, even killing them. When that happens, the soil becomes sterile and the grass won’t grow.

 

 

Prevention is the best medicine

5) Prevention is the best medicine for a healthy lawn
Preventing problems is better than having to correct them. Consistent maintenance is the key. Repair bare spots as needed. Spot treat for weeds with the right herbicide following label directions. Use pre-emergent herbicides for most grassy-type weeds like crabgrass.

Soils can become compacted in high-traffic areas or in areas that have mostly clay soils. Have your lawn aerated once a year, preferably in the fall when soil temperature is around 60 degrees.

For more great lawn tips, check out http://www.american-lawns.com