Late November, December, and January are the months to get your Sunbelt garden going.
Wildflower Farms and Johnny’s Seeds are two companies that offer garden seeds specifically designed for the region that you live in. There is a Southwest Regional mix to plant for people who live in the Southwest, as well as a Southeast Regional Mix to plant for people who live in the Southeast. The planting season for some of the mixes is the last few weeks of December, however, the planting season for flowers is during the winter.
The birds will be back in your gardens, to bring life, color, and song to your yard. Planting flowers helps attract the birds, as does having a few bird feeders, or a fountain with water for the local birds. Deer, horses, dogs, even raccoons might also find themselves drawn to your bird feeder or drinking fountain, this might be an opportunity for photos.
Tomato gardens are a lot of fun to plant, especially when planted in combination with bug-repellent plants such as basil and marigolds. There are a few tiny tomato-colored berries that appeal to the lizards, that may be planted near the human-sized grape, cherry, plum, or beefsteak tomatoes. We also like to plant herbs such as rosemary, oregano and sage near the tomato plants. Staking or caging the tomato plants helps keep the area neat, and the marigolds certainly help to make the garden look pretty.
Small ponds for frogs and your local lizard population also attract birds, if you have a half-acre or more of property, this is a lovely way to landscape your yard, and is best done in the winter, when the weather is cool.
Bulbs can be planted for folks up north between October and December.Planting bulbs such as daffodils, iris, gladiolus, amaryllis and tiger lilly may be done, however, the planting season for everything in the Sunbelt is during the winter. Starting the plants indoors during the months of September and early October, when the weather is either too hot, or there is still a chance of a tropical storm, gives a person something to look forward to in winter – namely, planting the best garden in your neighborhood.
Doing this also gives a person an excuse to store a few gallons of water inside in plastic bottles, which are better when aged to allow the chlorine to evaporate for 24 hours or more. Leaving a few inches of air space at the top of the bottle will allow for shaking of the bottle, which aerates the water, and helps to remove more foreign chemicals from the water. This water may also be boiled or distilled at some future date in case of an emergency, and used by humans.
Those little store packets of seeds are great samplers to see what works in your yard. if everything grows well, buy more, or even if the plants don’t grow well, and you get a little return on your doorstep – plant more. Starting seeds indoors, letting them soak in a mixture of water and a spoonful of sugar, gives your plants a kick-start into growth.
Some plants, such as the California poppy, are easy to sow in your backyard. Be certain to obtain a small amount of beach sand to mix with the poppy seeds, in a 1 to 4 ratio. These plants will grow wild throughout any property that they are planted, and 1/4 pound of seed, plus 1 pound of sand is enough to plant about 625 square feet of garden. Just mark off a section of your property, remove the patches of grass for transplanting into weak patches of your lawn, and rake the soil. Then, scatter the seed over the garden area, in an even way.
Heliachrysthemum, is an excellent choice for planting for dried flower bouquets. Dried rushes, reeds, cattails from your trip to the seaside or lake, also look lively in the dead of winter. Baby’s breath and bachelor’s buttons are a few other flowers that dry well for flower bouquets, and these plants also look great while growing in your garden.
Bordering your yard with native plants, such as saw palmetto, sassafras, tomato, chicory; or joshua tree, christmas plant, straw flower; are good ways to keep the local wildlife fed, as well as a good learning experience for children. The plants go to seed quickly, and the seeds can be transported to a local park or community garden.
Even if you do not have your own yard, a community garden is a good place to pool efforts for planting, while learning traditional methods of gardening. Your average garden consists of rows of plants that are 3 feet to 9 feet long, spaced 18 inches to 4 feet apart. Mulch, wood chips, grass clippings may be used to cover areas around your plant rows to help keep your garden weed free, as well as to help keep your plants moist.
Hummingbird feeders look great on your patio. Who said that hummingbird feeders have to be the plastic-looking ones? I have heard a few complaints over the years that the hummingbird feeders look nice, however the plastic cracks in the wind, or during a tropical squall. Making your own crafty hummingbird feeder protector, using your own personal style, makes your yard look different, and helps to protect your little investment.
Potted plants, terrariums, and patio gardening techniques such as mini plant beds for apartment dwellers are ways of bringing the garden home for someone who does not have a yard.
Weeding is an easy task for places such as driveways, sidewalks, and patios if you pour some leftover hot coffee carefully into the cracks where the unwanted plants are growing, then wait about a half-hour, and pull out the weed carefully from its roots.
The editor evidently wants to know a little bit about how I bend tree limbs or vines. Actually, this is not that difficult, as long as a person waits until after the rain has happened. Then, the tree branches are moist and are more flexible, however, the branches must still be bent carefully and very, extremely slowly. Only this year’s growth will bend into other branches. This will allow usually a ten degree to thirty degree change from the original growth pattern of the tree branches into the form you are working on having the tree grow into.
Another way of naturally curving and bending trees into shapes is by pairing the trees with some natural vines, such as ivy, grape, or morning glory, then, using the climbing vines as ways of tying the branches into position for further growth. This complex, and sometimes frustrating way of cultivating a memorable arbor sculpture is worth the effort, if you are successful.
I have been lucky enough to observe the workers at Nancy’s Topiary, a company located in the Saint Petersburg, Florida area, and have discovered a little bit about her company’s interesting moss sculptures, which adorn Walt Disney World as well as a few other notable botanical gardens. Basically, these are made of wire sculpture bases, filled with a mixture of peat moss and sphagnum moss, then covered with living moss.
Her company creates the living sculptures such as baskets, and wagons, as well as Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, and other Disney character figures that are growing tributes throughout the grounds of Disney World.
These wire sculpture bases are infrequently sold at garden centers, and are ideal for the inexperienced do-it-yourselfer (DIY), who is interested in learning how to make their own living plant sculptures.
There are also fabric “tape” seed rolls that are sold at some garden centers, these make gardening fast, easy, and foolproof. After your garden bed is already weeded, rolling the tape across a row, which is already filled with seed, plants and sometimes fertilizes sprouting garden plants These fabric seed rolls are a useful tool for some garden sculptures, such as balls and rings. It has been a while since I have been able to use recycled paper mash mixed with grass clippings in order to create a simple, living garden sculpture. The only structure that the sculpture has when the plants finish growing are the plant roots, and some twine, so, try to avoid using this plant sculpture as a toy.
Sources: Wildflower Farms Catalog, Wildflower Farms; Johnny’s Seeds Catalog, Johnny’s Seeds; Country Living Gardening Guide, Country Living; The Gardener’s Idea Book, Proven Winners; Suppliers to the Wildflower Gardens, Ladybird Johnson Gardens, website; Nancy’s Topiary, observation; Walt Disney World, visit to grounds