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Winter Landscaping Tips, Tricks & Ideas

Winter is when so many homeowners realize the backbone of their yard’s landscape is too barebones to be interesting. Without the defining structures like evergreen trees, pergolas or pathways, garden landscapes gone dormant can look barren. While in winter, it’s too late to plant berry plants and too cold to build a retaining wall, but there are plenty of ways to add immediate interest to your yard, and at the same time plan for next year’s winter landscape.

Why it Works to Decorate Your Yard in Winter Time

Instead of regretting you didn’t get your winterscape planned in time for winter, you can add instant color, texture and form to your garden landscape with other structural elements—from benches to boxes. A few well-placed items transform the view out your window and create a picture for people driving by.

By decorating with garden items and things you already have, you save money while personalizing your winter landscape. In the process, you have the opportunity to study and plan your yard’s design for future seasons.

Create Focal Points for Winter Contrast

Garden architecture, from big to small, provides needed contrast against faded winter backdrops. Even a solitary pot, or a clump of long grass, stand out with winter interest. Anything can become an architectural element—from sculpture and statuary, to boulders and birdfeeders. String some tiny outdoor lights almost anywhere for effect.

An arrangement of outdoor furniture or a bench under a tree creates a congenial scene. Paint an old chair in a bold or subtle color. Drape a few antique garden tools on top of a small table.

So-called junk, like vintage farm implements, becomes art with character. Fill a wheelbarrow or a crate with logs, greenery or favorite trinkets.

Paint a gate or part of a fence. Take advantage of architectural pieces you come across. A section of fencing or a decorative panel leaning in the garden or against the house adds new dimension. So does a castoff window frame or a detached door with some original décor attached to it.

Consider the many possibilities of garden art—from metal sculptures to birdhouses and plant stakes to rustic signs.

Plan Your Spring and Summer Garden

Winter is the perfect time to study the bare bones of your garden landscape and plan its future design. As you add focal points to this year’s winter landscape with furniture or sculpture, think about year-round possibilities.

You might not have a pond, pathway or arbor in place now, but now is the time to imagine where those elements would best be situated within your landscape. Notice the shapes and outlines of existing trees and plants and where spaces need to be filled in. Visualize where hedges, stonewalls or walkways will provide natural borders and functional flow to your garden and yard.

Turn Winter Interest into Enduring Design

By decorating your yard in the winter, you have the opportunity to study the bare bones of its underlying structure and plan for year-round design elements.

An out-of-season landscape lets you see what’s missing. You can see where to plant evergreens for greenery, deciduous trees with interesting branches, shrubs or berries. You can determine colors, which will enhance pathways, arbors and other hardscaping.

But no matter how nondescript your yard looks in winter, you can make it more interesting with a few well-placed objects. It will transform the view out your window and your home’s curb appeal.

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Tips for Growing an Organic Vegetable Garden

Enjoy healthy, tasty, organic vegetables fresh from your garden.
Try these tips for success.

Starting Out Right

For the healthiest plants, make sure you have good growing conditions. For most vegetables, that means full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sun a day). If you have poor soil, amend it with lots of organic matter, such as compost.

Choose Plants Sensibly

Some plants, such as tomatoes, are naturally more susceptible to pest and disease problems than others. To reduce problems, look for disease-resistant varieties. (Disease resistance is usually mentioned in catalog listings, seed packets, and plant tags.)

Feed Your Plants Naturally

In most soils, fertilizing your vegetables isn’t necessary, but it will help them grow faster and give better crops. If you feed your plants, choose natural products. Well-rotted animal manure from plant-eating critters (rabbits, horses, sheep, chickens) is a great source. Or look for prepackaged organic materials online or at your local garden center.

Note: If you have rich soil already, you may be best off not fertilizing. Too much of a good thing can make your plants put on lots of lush, soft growth that’s loved by pests. Slower-growing plants often resist insects and disease better.

Practice Rotation

If you plant the same vegetables in the same spot every year, disease can build up and be ready before your plants have much of a chance. Keep the element of surprise against your disease foes and try to plant your crops in different parts of the garden each year.

Because many closely related plants are affected by the same diseases, avoid planting them where their relatives were the year or two before. Two of the biggest families are the tomato family (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant) and the squash family (squash, pumpkin, cucumber, watermelon).

Mulch Well

A layer of mulch over the soil not only helps reduce weeds, but it creates a barrier that can prevent fungal disease spores from splashing up onto plant leaves. In most cases, a layer of mulch 1 to 2 inches thick is best.

For an extra bonus, use a mulch made from an organic material that will decompose (such as cocoa hulls or weed-free straw). As it breaks down, it adds organic matter to the soil for you.

Declare War on Weeds

Weeds not only compete with your plants for water and nutrients, but they may also attract insect pests. And many insects spread disease as they feed from one plant to the next.

Keep It Clean

Many diseases spread rapidly in dead, fallen foliage. Regularly — once a week or more if you have time — walk through your garden and pick up shed foliage.

Also: You can sometimes prevent a disease from spreading through an entire plant just by picking off an infected leaf. Throw dead or diseased leaves in the trash, not in your compost pile.

Water Wisely

Wet leaves, especially in the afternoon or evening hours, can attract disease. Avoid watering your plants with a sprinkler. Instead, use a water-saving soaker hose to deliver water directly to the roots.

Give Them Some Air

While jamming plants in is a great way to get the most from your plot, it can also cause problems. Avoid planting your vegetables too close together. Good air flow between the plants can help prevent many types of fungal diseases.

Plant Some Flowers

A few flowers will not only help your garden look prettier, but they may also attract beneficial bugs. These good guys in the garden attack insect pests such as aphids and tomato hornworms. Don’t worry about these good bugs: Most types are small enough that you’ll hardly notice them in the garden.

Some of the best plants for attracting beneficial insects are:

  • Bachelor’s Button
  • Cleome
  • Cosmos
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Daisy
  • Marigold
  • Nasturtium
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Salvia
  • Sunflower
  • Yarrow
  • Zinnia

Be Realistic

One of the hardest lessons for first-time organic vegetable growers is that organic gardens don’t look perfect. They’ve achieved a balance where there’s usually some form of damage from pests and diseases. Nature comes to the rescue before that spotted leaf becomes a plague.

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