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Growing Fruit Trees in Containers

Even if you have limited space, you can still enjoy fresh fruit. Although not all fruit trees thrive in containers for long periods of time, you can grow any fruit tree in a container for a few years and then transplant it. You can also choose a dwarf variety, which is well suited to living in a container.

Some of the most popular dwarf citrus trees to grow in containers are:

Meyer lemon: First imported from China in 1908, it is believed to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin. The fruit has a very sweet flavor and is less acidic than a true lemon.

Calamondin: Prized for its attractive shape and foliage, it produces fragrant flowers nearly year-round. It is grown primarily for aesthetics and less for actual, edible fruit.

Dwarf Kaffa lime tree: The rind of the fruit and the unique double-lobed, aromatic leaves are often used in cooking.

Master gardener Chris Dawson prefers mail order bare-root trees. Inspect the tree when it arrives to be sure the packing material is still moist and the roots are in good shape. As with any bare-root tree, make sure the roots never dry out before planting.

To plant:

  • Use any kind of container as long as it has drainage holes and is an adequate size for the tree – 10 to 16 inches in diameter.
  • Fill the container with a light, well-drained potting mixture. Make a small mound in the center of pot and arrange the roots over the mound. Cover the roots with soil and tamp in lightly.
  • Leave the stake in place to help the tree remain sturdy while the roots become established.
  • Place in full sun, southern exposure.
  • Water to keep the soil moist, but not soggy.
  • Fertilize with a formula high in nitrogen with trace minerals.

The one compromise with container fruit trees: They rarely bear as much fruit as their planted counterpart. On the plus side, the fruit usually appears a season or so ahead of trees planted in the garden.

(original post)

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An Introduction to Permaculture

Combining the best of natural landscaping and edible landscaping, permaculture aims for a site that sustains itself and the gardener. The ultimate purpose of permaculture is to develop a site until it meets all the needs of its inhabitants, including food, shelter, fuel, and entertainment. (The word permaculture was coined in the mid-1970s by two Australians, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren.) While it’s the rare home gardener who can follow permaculture principles to the ultimate degree, most can borrow ideas from permaculture to create a new way of landscaping based on production and usefulness.

Gardening and Permaculture

Permaculture emphasizes the use of native plants or those that are well adapted to your local area. Plant things you like, but make sure they have a purpose and somehow benefit the landscape. Plants such as fruit trees provide food as well as shade; a patch of bamboo could provide stakes for supporting pole beans and other vining plants. Along with a standard vegetable garden, permaculture gardeners would grow many types of perennial food plants too, such as arrowhead, sorrel, chicory, and asparagus.

Like all gardeners, permaculture enthusiasts love plants for their beauty and fragrance, but they seek out plants that offer practical benefits along with aesthetic satisfaction. Instead of a border of flowering shrubs, for instance, a permaculture site would have a raspberry or blackberry border.

Disease-prone plants such as hybrid tea roses and plants that need lots of watering or other pampering are not good permaculture candidates. Choose a native persimmon tree that doesn’t need spraying and pruning, for example, instead of a high-upkeep peach tree. Consider the natural inclinations of your site along with the needs of its inhabitants, and put as much of your site as possible to use. Work with the materials already on your site, rather than trucking in topsoil or stone. Remember that a permaculture design is never finished, because the plants within a site are always changing.

There is no set formula for developing a permaculture design, but there are practical guidelines. Here are some of them:

  • Copy nature’s blueprint and enhance it with useful plants and animals. Think of the structure of a forest and try to mimic it with your plantings. A canopy of tall trees will give way to smaller ones, flanked by large and small shrubs and, finally, by the smallest plants. Edge habitats, where trees border open areas, are perfect for fruiting shrubs, such as currants, and for a variety of useful native plants, such as beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax), which is used for weaving baskets. Mimicking these natural patterns provides for the greatest diversity of plants.
  • Stack plants into guilds. A guild includes plants with compatible roots and canopies that might be stacked in layers to form an edge. As you learn more about your site, you’ll discover groups of plants that work well together. For example, pines, dogwoods, and wild blueberries form a guild for acid soil.
  • Make use of native plants and others adapted to the site. Plan for diversity.
  • Divide your yard into zones based on use. Place heavily used features, such as an herb garden, in the most accessible zones.
  • Identify microclimates in your yard and use them appropriately. Cold, shady corners, windswept places in full sun, and other microclimates present unique opportunities. For instance, try sun-loving herbs like creeping thyme on rocky outcroppings; plant elderberries in poorly drained spots.

Permaculture designers are now working to conceptualize and create whole communities that embody permaculture concepts. If permaculture intrigues you, there’s a wealth of opportunities to learn more about it online.

(view original post here)

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Hang a Pallet Garden

Get ideas for repurposing old items into unique garden elements.

Pallet, Plants, Vertical, Garden

The strong desire to be sustainable has led to an increase in the use of recycled materials in landscape design.

Up-cycling and vertical gardening are very popular, this idea combines them both. Take a discarded shipping pallet and turn it into a vertical garden. This one is backed with roofing paper and chicken wire and planted with ornamental plants. If growing herbs, it is recommended to use landscape fabric as the backer because it will not leach toxic chemicals into the plants.

An added benefit is that a garden like this will keep plants up out of the reach of destructive pets and critters. Other ideas for using recycled pallets in your garden include making a coffee table, a strawberry hut or even a fence.

(original source)

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Determining Your Garden’s Soil and Light

Clay or sand, sun or shade: these factors determine which plants will grow well and which will fail, so spend a little time getting to know your garden’s conditions.

Testing Your Soil

There are two main types of soil particles: sand and clay. Sand particles are relatively large and water drains freely through the spaces between them, while clay particles are tiny and trap moisture in the miniscule gaps. This explains why sandy soils are dry and clay soils are moisture-retentive. Most soils are a mixture of both, but tend toward one or the other, but the ideal is loam, which contains almost equal measures of sand and clay. Loam retains enough water for plant roots to use, but also drains away excess moisture to prevent waterlogging. Test your soil type by digging some up and rolling it between your fingers.

Sandy Soil

When rolled between the fingers, sandy soil feels gritty, and when you try to mold it into a ball or sausage shape, it falls apart. It is also generally pale in color. The benefits of sandy soils are that they are light and well drained, and easy to work. Mediterranean plants are happiest in sandy soil, because they never suffer from soggy roots. However, their poor water-holding capacity makes sandy soils prone to drought and lacking nutrients because nutrients are dissolved in water.

Clay Soil

Roll clay between your fingers and it feels smooth and dense, and retains its shape when molded into a ball. Soils very rich in clay will not crack even when rolled into a horseshoe shape. Sticky and impossible to dig when wet; solid, cracked and impenetrable when dry, clay soils are hard to work. But in return, when looked after correctly, they have excellent water-retaining properties, and are rich in nutrients. Greedy rose bushes and fruit trees love to sink their roots into them.

Smooth and Sticky

Like the material used for making pots, clay soils feel smooth and pliable. Roll them into a ball or sausage and they will retain their shape.

Top Tip: Testing Acidity

A simple pH test, available from the garden center, will tell you how acidic (lime-free) or alkaline (lime-rich) your soil is, and this will determine the range of plants you can grow. Add the supplied solution to a small sample of your soil in the tube provided. Wait until the solution changes color, then match the color to the chart.

Improving Your Soil

Whether you have a dry sandy soil or a sticky clay, the prescription is the same: lots and lots of organic matter, such as well-rotted manure, spent mushroom compost, and garden compost. These bind together sandy soils and loosen dense clay soils, so ladle them on.

Sun or Shade?

Some plants like a hot spot, and enjoy basking in the sun all day long, while others prefer cool shade. Find out what your garden has to offer before you buy or start planting. Stand with your back to each of your boundaries and use a compass to figure out the direction that they face. If there’s no canopy overhead, those facing south will be in the sun all day and hot, while those pointing north will be in shade most of the time and cooler. East-facing areas offer morning sun and evening shade, while the opposite applies to those facing west.

Check Your Plot

Patterns of sun and shade change throughout the day, and a garden that’s in full sun at midday may have dark pools of shade by late afternoon, so spend some time watching your garden on a sunny day and make a note of the way shadows move around the plot. You can then plan what to plant where and identify areas for seating. Remember, too, that the patterns change depending on the season. A garden can look very different in low-light winter conditions, and areas that are in full sun for half the day in summer may not get any at this time of the year.

(original article here)