Category Archives: Garden Design Ideas

Crazy Easy Garden Projects

These have got to be the easiest landscaping or gardening projects ever; but that doesn’t diminish how wonderful they look, and friends and family will be astonished at your creativity.

tipsy-pot-planter

Tipsy Pot Planter

Any pot with a hole in the bottom of it will work for this nifty decor, but some wide pots or flimsy plastic pots do not work well. Light, flimsy plastic will break under the weight of the pot once you fill it with dirt and wide pots tip too much, often causing the dirt to wash out during a good rain storm. Clay pots actually work the best, and all you have to do is get a 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch diameter piece of rebar, just make sure whatever size rebar you get, it fits through the holes in the bottom of the clay pots.

Pound the rebar into the ground a good 6-8 inches so it will hold the weight of the pots filled with dirt without falling over.

Simply stack your pots on the rebar pole by feeding the rebar through the holes in the bottom of the pots. Fill with dirt, and you’re ready to plant. You can paint the pots for added color, but it’s not necessary.

Using a little bigger pot for the bottom is a good idea to help weigh everything down and prevent it from tipping over.

tin can bird feeders

Tin Can Bird Feeders

Looking for a good use for those empty tin can food containers?

Clean them out well, paint them in several different colors and tie wire, string or ribbon around them for hanging as shown in the photo.

It’s easy to poke a hole in the rim of the can with a punch or knife so you can insert a stick or small dowel to use for a perch.

This crafty bird feeder will keep the rain and snow off the bird seed as well as making a very colorful ornamental display in a tree. Best part about this project, it won’t cost more than a dollar a piece to make sine you would have thrown out or recycled the cans anyway.

cement block planter

Decorative Cement Block Planter

The most difficult part about this project is trying to decide how you want to configure the blocks for maximum appeal. This planter will last forever and never have to be painted or replaced. You can reconfigure it as needed and make it as large as you like.

To keep the dirt in the part of the blocks that are hanging over and not supported by anything, you can block the bottom so that part of the block will hold dirt with a piece of wood cut to fit inside the block, or set the block on a board, pour a small amount of cement in the bottom to seal the hole, then when it is set, stack it in your planter arrangement.

Practical appeal for apartment patios or tight areas. Veining plants work well for the areas where they can hang over and add some color. Great for strawberries too.

Eco Garden Design: Chinampas.

  

Eco Friendly Garden Designs: Chinampas. By L.J. Hodek-Creapeau, Circkles Editor.

Chinampa is a method of ancient Mesoamerican agriculture which used small, rectangle-shaped areas of fertile land to grow crops on the shallow lake beds in the Valley of Mexico. The word chinampa comes from the Nahuatl word chināmitl, meaning “square made of canes.”
Sometimes referred to as “floating gardens,” chinampas were artificial islands that usually measured roughly 98 ft × 8.2 ft. Chinampas were used by the ancient Aztec Indians in Tenochtitlan, and ranged from 300 ft × 15 ft to 300 ft × 30 ft. They were created by staking out the shallow lake bed and then fencing in the rectangle with wattle: Wattle and daub is a composite building material used for making walls in which a woven lattice of wooden strips called wattle is daubed with a sticky material usually made of some combination of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung and straw. The fenced-off area was then layered with mud, lake sediment, and decaying vegetation, eventually bringing it above the level of the lake. Often trees similar to a willow or a cypress were planted at the corners to secure the chinampas which were separated by channels wide enough for a canoe to pass. These “islands” had very high crop yields with up to four crops a year.

The earliest chinampas have been dated back to the Middle Postclassic period, (1150 – 1350 CE) and showing use primarily in Lakes Xochimilco and Chalco near the springs that lined the south shore of those lakes. The Aztecs not only conducted military campaigns to obtain control over these regions but, according to some researchers, undertook significant state-led efforts to increase their extent. With the destruction of the dams and sluice gates during the Spanish conquest of Mexico, many chinampas fields were abandoned, although remnants are still in use today in what remains of Lake Xochimilco.
Among the crops grown on chinampas were: maize, beans, squash, amaranth, tomatoes, chili peppers, and flowers. It’s estimated that food provided by chinampas made up one-half to two-thirds of the food consumed by the city of Tenochtitlán.

Today many horticulturists have adopted a modern version of the chinampas and call it hydroponics. While occupying a great deal less space, no soil whatsoever, and often being used indoor such as in a greenhouse setting, the principle is basically the same as the ancient chinampas except it has been made more efficient and convenient. Using the chinampa method can have many benefits: such as practically no weeding and watering as well as protection from animals and certain pests. Building a chinampas in your backyard pond can certainly be an entertaining and efficient way to utilize a decorative space for edibles. While nutrients must be continually replenished in conventional hydroponic gardening, chinampas are more self-sufficient in that the soil materials they are built on supply the nutrients for plants, and the water that permeates that soil offers nutrients as well in a more natural way. So supplementing the water periodically is not necessary as with hydroponics. As mentioned above, the Aztecs often constructed their chinampas with dung, which would offer a constant supply of natural fertilizer to their floating gardens.

Plants that we believe would do well with this type of planting are lettuces and Asian greens because you can plant a large number of them in a small area, they would do well with the added humidity of the surrounding water, and slugs can’t swim!

 

©2013 Redstone Promotional Communications/Circkles.com

Foodscaping: It’s Catching on like Wildfire.

 veggarden-mainBy Circkles Staff Writers.

It’s called foodscaping – landscaping with edible food plants – and it’s catching on like wildfire all over the globe. The basic idea and motivation behind it is that if you are going to spend the money, water, time, effort and other resources on landscaping you may as well do it for something you can eat. After all, with the impending water shortages we all are facing, it makes a great amount of sense to only utilize our precious water reserves on something we can also benefit from not just look at. This also goes a long way to supporting the fact that we are quickly running out of usable agricultural land and are facing a food supply problem in the very near future as well. If every home in America turned a portion of their land into a garden large enough to sustain their own family, that would go a long way to easing the burden on our agricultural production which is already straining to produce enough food to feed us all.

Foodscaping is a concept that makes a bit more sense in the cities and suburbs, because in the country, you would have to protect your edible landscaping from the deer and other critters or expect to share it with them. So in the country, it makes more sense to have one large fenced area to keep the critters out.
City dwellers are catching onto the fact that if you have to maintain, fertilize, water and groom grass, why not use the same efforts on something you can really enjoy, like homegrown tomatoes; which cannot be matched in flavor by any store-purchased tomatoes and are getting ridiculously expensive. Many apartment dwellers have learned the concept of container gardening on decks and patios, now the same basic principle is spilling over to homeowners with small city lots.

The foodscaping concept works best for the backyard of a city home, because some cities have ordinances against growing anything they might consider unkempt or unsightly in the front yard, which often leaves out garden plants. You would have to mulch a front yard garden and keep it immaculate and weed free, but even then, we have heard of some city ordinances having a problem with anything other than a grass lawn on the street side of the property. Some cities like everything to look the same and conform. So check with your city offices before attempting a front yard vegetable garden. Most cities couldn’t care less what you do with your backyard because nobody sees it.

Some good plants for foodscaping are tomatoes, lettuces, asian greens, peppers, melons, squash, any member of the cabbage family, just about any food plant can be made to look ornamental in landscaping if it is kept free of weeds and mulched well. Throw in a couple self-pollinating fruit trees if you have the room, or berry bushes / patches since berries are so expensive and rarely ever anything but moldy and rotten when you finally get them in the grocery store.
The only food plant that really does not lend itself well to foodscaping is corn, due to the fact that corn must be grown in a very large patch because it’s wind pollinated and so requires being in close contact with a great many other corn plants in order to pollinate properly. In order to grow corn and have it produce anything worthwhile requires a corn patch that is a minimum of 6-8 rows wide and long, which requires a great deal of space. Corn is also a very heavy feeder and requires a lot of nutrients, so overall, it ‘s not very practical for foodscaping considering all it’s requirements and that it is only a starch that does not offer much in vitamins or minerals and thus is really not worth wasting the extra space, water and fertilizer on. There are much more nutrient beneficial food plants to use.

The best thing to do if you are going to convert your lawn into a garden is to plan it out on paper first. The fruits and vegetables you will be able to grow will primarily be determined by how much space you have, how much time you have and your climate, but you would be amazed what you can grow if you know how to take advantage of any microclimates your property may offer along with some container planting techniques here and there if allowable. Shallow-rooted, small vegetables like beets, radishes, kohlrabi etc, don’t require much space and can be planted almost anywhere the soil is loose enough. They can even be planted in trays that are at least 6 inches deep, or other large planters and kept on a deck or patio. They prefer cooler microclimates such as an area of partial shade, and don’t require much work once established; just water.
We highly recommend laying out your foodscaping idea on paper, mapping out where your beds should be for food plants that like a little shade and those that need full sun, as well as where to put bushes and larger plants so they don’t shade smaller ones etc. Putting in an irrigation system will save a ton of time and mapping out your foodscaping will make it much easier for you to figure out what kind of irrigation setup you will need and where.
If you want to keep some of your lawn, a design that is very popular and works well is to keep the grass in the middle of your property and arrange foodscaping beds all along the perimeter as border plantings. That way you still have lawn that’s easy to mow, and you are utilizing the outer edges of it that are difficult to mow or would require weed whacking.

Plants that make good container plantings:
Cherry or determinate tomatoes – meaning they only get to a certain size, whereby indeterminate tomato vines will keep on growing as long as weather will allow, getting quite large and requiring much more space. Peppers of all varieties do very well in pots as well as most herbs.

Herbs have many benefits for foodscaping: Splash some herb plants around for added color and interest, to repel insects, and for culinary and medicinal purposes. Our companion planting column of Garden Circkles will come in handy for this as many fragrant and flowering herbs can be used to naturally repel insects. Check our article archives and follow this page for new companion planting information and techniques. Many herbs make beautiful flowers and can be used as ornamentals here and there while still giving added food benefits to your efforts. Plant culinary herbs such as basil, thyme, sage, chives, oregano, or tea herbs such as mint, anise hyssop, lemon balm, pineapple sage and more. Fresh herbs are much more flavorful and have more nutritional benefits than the dried variety that’s been sitting on store shelves for months and years. No kitchen garden should be without them.

Backyard orchards are making a huge comeback, as well as using grape trellises for ornamental purposes – see our article on grape arbors below. If you can afford it, nothing beats a backyard greenhouse because they are so much easier to control the climate of, you can extend your growing season much longer, and they are much less work. We will be publishing a greenhouses guide soon to help you determine which styles and structure material may be best for your location.

Local restaurants are even using the foodscaping concept in what they call kitchen gardens. Their use of just-picked fresh edibles such as salad greens in their restaurants has become very popular. If they can find the time to do it, so can you.

Grape Arbors are Not Just for Gardens Anymore.

 By Circkles Staff Writers.

Grapes are not just for the garden anymore as more people are using them for lawn accents and special features with the added benefit of being able to eat them or juice them. Grapes are not picky, and as any vintner will tell you, they produce better if they are not pampered or overwatered. Instead of planting vining flowers on a trellis and using water to keep something growing that you can only look at, try putting that same effort into something you can eat.

Most garden centers carry potted grapevines in the spring, this is the best way to get a vine going. Trying to start one from root cuttings is difficult at best. There are many varieties, but you probably want to pick a seedless variety, and after that it’s just a matter of personal taste as to whether you prefer red or green grapes.

Planting:
Pick a spot that gets moderate to full sun, but not direct sun hitting the root base of the vine. The base of the vine does better with some shade from the hot sun, so plant larger bushy plants around the base to shade it if you must plant it in direct Southern exposure. In the wild, grapes love to climb and attach themselves to trees, with some vines reaching heights of 30-40 feet in a tree. Keep in mind a grapevine likes to spread it’s roots wide, so allow at least 10 feet all around for future root spreading that won’t encroach on other plants or trees. Dig your hole to just allow for the root base because it’s not necessary to amend the soil around the planting area with compost or mulch. Grapes that are well fed with compost or fertilizers will produce a beautiful vine but little fruit. So don’t fertilize or amend the soil for your grape if fruit is your main goal. You don’t want the soil hard and compact either, so if your soil is mostly clay, amend it with some sand, but very little organic matter.

Training and Pruning: 
Give your grape 2-3 years to get well established with a good root base before starting to prune it and train it. In the beginning, you want to leave as much foliage and branches on the vine as possible so the roots will get plenty of food to get well established; then you can start pruning. For best grape production, trim the vine similar to a tree, with a main trunk and solid, alternating branches on the sides that are attached to a trellis. When you see where the grape clusters are going to be for that season, clip off the vine about 8-10 inches after the last cluster so all the vine’s resources go into the grapes and not new growth for that season.

 

   

Mosaic Garden Art.

 

Mosaic art is a beautiful way to recycle old glass bottles, plates, tiles etc. Rather than just throwing it away, you can make a lasting piece of art to enjoy for years, maybe even generations. Here are the basic instructions to get started.

1.) Draw out your design concept beforehand so you can use it as a template.

2.) The size of the mosaic pieces depends on how detailed you want your design to be. Drawing it out ahead of time will help you establish the size of the tiles you want.

3.) Once you are certain of your design and have cut your pieces of glass with a tile saw or other means, glue your pieces onto your design surface one at a time. Wood glue works, or any glue that will dry quickly. Make sure to leave at least a minimum 1/8 to 1/4 inch gap between pieces to fill in with the grout later.

4.) Make sure to allow the glue to set the full recommended time before attempting to start grouting the gaps. You don’t want your pieces to be moving around on you while you are grouting.

5.) Mix your grout according to manufacture instructions. Always wear a face mask to avoid breathing the grout dust. Slowly spread the grout into the cracks. Using a sponge make sure to remove any and all excess grout. Rinse out your sponge often to avoid clumps dragging across the surface and scratching the glass. Don’t overdue wiping down the cracks or you will start to remove the grout between the tiles. Keep the surface damp while you work so the grout does not cure too fast as it will crack. Once the grout has set up and dried, you will probably need to wipe down the area again to get any dried grout residue removed from your design before you display it.

    © 2013 Redstone Promotional Communications / Circkles.com

Eco Garden Designs: Pond Ideas.

style=”color: #000000;”>A backyard pond adds interest, entertainment, and a relaxing atmosphere to a any home and can be your little getaway if you live in the city. Many homeowners are building them right into patio and deck areas as part of the landscaping. With or without fish, natural or modern looking, a pond will quickly become the area you cherish most in your yard to relax in, so it’s important to do it up right. Design is important, but equally important is making sure you design it to be as low maintenance as possible or it will become a chore to keep clean rather than a relaxing, enjoyable hobby.