Garden Planning 101

Wow! Time flies when you are having fun, right? My family has some excited things planned in the next few months– all home and garden oriented! It’s officially Spring on March 20– what do you have planned for your garden?

The daffodils at my neighbor's house are coming up-- a great sign!

The daffodils at my neighbor’s house are coming up– a great sign!

The more important question is– do you know how to plan? Here are a few quick and simple tips on optimizing your garden this growing season!

Size does matter.

Plan on getting plants, shrubs, trees that will accommodate the size of your yard. If you have a very tiny yard, you wouldn’t want to plant a tree that at maturity could be over 80 feet tall. Go to your local nursery or greenhouse and talk to an expert there that could help you with choosing plants, trees, shrubs that will fit your space. You want a happy balance with anything you plant!

Be dynamic in your garden.

When designing a layout for your garden, make sure you add taller and shorter plants, as well as some ground cover. You want your garden to have “layers”, to make your landscape look “interesting”, kind of like winter interest, but for the warm months. Aesthetics are just as important in the garden as they are anywhere else! For example, plant a dwarf plum tree with daffodils and sedum (I’m just thinking of the different layers, so these are just my examples off-hand. There are many choices). Be aware that you are planting shade plants and full sun plants in the appropriate places.

Think about dynamics in the seasonal sense– if you would like to plant-based on what blooms during the spring, summer, fall — so your beds are always blooming. I know I made this mistake a few years ago by planting a nice bed full of tulips– well, what happens after they are done blooming? Thinking about these things now makes it much easier later!

Sketch it out.

Start a garden journal and sketch out what you would like your landscape to look like, and what you would like to plant. The off-season is the time to research plants and find the right ones for your hardiness zone. Enjoy the research/design process, it’s a time of enlightenment and discovery! You will see so many beautiful plants and different ways to design your yard, you won’t know where to begin! Those, my friends, are GOOD problems.

“Exercise” Your Green Thumb!

Disclaimer: This blog post is extremely general advice when it comes to exercising. I am not a doctor or fitness expert, but these are the exercises I have been advised to do over the years and think they are universal enough for everyone to try them. Please consult your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Warm weather is right around the corner!

Warm weather is right around the corner!

Yet another birthday has passed for me. I celebrated my 35th birthday yesterday. Unfortunately sinus problems have been plaguing me since Thursday, so unfortunately all of my plans were put on hold. Still not feeling so hot, I didn’t get much of a chance to finish up another post I wanted to do today, but that’s ok. I thought this topic was rather appropriate and relevant for the buildup to breaking ground that first day of the new growing season!

Yes, as I laid in bed most of the day, I could hear winter’s grip loosening all around me– icicles dripping, streets are clear/slushy, and it’s a balmy 28 degrees! One thing we don’t think about often enough when we are anxious to get our hands back into the dirt is getting ourselves in shape for all the digging, shoveling, pruning and hauling that we will be doing. And now could not be a more perfect time! Spring is just 18 days away, and even though its hard for most people, exercise is important for everyone to do in order to avoid serious injuries in the garden.Take it from me, I know first hand what its like to have a major injury take you down in just one unnatural bend of the back, and be down for a month, at least.

So, here are some exercises you can do now that will get you limber for the garden this year!

Stretching – I have been an exerciser for over 15 years. I have done everything from running to Tae Bo (remember that?). Now that I am, uh-hum, 35, I have had to change the way I exercise in order to compliment my aging body. And one of the ways I have changed is by taking stretching seriously.

The best stretches to avoid low back injuries include:

  • bird dog- get on all fours and stretch your left arm out and your right leg out. Bring them in close to your body and stretch again. For starters, do 5-8 on each side.
  • lay on your back and bring your left leg up to your body and “hug” it – hold these poses for 30 seconds and switch to the other side. Do 5 reps per side.
  • bicycle crunches – put your hands behind your head and bring your left elbow up to your right knee. Do 10 reps on each side, and work your way up to 20 reps per side.

Walking— is low impact and effective. If you are new to exercising, just walking around the block and gradually making your way up to a mile and more can give you significant health benefits. But make sure you are walking at an uncomfortable pace– a pace where it is hard to talk. You need to push yourself in order to get benefits from any exercise.

Strength Training — lifting light weights is so important to building and maintain strength when gardening. You can purchase a pair of 3-5 pound weights and it can do wonders for your health. The more you lift weights now, the easier it will be to carry bags of mulch later! You can find many weight training programs in health magazines, as well as online.

Core Training— they don’t call your core your “powerhouse” for nothing. My weak core is the reason for my lower back muscles getting pulled three times in a year. Core training is the most important exercising you can do for preparing for the gardening season. Ask your doctor for a few good ones, but the one I like the best is the plank.

A few extra tips:

  • Protect Your Knees — use a knee pad and practice safe lifting to avoid hurting your back and knees!
  • Never put more weight in your wheelbarrow than you can handle. Use your arms to push your wheel barrow instead of your just putting your back all into it!
  • Lift with your knees and your weight even distributed when lifting.

Doing these things now will help you get around your garden much easier later on!