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There are several plants out there that can be confused with poison ivy. Watch as Kerry Heafner takes us through a few of the plants mostly commonly mistaken for this itchy nuisance.>> read “How to: Distinguish Poison Ivy from Its Look-a-likes”
Ask any gardener what grows really well in your garden, and you may get an answer you don’t want to hear: POISON IVY. Unfortunately, it thrives from Maine to Florida.
Poison ivy manages to grow anywhere – on islands, marshy areas, and forests. Sand, good soil, or among acidic pine needles, poison ivy grows. Worst of all it grows in sun or shade, climbing up, over and around most everything.
With garden space and spare time at a premium for most families, gone are the huge backyard plots that once yielded all the vegetables a family could eat. After a move to the city in 2012, my own vegetable garden shrunk from a half acre in the country to a few raised beds. Nonetheless, I’m amazed at the large and varied harvest from my new, much smaller space these last two years.
Success for me and other small-space gardeners is due in part to plant breeders, who have developed compact veggies to replace some of the space hogs of the past. Many of these new varieties are ideal candidates not only for small beds, but also for containers, which means you can grow a decent harvest even if you have no ground at all.
Here in the 21st century the idea of ecological or “green” gardening is nothing new. As gardeners we have a unique connection to ecology that leads many of us to desire to garden in ways that don’t harm the environment. Most of us approach using chemicals with at least some level of apprehension and concern about both environmental and human health. Scientific research is increasingly confirming suspicions that horticultural and agricultural chemicals are contributing to a wide array of concerns such as cancer, pollinator decline, and poor water quality. Still, much confusion remains about what going green in the garden entails and how practical it is, especially as we age and become less physically able.
The good news is that the biggest challenge in going green is a mental one. Going green won’t necessarily require you to do much differently physically, but it will require you to challenge some of your assumptions about gardening. The following is a list of five things you can do this year to make your garden healthier and more ecofriendly.
For me, it all started with an unwanted pine tree. After the tree was cut down and the stump dug out, I was left with a fair-sized hole in the ground. Solution? Build a garden pond! Constructing your own garden pond is not difficult, but certain aspects of the job must be done precisely. Here are some guidelines that will help you avoid common mistakes and create the garden pond of your dreams.>> read “Building a Garden Pond”
Yes, you can control fire ants.
Fire ants. Just hearing the words will make most Southern gardeners anxiously check their shoes and the ground where they are standing. These non-native stinging ants are established in portions of 12 southeastern states, and six of these states – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina – have fire ants from border to border.
Fire ants prefer treeless grassy areas such as pastures, roadsides, parks and lawns, and densities can reach 50 to 200 mounds per acre in areas where they are not controlled. Fire ant mounds are unsightly, but it is their stings that make them so notorious. Unlike honeybees, fire ants do not have barbs on their stingers, and this means they can sting more than once. A single fire ant sting is painful, but unsuspecting gardeners sometimes sustain dozens or even hundreds of stings as a result of unknowingly stepping in a fire ant mound. The raised white pustules that result usually persist for about a week.
Azaleas are more than a harbinger of spring. All across the Southeast, masses of red, white, pink and purple azaleas boldly proclaim that the season has arrived. Many people think azaleas come in just four colors, and some may even criticize their use as commonplace. Discriminating gardeners know better. This article cannot possibly discuss everything about azaleas, but it may foster an appreciation for their amazing diversity while providing some practical advice.
All azaleas are really rhododendrons, and fall into two general categories: evergreen or deciduous. Evergreen azaleas are very common in American gardens but they are not native plants. They all originated in western Asia, primarily Japan and China. North America is home to 17 native azalea species and they are all deciduous shrubs. Surprisingly, most are native to the Southeast! Admired in Europe since the 1800s, they have been woefully underrepresented in our gardens.
Little Gem Magnolia, a cultivar of Magnolia grandiflora, is a great option for those more restricted spaces or smaller landscapes, where the traditional Southern Magnolia would be far too large. This cultivar normally reaches a height of only 15 to 20 feet with a spread of 10 to 15 feet. As such, this can fit quite nicely somewhat closer to the home or as part of a border planting along a fence or property line.>> read “Little Gem Magnolia”
Lasagna gardening is also known as “sheet composting,” “sheet mulching,” or “no-dig garden beds.” This uncomplicated and easy gardening method is appropriate for everyone (including people who may be physically limited or unable to dig traditional garden beds). It’s also a good way to convert grassy areas to gardens without using herbicides or tillers. The sod is left in place, where it gets converted into soil organic matter. The process can be done at any time and at any scale, even piecemeal as materials are available.>> read “What is Lasagna Gardening?”
Kerry Heafner profiles the loquat (Eriobotrya japonica). Watch as he tells us all about this underused fruit tree that makes an excellent (and delicious) addition to the landscape.>> read “Loquat”
“Wow, that centerpiece looks good enough to be in a magazine. I wish I could put together something half that beautiful. I usually just plop some hydrangeas in a vase – pretty, but totally unimaginative.” That's what I said to my friend and talented designer, Trace, last spring. It was late February, when buds are swollen on bare branches and hyacinth flowers are only a promise, and I loved how the centerpiece celebrated that feeling of anticipation. Trace replied, “Thanks. It’s not that hard; I could teach you.” Thus began my yearlong training, learning how to create impressive centerpieces and tablescapes for every season.>> read “Tablescaping: Celebrate the Season with a Centerpiece”