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The Story Behind Your Christmas Wreath

Robin Sweetser gives us the background story behind the Christmas Wreath for the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

What Does a Wreath on Your Door Symbolize?

This time of year, Christmas wreaths are hung in every place imaginable—from doors and fences to lampposts and windows—even the front grille of the car! How did a round bit of greenery come to symbolize the holidays?

Wreaths are part of many ancient traditions dating back to the earliest civilizations. The circle is a symbol of immortality; throughout history, wreaths have been associated with life, rejuvenation, and renewal. Originally, wreaths were worn around the head, neck, or waist.

The Greeks awarded laurel wreaths to their triumphant athletes; in the Persian Empire they were worn on the head as a symbol of importance; and ancient Romans wore them like crowns. In Sweden, candles were incorporated in the wreaths to celebrate the return of light after the winter solstice. Nowadays we use them in a window or on a door as a sign of welcome during the holidays.

They can be used flat on a table for decoration or as an advent wreath, which also contains candles, one for each Sunday between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Yule Love This Wreath

Every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my local library has a wreath-making workshop. The library supplies the greens and wire and you bring your own wreath form, gloves, clippers, and enthusiasm. All the wreaths that are made that day are beautiful and all are different. Luckily, there are no hard and fast rules for wreath-making. Whatever pleases you is a success!

Every wreath starts with a base of some sort; it can be wire, straw, vine, or wood. Stalks of woody herbs like rosemary, lemon verbena, artemisia, or summer savory can be wrapped into a circle to make a fragrant base. Gather small bunches of evergreens together and wire them to the base. Overlap the bunches to hide the stems. Tuck small bunches of herbs and other interesting greens into the base using more wire to hold them, if necessary. Using greens of different colors and textures will give your wreath its richness. Add cones, dried flowers, berries, and fruit for accents. Don’t forget the bow!

Herbs can add symbolic meaning to your wreath:

  • Rosemary for remembrance
  • Sage for good health
  • Thyme for bravery
  • Lavender for purity
  • Rue for virtue
  • Juniper for life and hope
  • Hawthorn berries for protection and joy

Throw in cedar for strength, holly for immortality, and pinecones for long life and prosperity.

Whatever your family traditions are, at its very core, a wreath celebrates the cyclical nature of life.

How To Put Lights On A Christmas Tree Like A Pro

Emily VanSchmus takes the guess work out of adding lights to your Christmas tree for Better Homes & Gardens.

This handy guide will teach you how to hang lights on your Christmas tree. Get our editor-tested tips on how to light artificial Christmas trees and find how many strands you need to decorate your tree.

Are you stumped when it comes to how to artfully drape Christmas lights on a tree? These easy-to-follow tips will show you how to put lights on your Christmas tree, whether it’s a real tree (here’s how to pick the best one) or an artificial tree. We’ll help you create your best holiday tree yet, effortlessly and beautifully.

How to Hang Lights on a Fresh Christmas Tree

When hanging Christmas tree lights on a tree, you should plan on using 100 lights for every foot of your tree’s height. So for a six-foot tree, you’ll need about 600 lights. We’ll show you how to hang lights on a real Christmas tree—it just requires a little patience.

  1. Instead of wrapping the lights around the tree in a maypole style, mentally divide the tree into three triangular sections, from top to bottom, around the tree’s cone.
  2. Plug in the first string of lights, and nestle the last bulb on the string at the top of the tree next to the trunk. Weave the tree lights back and forth across the triangle, being careful not to cross the cord over itself. When you reach the end of the first string, plug in the next set and continue weaving the lights back and forth until you reach the bottom, connecting no more than 300 Christmas lights end to end. Repeat this procedure for the remaining triangles.
  3. Step back from the tree and look at it with your eyes crossed, or squint until the tree is blurry. Wherever you see dark holes on the tree, rearrange the lights as necessary to fill in. To remove the lights without tangling them, work in reverse.

Reasons to Opt for an Artificial Christmas Tree

There is good debate over real versus artificial Christmas trees. While some people find the piney, wintry scent of the branches puts them right in the holiday spirit, others find the real evergreens can create a mess. The fullness of a fresh cut tree is hard to replicate in an artificial tree, but one could complain about the regular waterings. Allergies can also prevent you from having a live tree, so if these reasons or others get in your way, perhaps choosing an artificial Christmas tree for your holiday decorating is in the cards for your household. Creating a magical glow of lights on an artificial tree isn’t difficult, but it demands patience. Below are three different ways to put lights on an artificial Christmas tree.

How to Hang Tree Lights on an Artificial Tree

Many artificial Christmas trees come in sections that open like umbrellas. If you use miniature tree lights ($8, Target), you can wrap them around the branches and leave them on permanently—just be sure to light each section separately! We like to use 100-light strands because they are easy to work with as you wrap the tree branches.

1. For Minimalist Lighting

This is a great technique to put lights on a sparse Christmas tree. Instead of using 100 lights per foot of tree, we’re using about 50 per foot. To maximize the impact of this technique, we like to use large lights like these globe string lights ($34, Overstock) or retro-inspired bubble lights.

  • Use about three boxes of 100-light strands ($14, Walmart) for a 6-foot tree and about five boxes for an 8-foot tree.
  • Begin at the bottom of the tree close to the trunk. Allowing some slack or leader cord in the first strand of lights, separate the cord near the first bulb so it forms a loop. Slip the loop over one of the branchlets or greens near the trunk, and wrap the cord a few times around the green to secure it.
  • Pull the string of Christmas lights taut to the tip of the branch, then work back toward the trunk, wrapping the cord over itself and the branch.
  • Separate the cord again when you reach the trunk, and slip the cord over a branchlet to secure it. Carry the cord over to the next branch, wrap it around a green near the trunk, and pull it out to the tip. Wrap the cord over itself and the branch as before.
  • Continue wrapping branches in this manner until you come to the end of the string. Plug in the next set, and keep going until you reach the point where the tree comes apart. Work any extra lights back along the branch rather than crossing the section. When you wrap the top section of the Christmas tree, don’t wrap the lights around as many branches so the tree will look evenly lit from top to bottom.

2. For Moderate Lighting

For a classic but bright look, we like to use LED lights like these warm clear LED mini Christmas lights ($13, Target). They don’t produce heat and are completely safe to decorate your tree.

  • Use six boxes of 100-light strands for a 6-foot Christmas tree and eight boxes for an 8-foot tree.
  • Follow the same procedure as for subdued lighting, but add dimension to your tree’s sparkle by looping the strings a couple of times around on each branch, getting some of the lights closer to the trunk. Work your way from the bottom of the tree to top.
  • Cover more tree in sparkle with fewer lights by working the string of lights under and over each branch. Follow this pattern all around the tree, working from the bottom to the top. It’s simple, but it makes a lot of difference by actually covering your tree in lights instead of lassoing it.

3. For Showcase Lighting

If you want the effect of a Rockefeller tree in your living room, you’ll need extra light. To make your tree really wow, double the number of lights to 200 per foot of tree. Here’s how to string lights on a Christmas tree that dazzles.

  • Use 12 boxes of 100-light strands for a 6-foot tree and 16 boxes for an 8-foot tree ($119, The Home Depot).
  • Wrap the cord around every green as you work back along the branch.
  • Try pairing different-size bulbs with different stringing techniques. We like to string larger lights on first using the weaving technique, then layer in the smaller LED lights closer to the trunk using the branch-wrapping technique. It covers your entire tree and shines bright for all to see.

4. For Lights You Can Control from Your Phone

If you’re the tech-savvy type who likes to control everything with an app, you’re in luck. Now, you can easily program your Christmas tree lights to display whatever colors and patterns you like, all from a simple app on your smartphone. Pick up a set of Twinkly multicolor LED lights ($130, Amazon) and use the lights to decorate your tree as normal—then, wow your family members by changing up your holiday display with a few taps on your phone screen. Twinkly also offers music-syncing lights ($18, Amazon) so you can program your tree to change colors in time to your favorite Christmas songs.

How To Hang Christmas Tree Lights Vertically

Horizontal is traditional, sure, but this small change in orientation makes a big difference in presentation. Instead of wrapping the lights around the tree from top to bottom, hang Christmas tree lights vertically.

Mentally divide the tree into three triangular sections. String lights by starting the string at the bottom of the tree and pulling it up to the top, then back down like a mountain. Continue to zigzag up and down the tree. Once you’ve wrapped the tree, tuck the strands farther in on the branches to make room for ornaments.

How to Hang Christmas Tree Lights Outdoors

When you’re looking to add a bit of seasonal cheer to your house or the trees and shrubs in your front yard, follow these guidelines for lighting outdoor areas.

  • If you use floodlights ($38, The Home Depot) to show off outdoor evergreens, use white, blue, or green lamps. Red, yellow, amber, and pink lamps will make the trees look a muddy brown.
  • Don’t try to hang strings of Christmas lights from the eaves with cup hooks—in a strong wind, the wires may swing loose. Instead, use plastic gutter clips ($4, Walmart) that hook onto the gutter and hold the wire tightly in place. Look for packages of gutter clips in crafts stores and hardware stores near the tree lights and supplies.
  • Be sure you have outdoor electrical sockets to plug into when you use outdoor Christmas lights. Don’t worry about hiding the electrical cords—just keep them organized neatly, and no one will notice them.

Tips and Considerations to Safely Hang Tree Lights

  • Christmas tree lights can either be end-to-end—aka string-to-string—or stacked. Before buying your tree lights, check the boxes to make sure they’re all compatible. By using stacked plugs, you can join more strands than you can with end-to-end plugs.
  • To maximize safety, never plug more than two extension cords together. Instead, buy them in the lengths you need, and make sure they can handle the wattage of the bulbs.
  • The wattages of all the lights you use should be the same. This prevents power surges while prolonging the life of the bulbs.
  • Plug in the lights before you remove them from the box so you can see if they work before you put them on the tree.
  • Consider using miniature clear (white) lights for your base lighting, then add strands of the new cool-burning large bulbs for color and variety. Alternatively, add sets of novelty lights, such as flicker-flames, flashing lights, bubble lights, or other shapes.

 

 

10 Popular Plants For Winter Landscapes

Here’s some good advice from David Beaulieu on best plants for winter landscape for The Spruce.

Ideas for Turning Humdrum Yards Into Winter Scenes Worth Painting

What makes a plant popular for winter landscapes in the snowy regions of the globe? Are conifers the sole contestants? Which landscaping plants are automatically disqualified? Which shrubs are best for attracting wild birds? Answering such questions should help generate landscaping ideas for dealing with that Scrooge of the seasons, horticulturally speaking: winter. Our goal is to turn a drab yard into a winter scene worth painting—for that matter, worth looking at while you’re snow shoveling.

While evergreen shrubs (including shrubs with golden foliage) and conifer trees undeniably add visual interest to winter landscapes, so do many other plants, such as red osier dogwoods. About the only plants that are disqualified right at the outset are those that lack any appreciable height: no matter how pretty a plant may be, it will add no visual interest to the winter landscape if it lies buried all winter, dwarfed by a blanket of snow. Based on this premise, let’s explore ideas to enhance the winter landscape. And let’s keep in mind that many landscaping enthusiasts are also bird watchers; so that a plant’s ability to attract wild birds will be a consideration.

 

Characteristics to Look For

A winning plant for winter landscapes will have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Contains colorful berries that attract birds for bird watching
  • Readily catches snow in its branches
  • Exhibits a delicate structure
  • Is clad in a bark that is colorful or that has an unusual texture
  • Bears evergreen foliage
  • Has an interesting branching pattern

Let’s look at some popular plants exhibiting these characteristics. Conifers take a back seat; their value to winter landscapes goes without saying, so we’re limiting their representation to two entries here. The following is a list of popular plants for adding visual interest in winter.

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  • Christmas Holly Shrubs

    • Evergreen holly is popular due to its striking, year-round foliage and bright berries that attract many bird species. Sprigs of cut holly have long been used in winter holiday decorations. Many evergreen hollies are not hardy enough for far Northern climes, but two of the hardier varieties are:

      • China holly (Ilex meserveae): This is a rounded holly, 8′ high by 8′ wide, and it is also drought tolerant.
      • Compact inkberry holly (Ilex glabra ‘Compacta’): This plant has dark green foliage that resembles that of boxwood shrubs. Its berry is black, not the usual red that we associate with hollies. It reaches a height of 4′ to 8′; its width is a bit less than that. You can also grow the similar Ilex glabra ‘Densa’.

       

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Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Allemans’)

Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Allemans’) is another extremely hardy plant (zones 3 to 8). The May flowering of red osier dogwoods yields white blooms that are followed by white fruit. But red osier dogwood makes this list because of its bark, which ranges in color from red to burgundy. Reaching a height of 6′ to 10′, the spread of red osier dogwoods is 5′ to 10′. A patch of fiery red osier dogwood against a backdrop of pristine snow makes for an unforgettable winter scene.

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Plume Grass (Erianthus ravennae)

When planning the winter landscape, don’t forget to include at least one tall perennial grass. An ornamental grass with a stately, thin shaft and fluffy coiffure exhibits such a delicate structure that it will doubtless lend a touch of charm to any winter landscape, however, barren otherwise. Plume grass (Erianthus ravennae), which can grow to be as tall as 11 feet (by about 4 feet wide), is hardy as far north as zone 4 (for those of you in hotter climates, it is listed for as high as zone 9).

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Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)

Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) is a shrub with a spreading habit (4′ to 6′ X 4′ to 6′), grown in zones 2 to 8. It’s glossy, aromatic foliage complements its waxy, gray fruit. In fact, these unusual berries are widely used to scent candles—if you can get to the berries before the birds do, that is. It is also a drought-tolerant shrub. The birds may like bayberry, but the deer don’t, as it’s one of the deer-resistant plants.

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Cranberry bush Viburnum (Viburnum trilobum ‘Compactum’)

Compact American cranberry bush viburnum (Viburnum trilobum ‘Compactum’) yields masses of red berries that serve as a source of food for birds on the winter landscape. A rounded shrub, it bears white flowers in May and June that are followed by red fruit. As a bonus, the shrub offers foliage ranging from red to purple in fall. American cranberry bush viburnum is hardy to zone 2. It grows 4′ to 5′ high, with a spread of 3′ to 4′.

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Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata)

Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) is a deciduous holly bush indigenous to wetlands in the eastern half of Canada and the U.S. As stated above, usefulness for attracting wild birds in winter is one of the criteria considered for this list, and the fruit of winterberry will certainly attract birds to your property. Far from being a drawback, its deciduous nature is actually a benefit for the winter landscape. Why would you want leaves to be in the way when you have such gorgeous berries to behold?

A dioecious shrub (as are bayberry and evergreen holly), to ensure fruit production it is best to plant several shrubs together, to increase your chances of finding a male plant to accompany the females.

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Yew Shrubs (Taxus spp.)

Yews are renowned for being plants in our Christmas traditions. These conifers bear evergreen needles and bright red berries. But keep children away from both the foliage and the berries of these plants; the seeds and needles are quite toxic.

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Canadian Hemlocks (Tsuga canadenesis)

Are you surprised to see eastern hemlock trees (Tsuga canadenesis) included in a list of landscaping plants? You may think of them first and foremost as tall trees (60′ or more) that you encounter out in the woods. But plant developers have bred cultivars that are more shrub-like, which are well-suited for use in hedges, etc. Shear them to keep them at the desired height. Whether used in hedges or as specimens, these evergreen conifers will help give your winter landscape some much-needed visual interest.

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Viking black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa ‘Viking’)

Like winterberry holly, Viking black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa ‘Viking’) tolerates poorly-drained soils. Like American cranberrybush viburnum and barberry, this shrub provides foliage that ranges from red to purple in fall, making it a two-season standout. Viking black chokeberry is hardy to zone 3. As with all the berries mentioned in this article, chokeberry berries serve as emergency food for wild birds. They’re not the birds’ first choice—they are astringent or otherwise unpalatable, which is why they stick around so long—but when the birds get desperate, these plants are their salvation. Its white flowers in May yield to purplish-black berry clusters. It grows to a height of 3′ to 5′, with a spread of 3′ to 5′.

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Birch Trees (Betula spp.)

Three varieties of birch trees lend considerable interest to the winter landscape, two of them (the second and third entries below) because of their bark.

  • Young’s weeping birch (Betula pendula ‘Youngii’)
  • Paper birch (Betula papyrifera)
  • Yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis)

WHAT IS THE HARVEST MOON?

SHINE ON, HARVEST MOON! FACTS AND FOLKLORE

Here’s a good article on the Harvest moon by Fred Schaaf for The Farmer’s Almanac.

In 2021, the Harvest Moon rises on Monday, September 20! The Moon will appear full for about three days around this time, from Sunday morning through Tuesday morning. Why does this phenomenon happen? Learn more—and shine on, Harvest Moon!

WHEN IS THE HARVEST MOON?

This year, the brilliant Harvest Moon will appear in the evening of Monday, September 20, reaching peak illumination at 7:54 P.M. EDT.

One thing that sets the Harvest Moon apart from other full Moon names is that it’s not associated with a specific month, as the others are. Instead, the Harvest Moon relates to the timing of the autumnal equinox (September 22, 2021), with the full Moon that occurs nearest to the equinox being the one to take on the name “Harvest Moon.” This means that the Harvest Moon can occur in either September or October, depending on how the lunar cycle lines up with the Gregorian calendar.

The Harvest Moon does typically occur in September, taking the place of the full Corn Moon. However, it occasionally lands in October instead, replacing the full Hunter’s Moon.

WHY IS IT CALLED THE HARVEST MOON?

For several evenings, the moonrise comes soon after sunset. This results in an abundance of bright moonlight early in the evening, which was a traditional aide to farmers and crews harvesting their summer-grown crops. Hence, it’s called the “Harvest” Moon!

There are just a little over 12 complete Moon cycles every year, on average (there being about 29.53 days in a synodic month). The Harvest Moon isn’t like the other Moons.

  • Usually, throughout the year, the Moon rises an average of about 50 minutes later each day.
  • But for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the Moon seems to rise at nearly the same time: just 25 to 30 minutes later across the northern USA, and only 10 to 20 minutes later farther north in Canada and Europe.

Additionally, the Harvest Moon rises at sunset and then will rise very near sunset for several nights in a row because the difference is at a yearly minimum. It may almost seem as if there are full Moons multiple nights in a row!

MORE ABOUT THE HARVEST MOON

If interested, here is more detailed information about the Harvest Moon. (Warning: Scientific explanation below!)

The Moon’s orbital motion (combined with the larger orbit of the Earth around the Sun) carries it farther eastward among the constellations of the zodiac from night to night. At any one moonrise, the Moon occupies a particular place on the celestial sphere (the great dome of the heavens), but when the Earth turns toward that point 24 hours later, the Moon has moved off to the east about 12 degrees, and it takes an average of 50 minutes longer for the Earth to rotate toward the Moon and for the Moon thus to “rise.” Think of it as a giant Slinky in which each loop, representing one lunar orbit of the Earth, advances the orbit a bit farther along the spiral path. The result of all this is that the Moon doesn’t rise at the same time everyday.

But around the date of the Harvest Moon, the Moon does rise at about the same time for several days in a row. Why? Remember that the zodiac is the band of constellations through which the Moon travels from night to night. The section of the zodiac band in which the full Moon travels around the start of autumn is the section that forms the most shallow angle with the eastern horizon. Because the Moon’s orbit on successive nights is more nearly parallel to the horizon at that time, its relationship to the eastern horizon does not change appreciably, and the Earth does not have to turn as far to bring up the Moon.

The Moon may rise as little as 23 minutes later on several nights before and after the full Harvest Moon (at about 42 degrees north latitude), which means extra light at peak harvest time near autumn. By the time the Moon has reached last quarter, however, the typical 50-minute delay has returned.

At the start of spring, the opposite applies. The full Moon is in the section of the zodiac that has the steepest angle with respect to the eastern horizon. For several days bracketing the full Moon nearest the vernal equinox, the delay in moonrise is as much as 75 minutes (at 42 degrees north latitude).

Here is another way of expressing what happens with the Harvest Moon: It is in this part of the zodiac that the Moon’s eastward (orbital) motion has its largest northward component. For observers in Earth’s Northern Hemisphere, the farther north an object is in the heavens, the longer an arc it makes across the sky, and the longer a time it is visible above the horizon. Thus, to say that the Moon is getting rapidly farther north each night around the time of the Harvest Moon is to say that, for northern latitudes on Earth, it will keep rising distinctly earlier than would otherwise be expected—nearly the same time as the night before.

How nearly the same is “almost the same time” each night? This varies with latitude, for the farther north you are, the shallower the angle of the zodiac is with respect to your horizon. In most of the United States and southern Canada, the Harvest Moon rises 25 to 30 minutes later each night. The effect is less noticeable the farther south you go. But going north makes the Harvest Moon more extreme.

According to astronomy author Guy Ottewell, the idea of the Harvest Moon originated in Europe (average latitude about 50 degrees north), where the Harvest Moon rises only ten to 20 minutes later each night. It must have seemed a boon that just when days were getting rapidly shorter and the Sun seemed to go down all too soon, the Harvest Moon arrived to extend the hours that harvesting could be done.

CHINESE HARVEST MOON TRADITIONS

As a final note, I should add that it is not just Western civilization that has given special importance to the Harvest Moon. For Chinese people everywhere, this full Moon is the occasion for the Festival of the August Moon (the “August” is through a calendar discrepancy) or Mid-Autumn Festival (in some cultures, the equinoxes and solstices have been considered the middle of the seasons). This festival is celebrated with joyful games and the eating of “Mooncakes.”

I remember vividly being invited to one such celebration and singing songs and playing my guitar to a circle of friendly faces in the light of the rising Harvest Moon.

 

What You Need To Know To Eliminate Weeds From Your Garden

Here’s a good article on ridding your yard of weeds by Andreas Beck for Better Homes & Gardens.

Wild plants that pop up where you don’t want them can be tough to control. Fortunately, there are plenty of tips and tricks that will help you get rid of these leafy invaders naturally.

It’s hard to have compassion for weeds, but they’re just plants growing in places where they’re not wanted (some weeds are even edible!). Consider trying this philosophy: If you like it, it’s a flower; if you don’t, it’s a weed. That said, it’s perfectly reasonable to not want weeds mingling with your vegetables and perennial plants. To tackle them effectively without resorting to toxic chemicals, you need some hard-hitting strategies, a few quality tools, and an understanding of the different weed types you’re likely to encounter. Then, you’ll need to keep on top of them throughout the growing season: Persistence pays off. And the activity of weeding can even be therapeutic.

Types of Weeds

Some weeds produce enormous quantities of seeds, and while they’re easy to pull or hoe, new ones quickly appear to take their place. Other types of weeds have the ability to sprout new plants from small pieces of root or stem left behind after you pull them. And then you have wily weeds like the mighty dandelion, which combines the best (or worst) of both types. Once you get to know all these types of weeds, you’ll be able to use the most effective techniques for keeping them under control.

Annuals

Pretty much all weeds make seeds (which is one way they can spread), but annuals such as galinsoga and lamb’s quarters only have a year to live. They can be trickier than other weeds because they’ll cover the ground with seeds. To get rid of them, through early spring and summer, frequently draw a hoe through the soil to disrupt tiny germinating seeds. If you can, dig or pull annual weeds before they have the chance to develop seeds. If you can’t pull them without damaging other garden plants, cut the stems at or below the soil to prevent them from regrowing.

Taprooted

The key to fighting taproots is to get all of their long, strong roots out of the soil. Perennials such as dandelions can regrow from any part of their root left in the soil, while biennials such as bull thistle will die after blooming in their second year. Plunge a straight, pointed trowel or dandelion digger down right next to the root to help pry it out. You can also use a flat garden spade for large, deep taproots.

Rhizomatics

These weeds can be hard to control because they have horizontal stems called rhizomes that resprout when they’re cut. For weeds like stinging nettle, witchgrass, and quackgrass, use a trowel, claw, or spading fork to loosen the soil around these weeds. The rhizomes will be easier to pull out and less likely to break and leave pieces behind that can resprout.

Toughies

These weeds, including chickweed, plantain, and dock, like to grow in hard, compacted soil. It takes strength to pull them out, so an oscillating stirrup hoe is your best friend for dealing with them. Its sharp, horizontal blade swings back and forth as you work the soil, giving it even more power. This will help loosen up the soil around these stubborn weeds, making them easier to tug out.

Monsters

Aggressive weeds, including Japanese knotweed and bindweed, can feel impossible to eliminate because of their deep, vigorous roots. If your yard gets taken over by them (or any other weed), try starving them of light. Move any plants you want to keep to another area, then closely mow the weedy part of your yard. Cover the weeds with sturdy tarps and weigh them down, then wait until all the plants underneath are dead.

Weeding Tips and Techniques

Spreading a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch over the soil in planting beds helps prevent seeds from germinating and makes those that emerge easier to remove. The best time to tackle most weeds is right after irrigating or a rainfall. It’s easiest to pull or dig them out in their entirety when the ground is soft. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, focus on a small space every day and rotate throughout your garden. It’s certainly easier to face weed control in small increments than it is to face weeding your entire yard all at once.

After weeds are pulled or dug out, you can leave them on the ground to shrivel (best to do on a sunny day) so they are lighter to haul away later. Some extra vigorous garden weeds can grow back or go to seed if left where they are, so make sure to completely remove them once you head inside again. Because most home compost piles don’t get hot enough to kill seeds, it’s best to discard weeds in your regular trash or with other yard waste.

The Best Weeding Tools

Your hands are often the best all-purpose weeding tools, but when you need a little more power, try one of these.

  • Cutting and scraping tools work best for sliding behind and beneath weeds to chop stems from roots. Use angled triangular blades to weed cracks and crevices.
  • Fishtail or taproot weeders have a V-shape tip on the end of a long tool that you slip on either side of a weed stem (such as a dandelion) to pry the root from the soil.
  • Digging knives (also called hori-horis) are versatile tools that can dig holes, divide perennials, dig taproot weeds, and scrape weed seedlings from the soil. Keep it sharp for the best results.
  • Oscillating hoes have sharp-edge stirrup-shape blades and long handles. Eradicate weeds by moving the blade back and forth in the soil. These work well in a vegetable garden when you want to sever young weeds between rows.

Garden Designing

Here’s a good article on garden design by the team at Dream Yard.

Garden designing involves much more than deciding on what plants and features you’re going to include. Like any landscaping project, there are always things you need to consider before you begin. Without getting too in-depth into design or plant selection, we are going to cover some basic principles and helpful tips to help get you thinking in the right direction for designing a garden.

Up until recently, our focus has primarily been on hardscaping projects like patios, walkways, walls, etc…, but we have lots of great new material on the way. Our focus over the next few months will be more on planning and landscape design. So let’s start off with,

Rhythm and line

You probably already know that lines connect features and define outdoor rooms in your yard. They can also introduce complexity and confusion if there is no rhythm. Lines should be based on major features like the architecture of the home, a patio, deck, fence or driveway. Lines should also have a reason or purpose for the form they take. Most garden beds whether they are attached to a major feature, or on their own, should follow this same principle.

I’ll give you a common example that I see touring around looking at properties.

The garden border that curves in and out like a snake against a straight line of a fence, house, or patio.

Each curve should be there for a reason. Like a walkway curving around a tree or bush. There’s nothing wrong with curves off a straight line, but try for long, flowing, gradual curves over abrupt sharp ones, or the rhythm will be lost.

This is not just an external concept either. The same thing goes for things you plant within the garden whether it’s a single line of shrubs, or staggered plantings with different shapes and heights. Having them closely follow the same lines brings unity to your garden like the one shown above.

Keep things simple

Don’t confuse the eye with your garden design. Simplicity is a basic design principle we’ve covered on our site already. When designing a garden, you may have to exercise some restraint with your wants. Introducing too many different types of plants, colours, or features can negatively affect your design by confusing the eye. A great way to design a garden is to keep it simple at first and add things down the road if you like.

The key to having achieving simplicity is by avoiding unnecessary change or excess yet still avoiding monotony. It’s a balance that you may have to find on your own over time.

Proportion

Proportion is all about size relationships between buildings, people, plants, trees, masses and voids. Features must be in balance with one another vertically, horizontally, and spatially. The size of the garden design in relation to the size of the yard should be proportionate as should the size of everything in the bed to the surroundings of the yard. This is especially important with tree selection.

It’s easier to keep things in proportion when you are dealing with fixed features like a statue or a fountain. Growing things are a little more difficult. You may not know or plan for how big or tall something will grow. This will affect the overall balance of the design.

Colour

No, it’s spelled right. I’m from north of the border. So what do colours do? They can actually have multiple functions in a garden. First of all they can represent and create moods and feelings. They can draw or catch the eye. They can create dimension. Bright colours (Red, yellow, orange, etc..), actually appear to move closer to you than cooler colours (Blues and pastels), which appear to move away from you. Greys, blacks and whites are more neutral.

Lastly, colours can be used to make smoother transitions from one feature to the next in your whole yard. You can work with any of these functions of colour to achieve the effect you are looking for.

Balance

Balance refers to the equality, or proportions of different elements as seen by one’s view.

There are 3 main types of balance in landscaping. The first one most of us are familiar with already. Symmetrical balance would be the perfect balance on either side. (Equality.) If your view was that of a garden bed on either side of the front door, they would have the same features mirror imaging each other in size, shape, height and colour.

The second one is asymmetrical balance. We’ve all seen it, but many of us are not quite as familiar with the term. The elements don’t have to be a mirror image of one another, but the elements need only to have similar shape and size. (Proportion.)

The third type is called distal. This would be your near/far, or here/there balance. Distal balance is often overlooked and is greatly affected by off property features in your yard. A good example would be the view looking out over a backyard in relation to a mountain range in the background. It’s the here/there where balance can play the most important role when it comes to designing.

Each time the view changes, it affects the overall balance of the design. Unlike something on paper, your design must be considered from every angle you can view it from. This is actually what makes designing a front yard garden bed for a corner lot even more challenging than a typical front yard garden bed against a house. There is an additional 90 degree view to account for that will affect the balance of the elements in the garden.

Present and future view

Understanding balance and how the view changes is very helpful in having an appealing garden. Now you can design your garden while considering how it will look from every possible viewpoint, but how will it look in the future? What will be the matured height and size of the trees, shrubs, and other elements? The future view must also be considered.

Form

Form isn’t on my traditional list of design principles. It is something that has been interpreted different ways. Form in this context are aspects of the design that give a 3 dimensional mass. This is a good focus to have if you are considering winterscaping. They can give your garden 4 season appeal or life especially when colour is lacking and the leaves have fallen. Form can be provided by conifers, structures, hardscaping features, boulders, stone walls, etc… These are all things that can add interest throughout the year.

Unity

Unity is achieved when all, or most of the design principle have been followed, but there are 2 more important principles to finish this off. they sometimes appear on their own, but they are really the key ingredients to unity.

Repetition is the first one and can be linked to simplicity. Repeating shapes, plants or colours to avoid a cluttered look. This leads into the second key for achieving unity.

Transition is the ability to move the eye throughout the design smoothly. Whether you’re using colour, shape, or size, abrupt changes will affect the unity of the design. Transition should be gradual.

Now you have a few helpful concepts to consider so let’s throw a few tips at you. Here are a couple of ways to help you dig you garden beds with nice clean lines. The first one we covered. Using inverted marking paint. The second one is by using a flexible garden hose. It’s a great way to design a bed while being able to make adjustments.

If you are looking for help on how to make a straight garden edge, this is a simple way to do it . Use a board, or piece of pipe when you dig your edge so you don’t stray off track.

 

Hillside / Sloped Landscaping

Here’s a helpful article on dealing with sloping yards by Landscape.

Landscaping through or near slopes means that homeowners have to deal with a concept called the angle of repose. The angle of repose is the maximum angle at which a granular material (in this case, soil) will remain at rest relative to the earth surrounding it. In other words, if the slope of a piece of land exceeds the local soil’s angle of repose, the soil will shift until it is at rest. What does this mean for homeowners who are landscaping into their hillsides, or moving large amounts of land to put down a hardscape? Typically, landscaping at a slope greater than the angle of repose necessitates fortifying structures known as retaining walls. These structures help support the pressure that is exerted by soil as it is trying to shift back to equilibrium.

When tackling hillside projects, homeowners need to carefully investigate the soil at the construction site. Is the slope itself contributing to soil erosion? Where does rainfall go as it runs down the hill? Is the soil sandy or does it contain a higher proportion of clay? DIY landscapers need to evaluate the size of the project as well. Major excavation frequently calls for specialized labor and large retaining walls reinforced with concrete and steel bars. More minor slopes, such as the gentle curve of a flowerbed’s soil as it meets the surrounding land, can be dealt with more easily. These smaller projects are an opportunity for DIY landscapers to employ decorative stone or brick without the risk of collapse from the massive weight of shifting earth. Being certain about the characteristics of the local soil (as well as its drainage) is critical during this stage. If homeowners are unsure about how they should proceed, consulting a professional landscaping firm or inquiring after other locally built retaining walls is a good place to begin.

After the integrity of the soil on the hillside has been addressed, DIY landscapers can start to brainstorm ideas for plant-based softscapes. There are a wide variety of groundcovers that can be used to provide coverage as well as help to prevent soil erosion due to heavy rainfall or wind. Steeper slopes may be supplemented with decks, terraces, stairs, or strategically placed rocks to control the flow of drainage (an especially important step if homeowners are worried about water damaging another person’s property). Homeowners must also take measures to ensure that any hillside plants are capable of dealing with a high degree of exposure to wind, rain, and natural light. For this reason, delicate flowers are not recommended for hillsides unless homeowners mean to reduce their exposure.

Hardscape Trends For Outdoor Living

Here’s an informative article on hardscape trends for 2021 by Joe Raboine for Turf Magazine.

As homeowners embraced outdoor living during the COVID-19 pandemic, they prioritized functional outdoor spaces to relax, work, and spend time with family. And, according to a recent study, 85% of experts1 believe that homeowners are more willing to invest in outdoor living spaces this year. Spaces that were normally neglected or barely used for months at a time have become essential to at-home life, giving contractors the opportunity to work with on a variety of projects.

One of the top trends this year is the shift from designing spaces for entertainment purposes to functional, everyday areas. Prior to quarantine and social distancing, most outdoor living areas were used for entertaining. Now, four in five homeowners in the aforementioned study reported wanting to make changes to help them enjoy and use their space more often, with 35% saying outdoor is at the top of their wish list.

With the shifting mindset of how homeowners utilize their outdoor living spaces, projects that support remote work, exercise, cooking, and dining are popular. The integration of technology should be a significant consideration for contractors when planning with their clients. For example, when creating an additional work-from-home space, homeowners need a stable Wi-Fi connection and accessible electrical outlets for laptops and other devices. Heating and cooling elements as well as lighting are also crucial to ensure usability year-round. In fact, experts predict 48% of outdoor spaces2 will be adapted to allow for use during any season.

Bigger Spaces, More Patterns

As more homeowners seek out outdoor living, spaces are trending larger. Outdoor kitchens, living rooms, grilling stations, and patios are becoming highly requested to make these areas truly multi-use. Outdoor kitchens are expected to be the most desired addition this year, according to 61% of recently surveyed outdoor living experts—followed by a porch and patio combination.

While the size of outdoor spaces is increasing, new patterns and design styles are becoming more popular. Minimalist, neutral color palettes have been a mainstay over the past several years and continue to be a top choice. These colors are a great way to express a calm, soothing environment. Selections from this year’s Colors of the Year, like Ultimate Gray, also influence customer decisions, and make it easier to implement accents and pops of color, like Belgard’s 2021 Color of the Year, Marigold.

Modular, geometric patterns also are a top choice and fit well with this overall aesthetic. These patterns create clean, simple lines that add to the calming effect of the neutral tones. These patterns also are typically constructed through modular-style materials, which makes the design process simpler. Modular pavers work off common nominal sizes, so homeowners and contractors have the ability to play more with shape, size, and texture. They also make integration easier, with less installation time required.

But what about homeowners enjoying urban, more compact cities who may not have as much space to utilize? Microspaces are a great way to maximize a smaller outdoor area. Small water or fire features, planters and vertical gardens, and even plunge pools can be installed along lot or fence lines—and even rooftops.

As we move through 2021, but the interest in outdoor living shows no signs of waning. Manufacturers and contractors will need to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, materials, and installation techniques. With the right tools and ideas in place, they will be able to create amazing spaces for success.

 

 

9 Beautiful Trellis Fence And Screen Ideas To Turn Your Yard Into A Private Escape

Here’s a good article on trellis fence’s for your backyard by Jessica Bennett for Better Homes & Gardens.

A trellis fence or screen is the perfect way to add a sense of privacy and structure to your backyard. Whether the design is wood or metal, a garden trellis creates a beautiful backdrop for outdoor living spaces. These trellis ideas, including simple structures and elaborate designs, will help shape your patio or garden in style.

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FIREFLIES: WHY DO FIREFLIES GLOW?

Here’s an interesting article on why fireflies glow by George and Becky Lohmiller for The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

LIGHTNING BUGS FACTS AND HOW TO ATTRACT THEM

Fireflies—also known a lightning bugs—have been captivating humans for centuries with their beautiful lights on summer nights. What makes fireflies glow the way they do?

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