Tip of the Week! Sometimes it’s OK to Break the Rules

ok to break the rulesWe’ve pined away all winter long to see green grass and smell the petunias – and our moment is finally here. We passed the date of last frost a few days ago and now we can get outside and plant our flowers and tomatoes. Along the Front Range, this weekend is the jumping off point for the growing season!

This year, why not break a few of what seems like the traditional rules of gardening? Follow the horticultural basics for a healthy garden, of course. But think about rules you could break to add a fresh take on this year’s gardening experience. Here are a few ideas.

Rule Breaker No. 1 – plant outside the raised box.

If your appetite for home-grown veggies has outgrown what the raised planter can provide, take veggies and herbs into other areas of the yard. Break the rule that veggies need to be inside the box. As long as the sun exposure and water requirements of plants grouped together are the same, assortments of many different types of plants can be grown together. If there’s an open space in a bed area, drop in a tomato or a clump of chives.

Rule Breaker No. 2 – be square.

Rather than planting seeds neatly aligned in straight rows, plant seeds of each variety within a one-foot square area of soil. Devote a square to corn, another to carrots and so on. This practice requires less garden space and also reduces water use. Think of your edibles garden as a patchwork quilt of veggies.

Within each square, lower the soil about 1 to 2 inches and then rim the edge with a mound of soil about 3 to 4 inches high. This technique creates a square saucer that holds water and prevents run-off after watering. This tighter form of planting shades the soil which helps hold in moisture. The shade also helps deter weeds.

Rule Breaker No. 3 – flip out flowers for foliage.

We typically think of patio containers as being full of bright flowers with foliage as their backdrop. Yet different forms, heights and textures of annual foliage plants can be equally showy.

Follow the thriller/spiller/filler formula to select a tall plant as the thriller, a cascading plant as the spiller and a mounding plant as the filler. Set the foliage container off in its own location – or place it strategically among a group of flowering containers. In containers, green can be great.

Rule Breaker No. 4 – grow up.

Garden areas typically grow laterally across an expanse of soil – but they don’t have to be oriented far and wide. Especially where lateral space is a premium or even nonexistent, you can grow annuals by orienting your garden vertically. There are different approaches to vertical gardening, but their common element is maximizing space up and down to create a growing area you might not otherwise have.

Containers set on the ground that have trellises will pull flowering vines or beans, cucumbers and other edibles upward. Another tactic is to grow tiers of plants on shelves attached to a wall. Place the more sun-loving plants on top with shade-lovers below. Vertical gardens in sunny areas will dry out faster than those planted in soil, so plan on watering more frequently or rely on automatic drip irrigation.

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