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Deuce Cities Henhouse

Deuce Cities Henhouse - Gardening Basics, Flower Beds
Hey Guys, I thought I’d do a few “gardening 101” posts as it seems like I have been getting a lot of comments from those of you who are newer to gardening or trying it out for the first time. I am by no means an expert but I do feel that I have learned a lot since starting my own gardens five seasons ago. My mom is a really good gardener and I’ve been able to learn a lot watching her over the years.

Although I’ve absorbed tons of gardening tips from the school of mom, I think I learned the most through good ol’ trial and error. The key to being a successful gardner is not being afraid of killing plants. I’ve killed lots and lots of plants, that’s not even an exaggeration. I learn from my mistakes. Killing something makes it easy, you learn right away what species of plant isn’t going to grow in your garden. By no means does it indicate you have a black thumb, you’re just learning! There are always things that will grow well in your yard, you just need to figure out what works best. Sometimes the process of elimination is the best way to figure that out.

Tip: Walk around your neighborhood and see what’s growing in your neighbors yards paying attention to the type of light and time of day. Chances are if it’s growing well down the block, it will probably grow well in your yard too.

Over the next few weeks I’d like to share with you guys a few of my basic rules and steps when it comes to gardening. For any of you out there who know more than me, feel free to chime in, and for your newbie gardeners that are looking for advice leave a comment and I’ll try and help you out!

Also, I hope I’m not driving you guys crazy with all of the gardening posts, let me know if I am. I usually do a lot of gardening posts once the spring arrives and take it easy on the interior stuff until the weather gets too hot to handle. As a Minnesotan whos been locked-up indoors for the last 6 months, I need to get outside! Gotta get that fresh air while I can, ya know?

Deuce Cities Henhouse - Gardening Basics, Flower Beds
Today I want to talk to you guys about mulch. The first year of my garden I did not mulch, I just didn’t think it was necessary. I also was on a super tight budget and thought it would be better to spend my cash on plants then on mulch. I also had it in my head that mulch was something meant for more well established perennial gardens, not my puny little hodgepodge that I was trying to call a flower bed. In reality, mulch would have really tied my developing garden together. It was in my second season of gardening that I learned how great mulch was, it gave my gardens have a cohesive and defined look. Not only that, there are lots of added benefits to mulching, it helps the soil retain water on hot days, improves the quality of the soil by breaking up clay, it shades the roots of your perennials from the sun, and my favorite, keeps weeds down.

The most common type of mulch is a shredded hardwood or bark mulch. Shredded hardwood mulch comes in a variety of colors and woods. You local garden center will have tons of different options from cedar to shredded cypress and many of them will come in an expanse of colors. Mulch isn’t just limited to shredded hardwood either, it can be anything from grass clippings, hay or even cocoa hulls. This is my second season mulching with black mulch. I’ve tried natural shredded cyprus in the past because it looked natural and was very inexpensive. It looked good, but then I discovered black mulch. I really, really like the look of black mulch. I’m a sucker for high contrast, and I think it lends itself to a modern aesthetic. I haven’t had problems with it discoloring either, which was my biggest concern. It looked great at the end of the last season, and I was determined to try it again this year.

I spent the weekend mulching – it’s become a mom’s day tradish for me. After raking out my flower beds in the early spring mulching is the next step. It improves the look of the gardens tenfold – you gotta mulch, guys! Mulching in early spring is best, your perennials and annuals will be smaller then allowing you to mulch up close to the stems of the plants. Overtime the plants will grow and spread out and the mulch will look nice and tidy being snug to the base of the plants.

Tip: don’t mulch too early, make sure you have a visual on most of your perennials, you don’t want to cover up those bad boys up, they are dying to get a glimpse of the sun.

Deuce Cities Henhouse - Gardening Basics, Flower Beds
Usually around the same time that I mulch I also plant annuals around the borders of my flower beds. My annuals of choice are Impatiens and Alyssum for garden bed borders. You can get a lot of bang for your buck using these inexpensive flowering annuals as border or edging flowers. On average a flat of Impatiens (48 plants) is going to run you around $25 bucks. That’s a whole lot of plants, and over the course of a season they will grown and fill the edging of your garden in nicely. If you are on a budget consider starting Impatiens from seed. I tried this for the first time this year starting my seeds about 10 weeks ago, the results were fantastic. You can plant 48 impatiens for roughly $5. Impatiens are great for the shady spots in your yard but for the more sun soaked areas I like to plant Alyssum, another great annual that is inexpensive and can easily be started from seed. Alyssum fill out nicely, are fragrant, and bloom at least 2-3 times over a season.

If I’ve missed anything or if you guys have other questions or topics you’d like me to go over, leave a comment and let me know! Happy gardening!


in gardening
23 comments… add one
  • Jeanette May 12, 2014

    I am on by second year of gardening, aka still in the “newbie” stages so I am totally digging your garden posts. I have a few questions you can hopefully answer! — What is the best method for removing leaves prior to mulching? And do you buy mulch every spring / how much do you typically spend on it?

    • Scoops May 12, 2014

      Jeanette! That’s awesome to hear that you are into the gardening posts! I didn’t know if I was being self indulgent or what.

      Everything I’m going to tell you is what I find works best for me, I’m not sure if it’s the end all be all. I just use a rake to get the leaves out of my garden, of course a lot of mulch comes out with the leaves. I rake in the fall and again in the spring. I’d be interested in trying a leaf blower someday, but for now all I have is man power. I do mulch every spring, even if there is mulch left over it usually is littered with small leaf remnants from the winter, and a good mulching helps to freshen it up. Both this year and last year I spent about $100 on my black mulch, however you if you were to use a less expensive mulch you could cut that amount in half. I had to remove a lot of the mulch from last year due to the fence project and am hoping I won’t have to replace as much of it next year.

      This is also why I get mulch for a mother’s day present. I love it, but it’s expensive and a little hard to justify. We just roll it into the MD gift and it works out okay.

      • Jeanette May 13, 2014

        Thanks for your reply! All good to know! :)

  • Nicole May 12, 2014

    I’m loving the gardening posts! We recently moved from an apartment to a real house with a real yard! It needs some serious work, and your posts are fantastic

    • Scoops May 12, 2014

      Hey, Nicole! That is so great that you are into the posts. So exciting that you are moving to a “real” house, congrats. I hope you find the posts helpful.

  • Anne May 12, 2014

    I have mulch questions, too: Do you have to rake all the old stuff out every year? Or can you just rake SOME of the old mulch away and then add more on top of it? And, speaking of me being cheap, most cities in MN have free mulch piles around town all spring and summer so you can get it for free! It’s not pretty like your black mulch, but it is functional. :)

    • Scoops May 12, 2014

      Hi Anne! I do rake the old stuff out, but only because I’m trying to get at the leaves. We have a few trees hanging over our small city lot and there is lots of raking to be done in the fall and in the spring. I try and leave as much mulch behind as I can, but a lot comes out with it. Eventually the old mulch will decompose it is fine if you leave it on there. I always add new mulch every year, yes you can just throw it on top of whatever remains. Good tip on the city mulch!

  • Lori May 12, 2014

    I commented last week (I think!) about my love of your garden posts. I’m trying to spruce up a rental that has amazing potential, but I don’t know where to start. Definitely see mulching in the future. Plus if you have any tips on starting from scratch, as in having a flower bed where there is just grass and weeds are now from scratch, I know I’d be all ears! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!!! Your gardens are beautiful!

    • Scoops May 12, 2014

      Thanks Lori! I am so glad you are into these posts. Great question, I will address it quickly right here, but I’ll try and work it into a future blog post as well. I’ve started all of my flower beds from scratch. My method is to map out the garden bed, this can be as simple as outlining the garden with a hose or spray paint to use as a guide. Then you need to begin digging up and removing all of the weeds, roots and grass from the area that will be your garden bed. In order to do this skim off the top layer of grass with a shovel (usually about 4″), shake out the dirt and toss away all the grass, weeds, roots, and rocks. Once you have the area of your future garden skimmed off, amend the soil with fresh top soil and compost – which you can find at most hardware stores and any garden nursery. Once you have that all done your garden will be good for planting. If you wish to, you can lay down a weed barrier or install edging at this time too. I hope this helps for now, and like I said, I’ll try and work it into a more detailed post down the road.

      • Lori May 12, 2014

        This really helps!!! :). Thanks a bunch! You make it make sense to a total newb like myself. I’ve been in Home Depot ready to get my garden on so many times, and when I’m confronted with bags of different soils and mixes my mind goes blank and I leave empty handed. I’m excited to tackle this…and I just googled free mulch in my area and found a place, just hope they have some! If I ever get around to blogging about this journey, I’ll send you a link. Getting started for me is the hardest part ;)

  • Alanna May 12, 2014

    I love the garden posts! I’m a gardening newbie and a local, so seeing your posts gets me inspired to work on my own gardens. Your tips are accessible and it’s nice to see things I know are relevant to my zone. I hate seeing a gorgeous garden and then finding out nothing in it will grow in my zone!

    • Scoops May 13, 2014

      Yes! So glad to hear this is something you’d be into hearing more about. I was hoping there were a few out there who could use some info on gardening. I hope this helps!

  • Lexy May 12, 2014

    Yes, please keep posting about gardening!! It’s really fun to watch a fellow home gardener’s back yard take shape and to hear about your decision process, etc.

    I totally agree with your “trial and error” approach. When I started gardening about 15 years ago at our starter home, I did not even have the sense to choose plants based on sun or shade… not to mention zone hardiness, height, spread, or anything else. I just bought what I liked. I invariably ended up moving everything around, usually more than once. I used to feel self-conscious, like my neighbors were thinking, “that poor thing, bless her heart, she is just so clueless.”

    • Scoops May 13, 2014

      Hey, Lexy – Totally Lol’d. I’m sure my neighbors thought – and still think the same thing. I am with you, changing stuff around and learning as I go. It’s the only way! If you see anything in the future posts that I’m missing, feel free to chime in. I by no means no everything, so additional input from longtime gardeners would be mucho helpful!

  • mEG May 12, 2014

    Love this post and series idea, and agreed, mulch makes such a difference for the plants and the aesthetic! A little something to add- some cities offer free mulch & compost in the spring, made of leaves & Christmas trees from the last year. The Christmas tree mulch smells amazing (for weeks!), and is a beautiful, rich light brown. Plus, points for reusing & recycling.

    • Scoops May 13, 2014

      Hey, Meg! Yes, I am just learning that some cities do offer free mulch, what a great idea. I’ll make sure to note that in a future post so folks know that they can really mulch their beds affordably. Good tip!

  • Amy G. May 12, 2014

    Love the garden posts!!! Keep ’em comin!!!

    • Scoops May 13, 2014

      So good to hear, Amy! I will!

  • Vanessa May 12, 2014

    Well I was a gardening newbie – about 22 years ago. I describe myself as a barehanded gardener and I’ve got the rough hands to prove it but gardening is my favorite thing to do. As far as mulch goes, I just use a bag of composted manure. It just becomes part of the soil through the year and there are no splinters either. About two years ago I realized that Starbuck gives “grounds for gardens.” You just have to ask for them and maybe come back when their bucket is full. It’s kind of fun because for about a week the whole garden smells like coffee. Ask them not to put the filters in, those are kind of gross.

    • Scoops May 13, 2014

      Hey, Vanessa! Isn’t gardening season the best! I feel like my whole outlook changes when I can get out there in that dirt. Feel free to chime in on future posts, I don’t have as much experience as some of you, and advice from a long time gardener like yourself would be helpful. Good tip on the Starbucks grounds, I’ll make note of that in a future post.

      • Vanessa May 13, 2014

        Well these days I feel like I am starting all over, we just moved to California and it’s really different here. I’m thrilled with very own orange tree (and I learned they have huge thorns), a large cherry plum and an ever growing wisteria. This property is a jungle and I don’t know the names of half of the plants. I’m excited b/c I’ll finally get to plant a bouganvilla. What could be nicer than that? Maybe peonies.

  • nikkipolani May 15, 2014

    I appreciate the gardening tips but that fence steals the show for me. IT IS GORGEOUS!

  • Patricia September 17, 2019

    This so encouraging. When I began gardening I was afraid of killing some plants, now I know it’s the only way to learn.

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