Understanding Raising Bed For Your Garden

Raised bed gardening is not a fundamentally new concept. In fact, it has been around for quite some time, as gardeners have discovered the convenience and options it provides. Modern gardens are filled with this feature, and many people are now focusing their landscape design.

Raised beds are easy to build, even if you are not expert on the matter. You can choose from a variety of materials, such as bricks, concrete blocks or timber. With ready-to-assemble kits available on the market, there is nothing to worry about. If you are still having second thoughts, consider all the benefits:

Drainage – even during heavy rains, raised garden beds offer excellent drainage. There is a good reason why they are so preferred in tropical areas with heavy rainfall. As the soil in them has loose texture, water seeps merely inside, eliminating fast runoff, which in other cases would carry away soil. Since water gets absorbed into the lower areas of the these bed, you needn’t worry about waterlogging.

Aeration – digging up the ground and providing support to the sides with a frame is a lovely traditional way of building these beds. No matter you put in the frames as a soil solution is going to have a loose structure. This, in turn, is ideal for plants, since it provides rich growing media and superb air circulation for the roots. Proper aeration is essential for preserving microbial population and soil health. The main benefit is that there is less risk of soil compaction since there will be no trampling of the soil around plants. And since water is draining quickly, the danger of soil compaction due to flooding is minimal.

Weed control – there are a lot of dormant weed seeds lying on the ground. During the process of deep cultivation, many of them will be exposed and thus grow into persistent weeds. With raised beds, you have the option of filling in soil that is mostly free of weed seeds. Even if they do grow, it will be easy to remove them.

Build on existing turf – starting a new vegetable patch on the ground usually means digging up turf and clearing the sod. However, raised beds can be built on already existing turf, thus saving you the need to dig up.

Easy pest control – a lot of pests find their way to vegetable patches by crawling. These will undoubtedly be deterred by the solid frames of a raised bed. You can take your anti-pest measures one step further and place a plastic liner at the bottom of the these bed. If pests are already present, it is easier to pick them off in raised beds, due to the increased accessibility.

Extended growing season – raised beds thaw much earlier in spring, allowing for earlier transplanting. You can further give your plants a head start by adding metal pipe brackets to frames along with hoop covers.

As you can see, raised beds present a wonderful addition to your garden, with multiple benefits. It is up to you to take full advantage of them.

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All The Kind Of Greenhouse

A greenhouse is a plastic or glass enclosed building which is used to grow a variety of plants. The purpose of this structure is dependent upon how the gardener wishes to care for their plants. The style and design of the greenhouse is dependent upon the types of plants, amount of available space, location, and utilities.

Three basic types of greenhouses:

  1. Cold Frame Boxes: Portable framed boxes which service seedlings or plants to become stronger or acclimated to withstand an environmental change before being transplanted into the traditional garden.
  2. Lean-To Greenhouse: The lean-to green house is a three-sided structure which is attached to the side of a stable building, wall, or fence. Its design presents the appearance of a half-house with a slanted roof and three sides covered with plastic, shade cloth, or glass.
  3. Free standing building: A permanently constructed building for the serious horticulturist.

The cold frame box is a square portable container usually constructed of wood with a slanted lid covered with glass or 6 ml polyethylene sheeting. The purpose of the cold frame is to transplant young seedlings from an indoor setting to a temporary controlled environment before being planted into the main garden area. It helps the seedlings to not experience sudden shock or die from the abrupt temperature changes.

The Lean-to is often referred to as a half-house with a vertical slanted roof. The convenience of this style is its placement. It is most often placed against the wall of a house, barn, shed, or other stable structure which allows for the added convenience of utilities, storage space, and walking distance for hauling. This structure may be simple or designed to meet the architectural style of the stable wall.

The free-standing building is for serious horticulturists or commercial usage. For instance, you may live in a four-season state and raise tropical plants. These plants will not survive without the controlled environment of the greenhouse.

This permanent structure will stand for many decades. This building is fully equipped with hanging rails, shelves, sink and plumbing fixtures, controlled heat and air conditioning, lighting, fans, work bench, and other accessories which the gardener utilizes.

Other benefits for investing in this added protection includes protection from inclement weather, insects and critters, year-round growing, a hospital for sick plants, light-weight tools, automatically controlled utilities, and less stressful labor.

Are you passionate about gardening? Do you love watching seeds, bulbs, or young plants grow and mature into beautiful flowers, fruits, or vegetables?

The four seasons of the year offer an array of flora which we pursue with enthusiasm. It is because of this passion that a green house is given much consideration.

This type of building is an asset for growing our favorite plants under controlled conditions. The less our plants need to battle Mother Nature the easier it is for them to grow healthy and beautiful.

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All About Spring Foraging

Spring is a time for rebirth. A call to leave the darkness of winter behind and head outside for sunshine and longer days. The shift from winter to spring happens quickly, providing the baseline truth in the phrase “spring has sprung”. You may be shoveling the driveway one day and then see a skunk cabbage pushing up through the snow the next. The plant world is undergoing the transformation from winter storage and dormancy to spring growth and expansion. This makes spring a wonderful time to get outside and forage.

Before heading out on your foraging journey there are a few tips and tricks to keep you and the plant world safe:

  • Identify the plant correctly. Always be 100% sure of the plant’s identification before you harvest and consume. Many plants have poisonous look-alikes so it is imperative you can ID with certainty. Pay attention to the old adage “when in doubt, throw it out”. There are a number of great plant ID books on the market that cover most geographical areas. You may also find foraging classes in your area which can be a fun way to learn about local plants.
  • Practice sustainable harvesting for any plants you harvest. Never take more than you need and be sure to leave enough for the plants to survive and prosper. Keep in mind that unless you are eradicating an invasive species, foraging should never negatively impact the survival of the plant population. Take time to learn what plants are invasive in your area and also what plants are endangered and should never be harvested.
  • Forage in areas you know are clean and have not been treated with chemicals. Be wary of foraging along roadsides and under power lines.
  • Harvest underground storage organs; bulbs, tubers, rhizomes, etc. with additional consideration as harvesting can kill the plant. Early spring and late fall are the best times to harvest underground storage organs as the plant’s energy is conserved below ground. In late spring and summer, the plant will redirect energy to above ground growth and production of flowers and seed. A few examples of bountiful roots to forage in spring are chicory, dandelion, and burdock.
  • Seek out leafy greens as they are the stars of spring foraging. This fresh food is available long before our gardens start producing. In most areas, there are quite a few leafy greens to choose from. Dandelion, chickweed, lamb’s quarter, garlic mustard, and violet are all commonly foraged greens. Do some research to find which greens are best eaten raw and which taste best steamed or sautéed.

Get out your rubber boots and garden tools and head outside for a foraging adventure. Foraging is free and can provide a fresh and delicious addition to your next meal. Take full advantage of spring foraging as summer is just around the corner!

 

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All About Garden Design

The garden is one of the most beautiful and peaceful parts of a home. It brings us closer to nature, gives us a glimpse and feel of greenery with the comfort of our lawn. You can spend a perfect afternoon in your garden reading a book or unwind after a tiring day enjoying the beauty of green, all these will bring you such solace which you cannot find even if sitting in a fancy decorated room. But in order to get peace and happiness in the garden, its look and design should be pleasing. If you are not happy about the look of your garden then you will hardly find any peace there over all the grumping. The design of garden plays an important role in your outlook towards it. So choose the design carefully.

Before choosing the design for your garden you need to understand the shape and condition of your yard. If the shape of your garden is small then you should not opt for a large number of tall trees. It will hog up extra space, leaving you only a much smaller portion. Medium plant pots with will well-trimmed grass and patio furniture will be a suitable option for small gardens. However, for big gardens, you can choose any design you want. Availability of space is a benefit.

The design of the garden also depends on the fertility of the soil you are reaping and the climate. Every season demands different plant. For example, if you wish to plant a tree which grows in autumn then all your effort will go to waste. Also the climate of the region you live in plays an important role. It is better to do some research before putting your hands in the soil. Make sure the plants receive the appropriate amount of sunlight to grow plus shade exposure as well.

Also, choose your design and theme according to the people living in your home. If your house is one of the kids then choose a theme which they find cute and attractive, like giving it look of a playground. This way they will be spending some time outdoors, doing some outdoor activity rather than just sitting in front of the television. If you are a bachelor then choose any design you find appealing.

Another tip, make your garden your look attractive so that you will be compelled to spend some time there. A garden is a great place for morning exercise. Not only you will get enough space for movement there, but you will also inhale fresh morning air, which is good for your health, plus walking on the grass blades barren feet is really good for brain and body. It is suggested by doctors also.

You give your garden a fancy look by adding garden lights. You can use solar garden lights or LED outdoor lighting. It will not only make your garden look beautiful but will also be perfect for outdoor theme parties.

 

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How To Grow Tomato Plant In Pot

There is nothing that could be more engaging and relaxing than having your patios decorated with delicious and luscious plants that you can view right at the start and right at the end of your day. I’m sure you’ve noticed in some movies or selected artworks that they feature and depict a patio augmented with green and leafy plants and vegetables. It looks absolutely beautiful and inviting. With the right tips and advice from the experts, you too can transform your ordinary patios into an extraordinary landscape of artwork just by adding home-grown plants in those cute, attractive pots.

As you know, there are several varieties of plants you may wish to grow in pots, but being the most popular amongst homeowners are tomatoes. Why tomatoes? This is because tomatoes are basically easy to grow and maintain. There’s no need for fancy and expensive gardening tools required. Knowing the right soil, location, application of organic fertilizers of choice, and love of work is all that it entails.

The Tomato Checklist

Size does matter – when it comes to growing tomatoes in a container or pot, always remember that bigger is better. The essence is the soil capacity – a bigger container means the more soil it can hold. Growing tomatoes requires the roots to have more space to promote optimum growth. A typical tomato plant can grow for up 6-8 feet tall depending on the soil, maintenance, and fertilizers you use.

Soil – with regard to the soil composition, many non-organic-farming professionals argue that it is better to use a potting mix because it significantly yields favorable results. However, others also pointed out that using natural potting soil promotes better growth and is a safer method. Either way, it all ends up to the decision of the gardener. Note that potting mix is obviously expensive but as they say, and probably will always say, it is worth the money.

Fertilizers – if you use fertilizers, you need to understand first that not all fertilizers are the same. Considering that you are growing tomatoes in pots, you want to use fertilizers that provide a well proportionate and balanced fertilizer that has higher nitrogen content, especially when your tomatoes are young; you need more leaves and foliage growth.

Some Common Mistakes in growing Tomatoes in Pots

The use of small containers – the roots of tomatoes need more space so be sure to use bigger containers.

No Stakes – even determined tomatoes still do need some proper staking. It is not that complicated though. You can use metal rods, sticks, or basically anything sturdy for growth support.

Too much water – don’t binge on watering because too much watering will result to Blossom End Rot, split tomatoes and stressed plants. But make sure that your tomatoes are also not deprived of water. The key is to have a working drip irrigation system of basically watering them sparingly.

Know when to stop and change – stop the use of fertilizers that are rich in nitrogen upon maturity and opt for using fertilizers that are low in nitrogen, high in phosphorous and potassium. Never use fertilizers rich in nitrogen once your tomatoes are flowering.

 

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How To Plant Vegetable Seeds

The first thing you will want to do when preparing to plant your vegetable seeds is to get the soil ready. Obtain some garden compost, making sure you remove pebbles and such from it. Next, fill a seed tray with the compost. Create a nice, flat surface on top, although don’t harden it by flattening it too much. You will need to water this before you place the seeds in it since it will need to be moist. Now you are ready to place the vegetable seeds in the compost.

Place the seeds into the top of the compost. Don’t worry about precise placement. If you choose, you can save some seeds for a second planting. Now, you can cover the seeds over with another layer of compost, just about a quarter of an inch.

After you ensure you have a good covering of compost, water gently over it. Afterward, if you have a propagator, you can place the seed tray in this until the seeds have germinated. Then, you can move the seed tray to a greenhouse area, or the closest thing you have to a greenhouse.

Starting Vegetables from Seed and Seedling

Vegetable seeds can be started inside or out. If you start off inside, eventually, you can move them to an outside garden later. Both options are viable, and many gardeners use both methods.

Some Things to Consider:

Depending on where you live, starting your seeds and seedlings off indoors can give them an advantage. You can plant them at the ideal time outside. However, some plants do not like to be transplanted, such as many of the root crops like beets and carrots. However, many of the root crops can be directly seeded outside anyway, due to their cold-hardy nature. Other vegetables like beans and corn do better when directly seeded outside, and are not transplanted.

It is much easier to start seeds inside than outside. You can create the ideal conditions inside for them. Just keep in mind that some do not like to be transplanted.

It is often better to plant some seeds directly outside in the garden unless the region in which you live has an extremely short summer. Some quick growing vegetables do not do well if left in a container for just a day or two longer than needed. Just make sure that if you do plant directly outside, the soil is warm enough for your seeds.

 

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Secret To Grow Bermuda Grass

The popularity and application of Bermuda grass lawns remains almost unrivalled amongst other warm season grasses in many of the warmer regions of the world. Compared to other warm climate lawn options, Bermuda grass is very inexpensive to purchase, has a fine soft leaf and pleasing appearance, and withstands wear and tear very well. However there are also some equally compelling negative traits which should be taken into account prior to a final decision being made as to whether or not to purchase and install a new Bermuda grass lawn for our homes.

Positive Traits Of Bermuda Grass Lawns

Bermuda grass is one of the most economical turf choices when deciding on a new lawn type. This lower cost is due to how quickly a turf farm can grow a new crop of this grass variety and how many crops they can produce each year when compared to other lawn types suitable for warm climates, rapid growth rates mean cheaper prices for the customer.

Overall, Bermuda grass is a dependable and rugged lawn type, it can take quite a bit of neglect and still be restored back to health with relative ease, this dependable grass can resist and fight off many types of lawn pests and diseases and can be treated for pests and disease with almost all available weed, pest and fungus treatments, whereas many other lawn types may not be suitable for treatment with these same cures.

Lawn mowing heights can vary when growing Bermuda grass in different environments, it can be mowed higher in shade to make the lawn a little more shade tolerant, or it can be mowed very low with a reel mower when grown in full sun. With this said, this lawn type will not look its best nor will it keep well over time if the height of the lawn is kept too high.

Further, Bermuda has a beautiful soft and fine leaf which is suitable for children and pets to play on and is pleasing to the eye. Any damage from play will usually be self-repaired fairly quickly if the lawn is being kept in good overall condition, so backyard sports and a bit of mischievousness by the family dog will not trouble this lawn at all.

Drought tolerance of Bermuda lawns can be very high if the lawn is trained correctly to grow a deeper root system, via less frequent watering schedules.

Negative Traits Of Bermuda Grass Lawns

Along with all the positive traits of this highly popular lawn variety are some negative aspects which must also be taken into account and considered before choosing this lawn type. Keeping in mind also that there is no such thing as a perfect grass type, only a grass which is best suited to our own needs and requirements.

A Bermuda lawn which is regularly mowed at higher heights will be prone to thatch. De-thatching the lawn may be required every so often to keep this thatch level under control. Each lawn will be different as to any thatch buildup, with some lawns requiring de-thatching every year, and others once every several years or perhaps never.

Bermuda grass is a full sun turf, which will always perform at its best in full sun or high sunlight conditions. The more shade is apparent, the more likely the lawn will die off in these affected areas. So hoping that our Bermuda grass lawn will nicely grow from a full sun backyard and all the way under our favorite willow tree, may not be a reasonable assumption, that willow tree may just need to have some other type of shade tolerant ground cover under its drooping branches.

This lawn variety is also susceptible to almost all lawn weeds, pests and diseases. A healthy lawn will more naturally resist any infestation of these lawn problems, and almost all treatment options for weeds, pests and diseases will work very well with Bermuda turf.

Lastly, if the lawn is kept in good condition, this will mean that Bermuda grass will require more frequent lawn mowing due to its sometimes rapid growth rates during the warmer growing seasons. Which can be somewhat controlled by applying a little less fertilizer and water to the lawn. This same healthy growth rate can also see Bermuda grass runners creeping into surrounding garden beds a little more quickly than other grass types.

Conclusion

As previously stated, there is no one perfect lawn type for everyone or for every yard, every type of turf has positive and negative traits, and it’s up to us as homeowners to choose carefully and wisely which grass will be the best choice for our homes and our requirements. There are very good reasons why Bermuda grass is one of the most popular lawn varieties in the warmer parts of the world, and there can be major differences between the varying brands of Bermuda turf which are available for homeowners to consider. A little research and homework will ensure we choose the best turf for our needs.

 

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How To Mowing Your Own Land

There are many reasons why lawns are left to become overgrown, the property may have been left vacant for a long period of time, the property may be rented and the gardens not cared about by either the owner or the tenant, a busy lifestyle may just push our lawn care routines so low to the bottom of our list of priorities that we realize one day we have a real problem with an unsightly overgrown yard that now needs to be dealt with.

No matter the reason why our turf may have become overgrown, it’s now time to deal with the problem and to bring our lawns back into full health and control once more. However, mowing an overgrown lawn can bring risk of damage to the lawn if we’re not careful in how we go about cutting back the excess growth, as mowing an overgrown lawn can actually result in severely damaging the lawn or perhaps even killing the lawn if the mowing is not done correctly.

Why Mowing An Overgrown Lawn Can Cause Damage

All growth of lawns comes from a part of the grass called a crown. It is from these crowns which spring forth new runners in warm season grasses, as well as new lawn leaf material in all grasses. If these crowns are damaged or removed during lawn mowing then it becomes impossible for new lawn growth to occur at all, which in turn can kill the grass in any affected turf areas where this occurs.

In cool season grasses, if we kill the crowns the entire affected area of turf will also die as a result. However for some warm season grasses such as Zoysia and Bermuda grasses, these lawn types also have underground runners which can repair a lawn where the above surface lawn has been killed or had its crowns removed with lawn mowing. Though it is not a guarantee that all warm season lawns will repair when they are severely damaged.

The problem we have with overgrown turf is that these crowns can raise far higher above the soil level whenever the lawn becomes overgrown. Then when we mow the overgrown lawn at our regular lawn mowing heights, we can in fact be removing the now raised crowns in the lawn mowing process, thus severely damaging or even killing the lawn in the affected area where this has occurred.

We therefore need to adjust our mowing practice whenever we are tackling an overgrown lawn to bring it back into an orderly state.

Mowing An Overgrown Lawn Safely

If we are going to begin to mow our yards more frequently from now on, then the very best solution for us in managing an overgrown grass is to slowly reduce lawn mowing heights over time. Not taking too much leaf material off in the first lawn mowing, and then perhaps slowly reducing lawn mowing heights at every third service, until slowly we get our lawns back to their optimal mowing heights.

This method is the safest of all, and while it does take some time to bring our lawns back to their best appearance, it will never risk damaging the turf. What is happening in this process is two-fold: firstly we are never removing these crowns while lawn mowing, so the grass doesn’t die off; secondly, as the turf is slowly being lowered over time, the turf will adjust itself to this new growing environment by continuously growing all its new crowns at the lower heights that we have introduced. Slowly, over time, we have safely lowered the lawn height and safely trained the lawn to grow all new crowns lower and closer to the soil level where they belong.

Mowing An Overgrown Lawn In A Single Lawn Mowing

As already discussed, this will be safer to do with a warm season lawn than with a cool season lawn, so the risk and results of this remain with the lawn owner or whomever is mowing the overgrown lawn.

If this is a single lawn mowing meant to quickly tidy up an overgrown lawn, then it would also be expected that we wouldn’t want to kill the lawn in the process. Therefore the best method of mowing an overgrown lawn which is not going to be regularly mowed thereafter would be to mow the lawn at the highest height possible which is acceptable to the lawn owner.

By mowing at this higher height we are doing our very best not to be damaging or removing too many grass crowns during the lawn mowing process, therefore this will give us our best result to maintain a lawn which remains alive and in the best possible health after this lawn mowing. While the lawn will not look at its best, it is the safest possible option for us in this situation and to ensure the ongoing survival of the lawn.

Final Notes About Mowing Long Grass

There are often hidden obstacles in long overgrown grass, this could be anything from rocks, toys, glass, tools, or any manner of things. Such objects could become dangerous if hit with lawn mower blades, creating a projectile which risks damage to people or property. Therefore all long grass areas should be carefully checked prior to any lawn mowing taking place.

Finally, whenever we remove a lot of grass leaf material with a single mowing, we are going to be cutting into the brown thatch layer of the turf, and the longer the lawn becomes, so too will the thatch layer increase in height also. Therefore we should expect a browning off on the grass wherever a lot of green leaf has been removed at once. As long as the lawn is properly watered and cared for after the lawn mowing, this thatch layer should decrease over a short period of time and new green leaf grown by the lawn.

 

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The Secret of Watering Plants

When watering plants, you typically tend to wet the area where the stem meets the soil or growth mixture. However, as the size of the plants become bigger, and the roots run deeper, it becomes difficult for all this water at the surface to seep deep down into the roots. While most trees can draw water from underground, using a water stake helps deliver necessary water close to the roots. Here is all that you need to know about such devices.

What are deep water stakes?

Water stakes are irrigation devices that direct water deep into the soil to the roots of plants or trees. In addition to watering, stakes can be used to deliver fertilizers into the soil. Stakes are generally driven into the ground and then attached to a drip emitter, which can also be replaced with a garden hose with a very slow flow.

Why are they necessary?

Water, when poured around the base of the plant, fails to penetrate deep enough to reach the entire root zone. The penetration becomes even more difficult when the soil is hard. Shallow watering often results in shallow roots that grow laterally at the surface. Plants with shallow root systems are unable to draw water from deep down during dry spells, and hence find it difficult to survive through drought or extreme summers. This causes them to wilt or die. A deep root watering device such as the stake directs water closer to the roots and helps them run deep into the soil, thus enhancing the strength of the plant’s root system. It also prevents infestation that results from dampness due to shallow watering.

What are their features and other benefits?

Watering stakes come in varying widths and depths to suit plants of different sizes. The shorter ones are ideal for irrigating garden plants, shrubs, flowering plants and bushes, small trees, or those in their growth stage. Longer ones are suitable for average trees, especially fruit-bearing ones.

In addition to promoting deep healthy roots and preventing plant diseases, deep watering stakes offer the following benefits.

• They prevent surface water runoff and soil erosion. Stakes also prevent evaporation of water from the surface of the soil. Both these aspects help conserve water when irrigating your plants.

• Deep water stakes aerate the soil, which to promotes deeper rooting system.

• They are easy to install and remove, and can be used for plants of all sizes – from smaller shrubs in garden to larger trees in parks, orchards, or walkways.

• Such root watering system can even be placed on a slope, where watering plants is usually a concern due to run off. The stakes deliver water deep into the soil, and not downhill.

• Many stake designs come with emitters that allow the measurement of water added to the device. This is especially useful for farming and agricultural purposes.

So, choose a deep watering stake for your garden, orchard, or any landscape, and grow healthier, deep-rooted plants with ease.

 

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How To Learning Japanese Gardening

Things to keep in mind for a beautiful garden

Main principles on the garden’s design

Bring the Japanese feeling into your garden with these basic steps. First of all, embrace the ideal of nature. That means, keep things in your garden as natural as possible, avoiding to include things that could disrupt this natural appearance.

For example, don’t include square ponds in your design as square ponds are nowhere to be found in nature. Also, a waterfall would be something closer to what exists in nature if we compare it to a fountain. So you also have to consider the Japanese concept of sumi or balance. Because one of Japanese gardening design main purposes is to recreate large landscapes even in the smallest place. Be careful when choosing the elements for your garden, because you don’t want to end up filling your ten by ten courtyard with huge rocks.

As a miniaturized landscape, the rocks in the garden would represent mountains and the ponds would represent lakes. A space filled with sand would represent an ocean. By that we assume that garden masters were looking to achieve a minimalistic approach, best represented by the phrase “less is more”.

The elements of time and space

One of the things westerners notice at first are the many portions of empty space in the garden. In fact, these spaces are an important feature in Japanese gardening. This space called ma, relates to the elements around it and that also surround it. The concepts of in and yo are of vital importance here, they are best known to the Western civilization by the Chinese names yin and yang. If you want to have something you have to start with having nothing. This is an idea quite difficult to understand, but it is a rule of thumb in Japanese gardening.

An important clue in the development of a garden is the concept of wabi and sabi. There’s no literal English translation for those words. Wabi is about uniqueness, or the essence of something; a close literal translation is solitary. Sabi deals with the definition of time or the ideal image of something; the closest definition might be time strengthened character. Given the case, a cement lantern that might appear unique, would lack of that ideal image. Or an old rock covered in lichens would have no wabi if it’s just a round boulder. That’s why it is important to find that balance.

Ma and wabi/sabi are connected to the concepts of space and time. When it comes to seasons, the garden must show the special character of each one. Japanese garden lovers dedicate time to their gardens every season, unlike the western gardener who deserts in fall just to be seen again in spring.

A very relaxing view in spring is given by the bright green of new buds and the blossoms of the azaleas. In summer, the lush foliage in combination with the pond offer a powerful and fresh image. The vivid spectacle of the brilliant colors of dying leaves in fall are a prelude for the arrival of winter and its white shroud of snow.

The two most important gardening seasons in Japan are spring and winter. Japanese refer to the snow accumulated on braches as Sekku or snow blossoms. Yukimi, or the snow viewing lantern, is another typical element of the Japanese garden in winter. The sleep of the garden in winter is an important episode for our Japanese gardener, while for the western gardener spring is the beginning of the work at the garden. Maybe because of the eastern point of view as death like part of the life cycle, or perhaps the western fear to death.

About garden enclosures
Let’s see the garden as a microcosm of nature. If we’re looking for the garden to be a true retreat, we have to ‘set it apart’ from the outside world. Because of that, fences and gates are important components of the Japanese garden.

The fence and the gates have both symbolism and functionality. The worries and concerns of our daily life have to stay out of this separate world that becomes the garden. The fence protects us from the outside world and the gate is the threshold where we leave our daily worries and then prepare ourselves to confront the real world again.

The use of fences is based in the concept of hide/reveal or Miegakure. Fence styles are very simple and are put in combination with screen planting, thus not giving many clues of what hides inside. You can give a sample look of your garden by cutting a small window in the solid wall that encloses your garden if that’s the case. Sode-gaki, or sleeve fences, are fences attached to an architectural structure, that will only show a specific view of the garden from inside the house. Thus, we’re invited to get into the garden and enjoy it in its entirety. That’s what makes the true understanding of the garden, to lose in it our sense of time and self.

Basic Arrangements
Despite the fact that certain rules are applied to each individual garden, don’t think that there’s just one type of garden. There are three basic styles that differ by setting and purpose.

Hill and Pond Garden (Chisen-Kaiyu-skiki)
A China imported classic style. A pond or a space filled with raked gravel fronts a hill (or hills). This style always represents mountainous places and commonly makes use of vegetation indigenous to the mountains. Stroll gardens commonly use this style.

Flat Garden (Hiraniwa)
It derives from the use of open, flat spaces in front of temples and palaces for ceremonies. This is an appropriate style for contemplation and that represents a seashore area (with the use of the right plants). This is a style frequently used in courtyards.

Tea Gardens (Rojiniwa)
Function has a greater importance than form in this type of garden. The Roji or dewy path, is the main point of the garden, along with the pond and the gates. This would be the exception to the rule. The simple and sparse plantings give a rustic feeling to the garden.

Formality has to be taken in consideration
Hill and pond and flat styles may be shin (formal), gyo (intermediate) or so (informal). Formal styles were to be found usually at temples or palaces, intermediate styles were suitable for most residences, and the informal style was used in peasant huts and mountain retreats. The tea garden is the one that always fits in the informal style.

The garden components

Rocks (ishi in Japanese) are the main concern of the Japanese garden. If the stones are placed correctly, then the garden shows in a perfect balance. So here are shown the basic stone types and the rules for their positions.

The basic stones are the tall upright stone, the low upright stone, the curved stone, the reclining stone, and the horizontal stone. These must be usually set in triads although this doesn’t happen always. Two almost identical stones (by way of example, two tall verticals or two reclining stones), one a little quite smaller than the other, can be set together as male and female, but the use of them in threes, fives, and sevens is more frequent.

We have to keep away from the Three Bad Stones. These are the Diseased stone (having a withered or misshapen top), the Dead stone (an obviously vertical one used as a horizontal, or vice versa, like the placement of a dead body), and the Pauper Stone (a stone having no connection to the several other ones in the garden). Use only one stone of each of the basic types in any cluster (the rest have to be smaller, modest stones also known as throwaway stones). Stones can be placed as sculptures, set against a background in a two-dimensional way, or given a purpose, such as a stepping stone or a bridge.

When used as stepping stones they should be between one and three inches above the soil, yet solid underfoot, as if rooted into the ground. They can be put in straight lines, offset for left foot, right foot (referred as chidori or plover, after the tracks the shore bird leaves), or set in sets of twos, threes, fours, or fives (and any combination thereof).

The pathway stands for the passage through life, and even particular stones by the path may have meaning. A much wider stone placed across the path tells us to put two feet here, stopping to enjoy the view. There are numerous stones for specific places. When observing the basic design principles, we can notice the exact character of the Japanese garden.

Water (mizu in Japanese) plays an important part in the composition of the Japanese garden because of Japan’s abundant rainfall. Water can be represented even with a raked gravel area instead of water. A rushing stream can be represented by placing flat river stones closely together. In the tea garden, where there isn’t any stream or pond, water plays the most important role in the ritual cleansing at the chozubachi, or water basin. As the water fills and empties from the shishi-odoki, or deer scare, the clack of bamboo on rock helps mark the passage of time.

The flow of water, the way it sounds and looks, brings to mind the continual passage of time. A bridge crossing the water stream is often used as a landscaping complement. Bridges denote a journey, just as pathways do. Hashi, in japanese, can mean bridge or edge. Bridges are the symbolic pass from one world into another, a constant theme in Japanese art.

Plants or Shokobutsu may play a secondary role to the stones in the garden, but they are a primary concern in the design too. Stones represent what remains unchanged, so trees, shrubs, and perennials have to represent the passing of seasons. Earlier garden styles used plants to make up poetic connotations or to correct geomantic issues, but these have little meaning today.

As the the Heian style diminished under the Zen influence, perennials and grasses fell out of use. So, for a long time, there were only a few plants that tradition allowed for the garden. However, in modern Japan, designers are again widening the spectrum of materials used. It is highly recommended that native plants are chosen for the garden, because showy exotic plants are not in good taste. Be aware that native plants are used in the garden, because it is in bad taste to use showy exotic plants. Although pines, cherries and bamboo immediately remind us of Japanese gardens, we encourage you to use native plants of your locality that you can find pleasing. If we choose evergreens as the main plant theme and combine it with deciduous material that may provide seasonal blooms or foliage color we can recreate the look of the Japanese garden.

Now the next thing taken in consideration in a Japanese garden are the ornaments or Tenkebutsu. Stone lanterns are, for westerners, a typical impression of Japanese gardens.Stone lanterns are not important components of the Japanese garden. The reason is that ornaments are subjected to the garden’s design. Lanterns, stupas, and basins are just architectural complements added when a point of visual interest is necessary to the design.

A good way to finish yor garden design could be a well-placed lantern. The three main styles (although with many variations) are: The Kasuga style lantern, is a very formal one featuring a stone base. In the Oribe style lantern, unlike the Kasuga style, the pedestal is underneath the ground. The Yukimi or Snow-Viewing lantern is set on short legs instead of a pedestal. Consider the formality of your garden setting to choose the appropriate lantern.

When possible, elements from outside the garden can be included in it. For instance, you can work a far away mountain including the scenery in your design, framing it with the stones and plants existing in the garden.
The borrowed scenery (shakkei in Japanese) can be: Far (as in a far away mountain); near (a tree just outside the fence); High (an element seen above the fence) or low (like a component seen below a fence or through a window in the fence).

As much as it is perceived to contradict our sense of enclosure, it reminds us of how all things are interconnected.

The feel of your garden
The Japanese garden is a subtle place full of contradictions and imperatives. Where firmly established rules are broken with other rules. If you meet the Buddha on the road, you must kill him is a Zen paradox that recommends not to stick so tightly to rules, and the same goes for Japanese gardens.

When building a Japanese garden, don’t get too attached to traditions that hold little meaning for you. It would have no function to recreate a Buddhist saints garden. This also applies to trying to remember the meaning of stone placements, as this method is no longer used in Japan, or even in the United States, due to the lack of meaning for us in the modern world.

That’s why we have selected a few gardening suggestions that do hold relevance and integrate them into a garden. These three ideas on gardening will give direction to achieve perfect results.

First
The overall setting of the garden should always be right for the location, not the other way around.

Second
The stones should be placed first, next the trees, and then the shrubs.

Third
Get used to the concepts of shin, gyo, and so. This is of great help to start working on the garden.

Have in mind that the real Japanese gardens are the traditional ones in Japan. What we can do in America is to shape a garden in the Japanese style. Rikyu once said about the perfect Roji: “Thick green moss, all pure and sunny warm”. In other words, techniques are not as important as the feeling you evoke in your garden. Said in other way, the feeling is more important than techniques.

 

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