During the colder months when trees loose their leaves and the colorful flowers lay dormant, houseplants become an important focus in our homes. Houseplants can improve the indoor environment by releasing oxygen and some humidity too. By creating an indoor gardening space, you can ensure that you have all of your gardening supplies when snow blankets the outdoors.
An indoor gardening area mostly requires counter space, because you will need room to store containers and other supplies. You can setup shelving units to store your vases, and hooks can hold your wreaths. All of your watering cans, large baskets and oversized pots can be stored under the counter.
When the weather warms up, you can transfer some of your garden supplies outside to the shed. An old trellis is perfect for holding birdhouses, flower arrangements, wreaths and other decorations. Since your gardening station will probably not be seen by too many people, you can use a weathered outdoor table for counter space.
A window greenhouse or garden window is a compact and inexpensive way to gain the benefits of a greenhouse within your home. So those plants that would otherwise die outdoors when fall and winter set in can now thrive inside your home. Plus, a greenhouse is beneficial in any climate.
Greenhouse Windows by Tru-Frame come in vinyl or aluminum windows and can easily replace an existing kitchen window. To enable ventilation, these windows have side opening windows as well as fully adjustable tempered glass shelves. In addition, this design has a Low-E2 insulated glass roof, which reduces heat and ultra violet rays that can compromise your plants. Although stock colors are white and almond, other colors are available too.
These windows can also display other items such as vases, knickknacks and small pictures. So it can be a display case for people inside or looking from the outside of your home.
If you’re tired of pouring pesticides and water onto your lawn just to keep the grass looking green and weed-free, then you might be a candidate for an alternative.
Today we’re going to check out three grass alternatives that don’t require watering, mowing, or much else in the way of maintenance.
1. Synthetic lawn
The look and feel of real grass, but none of the maintenance. Synthetic lawns don’t grow, don’t need mowing, don’t need cutting, and won’t wear down under heavy use. Most manufacturers offer long-lasting warranties, so once you install your faux grass, you won’t need to worry about it for years to come. You can even get types that are rated for pet traffic (and the other things pets do).
The cost will be prohibitive for many, however. Without even talking installation fees, the synthetic grasses I looked at were on par with hardwood floors (~$5 per square foot), and if you’ve got a decent-sized yard, you’re probably talking about more ground to cover than floors in your house.
2. Xeriscaping and rock gardens
Xeriscaping is landscaping in a way that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental irrigation, often using a combination of rockery and drought-tolerant vegetation. While it’s been most popular in dry climates, such as the Southwest U.S., it can be practical any place where you have to water to keep your lawn green.
While hiring a landscape professional to design and install a complete xeriscape lawn for you can be pricey, you can always save money by giving it a try yourself. If you lack the design gene, consider hiring a pro to create the design and then do the installation work yourself.
3. Cultivating a moss lawn
If you live someplace perennially damp, such as the Pacific Northwest, you’ve probably spent most of your years as a homeowner trying to get rid of moss in your grass lawn. That’s a bit like being born with curly hair and spending your life going through procedures and daily ablutions to straighten it. Why not go with the flow and let it be what it wants to be?
While moss won’t handle frequent foot traffic as well as grass (it tends to scuff), it doesn’t require any mowing, fertilizer, or much else in the way of maintenance after you establish it. Consider starting with a shady corner and if you like your “moss garden,” expand from there.
While a garden gate serves a practical function (keeping the critters out of your garden beds while letting you in), there’s no reason it can’t be decorative as well.
This Steel Summer Flowers Garden Gate is the work of Vancouver-based Shining Sun Gardenworks.
Independent metal artisans create the company’s handcrafted home and garden art. They’ve got everything from garden gates like this one to wall hangings to whimsical garden stakes to refrigerator magnets.
For long-lasting garden decorations, it’s hard to go wrong with steel.
If you decided to buy a home on a larger-than-average lot (or even some serious acreage) than a riding lawn mower may be a smart choice for yard maintenance. They’re not the workout you get with a gas mower (or especially a push reel mower!), but hey, you go to the gym already, right? And riding mowers are fun and efficient when you have a lot of grass to handle.
The Simplicity Axion Zero-Turn Mower is fairly compact and yet it gets the job done.
- “Professional-style” adjustable twin lever controls
- Electric height-of-cut adjustment control
- Adjustable high-back seat with arm rest
- Cast-iron pivoting front axle for greater stability
- Storage area and cup holder (hey, you don’t want to get dehydrated while you mow!
The Axion mower runs $2,600 to $3,200.
Up here in the Pacific Northwest, we tend to classify blackberries as weeds. At least those Himalayan ones that run rampant through our landscape. Oh, sure, they’re fine by the bike trail when you can stop and pick a few on a hot August day (and someone else is handling the trimming), but let them invade the yard, and we want to get rid of them. They’re even on my county’s “Least Wanted: Invasive Weed List.”
But blackberries do taste good, don’t they?
If you can grow them responsibly (and you’re not planting those evil Himalayan ones), they might be worth adding to your edible landscape. After all, a pint of blackberries is pretty expensive at the store.
And even better, there are several varieties these days that are thornless, making the fruit picking experience that much sweeter. One example is the Apache thornless blackberry. Not only are there no thorns, but the canes of this one grow upright so they don’t need to be trellised against a fence to keep them from sprawling all over the lawn.
And if you’re worried about a hostile takeover, you might want to try growing them in a pot. According to the Raintree Nursery site, upright blackberry types can be grown in pots, so grab a wine barrel planter, and give these a home in a corner of your yard.
One of the hard things about being a tenet is you don’t usually get to do things like tearing up the lawn to plant a garden. And even if you’re a homeowner, you may not have the space for a traditional garden if you live in a condo or a townhouse. If you’ve got a sunny patio or balcony, however, you can garden with containers or raised beds.
This elevated patio garden would be perfect for a patio, for someone in a wheelchair, or (in my case) for someone who has dogs that like to trample through the lettuce leaves.
This basic kit is $249 through Midwest Internet Sales (scroll to the bottom of the page) and you can order extensions if you have more room and want to beef up the amount of things you can grow in the pots and beds.
I’m not sure what the most popular fruit in the country is, but I’m sure apples are in the top 3. If they’re one of your favorites, then why not put an apple tree in your yard?
Maybe you’re thinking that you don’t have room for a fruit tree in your yard, or maybe you live in a townhome or an apartment and only have a balcony. Well, with a columnar apple tree, you might just be able to have your fruit and eat it too, hah.
These dwarf trees not only stay short (7-9 feet in height), but they’re not supposed to branch much either. They produce full-sized apples off spurs on the trunk. They’re ideal trees to be planted in pots, so you can actually grow them right on your patio. Of course, you can plant them in your yard too without worrying about them taking over and growing over your neighbor’s fence.
Check them out as an alternative to espalier fruit trees.
Washington’s Raintree Nursery carries three varieties of columnar apple trees.
There’s a house I walk by with the dogs that has a hot tub in the yard with several espalier fruit trees around it to create a privacy fence. In the winter, the “fence” is a bit bare, but now that the leaves are coming out, it looks pretty impressive.
An espalier tree is one that is trained so the branches grow flat, going out in two opposing directions instead of every which way. These techniques are both interesting and practical, since an espalier tree can often be possible in a spot where you ruled one out initially because you thought there wasn’t enough space (against a wall or along a neighbor’s fence, perhaps).
“Espaliered plants are prized for their symmetry and versatility and for their ability to add ornamental beauty to both compact and sweeping spaces. They can be used either as privacy screens, to adorn bare walls, to define walkways and driveways, or to create the living architecture of an arbor or allée.” ~ The Art of Espalier
Many kinds of trees can be trained this way, including fruit trees, which are said to produce more abundant fruits and flowers since the roots have less area to nourish.
A garden trellis with roses or flowering vines crawling up its face looks attractive, but in the fall and winter when everything dies back, that same trellis can look quite bare. In anticipation of the off season, you might consider a decorative trellis that offers a cheerful mien whether it has anything growing on it or not.
This colorful set of sunflower and trellis panels certainly fits that description.
It features “hand-painted steel petals and leaves in a decorative steel frame.” You can buy the set in pieces ($70 for a plain trellis and $85 for the sunflower panel) and use them separately or combine two or more pieces to create an expansive trellis for your garden plants to grow up.
The pieces come with a “foldout foot” at the base, which means the panels can stand freely and don’t necessarily have to be mounted to a wall.
From the Gardeners’ Supply Store: