Gardening has a lot of bending over. Someone once said that gardeners “need a cast iron back with hinges for bending over”
Here are some tips to minimize back problems as a result of gardening:
1) Don’t overdo it on any one given day. . work up to the daily tasks of gardening.
2) Bend your knees more rather than your back.
3) Never twist when you are lifting.
4) Use knee pads so that you can get down where the plants are and can comfortably work. Remember gardening has brought as many people to their knees as religion!
5) Make raised beds for easier access.
6) Use long handled tools to reduce reaching.
7) Use a wheelbarrow, dolly or a cart to move heavy plants or piles of debris.
8) Consider getting a garden kneeler
Low growing, spreading junipers make good, drought tolerant groundcovers. For best results avoid the super short (less than 10” high) varieties such as “wilton carpet,” or “Bar Harbor,” as weeds more easily penetrate their thinner leaf canopy.
Instead, grow juniper varieties that are between 1 to 2 feet in height like “Broadmoor,” “Buffalo,” or “Calgary Carpet.” They have less weed problems and are very hardy. While they are drought tolerant they do need regular moisture during establishment.
Arugula is a peppery flavored salad green. In Roman times Arugula was grown for both it’s leaves and the seed. The seed was used for flavoring oils. On another interesting note, Rocket or Arugula seed has been used as an ingredient in aphrodisiac concoctions dating back to the first century, AD. (Cambridge World History of Food).
It can be directly sown into the garden though early August in successive plantings at about 5 inches apart. Hot weather causes it to go to seed, which is why successive plantings are a good idea. It is usually used sparingly in salads to add a sharp, nutty flavor. It can also be cooked or tossed into pasta.
Persicaria Firetail is a hardy, long-blooming well-behaved flower for the perennial bed. It reaches up to around three feet and takes over about the same diameter after a few years. It prefers full to part sun and average watering. It sports handsome crimson flowers spikes that are only three to four inches long but when viewed en masse it is a blanket of color that can last from June to frost.
Rolly pollies look like a miniature armadillo that rolls up into a ball when disturbed. The scientific name of their family is “Armadillidiidae,” for obvious reasons. While often thought of as pests, they are actually rarely harmful to plants. They mainly feed on decaying matter on the soil surface. However on occasion, they feed on young, seedlings. Discourage them by sprinkling washed and crushed eggshells, corn meal or diatomaceous earth around the base of your seedlings.
People are surprised to learn that rolly pollies are not insects, rather they are crustaceans. They are related to shrimp and crayfish, breathe with gills, and need humidity or moisture to survive.
Vegetable gardens can be utilitarian or they can be an attractive feature in your back yard. One way to dress up your garden is with a stylish homemade gate and/or trellis. You can construct a gate using recycled and/or upcycled materials. See more ideas for garden gates here.
Peat pots (pots made out of peat moss) are a product that people like because they are told to simply plant the pot with the plant.
In theory, peat pots and other biodegradable pots are a great idea and there are many options similar biodegradable peat pots (pots made out of coconut fiber and even processed cow manure). However, we find that it is a bad idea to simply plop these pots into your garden. The problem is that if the edges of the pot stick up above the soil level and the wind hits the edge above ground, then it has the potential to wick all the moisture out from the whole pot and can kill or stresses the plant.
So, if you want to use a peat pot or other biodegradable pot, be sure that just before you set the plant in the soil you rip off the exposed upper edge above the pots soil line so that the edge is even with the soil line in the pot. This will prevent the moisture from wicking out of the pot. Also be sure that none of the pot is exposed to the air after planting.
Often our alkaline soils slows down the ability of the roots to escape through the pot so it helps to poke some holes in the bottom of the pot to insure the roots can escape from the pot into the surrounding soil.
Rock spirea (Holodiscus dumosus) is a very drought tolerant native shrub reaching 6’ in height and width. It has fragrant leaves (when brushed against) and it produces sprays of small, white flowers at the ends of arching branches. After the flowers fade, the seeds are also ornamental, producing pinkish seed heads. Rock Spirea does best in full sun to half shade and may decline if watered too much.
You can often find it growing in its native habitat in the mountains west of Cheyenne.
There are many different types of basil you can grow. There are varieties with smooth, crinkled or ruffled leaves and some with purple foliage. There is a little leaf, dwarf basil and varieties that smell like cinnamon, clove, lemon, lime and licorice. The most widely grown basil for culinary use is Italian basil such as “Genovese.”
Basil likes it warm so wait to set plants out in early June. Regularly pinch the tips to get a bushy plant and always prune flower stalks. Basil is best used fresh as dried basil loses most of its flavor. It can also be frozen for storage.
Now is the perfect time to do some important maintenance to your clumps of ornamental grasses. Because these grasses are about to start growing again, it is a good practice to prune each clump down to a height of 10” so that the new growth is not interspersed with the dead brown grass blades from last season.
A fast, easy way to cut the ornamental grass is with a small folding pruning saw . Use the cut grass as a mulch on your perennial bed or add to the compost pile. The most dependable ornamental grasses you can grow on the High Plains include Karl Forester (all types), blue oat grass and blue fescue.
Click here for a great handout on ornamental grasses for our harsh climate.