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Best books/websites to learn gardening and landscaping

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Amandine

Brilliant_Rock
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What are your favorite books and websites to learn about gardening and landscaping?

DH and I are renting a home from a friend, and don''t necessarily need or want to make big changes, but we would like to maintain the yard the best we can. The problem is, we have only a rough idea of what to do. We are in Georgia, so any southern oriented sites/books would be great, too.

Thanks!
 

Gailey

Ideal_Rock
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Amandine

First off, although I''m a professional gardener, I am from Western Canada (zone 3), which makes a world of difference to you in Georgia - your zone is anywhere between 6b and 8b

I will do my best to point you in the direction of where to find good quality information.

Knowing which zone you are in is important when you buy literature, you can make sure it covers your zone.

Definitely Fine Gardening Magazine You don''t have to buy the magazine to access a lot of their on-line advice. Part of Fine Gardening covers specific areas of the US, so this will be useful to you.

Probably the best on-line source for buying books about all things horticulture is Timber Press

John Brookes is an industry respected garden/landscape designer who writes good quality easy to understand books. This is a good one to start with Garden Design by John Brookes

One of the best resources in your area would be the Georgia Master Gardener Program If you look at this page you will find a group in your specific part of Georgia. Consult with them, even consider taking a course.

Gardening covers a multitude of topics, interests and practices. One thing that is worth bearing in mind (because it''s not always the most popular or widely covered of subjects) is Soil. It''s all about the soil. It starts with your soil and ends with your soil. Unless you have healthy soil, and enough of it, you won''t have a healthy garden - never let anyone tell you otherwise. Unless of course you just want patio or deck areas with pots on top.

If you give me a little bit more specific information about your own garden and what kind of things you want to do with it, I will see if I can give you a little more information.

Good luck

Gailey
 

Amandine

Brilliant_Rock
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I am sorry it took so long for me to come back! I had to work all weekend.

Thank you for your advice so far, Gailey. I stopped at the library today, and one of the magazines I checked out was Fine Gardening, among others. I do have Month by Month Gardening in Georgia, too. It has been pretty helpful.

We are in Atlanta, and have decent sized yard for the city. There are a number of flowering trees and bushes, a lot of bamboo (which we try to keep moderately contained, it does provide a nice privacy screen from the neighbors) and predominately a lot of shade. We have two really large magnolias out front, and our friends who own the house will have problems some day with the one, as it has started to cause the driveway to buckle.
Around the one side of the house there is a lot of ivy as ground cover, and we keep that contained and off the house.

Right now our biggest problems are mostly related to the shade. We have a large tree in the center of the back yard, and underneath it there is bare dirt with a tuft or two of grass making an attempt to start. This is not helped by Edgar (our dog, he''s my avatar) who loves to play under the tree. DH would really love to get the grass growing there, but I think it may be a lost cause. I know we are close to the time of seeding and fertilizing here...its funny, I have seen my Dad do this all my life in Michigan, but never paid that much attention. You never realize what may be important later! I do have a soil testing kit I bought last year, I learned that much from watching my Mom and her vegetable garden. I would like to find some shade loving plants, native to Georgia to fill in some spaces. We just need to learn some of the basic stuff, too: like how and when to prune, what grass we should try to seed with, what fertilizer to use, etc. As much as I would love to, we can''t sink a lot of money into this as its not our home and we are saving for a down payment to buy one. But I would like to maintain and work some with what we have.

Any help is appreciated, and thank you for responding!
 

zhuzhu

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I love that you started this thread!
I am also a first time gardener and our house has about 4000 sf of "bare" landscape for us to uncover. Fun!
 

Gailey

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Amandine

Chances are if the grass doesn''t grow well under this tree, it isn''t ever going to. Identifying the tree will help. There are a number of trees where grass simply can''t compete. Spruce is one and Black Walnut is another. If you can figure out what it is, that will give me a clue.

It may be possible that the tree could be pruned to let in more light. This ought to be done by a professional. I don''t know what the terms of your lease are, but I would think the owner would be responsible. I''m responsible for the trees in the rental property that I own. A certified arborist would be a really good person to consult about the driveway issue. If it is possible to cut out the structural root that is causing the problem, he will know how and more importantly when to do it. A word of warning - if you do decide to call in an arborist, make sure you get one that is "Certified", many aren''t and can ruin the health of a mature tree.

Along with competing for light, the grass is also going to compete for nutrients and water with the tree. I would recommend you top dress your lawn with some good quality organic compost - a good inch. This will aid with water retention as well as slowly adding nutrients. If you throw synthetic fertilizer onto a stressed lawn, you will just add to it''s decline in the long run. It''s entirely possible that you don''t have a good depth of top soil. You would be amazed how many problems are soley attributable to not enough top soil. I wouldn''t consider overseeding the lawn now. I think It''s always better to overseed in the fall, it will be much more successful if you overseed onto a lawn that''s been topdressed the previous spring. This is because the fine young roots that the grass seed put out will develop far better in the cool of Fall as oppossed to frying in the heat of the Summer.

As far as pruning your shrubs go, I can help you with that. But again, I need to know what they are. Different shrubs need pruning at different times of the year. This is because some shrubs flower on the wood they produce in the previous year, such as lilac and forsythia. Others will bloom on current season wood, potentilla and spirea for example. If you are going to prune shrubs, invest in a pair of Felco secateurs/pruners. They are the best and will last you a lifetime.

As for filling in some shade plants, there are a number of good books out there that will guide you. Maybe take a look at the ones in the link and get a couple out of the library. A word of caution though. People are seduced by hostas and they are lovely, but slugs love them. If you buy any hostas, make sure you research varieties that are slug resistant, there are a few. An Encyclopedia of Shade Perennials would be a good book to take a look at early on.

One of the most beautiful shade perennials in my opinion is Virginia Bluebells. They are a Spring flowering perennial, but so pretty. Perhaps one idea would be to count up the number of bare spots that you have, make sure you assess the size of the patch and match it up to an appropriate sized plant, but aim to plant things that will flower at different times of the year. For instance, Japanese Anenomes flower at the end of the season. They are really easy plants to grow.

Don''t worry too much about the pH of your soil just yet, unless you know what it is and you can see some glaring problems. Good quality organic compost has the wonderful ability of evening out pH, as well as adding good structure to your soil. I don''t know what size of garden you have, but by far the best money spent on it initially would be the compost and I would buy as much of it as you can affort and put it on every garden surface! If of course you intend to enjoy the garden for any period of time. If you are a short term rental, then I wouldn''t do it, or I''d ask the landlord to consider paying for it.

I''ve just read through my post and realised that I am making a huge assumption that your garden is on the dry side/ Of course that may not be the case! If you''ve got loads of moss in the garden, let me know and I''ll advise you separately on damp garden issues.

I ought to add, that the advice I am offering is fairly general and may not need your specific needs. That''s why I would urge you to make contact with your local Master Gardener Group. Master Gardeners are there predominantly to give people advice. They''re tenure is dependant upon them volunteering, that''s why the organisation was established. They really will be an invaluable resource to you.

Happy gardening, it''s good for the soul!

Gailey
 

Amandine

Brilliant_Rock
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Just quick, while I process some of what you wrote...we are sort of on the dry side, only because Georgia is still experiencing a drought.

Also, would love to compost (my parents do on their garden), but have an extremely active and playful dog. So, not sure it would stay where it needed too...his favorite game is chase, as in he chases us or we chase him. We have a cement patio in the yard, next to previously mentioned tree. He loves to race in a giant circle around the patio and tree...and we know he is some of the problem with the grass, although it wasn''t great when our friends bought the house, either.
 

Gailey

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I wouldn''t worry about the compost moving around too much. A good coarse fibre bass broom and a springy tined rake will keep it in check. The grass will come up through the grass quite quickly. I would try and mow it to a height of about 2". That might give you sticker shock if you are used to keeping your grass short, but it will be better for the grass, especially if you are on the dry side.

I''ve just been reading through a journal I get and I see that Atlanta has a Botanical Garden. I would think you can get loads of good ideas and information from there as well.

Gailey
 

Gailey

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Date: 2/18/2009 9:47:05 PM
Author: zhuzhu
I love that you started this thread!
I am also a first time gardener and our house has about 4000 sf of ''bare'' landscape for us to uncover. Fun!
Zhuzhu

Great fun! Just remember my only golden rule. It''s all about the soil. It needs to be good, regularly amended with good quality organic compost and there needs to be lots of it!

Where do you live? I''ll see if I can find some local resources for you.

Gailey
 

zhuzhu

Ideal_Rock
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Date: 2/20/2009 9:23:39 PM
Author: Gailey
Date: 2/18/2009 9:47:05 PM

Author: zhuzhu

I love that you started this thread!

I am also a first time gardener and our house has about 4000 sf of ''bare'' landscape for us to uncover. Fun!
Zhuzhu


Great fun! Just remember my only golden rule. It''s all about the soil. It needs to be good, regularly amended with good quality organic compost and there needs to be lots of it!


Where do you live? I''ll see if I can find some local resources for you.


Gailey
Thanks Gailey, I would very much appreciate any suggestions from you!

I live in San Diego, zone 9 I believe? Right now I am struggling to decide if my french lavender in the pot is dead or not (it had turned all silver-grey and became brittle). Do you mind if I post a pic of it tomorrow on here to show you?
 

Gailey

Ideal_Rock
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Sure!

I bet it looks like mine. Except mine has been in my un-heated garage suffering from -30° C.

There is a sure fire way of telling if any woody plant is dead or not. Right at the base of the stem, where it comes out of the pot or the ground, take a key or a pen knife and gently scrape a small part of bark away. If you see green underneath, then it''s alive. If, by contrast you scrape and all you see is brown, then it''s dead.

San Diego - nice. Except I bet you can''t grow a decent lilac down there!
 

zhuzhu

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Mar 15, 2006
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Thanks Gailey!
Here is the first pic with the 2 pots side by side. As you can see the one on the left is completely grey. The one on the right is however blooming on some.

Lav1.JPG
 

Gailey

Ideal_Rock
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Date: 2/21/2009 6:39:31 PM
Author: zhuzhu
Close up of lavender in question.....
zhuzhu

I think it''s toast, I''m afraid. Did you scrape the bark away? Do the same to both (just a teeny bit). You should notice a difference.

Can you post a close up of the one that has still got life in it?

Lavender is tempremental in pots I find, how long have you had them?
 

zhuzhu

Ideal_Rock
Joined
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Yes I do!
As you can see, half of it also turned completely grey, but the other half just began flowering. Weird!

lav3.JPG
 

Gailey

Ideal_Rock
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I would take some sharp secateurs/pruners and cut out the bits that are obviously grey and dead.


Here''s an article about growing lavender in pots that might help you. One thing that is key with lavender is that they like good drainage and the article talks about that. One thing it doesn''t say is unless you have a good airspace under your pot, all the efforts you have taken to ensure drainage will be much reduced, if not wasted. Invest in some pot feet to put under your containers. I''ve attached a picture of one of my pots that shows you what I mean.


Another thing I would do is to take the dead lavender out of the other pot and have a good look at the root system. Dig about to see if you can find any sign of pest damage. I''m not at all familiar with pests in your area, but the good news is that you have a very proactive group of Master Gardeners in San Diego. They even have an advice line you can call! If there is a specific pest or disease that might be causing the problem, these are the folks that will be able to help you out with that.


There''s a couple of other tips I''ll pass onto you that I use with all my containers:
If the containers have been used before, scrub them with a mild bleach solution and then rinse and air dry.
Never re-use old potting mix.
Make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom and cover them with a fresh bounce sheet.
Instead of gravel for drainage place an upturned plastic 4" or 6" pot over the holes & put another bounce sheet over that.

The bounce sheets do a couple of things: they prevent soil leaking out and deter critters from crawling in (they don''t like the smell). BTW, I cut the bounce sheets to fit, that way it''s a bit more economical.


Hope this helps!


succulent pot.jpg
 

cnspotts

Brilliant_Rock
Joined
Jan 11, 2003
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524
Southern Living magazine and books are wonderful and totally oriented towards our zones in the south. My fav book is The Southern Living Garden Book, it''s like the bible of gardening here.
Gardenweb.com is also a great place

Growing things in this zone is near fail proof. Dig a hole, plant it, watch it grow, and grow and grow. At least that''s the kind of luck I have here. Hubbs & I just put in our biggest garden ever, it''s 16'' x 30'' and hopefully before the end of the year we''ll have our greenhouse up too. I''ve started the seeds inside and they''re just starting to pop up, it''s very exciting for me!
 

Mara

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GardenWeb is a FABULOUS internet resource, it has been around for years and there a ton of people who answer Q''s there. It''s like the Pscope of Gardening.

I have a lot of gardening books and they are fun to kick back and read with, but I find when I need a plant for a specific area or something, the internet is the best resource. There are some great plant websites that let you plug in search for conditions and off you go. It''s very easy to find pictures and information on what grows best where online. One of my favorite websites is bluestoneperennials.com and there is another one I just found via Google that I can''t remember. The internet is going to have the latest and greatest on plants and there are so many new varietals for things every year that unfortunately a book becomes outdated fairly quickly unless you are looking for more vintage plants or cottagey garden plants.

aka I love Roses and I have some beautiful huge pictured rose books, but whenever I want to buy roses, I just go online to J&P or David Austin or something and look at their pictures and information and buy.

Gardens are SO fun...they are such an outlet for creativity and you can really hardly ever ''go wrong'' in my opinion with planting...even the most crazy gardens are loved by someone.
 

Gailey

Ideal_Rock
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3,778
You guys are making me drool! Do you realise I am still looking out on the same 2 ft of snow I''ve had outside since before Christmas! I think it was mid-April before I saw my first bloom and that''s early for here.

I agree about websites being the most current for specific plant information. Here''s a few I like:

Dave''s Garden
Heritage Perennials
Monrovia
Terra Nova Nurseries

I gotta move south!
 

zhuzhu

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Mar 15, 2006
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Date: 2/22/2009 10:48:31 PM
Author: Mara
You are so right Mara,

I never knew how rewarding it is to garden until we bought our house last year. I am posting this picture to show you the progression of my "first project". This is really rather embarrassing as it is nothing special, but for someone who has never had her hands in dirt before, this is a BIG step!

BTW, Thanks so much Gailey for your advice on my lavender! I will plant the alive one into the ground ASAP~!

zhuzhugrass.jpg
 
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