So just what is a raised bed? It is a volume of garden soil contained within a set of walls made of wood, stone, metal or concrete that rises above the normal soil level. It’s a popular method of creating a garden space, but has many benefits.
The Benefits of the Raised Garden
Why go to all the extra effort to build a raised bed garden for your flowers or vegetables? Using raised beds can not only improve the quality of your plants and overall gardening experience, but they can also add an aesthetic factor to the garden with shape and dimension. Here are some of the general benefits of raised bed gardening:
Less weeding – Ok, let’s face it, I hate weeds. They are the bane of my existence, and I spend many hours of the day picking, pinching and digging to try and reduce their presence. With a raised bed, you are starting with a fresh and clean soil base, and if you mulch correctly, you should have minimal weeds (at least for a season :))
Control of Soil Chemistry and Makeup – with raised beds, you have total control of the soil, its pH and overall consistency. You can add sand, peat or fertilizer to create the perfect environment for what you are growing. It’s a clean palette, and can be easier to build out than existing soil.
Better water retention – Because you control the soil and consistency, if you live in areas with sandy soil, you can make sure your plants get adequate water and it is retained during the hot months.
Minimal soil compaction – Raised beds provide the ability to work an area of soil without walking on it, and compacting it. Loose, fertile soil allows for oxygen to reach the roots, as well as a medium for even water absorption.
Soil temperature – warmer soil temperatures early in the season and later in the season extend your growth window, and raised beds provide a nice extension. Like a garden blanket, the soil volume is insulated from the extremes of ground and air.
Save the back – that extra height brings the garden up to you, and for us older folks in the crowd, it can allow for a gardening experience without the bending and kneeling that is a killer.
This is the first in a series of posts on raised beds, follow us here and on Facebook and Instagram to stay in touch. Here are some other links to some great posts:
Information About Cottage Garden Design and Ideas for the Cottage Garden
As we build out our picket fence cottage garden and put in a new cottage-themed shed, we have been doing a ton of research on cottage design, cottage ideas and themes. Below are some of the best links we have found for your cottage garden research efforts.
Flowering bushes/shrubs are the foundation of any modern garden, offering a privacy screen along a border, attracting bees and birds, and providing amazing color and interest throughout the landscape. With hundreds of types and shapes, there’s a beautiful type bush for every one.
There are some key steps to choosing the right garden bush. First, make sure it’s suited for your USDA Planting Zone. You will need to figure out the area of your garden where you plan to plant it. Does it get full sun or does it like the shade? Here’s the most important items to remember:
Some flowering garden bushes bloom on branches that grew the year before (old wood)
Others bloom on this year’s growth (new wood)
Others bloom on both old and new wood
If you’re not sure and have doubt on what you have with a specific bush, wait until the plant blooms, then prune it to your desired shape. If you prune beforehand, you risk cutting off flower buds and having no flowers for the season.
Here are our garden bush favorites, and a list of flowering bushes/shrubs to add to your garden this year.
Oh the joys of lavender. I have to admit, it is our favorite and we have it throughout our property, including a large field. As a garden bush, lavender provides beautiful form, foliage color interest (Grey green) and amazing colored spike flowers. It is relatively easy to grow in certain zones, and provides scented buds and spikes for harvest.
Size: 1′ to 3′ spread depending on variety and age.
Varieties: Try Grosso and Provence for great all purpose, hardy plants
Ah, the formal and shaped boxwood, the mainstay of the English Cottage Garden. Boxwood garden shrubs come in a wide variety of types, over 140, with varieties that vary in leaf size and color, size and acceptable climate. Buxus can be used as a hedge, anchor or feature, and lends itself nicely to shaping.
Size: Typical varieties grow 1 to 6 feet, with some growing to 20 feet at maturity.
Zone: Boxwoods do best in zones 6-9
Varieties: Most common are American, Japanese, Small Leaf and Hybrids.
Ok, here at Celtic Farm, we absolutely love our hydrangeas. We have propagated them and put them all over the property. Under trees, in garden beds, and even have a patch of about 30 for cut flowers. They are amazing bushes that add color and beautiful shape to any garden scene. Their big, bold flowers come in all types of colors, but blue and pink are the most common.
Size: 3 to 8 feet at maturity.
Varieties: Mophead Hydrangeas are the most common, but there are too many varieties to list. You can find some here: Garden Bush – Hydrangea
We all have them. We all tolerate them. That old pair of scissors that are so dull they bend the paper and need sharpening. In the garden, dull garden scissors or snips can leave wounds that can risk the health of your prize plants. If you knew how easy it was to sharpen them, you’d kick yourself. So let’s take a quick peek and the steps to sharpen scissors, and get them a sharp cutting edge. Fortunately, this technique can be used over and over to sharpen not only all your scissors, but you can sharpen garden snips, secateurs, loppers, and all your other dual blade tools with nearly the same sharpening technique.
What You’ll need:
Diamond Sharpening Stones (I like Diamond Paddles)
Water or Honing Oil
Paper for sharpened cut testing
A screwdriver (If your scissors have a screw)
A permanent marker (optional)
So, there are a ton of options for actual scissor sharpening when it comes to tools. But I like simple, and diamond stone sharpening paddles are my favorite. They come in a set of 3 usually, coarse, medium and fine, and can be used not only to sharpen your scissors, but other tools in your garden shed or shop. And they are relatively cheap and take up minimal space. You can also throw them in your pocket, or garden apron, for access out in the wild.
You can use these diamond stone scissor sharpeners dry or wet, and the debate is out on which is better, but i like to use just a little water on the stone, and it seems to help sharpen and keep the stone clean as steel comes off the blade.
Scissor Sharpening Steps: The “How to Sharpen Scissors” Checklist
Prep and Disassemble Your Scissors to Put on an Edge
If your scissors have a screw, taking them apart during the sharpening processes can be quite helpful, and you can get access to the full blade. If not you will have to open them fully to get the blades.
Sharpening the scissor blades is a two step process, and it’s important to do both sides of each scissor blade during sharpening.
Take the permanent marker and run it along the front blade of the scissor. This will give you a reference and make sure you have sharpened the entire blade of the scissors. You can use the ink as a guide to show areas of the blade that have been left unsharpened.
Sharpen the Blades
I start with the back of the scissor blade, or the flat side. The goal here is to remove any burs (very fine), get rid of any rust that has accumulated, and make the edge totally flat. Put the scissors on the edge of a table or bench and run the stone over the scissor blade in a flat, sweeping motion. If should just need a few swipes with the fine paddle, but if there is rust or divots you may need to use the coarse paddle to remove more material. Once you have shiny metal on the blades edge, clean up with your towel and flip to the other side.
Now, let’s talk about how scissors work. They actually shear whatever you are cutting between the contact point, so the angle is very abrupt at the tup of the blade. As we sharpen the scissor blade edge, it will only be about 10 degrees off perpendicular to the bevel side. This seems counter intuitive, and most folks try and sharpen at the bevel angle. You can put the scissor blade in a vise, or hold it securely in your hand, and run the paddle from inside out across the blades edge. A few passes should put a shiny edge on your blades.
Test Your Sharpening Work
Try and cut the paper. A fine blade should cut with out effort, and you should be able to “push” the open blade across the paper, cutting with ease. If you can’t, rinse and repeat.
Sharpening Scissors Video Guide
If you are like me, a quick video is my best learning tool. See our “Sharpening Scissors” video for a simple, short guide to teach you how to sharpen just about anything with diamond sharpening paddles.
Ready to Hone your Scissors?
So that’s it, plain and simple. If you are like me, you will go on a sharpening binge and sharpen all the scissors in your house garage and even your neighbor’s. Check out our video library that show sharpening techniques for scissors, pruners, mower blades and more.
Continuing on our obsession with the cottage garden, it flowers, design principles and overall feel, this post is dedicated to non-plant cottage garden features, both traditional and non-traditional. Here is a list of our favorite elements for the cottage garden.
Fences and Gates
The feeling of contained chaos, or that you are entering a wonderland, is common in the design of the cottage garden. A low fence or wall, usually a picket or stone, is a primary and typically essential element of the garden’s soul. The gate provides an entry point to the garden and its paths, greenery and color.
Overhead: Arches and Pergolas
Vertical elements add to the enclosed spaces within the cottage garden, and arches adorned with climbing beauties like roses and clematis will provide you with a wonderful blended view of the sky and beautiful flowers. Pergolas can establish outdoor rooms or space for chairs, tables and benches.
Sitting: Benches and Chairs
The cottage garden relieves stress, and provides an escape for its owner, family and friends. With all the spaces created, and views of beauty, why not add a chair or bench to sit and gaze, and take in the sights and wonders of nature
Inviting in our flying friends can help establish a wonderful little ecosystem of plants and birds. Placing these beautiful ornaments in a central or planned room within the cottage garden will give you a whole new experience, and add to the overall charm.
The sound of flowing water adds another sense beyond the sights and scents of your cottage garden design. The garden is the perfect place for small, medium or large fountains to add visual interest as well.
This is just a short list of features. Read the rest of our cottage garden series to get ideas for your cottage garden design, and plans.