Woody plants that produce a single stem or trunk and many branches are called trees. Woody plants that produce many stems from the soil, with new ones being produced each year, are called shrubs. Plants that produce no woody stems are known as herbaceous. Any plant that lives for many years is a perennial. Those plants that remain in gardens year after year but are not woody are herbaceous perennials – peony, iris, and phlox are examples.
Some herbaceous perennials, called bulbous plants, produce bulbs. These include not only the true bulbs, such as tulips and onions, but also the solid bulbs, or conns, such as gladiolus and crocus. Tubers are produced by dahlias, caladiums, and other tuberous plants. Rhizomes are developed by iris, lily of the valley, and other rhizomatous plants. All of these perennials produce and store food below ground so that a new plant may grow each year.
A few plants such as foxglove, canterbury bells, and wild mullein last only two years. The first year they make a rosette of leaves close to the ground, live over winter, bloom the next year, and then they die. Such plants are called biennials. If seeds are sown each year, there is a constant supply of plants.
Starting your own garden in the backyard
Everything that grows needs light, air, moisture, and food. From the carbon dioxide of the air, the plant in the presence of sunlight produces sugar. This is soon changed to other substances that make up the main bulk of the plant. Additional plant food comes from the natural minerals in the soil. When the soil is lack of minerals it has to be supplied with fertilizer. The food is dissolved in water, so there must be enough moisture.
There are relatively few places on Earth where plants do not grow. If the soil of the garden is not good, it can be improved by digging good soil, manure, or commercial plant food into it. If a plot of ground grows weeds it is good soil; it will grow desirable plants equally well. Soil without weeds needs to be dug, aired, fed, and enriched with micro-organisms, supplied when manure, garden trash, peat moss, grass clippings, or good compost (peat, leaf mold, and lime mixed) are used.
As soon as the sun has warmed the soil in the spring, a garden may be started. The chosen place must have fairly good soil about eight or nine inches deep.
After an area of suitable ground is staked out, a layer of manure, peat moss, or compost has to be spread over the surface. Digging is important and must be done thoroughly and up to eight inches deep. It can be done with hand tools or by powered tillers. This loosens the soil and permits air to go into it and ventilate it.
The next step is a thorough raking. This breaks the soil clods and makes the top layer free from stones and as fine as possible. In this way, a soft bed is formed where seeds, bulbs, or small plants can easily send down their roots in search of food and moisture.
In late fall a garden of perennial plants is often covered with leaves or straw. This covering should never be put on until the first hard freeze. It is put on not to protect the plants from cold but to keep the ground from being disturbed by alternate freezes and thaws. This would loosen and perhaps expose the plants’ roots and might even push plants out of the ground altogether. This covering is left on until the spring when all danger of freezing is over. In some cases, the covering can be worked into the ground instead of being removed.
These few steps are very important for beginners:
1. Dig the soil deeply, do not just rake the surface.
2. Feed regularly with plant food that contains all the elements the plants and flowers need to grow.
3. Water the soil when there is no rain. A plant that gets too dry just once may die. Unless plants are at home in swamps and pools, they also need air for their roots so the soil has to be drained well.
4. Prevent and control insects and diseases.
5. Pick flowers often and enjoy them.
Bulb flowers gardening
Many bulb flowers can be planted in the beds of perennial plants, to add some more colors to your garden. Gladiolus and dahlia do not stand the cold so they have to be planted in spring when the soil is warm. The hardy bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils can be planted in autumn. They remain in the soil producing their roots throughout the late fall and winter, and bloom in early spring.
Bulb flowers need to be planted at a certain depth. For example: tulips, daffodils, and other bulb flowers of the same size need to be planted four to six inches deep. Such small bulbs as crocuses need to be planted only two inches deep. Anyway, follow the instructions written on the package.
Starting to sow seeds
Except for the hardy sorts, seeds should be sown outdoors after the time of danger frosts has passed. Sometimes seeds are sown indoors and moved outside when they are partly grown. They should not be sown too early because the seedlings may become too tall and weak before they can be planted outside.
In the flower garden, most seeds are planted in rows in seedbeds. They are sown twice their own diameter deep, and then covered with fine soil to keep the surface loose and moist. This helps the seedlings sprout and grow. Some seeds, such as sweet alyssum can germinate in three or four days if the sun has warmed the soil. Other seeds may take a week or more.
As soon as any kind of seed has begun to sprout the new seedling must have cared. This is the most critical time in the plant’s life. If watering is neglected, the tiny plantlets may dry out and die because their roots are not long enough to reach into the moist layers beneath.
Many seedlings are not easy to transplant, therefore such plants as poppies, gourds, beans, sweet peas, and mignonette should be sown directly in the spot where they will grow.
Some flowers can be combined to grow in plant boxes. These combinations can be made of: petunia, lobelia, begonia, coleus, geranium, morning glory, wandering jew, fern, vincas, and asparagus.
Starting an indoor terrarium and bottle garden
A terrarium is a glass or plastic container for growing plants indoors. The container can be of any shape and may have a cover to help conserve moisture and humidity. A bottle garden is very similar to a terrarium – the plants are placed in soil within a bottle. To grow a terrarium or bottle garden needs great patience and care. Both of these little gardens require part sun. If you place them on a hot sunny window the plants will die. They also should not be covered too tightly because humidity can fog the walls.
An old aquarium can be a perfect terrarium. When small animals such as chameleons, salamanders, and insects are added, it is called a vivarium. It can provide many hours of enjoyable observation.
You can make your garden even more beautiful by adding some moss around to hide the soil. Also, you can set in this little garden some small wood plants such as fern, partridgeberry, violet or any house plants and enjoy it throughout the winter.
Plan your garden ahead
When planning a garden, you have to think about the space for it. The area may be planned for several gardens such as a rock garden, vegetable garden, garden with a small pool, shrubs for background or trees for shade.
Everything has to be planned in advance. During winter you can read the seed catalogs and order seeds and plants. At the end of winter, you can check your garden tools: repair them, sharpen them or buy some new. And when the gardening time comes you will be ready to make your beautiful flower garden.
History of gardens
The primitive human had no gardens. They moved from place to place and ate wild fruits and roots. Perhaps the first garden could be a great patch of melons growing on a spot where someone had eaten the fruits and scattered the seeds the year before. Because of this new growth of melons, those people may have stayed longer than usual on that spot. They may have put up a crude brush fence around the patch to protect it from the trampling of wild animals, thus making the world’s first garden.
There are no recorded details of the earliest garden. However, there are gardening scenes pictured on the tombs of the ancient Egypt kings. For thousands of years before Christ, people in the valley of the Nile raised grain, fruit, and vegetables.
In Asia, there were gardens in ancient times. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were famous as one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World. They were built by Nebuchadnezzar when he married Princess Amytis who longed for her native hills and trees. These gardens were a series of four terraces, each one smaller than that below it. Each terrace had a beautiful planting of flowers, vines, and fruit trees.
The earliest known garden plan is from an estate that may have belonged to an Egyptian official, who lived in Thebes around 140 B.C. A canal extended outside the gateway at right led to the vineyard. Waterfowl swam in four ornamental ponds, and palm trees were planted in symmetrical patterns throughout the garden.