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Springmoor Floral Focal Points: Sustainable Landscapes

By Thom Morgan
Springmoor Landscape Manager
Thom Morgan
Everyone loves fresh fruit and vegetables; I always look forward to eating the first beefsteak tomato of the summer, sliced over a piece of toast, with mayonnaise and bacon. That goes the same for that freshly-picked ear of sweet corn (boiled just long enough until it is tender, with melted butter, and a sprinkle of salt on it). Yes–I am longing for the summer.
Not everyone has enough land, full sun, access to water, or the time to spend on growing fruit trees, and vegetables, though. 
Here are some ways to get around these problems, and incorporate fresh fruits, and vegetables into any landscape:
Land Constraints:
If  you don’t have a lot of room, there are ways to get around it:
  • Containers: They come in all shapes, color, sizes and materials. Most varieties of vegetables, herbs and dwarf fruit trees do well in containers, provided that the container is deep enough. Two feet minimum in depth would allow enough room for roots to grow. Deeper would be better, except the weight of the container then becomes an issue.
  • Dwarf Fruit Trees: A dwarf fruit tree is one that gets about 10 feet tall, and eight feet in diameter. Ultra dwarfs are only six feet tall. Varieties of fruit trees that are available in dwarf form are: Apple, pears, cherries, peach, plum, nectarines and apricot. Most are labeled self-fertile, and you can save space by planting one tree, but your chances of getting fruit are greatly reduced. So, always purchase two different varieties when buying fruit trees. Make sure they are two varieties that bloom within a couple weeks of each other to be successful. This information is available online from fruit tree growers such as Stark Brother’s.
  • Variety: If you don’t even have room for dwarf fruit trees or vegetables, try planting smaller-growing varieties. Blueberries are very easy to grow, get about eight feet tall, and can be kept smaller. Strawberries can be substituted for ground cover along a walkway. Kiwi vine, raspberries, and blackberries do not take up much room width-wise, and only grow as tall as you allow on a support system.

Full Sun:
A “full sun” crop must receive six hours or more of sunlight each day; the sunlight does not have to be continuous. A “partial sun” crop requires four to six hours a day. If you don’t have this kind of sunlight, try these tricks:
  • Try a different season: Most fruits and vegetables require full sun, and if you do not have it, try growing at a different time of year. I have great success in the fall and early spring with root crops and leafy crops. At home, I receive more sunlight as the leaves fall in the surrounding woods.

  • Try root crops:  Carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic and turnips do just fine, and I have great success each year with broccoli, collards, spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.

Access to Water:
If you typically don’t get a lot of water on your land or don’t have time to water continuously, consider this:
  • Avoid heavy drinkers like watermelon, cantaloupe and corn if you cannot provide enough water.  Peppers and egg plant like hot, and not too moist, conditions, while rosemary and artichoke are the cactus of the herb and vegetable world.

Time for Maintenance:
If you’re short on time for gardening, then the adage “you get what you put into it” can be true. Fruit trees are high maintenance; if you stick with dwarf varieties, you can enjoy a little hands-on experience outside each week. If not, try herb gardens in raised planters, or containers which are fairly easy to maintain.
Springmoor Floral Focal Points: What’s in Bloom for February:
  • The Red Maple (Acer Rubrum) by my office is in full bloom. Not known for it’s showy flowers, it does get thousands of tiny red flowers at this time of year.
  • Flowering Quince “Jet Trails” (Chaenomeles speciosa Jet Trail) has white flowers which are opening up right now.
  • Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) will be in full bloom by the end of February.
  • Flowering Apricot (Prunus mume) is in full bloom now with its thousands of coral pink flowers.
  • Winter Daphne (Daphne odorata) is still blooming, but the leaves got fried during the single digit temperatures we experienced.
  • Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) is still in bloom with its yellow, forsythia-like flowers.
  • Leather leaf mahonia (Mahonia beali)  greets all that enter our administration building with its yellow flowers.

February Landscaping To-Do List:
  1. Prune hybrid tea roses back to about 12 inches, leave about three to five healthy canes. Remove any dead wood and weak branches.
  2. Fertilize roses. I like to do this on Valentine’s Day. Most of the rose fertilizers are applied at six week intervals, which puts the last feeding perfectly in August. I like to use Bayer’s Rose Pride: It has the nutrients roses like plus insecticide is introduced into the plant before the aphids and Japanese beetles come calling.
  3. It is probably going to be later this year, but I like to plant snow peas, carrots, spinach, carrots and potatoes the first week of February.
  4. Fertilize any trees, and shrubs you planted the previous year. Use 8/8/8, or 10/10/10 once a month per directions until August.

Next Month: How to identify a dogwood tree by its bark.

Springmoor Life Care Retirement Community is a beautiful senior living community in Raleigh, N.C. To learn more about Springmoor, check out our website, and find us on Facebook.