The Bare Root

Landscape Design from the Bottom Up


Do it Yourself: Garden & Landscape Design

IMG_5305Welcome to our Blog!

Spending time outdoors has become one of the great passions of today’s homeowners. Many have discovered the joy of gardening, growing their own food and herbs—even grapes for wine making–and landscaping for aesthetics, recreation, and resale. Also, neighbors will love you more when you improve your property’s curb appeal in the front, along the sides, and out back.

But getting started can be tough. First, there’s the basic question of what to tackle , and in what order? Add proper irrigation, plant flowers, seed a lawn, get rid of a lawn, reseal a driveway, install a walk, prune dead limbs, remove dead trees, plant trees, and so on with many other tasks to get done.

Finding the right help requires the same sort of due diligence that you need to undertake any interior projects:  painting, resanding and staining hardwood floorboards, or constructing an addition. In the case of your site, you have lots of options regarding who will take charge:  a gardener, contractor, certified landscape architect or designer, local nursery, or certified arborist. All offer different expertise, charge a range of prices (typically by the hour or project), and each should know which permits are needed to meet your community’s codes and setbacks.

And then, there’s the nitty-gritty matter of how much to spend in total to be sure you don’t overspend. Surveys like the annual “Cost vs. Value” report from Remodeling magazine will help guide you regarding how much a mid-range and upscale landscape project—perhaps, building a wood or composite desk–usually costs in different parts of the country, as well as how much you’re likely to recoup when you sell your home.

But these types of surveys won’t inform you if your outdoor projects make sense for your pocketbook, your home, and your neighborhood, and most homeowners tend to underspend in relationship to the value of their house. Generally, landscape experts recommend setting aside 10% to 15% of your home’s value for outside landscaping, which includes the soft areas—lawn, flowers, shrubs–and the hardscape—patios, paving, shade structures.   This can mean as much as $50,000 to $75,000 for a $500,000 home. Ouch!

466705_399745816722726_1124688577_oIf that’s way out of your budget, don’t despair; you can cut back and prioritize what your yard most needs or what interests you, or you can phase in work, which means tackling the front first, then the back, and lastly the side yards, which usually are less important. You can even phase in one area–laying the hardscape the first year, planting trees the next, and then finally putting in the flowers and accessories. There’s no single rule of thumb regarding green thumbs.

We’re here to help you spend more pleasurable time in your yard, so you don’t feel that you have to hop on a plane to get away and relax or head to that expensive neighborhood florist or vegetable market to have freshly cut, fragrant bouquets and healthy, tasty produce. We’re going to take you through the process of working on your yard, from the bare roots and ground up to the flourishing plantings and attractive hardscape you will love as it evolves and guides you. And we hope you’ll email us with suggestions on topics and problems you would like to have us cover. We’re here to help.


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How Does My Garden Grow?

By Barbara Ballinger

I was nurturing a new passion—gardening—and a new life, then watching both blossom simultaneously

Everyone urged me during my divorce proceedings to move on, build a new life, have fun and do things I had never done during my marriage. I listened carefully, though during this very stressful time, I was lucky to keep my head above water.

When I finally emerged as a healthy single, I was ready to heed my friends’ words and that included the purchase of my first house on my own where I discovered a new passion– gardening. It was to become a metaphor for growing and nurturing my new life in general.

I hadn’t planned gardening to be part of my repertoire. Others had green thumbs, not me. But my 1797 house with welcoming front porch and curlicue detailing added after the Civil War sat on one of my tiny village’s main streets. Although surrounded by a darling white picket fence, there was virtually no landscaping in front except one majestic maple tree. The setting of the house looked lonely in front and back (sort of the way I felt initially after my divorce) and was even devoid of shrubs except for a mass of overgrown bushes, leaves spread around the grounds resembling a tossed salad, and a little wood shed in disrepair. It needed some tender loving care.

I had no clue what to do on my own or how to approach this gigantic project. So, I did what I instruct readers to do in my home design articles–look for ideas and inspiration in books, online, in magazines, and call on experts, if affordable! In situations like mine, when starting with a blank canvas, I always advise creating a master plan to achieve a cohesive look. In doing so, you can do the work in stages rather than all at once, which can prove costly.

The first landscape designer I contacted was so expensive the sum could have resuscitated the Greek economy. It was out of my league. Then I read an ad for a couple who focus on edibles and don’t use pesticides. They came to my home, walked the property with me, listened to my concern to keep costs down and my wish for a green, blue, purple and white garden of hearty vegetation that would grow well in my climate. I gave them a deposit, and several weeks later they came back with pages and pages of a detailed, colored master drawing. Selections for both front and back ranged from hostas to ferns for shady areas, hydrangeas for fullness, currants, licorice and fruit trees for edibles, lots of perennials to avoid more expensive annuals, and an area earmarked for a tiny water feature.

Phase one.

Because of the public location of my property, I decided to work on the front garden first. While the couple I hired was busy planting mostly perennials in front, I remembered how much I liked my former neighbor’s grape vines and decided to replicate them. They would look perfect along a side fence in my yard. Moreover, they could be a memorial vineyard to Margaret’s late husband Nolan, who had been in the wine and spirits business. I gave it the moniker, “Nose Acres,” a variation on Nolan’s email name, nosewine. I also purchased two large planters to sit on my front porch, which my garden designers filled with seasonal offerings.

Grape vines were planted in what Barbara calls, “Nose Acres,” a memorial to Margaret’s late husband, Nolan, who was in the wine business.
Grape vines were planted in what Barbara calls, “Nose Acres,” a memorial to Margaret’s late husband, Nolan, who was in the wine business.
When phase one was finished, I found I loved walking out in the morning and seeing what was coming up. Like any new relationship, I loved nurturing it. Even weeding, watering and pruning became a delight for it would mean more would grow and more quickly.

Phase two.

The next year we planted part of the back with hostas, butterfly bushes and the beginnings of a perennial border. We moved on to the side yards, which we lined with ferns, which I had loved when I visited Kew Gardens in London with my mother years before. Because there was more shade on the other side garden, more hostas were planted.

Phase three.

The third year was a major undertaking. I added built-in planters on the back porch for flowers so anyone sitting there would enjoy color. I also extended the perennial bed, and decided to have a vegetable garden constructed as I read about more homeowners wanting to grow their own food, including First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House. My designers and I came up with a plan of four raised planters surrounded by gravel and framed by low bluestone walls for more edibles such as mint, basil, asparagus, strawberries, and herbs. In this case, because I proceeded slowly and in stages, it was feasible financially for me to add on and make changes.

Once the vegetable garden was planted, I ventured out early with coffee cup in hand most mornings to see my luscious produce start to pop: little strawberries, juicy tomatoes, skinny string beans, fat cucumbers, lots of mint, basil, and some edible flowers. I found that beets did poorly, as did my eggplants, and I got only one giant zucchini, which quickly was pureed and used in a zucchini bread. The tomatoes became sauce and gazpacho, the strawberries inspired many compotes, and the string beans and cucs were used for dinners. I also would go to friends’ houses with homegrown veggies in hand to show off my handiwork. This was tangible proof that I could see new life growing before my eyes.

There was more I wanted to do. I still didn’t have a terrace for sitting, which also hadn’t been part of my initial plan, so we decided to extend the gravel into a European-style hardscape circle since my initial choice of bluestone was too pricey. We added lovely big flagstone steppers to bisect the terrace and lead to the vegetable garden. I also painted the door of my shed red so I could see it from my kitchen, and also painted the shed’s faux windows with two favorite paintings—one of Monet’s bridges and the other of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Barbara painted the door to her shed red and added
Barbara painted the door to her shed red and painted the faux windows with her two favorite paintings.
Phase four.

The fourth year was mostly for filling in holes. By my backyard fence, I added lilac bushes that reminded me of those from my childhood home, several blueberry bushes for more edibles, and some pear trees for statuesque height.

Phase five.

In this recent fifth year, I extended my hydrangeas from the side along the front to complete the look of the picket fence, because the daffodils I originally planted had such a short life. I also had a messy area behind the shed cleared and three oak hydrangeas planted to camouflage a neighbor’s fence. The back hill was mulched and hostas and other shade loving plants were added.

This past summer I decided to plant fewer vegetables because some “neighbors” as in the many deer in the area had entered the village and were ruthlessly chomping on my produce. (There are ways I found to keep them at bay.) I pared down to a few tomato plants and some string beans, and still had strawberries, mint, and asparagus coming in.

Adding and subtracting.

My three-year garden vision keeps being extended and cut back. I’m now thinking about where I can add that small water feature I put off. I will also remove blueberry bushes since they’ve failed and probably add lilacs in their place. Overall I’m quite pleased. What my garden guide, landscape designer Michael Glassman, who’s co-author of my forthcoming book, The Garden Bible (Images, 2015), taught me is true: The first year a garden sleeps, the second year it creeps and the third year it leaps. He left off sharing that the fourth and fifth year it explodes!

I’m still having fun, though trying to cut back on my expenditures, still only planting perennials here and there for color and height where I see blank spaces, and adding annuals only in planters and pots to trim the expense and annual work. These are the two downsides of gardening. As I visit my favorite nursery to see what’s new and tempting. I’d love to add some roses but I’ve been told they need five to six hours of daily sun, which my yard doesn’t offer. I also need to weed constantly, which is great exercise but grueling work for my back and legs, and can lead to poison ivy and other plant-related rashes.

Rashes, itching, Prednisone and expenses aside, I love that my house no longer looks lonely in its setting. That part reminds me of Monet’s beloved Giverny home with its riot of colors, textures, and heights. How proud I feel when I notice people stopping and lingering in front of my picket fence to study my gardens. And when I sit alone or with family and friends on the gravel terrace in the late afternoon with a glass of wine in hand, chat or read, I feel a tremendous sense of peacefulness and accomplishment.

I’ve certainly added a new passion to my life after 50, and my partnership with the land is only likely to grow as are the many new relationships I have in my life.

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Deer Dangers to Be Aware About.

ImageImage It’s hard to live in suburbia or the country these days and not be cognizant of the difficulties deer cause homeowners, even those living in neighborhoods without much land. They lunch on your landscape and brazenly cross busy roads, often in groups. Worse, do you know that deer may carry parasites that transmit debilitating diseases to people and other animals? Or that nationally, deer versus car collisions claim about 200 lives per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? Bambi’s less beautiful when you consider the deer dangers you don’t know about, too. While damage to bushes, blooms, shrubs, and gardens can be annoying at best and costly at worst, deer can pose other risks to the safety of your home and family, including: • Disease dangers. Deer often carry ticks that transmit debilitating diseases like Lyme disease and brucellosis. Lyme disease can cause headaches, fever, fatigue, joint pain and rashes, and is often hard to diagnose. Left untreated, Lyme disease can damage the nervous system and even cause memory loss. Brucellosis is a bacterial infection that causes flu-like symptoms, including fever and headaches. In addition to affecting the central nervous system, it can attack the heart lining. • Pet threats. Direct injuries to people caused by deer may be uncommon, but deer that dwell in suburbia often come in contact with pets. Even a small doe can cause considerable injury to a dog or cat if the deer feels threatened and cornered. Bucks with antlers can be even more menacing to pets, especially during rutting season. • Real estate costs and repairs. Everyone knows that curb appeal is king when you go to sell a house. Deer eat 6 to 10 pounds of food daily, tearing leaves from plants and bark from trees. Their foraging can weaken and even decimate plants. Deer damage to landscaping, especially trees, can seriously spoil curb appeal, sometimes causing potential buyers to think twice before purchasing a home in an area known for this challenge. And costs add up quickly to replace plant and tree materials, fences and more. • Perpetual predation. Deer are prey animals, and an abundant population of them in a small area can draw predators looking for easy-access meals at your house, on a regular basis. Coyotes and bobcats won’t hesitate to attack family members and pets, plus they can carry diseases additional diseases such as rabies. To protect your home from deer damages – both known and unknown – it’s important to be pro-active. If you act before the deer do, you may be able to prevent destruction. Once deer settle into an area, it can be difficult to convince them to leave. Since no one wants to unnecessarily harm deer, it’s important to try safe, preventive measures first such as: • Deer repellent. It’s possible to deter deer without the use of harsh chemicals. Bobbex Deer Repellent, a topical foliar spray, for instance, uses taste and smell-aversion ingredients to deter deer from browsing on foliage, shrubs and trees. All natural, it’s safe for use around sensitive plantings, your children and pets. It works in any climate, won’t wash off in heavy rain, and it has been found to be 93 percent effective – second only to a physical barrier – in testing by the Connecticut Department of Forestry and Horticulture. To learn more, visit Check out similar products, too, and talk to experts. • Fencing. While fencing is considered a sure-fire way to keep out deer, though sometimes they get over even 10’ high fences, it’s not always desirable or practical to fence your yard in all cases. Many communities restrict the height of fences, and some are unsightly. • Devices. Noise-makers and lights that are motion-activated may scare deer away for a short time, but deer will eventually learn there’s no real threat and return to an area where deterrent devices are in use. • Unpalatable plantings. Hungry deer will eat almost anything, but it is possible to plant some vegetation that deer are less likely to eat. Interspersing plants like yarrow, fuzzy lamb’s ear, catmint, and hellebore, may offer some protection for plants that deer find desirable. Bottom line: The easiest way to deter deer and subsequent danger at your home is to start using a proven effective, spray on deer repellent and thwart the problem before it becomes bigger than you bargained for. Ask your local nursery as well as area community colleges with an agricultural expert for any and all suggestions. From afar and in movies, you’ll like Bambi again.

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Homegrown Strawberries: Get Ready for Spring with Sweet Produce

Homegrown strawberries are a billion times better tasting than the often hard, barely ripe, flavorless selection in many supermarkets. But, there’s an easy solution. Strawberries are cold-hardy and adaptable, making them one of the easiest berries to grow at home.Image

While most fruit trees take several years to begin bearing produce, you can harvest your own strawberries the very first summer you start to try. And even if you live in an apartment or small home, you can grow strawberries in a container on your balcony, rooftop, patio, or even doorstep. If your horizontal space is limited, consider growing strawberries in a hanging basket or stacked planter, which will allow you to take advantage of vertical growing space as the strawberry plants tumble over the sides.

There are two main kinds of strawberries: “June-bearing” and “Ever-bearing” varieties. June-bearing, turn up almost all at once, usually over a period of about three weeks. Because of their earliness, high quality, and concentrated fruit set, June-bearers, like “Allstar,” produce high yields of very large, sweet, extra juicy berries in late mid-season, which is usually late spring and early summer, depending on your geographic region. These are the best variety for preserving.

The second type–“Ever-bearing”–produce a big crop from spring flowers, light flushes of fruit through summer, and then bloom and bear again in late summer and fall. They are perfect for large containers or raised beds, where you can give them attentive watering and regular feeding.

Timely tips to ensure success:

  • When planting strawberries, be sure the crown is above soil level and the uppermost roots are ¼-inch beneath soil level; buried crowns rot and exposed roots dry out. Strawberry plants should be placed approximately 14 to 18 inches apart from each other in neat rows that are separated by 2 to 3 feet. Let runners fill in until plants are 7 to10 inches apart.
  • Use mulch to keep berries clean, conserve moisture, and control weeds.
  • If you want to keep it simple, plant strawberries in a container. Just remember that container plantings need much more water than in-ground plantings, usually once a day; and if it’s hot, twice daily. Strawberry pots are the obvious, best container choice for growing strawberries. You can fit several plants in one pot; just make sure whatever type of garden pot you use has good drainage. Strawberries have a relatively small root ball and can be grown in containers as small as 10 to 12 inches in diameter and 8 inches deep. However, the smaller the container, the more frequently you will need to water. Synthetic and light colored pots will keep the roots cooler than dark colors and natural materials that conduct heat.
  • Strawberries like well drained fairly rich soil, so be sure to add compost or other organic matter when preparing the pot or patch.
  • They also require full sun, 6 to 8 hours per day, and frequent, deep soakings. They will grow in all zones and should be fed twice a year–when growth begins and after your first crop. You’ll need to feed them with a plant food, which has nutrients and growth stimulants that your strawberry plants will love.
  • Control slugs and snails by handpicking them off plants and prevent theft by birds by covering your patch with netting as the first berries ripen.
  • Strawberries are one of the easiest and most delicious home garden fruits to grow, which makes them a great choice for children to help grow, especially if they’ve never planted or cared for a fruit or vegetable. They will love to pluck them off the plant, wash, and eat them right away!
  • Become adventuresome and try your results in all types of recipes, too, including soups, salads, and main dishes. Also learn to preserve, so you have yield throughout the fall and winter.
  • For more information on growing strawberries as well as vegetables and herbs, visit


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Hot Garden Trends


While winter still casts chill, blankets snow, and layers ice in many parts of the country, it’s a good time for homeowners to study garden catalogs and interior/exterior design websites to find new trends that can work outdoors. Then, when the weather warms, you will already have great new ideas that you can implement for greater enjoyment of your yard, increased home value, and enhanced curb appeal.  Before you start installing your new landscape, you should understand your site’s topography, orientation, climate, and economy, as well as decide on a budget.

When considering a design, be aware that what’s popular in your city experiencing growth may not appeal where the economy is stagnant. Here are the most popular trends we’ve spotted around the country:

Low maintenance. Busy homeowners want to enjoy their yards with as little time and effort as possible. This translates into care-free choices throughout the garden: materials for decks, patios, and columns that don’t require repainting or replacing; furnishings that can be left outdoors throughout the year and won’t fade; plant materials that have low water, fertilizing, or pruning needs.20130913_160544

  • Use perennials instead of annuals, since the latter require yearly replacement. To compensate for color, a big advantage of annuals over perennials, landscape specialists suggest that color come from accessories such as pillows, placemats, dishes and garden accessories.
  • Use wildflowers.  They are less labor intensive and less expensive than cottage and cutting garden annuals.
  • Use simpler design with plant materials.  Gardens that incorporate five to seven varieties rather than dozens require less care but are still pleasing.
  • Use container gardens.  These can spare maintenance and pots can winter indoors. The only downside is that they need to be watered more often since water will evaporate faster from pots than from the ground. The larger the container the more visual impact and the less water loss.
  • Find water features that require less intense care. More homeowners are installing pools with salt water to decrease the need for chlorination; some go with natural pools where rocks and plantings cleanse water. Still others opt for small fountains with low water requirements that still provide the trickling sounds and sight.
  • Consider grass alternatives.  For example, Grassology’s grass-like product requires less water and feeding since its roots go deeper than ordinary grass. The “grass” also doesn’t grow as high so less mowing is needed. “No mow lawns” of creeping red fescue with their windswept appearance are also becoming more popular

Entertaining outdoors. This trend is spurring more homeowners to add patios, decks, or terraces and ones large enough to accommodate comfortable seating, so the finished result resembles an indoor room. The furnishings selected are also sturdier—sometimes indistinguishable in quality and looks from what homeowners use indoors; upholstery is more fade resistant.IMG_0941

  • Bells and whistles make outdoor living even more pleasurable, whether it’s surround sound, weatherproof TVs, or well equipped kitchens. While some homeowners still find a good grill sufficient, especially if their indoor kitchen is close by, others are ramping up their cooking zones with appliances specifically designed for outdoor use—sinks, refrigerators, beer taps, pizza ovens, rotisseries. Storage and countertops are also more frost-proof.
  • To shade diners or sitters, pergolas continue to flourish, matched stylistically to a home’s design or favorite vacation paradise—perhaps, Tuscany, or the South Seas. To shade better, many are planted with flowering vines and elaborate mister systems.
  • For those who aren’t as focused on saving dollars, water features are ever more lavish and resort-like. Vanishing-edge pools, where water seems to spill over indefinitely, are increasingly popular to mimic five-star hotels.

Sustainably savvy. Native choices have caught on because they don’t require frequent watering or as much feeding, fertilizing, and pruning, and also know how to survive in their region. They also offer the plus of attracting more native wild life, bees, butterflies, and bugs.02-017 BBB

  • Green gardening also means less lawn for many, and more hardscape that’s permeable such as gravel or decomposed granite, so water can seep through and be reused. But be sure homeowners understand that all hardscape isn’t the goal either, since some greenness is key to a home looking residential and inviting. Some green areas are essential for children and dogs to play.  Large trees shade hardscapes and reduce water loss and evaporation.
  • If you still want lawn, consider going with a choices that can be left more natural to resemble a meadow or prairie, or they might consider synthetic turf, which now looks much more realistic.
  • If you want to plant vegetable and herb gardens to grow more of your food, you can do so by first checking your soil to see if it needs amending, and then picking your favorite edibles, as long as they’ll work in the soil or amount of sun and shade. As an alternative, install raised planters , where you can control the type of soil and drainage.
  • Drip irrigation systems can help conserve water better than conventional sprays heads, which often overspray onto existing hardscape. Eager to lower your water use? Consider installing rain barrels underground cisterns and other collection methods.
  • Incorporate local, recycled, and renewable materials including nearby quarried stone and reclaimed lumber.

Extended use. To extend enjoyment and utilize your outdoor environment for longer periods even during the winter months, consider installing night lighting and outdoor fireplaces or fire features.IMG_5735

  • For illumination, LEDs are replacing halogen bulbs because of their greater energy efficiency, particularly as their prices come down. These lights are being used for eating and sitting areas, but also to accent specimen trees, garden furnishings, and artwork. You should be able to focus on the effect, but not the source.
  • Adding a fire pit or fireplace also encourages homeowners to use their outdoors as the weather becomes colder. The decision whether to use a fireplace or a fire pit can come down to cost available space, and portability. Be sure to investigate your community’s regulations about setbacks for fire features before you install them.  Fire bowls produce a less intense flame but still provide a beautiful effect when placed around a terrace’s perimeter or by a pool. If you like going barefoot around your patio, consider installing radiant heat.

Gardens of all senses:  When developing your landscape, be sure to include elements that address all of the senses.Schore 3

  • Be sure to use elements that are beautiful to your eye.  Focal points in a garden can be sculptures, ornamental trees, glorious water features or fire features.  Choose a palate of plants that are harmonious.
  • Many people enjoy bringing natural sounds to their outdoor spaces.  Water features provide that relaxing sound of running water and choosing the right plants can attract songbirds.
  • You can add scents to your outdoor room by your choice of plants, for example, star jasmine, daphne or gardenias are popular for their beautiful scents.  However, be aware of allergies as some of your friends may have reactions to strong floral smells.

And whatever choices you end up considering in your new landscape design, consider how long you intend to spend in your home.  If you anticipate a shorter stay, do not to spend more than 10 to 20 percent of your home’s value, so you don’t over improve. However, if you plan to live at your residence forever, cost matters less than sustainability, durability, easy care and longevity.

Reprinted from Realtor® Magazine with permission of the National Association of Realtors®, February 2014.

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7 Landscape Tricks That Woo Buyers


Spring is around the corner, which means more buyers will be out hunting for a house or condominium. But in today’s market, sellers have to work harder to persuade them that their property is worth the bite. Here are 7 key strategies that will get them to give your house greater consideration:

1. Add splashes of color. With every changing season, a landscape should provide a new display of colors, textures, and fragrances. It’s best to use one or two and repeat them. Example: white iceberg roses that bloom in spring, summer, and fall as a backdrop; in front, a contrasting punch of purple salvia or lavender that will flower at the same time; and as an accent, a crape myrtle tree that provides changing leaf colors in fall and interesting branches come winter. If dollars need to be conserved, think perennials rather than annuals, which are less costly and return year after year. IMG_5802

2. Size trees and shrubs to scale. These should be planted in the right scale for the house, so that they don’t block windows, doors, and other architectural features on the home’s facade. A large two-story house can handle a redwood, Chinese pistache, sycamore, or scarlet oak, but a one-story cottage is better paired with a flowering cherry, crabapple, or eastern redbud. Too many trees cast too much shadow and cause potential buyers to worry about maintenance and costs.Schore 1

3. Maintain a perfect lawn. A velvety green lawn demonstrates tender loving care, so be sure sellers’ homes don’t have brown spots. Some rocks, pebbles, boulders, drought-tolerant plants, and ornamental grasses will generate more kudos, especially in drought areas. But if lawn is too costly and anti-environment with concerns about conserving water, think about adding more hardscape—gravel and boulders, for instance.

4. Light up the outside. Good illumination allows buyers to see a home at night and adds drama. Sellers now can use LEDs to highlight branches of specimen trees, a front door, walk, and corners of the house, whose prices are coming down dramatically and last for decades. But always remember that less is better. The yard shouldn’t resemble an airport runway or shopping center. Good lighting also promotes safety.

5. Let them hear the water. The sound of water appeals to buyers, and you shouldn’t just reserve this for your backyard. A small fountain accented with rocks provides a pleasant gurgling sound, blocks street noise, and is affordable. Make it recirculate to conserve water.02-023 BBB AFTER

6. Curve a walkway.  Make the journey from the street or sidewalk to the front door more of an event by curving it rather than making it a straight shot. Use a material that works with the home’s façade and palette, though it doesn’t have to be the exact same—bricks, for instance, and it with plants or flowers in pleasing colors and an appealing fragrance.

7. Use decorative architectural elements. A new colorful mailbox, planted window boxes, freshly painted shutters, or a low fence wrapped in potato vines add cachet, particularly during winter months when fewer plants blossom. Colors should complement the landscape and home. Again, just don’t overdo it: Too much can seem like kitschy lawn ornaments. No inflatable snowmen in winter, for example; no flamingoes come summer.02-014 BBB AFTER

Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine with permission of the National Association of Realtors®, 2009,

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Bonnie Heirloom Triple bonnie102

You say toh-mah-toh, we say t’may-toh, but either way there’s nothing better this time of year than waiting for this wonderful fruit—and it scientifically is a fruit rather than a vegetable–to show up ruby red in our pots, in our vegetable patches, and on our tables in all sorts of soups, salads, side dishes, and main courses. To learn more about the different varieties and do’s and don’ts we went straight to Joan Casanova, who writes about gardening for Bonnie Plants, a large vegetable and herb provider in North America, based in Union Springs, AL.

Here’s what Joan shared:

Tomatoes: Some like it hot:  Some tomato varieties can ride the heat-wave with you, setting fruit even as the temperature rises. Below are some basic terms, tips, types of heat-set tomato varieties that like it HOT!

Tomatoes, though a fruit, are widely accepted as the most popular vegetable in home gardens across America. Now through mid-July, you can plant tomatoes for later harvests in fall, often right up to frost dates if you protect them overnight or harvest them green and ripen them indoors.

Tomatoes need the right combination of good soil, water, and heat. Use transplants—grown from seeds, through germination and transplanting, so they’re faster than starting from seed. Transplants offered in biodegradable pots can be planted directly into the ground, preventing them to go into shock and saving millions of pounds of plastic from landfills. To plant, find a sunny location–at least six hours a day– with good drainage, and if you plant tomatoes each season, rotate the spot in the garden where you plant them. If you don’t do that, the plants will remove a lot of the nutrients from the soil over time, and you’ll have to amend it to gain good results.

Tomato plants are classified as either indeterminate or determinate:


Indeterminate plants grow all season, continuing to bloom, and producing fruit as long as weather conditions are favorable.




Determinate plants are the compact bush type, which grow to a certain size, set fruit, and stop growing, bearing fruit all at once. This type of tomato is popular with gardeners who like to can and make sauce.

Tomatoes are often designated by the terms early, middle, and late, which refer to when the fruit will be ready to harvest. Early season tomatoes are the first to ripen, late season are the last to ripen, and middle season types fall somewhere in between. Planting some of each type is a good strategy for enjoying ripe tomatoes throughout summer.


Tomato types

Heirloom tomatoes are at least 50 years old and not hybrids. Hybrid tomatoes are tomatoes bred by crossing varieties. Hybrids offer better disease resistance, higher yield, and other improved traits.

Time to pick your plants

While tomato lovers have a seemingly endless list of varieties to plant in their gardens, tomatoes fall into three basic categories: small salad (cherry) tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, and thick-walled tomatoes ideal for making sauces. It can be confusing to pick the perfect tomato best suited for your needs; you might want to check out the “Tomato Chooser” on Bonnie Plants Web site as a guide ( You can sort through tomato varieties to find just what you want, if you check off the traits that you’re looking for, the Tomato Chooser will do the work for you, bringing up all the varieties that match. Or, you can use it to get started, go to your local nursery, and find others from similar plant companies. If your temperatures are rising, and most are throughout the country, choose a heat-set tomato variety that’s able to set fruit in high temperatures compared to many other varieties.

 Planting steps


1.     Prepare your plot: Loosen the ground to create a welcoming bed for roots to grow. You can add 3 or 4 inches of compost or other organic matter, especially in clay or sandy soils. Dig a hole that is as deep as the plant is tall because you are going to bury two-thirds of the plant, which provides a stronger plant.

2. Slip plant from pot if in plastic: Gently remove the plant by slipping the plastic container from the root ball. Don’t tug on the plant stem; this can sever it from the roots. If the roots are growing out of holes in the bottom of the pot, tear or cut them away and squeeze and twist the pot as necessary to work it from the roots. If your plant is in a biodegradable pot, just tear off the bottom of the pot to make sure that roots are in instant contact with the soil.

3. Bury two-thirds of the plant: Set the plant in the hole deeply enough so that two-thirds of it is buried. Roots will sprout all along the buried stem to make a stronger plant. You can pinch off the lower leaves if you prefer, but it is not necessary.

4. Don’t forget to fertilize: Mix fertilizer into the soil that you will put back into the hole.  It is best to fertilize according to recommendations from a soil test, but if you don’t have that, use a timed-release fertilizer, which doesn’t leach…or use an organic fertilizer at the rate recommended on the label. Your tomato plant is almost ready to grow. When you’re done, two-thirds of the entire plant will be buried; only the top of the tomato plant remains above ground.

5. Water well: Water thoroughly at soil line. This is very important to help settle the soil and start the plant.

6. Maintain your mulch: Mulch with pine needles, straw, or compost to help keep moisture in the soil and prevent weeds. Mulch should be 2 to 3 inches deep for effective weed control.

7. Parting shot: Plant tomatoes that work for you, and which you find fun to grow. The taste of a home-grown tomato is definitely more delicious than almost any store bought tomato. The harvested tomatoes can be kept indoors, too. If not fully ripened, you can let them finish on your windowsill. Try to use them as soon as possible, however. They’ll keep better in the refrigerator if they require being indoors after they’re ripened and before you use them, but try to do so within a week or so. Mostly, just enjoy the fruits of your labor!!