The Bare Root

Landscape Design from the Bottom Up

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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.