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We’ve all been bitten. Raking the yard, cleaning up flower beds, planning, planning and more planning. Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing about garden projects that are easy, inexpensive and beautiful that you might consider incorporating into your yard this spring. Using a little DIY muscle and some creative inspiration is all you’ll need to accomplish these projects.
First let us look at your tools and see if you have everything you need.
This is a basic list of items every do-it-yourselfer needs:
Safety equipment — goggles guard your eyes against flying particles and certain liquids that you might be using. Sunglasses may be just enough sometimes, but do make use of goggles when using electric power equipment. When using toxic substances, like garage floor epoxy for instance, buy a disposable respirator. Or invest in a dual-cartridge respirator with disposable filters.
Other items you will need include a claw hammer, nail set, screwdrivers — both flat and a Phillips head, hand saw, hacksaw, adjustable pliers, locking pliers and a needle nose pair, adjustable wrench, electric drill, flat file, wood chisel, utility knife, putty knife, steel tape measure and a carpenter’s level.
As you become accustomed to using these basic tools you will often find yourself migrating to the tool aisles in hardware stores. Tool envy is real.
Growing a herb standard is basically quite easy, but requires a lot of patience and the strength to be ruthless about pruning from time to time. I usually have one or two growing at all times. Right now I’m training a small rosemary around a simple frame made from a metal clothes hanger. An herb standard like a hand stitched quilt, is a personal treasure.
Standards are a simple form of topiary, the art of trimming plants and trees into shapes. Originated by the Romans, topiary reached its height during the Renaissance, when every important garden included them.
Architectural in feeling, they’re more visually interesting that many ordinary houseplants and sometimes more fragrant. Herb standards can be trained as small as you like — some are just 6 inches tall — or as tall as the plant will grow, which is several feet with bay and rosemary. Large topiaries are impressive looking inside and out.
Here are some basic steps for growing and shaping topiaries:
1. Take a cutting or start with a small herb plant from a greenhouse.
2. When the cutting shows sign of growth, move it to a site where it will get plenty of sun. When selecting a plant from a greenhouse, buy one with a single, very straight stem, then train it in the same way as a cutting following these steps.
3. Stake the stem to keep it as straight as it goes and give the plant support. Use a stake as tall as you want the mature plant to be, a non-rotting metal or plastic stake is most practical. Attach the plant to it loosely with plastic ties. The stem should have room to grow thicker without being cut by the tie. As the plant grows, add another tie every 3 or 4 inches.
4. Remove all side branches as they form until the plant has grown to the desired height. Any leaves that appear along the stem should be left to help the plant produce food. Once the stem is as tall as you want it, pinch out the growing tip so that two more branches form. Remove the leaves on the stem and start feeding the plant with an organic fish fertilizer about once a month.
5. When the top branches develop two or three sets of leaves, pinch out their tips, allowing two or more sets of branches to form. Keep up this growing and pruning effort until the plant has developed a good crown. As you prune, keep the shape of the finished tree in mind. The most common crown shape is a ball.
6. The mature plant will need trimming to keep it from getting straggly.
The most common plants used for topiary are: myrtle, rosemary, lemon verbena, scented geranium and roses.
(Source: Garden Design)
Susan Woody has been a home and garden writer for more than 20 years and is a master gardener.
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