Interesting information on caring for shrub beds and flowerbeds
It's amazing! There are still people around who love flowers but say: "I am not doing flowerbeds any more - they're too much work". OK, there's a certain amount of work involved. But flowerbeds - and shrub beds in particular - are so easy to care for that the impression given by gardeners that you constantly have to be doing something to them really amazes me.
Let's compare a shrub bed with a lawn: You have to mow a lawn at least every ten days between mid-March and mid-October - so for six months - which amounts to 18 or 20 times. Depending on the size of the lawn, this can take 30 minutes to two hours - so a total of 10 to 40 hours excluding additional work as fertilising or scarifying. This means that a lawn takes up at least one working week a year.
Flowerbeds - which house seasonal flowers and shrubs - do not require this amount of time input. If they are planted in a way which ensures that the plants are suitable for the location (and thus grow strongly) and if they are set out to as "closed stock", they are easy to care for. "Closed stock" means that the leaves of neighbouring plants touch (for shrubs, this should be the case in their second year at the latest). They then shade the ground to prevent weed seeds from germinating and they cause soil moisture to evaporate more slowly.
Simple effort comparisons like the above put flowerbeds into perspective and make them seem like much less effort. This makes the idea of creating a sea of flowers in your garden a whole lot more pleasurable. Go for it - we'll help you!
How to make watering easier
Shrubs grow in natural surroundings that are wet or really dry. For your garden this means the following:: If the right shrubs are selected for your bed, they will grow with virtually no watering except for during freak weather, when the plants will need a little support from you. The plants chosen and the method of planting are thus decisive - and, as mentioned above, the key phrase is "closed stock".
To cut down on watering efforts, mulch plant beds with bark compost or gravel depending on your design requirements. In addition, an automatic watering system may be an appropriate way to reduce the effort involved.
If you still want or need to water, the best way is this: Only water the plants when they begin to wither - that's when the problem is serious. Up to then, nature can help itself. This applies once the plants are mature but not in the growth phase, which lasts for up to a year. Instead of dragging watering cans around, it is easier to water using a pipe and a watering lance unit so that you can reach your bed comfortably and get to the plants better.
The best watering time is early morning, the second best is late evening. This is second best because it is better if the plants do not go into the night soaking wet, which could promote fungi. As a general watering rule, it is better to avoid soaking the leaves and - in particular - the flowers for this reason. During the day only water in emergencies and use lukewarm water. Watering hot plants with tap water, which is too cold, will cool down the roots just when you want them to perform best. Water quantities: More water less often is better than less water more often. To be clear: Water thoroughly and in a targeted manner, which to be specific means around 10 litres of water per square metre.
Tip: If you use rain water, you do not need to pay for mains water and the corresponding quantity of wastewater. Even rain water is very abundant. For example, if 700-800 mm of rain falls each year in your region, that is 700-800 litres of rain per square metre. This could easily amount to a tank load of free water per plot and year!
Fertilising garden flowers - not complicated at all!
The most important ground rules for correct garden fertilisation are in the Gardena Newsletter Fertiliser Special. At this point we will simply repeat this:
In shrub gardens, fertilisation is mainly dependent on the amount of leaves and flowers which the plants form. I only fertilise rockery shrubs here and there with a handful of hornmeal or a little compost (barely a litre per square metre). Strongly growing bed shrubs can be given around 50 grammes of compound fertiliser per square metre in spring (around March/April). Alternatively, you can give them around three litres of compost per square metre. Weaker growing shrubs only need 30 grammes or 1.5 litres. In mid-June you can feed them again with a second, slightly reduced amount.
Similar rules apply to flowerbeds with annual and biennial summer flowers. However, because these plants have to form a lot of leaves and flowers in a few weeks, it's obvious that you need stay on the case when it comes to fertiliser. In addition to fertilising such plants with 50 grammes of compound fertiliser (flowering plant fertiliser) per square metre when planting, apply fertiliser a second time (40 grammes or 1.5 to 2 litres of compost) at the end of June and a third time (40 grammes or 1.5 to 2 litres of compost) in the first few days of August. This is best done on damp, cloudy days. Otherwise, do it at the same time as watering the plants. Do not forget to rake in the fertilise immediately - even if you are using compost.
Trusses in shrub beds - but how?
If bedded or solitary shrubs have reached a critical size, wind and rain can easily dishevel, bend and break them. You can loosely restrain beautiful bedded shrubs using shrub rings which should be attached well before they are actually needed. Shrub rings usually look better on a plant than bast fibre or ties. Moreover, these have to be attached so that they wrap around two opposite shrub branches, since otherwise the bound threads can all too easily slip down the stem to the soil. Pretty ideas to try out yourself: Bend a bare willow branch into a ring or wreath shape and fix it to a pole. You now have a homemade bush support with a classic, rural farming look. If you like things to be even more rustic or want to get close to nature: Take hazelnut branches of a good metre in length; insert three, four, or five directly around the bush, and bend the tips over the bush to that you can insert these tips into a hole dug with a spade. Close the hole up once you have inserted the tips. If this creates too much bending tension, simply break the branch. The cosy and environmentally friendly branch-frame roof will soon have shrubs growing through it and will provide them with support.
What about weeds? And ground elder?
Only a few weeds will germinate in a shrub bed if the shrubs are planted closely enough together and mulched if necessary. You can always hoe between the branches to disturb any weeds which still manage to germinate. But be careful: Some shrubs, such as hosta for example, have roots which are very close to the surface and can be destroyed by hoeing.
Ground elder is a frequent problem in shrub beds and spreads out all over the place. Removing it is extremely arduous. When you dig it out, small pieces of root always remain in the soil to grow again and form new ground elder plants.
Previously, it was often necessary to completely remove all the ground elder and then create the bed again from scratch. There is now a biological herbicide by Neudorff which means the end of ground elder (Finalsan GF GierschFrei). If you make the effort to paint the individual ground elder leaves, with it you will soon see that the ground elder - and only the elder - decays within a few hours.
Do you have to trim shrubs?
There is no need to trim for trimming's sake in a summer garden. If you want to avoid seed formation and self-sowing, remove the blossoms by trimming them back. Delphiniums, wolfsbane, remote sage, catnip and marguerites can be encouraged to grow by removing the blossom stems at an early stage so that they regenerate and bloom again in autumn at the latest. I let shrubs that retract during the summer and wilt in good time, such as bleeding heart, draw back before I remove the wilted leaves - even if they don't look that pretty whilst they're drying out. However, allowing plants to throw off their leaves strengthens them as they enter their resting phase.
For more garden pleasures: Divide up your shrubs
In later summer (depending on the weather from as early as the start of September), you can take up and divide numerous shrubs, especially dwarf iris or marguerites, for example, in order to revitalise them. Only very long-lasting shrubs such as peonies are best left in one place for years.
The time for dividing shrubs is also the time for sharing shrubs: Present garden-loving friends with any shrubs you do not want to keep yourself. As well as increasing the variety of shrubs in each person's garden, this brings a little joy to everyone and makes friendships even stronger.
How to get your summer flowers to bloom even better
If you always follow the information on fertilising and watering flowerbeds containing annual summer flowers, you have already done the most important thing because a consistent water supply is particularly vital for long-lasting flowers. For varieties which do not handle lime so well and require a lot of iron - such as petunias, hebes, cabana whites, and blue daisies - iron deficiency symptoms may appear (yellow younger leaves, leaf veins still green at the root). This is particularly likely in very limey soils and when using hard water. Simply treat the plants with a ferrous feed from a specialist retailer as per the instructions.
In August, some plants (e.g. the fairy fan-flower or older varieties of petunias) may experience a blooming phase and other plants may have disappeared completely (e.g. lobelia, sages) by the time you come home from your holiday. Dead plants are best removed from the bed. Plant up the gaps with meadow herbs, grasses and bushes, for example, to move from a late summer atmosphere to an autumn feel. In addition, in the case of all summer flowers and especially fuchsias, lantanas, geraniums, nemesia, diascia, fireball, and bidens golden eye, do not let the plants go to seed because this switches their hormones and they produce fewer flowers!
Making sure you have some every year: Biennials
Remember that biennials have to be sown early if you wish them to grace your garden the following year. This includes sweet william, smokey fennel, foxglove, blueweed, rose campion, milk thistle, mulleins and some gentians.
You also have to sow pansies and horned violets for the coming year now; do not forget the complementing large-flowered garden daisies and the forget-me-nots.
Ornamental vegetables and edible flowers
If you grow ornamental vegetables such as the multicoloured leafed mangold and herbs such as red-leafed sorrel, do not forget to harvest them. The tender leaves of these plants are often great for use in the kitchen and the two examples stated above are examples of culinary delights which you can harvest on an ongoing basis. If flower stems form, remove them as soon as they develop. Other flowers can be fetched straight from the shrub to the kitchen: You can stuff day lilies just like courgette flowers - the best way is with chicken salad, for example. The day lily varieties have different tastes. 'Crimson Pirate', 'French Lingerie', citron lily, and yellow day lily are all good to eat. Day lilies and dahlia flowers, together with borage and/or marigold flowers, for example, are also great for adding to the appearance and taste of colourful summery leaf salads. I personally prefer light dahlia flowers to the taste of dark ones, which - depending on the variety - are often too bitter for me. Simply pick a dahlia flower and taste it for yourself - the taste is similar to lettuce but a little stronger.