201. If a new plant’s label says it needs “sun”, that means direct sunlight for at least 8 hours a day. But if the label says “shade,” that means less than four hours of sunlight a day. “Part sun” means four to six hours of sunlight a day.

202. Get out your compass and find true north. How will you position your house and gardens? Remember that what’s shady in one season may be bright and sunny in another.

203. A formal hedge has a solid, architectural look. It’s an elegant way to set off a yard from the street and separate properties, or to create smaller garden rooms within a property. It can reflect a work of care and time a gardener has put into cultivating it.

204. When it comes time this spring to plant or divide perennials, aim for a day that is cool, overcast, and likely to be followed by rain – it will double your chances of a successful start. Use a perennial planting tool.

205. Bird netting is the most practical way to protect your fruit trees from birds. Put up the nets as soon as flowers start to open. Throw the netting over the top of the tree and fasten it to the trunk to prevent birds from getting trapped beneath it.

206. Vines that mask a chain-link fence need extra irrigation during hot, dry weather; greater exposure to wind makes them vulnerable to dehydration.

207. For big flower clusters of hydrangeas, cut stems back in the winter, reducing the number of stems. For uniformly rounded plants, prune back all canes to growth buds within a few inches of the ground.

208. Seedlings of recently planted annuals should be thinned carefully when they reach about 2″ tall.

209. Mix your compost into potting soil. Compost can be up to 1/3 of a potting soil mix in planters or seed-starting flats.

210. Late fall is the best time to spread compost over the garden bed. Just spread it on top and cover it with a winter mulch, such as chopped leaves. By spring, soil organisms will have worked the compost into the soil for you.

Find garden tools, cedar planters and compost tumblers online at Clean Air Gardening.

211. Plan to add plants to your yard gradually as your budget and time allow. Buy the largest plants you can afford, and only as many as you can care for at one time: soil preparation, watering, mulching, and weeding are all essential.

212. As a rule of thumb, your finished compost will shrink down to about half the volume of the raw materials you started with. But what is lost in volume is made up in density.

213. A large, imposing tree is called “canopy” tree, and a small, often decorative tree is called an “understory” tree. Most large shrubs can become understory trees if they’re not constantly pruned.

214. Whether it’s a waterfall at the end of a path, a Japanese maple in a mixed border, or a nicely planted pot at your door, create a special place for the eye to rest. Use focal points judiciously – too many will create confusion.

215. If planning a shrub border, variety and color are the strongest points, and it usually follows a linear pattern which can expand and wander.

216. Cold compost: compost made by simply piling up yard and kitchen wastes. It breaks down slowly, often taking up to two years, and the materials seldom heat up much.

217. Grapes, fruits, and even corn can be protected from the birds by enclosing each in paper or cheesecloth bags as soon as the fruit sets. Don’t use plastic bags, heat and moisture build up inside them.

218. Vines grown on free-standing supports are more exposed to frost, wind, and heat, therefore more vulnerable to climatic extremes. Make sure the vines you select for this purpose are extra hardy.

219. In the garden, colors need to work together to create visual harmony: bright primary colors that play off eachother, or subtle pastels that flow together seamlessly, the success of a bed or border depends on how well the colors combine.

220. Geraniums, Shasta daisies, and mums can be rooted in the spring to transplant later in the summer. Take 3″ long duttings from new growth, insert into a tray filled with sterile potting soil, keep moist til rooting occurs, then transplant directly into the garden.

221. Soak finished compost in water to produce a nutrient-rich liquid for foliar feeding (spraying on plants) or for watering gardens, landscapes, or potted plants.

222. Side-dressing around your plants is best done in late spring and early summer so that the rapidly growing plants can derive the maximum benefit from the compost. Start it about an inch away from the stem and spread it out to the drip line, scratching into the soil gently.

223. Planting trees, shrubs, vines, and flowers that appeal to birds is the most important step you can take toward creating a backyard bird haven. Adding a source of fresh, clean water is a second essential step.

224. Gardeners in warm climates may find they need lots of compost because their growing season is long. Crops growing in rainy climates and sandy soils also benefit from additional amounts of compost to replenish the nutrients that are constantly leached away.

225. Most native trees rarely need pruning and feeding, and they fight off insects and diseases with natural defenses developed over the centuries.

226. For pond margins, these plants are among many that like wet feet: Louisiana iris, Horsetail, Rush, Pennywort, Chameleon plant, Juncus effusus, Cardinal flower, Pickerel weed, Water Celery, Thalia, Umbrella plant, Black taro, and Canna. Take care not to let them escape into natural streams and rivers – many have caused big problems.

227. Prune azaleas just after blooming. Doing it any later will damage the bud formation that produces next spring’s flowers.

228. Handle your home-grown vegetaables carefully, especially those that will be stored. Cuts, bruises, or other damage will lead to decay and a short shelf life.

229. Most canopy trees will need little, if any, pruning. Kept to a minimum, prune a tree only if a branch is dead, the branch is hopelessly diseased, or a branch interferes with a walkway or driveway.

230. Repeat your home’s architecture in the garden. Repeat motifs, shapes, colors, patterns, and building materials. Bring architecture to the garden through patios, decks, arbors, gazebos, fences, and more.

231. Planting a shrub: Set the new plant in its hole so the root ball is at, or slightly above, soil level. To eliminate air pockets, firm the soil around the roots as you fill the hole. Water well. Add a 2 to 3″ layer of mulch and water again.

232. Get a lush effect on your outdoor deck by grouping containers made of the same material, such as red clay; place the containers at different levels; use plants of all sizes, heights, and textures.

233. Hang shiny objects that flap in the wind, such as aluminum pie plates or even strips of aluminum foil, to discourage birds from eating the flowers and fruit from your trees and plants.

234. Herbs can create a wonderfully colorful and textural border. Study the plant forms, sizes, and colors to create your own border. Many will winter over and provide the base for a border each year.

235. Don’t try to grow grass under big trees, the trees not only soak up all the sunlight, they also suck moisture and nutrients from the soil. Grow hardy ground covers instead, such as English ivy, liriope, or Asian jasmine.

236. When you dig a hole for flower or vegetable transplants, throw in a handful of compost before positioning the plant. The compost provides nutritional support throughout the season, and it improves the soil structure around the plant.

237. More than 90 species of birds eat dogwood berries, and many others hunt for insects among the branches, and on the bark.

238. As you buy your seeds for your garden, it’s wise to have a map planned for your crops. Otherwise you may end up with too much or too little seed. You may need to have a formal map drawn to scale, depending on the size of your garden.

239. Garden soil isn’t considered suitable for potting outdoor plants in containers, or houseplants. It’s quality is too variable, and may be heavy and drain poorly, or loose and unable to hold water well. It may also contain disease organisms, weed seeds, and insect eggs.

Find organic fertilizers, organic pest control and greenhouses online at Clean Air Gardening.

240. For the freshest cut flowers from your garden, cut early in the morning while it’s still cool. Cut each stem at an angle with sharp clippers, and plunge immediately into a container of warm water.

241. Start your purchases at a nursery with a flower you really like. Take the plant with you as you shop and hold it up against the other flowers and plants you like. Make sure they all take the same exposure, water, and soil conditions before buying and planting them together.

242. The best way to achieve constant color in your garden is to keep a list. Every two weeks, write down what’s blooming, or at its peak, in your community. By the end of the year you’ll have a regionally accurate plant list of what to plant for months of bloom and beauty.

243. Choose a mulch to fit your landscape design. Wood chips are often a good choice, but brown lava rocks will complement a tropical garden, white stone works well in formal designs, and chipped bluestone fits a modern design.

244. To plant a new tree, dig the hole about 2 or 3 times as wide as the tree’s root ball, and the same height as the root ball. Then put the tree in the hole and fill around it with the same soil that you dug out. This actually helps a tree grow to maturity more than adding any special soil.

245. After tomatoes are fully ripe, they can be stored in the refrigerator, but for best flavor, let them warm to room temperature before serving.

246. Dividing plants? Divisions are likely to fail if they become dehydrated. Try to divide plants during the coolest part of the day, best is the evening. Replant as soon as possible to minimize moisture loss.

247. Maintain permanent clumps of perpetual vegetables in your garden, such as chives, scallions, and perennial herbs. Even a small garden should always have something to offer.

248. Saving zinnia seed is easy. Just let a blossom dry and brown on the plant, then cut off the flower, and store it in a jar over winter. Next spring, pull apart the bloom, and sow in the garden. Direct-sown zinnias perform much better than transplants.

249. Plant a circle of sunflower seeds around your compost pile. Within a short time there will be a wonderful enclosure of well-fed, happy sunflowers hiding your pile.

250. Geraniums may be your garden’s best friend: they are fairly drought tolerant, don’t need fertilizer, and have no pest problems or diseases.

Learn about 11 useful organic gardening products for your home garden.

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