DIY: Foraged Thanksgiving Tabletop with Berries and Branches

At my house, we always have a foraged floral arrangement for Thanksgiving. Some years, we decorate with persimmons and bay boughs, and others with herbs and berry sprigs in juice glasses. Whatever’s outdoors is on the table too.

Here are a few easy tips for making your own zero-cost holiday centerpiece, which by the way looks prettier than anything you can buy:

Photography by Michelle Slatalla.

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Above: With a free-form arrangement of branches and berries, you can make a dramatic garland that runs the length of the table, or you can confine foraged florals to centerpiece territory (and use the space at the end of the table for serving dishes).

The Basics

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Above: Some things never change. Every year I set the table with silverware that once belonged to my husband’s grandmother; low wine goblets (because they’re less tippy than tall stemware), and white plates. This year, the dishes are hand-glazed Organic Dinner Plates from Hudson Grace ($ 21 apiece), which look and feel as if they came straight from a local potter’s studio—and yet are perfectly safe in both a dishwasher and a microwave oven.

I love fancy china and crystal. But I’ve learned over the years that white dishes and unobtrusive glassware will make a beautiful backdrop to foraged florals. I want greenery and autumn colors to take center stage at the center of the table.

Foraged Finds

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Above: I headed into the garden to see what still looked good enough to come indoors. From a smoke bush near my front door, I clipped some branches with moody, mottled purple leaves. In the backyard, past-their-prime hydrangeas had flowers at that bruised-pink stage that looks good with everything.

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Above: In autumn, shrubs sport all color of berries. Branches with green leaves and colorful berries make pretty garlands. In my Northern California neighborhood, there are lots of orange bittersweet berries, black privet berries, and purple privet berries. Other berries to look for: purple beautyberry and orange winterberry.

Foraged branches rinse in sink Thanksgiving ; Gardenista

Above: Before arranging foraged finds, rinse them—extremely well—in the kitchen sink. Bugs are not welcome at the dinner table.

The Look

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Above: I used garden twine to tie a sprig to each napkin. You can also get fancier and make a tiny bundled bouquet for each guest’s napkin. See how at Botanical Napkin Rings for Thanksgiving.

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Above: I like a big napkin, preferably made of soft linen because the fabric drapes beautifully—and absorbs spilled wine better than cotton.

Available in nearly two dozen colors including Fog (as shown), 22-inch-square Linen Napkins from Hudson Grace are washable and can be tumbled dry (and if you pull them out of the dryer while they’re still warm, you won’t need to iron them—they fold beautifully). Hand-dyed in San Francisco, the napkins are $ 18 apiece.

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Above: To assemble the floral arrangement, I laid a linen runner down the center of the table. The fabric defines the boundaries of the floral arrangement (a helpful visual cue for when you don’t use a vase or other vessel).

Next, I laid a line of smoke branches down the middle of the table runner. Into them I tucked shorter lengths of privet, allowing the smoke bush leaves to cup clusters of privet berries. For extra drama, I tucked one hydrangea bloom into each end of the free-form garland.

Foraged thanksgiving tabletop napkins DIY; Gardenista

Above: I placed the napkins on top of the plates to add some height to edge of the table and offset the bulk of the foraged floral arrangement. This prevents the table from looking like it has a big, impenetrable hedge in the middle of it.

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Above: I wanted the table to contradict itself, to look glamorous and casual at the same time. So I skipped the tablecloth this year and instead relied on the runner to create a painterly frame around the florals.

The Day After

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Above: After you disassemble the tabletop, turn the water pitcher into a vase with a sprig of long-lasting berries.

Feel thankful with us. See:

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Thanksgiving on a Budget: 7 Tips for Tabletop Decor from Stylist Beth Kirby

Yes, it’s about the food. We know that. We’ve been to a Thanksgiving or two. But, really? We like decorating the table. OK, make that love.

This year, we’re starting early. We asked one of our favorite stylists, Local Milk blogger Beth Kirby, to design a special no-cost Thanksgiving tabletop for us. It turns out that all you need for a Rockwellian moment are nice napkins, sparkly glasses, candles, and foraged greenery from the garden.

The best part, Beth says, is that anyone can recreate the look of her Thanksgiving tabletop. Follow her tips for how to mix and match items already on hand: 

Photography by Beth Kirby for Gardenista.

  Thanksgiving tabletop decor tips from Beth Kirby ; Gardenista

Tip No. 1: Create an unexpected hanging centerpiece using vines and greenery foraged from around your neighborhood or yard…

Thanksgiving tabletop decor tips from Beth Kirby ; Gardenista

…and echo it with a few bits on the table.

Thanksgiving tabletop decor tips from Beth Kirby ; Gardenista

Above: A handful of S-hooks is all it takes to hang them. 

  Thanksgiving tabletop decor tips from Beth Kirby ; Gardenista

Tip No. 2: Use food from the meal as part of your centerpiece. A few leftover squash or a bundle of herbs in a small bottle pay homage to the meal as well as brighten up the table in a subtle, seasonal way. 

 

Tip No. 3:. Don’t be a afraid to mix and match your napkins—and let them be wrinkly and wild. The movement and the casual look of a table strewn with mixed napkins is inviting. When mixing, try to stick to napkins all of the same print—like the stripes here— or of the same color range. 

Thanksgiving tabletop decor tips from Beth Kirby ; Gardenista

Tip No. 4: Serve family style and let your serving pieces and cookware be the stars of your table.

Thanksgiving tabletop decor tips from Beth Kirby ; Gardenista

Above: Do you have a cool vintage copper pot or an heirloom cast iron skillet? Put a trivet on the table and serve straight out of them. They look great and the food stays warm. 

Thanksgiving tabletop decor tips from Beth Kirby ; Gardenista  

Tip No. 5: Try using mugs as bowls. They give height to each place setting and make even a casual table feel as if it has personality. 

Thanksgiving tabletop decor tips from Beth Kirby ; Gardenista

Tip No. 6: A few candles go a long way and the more imperfect the better. Grab a few from around your house and light them as the light sinks lower. 

 

Tip No. 7: Keep it simple. Plain glassware and simple white plates always look good. Keep your color palette to one or two natural colors and patterns at a minimum, and you’re guaranteed a classic table every time.

Want more Thanksgiving tabletop ideas? For inspiration, see:

For a tour of Beth Kirby’s kitchen remodel, see One-Month Makeover: Beth Kirby’s Star-is-Born Kitchen on Remodelista.

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Garden The Organic Way With These Great Tips!

Many people enjoy getting their hands dirty in the garden. There’s nothing quite like growing your own flowers, fruits, and vegetables, and it’s easy to do with the right information, like that found in this article. Even if you don’t have a large yard, even small spaces like balconies can provide enough space for a surprising amount of plants.

If you would like to create an eye-catching fall garden with a lot of height and contrasting colors, try planting spiky plants like the New Zealand flax, the yucca or tall ornamental grasses. Add drama with texture and color by adding chartreuse plants like the Golden Spirit smoke bush or the Tiger Eyes sumac. To contrast the chartreuse color, plant purple plants alongside the chartreuse plants like the Black Lace elderberry or Loropetalum.

Grow vegetables and fruits to drink. Often overlooked yet easy to grow are items that can be made into fantastic and nutritious drinks. These berries and fruit juices can be frozen or canned or made into wine and hard cider. A well made apple wine or blueberry wine can start at -12 a bottle, so this can also be a profit available with the garden.

Cover fences and walls with lots of climbers. These climbing plants will help beautify an old fence, and they are fast workers too. They can cover an arbor, or grow through trees and shrubs. Some of these plants must have support, and some can attach themselves to something using their stems and tendrils. Excellent varieties include honeysuckle, wisteria, jasmine, climbing roses and clematis.

If you want something fun to do that will benefit you in the kitchen, try growing some herbs in your window. Some herbs may not take kindly to this, but many will! In this way you have some herbs always fresh and handy, and they add a nice touch to the house.

Make sure your pot is the right size for your plant. If the pot is too small, the plant’s roots may not have enough room to grow. The roots will become “root bound”, stop growing, and begin to suffocate. The size of the root system can determine the size of your plant and yield.

In you have a pond in your garden, make sure you maintain it throughout the year. In order to keep a pond healthy, you need to ensure that the water is clear and that plants do not take over. Remember, with the right balance of light, oxygen and air, aquatic plants and wildlife will thrive.

Create an illusion of space. If you have a small garden, use color to create an illusion of more space. A background of blues, grays, pinks and mauves will create a misty effect, giving you the feeling of depth. If you use a bright color in the foreground such as red, this will emphasize the effect, as it draws the eye forward.

Pay attention to the temperatures in your garden. When it is early, or late, in the season there is a chance that your plants could be exposed to frost. Freezing temperatures will cause many plants to die, and some that live will not produce at the level they would have otherwise.

An old wagon can help save time as well as your back. Instead of constantly having to retrieve your gardening tools as you work your way around your garden, commandeer an old child’s wagon. An old wagon works as well as a garden cart, and can often be obtained free or very cheaply if you get it used.

Dish washing soap can repel insects. If you find insects ravaging your garden, fill a spray bottle with water and add a squirt of dish soap. Spray the foliage of your plants and watch the insects flee. They will leave your garden alone until the soap washes away. Simply reapply as needed.

A green garden needs to begin with seeds, not plants. Planting seeds is the most eco-friendly way to start a new garden. The plastic used in nurseries often end up in landfills, that is why it is advised to use seeds or purchase from nurseries that make use of organic materials when packaging their plants.

If you want to grow vegetables, but do not have the room, consider planting vegetables that grow on a vine. Vegetables like squash, melons, and tomatoes can be trained to grow up along a trellis or fence. You can make use of vertical space to get the vegetable garden that you want.

Manage your garden hose to prevent frustration. Garden hoses, especially longer or heavy duty ones, can become unwieldy and annoying when you have to drag them around the garden, all twisted up. Invest in a portable hose reel or a stationary one, depending on your garden configuration, to more easily manage your garden hose and make storing it fast and easy.

You don’t need a green thumb or lots of land to be a gardener. Whether you want the satisfaction of growing your own delicious vegetables in the garden, or having the prettiest roses on the block, these great hints can help you to succeed.

How to Navigate the NYC Flower Market

Does the thought of a trip to the flower market make your palms sweat? Maybe I’m projecting, but I think big city flower markets can be unnerving for most people: The crowds. The hustle. The options.

The first few times I went to the New York City Flower Market on 28th Street, I left feeling as though I’d been through the wringer. I also felt like I had more flowers than I knew what to do with and less money remaining in my wallet than was healthy. 

Then I arranged the florals for a Remodelista Market in New York and had an excuse to visit the flower market again. While I’m still no expert, I feel like I have a sufficient number of visits under my belt to offer a tip or two. Consider this the amateur’s guide to navigating New York’s flower market, and use it as excuse to make a trip (or two) to the market for yourself.

Photography by Rebecca Baust for Gardenista. 

Plan Ahead

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Above: I give this tip cautiously: too much planning and you’ll find yourself devastated because no one had precisely the shade of coral ranunculus you were after; too little planning and you’ll go in asking for holly berries in the middle of June and leave with ten tons of flowers you didn’t intend to purchase. Keep in mind the budget you’re working with and your color palette, and then let the flowers that are available be your guide.

Arrive Early

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Above: The market opens at 5:30 am and individual shops begin to close up around 10:30 am. If you’re not a professional florist, you can likely enjoy your breakfast after the sun has risen and get there closer to 8 am and still find a healthy selection.

Browse First, Buy Later

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Above: I’m the worst at following this rule. I see something that I like and I want to snatch it up. This isn’t entirely wrongheaded—there are only so many dainty bundles of tallow berries to be had—but it might also mean you don’t walk away with the best deal. Don’t hesitate to browse from shop to shop until you find what you’re looking for. 

Buy in Bulk

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Above: Flowers at the market come in bundles. If you want just a stem of something, head to your local florist instead.

Use the Shelves

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Above: Most shops in the market have metal shelves where shoppers can stash the flowers they’d like to purchase. Don’t hesitate to put up your unwieldy bundles while you shop. Your fellow shoppers will thank you.

Ask Questions

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Above: The first few times I went to the market, I was too shy. Don’t hesitate to ask a sales associate questions about bloom time, price, and inventory.

Check for Freshness

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Above: Touch and smell the merchandise to make sure it’s fresh.

Bring Cash

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Above: Not all shops accept credit cards, so make it easy on yourself and bring plenty of cash to make your purchases.

Make Friends with Cats

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Above: Just another well-fed NYC feline.

Wear Comfortable Clothes

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Above: Carry a practical bag: you’ll want to have your hands free for toting home parcels.

Tips for Care

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Above: What to do after you’re home? So glad you asked. Flowers at the market come unprocessed, so you’ll have to remove excess leaves and thorns and give a fresh cut to the stems.

Seasonal Selections

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Above: This time of year, you’ll find wintry privet berries, tallow berries, and seeded eucalyptus. 

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Simple Tips For A Beautiful, Thriving Garden

Getting your hands dirty and growing things can be a cathartic and healing experience, unless you get something wrong. Grow your plants right and wisely with the right mentality. Use the ideas in this article for successful gardening, and you will see your hobby blossom quickly into something successful and lively.

Remember to aerate your soil. If you loosen or puncture the soil, it will increase air permeability and water penetration. Aerating can be as simple as turning the soil over with a trowel, or in the case of lawns, making small holes in the grass. This can be done with an aerating machine, a garden fork, or even by walking on the grass wearing a pair of spiked golf shoes. This brings oxygen into the roots and promotes healthy new growth.

Before settling on your garden space, visit it at multiple times throughout the day. You need to understand what type of light the spot gets on an hourly basis, as it can have ramifications on the plants you can grow and your ability to grow anything at all! If the location receives no direct sunlight, reconsider your options.

Vegetable water makes a wonderful fertilizer. Next time you boil or steam your vegetables to eat, set aside the cooking water. This water is chock full of nutrients, and will provide a nice, nutritious boost to your garden. Make sure the water is thoroughly cooled first hot water can damage and even kill plant roots.

When it is spring and time to plant, do you have a hard time remembering what your gardens looked like the year before so that you know where to plant your new bulbs? This year, take pictures of your spring garden, and in the fall have a look at them. If you see a place in the yard that is bare and in need of a new daffodil, you can be confident on where to plant the new bulbs!

To keep your lawn looking great when there’s a water shortage, set the blades of your lawnmower to their highest height. Doing this will allow your grass to go dormant, keeping it looking fresh with minimal water. Be sure to change your blades back to their normal setting when you’re able to water your grass normally.

Do not give your garden too much fertilizer. Providing fertilizer to your plants allows them to better make food from sunlight. Too much fertilizer, however, can cause your plant to grow too fast, which prevents it from fruiting or flowering. The excess chemicals left in your soil can wash away and pollute the local ground water.

Pay attention to zones when choosing plants for your garden. Most plants will come with the zone marked. This is also true of seeds. Make sure the zone corresponds to your growing zone. Though plants may grow outside of their usual zone, they are less likely to be hardy plants.

Create warmth with golden or yellow foliage. Visual vibrancy and warmth exudes from golden and yellow-leaved foliage. They are particularly effective in shady locations, giving the illusion of light and depth. They coordinate beautifully with purple flowers or deep bronze foliage. Good choices include Caryopteris ‘Worcester Gold’, Viburnum ‘Aureum’, various Hostas and Spirea ‘Gold Flame’.

You should keep your seeds damp without drowning them in water. Spray water over the soil to keep it moist, and place the pots or trays in which you have your seeds in water so that the soil can absorb the water. Make sure you replace the water in which your pots are standing regularly.

Don’t harm your native critters. Some animals can naturally keep the bug population down; one such example of a good pest-predator is the bat. Bats are well-known for being bug consumers. Since your garden may sometimes look like a tasty treat to these tiny critters, having bats around can help reduce their population naturally, without the usage of harmful pesticides.

If you have plants that love acid in your organic garden, especially tomato plants, then coffee grounds make great mulch. It’s simple to scatter the coffee grounds around your plants and then sit back and let the high levels of nitrogen help your acid-loving plants grow to great heights all summer long.

Encourage earthworms in your soil. Earthworms make for healthy soil by eating the soil and thereby aerating it in the process. They also leave behind their castings, or vermicast, which is a great organic nutrient-rich fertilizer. The vermicast also retains water and nutrients better than soil without worms.

Plants prove that the energy and conditions at the time of planting result in the fruits yielded at harvest. Plant these ideas in your mind, and harvest them into successful gardening habits. Your future will yield success and happiness for many seasons to come when you keep these tips in mind.

Home Gardening For More Than A Hobby, But For A Better Life

A popular hobby amongst many people is gardening, as it has several rewards. Not only do you spend time outdoors, but you can watch things that you planted grow. Also, you can eat home-grown vegetables and save money. Read this article for some tips on how to start your own garden.

Start your seedlings in pots inside and then transplant them into your garden. Your plants will be more likely to survive if you do this. It also allows you to tighten up the time periods between plantings. You can plant the seedlings once you have removed the old plants.

Don’t buy plant pots. Commercial plant plots from the garden center can be very expensive, anything from to 0. Any container with a few draining holes pierced into the bottom of it can serve as a plant pot, so to save a lot of money, start recycling food containers today.

Use compost that is homemade and free. Making a habit of using leaves, pulled plants and other organic bits, will create a rich and nutritious compost for the garden that is free and organic. Additionally, if an enclosed composter is utilized, kitchen scraps and garbage can be thrown in a mix for an excellent compost that is free also.

Easily dry herbs using your car. Your car is the perfect place to dry herbs, providing a safe, dry, and warm location. Simply place some newspaper or other protection on a car seat, and arrange the herbs in a single, even layer. Make sure the windows are rolled up, and close up the car. Your herbs will be dry and ready to store. Length of time will depend on the temperature, but can be as little as an hour or two. As a bonus, your car will smell wonderful!

An excellent way to store the goodies from a homegrown garden is to freeze them in small batches. Using small sealable plastic bags and cutting small amounts of fresh vegetables every few days will help store the extras from the garden. Just bag and toss in the freezer and the packets can be added at any time to soups and pastas year round.

Create an illusion of space. If you have a small garden, use color to create an illusion of more space. A background of blues, grays, pinks and mauves will create a misty effect, giving you the feeling of depth. If you use a bright color in the foreground such as red, this will emphasize the effect, as it draws the eye forward.

Do you enjoy fresh mint leaves though hate how they grow so fast and take over your entire garden? You should plant the mint in a rather large garden container or pot instead so you can monitor growth. If you would like the mint leaves to still be in the ground, simply plant the container, and the leaves will stay within the boundaries of the pot.

Determine what kind of pests you have in your garden before you apply a pesticide spray. No one pesticide can handle every pest problem and you might end up killing off the pests natural predators which will make the problem worse.

Have a good stretch before starting gardening work. A good five to ten minute stretch will help loosen the muscles and get the heart rate up. The bodies’ muscles work better and are less prone to injuries when properly warmed up. Walk around the garden a few times and do a few simple stretches and the time in the garden will be a more enjoyable experience.

If your flower beds have diseased or dead plants in them, it is best to remove them as soon as possible to prevent the spread of disease. It is a good idea to clean out your flower beds in the fall so that the soil will benefit from freezing over the winter by killing the pests or disease-causing organisms in the soil. Cleaning out your beds in the fall will help prevent the spread of disease to your spring flowers.

When planting rose bushes, the location is essential. You need to choose a location that gets plenty of direct sunlight. Roses need at least 6 hours of sunlight, in order to grow as large as they possibly can. It is important to find the perfect spot before planting them in your yard.

Plant your own seeds to guarantee organic produce. Sowing your own vegetable seeds gives you the comfort and assurance that your produce has been grown organically from seed to table. Choose plants that are easy to germinate such as broccoli, cabbage, basil and tomatoes. Find out the best time of the year to sprout your chosen produce.

Whether you like planting flowers so your home looks more beautiful, or vegetables because you’d like to save money and eat healthier, gardening is fun for many people. You can enjoy your own produce without worrying about pesticides, and grow your favorite flowers as well. Remember these tips if you want to start a garden.

Cultivating Color: Pastel Perennial Sages for Xeriscape

Not everyone who lives in a dry climate wants a cactus garden. And not all cottage gardens are filled with pansies and peonies. Flowers by the Sea highlights ten tough perennial Salvias in pastels for low-water cottage gardens. The palette of drought-resistant choices includes sages with blue, lavender, peach, pink and yellow flowers for a soothing touch in your landscape.
Flowers by the Sea

What You Need To Learn About Organic Gardening

Gardening is one of the most rewarding hobbies out there — or at least that’s how gardeners feel. It’s not always the simplest hobby, however, and if you love plants but feel you still have a lot to learn when it comes to gardening, these tips are just for you.

Use a mixture of vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and water to get rid of salt deposits. If you are having a problem of salt buildup on your clay pots, mix equal parts white vinegar, rubbing alcohol and water in a spray bottle. Spray on the deposits and they will wash away with ease. Make sure to let the pots dry thoroughly before use.

Use groundcover perennials in sunny areas. Groundcover perennials can be used as an alternative to grass where there is minimal foot traffic, or in an area where grass is difficult to maintain, such as on a slope. They are also handy in between larger perennials, as they help to suppress weeds and keep the soil moist and cool. Good choices for groundcover perennials are creeping thyme, ajuga, various sedums, alyssum and armeria.

Avoid chemicals for pest control. Chemicals are effective but can also damage your plants. You should look for natural methods instead. For instance, you can buy jars of ladybugs and release them on your plants. Ladybugs are natural predators for a variety of smaller insects that eat flowers and other plants.

It is crucial that you have the proper tools before starting a garden. You do not want to begin the process of starting a garden only to realize that you are in need of a tool you do not have. Try to get shovels, trowels, pruners, hoes, garden forks, and rakes.

Before you start planting your garden, plan it! This will help you to remember where you planted the different plants when sprouts begin to shoot up from the ground. With a plan, you will also be less likely to lose track of small groups or individual plants within a large and ambitious garden.

Don’t plant large shade trees in your yard between the curb and the sidewalk. Large trees have powerful root systems. These roots will crawl under the sidewalk, lifting and breaking the sidewalk pavers. The sidewalk can’t be repaired properly without removing the tree roots, which would damage the tree. Smaller ornamental trees will do less damage.

Have a good stretch before starting gardening work. A good five to ten minute stretch will help loosen the muscles and get the heart rate up. The bodies’ muscles work better and are less prone to injuries when properly warmed up. Walk around the garden a few times and do a few simple stretches and the time in the garden will be a more enjoyable experience.

How to plant lilies. Remove any damaged outer scales from the bulbs. Dig a planting hole about 4 to 6 inches deep, and mix a little fertilizer into the bottom of the hole. If drainage is not good, put a layer of sand or grit in the hole, which will help to prevent rotting. Place the lily bulb in, and back-fill with rich soil. Lilies are most effective when they are planted in clumps of single colors.

Abandon mass plantings to make your flower garden more personal. Mass plantings in every flowerbed have a tendency to make a landscape look like it belongs to a hotel or a corporate office building. Border plants and pockets of similar plants will give the same effect of a mass planting without being impersonal.

When you are growing organic plants within the home or an enclosed area, considering how much light the plants will receive must be emphasized. If the room you wish to grow them in faces in a direction that gets little light, choose varieties of plants which can accept this type of environment. If you cannot achieve success merely through plant selection, consider using artificial light sources.

When raising an organic garden, sometimes a solution to resolving bad soil is to raise your garden bed. Building a garden bed or roost above the regular soil, can allow you to put your own fertilized soil within the bed without the risk of the soil becoming diluted or mixed in with the surrounding area.

By adding a nice layer of bio-degradable material (mulch) around your plants, you can utilize the natural pest-fighting ability within the mulch to stop predators to your plants. By putting a one to two inch layer around your plants, you are also adding a source of nutrients and a source of water.

These tips should help you bring your skills at gardening up to match even the deepest, most fervent love of the hobby. Your plants will thank you in the only ways they can for taking the time to follow this advice, meaning that your garden will flourish all the more as proof of your love and dedication.