By Dayle Davis
Q: What is a rock garden?
A: Simply put, a rock garden is one where rocks of different sizes are used, en masse, to create as strong a focal point as the plants within it. Rocks are placed first in the garden according to the aesthetic of the gardener, then plants are added in soil pockets naturally created by the placement of the rocks. Altogether, this creates an interesting garden of depth, texture and color. A shade rock garden would consist of rocks and shade-loving perennials such as hosta, lady’s mantle and fern. A sunny rock garden is especially attractive when planted with sun-loving succulent varieties such as sedum.
This type of garden sometimes also is planted to take advantage of rocky slopes in a homeowner’s yard. A rock garden is the very first garden I learned about as a child, since there was a sharp slope directly behind my childhood home that my parents stabilized by planting such a garden.
To add interest to yards that would be otherwise flat and rockless, use lots of different size rocks. To start, lay a first course of rocks and soil, then build upon that first layer.
Q: What should I know if I’m considering installing a water feature in my yard?
A: In the April 12 issue of the West Side Leader in the Lawn & Garden pull-out section, I wrote an article regarding water gardening where you’ll find a series of logical steps to follow when planning a water garden, presented by Bill Hoffman, owner of Hoffman’s Garden Center, to participants of the Ohio State University Saturday Gardening Series this past winter. Here is an overview of that article:
1. Pick the location: Sun or shade, low ground or high ground, water and electric source and enjoyment factor. Important: Before digging, contact the Utility Protection Service at (900) 362-2764.
2. Preconstruction, plan and design: Decide on a formal or informal/natural pond, size, shape, fish or no fish, depth and type of stone.
3. Plan for fish and feeding: How many and how soon? With feeding, how often and how much?
4: Determine filtration needs: Type of pond? Are there fish? Location and size of pond? Sun vs. shade, hillside vs. flat and trees/barren? Do not use silica! With plants, determine submerged, floating or marginals?
5. Plants and critters other than fish: The No. 1 desire of water gardeners is clear water. Plants are by far the best filtering system known to man, according to Hoffman, who explained that submerged aquatics clean up the water far quicker than anything else.
6. Pump and hose size: Determine the volume of pond to be filtered. Is there a waterfall?
7. Installation: Is it a flexible liner or rigid container?
8. Water additives.
9. Other: Testing the water, algae problems and lighting.
For complete information, contact Hoffman’s Garden Center at (330) 896-9811.
Q: What can I plant at the base of a rock retaining wall that will climb up it?
A: Ivy will climb almost any vertical surface, clinging by means of aerial roots. Once established, ivy will rapidly cover any wall, arbor or upright surface with lush green foliage.
Q: Every year, the grass in our small back yard partially dies. It is shady for most of the day. Every spring, we plant grass seed for shade and get some grass. We have a small dog, so we don’t use fertilizer. Do you have any suggestions on how we may be able to get a better result for our yard?
A: Although Kentucky bluegrass performs best in full sun, some cultivars are adapted to shade. For moderate to heavy shade, seed a mixture of Kentucky bluegrasses and fine fescues.
The bad news is that poor lawn establishment or complete failure often occurs because soil fertility is low and is not corrected, which seems to be your case due to the nonuse of fertilizer. Many Ohio lawns are established on subsoils. These subsoils are usually low in available phosphorus and must receive corrective application of high phosphorus-containing fertilizer to assure a good establishment of grasses.
The best way to determine fertilizer and lime needs for a particular lawn is to have samples of the soil tested. Your county Cooperative Extension Service office can furnish information on how to take samples of soil and where to send them for testing.
More people are asking for information regarding organic lawn care. Many people want to decrease or eliminate the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in their home lawns. They are concerned, like you, that some of these products may be harmful to humans, beneficial insects, wildlife and pets. With proper knowledge, a homeowner can use naturally occurring resources to maintain a home lawn without using synthetic products and keep their pets safer. Comprehensive information about organic lawn care is contained in the Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet HYG-4031-04, “Natural Organic Lawn Care for Ohio.” To request a particular FactSheet, call the OSU Summit County Hotline Tuesdays or Thursdays between 9 a.m. and noon at (330) 928-4769, ext. 3.
Dayle Davis is a freelance writer and avid perennial gardener, with a B.A. in communications and course work in botany, geology and wildflowers. Davis is certified as a Master Gardener under The Ohio State University’s Horticultural Extension. Readers can send in questions regarding lawn and garden issues, which could be featured in a future edition. Questions can be e-mailed to kcollins @leaderpublications.com, faxed to (330) 665-0908 or sent to Leader Publications, 3075 Smith Road, Suite 204, Akron, OH 44333. Please do not send any leaves, seeds or other organic material.