Posts Tagged plants

12 Watering Tips to Help ANY Garden Beat the Heat

July 4th in the Miniature Garden

From the Archives: July 4th in the Miniature Garden

12 Watering Tips to Help ANY Garden Beat the Heat

Whoa Nelly! Heatwaves in June? I normally don’t talk about these dry topics until mid summer but here are some tips for keeping your miniature garden, and your full-sized garden, healthy during heat waves. You may be in an area with a water ban as well so it is even more critical to conserve whatever water you can. With proper techniques and knowing what to look for, you can get the most out of your watering even in extreme temperatures.

The following tips can work for containers or for the garden bed.

Watering Tips Help Your Garden Beat the Heat

Tiny firework packs are made of paper. We only put them out during parties and we take them in if it rains.

1. Test: Only water if needed. Stick your finger down into the soil at least one-full-inch deep. If it is still moist or damp, you can put off the watering for a day or so. If it’s dry, then water. For smaller pots, lift them up to feel how heavy, or light, they are. Dry soil will be much lighter than moist soil.

2. Frequency: Water your in-ground gardens deeply and infrequently. This will teach the roots of the plants to look for water on their own, and grow deeper into the soil. Watch your watering for your containers and water accordingly for the plants’ needs, not just because it is a new day.

3. Timing: Water in the early morning or at night after the sun has gone off your garden. I like watering in the evening because it cools down the garden and we can sit and enjoy the dampness – until the mosquitoes come out. The plants can recover during the cooler nighttime temperatures. “Spot-water,” meaning random acts of watering whenever it’s needed – but only if it’s an emergency and you see a plant crashing, or notice the soil it getting too dry. Otherwise, group your watering into one or two sessions a day to make it easy on yourself AND to make sure everything is getting a good drenching.

4. What to water: Water the soil, not the plant, and make sure the water gets down to the roots by waiting to see the water drain out the bottom of the pot. For in-ground gardens, get a trowel to check how-far-down your watering has penetrated for the best results.

Fairy Gardening with Two Green Thumbs.com5. What to use: Conserve water by hand watering. Sprinklers and sprays of water don’t direct the water straight to the plant’s roots where it is needed. Use a watering wand on the shower setting, and turn the tap on half-way to avoid strong, misdirected sprays of water that is just going to evaporate in the heat.

6. Corral the water: This might only work in your full-size garden: build a trough around the base of each plant to direct the water straight down to the roots. Fill up the trough with water and let it drain down a couple of times for some deep watering. This is a critical technique if your garden is planted on a hill, adjust the trough so it catches the water flowing down the hill.

7. Mulch: Mulching means to put a 2″ to 5″ layer of (usually) organic matter on top of the soil to help keep the moisture from evaporating. Organic mulch can be bark, wood chips, straw, cocoa beans, pine needles, shredded leaves, compost or cut grass. Inorganic mulch can be a variety of things like rubber chips, newspaper, or plastic. For your miniature garden, use a fine compost and keep the layer even throughout the garden bed. For pots, the fine compost works well too, but normally you wouldn’t have much bare soil in a container.

8. Cover the ground: Some of our most favorite miniature garden plants are ground covers fortunately. By covering the bare ground with plants and foliage, it will slow down the soil drying out.

9. Shade: Is your miniature garden in a container? Move it out of the full-sun into a bright shade spot, like the north or east side of the house. If the plants belong in full sun, they will be okay for a few days on the porch or under an awning until the heatwave passes. If you have new plantings in ground, use a big golf umbrella to shade them during the hottest hours. Weigh-down the handle of the umbrella so it won’t blow away!Your Miniature Garden Center

10. Plant more: It is possible to plant during a heat wave – but only the small plants that you can temporarily shelter from the sun with an umbrella until the heat wave ends. This fall, consider planting more of your full-size garden. Big trees bring shade and cooler air, and combined with big shrubs can create an naturally cool place in your garden. Planting in fall is one of the best times to get a garden established before the heat of next summer, and you’ll use less water next year, because the fall and winter rains will help them get established in their new home.

11. Give them air: Make sure you have air circulation all around each plant and/or each pot. If the plants are planted up-against each other, those spots that are touching will die-out and you’ll have a bare spot on your tree. It’s like having a band-aid on your finger for an extended period of time; the skin (the plant’s foliage,) that doesn’t get the light and air will start to suffer.

12: Signs of over-watering: If you see the top of the soil start to get slimy and a bit green, or if you are getting those tiny little bugs flying up every time you move the foliage or water, it a sign of over-watering. It’s often said that over-watering is worst than under-watering.

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12b: What is happening is the plant’s roots are not able to breathe and your creating a different environment – one almost terrarium-like – for your plants and they can’t handle that. If this is the case, stop watering. Wait for the top of the soil to dry out to damp, then get a fork to churn up the top of the soil. Poke a longer rod, at least 1/8″ in diameter, right down into the soil around each plant to help get air down into the soil. Make sure the drainage holes are allowed to drain. Check them to see if they are blocked and look into getting the pot up on pot-feet so it can drain better. If it’s sitting in a saucer, get rid of the saucer. Let the entire pot dry out to barely damp before you water again – go back to #1 and do that test before each and every watering until you and the miniature garden, are on the same page.

Water ban? When you turn on your shower, or your tap, and wait for the water to get hot, collect the water (called grey water) in a bucket to bring out and water the garden. Better yet, plug the drain and collect your all shower water – if you take baths, use the bath water. Make a scoop by cutting out the bottom of a square milk jug or detergent container. You can also put a bucket in every sink to collect the run off every time you turn on any tap. Consider using organic soaps although I’m not sure if it does matter because this is not recommended for edible crops. You can also use the water that you boil any vegetables in too. Note that some areas have certain regulations for grey water usage.

I hope this helps you get through this extreme weather. I know that there are a lot of variable that I may have not considered because most of my experience is based on gardening in the PNW. If you have a tip for watering your garden, full-size or in miniature and live in the southern states, please help us help others by sharing it below!

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A Tax Guide for Gardeners

Gardeners pay their own taxes in their own way. Pictured above is one of our tax collectors. He is 1/2" tall.

Gardeners pay their own taxes in their own way. Pictured above is a miniature version one of the tax collectors. He is 1/2″ tall.

(This was first published in April 2009 in a “Garden for All” garden column for the West Seattle Herald. As with our tax code, it has been updated annually.)

A Tax Guide for Gardeners

This recent tax season spurred on yet another garden analogy from Yours Truly. I realized as gardeners we already pay taxes in our own way. Here’s what I have redefined for gardeners so far:

Gardener Tax Filing Status – Choose one only – and you know who you are.
1. New Gardener
2. Not-So-New Gardener That Only Knows What She Grows
3. Gardener That Really Knows Better But Does It Anyway

Plant Sales Tax – You know those plant sales where you overbuy, or buy on impulse? Ya, you know what I mean. There were some plants that were definitely on your list and you bought them for a particular spot – those usually go into the ground first. And there are the plants that you fell in love with at first sight, bought on impulse, and will “find a spot for it later.” It is some of this latter group that invariably perish and die, either through hesitation or unintentional neglect. These dead plants are the plant sales tax that we already pay gradually throughout the year.

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Garden Income Tax – You are very well acquainted with this one and you don’t even know it. This could easily be broken down into several sub-categories: Squirrel Tax, Mole Tax, Snail & Slug Tax, Aphid Tax… whatever you’d like to call it. We have to constantly give up portions our trees, plants, flowers and lawns all year ’round. I’ll never forget that day last summer when I saw Squirrel scamper away with my first fig from my new baby fig tree. – I was really taxed then! ;o)

Adjusted Garden Income – When you rescue that giant Zucchini from Squirrel, and just cut off the couple of bite marks at the end, the portion that is cut off should be subtracted from your Garden Income.

Shoulda-Used Tax – This tax could be called the “I Shoulda Tax” but the government would probably change the slang into something boring. The Shoulda-Used Taxes are the monetary equivalent of the chores that we put off because we like the looks and the rewards of a well-established perennial – only to discover a few weeks into the growing season that we should have divided it last spring. Ground cover Thymes are good examples, if they aren’t divided every few years, they get that gaping hole in the middle of the plant and start to look scraggly.

Other applications involve not thinning out your vegetable starts in time, and they get too crowded to grow and compromise the whole crop. Not digging and dividing your lily bulbs and they eventually flop over in the middle of the summer and smother your carpet of sedums. Or letting those weeds invade your miniature garden and destroying the look of your carefully planted ground covers. Now you can see how we pay our own garden taxes throughout the year.

Ignorance Tax
When you to adjust your gardening habits and garden bed location due to someone else’s ignorance and lack of caring. Multiply this total by howMiniature Gardening with Janit Calvo much work they create for you and divide by how many eyesores you have to contend with.

– Examples: When your neighbor plants trees that are not a good candidate for the spot and you have to watch a beautiful young Birch tree get hacked up because it’s growing into the power lines – and then look at it from your back deck forever. Or, his corkscrew willow is rapidly shading your well-established, 40 year old blueberries on your side of the fence. Ya, ignorance tax. It’s real.

Garden Plot-erty Tax – Debit the part of the garden we had to give up for anything non-garden, like a new extension on the house, a bigger deck, etc. And credit yourself when you add more garden bed space by taking away from your lawn.

Hopeless Investment Tax – Those wonderful flower bulbs we sink into the ground only to have Squirrel dig them up for his dinner. Or, in our Seattle climate, the bulbs that never come back because they rotted through our wet winters. Any extreme weather loss falls under this category. For any record-breaking extreme or natural disaster, multiply total by 100.

Organic Gardening Exemptions – Any type of organic gardening practices automatically get a tax exemption. Rain barrels, beehives, bat houses, bird houses, hedgerows, composting, rain-gardening etc. Bonus exemptions include boycotting any greedy corporation that is involved with any kind of environmentally-unconscious business practices.

Exercise Tax – After those long spring days in the garden when your body isn’t used to the bending and hauling… ugh! We should get a tax break on Epsom salt, bubble bath and wine.

Enter total on Schedule G, Form 8888abc, line 84.3d. ;o)

Got a garden tax to share? Leave it in the comments below. And someone call the IRS – maybe we can get a better tax break next year.

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Miniature Settings from the Philadelphia Flower Show, 2018

Nancy Grube’s garden was my Best of Show. I guess I’m just not understanding the criteria because this was, by far, the best Miniature Settings entry in this exhibit in my opinion. Nancy’s focus was on the plants, here stellar-eye for scale and details were just as focused.

Miniature Settings from the Philadelphia Flower Show, 2018

Here are the Miniature Settings from this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show in case you missed it. You can probably tell my ‘Best of Show’ by the number of photos below – it was Nancy Grube’s ‘The Old Mill Stream,’ which certainly checked all my boxes. Deb and Jim Mackie’s display, ‘The Call of the Siren,’ was stunning as usual. I imagine she made the mermaid and the horse, and her seascape was delightfully awesome. Midge Ingersoll’s ‘Dock of the Bay’ is up there in my books as well. She did a fantastic job including a boat, dock, shed and garden all in one tiny scene. But, all-in-all, it was Nancy’s trees and garden that did it for me in ‘The Old Mill Stream.’

See all the exhibits below. I won’t do any individual comments as the bulk of this exhibit wasn’t very impressive compared to previous years. You can compare them too, here are the exhibits from 2014 here, and here – and 2015 is here.

What Does the Best of the Best Mean?

My question remains how the other types of exhibits within the huge Philadelphia Flower Show seem to attract high-quality work, but this Miniature Settings exhibit does not. It’s first-come-first-serve to participate, which is apparently how the rest of the show’s exhibits operate, but where is the quality and the expertise? See the comparison from 2014 here, and here – and 2015 is here.

I also realize that it may not easy as it may seem. There was at least one other IGMA-level miniaturist in this group besides Deb Mackie – or at least I thought so – but it doesn’t show and leaves us wanting for more. (IGMA.org)

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They built new cases for this year’s show that were lighter in color – apparently the miniature details show better when the frames are darker, so I’m not sure how that detail was missed. They were hard to view with the glare on the windows too. And forget about trying to get a good photo without the glare – it was impossible to figure out with a long line-up of people behind you waiting for you to move along…

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I think I’ve posted all the entries in the order these exhibits were presented at the show. You can see the name of the exhibitor, the judge’s comments, the ribbons that were handed out to every exhibit as well as the plant lists. Everyone who didn’t win, got an Honorable Mention ribbon! Lol!

I was initially under the impression that the chosen award for best of show this year was because it was made by a middle school garden club – but the judging is supposedly done blind. (Judging blind means they don’t see the name of the artist when they judge it.) So, that blew that theory… You can see the big purple ribbon on it in the photos below.

Note that this is very different from our miniature gardening and should not be confused with one another. Here’s more on the difference. Most of the plants they use in their displays are tender tropicals, very young perennials or both – with some conifers included for structure.

Let me know what YOU think in the comments below. What’s your best of show? What do you think compared to the previous year’s that I linked above? (Any name-calling or overly negative comments will be edited or deleted altogether – this Mini Garden Guru blog is beholden to no sponsor, no club nor any other company but my own.)

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Miniature Garden Plants: Miniature Settings Exhibits Vs. Real Miniature Gardening

Miniature Gardening at the Philadelphia Flower Show

Miniature Garden Displays: Miniature Settings Exhibit Vs. Real Miniature Gardening

NOTE: The photos in this blog are from the 2014 show. The Miniature Settings Exhibit has since changed hands, and the quality of the exhibits is apparently very different from what you’ll see here.

The Philadelphia Flower Show is home to the only major Miniature Garden Settings exhibit in the world – and it happens to be one of the most well attended exhibits at the show too. I’m on my way there in March where I will be speaking at the Gardener’s Studio stage on Saturday, March 10th at 2pm, the second Saturday of the show to promote my second book, Gardening in Miniature Prop Shop: Handmade Accessories for Your Tiny Living World.

When I finally saw the gorgeous miniature displays in person last year, I realized it was completely different than the type of miniature gardening that I have taught for well over a decade. I knew it was different, but it wasn’t until I received this email last August that I realized other people didn’t know the difference – even some of the people who are participating in the exhibit.

“Dear Janit,
I have been invited to show in the miniature class in the next Philadelphia Flower show and not too long ago ordered several plants from you. Unfortunately a few of the plants were way too big in scale to be used, one died and another is on its way out. It seemed like a great deal of money and I was sorry I spent it for so little return. I, therefore, will not be ordering from you again and could not, in good conscience, recommend you to anyone else.   [Name and location removed]”

Whoa. It’s like I took her $75 and hightailed it to Mexico. Lol! Yea, our type of miniature gardening is well, gardening!

Right plant, right place works for miniature gardens – and all types of gardens, wherever you are and whoever you are. Plants are the great leveler of society, they only care if they did not receive the right growing conditions, and not money, nor fame, nor status – nor any nasty email – can change that.

This poor woman spent almost $75 on a Slowmound Mugo Pine, Dwarf Hens and Chicks, Mini Sweet Flag, Gemstone Hinoki Cypress and Piccolo Balsam Fir that included the Tansu Cryptomeria and Jersey Jewel Japanese Holly. Had she asked if any of these plants were ideal for her project, I would have cautioned her about how to use them – and the fact that they are outdoor plants would be first on my list.

Philadelphia Flower Show Miniature Garden Settings

Philadelphia Flower Show Miniature Garden Settings – The Birds by Louise Krasniewicz. Click to enlarge the photo and you will see a blend of young plants, plant starts, indoor and outdoor plants. This method of growing and combining plants works wonderful for the settings exhibit, but would not be expected to last if it was planted as a miniature garden.

And what she didn’t notice is that all the pot sizes are mentioned in the text and shown in the photo with my hand as a reference to the size of the plants.

I hope she didn’t plant these all together because would be a disaster: The mugo pine and hens and chicks are outdoor plants, love full sun and drier, well-draining soil. The Mini Sweet Flag prefers wet soil, shade and can be grown indoors and the rest are outdoor plants, prefer evenly damp soil and part sun/shade.

All these differences and growing details are always mentioned in each listing underneath the multiple photos of each plant in our online store.

Thankfully, I’m from “the east coast” and knew that it was just a misunderstanding, albeit an irritating one. I wrote her back explaining the difference, included some references and wished her luck in the exhibit.

But despite my compassion for teaching and sharing the joy of gardening in miniature for almost two decades, I’m human and the email did ruffle my feathers a bit. I haven’t stayed in business for over 18 years by supplying the nation with miniature plants that don’t work. I didn’t fill the bestselling book on the hobby, Gardening in Miniature: Create Your Own Tiny Living World, with false pretenses and nor did the world’s top horticultural publisher, Timber Press, print a book filled with wrong information. Why did she jump to such radical conclusions? Because people hate being wrong.

Philadelphia Flower Show Miniature Garden Settings

A close-up of Louise’s garden beds – they were impeccable. She plays with rooting cuttings and uses them while they are young. Begonias and succulents are her favorite. That burgundy colored plant is a very young coleus. The wee garden bed looks perfect! (Click to enlarge.)

So, Janit, What is the Diff?

Dr. K of the Miniature Garden Settings exhibit blog has put together a database of the plants used in the exhibit. It’s a work in progress and she has about 300 plants listed so far. I’ve scanned through the list and yes, there are plants that we use that can last for years in our miniature gardens but majority of the plants aren’t for our type of gardening in miniature.

The exhibit is only supposed to last for about two weeks and sometimes the plants have to be switched out either due to being too stressed out because they are growing in abnormal conditions, or they are growing too fast.

Here are some observations on their techniques and examples of plants that won’t work for a long-lasting miniature garden. I imagine the artists have many more and I look forward to learning more from them.

Philadelphia Flower Show Miniature Garden Settings

This is the Mythical Hanging Gardens of Babylon by Pamela Goldman. Young date palms are combined with air plants, Sedums, young begonias and small-leafed perennial starts. The effect is superb but the combination is not expected to last long.

 

Miniature Settings Exhibit Techniques

– Over-planted: Almost all the displays are deliberately over-planted to look lush and full.

– Temporary: It is not planted as a garden that is meant to stay together for years like we do. It’s only meant to last the for the show.

– Mixing Plants: The artists plant indoor with outdoor plants, light loving with shade loving because, again, the display does not have to last long.

– Fast Growing: Ground covers and rockery plants are a favorite because they can be grown quickly and the young plants add color and texture to the miniature setting-scene. Examples: Lamium, Veronica Speedwell, Candy Tuft, Pileas – all plants that I would NOT recommend for the real miniature garden because they are too fast growing.

– Young starts: A number of the plants are really young babies that we’re grown for this purpose only. Plants are swapped out during the show if they get too big. The artists have more plants growing behind that wall for this very reason. Here’s more…

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Miniature Garden Settings Plant List from Dr. K.

This is Dr. K’s long plant list from her Birds display from last year’s show. You can see the wide variety of plants used in just one setting. The task of creating the display and planting the tiny gardens is an art unto itself and I don’t think it could not be done any other way.

Miniature Settings Exhibit Plants Explained

– Seedlings, Starts and Young Plants: The exhibitors cultivate plant starts, or use very young plants that mimic full-sized garden plants. The leaves and stem are usually the perfect size and the variety of textures look fantastic in the wee garden beds – but it’s not going to last. Examples: Polka Dot plant, Kalanchoe, Creeping Jenny, Catnip, Lavender, Rosemary, Sorrel and even culinary Thyme is suggested as a miniature plant. All these plants will grow up within one growing season and will not stay miniature.

– Unusual Plants: Depending upon the topic of the scene, some of the plants listing in the database are plants that have surreal look, instead of being an ideal plant for a miniature garden, regular-sized Aloe and the Living Stones (Lithops) for example. Bog-loving plants, like the Bog Rosemary are listed – I would not grow a miniature garden in a bog. And fragile plants or plants that are fussy to grow are not on my list of favorites either simply because life is too short to fuss, examples are the Maidenhair Fern and the Mimosa.

I hope I have cleared up some misconceptions about the different kinds of miniature garden plants used in this fabulous display at the Philly Show – and I hope the display is still fabulous under this new management. It is much different than real miniature gardening if you take the time to notice, unlike our friend who wrote the nasty email to me.

If you have any further questions or comments, please leave them below. I would be glad to know what I have missed.

Come and see my talk and demo at the show! I’m on at 2pm, Saturday, March 10th, 2018, at the Gardeners Studio Stage. Here’s the PHS website for the show, I’m not sure when they’ll have the event calendar done.

Join us – but only if you want to know more about “real” miniature gardening! Sign up for our Mini Garden Gazette newsletter to get in on the fun here.

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How to Swim in Soil

An in-ground miniature garden just needs a mulch of compost each spring to keep the soil nutrient-rich. Save your fertilizers for your annuals and vegetables. The bee house is about 1 inch tall.

How to Swim in Soil

I’m a self-taught gardener. I don’t like unnecessarily complicated things. When any topic gets too scientific or complex, my eyes glaze over and I start to think about lunch. With our already hectic lives, some think we must know about the microcosms and ratios in our potting soil or garden soil in order to be a gardener, but – don’t tell anyone – I don’t. I haven’t. Because I don’t need to.

Now keep in mind, I’m a gardener. I’m not a grower. I don’t have a greenhouse. I don’t have any sort of grow-your-own set-up here at my backyard nursery. I have tried it but growing my own stock but it just isn’t where my passion is. I do grow my own veggies and annuals from seed for my full-sized gardening adventures, but that’s where it stops. However, if you are getting into growing seriously, you will want to focus on the content of your soil.

There’s an old saying that if you have $1 to spend on your garden, spend 90 cents on soil, and 10 cents on plants.

And I’ve written about soil before, it’s the first chapter in our popular Miniature Gardening 101 Series: The Dirt on the Soil. And, I talk about it in here, How to Plant a Miniature Garden in a Big Pot.

But what about all the different kinds of potting soil out there? What’s the diff? What do we use for miniature gardening? What will work best? Oh, and how much? Grab a cuppa, and let’s get down to the roots of the situation, shall we?

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“If you are making mistakes it means you are out there doing something.”

For Pots and Containers

For all containers, use organic potting soil. Note that a lot of companies have hooked their wagons to the “organic” trend and, well, soil IS already organic, so isn’t that redundant? Not in this day and age, unfortunately. By organic, I mean without any added fertilizers or water-retaining polymers.

A great example is Miracle-Gro soil. It’s everywhere now and everyone sells it only because they have the money for marketing it. (It’s made by Scott’s. Monsanto owns Scott’s. Icky.) You’ll find somewhere on that bag of soil it will say ‘organic.’ But those added fertilizers and water-retaining polymers is the WORST soil you can use for your miniature garden or fairy garden simply because of the extra “stuff” in the soil. The extra fertilizers burn the roots of our plants and trees and those polymers don’t let the soil dry out often enough, then the roots can’t breathe – with that lovely combo, our plants that we recommend for the miniature gardening die.

What I love to see on the potting soil bag is that it’s from a local company. If the garden center that you frequent are worth their salt, they’ll have a variety of soil products from companies in your area or thereabouts. If you don’t see it on the store shelf, ask for it. The request will get back to the manager/buyer and they’ll know customers are looking for a local choice.

Soil for miniature gardening or fairy gardening

How Much Soil Do I Need for My Miniature Garden Container?

Because some of our plants are really tiny, it is miniature gardening after all; you might be tempted to put the tiny plants in a big pot to let them grow in. This is called “swimming in soil” and the reason this will not work is that the water will not stay around the root ball where it is needed because there is too much soil in the pot. The water wicks to the bottom of the container, away from the plant’s roots and all is futile. A basic rule of thumb is any new plants need to transplant in pots that are 2” to 5” bigger or wider. If you’re planting a group of plants, take the total of all the pots combined.

This chart was taken from my Gardening in Miniature book that has all the garden basics you need to get started in the miniature garden hobby.

Soil chart for container gardening

From the bestselling Gardening in Miniature book.

Note that 1 cubic foot bag of soil or compost is about the size of regular pillow. There are about 25 quarts in 1 cubic foot. So, using the chart above, a pot that is 8 to 11 inches wide, will take almost half a bag, or half a cubic foot, to fill it up. Note that the depth of the container isn’t accounted for in this chart but, it should say “width and depth” of pot. But here’s an awesome soil calculator for you to bookmark here.

In-ground miniature gardening

Instead of removing the grass, we planted on top of it mainly because we found clay in all our garden beds. But I always found that by the time I cleared the patch of lawn, I didn’t have the energy to do any gardening so I was all for this easy way to prep a garden bed!

For In-ground Miniature Gardens

Use compost. That’s it. Soil is compost but will have many more nutrients in it than bagged topsoil. Just spread the compost on top of your soil each spring, and you are done!

If you are just starting an in-ground garden bed of any type, try our type of lasagna gardening. Lasagna gardening is really ‘composting in place’ but that means that you have to pay attention to the ratios, layers, timing and materials… (Oh gee, what’s for lunch?? :o)

BUT what Steve and I did with our new garden beds when we moved to our house in 2010 was incredibly easy and worked like a charm. We laid a long piece of rope down to outline the edges of the new garden bed. We covered the grass with heavy cardboard, piled as much compost on top as we could on top, cut in the edge of the garden bed and installed the border. Then planted the garden in the compost. Done.

We top it up each spring as much as we can. Now the garden bed has settled down to ground level but it works better for the miniature garden scene than a mound – the paths and patios stay level and the watering doesn’t mess everything up.

Got questions, compliments, concerns or complaints? Leave them below.

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More About Indoor Miniature Gardening + Gallery

Indoor miniature gardening

An indoor miniature garden with a Monteray cypress and a Sugar Vine.  This pot is about 12″ wide.

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More About Indoor Miniature Gardening + Gallery

Don’t you just love this hobby? The seasons changing can only mean another miniature garden and now you can make one for the indoors! Do you want a wee beachy-garden scene to get you through the cold months? Or, create a miniature gratitude garden for Thanksgiving? Let’s recap what you need to know, and then follow with a few examples of the different indoor miniature gardens we’ve grown over the years.

Ten Golden Rules are from The Houseplant Expert, Dr. D. G. Hessayon, my favorite go-to book for indoor plants and a great reference for your bookshelf. Here’s a quick summary of his top 10 adapted for miniature gardening.AdS-LrgRec-Dog

1. Don’t drown them. Roots need air as well as water. Let the soil dry out until barely damp. Put your finger down into the soil about 1” deep to test and yes, your finger is still the best way.

2. Give them a rest. Plants need less water and feeding in the winter. Some plants may not look as good, or need cutting back, before the new growth signals their return. Be patient and follow the plant’s signals.

3. Accept the loss of “temporary” plants. Some plants are not meant to live more than a season or two. Some miniature gardeners treat outdoor plants as short-lived houseplants during the winter. The Jean’s Dilly Dwarf Spruce, or the Pixie or Pixie Dust, is often used this way because they are true miniature Christmas trees.

4. Give them extra humidity. The average houseplant needs more humidity in the winter as the forced-air heat dries out the air quite quickly. By misting or grouping your houseplants around your miniature garden, you can maintain a better level of moisture in the air around the plants.

5. Add light. There are all kinds of plant-friendly light bulbs that can fit regular lamps, find them at your local hardware store or online. Instead of trying to position the miniature garden in the window, now you can put it anywhere as long as you have a lamp on it. Use a timer to turn it off and on for at least six hours a day, 8 to 12 is ideal. Shop lights come in a variety of sizes as well and many are available as a plug-in (as opposed to hard-wired.)

5a. Direct Sunlight. Some indoor plants enjoy a dose of direct sun but do so if you know for sure that the plant will enjoy it. Otherwise, use a sheer curtain to diffuse the direct sunlight to make it safe for all your plants. ALSO, watch that sunlight beaming into your windows in the spring and the fall. As the sun moves higher in the sky in springtime, and lower in the sky in the fall, the direction of the sunbeams will change inside your house too. All of a sudden you’ll may a sunbeam beating down on your miniature garden that wasn’t there a couple of weeks ago. This is where that sheer curtain comes in handy again.

6. Treat trouble promptly. With Google at our fingertips, there is really no reason not to be able to identify a plant-problem quickly and easily. State the problem plainly; name the plant and search under Google Images to find it faster. For example, “brown spots on parlor palm leaves.” Search at least two or three sites to get a better perspective of the solution. Not everyone is an expert out on the Internet, most often the most simple and natural solution is best.

7. Know when to re-pot. When the plants start to look sickly after a couple of years, then it may be time to re-pot. Look for the roots growing out of the bottom drainage holes to know when.

8. Choose wisely. Right plant, right place. You can’t grow a sun-loving plant in a dark corner nor can you grow a shade-loving plant in front of a sunny, southern window.

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Recommended Tools:

  • Water can with a long, narrow spout to get the water through to the bottom of the plants. Get used to how it pours before using indoors or you’ll make a big mess the first time.
  • Mister – but know which plants like more, which like less.
  • Saucers AND protective pads with plastic on one side, felt on the other. Don’t trust any pot or saucer on your good wood surfaces. Use an extra moisture-barrier-pad recommended for plants with a plastic backing to avoid wicking. I’ve seen cork mats, but I’m not sure if they wick moisture or not.
  • Organic fertilizer. Avoid chemical fertilizers of any kind, the plants just don’t care for it and it builds up in the soil.
  • Soft sponge for cleanup.
  • Old kitchen spoon for re-potting and fork for raking.
  • Scissors or small garden shears – or both.
  • indoor Potting Soil – Use potting soil without any extra fertilizers or moisture-retaining polymers. Look for an organic, indoor potting mix for a general-purpose soil that will be okay for most of your houseplants. Succulents, cacti and African Violets need more drainage material, like vermiculite or Perlite.

You will notice that there is not a lot of variety yet in the plants that are shown here. That is because I killed the rest of them. Yep. I tend to kill indoor plants a lot better than our outdoor plants. The plants shown here are some of the tougher plants I have found for gardening in miniature. For the most part, I’ve included the plant’s names, and the growing notes under each photo.

Indoor miniature tropical garden

A Parlor Palm and Norfolk Pine anchor the garden, filled in with miniature Aloe and Hawarthias as the understory. The Pine was left in its original poly pot to help keep the roots damper than the other plants. The lagoon-shaped pond adds to the theme. (“Janit Calvo’s Lagoon Pond” is now discontinued.) This pot is about 22″ in diameter.

Indoor miniature gardening

One of our all-time most popular plants, the English Variegated Boxwood stands alone to make a simple gratitude garden for a sunny spot. This pot is about 8″ wide.

More About Indoor Miniature Gardening + Gallery

A baby Parlor Palm on the left and a Kingsville Dwarf Boxwood on the right. This miniature mediation gardens need regular water and bright light. This pot is about 8″ wide.

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More About Indoor Miniature Gardening + Gallery

The tree in the back is the Variegated English Boxwood, to the right is Dwarf Mondo Grass, a small-leafed succulent with an elusive name ;o), in the foreground, two Kingsville Boxwood shrubs. Needs regular water with bright light. Sedum cuttings in the urns will last a few months before needing replacing. Large size or one-inch scale accessories. This pot is about 20″ across.

More About Indoor Miniature Gardening + Gallery

The same garden as above, but with medium size, half-inch scale accessories and gravel mulch in the garden beds. You can see how the smaller accessories are swimming in such a large pot, but also notice how big they make the whole garden appear.

Indoor Miniature Gardening

A custom-made miniature garden planter from England. Elwood Cypresses on the each end, Dwarf Mondo Grass behind the urn, sedum cutting in the urn, a small boxwood shrub to the right of the bench and baby tears as the “ground cover.” (Get in touch with me if you want more info about this handmade planter.) This garden needs bright, indirect light and a very cautious watering schedule as this box has no drainage holes. This container is 21″ wide by 9″ deep.

Indoor Miniature Gardening

A finished project from my book, Gardening in Miniature: Create Your Own Tiny Living World. Clockwise from the tall Elwood, to the left is a Sugar Vine (Cissus striata,) Baby Tears and a Variegated English Boxwood. Bright light with regular watering, the Sugar Vine will need cutting back every year to slow it down. This pot is about 12″ wide.

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Indoor miniature garden

A simple Fairy Vine and a handmade trellis is the perfect place for an daily empowering message. The “boulder” anchors the garden and makes it look established. This pot is about 7″ across.

Indoor miniature mediation gardening

Our Complete Indoor / Outdoor Miniature Garden Kit has our three most-durable indoor plants, from left to right: the Dwarf Mondo Grass, Variegated English Boxwood and Baby Tears. The Kit includes the stone, Mini Patio Mix and different accessories. This pot is about 10″ across.

Indoor miniature gardening

An impromptu miniature garden centerpiece for Halloween that I made a few years ago. It lasted about three weeks before it turned to mush. I would try this again with a taller pumpkin – the candle burnt the top of the “greenhouse.” The pumpkin was about 10″ in diameter.

SEE more of our plants that we recommend for indoor miniature gardening here.

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New Format for Your Mini Garden Gazette Newsletter & Video Letter About Miniature Topiary!

New Format for Your Mini Garden Gazette Newsletter: Video Letters!

They say a picture says a thousand words. I wonder how many words a video says? Lol! Join me and thousands of Fellow Miniature Gardeners for you weekly dose of miniature garden goodness via VIDEO! I’m only starting to scratch the surface on what I can show you!

Today’s video is all about creating topiary for the miniature garden. See it here.

These videos will only be through the Mini Garden Gazette newsletter (sign up here) and archived in The Miniature Garden Society where they will be added to and expanded upon as we move forward. This is still a brand new hobby so we are still assembling all the many delicious insights, how-to’s and to-do’s as we go. Join us here, for yourMini Garden Gazette Newsletter. Join us here forThe Miniature Garden Society where we are digging deeper and dreaming bigger!

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