GROWING ADVICE

CHOOSING YOUR PLANTS

If you would like some guidance when planning your gardens, we have created categorized lists of many of our plants to make your planning & purchasing easier.  The lists include basic categorizations such as "native", "aquatic" or "vegetable", as well as more specific lists such as "drought tolerant", "shade garden" and "butterfly garden".   A separate one has been made for deer resistant plants as it is one of the most commonly requested.  We also have a full list of pollinator-friendly plants grown at Painters, including natives, non-natives, perennials & annuals to give you a lot of choices for gardening with pollinators in mind!  Click on the buttons below to view the lists.  We also keep copies of these at the greenhouse. 

NATIVE GARDENING/ATTRACTING INSECTS & WILDLIFE

Planting native plants is very important for local wildlife, and attracting bees and other beneficial insects will in turn provide enhanced pollination and improved garden health. Regional insects and wildlife have co-evolved with native plants; many of these plants provide needed food and shelter for these species (you will also find that many native plants are more resistant than non-natives to mammal pests as a result of this co-evolution). Insects have specific dietary needs which require those plants with which they have co-evolved. Non-native plant species can provide some food, but typically aren’t able to provide all of the essential nutrients that native plants contain. This does not mean that you shouldn’t grow non-natives, but simply that you can help support wildlife and the productivity of your gardens if you incorporate natives into your landscape. You can view a copy of our native plant list below, and we encourage you to check out some of the websites on our Links page for more info!

 

A NOTE ON GROWING NATIVE CULTIVARS VS. STRAIGHT SPECIES

Named cultivars are all derived from native species - they have simply undergone some level of selection.  This varies from basic selection from the wild to further selection within a breeding program, but all still maintain the same scientific classification as the straight species.  By growing a cultivar versus a straight species, you are still contributing to the population of that species while also benefitting from enhanced desirable traits that have been selected for from the native population (eg. disease resistance, growth habit, bloom apperance).  Some cultivars have been selected primarily for ornamental traits, and it occassionally changes some of their ecological benefit in comparison to the straight species.  In most cases it does not, but some cultivars such as the Fanfare Blaze Blanket Flower have been selected for highly irregular bloom shape (tubular petals), which may lessen their benefit to pollinators/feeders.  It is important to note that cultivars that have undergone extensive selection are not harmful - just may not be quite as beneficial to wildlife as the straight species.  We carry very few cultivars with such heavy modification - most are very close to their natural-found counterparts. 

SAVE THE BIRDS, BEES & OTHER POLLINATORS!

You’ve probably heard about the decline of our native bee populations – there is concern that some of our agricultural practices (use of pesticides, genetically modified crops, etc) are partly at fault. Bees play a critical role in our own food production, so even if you aren’t a big bee fan, helping bees helps us all! Asheville has recently chosen to become an inaugural “Bee City, USA” – the mission of the organization is to help make the world a safer place for pollinators. Visit the website to learn all about the program and how to support bees and other pollinators with your gardening choices. Painters is proud to be included on their list of local greenhouses selling native plants. You can also download our handouts below for more bee-friendly garden tips and a list of the best native plants for pollinators. 


You've also probably heard about the importance of supporting native birds and creating habitat corridors for them. Audubon is committing to growing Bird-Friendly Communities across North Carolina. You can be part of the movement by growing native plants in your yard. Click here to find a growing guide for growing bird-friendly natives in WNC. If you are interested in reading more about how you can support and attract birds in your yard and community, click here.

EDIBLE GARDENING, LANDSCAPING & PEST CONTROL

Visit the first link below for a document detailing a variety of edible garden tips including container garden how-to’s, properly preparing and maintaining your edible gardens and planting timelines/schedules for varied veggies.  For those of you working with limited garden space and/or containers, check out the second link.  If you decide to create a raised bed or lots of container gardens, check out our Links page for bulk soil suppliers and a soil calculator. And if you are struggling with garden pests, check out the button below for a copy of a past seminar handout, or visit SixBrothersPestControl or Fix for a great guides to pest and disease I.D., prevention and treatment!

 

If you live close to a road or neighbors, you may feel the need to hide your vegetable garden in the backyard or behind fencing. There is a growing movement, however, to incorporate edibles into the landscape. Edible landscaping is the use of food-producing plants in the ornamental landscape, with designs that incorporate fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers with other ornamentals to create attractive and useful landscapes. Incorporating more edibles into your yard allows you to enjoy delicious homegrown food without worry of where it originated or how it was treated. Click here for some ideas to get you started!

HERBS & EDIBLE FLOWERS

Click below for information on the benefits of herb gardening, including the many uses of mints, how to create herbal mosquito control, and some guidance for making herbal teas. Custom herbal tea and cooking blends can be a fun project for the family and make great presents (pack some in a pretty tin or mason jar and add some ribbon!). If you come up with particularly tasty blend, feel free to share!  For those of you who have enjoyed tasting our homemade pestos (both basil & cilantro) at the Annual Herb Festival, click below for a copy of the recipes!

 

If you are interested in growing plants with edible blooms, this link has a lot of great information, including recipes ranging from flower-infused butter & cheese to jams and teas! Keep in mind that you should only eat blooms if you know where they come from and how they were treated. We do not use toxic chemicals on our edible blooming plants, but as we sometimes treat pests with oil or soap, you should always wash the blooms well. Exercise caution when trying an edible bloom for the first time as individual tolerances may vary - start with small amounts. Most herbs have tasty edible blooms, but you may be surprised at how many other common garden plants provide lovely edible flowers!

 

Many kids enjoy gardening simply for the excitement of watching something they planted grow - especially if it produces something they can eat! Click below for some fun ideas, such as ornamental edibles, plants with unique textures, shapes and names, succulents (cacti are always popular), and carnivorous plants.

PLANTING SHRUBS & TREES, MULCHING

For those of you who haven't done much landscaping with larger perennials, or if you are uncertain of the specific needs for your new purchase, we hope to soon have a handout with information about ideal growing conditions and care for the shrubs and trees we offer. 

 

Mulching can save a lot of work in the long run – choose natural mulch without chemical treatments (finely ground cedar or pine bark is good), and insulate the surface of the soil with about 2-3 inches of mulch. Mulching can literally reduce weed problems by up to 90% and watering needs by up to 50% if done properly and maintained. Visit this link for detailed information to ensure you are properly mulching.

 

 

 

CONSERVING WATER/XERIC GARDENING

In addition to mulching, there are other ways to conserve water and create a garden that has low water needs (and therefore requires less time!). One obvious tip is to plant heat and drought-resistant plants. For vegetables, try eggplant, mustard greens, okra, peppers and green beans. Some varieties of tomatoes and squash are also bred for drought resistance (check signage when shopping). For herbs, try chives, catmint, thyme, chamomile, lavender, oregano, rosemary and Russian Sage. Some of the showiest drought-tolerant perennials include yucca, black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, coreopsis and salvia.

 

Improve your soil’s water retention by mixing in compost and then topping with mulch. Try grouping plants with similar water needs to save water and time, and dig a shallow depression for those that require more water to help collect rain and water runoff. Water your gardens deeply but infrequently; shallow watering encourages shallow roots. If you travel frequently or really don’t have the time for regular watering, try installing efficient drip irrigation systems.

Click here for an excellent guide to gardening with water conservation in mind, including ideas for low-maintenance plantings, easy ways to set up automatic watering, and ways to save water on your lawns. 

 

 

 

THE BENEFITS & EASE OF COMPOSTING

For the past several years, we've held seminars on backyard composting at the greenhouse. The goal of the program is to demonstrate how easy and inexpensive composting can be. We emphasize the importance of proper mixing, ingredients, and aeration to encourage fast decomposition. With our clay-rich soils, it can be very costly and time-consuming to create healthy gardens – using your own compost as a soil ammendment and fertilizer saves money and time! If you have always wanted to compost properly, the below links have all of the details you need.  

If you want to skip the work, we do carry compost tea bags (used to infuse watering cans and create liquid fertilizer), and we carry bagged organic mushroom compost for those of you wanting a quick nutrient boost.

 

Click here for a detailed handout from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. Don’t get too worried about understanding/maintaining the exact ratios discussed here – basically, if something has a high C:N ratio (like sawdust), then it will take longer to break down in your compost. If you add more nitrogen (a great source is a little bit of 10-10-10 or a similar fertilizer), then you can achieve the C:N balance needed to speed up the decomposition. As nitrogen is typically lacking, it is best to always include a little fertilizer.

 

For an really handy website that covers eveything from what composting is, to how to do it and what can be composted, to commonly asked questions, click here.  This site is a great tool if you are teaching your kids about composting, as it is very user friendly and has a colorful, visual layout.  

 

Click here for a link to step-by-step directions on how to use worms for composting. Vermiculture is very easy, can be done in small spaces and even inside, the worms expedite the composting process, and your final product is even more nutrient-rich and beneficial in your gardens! To read more about the benefits of using worm castings as a fertilizer, soil ammendment and pest control, click the link below.   We sometimes have worm castings available at the greenhouse, but if not, there are several local suppliers.

 

 

 

 

 

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