Hydrangeas bring color to a shady garden.

Group plants to create attractive shade gardens

There are many varieties of plants that thrive in shade, according to horticulturist Mark Viette. He suggested creating groups of these plants to fill the shady spots in your yard.

“Trees take all of the moisture out of the ground, so you are going to want to grow plants that can deal with that type of environment,” he said.

Viette suggested begonias, ferns and hostas for shady areas. He recommends planting them in large, varied groups.

“It just looks nicer when you have a variety of plants in groups,” he said.

Some plants, like hostas, can get large, so it is important to space new plants 24 inches apart. Others, like begonias, will reseed themselves each year or will develop seed pods that drop to the ground and sprout during warmer weather.

Magnolia trees, hydrangea bushes and the dramatic Japanese painted fern also grow well in shade, Viette said.

Planting ground covers in shady areas will help prevent runoff and erosion and help tree roots filter water. Pine needles are a good shade garden mulch; using only 2 to 3 inches of pine needles helps keep soil from drying.

Planting ground covers in shady areas will help prevent runoff and erosion and help tree roots filter water. (Click to Tweet)

Plan ahead for potential summer storms

Hurricanes, tornadoes and floods are more prevalent during the summer months, and planning ahead is critical.

Families need a basic plan in place before a severe storm strikes. When the storm happens there isn’t time to discuss what to do or where to go. Discuss the plan ahead of time to avoid panic.

Keep a fully stocked disaster kit on hand that includes at least a three-day supply of water; nonperishable meals; a flashlight; a battery-operated or hand-cranked weather radio; extra batteries; a few blankets; a tarp and family members’ medications. Stock enough supplies for each family member, and designate a safe place for family members to meet after a storm.

Remember to include the special needs of infants, older adults, family members with disabilities, and pets when making plans, and keep personal identification with each person after a storm.

Other planning tips include keeping an inventory of all household items—using photographs, a written list or video—that can be shared with the insurance company if it’s necessary to file a storm damage claim. It is important to keep documents such as wills, mortgages and insurance papers in a safe place outside of the home.

Blackberry Muffins

These muffins, using blackberries fresh from your garden, are perfect to pair with your morning coffee.

Source: Virginia Cooperative Extension

See Recipe

Blackberries: A healthy choice for your garden

Eating blackberries in July may remind some of times spent as a child plucking the berries along the neighbors’ fence. But now as an adult, you can grow blackberries in your own backyard.

Blackberries, a great source of vitamins C and K, are a smart addition to your home garden. The plants are very productive, yielding 10 to 20 pounds of fruit each over the growing season.

“They’re a very nice plant, not too many insect or disease problems, and they’re a perennial crop, so they’re going to be here for a long time in the garden,” said Chris Mullins of Virginia Cooperative Extension.

One thing to consider before planting blackberries is site selection.

“You’re going to need a site that gets full sun, and you need to think about having plenty of room. You don’t want to put them too close together,” Mullins said. He recommended planting blackberry plants 4 to 5 feet apart in rows that are 10 feet apart.

Because blackberries can require as much as an inch of water per week during their growing season, he recommended using a drip irrigation system and a layer of mulch to hold moisture in the soil. The mulch also will help keep weeds down.