Archive for September, 2011
Rosemary is one of those wonderful smelling herbs that is also beautiful and so useful in the kitchen when cooking with fresh herbs. Isn’t it great to know that Rosemary is extremely easy to grow? It is an evergreen, perennial plant that needs plenty of sunshine, 6-8 hours a day, well drained soil and don’t let it get cold, as in 35′ or less. That’s why mine is in a pot, because it has to come in for the winter. I prune it back in the autumn, a few weeks before bringing it in, so that it doesn’t take up so much room in the house. When it does come inside, it needs to have as much light as possible, and don’t over water it. It’s a Mediterranean plant and likes it a little on the dry side. If, however, you live where you can plant it into the ground (zone 10-11), then it can become a pretty good sized shrub.
It can be pruned but doesn’t need to be. It responds very well to pruning though and can even be used in a topiary. You can prune it just to shape it or to keep it within a certain size and that can be done pretty much any time. The bits that are pruned off can be dried and used for seasoning in cooking. Also, just handling Rosemary makes your hands smell oh, so good.
To use in cooking, either strip the leaves off the woody stem and put into recipes, or put a whole sprig in and remove it later. Rosemary has a strong flavor so it doesn’t take much to use as seasoning. It’s really good used to season olive oil or vinegar. The flavor also works well with other herbs such as , chives, oregano, garlic, parsley, sage and thyme. So experiment with it and see how you like it.
Why don’t you add Rosemary to the list of the herbs you should be growing.
I’ve recently heard about a new concept in fertilizing and it sounds exciting. There is a company making liquid fertilizer that contains some rich substance which is rare and found in very few places. This substance, leonardia… or something like that. It works inside the plants and helps them to take up nutrients faster and more efficiently.That means less fertilizer is needed, which is great, because fertilizers can get expensive.
Anyway, I’m excited about all I’ve heard and wish I could try some. Unfortunately, it isn’t sold retail and is only sold in huge quantities to the agricultural community, here and in other countries. I’ve heard there are amazing results from it though. I’ve used fertilizers before and not only does it take a lot for all of our plants, but I worry about how much to use and am I burning the plants, not to mention the residue left in the soil.
I’m checking further into it because I want my plants to be as healthy and robust as possible. I want them to thrive!
I’ll post any info I get about this product.
Even though it’s one of the most important factors of gardening, it’s often overlooked when planning a garden.
Do you have any idea what your soil is like? Good soil is made up of about 50% air and water and the remaining portion is mostly minerals products with a small amount of organic matter.To learn the make up and amount of nutrients in your soil you will need to get a soil analysis done. This can be done at the county extension office for a small fee.
The mineral portion is made up of very large, small and tiny particles. These particles determine the texture of the soil, which determines how often you might have to fertilize and irrigate. Most soils are a combination of these textures. The problem is when there isn’t a good balance and there is too much sand or clay.
The largest particles are sand. Sandy soils drain very quickly and it is then necessary to water and fertilize more frequently.
The small particles are silt and these particles allow medium drainage.
The tiny particles are clay and these particles can hold a lot of water and nutrients. The problem is that the clay can get very compacted and hold the moisture and nutrients so tightly that they can’t be used by the plants.
I’ve gardened in very sandy soil and in very hard clay soil. The sandy soil is very easy because there isn’t much resistance to the shovel, and weeds pull out easily. However, plants need watering and feeding really often because there aren’t many nutrients in the sand and the water just zips right on through. Adding organic matter to the sand will greatly increase it’s texture and nutrient content as well as it’s moisture holding capabilities.
On the other hand, clay soils are a real challenge to garden in. We literally had to use a Maddox and a pick ax to plant fruit trees and shrubs. The soil has to be broken up in quite a large area, with sand and a lot of organic matter added, to give the roots a chance to grow. You have to be sure not to over water because the water doesn’t drain off and can rot the roots. There are usually a lot of nutrients present though, so you need less fertilizer.
Really good soil is sandy loam, which is a good balance of all of these textures. It’s easy to work with, is fertile and drains well. If you’re blessed with sandy loam in your yard, both your thumbs can be green.
Until you get you soil analysis done, there are couple of quick test you can do to try to find out what your soils texture is. The easiest way is to rub a small amount of moist soil between your finger and thumb. If it’s sandy, you’ll be able to feel the coarseness and if there is a high clay content, it will feel silky, almost slimy.
Another way is to put a small amount of soil, (taken from different spots in your garden area), into a large jar (quart – gallon) and add 5x -10x the water. Shake it up really well and just let it settle. After a few hours you’ll begin to see different levels of sediment appearing. Leave it for a few days, and you’ll be able to get a pretty good idea of the texture of your soil. The large sandy particles will be on the bottom, silt in the middle and the tiny clay particles on top. The proportion of these layers will give you an idea of how to garden in the soil you have.
Of course there is much more to soil than texture, but it’s a step toward understanding how to care for your plants and help them thrive.
So, take off the gloves and feel the dirt.
If you’d ever visited my garden, then you’d know that I have some great smelling plants. I know this because whenever anyone visits my garden for the first time I’m very likely to began snatching off great smelling leaves and crushing them, so the aroma will be released. I just don’t want anyone to miss out on the beauty of an aromatic garden. Ahhh…
I do have favorites though and I hope that one day you’ll be able to smell what I’m talking about, it you haven’t already. I’m posting the pictures of these plants but you know, a picture can only tell you so much.
Hyssop (Agastache) – Flowers and leaves have a heavenly scent, plus bees, hummingbirds and butterflies absolutely LOVE the flowers. It is a perennial, hardy at least to zone 5, so it comes back year after year, bigger and better each year.
Scented Geraniums (Pelargoniums) – Top of this list is the Lemon Rose, which smells EXACTLY as it’s name implies. It’s a beautiful plant that has small, insignificant flowers. It’s all in the leaves. It is a tender perennial and has to come in the house for the cold months but when I lived in zone 8 it was planted in the ground and barely died back during the winter. It can get quite large and may need pruning back to maintain a certain size. If you do prune it back, put the clippings in a basket somewhere in your house for potpourri… Or you can put them in water and root them for more Pelargoniums. There are a lot of scents to choose from in the Scented Geraniums. There’s coconut, lemon, apricot, rose, citronella, and many more. The coconut is really nice but the plant isn’t quite so pretty.
Tarragon– Even though this is a culinary herb, it could easily be used for it’s scent alone. It’s a beautiful plant that I’ve written about in an earlier posts, but I had to mention it here because it does smell so good. Let me just say that it taste as good as it smells. It’s a perennial that’s hardy at least to zone 5.
Lavender – All parts of this plant smell heavenly. We have French Lavender (Spanish Lavender) which is grown for it’s oil content in France. I like to cut them and tie them in bundles and hang them upside down to dry. But cut fresh and used in small bouquets is the best. Ours bloomed in the spring and began blooming again in mid summer. It’s doing great here so I think it’s hardy at least to zone 5.
Variegated Plectranthus – This is a plant I just discovered this year and I love it. It has the smell of fine, old antique wood, almost citrusy. It grows really fast and is beautiful trailing in hanging baskets because it all cascades down like a water fall. This is a tender plant and will be a house plant this winter. Oh, the house is going to smell so good.
Mint – Mint has such a refreshing smell and is extremely easy to grow. So easy in fact, that it really should only be grown in containers or in a confined area or you will be pulling mint out of every flower bed in your entire yard before you know it. There….the warning came first. Now I can talk about how wonderful it smells. My absolute favorite is the Chocolate Mint. Really. It smells just like a Peppermint Patty. Then there’s apple mint, spearmint, peppermint, orange mint etc. etc. Some of them you really have to use your imagination to smell the “apple” or “orange” but they do still smell good. A hardy perennial, it will pop up again next spring.
Wormwood (Artemesia) – This is a silvery, lacy plant that is really beautiful. The leaves smell like a potpourri that doesn’t have a floral base. I think it is used in potpourri actually. Anyway it has a very pleasant, clean scent. A hardy perennial that sometimes gets a little too big but I just don’t have the heart to whack it back.
Helichrysum– Another discovery this year. It has a beautiful scent like fresh straw and some sort of fruit. It has green leaves that look frosty and it trails in hanging baskets. It will have to come in for the winter, so we’ll see how that goes. Hope I can keep it alive till next spring. I think there is an essential oil from this plant too.
When you’re planning your garden, consider some of these great plants. Your garden might as well smell good as look good. Right?
When you eat an orange or tangerine or even a kumquat the seeds are a nuisance. But they can become beautiful plants.
The seeds are easy to germinate by just poking them about 1/2″ into potting mix in a pot and keeping them moist. After they sprout, just water every 4-6 days. They make beautiful house plants and as the little “tree” grows you can move it into larger pots. In the warmer seasons they will be happy on the deck or patio or even in the ground if you live in Zone 8 or higher. If you’re growing them inside they’ll need to be by a sunny window or at the very least, by some bright light bulbs.
Emerging from the ground, the sprouted seed quickly presents a stand of shiny, green, fragrant leaves a surprisingly sturdy, stem with every intention of becoming the hardwood trunk of an evergreen tree. Yet these seedlings can be pruned so that they remain at whatever sizes you want. Try several seedlings started in a larger pot to make a fuller planting.
Since citruses readily cross their species lines, (which have already been manually crossed and recrossed), the fruits are varied and many. So don’t plant a tangerine seed expecting to get tangerines. Maybe these should be called surprise plants. If all the conditions are right and the plant is happy and grows to maturity, then it will be fun to see what kind of fruit it will produce.
Have you ever grown plants that bees just couldn’t get enough of? At this time of year (Autumn) the Autumn Joy sedum is blooming and it is a very noisy plant because it is absolutely covered in honey bees. Funny that I don’t see wasp or bumble bees much, just honey bees. Oh, and Ladybugs love it too. Fortunately though, the bees are so engrossed in their bounty of nectar that they pay absolutely no attention to anyone around them. Really. I think you would have to reach out and crush one of them to get their attention. So don’t let the bees keep you from growing this beautiful plant.
Just the foliage on the sedum is really pretty so even if it didn’t bloom, I’d still have them in the garden. At this time of year there aren’t nearly as many flowers blooming and so the beautiful colors of Autumn Joy are so welcome. The bloom start out a sagey green and gradually turn a delicate pink. As the weather cools down the color deepens into, eventually, a beautiful pomegranate red. They will be one of the last flowers holding on when the snow comes.
How many bees can you count in these photos? (Click on photo to enlarge) I’m sure there are some there that you’ll miss because you’ll only be able to see their head or little backside. I think there were even some ladybugs somewhere.
A question came up about keeping racoons from coming into the carport.
I’d always thought racoons were a Southern problem but they are pretty pesky out here in the West. They will get up in cherry trees just before the fruit gets ripe and take a bite out of every cherry and throw them on the ground trying to find a ripe one. Not very smart animals I guess.That was when racoons, cute as they are, become enemy number 1. I mean, a whole cherry tree full of cherries ruined because of impatient coons.
When we lived in Tennessee we had the problem of them coming into the garage at night. When we had this problem it was because we were feeding our cats out there. The racoons can find the food and water and will come to it. I think they spread the word because the number of racoons kept growing. We moved the feeding station to inside the house and the coons quit coming.
Isn’t one of the greatest things about summer is having fresh, delicious tomatoes right our of your own garden? Well, here in the “Klondike” of the Rocky Mountains, we don’t get tomatoes till the very end of the summer and this year with our cold, wet spring we didn’t get them until September. We’d had a few cherry tomatoes get ripe but the big, slicing tomatoes took a very long time. That means, at least for us, there will probably be a freeze long before all of our tomatoes have ripened. That can be very frustrating. Fortunately there are some things you can do to keep from losing a lot of green tomatoes.
There are 3 tricks that I’ve heard of to save tomatoes, 2 of which we’ve tried and had success. The other we just recently learned of and are looking forward to trying this year.
If you have green tomatoes late into the season and you’re pretty sure they won’t have time to ripen before the cold hits them, you can bend the stalks over at the ground and it will trigger the tomatoes to go ahead and ripen.
Or if you have green tomatoes on the vine and freezing weather is imminent, you can carefully pull up the vines and hang them upside down in a protected area, like a garage. The tomatoes will ripen and won’t be wasted.
We’ve just heard of a way to save the plant for a head start in the spring. Cut the vines back and carefully lift the root ball. Place it in a container of sand and put it in a protected area that doesn’t freeze and doesn’t get too warm. Keep it moist but not wet. In the spring, when the ground has warmed up enough,just set it out in your garden. As I said, we haven’t tried this yet but will this fall. If anyone has tried this last trick we’d like to hear how it worked out for you.
If you live, like we do, where the growing season is so short you’ll do just about anything to extend your harvest.
I’d never heard of an Obedient Plant before moving to the west, but they’re kind of fun, especially for kids. The blooms are all around a central stem which is pretty sturdy. The amazing thing is that the blooms can all be moved around the stem and will stay wherever you put them. I’ve studied them and can’t figure out how they have such range. I’m sure that eventually they would weaken and probably break off, but I’ve seen them take a lot of commands and they obey.
Gardening is hard work and is so rewarding, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
These cosmos were grown from a $1.59 packet of seed.
Find out how to garden cheap at:
Garden structures are an important but pretty much overlooked element of a garden. They give support and background to the growing part of the garden. Some of the most useful and beautiful hardscapes would be things like decks, arbors, stone walls, fencing, paved pathways, steps, trellises, gazebos, or sheds and potting areas. There are so many possibilities but a lot depends on your needs and the space you have available to you.
We have a relatively small yard with less than 1/4 acre but we have a large grape arbor (50’x10′) and a large deck (33’x16′) with a pergola over a portion of it. Having a deck gives you a really good place to have potted trees and flowers. Besides those we have a 6′ privacy fence in the back yard and a picket fence in the front and side yards. There is a rose arbor over one of the entrances in the picket fence and a paved sidewalk all the way around the house as well as winding paths all through the garden. All of these things, besides being so useful, add interest to the yard and make the plants look better.
Ideally, the hardscapes should go in before the garden is planted but that isn’t always possible. The important thing is not to damage or disturb plants too much in putting them in, but it’s never really too late. Plants can be moved if needed (I’ve sure moved a lot of them), if done carefully and at the right time.
This is a good time of year for adding things like arbors and decks because the cost of lumber usually goes down in the autumn and builders aren’t quite so busy and may welcome the business.
These are some of the pictures of the structures in our garden. Even though our yard is small, we made room for them because we thought they would improve our garden.
Since we’ve kept beehives before, I know that bees try to make it back to the hive before it gets dark. I’ve heard that some don’t make it and have to find a place to take refuge till the next day. Other bees, not honey bees, must have a place they gather to at night. Bumble bees, those big yellow and black ones, like to curl up in flowers (especially zinnias), or at least the ones who don’t make it home for the night.
When I’m cutting flowers to bring in, I like to cut them early in the morning so they’ll stay fresh longer. I’ve learned that I’d better check the flower really well when I’m cutting because many of them are serving as motels to bumble bees. I’ve never seen any other kind of bee sleeping in any of my flowers but bumble bees are a common sight, and let me say too that they are pretty late sleepers, like till 10:00 if it’s cool out.
So, watch what you’re pickin’.
Did you know that many of the flowers in your yard can be cut now and bundled loosely and hung upside down to dry. They will make beautiful arrangements for the winter…or anytime.
It works well with a lot of different kinds of flowers but I have had success with roses, hydrangeas, yarrow and lavender. Try what you have and see how they do.
Below is a picture of the front of the book the picture was taken from.
The question recently came up of how to rid the garden of cats.
Cats can be such a nuisance in the garden, especially a newly planted one, which probably looks like a giant litter box to them. I’ve tried several things from planting upright stakes and stringing twine back and forth over the garden to spreading moth balls (which I hate more than the cats in the garden) but the thing that has seemed to have the best success are motion detectors near the garden that emit a high pitch annoying sound that animals can hear and we can’t.
We haven’t seen any cat tracks or digging going on since we installed those 3 months ago.
Buying bare-root rose bushes and fruit trees is a lot less expensive than buying them already potted up. In many cases, you get a better plant when you buy bare-root.
This is an article that will help with planting bare-root rose bushes and fruit trees.
You can find it at:
Rhubarb is a beautiful vigorous plant that comes up faithfully every spring and gets bigger and bigger each year. It will send up a huge stalk with a not very pretty bloom on it but you shouldn’t let Rhubarb bloom. Cut back the blossom stalks to the ground to keep the plant vigorous and producing. Also, the leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid and are considered toxic. So when you cut the stalk to eat be sure to cut the leaf off immediately since the poison will travel into the stalk once cut. Actually the leaves can be simmered in hot water to make an insecticide.
The stalks are delicious in pies and you can dip the raw stalks in sugar and eat like celery. This is really good and kids love it. It is high in Vitamin C and Calcium.
Rhubarb is one of the most carefree plants to grow. It does best where the winter temperature goes below 40′ and the summer highs average around 75-80. Don’t harvest any stalks the first year and only a few the second year. But after that you can harvest up to 1/2 the plant. Stop harvesting though when the stalks become thinner because it means the roots are getting weaker.
Since we really enjoy more tropical settings than we are able to have where we live, it’s fun to use some plants that look tropical, like the rhubarb with its big, leathery leaves. We are even trying to grow some palm trees, but I think that is pretty optimistic of us. Maybe some of them will make it though, if we can have a few milder winters until they can get established.