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Jan. 28 - Filled the bird feeders and shoveled snow. Lots and lots of snow.
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Posts Tagged ‘composting’

Black Gold For Only $30 a Ton

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Mountain of rich, black mulch

Even though we have beautiful, black loamy soil, each Spring we like to add a layer of black mulch.

The mulch we use is produced by our town by composting the leaf and limbs that are taken to the land fill. I think the “black gold” we buy is about 4-5 years old. It is so rich and so it not only keeps the weeds down and the roots cool and moist, but it also adds nutrients back into the soil. It will continue to break down over the year and next year we’ll add another layer. The plants respond very well to it and it makes the garden look much nicer too.

The town I lived in in Tennessee did about the same thing but on a much smaller scale. The mulch there was full of debris and not quite as composted, but at least it was free. All you had to do was drive up and start shoveling it into your truck or trailer. Here, we may have to pay $30 a ton, but they load it for you.

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Hosta, Lamium and Forget-Me-Not in the new black mulch.

One little hint, don’t ever go right after a good rain. The mulch will be much heavier and much more expensive.

A Cottage Garden May Be Just Right For You…But Don’t Plan a Cottage Garden

If you like a lot of different kinds of plants…

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Asian Lilies, Delphiniums and Hollyhocks

If you like a lot of flowers blooming…

If you don’t want to worry about strict, formal lines and forms…

If you want your garden to feel natural, like it all happened on its own…

If you like using vintage pieces in your garden…

If you like the idea of plants seeding themselves or multiplying on their own…

If you want a garden that make you want to just hang out and relax in…

Maybe a Cottage Garden is just for you.

A cottage garden is loosely planned, and heavily planted. I think that most gardeners are a lot like me when it comes to plants. It seems that I’m a plant-aholic. I can’t seem to ever have too many. Even when I’m sure that I’ve maxed out the space available, I can always squeeze in one more specimen I’ve found.

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2011 - perennial bed beside deck

Plants that bloom, smell good and re-seed or spread will eventually find a way into my garden. The great thing about having such a variety of plants is that most of them bloom, but not at the same time. So I have something blooming somewhere all during the growing season. If you have all the same plants then the blooms are all done with at the same time.

I did lay out a plan of the yard but only loosely designated a certain area for “flower bed” or “berry patch”. I paid attention to the height of the plants, so they would all fit together nicely, and to the sun and water requirements. It’s also a good idea to pay attention to the bloom time but I didn’t really do that, and most of the time I was lucky. The blooms for any season, spring through fall, are spread around the whole yard pretty evenly.

If you follow the planting guides on most seed packets or plant instructions, your garden will look good eventually. While the plants are growing and reaching their full potential, there can be a lot of empty space to fill. It can either be filled with annuals for a year or two…or three, or with mulch. I like to plant things much closer than the instructions say because I like a very full garden. If the plants get a little crowded, it’s okay. If they ever get too crowded, I divide and move some or share with friends.

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Loosestrife and roses by garden gate

I like blooms. I love having flowers in the house, so I plant plenty so that I can cut plenty to use and to share. Try some of the cottage garden favorites like hollyhocks, foxglove, phlox, daisies, roses (of course), peonies or lilies.

It doesn’t take a lot of room to have a cottage garden either. A tiny plot by the back door will do. How about a 3′ border down the side of your lawn? I’d rather have the 3′ lawn and the rest in flowers, but that’s just me.

Mix in some vegetable plants along the way. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, squash and many other beautiful vegetable plants will fit right into a cottage garden.

Formal gardens are pretty but they don’t draw me in and make me feel as happy as I feel when I’m in my (slightly messy) cottage garden.

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Agastache, Sedum, Phlox, Roses and Rhubarb

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Phlox, Echinacea or purple coneflower by birdbath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We Are Growing Bamboo in Our Garden – Are We Crazy?

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Using bamboo in the landscape

My husband and I both love bamboo, it is so tropical looking and beautiful. Last year we started talking about bamboo and the idea of trying to grow it in our climate. I didn’t think that we could because of our harsh winters. With some research though, I was happy to see that there are some kinds of bamboo that will grow here.

I don’t claim to be an expert on bamboo, but I have done some research on it and I’m just sharing with you some of the things that I’ve found out about it. Besides being beautiful, bamboo is really amazing. It is fast growing, yet easy to control if you understand how it grows (more on that later), is an unusual plant that can provide a privacy screen or a focal point in your landscape.

Since bamboo is a grass, it needs high nitrogen fertilizers, just like you lawn. It needs sunshine and a constant supply of moisture. It shouldn’t be allowed to dry out but it can’t grow in standing water either. The soil should be well drained and rich in organic matter. Mulching helps to keep the moisture in and the weeds down so there will be not competition for the roots.

Not all bamboo is alike, it comes in a variety of colors and growth patterns. It can grow 6′ tall, 15′ or 25′. Some can get 70′ feet tall in the right environment, but in the home garden, most will probably be less tall than their maximum height.

There are basically two kinds of bamboo, clumping and running. The beautiful, exotic bamboo shown here, are all running types of bamboo. The clumping bamboo won’t get big and gorgeous like these, it has a shrubby, weedy look to me.

Bamboo has a bad reputation for being very invasive and aggressive. It takes a few years to get established but when it does, it can be very fast growing (up, as well as out). As I understand it, the plant only sends up shoots for a couple of months in the spring. After that time, no more shoots will come up till the next spring. When the shoots come up outside the area you want the bamboo to grow, just let them get a few inches to a foot tall and then just kick them over. They are very tender during this time and easily removed. What’s more, another shoot won’t come up in that spot. Also, all bamboo are edible and so the shoots that are kicked over can be eaten (especially good in oriental cooking).

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Beautiful gray bamboo in bamboo forest in China

You can also keep the area mowed (or use a weed eater) to keep the shoots from growing.

A barrier can be put down around the area as well. Since bamboo roots are pretty shallow, only going to about 12″-15″, a 2′ barrier would prevent the spread of the roots and shoots. Remember, this is a plant, not a monster that can’t be controlled.

We found a great place to get our bamboo, with very reasonable prices and a wide choices of plants. We actually went there ourselves and toured the extensive bamboo gardens. I fell in love with bamboo and I can’t wait to have ours growing tall and magnificent in our garden.

The bamboo nursery we found is called Steve Ray’s Bamboo Garden and is in Alabama.

It is found online at: http://www.thebamboogardens.com/

The types of bamboo we picked out for our garden are all hardy in our zone. Click on the “Zone Map” button above to see the temperatures for your zone. We chose Phyllostachys aureosulcata – Yellow Groove Bamboo with is hardy to -10′; P. humilis – which is hardy to 0′ and p. nigra “Henon” – Giant Gray Bamboo, hardy to 0′. This one the stalks can get 4″ thick. Can’t wait to see that.

Just thought you might like to consider something new for your garden and landscape.

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Unusual joints in bamboo stalks.

 

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Bamboo, an unusual and beautiful landscape plant

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by Eliza Osborn

Growing Your Own Food Is Easy With a Vegetable Garden

 

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Raised vegetable bed ready for planting

Vegetable gardens are popping up all over the place. Next summer, notice how many people are carving out a little portion of their yard to start a garden to grow some of their own food. I remember back in the 40’s and 50’s small kitchen gardens were the norm, along with a few fruit trees.

It really doesn’t take much space to grow a few vegetables, vegetables that tastes so much better than anything you can buy in the store. The good news is that it doesn’t take a lot of know how either. A little research on the things you want to grow, and you will be a gardener before you know it. If you happen to live where there really is no room for a garden, then grow some things in containers. The containers don’t have to be fancy, they just have to be big enough that the roots will have plenty of room and big enough that there is plenty of soil so that it doesn’t need watering every hour. Good drainage is a must. Boards nailed together to make grow boxes, or barrels cut in half and holes drilled in the bottom will work. See this page for some ideas of some vegetables to grow in containers:  http://wp.me/P1OXDF-1bc

Growing your own vegetables can be a fun family project. Let the kids choose vegetables to plant and help them to learn how to take care of their own plants. I noticed that my children ate vegetables out of the garden so much better than ones from the freezer. I think it was because they had part in planting, weeding, watering and harvesting them.

Times are tough for a lot of families right  now and buying a few packets of seeds might be a really good investment. As the winter months drag on and we plan for the spring and summer, consider giving the vegetable garden a shot.

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Raised beds in in front of grape vines on fence in August

Even though I’ve been gardening for so many years, it still amazes me that we can take a little seed, put it in the dirt, and it will make food for us. Isn’t that just amazing?

 

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Fresh Grown Vegetables

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bamboo of Las Vegas

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Beautiful Bamboo and Bromeliads in Las Vegas

 

After seeing the gorgeous bamboo growing at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, I’m getting so excited for spring to get here to see if the bamboo we planted in our garden is going to survive our winters (we live in zone 6) and come up like it’s supposed to.

We planted 4 large clumps (3 different kind) and they are the hardiest of the non-clumping bamboo, so we have our fingers crossed that one day the bamboo growing in our yard will look as magnificent as what we’re seeing here in Las Vegas.They look like they could be the same species as the ones we’ve planted. (See post http://wp.me/p1OXDF-pC)

I talked before about the 4 large clumps we brought back (in our SUV) all the way from Alabama. The nursery we bought from  is found online at: http://www.thebamboogardens.com/  I don’t think we’ll give up though, if it happens to not come up. We did get it planted a little late in the season and we would try again, maybe planting it earlier to give the roots more time to become established before the winter cold set in.

You see, we love bamboo, and we’re determined to have some in our garden. I’m sure these photos explain the allure.

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Bamboo in Las Vegas

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Las Vegas bamboo in the Bellagio Atrium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bamboo and oranges growing in Las Vegas at the Bellagio

 

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Bamboo in the atrium of the Bellagio in Las Vegas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Herbs In The Garden

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Agastache - Anyse-hyssop

I grow at least 31 different herbs, but I don’t have an “herb garden”. Herbs are usually very hardy plants, that also happen to be edible, medicinal or aromatic…maybe even all three. Most of them are beautiful, foliage and flowers. They blend well with other, more ornamental, plants. So I enjoy mixing them in throughout all of my flower beds. I do keep the culinary herbs a little closer though, like right off the deck, close to the kitchen. I’ve had an “herb garden” before, and it can be very handy  to just run out and grab a handful of whatever you need. Now, though, I’ve scattered other perennials among them and they are still very handy.

Some herbs can get quite large and take up a lot of space, like the hyssop or the lemon balm, while others are small and compact, like the oregano and  thyme, and just kind of creep along among other plants.

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Lavendar

Sometimes it might seem like herbs are a little mysterious or maybe difficult to grow. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whether you plant seeds (which I do a lot) or plant seedlings, you will probably have great success. Some herbs are so easy to grow that you might wish you weren’t so successful. Any of the mints will spread like wildfire and need to either be grown only in containers or in restricted areas. I love mint, especially chocolate mint, but I’ve learned the hard way that it can easily become a weed that smells very good when you’re pulling great handfuls of it out of your flower beds.

If you have well drained soil, plenty of sun and a little moisture, you can grow just about any herb you’d like. Most of them don’t even need especially fertile soil. Mulching helps keep the weeds down and will eventually break down to enrich the soil. If you can control the weeds early on, then soon the mature, spreading plants will choke them out naturally. Most herbs are perennial, meaning they’ll come back year after year.

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Dill

Many of the culinary herbs do well with pinching back, or pruning, so using them is a plus. Never remove more than 1/3 of the plant at a time though. As you pinch them back, they will become fuller and more attractive.

Cooking with herbs is a lot of fun. Be experimental and try different combinations. Have  you ever had potato salad made with fresh thyme, oregano and chives? Delicious.

I  grow a lot of aromatic herbs too (See post: The Aromatic Garden http://wp.me/p1OXDF-8d) just because I love them.  See also Ezine Article: http://ezinearticles.com/?8-Great-Plants-For-an-Aromatic-Garden&id=6582569

Some of my favorite culinary herbs are:

  • Tarragon – slight licorice flavor – used for cooking, vinegars and teas
  • Salad Burnet – cucumber flavor – used in salads
  • Chives – mild onion flavor – used in cooking and as garnish
  • Oregano – used in cooking
  • Sage – used in cooking
  • Basil – used in cooking and condiments
  • Thyme – used in cooking
  • Marjoram – used in cooking
  • Parsley – used in cooking and as garnish
  • Lemon Thyme – used in cooking

Some of my favorite aromatic herbs are:

  • Scented Pelargoniums – Lemon/Rose, Rose, Coconut, Green Apple, Lemon/Lime
  • Agastache Anise Hyssop – hard to describe, heavenly scent
  • Lavender – everybody knows what Lavender smells like…right?
  • Mint – also used for culinary by some – Chocolate Mint, Spearmint, Peppermint, Pineapple Mint, etc.
  • Plectranthus – hard to describe smell that I love (kind of like antique wood)
  • Artemesia – nice, clean smell
  • Helichrysum – fresh, straw-like smell

This winter, when  you’re planning your garden for next spring, think about incorporating some herbs in with the perennials or even with the vegetables. A whole new world will be opened to  you.

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Spearmint

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Purple Sage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Feverfew and roses

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Thyme

Can I Compost?

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Compost material - household waste

Composting….who does it and why?

I know who compost. Gardeners do, that’s who. To a gardener, compost is black gold. Compost is used to enrich poor soil, to add organic matter to soil that will continue to break down and become black loam. It will continue to enrich the soil and nourish plants. Compost tea is the best tonic for your plants and about the best liquid fertilizer you can use. Compost is also used to mulch around plants, to keep weeds from growing, to keep the roots of plants cool, to hold in moisture and to, again, nourish the plant. It is possible to buy compost from garden centers, but if you need a lot of compost, like we do, then you’d better have some of the yellow gold to buy that black gold.

On the other hand, making your own compost is relatively inexpensive, even free, and it’s pretty easy to make. Most of what you need to create your own compost is available in great quantities, grass clippings, trimmings from the garden, dead leaves, house hold vegetable and fruit scraps and if you are really lucky, farm animal manure. (Just so you know, cow manure is better than horse manure, because they have more stomachs to break down their food, and there aren’t as many surviving seeds to spread

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Partially composted material

around in your garden. At least that is what I’ve been told)

For those who are into recycling, this is a perfect way to recycle these wasted products, instead of taking up space in our landfills. Actually a word about that…Cities and towns are getting smarter about that as well, and many are composting the plant material picked up by their crews, and either using it in city parks etc. or selling it back to the public to use in their yards and gardens. We are fortunate enough to live where that is being done, and the price isn’t too bad. We hadn’t yet made enough compost for our yard, so last spring we bought quite a bit from the city.

Compost projects don’t have to be huge though, you can start small and still get a lot of compost. Since we took up almost all of our lawn and planted the entire yard (1/4 acre) in fruit trees, perennial and herb beds and raised beds for vegetables, we really needed a lot of compost. We didn’t have enough grass clippings (remember, we took up almost all of our lawn) so when we would see landscape workers, mowers etc. filling up a truck with grass clippings, we would just ask them to dump the load in our yard. This not only got us a great supply of beautiful green clippings, but it also saved them a trip to the dump. Leaves, raked and bagged and left on the curb for the city to pick up, are an important ingredient in compost.

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Finished compost - Black Gold

I’ll write more in depth about composting later, but the important thing to think about is…can you do it? Are you up for gathering the organic materials you need, for turning the heap occasionally and spraying it with water if it dries out?

If you do compost, then you are a gardener, because composters are gardeners.

 

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Fern Facts – Houseplants or Garden Specimens

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Fern frond - art in nature

Even though ferns seem like such light and delicate plants, they can be pretty tough and grow in some pretty harsh climates. I’ve always loved ferns because I think they add such an airy feel to the garden and for the longest time, they were the only houseplants that I had. There are a few things to understand about ferns that will make growing them much easier and more successful, whether the fern is in our home or garden.

I’ve found that one of the most forgiving ferns, especially in the garden

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Asparagus Fern brought in for the winter

and in hanging baskets outside, is the asparagus fern. It has tiny needles and resembles the asparagus plant. Its fronds will cascade down like a green waterfall and it is perennial in warmer climates, at least it was for me in zone 8. Here in zone 6 I do bring them inside for the winter though. The best qualities of this fern is how drought and sunlight tolerant it is. Most ferns, especially those in hanging baskets, will suffer and shed leaves if even a hint of drought is detected, but the asparagus

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Asparagus ferns under palm trees

fern doesn’t seem to notice. Under our grape arbor, because the grape vines haven’t yet completely covered the top, some of the hanging baskets get quite a bit of sun during the day, but they do just as well as the ones in almost total shade. I’ve also used it (in zone 8 ) as a ground cover under palm trees and it was gorgeous. So if you want to grow ferns, the kind of fern you choose can be important.

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Asparagus fern as houseplant

The following is taken from the Smithsonian Gardens site and is well worth checking out for more information. It is found at: http://gardens.si.edu/horticulture/res_ed/fctsht/fern.html

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT GROWING FERNS

The following is a partial list of likes and dislikes of most ferns (indoor and outdoor).

DISLIKES

Strong Sunlight

High Winds

Dryness at Root-zone

LIKES

Protection from high winds

Enough space to grow to mature size

Undisturbed root environment

Filtered sun/shade

 

FERNS AS CONTAINER PLANTS

Many people are familiar with the use of ferns as indoor houseplants; you can even buy them in the grocery store! Some ferns will thrive as houseplants if their environmental requirements are satisfied.

LIGHT: Indoor ferns need bright light. Direct sun would scorch the leaves; however, a southern exposure, with a light curtain or that is shaded by an outdoor tree should provide sufficient light during the winter months. During the summer months this light would be too harsh for the ferns, so we suggest moving them to a northern or eastern location that receives unfiltered light (free of tree branches or curtains).

WATER & HUMIDITY: Container ferns should be watered when the soil surface feels dry to the touch. Allow water to run freely from the bottom of the container but do not allow the pot to sit in standing water.

As one would expect, growing ferns indoors requires extra effort on the part of the grower to provide a humid environment. Home growers often use the following techniques:

Grouping ferns together

Setting containers on gravel-filled trays filled with water

Misting ferns

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Ferns in the landscape or garden

FERNS IN THE LANDSCAPE

Most wild ferns prefer a moist woodland habitat with high humidity. However, there are ferns suited for all environments from rock cliffs to swampy bogs. Through research you can find the right fern for your landscape.

ENVIRONMENT and CULTURE: Ferns thrive in open, shaded areas—in the filtered light found under a canopy of mature trees. The North side of the house works equally as well. In areas that experience cold, wet winters, the best time for planting is in the springtime. Because ferns are sensitive to excess fertilizers, spreading slow-release fertilizer or well-rotted organic matter is recommended. Ferns prefer slightly acidic soils with a high percentage of humus which aids in water retention and proper drainage.

PESTS and CONTROL: Ferns are sensitive to insecticides; therefore, it is better to attack pest problems in non-toxic ways to insure healthy plants. Slugs and snails are a fern’s worst enemy in the garden. To prevent slug and snail damage try some of the following tactics:

· Scatter shallow dishes of beer throughout the garden.

· Use overturned grapefruit shells.

· Remove debris that could harbor pests and diseases.

TIPS FOR FERN CARE IN THE GARDEN

1. Keep the rhizome/crown above or at surface level.

2. Do not damage crowns – this is where the fronds and roots develop.

3. Do not use rakes or hoes around fern plantings.

4. Create a path between ferns so that you do not damage fern crowns by walking on them.

5. Mulch with fine pine bark, pine needles, or compost – apply a new layer every year.

 

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Rhubarb Relocated…Finally

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Rhubarb plant, trimmed back and transplanted.

Earlier I wrote about some rhubarb growing in the wrong place in the yard. There were two, side by side, and when they were planted, the bed was plenty roomy enough. But as I begin to add more and more roses and herbs, the bed shrunk and the rhubarb just kept on growing….and growing. It was shading everything around it with those beautiful, huge, tropical looking leaves.
I knew I had to move it but I wanted to wait until the weather had cooled off a lot. As the plant begins to go dormant, the transplant won’t be as shocking for it. At least that’s the plan. So on a very cold day last week, I found a new, very sunny, spacious place at the end of one of the raised vegetable beds, and dug two holes deep enough to hold each of the plants. The plants that had loomed so large in the rose/herb bed seemed so small, with all but the new center leaves trimmed off.
I got it planted and mulched and watered. So now I have to wait until spring to see if we’ll still have those 2 pretty rhubarb plants to enjoy. If so, I will mulch them, fertilize them and watch them grow huge.

Two rhubarb plants transplanted Nov.,2011

 

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Rhubarb in early July, before it outgrew its bed.

 

 

 

 

Mulch For Winter Protection With Organic Mulches

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Raised bed with organic mulch, ready for planting

Mulch is material that is spread over the top of the soil. There are many different kinds of mulch and there are a lot of  good reasons to use mulch. In the summer, the mulch holds the moisture in and the plants have a steady supply of moisture instead of drying out and then being heavily watered. It keeps the roots cool, which is really important for some plants. Mulch keeps weeds from growing and can really cut down on the amount of time spent weeding. Mulch makes the garden look a lot better and kind of anchors the garden. As the mulch breaks down it nourishes the soil and begins to create more soil with organic matter.

In the winter, mulching the plants protects the roots from the freezing and thawing that occurs, which heaves the roots up and can expose them to even more cold and drying. It acts as an insulator, keeping the freezing air out and the warmth of the soil in.

As I’ve said, there are many kinds of materials used for mulches, some great for the garden and some not so good.  One of the ones that isn’t so good is shredded rubber, because it doesn’t break down and contributes nothing to the soil.

On the other hand, organic mulches, such as shredded leaves, composted manure, fine wood chips (not sawdust), alfalfa hay, finely shredded bark, shredded newspaper, straw etc., not only  offer all of the benefits, but as it breaks down, it enriches the soil and feeds the roots of the plants.

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Raised beds in in front of grape vines on fence in August

It takes a little time and effort to put down a good thick layer of mulch around the plants, but compared to the time you would have spent weeding, it is well worth it. Your plants will be so much healthier and robust.

If you mulch under you vegetables and fruit, then the fruits and vegetables that come in contact with the ground won’t be as likely to get ruined.

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Growing Bamboo In Your Garden – Winter Protection For Bamboo

Bamboo in our garden.

We had gone to the south last spring to visit family and had visited a bamboo farm. We had liked the idea of growing bamboo in our garden but 2 things made us hesitate. One was the reputation of bamboo to be so invasive and one reason was the climate we live in (zone 6) and the hardiness of the bamboo.
We did find out that some bamboo can be quite hardy and we were able to get 4 clumps of the hardiest. Even so, I’m mulching it really well this winter in hopes of it surviving. We were going to have temps in the mid 20’s so I just piled fall leaves around the roots. Before the real winter chill sets in though, I’ll mulch it with some much better mulch, to give it as much protection as possible.
The spreading problem isn’t one we know about yet, but since the shoots are so easily stopped, we are hoping there won’t be a problem. Besides, the shoots are edible.
Like a lot of perennials, bamboo can take 2-3 years before it really begins to grow. There is a lot of growth in the roots during this time though.
Next spring it will be interesting to see what happens. I’m hoping for at least some shoots coming up.
I’ll post the progress here.

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For A Beautiful Lawn Next Summer – Take Care Of It In The Fall

Have you cleared away the debris from the perennial flower beds and mulched them for next year? Have you removed all the spent annuals and prepared the bed for planting next spring and summer? Have you been raking the leaves and composting them? Have you dug your tender tubers and stored them away? Have you made preparations to bring in all your tender potted plants? Have you mulched the roses and other shrubs that need it? Have you…..on, and on, and on.

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No, this isn't our lawn, but it looks like a good place for an orchard.

In all of this fall activity, it’s easy to overlook putting the lawn to bed. Are you so relieved that you won’t have to mow any more for a few months, that you forgot to fertilize, to feed those roots for the winter dormancy, so that you will have a beautiful, healthy,lush lawn next summer?

What about the thatch build up? If your lawn is very thick and has a build up of thatch choking it, fall is a good time to remove that. If you have weeds growing in the lawn, fall is the best time to remove them because they, too, are putting down  roots for next summers growth. They will be much easier to remove this fall, than next summer, when they’ve gotten bigger, and more established.

When the leaves have finally quit falling, remove all of them from your lawn. The leaves get wet and slimy in the winter and can cause problems for the grass beneath them. Cut your grass to about 2″ for the winter. At that height the roots will have some protection.

If you have snow, like we do, take care not to let the salt (or the salt run-off) from the sidewalks and driveways get on the grass, as it will kill it.

After you’ve done all of this, you can then truly relax, knowing you’ll have a beautiful lawn next year… that you’ll get to mow every week.

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Gather Those Fallen Leaves and Turn Them Into Black Gold – Compost

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Autumn leaves can create organic soil

All across the country leaves are coming down. They are so beautiful and create such an atmosphere of Autumn. But there is great potential in those fallen leaves, and you shouldn’t let them go to waste. Even though there is a lot of volume when they are raked up, when they are shredded (as when run over with a lawn mower) the volume is greatly reduced.

If you don’t have a compost pile to add them to, just setting them aside and letting them break down over the winter will give you some rich matter to add to your garden next spring. If they are bagged up, even better, as the moisture trapped in the bag will help them to break down faster.

If your area is like ours, and there are bags of leaves sitting out by the curb waiting for pick-up, then you really are in luck. Gathering up the free gifts of leaves is a smart thing to do, that is, unless you have huge amounts of leaves in your own yard.

Improving the soil is the best way to insure a healthy and productive garden. Whether you’re growing vegetables or growing flowers or whatever you grow, it will grow better with better soil, with organic soil. So the more organic material you can add to your garden, the healthier the plants will be. Healthy plants aren’t as susceptible to disease or insect attacks.

Healthy plants = happy gardener.

 

Putting the Garden to Bed

walnut and crabapple

Crabapple and Black Walnut Trees in Front Yard 2009

Soon the leaves will be turning some beautiful colors, and don’t you know, those leaves WILL come down. I’ve always loved the look of the colorful leaves all over the yard but they soon turn brown and they won’t stay dry and crispy. During the winter, whether from snow or rain, they’ll get wet and slimy, and pretty much stay wet. They’ll become a slippery, sludgy mess. So it’s important to remove them from walkways and steps to prevent accidents.The leaves should also be removed from the lawn, as well as flower and vegetable beds. There are plants that need mulching for protection during the winter, but it’s better to use mulch or pine needles. Using straw can cause problems because of the possible grains of wheat etc, it could contain, which could attract mice to your garden. The mice would then began to feed on the stems of plants, such as roses.

The leaves can be shredded and added to the compost pile. We even gather up bags of leaves left at the curbs for the city to pick up, to add to our compost.

Cut down perennials that have finished blooming. Annuals and vegetables should be pulled up when they’re spent. If not diseased, tossed all of these clippings and spent plants into the compost. Some plants can be left, if they add interest to the winter garden or if they have seed heads that can feed the birds.

Autumn is a good time to divide perennials, which can then be planted in other areas of the yard or shared with friends. It’s also time to dig up tender bulbs, like Tuberous Begonias and Dahlias (wait till frost has turned the leaves black), and store in a cool, dark place.

To strengthen roots through the winter, apply bonemeal to perennial beds and around shrubs and trees.

Tidying up the garden not only makes the yard/garden look better through the winter, but spring gardening will be so much easier and more enjoyable. If you’ve planted spring bulbs, with cleaned out flower beds, you’ll have something wonderful to anticipate and look forward to.

 

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by Eliza Osborn

Ya Gotta Love Roses

apricot candy rose in bloom

Apricot Candy Hybrid Tea rose (click to enlarge)

Roses have been stuck with a bad (undeserved) reputation for being difficult or hard to grow. I think that’s a bunch of hooey!

Now, in some climates (too humid or too hot) they can be a challenge, but even in those areas there are roses that can take the heat and/or the humidity. If you give them what they need, lots of sunshine, well drained soil, good air circulation, plenty of food and water, you’ll be rewarded a 100 times over with beautiful plants that give you gorgeous, sweet smelling flowers. Flowers to enjoy in the yard or in bouquets inside, or to share with friends and family.

I know I’m partial to roses, but I’m not blind to their little faults, like thorns and the need to be pruned occasionally. If you use the right gloves (deerskin) the thorns are not a problem. Pruning basics are easy and unless you cut the plant down to the ground, it’s hard to really do much damage.

Like other perennials, roses can be planted now, whether bare-root (see planting guide at: http://ezinearticles.com/?5-Mistakes-Homeowners-Usually-Make-When-Planting-Bare-Root-Roses-and-Fruit-Trees&id=6546666) or potted, they will need protection with a little mulch this winter. Then in the spring they’ll have a head start and will be beautiful, flower producing plants that first spring and summer.

growing roses with liquid fertilizer

Graham Thomas shrub rose

When buying roses, potted or bare-root, just know that the potted ones were bare-root earlier in the year and some of the roots  were probably removed so that it could fit into the pot. So the potted ones may look better but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll perform better in the ground. The main advantage of the potted roses is being able to see the foliage ad possibly  the blooms. Look for sturdy plants with 3 good (1/2″-3/4″) stems.

growing roses with liquid fertilizers

Queen Elizabeth (grandiflora) rose bud

Do a little research to know what kind of rose you’re looking for, hybrid teas – one bloom per stem, floribunda or grandiflora – multiple blooms per stem, or climbing roses to go up over an arbor or column, just to name a few. There’s so many to choose from and that is a lot of the fun, looking at all the different roses and picturing where you’ll put them in your yard.

using liquid fertilizers to grow roses

Medallion rose

I have favorites, some because of their color, some their perfume and some because of the way they grow. You’ll want to consider all of these traits when choosing your roses.

queen elizabeth roses in bloom in garden

Queen Elizabeth roses and peach trees.

Don’t be intimidated by what you may have heard about growing roses. At least give them a try and see if you don’t fall in love with them too.

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Brandy Rose rose in bud

 

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Brandy Rose rose as it opens

 

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Brandy Rose rose fully open now.

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by Eliza Osborn

Pineapple Tops

 

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Pineapple top with roots to grow in garden.

You can root and grow the spiky tops that come on pineapples. Grasp the top firmly and just twist it off the pineapple. Sit it in a shallow glass filled with warm (not hot) water and put in a sunny place (not direct sun). Change the water every day or two and soon roots will began to grow. When there are plenty of roots just plant it in a garden pot that has a drainage hole in the bottom and is filled with a potting mix. Keep the soil moist but not wet and the pineapple will grow. When it’s warm it can be outside but must come in from the cold.

If you live in zone 8 or higher you can just plant it in the ground. If you have cold nights you might need to mulch it for protection. The plant will get pretty good size and in the second year will produce a long stem with a pineapple on it. I’ve done it twice and in both cases the pineapple was smaller, a bit larger than a large grapefruit, and very sweet.

This might be something that kids would enjoy trying. Good luck.

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Pineapple grown in garden, from rooting pineapple top.

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by Eliza Osborn

So, You Want To Plant a Fruit Tree…Learn When To Plant & How To Use In Your Landscape Garden

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Early Elberta Peaches getting ripe...finally.

The perfect garden, as we all know, was the Garden of Eden. In that garden were fruit trees. The fruit trees in our garden are a major part of the garden, adding beauty, shade and yes, fruit.

Since this is the perfect time of year to plant trees, shrubs and perennials, I thought I’d mention a little about planting fruit trees. I’ll be drawing on information I’ve gathered from my Master Gardening course, numerous online sites as well as my own experience. It’s all pretty basic but there are a few really important tips that might help insure success.

What Kind of Fruit to Grow?

Where you live determines what you’ll be able to grow. Different fruits have different requirements and so the zone you live in matters. A really good online zonal map can be found at:http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ushzmap.html (Just click on the map to zoom in).

Most fruits (except citrus) require a certain number of hours of freezing temperatures to bear. So be sure and check to see what zones the fruit you want to grow will tolerate.

Where Will You Plant ?

As homeowners we are pretty limited on where we can plant trees in our yard. Even though we may not have many choices, this is still a very important factor in the success of the tree. The size and quality of the fruit and the longevity of the tree depend on it.

Fruit trees need sun, lots and lots of it. That means full sun for most of the day. The more shade they’re in the more spindly they’ll grow and the less they’ll produce. They will be more vulnerable to disease and pests as well. So if you really want to grow your own fruit (and who doesn’t?) and the only spot you can plant your tree is shaded by a larger tree, unless it is a prized specimen tree, you might consider removing the larger tree. We did. We had a very large tree that shaded the whole south side of our front garden. We had it removed and in this area we now have 4 apricot trees and 2 aprium trees (an apricot/plum mix seen in the photo below).

It may be hard to part with an old established tree but ask yourself, “Does it give me beautiful, fragrant blooms in the spring?”, “Does it give me food to enjoy and share?”. Also, fruiting trees can increase the value of your property.

If you live where winters are a little harsh, say zone 6 and lower, you have to think about air drainage. Didn’t know that air drained? Cold air flows down and seeks the lowest level so if possible plant on a slope so that the cold air can drain off. Also, if you have a choice, plant on a northeast slope and the tree will stay dormant longer and won’t bloom too early and then get hit with a freeze, which means no peaches or apricots that year. So, there are some things to consider when deciding where to plant.

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Autumn Star Peaches on Tree in September

Choosing Your Tree or Trees

You can buy from a local nursery or from one of the online nurseries. I’ve done both and have been very happy with both.

Fruit trees come either potted or bare root (which means they are field grown and then dug up and packed in moist material and wrapped tightly to prevent drying out). The potted trees look better when you buy them but in my experience, they don’t do nearly as well as the bare root trees. Sometimes the potted ones have been grown in the pot too long and has become root-bound and that means heavy root pruning before planting. When the roots have been pruned the top also needs to be pruned to create balance. The cropped roots wouldn’t be able to sustain the top growth.

Bigger isn’t always better, especially when it comes to fruit trees. The small-medium trees do so much better, have a better shape and began to bear fruit sooner. Ideally peaches, apricots, plums and cherries (pitted fruit) trees should be 2′ – 4′ with no branching. Any branches should be removed at planting. Pear and apple trees can be taller, 4′ – 6′, with no side branches.

Buying from reputable local or online nurseries is a good way to insure healthy stock and correct variety.

When You’re Ready to Plant

When you’re ready to plant your tree make sure the location you’ve selected has good water drainage to prevent the tree roots from becoming water logged, which will injure the tree in a short time.

Fruit tree roots tend to go deep so the top 26″ – 30″ of soil needs to be soil the roots can grow in, not hard pan clay for instance. Some time before planting you could dig out and amend the soil if you needed to. If roots can’t go deep they’ll remain shallow  and be more vulnerable to severe cold and moisture and the tree won’t be as well anchored as it needs to be.

Most fruits prefer soil PH of 6.0-6.5. Again, soil can be amended, just do it a few weeks prior to planting.

Surprisingly, highly fertile soil does not make a good site for good production. Instead low-moderately fertile soil is better. If it’s too fertile you will get a lot of vegetative growth at the expense of fruit production.

If your planting a potted tree then remove it from the pot carefully and inspect the roots. If the roots are growing in a circle then either try to untangle them or prunes some of them off. If you prune off very many then you’ll need to prune the top back as well before planting.

If  you are planting a bare-root tree then remove all the packing material and examine the roots. Trim off any dead, broken or excessively long roots. Place the tree in warm (not hot) water, as deeply as possible, for 12 to 18 hours to rehydrate the tree and give it a better start.

Dig the hole just before planting. Dig only as deep as the tree needs to set. If it is a potted tree then plant to the depth it was in the pot. If it is a bare-root tree then plant it so that the graft union is about 2″ above the ground. You can find the graft union by examining the color and texture of the bark along the lower trunk. Make the hole wide enough for the roots to be spread out and not crowded. Set the tree in the hole and begin to fill with dirt, working it among the roots and tamping it down and watering as you go. DO NOT add fertilizers or soil amendments at this time as the roots will stay confined to that small area and won’t branch out as they need to. Finish filling the hole, making sure the soil is firmly tamped down to eliminate air pockets. Water slowly but thoroughly. Mulch well to prevent drying out and for weed control. Mulching also protects against the cold. Pull the mulch away from the trunk about 6″.

Pruning the Newly Planted Tree

Most fruit trees need to be pruned at planting. Since peaches and apples differ in the way they are pruned I’ve listed some sites to help you understand that process better. In general, apple and pear trees are pruned similarly and pitted fruits like peaches, cherries, plums and apricots are pruned similarly. Check out these sites for more information on the pruning process:

For peaches: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNytXvxWJIY
For apples: http://www.weekendgardener.net/how-to/prune-apple-trees.htm
General pruning guides: http://www.ftpf.org/pruningfactsheet.htm

 

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Almost fuzzless Autumn Star Peach in September

Fertilizing the Tree

All fruit trees should be fertilized, beginning with the year they’re planted. The first year you should apply fertilizer about 3 weeks after planting, being careful not to get it too close to the trunk, which may cause burning. Remember though that you can over fertilize, causing too much vegetative production and reduce the amount and quality of the fruit.

This site provides some good information about fertilizing

http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07612.html

This is really just the bare facts of planting and growing fruiting trees but I hope it has been enough to get you started.

Below are pictures of some of our trees, all planted spring 2009, so they are 2 years old now.

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Aprium tree in landscape garden

 

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Cherry Trees out front on parking strip.

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by Eliza Osborn

Our Garden Gate
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Japanese Anemones
Delpiniums, Lilies, Centranthus
Delphiniums, Asian lillies, Yarrow,Hollyhocks and Centranthus,garden,flower garden,growing flowers,spring flowers
Echenacea
flower garden,growing flowers,how to grow flowers,growing perennials,perennials,easy perennials to grow,perennial garden,gardening,how to garden,how to make a garden,how to start a garden,starting garden,gardener,gardner
Cosmos on Picket Fence
cosmos,flower seed,growing flowers,cheap gardening,flower garden,growing annuals,how to grow flowers,flowers,garden,gardening,how to garden,gardener
Roses, Roses, Roses
shrub roses,bare-root roses,liquid fertilizers,hybrid tea rose, apricot candy, in bloom by deck,rose,roses,growing roses,how to grow roses,rose garden,rose gardens,garden,gardening,how to garden,growing flowers,flower garden,how to grow flowers,pictures of roses,rose pictures,garden pictures,gardener,rose gardener,roses in the landscape,landscaping,landscaping with roses
Bamboo
how to grow bamboo,growing bamboo,bamboo in the landscape,how to landscape with bamboo,how to landscape,how to garden,how to use bamboo in the garden, how to prevent bamboo from spreading,gardner,gardener,how to make a garden,landscaping,when to plant,gardens,gardening,landscape gardens,horticulture,growing plants,garden plants,unusual garden plants,plants online,buying bamboo online
Agastache, Sedum & Phlox
Garden in back yard
Limelight Hydrangeas
Hydrangeas and statue,how to garden,when to plant,growing vegetables,seeds,gathering seeds,how to landscape,gardening ideas, gardening tips,landscape ideas,landscape tips,landscape gardens,gardens,gardner,horticulture,growing plants,garden photos,how to make a garden,garden plants,garden nursery
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Grapes Ripening on Arbor
Grapes ripening on the arbor,grape arbor,garden,gardening,growing grapes,
Yarrow
Yarrow,garden,gardening,flower garden,growing flowers,flower garden,
Echenacea &Day Lilies
Purple Cone flower and Day Lilies,garden,flower garden,gardening,growing flowers
Garden Phlox
Agastache and Sedum
hyssop, sedum, phlox and rhubarb