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Posts Tagged ‘garden plans’

When Planting Seeds In Your Garden…Read The Fine Print To Insure Success

P1010033 300x225 When Planting Seeds In Your Garden...Read The Fine Print To Insure Success

Hollyhocks and Echinacea grown from seed

Many of us are enjoying going through our garden catalogs and dreaming of next summer’s garden.

There are many plants, besides vegetables and annuals, that can be grown from seed. It’s an inexpensive way to get a lot of really nice plants. It’s one of the ways that I have so many plants in my garden. Seeds may take a little longer to produce the beautiful, mature plants on the picture on the package, but if you need a lot of plants, they are will worth waiting for.

It really pays to read the instructions carefully though. You may be waiting in vain for plants to come up if you ignore the guidelines on the back of the seed package.

P1010038 300x202 When Planting Seeds In Your Garden...Read The Fine Print To Insure Success

Echinacea grown from seed

For instance, not all seeds like to be covered with soil. Some need sunlight to germinate and should only be pressed into the soil a little and kept moist. These include:

  • Coleus
  • Begonias
  • Geraniums
  • Impatiens
  • Columbine
  • Petunias
  • Snapdragons
  • Lettuce
  • Poppies

It’s fun to plan and plant.

It’s even more fun when the plants actually come up.

 

plus2x2 When Planting Seeds In Your Garden...Read The Fine Print To Insure Success

Putting the Garden to Bed

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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

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Raspberry Pruning

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Raspberries and Rhubarb in July 2011

A friend asked a question about pruning raspberries, so I thought I’d mention something about raspberries here.

First of all, I am so excited to live in a place where we can grow raspberries because I love them and they are so expensive bought fresh. So you know that I have to have them in our garden.

Raspberries should be pruned in the late winter/early spring before they bud out.

There are 2 kinds of raspberries, Summer Bearing and Everbearing. We have the Everbearing, but they don’t really bear all the time, just in the summer and again in the fall. The Summer Bearing bear in the summer, but I think it depends on the species as to when, in the summer, that happens. Or it could depend on the climate. Sorry, don’t know about that. If anyone does please comment.

The “How” is the tricky part when it comes to pruning raspberries. On both kinds, you prune out the canes that bore fruit, because they won’t bear again. Then, on the Everbearing, you prune out the weak and smaller canes leaving the tallest, strongest, thickest canes (5-6 per foot). Tie these up to some kind of support. We have ours against a fence, so that’s easy to do. Or…I recently learned that you can cut all canes down to the ground (late winter/early spring) and as they grow in the summer, prune out all but the tallest strongest canes, again, leaving only 5-6 per foot. They won’t bear in the summer but the crop in the fall will be heavier. This would work for us because our summer crop isn’t very big compared to the fall. I think I’m going to try this way this year to see how it goes. It sounds a lot less complicated. I’ll let you know.

You should wear good leather gloves and use sharp, clean clippers to prune the canes. If you’ll remember from an earlier post, I highly recommend deer skin gloves. They are the only leather gloves I’ve found that won’t let thorns in.

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Raspberries ripening in September 2011 (click to enlarge)

The Summer Bearers need to have the damaged or dead canes removed, as well as the ones that bore fruit in the summer.

 

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by Eliza Osborn

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Raised Bed Gardening

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Newly built raised beds between peach trees and deck (click to enlarge)

If you haven’t discovered raised bed gardening yet, then listen up.

There are some real advantages to gardening in raised beds, especially if you have poor soil or a lot of tree roots etc. Raised beds don’t get walked on, so they don’t get all packed down. Weeds aren’t a problem either. Plus, as you get older, it’s nice not to have to bend over so far.

You’ll need a place in your yard that gets plenty of sun and is pretty level. If possible the bed should run north and south so that the sun can get on both sides equally. That is the ideal, but all of ours run east and west and do fine.

Raised beds can be built out of bricks, blocks, cement or lumber. Lumber is the most common material used, with cedar or redwood being the best because it will last longer. If you live in an arid climate, you can even use pine. If you use lumber, then you have a choice of just nailing the box together or using metal corners that you just slip the lumber into and screw it together. We have both kinds and both work great.

You have to decide how big you’ll make the beds. If  you make them 4′ wide then you’ll be able to reach the center from both sides. You can make them as long as you like, keeping in mind the lengths that lumber comes in will save you some money. We have 16′ x 4′ beds with one cross board in the middle. So it looks like two 8′ x 4′ beds attached end to end. You can make square beds or any size you need that will fit on your available space. You’ll also want to make the beds at least 3′ apart if you’re making more than one bed. This allows you working space in between them. Also, you need to consider how deep you want it to be. Boards come in 6″, 8″, 10″, 12″. Realize that the deeper the bed the more growing medium you’ll need. Plants usually need at least 6″, but we have ours at 8″. Also the roots can go past the mixture and into the soil.

P1010042 300x225 Raised Bed Gardening

Raised bed between peach trees and deck in July

To fill a raised bed, don’t use garden soil. There are a few things to use in the planting mixture and you can create your own mixture from these ingredients.

These ingredients are:

Peat moss, sawdust (not wood shavings), sand, Perlite and/or Vermiculite, compost, dry fertilizer (in even numbers, i.e.8-8-8 or 10-10-10). Mix it all really well either before you put it into the bed or layer it and mix it well in the bed. Level it off and don’t mound it up in the center. Water it really well to moisten the peat and perlite/vermiculite.

You’ll be able to grow a lot more plants in this rich, well drained mixture than you’d be able to in the ground. Earthworms love these beds and multiply really fast and make the mixture even more fertile.

You can build your raised beds in the fall for very early spring planting. Another something to look forward to after a long, cold winter.

 

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Raised garden beds in December.

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

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by Eliza Osborn

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The Fight That Turned Into Flowerbeds – guest post by Tiffany Sowby of Happy Most of the Time blog

My very first job, when I was 15 years old, was planting seeds at a local nursery. To me, it was just a part-time job that provided a little teenage spending money. Eight years later, I found myself married to a landscaper, living in a brand new home, with a brand new landscape to design.

It isn’t because I have a fantastic memory that I remember one of our very first fights as a newly married couple. It probably has more to do with the fact that my husband reminds me of it all of these years later. He doesn’t remind me to be unkind, nor to remind me that I was the one in the wrong. Instead, he reminds me because it is something we laugh at almost fifteen years later.

mikeandtiff 300x240 The Fight That Turned Into Flowerbeds    guest post by Tiffany Sowby of Happy Most of the Time blog

The Happy Couple, a Landscaper and a Garden Designer

We laugh at the memory of the ‘discussion’ we had over how to landscape a four foot wide flower bed stretching out along a 50 foot driveway. My husband, a LANDSCAPER, and me a new bride, who had six months experience planting seeds along a conveyor belt, and a few weed pulling sessions in her youth. To say we had very different views about the design is an understatement. I suggested a patch of grass would be nice.  My husband, putting aside all newly-wed sensitivity, laughed out loud at my suggestion, (I think that is when the ‘argument’ started) and instead suggested trees, shrubs and perennials.

I have thanked my husband for his wisdom ever since.

After my husband planted four beautiful towering oaks, and placed a few Spireas, Potentillas, and Barberry shrubs here and there, in a peace agreement of sorts, my husband left the rest of the design to me. I spent hours perusing greenhouses of a nearby nursery and became acquainted with Stella D’oro Day Lilies,  Echinacea, and what became my favorite, Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia).

Within a year and a half our landscaped areas increased and I had three more good sized flowerbeds to take care of. Again after some careful placement of trees and shrubs by my husband, I was left to the flowers.

This round of landscaping, I fell in love with Forget-Me-Nots, Jupiter’s Beard and Woodruff. (And quickly learned to never again plant the ever-seeding Mexican Primroses.)

I’ll never forget that early summer day, just four years after our first fight as a married couple, when a city official knocked on my door and declared my yard as the recipient of the city’s ‘Yard of the Month’ award!

My husband is not often found sending me beautiful bouquets of flowers, but instead he has taught me an appreciation and love of flowers that last far longer than some store-bought flowers in a vase. I am a lucky woman.

And what a lucky man my husband is. He has beautiful flower beds AND a wife that can admit she is wrong.
 

 

plus2x2 The Fight That Turned Into Flowerbeds    guest post by Tiffany Sowby of Happy Most of the Time blog

The Rhubarb Outgrew It’s Bed

P1010061 300x225 The Rhubarb Outgrew Its Bed

Rhubarb before it outgrew it's place in the perennial bed.

Never having grown Rhubarb before, I hadn’t realized how big they actually get. Not only did I plant 1 in the wrong place, I put 2 in there, side by side. This is one of those mistakes I was talking about that you can learn from and not repeat.

The bed was plenty large enough when I put the two of them in there, but as I began to add other plants, and they began to grow, well, those giant leaves started trying to shade all the other plants around it. So…it has to go. I’ll find a sunny spot on the south, side yard and when the weather is cool enough, I’ll transplant those large Rhubarb plants.

Here is a video of the Rhubarb and the bed it’s in now.

As I move it I’ll post videos of that process.

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by Eliza Osborn

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A Clematis I Highly Recommend

I have planted clematis all over the garden because they can co-mingle with other climbing plants and not be invasive or intrusive. One of the clematis has out performed all the others. The Reiman Clematis has been in continuous bloom since it started blooming early in the summer. It has grown more than any of the others and it has a beautiful blue/violet color. I’m so glad I have two of them. As they grow and cover the gate and arbor I’ll post pics or videos.

I’m sure in time the other clematis in the garden will began to perform, but if you want one that will be beautiful from the very start, try a Reiman.

Check out this video of the Reiman Clematis on the gate attached to our grape arbor.

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by Eliza Osborn

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Ya Gotta Love Roses

P10100285 275x300 Ya Gotta Love Roses

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.

P1010031 150x150 Ya Gotta Love Roses

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.

P10100341 150x150 Ya Gotta Love Roses

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.

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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.

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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

plus2x2 Ya Gotta Love Roses

Video Update to Past Post – Gather Those Seeds While Ye May

This is the time of year to gather seeds for next year. I’ve added a video to the post: “Gather Those Seeds While Ye May” that might be helpful.

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by Eliza Osborn

plus2x2 Video Update to Past Post   Gather Those Seeds While Ye May

Garden Pathways

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Pathway between the grape arbor and the herb/flower beds

In our yard we have a sidewalk that is all the way around the house, up next to the house. Since we live on a corner, we have a public sidewalk that goes across the front and down the south side of our property. (See the diagram below) There are connecting sidewalks in the front and on each side. That leaves a lot of area for flower beds. Flower beds that  couldn’t be accessed if there weren’t pathways winding through the garden. Besides for convenience, garden paths are appealing, drawing you into the garden. If I could use any material I wanted for the pathways, I would use old, reclaimed paving bricks. I’d have tiny little plants growing between them and beautiful green moss growing on them.

In the real world though, we’ve found something that is within our budget and looks pretty good. We use wood chips spread pretty deeply (4-6″). They began to break down a bit and we’ve even had to add more, here and there. The older they get, the better they look. They do a pretty good job of holding down the weeds and they aren’t bad to walk on.

Okay, where do we get these chips? When we began work on the yard in 2009, we had 3 huge trees removed. The guys cutting them down ran all of the limbs that they could, through the chipper. We had quite a few to use, which was great. The next year we noticed there were a couple of spots that needed more chips. We saw a tree trimming crew in the neighborhood and stopped and asked if we could have the chips. Sure, because they were going to have to take them to the city dump and pay to deposit them there. A win/win situation. Keep your eyes out for crews cutting down trees or trimming trees and direct them to your yard.

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Garden path from driveway along grape arbor to peach trees.

Another thing that would work, would be pine straw. Until it breaks down a little, it could be a little slippery, but if you have access to lots of pine straw it would really be  put to good use. Plus, pine straw smells so good. I love that about it. Smells like you’re in the woods.

You could even use grass, if  you don’t mind mowing it. If you already have a lawn and would like to have more bedding space to grow things, then mark the pathways and remove the rest of the sod to prepare the beds for planting. If you did this it might be best to edge the pathway with something to prevent the grass from growing into the beds. We’ve used large rocks because here in the mountains, that’s what we have access to. I’ve also used old railroad ties or Monkey Grass (Loriope). Both of those work great.

There are so many possibilities, but the idea is to provide a place to stroll through the garden. If you have room for it, along the path would be a really good place for a park bench. Let your imagination run wild as you plan your garden paths.

 

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Our landscaping plan for pathways and beds - the green areas are flower beds (Click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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by Eliza Osborn

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10-10-10 or 0-14-0 or 40-5-5 – Which Fertilizer To Use?

IMG 2292 300x224 10 10 10  or  0 14 0  or  40 5 5   Which Fertilizer To Use?

65-15-15 OR 10-10-10 Which fertilizer to use?

Ever wonder what those numbers on fertilizers mean? It can be very confusing to know which fertilizer to use because you have to know what your plants need and you have to know what the fertilizer provides. It’s not all that mysterious if you just know a few basic facts.

The 1st number is Nitrogen – Nitrogen feeds the leaves, promoting rapid growth and gives the leaves their green color.

The 2nd number is Phosphorus – Phosphorus promotes healthy, vigorous roots. This is important because the moisture and nutrients are taken up in the plant through the roots, so the more the better. Right?

The 3rd number is Potassium – Potassium helps with the overall health of the plant, allowing the plant to produce more blooms and higher quality fruit and seeds.

See, mystery solved. icon smile 10 10 10  or  0 14 0  or  40 5 5   Which Fertilizer To Use?

It is important though to know what your plants need. If in doubt, go for balanced numbers. Generally speaking, the higher the numbers in a balanced formula, the less fertilizer you’ll need to use.

For grasses, high nitrogen is favorable because it keeps it green and growing. On fruit and vegetable bearing plants though, high nitrogen means a strong foliage production at the expense of the fruit and vegetables. I once had gorgeous zucchini plants that didn’t bloom and fruit. I’d used the wrong fertilizer, one where the nitrogen number was much higher than the other two.

So when it comes to fertilizers, numbers matter.

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by Eliza Osborn

plus2x2 10 10 10  or  0 14 0  or  40 5 5   Which Fertilizer To Use?

Shady Spaces in the Garden

 

P1010013 150x150 Shady Spaces in the Garden

Hosta bed with 6 varieties of Hostas

Like a lot of others, we have a yard that has a combination of very sunny to very shady areas. The sunny areas are easy because so many plants do so well and have to have full days of sunshine. The challenge is finding plants that not only will tolerate the shade but will thrive and bloom in it.

Some shade loving plants are Astilbe, Ferns, Hydrangeas, Japanese Anemones, Bleeding Hearts, Rhododendrons, Pulmonaria, Lamium, Hostas and Japanese Maples. Then there are annuals like Tuberous Begonias and Impatiens that bloom in the shade. All of these plants are wonderful and we have almost all of them in our garden but I’m going to just focus on Hostas and their big, leathery leaves. Hosta foliage ranges from amazing blues through some of the most beautiful greens, all the way to yellow/green. Grown mostly for their beautiful foliage, they also bloom on tall stalks, some even have fragrant blooms.

Hostas vary in size from very large to pretty small so there is one for about any space available in the shady garden. A lot of people love these plants, but so do snails and slugs. The pests are easy to spot and pick off or just  put out bait for them. Left alone though, they can turn hosta leaves into Swiss cheese.

Hostas like a moist (not wet), well drained soil and can take a few hours of sun, (morning being better than afternoon).

We have about 12 different varieties in our garden but my 2 favorites are Blue Angel, which is a giant, blue hosta, and Guacamole, which is a bright, beautiful shade of green and works well in darker areas to brighten them up.

Now is the time to plant hostas so they will be all ready to come up in the spring. Like any perennials, they will continue to get bigger and bigger and more beautiful each year.

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by Eliza Osborn

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Aromatic Garden Article

I’d written about the aromatic garden before but for a little more information you might want to check out an article I’d had published recently.

You can see it at: http://ezinearticles.com/?8-Great-Plants-For-an-Aromatic-Garden&id=6582569


expert author 1 Aromatic Garden Article

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by Eliza Osborn

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Asparagus – A Perennial Vegetable

P10100081 300x225 Asparagus   A Perennial Vegetable

Asparagus Bed

Asparagus plants with the berries on them are female (not good) and if you remove the berries, the roots will get stronger, which means more shoots in the spring. The berries hold seeds, and if you want to try and grow asparagus from seed, then save some of them. Because you have to wait 3-4 years to began harvesting asparagus, it’s just faster to buy 1-2 year old plants. All-male plants are best because you get about 3 times the yield since no energy goes to producing seeds.

This asparagus pictured above was planted in 2009 and we cut a few this year for a couple of weeks only. We hope to really began harvesting next spring. By the end of the summer this asparagus bed had made it to the top of the 6′ fence.

Besides being a long lived perennial vegetable (coming back year after year) it is beautiful, with feathery leaves and a rich shade of green. It does like moist, well drained soil, that’s why you see the (rubber) garden hose there. I usually keep it drizzling water and just move it around in the bed from day to day. Make sure the soil isn’t soggy though, as asparagus doesn’t like to keep it’s feet wet.

So if you live in zones 3-8 why not try an asparagus bed?

P1010023 300x225 Asparagus   A Perennial Vegetable

After cutting for 2 weeks, the asparagus is growing. May 2011

 

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by Eliza Osborn

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Growing Rosemary

IMG 0266 223x300 Growing Rosemary

Potted Rosemary

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.

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by Eliza Osborn

plus2x2 Growing Rosemary

Feeding Plants For Success

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.

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by Eliza Osborn

plus2x2 Feeding Plants For Success

What Does Your Dirt Feel Like? Garden Soil Texture

P6225055 2 300x225 What Does Your Dirt Feel Like?  Garden Soil Texture

Rich, black loam (soil)

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.

IMG 5252 u 225x300 What Does Your Dirt Feel Like?  Garden Soil Texture

Soil? Dirt? Looks like clay to me.

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.

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by Eliza Osborn

plus2x2 What Does Your Dirt Feel Like?  Garden Soil Texture
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