Posts Tagged ‘growing plants’
An unexpected thing I enjoy about our garden is getting to talk to so many people as they pass by, some strolling, some on bikes and many in cars. We live on a corner just off Main Street in our little town of about 40,000 and so it feels like we live in Mayberry, with so many friendly people. Anyway, one day a man walking his dog stopped to talk and was telling me how much he appreciated me putting the names by the plants so passersby could know what they were. I told him I hadn’t thought about the people passing by, I was just trying to remember the names of plants and what was planted where.
I moved out here to the West almost 3 years ago and even though I’d gardened for such a long time in the south (zones 7 & 8), there were so many plants out here (zone 5b/6a and elevation ca.5000′) that I’d never heard of and didn’t recognize. Really, there were very few of the ones I was use to growing that would grow out here. So if you think you have to know a lot to be a gardener, then I’m living proof that you don’t. I started reading a lot, I now have 154 gardening books (I just counted out of curiosity), almost all second hand. I like to be able to look up anything I need to know about. I do use the internet a lot but I get a lot of help from books.
Back to the names on the plants…I use metal wire stakes with a metal plate to write on. They work great for helping me to remember the plant name and to mark the spot where it’s planted so in the spring when I’m looking for places to put new plants I’ll know that place is reserved for something that will be coming up soon.
When I have spaces to fill I like to plant annuals that have plenty of blooms to use and share, like Cosmos and Zinnias, which can grow quite tall if they’re happy. Last year I had a profusion of blooms along the sidewalk outside the picket fence on the South side of our yard (our house faces West) and large areas covered in blooms inside the fence.I try to get everyone to come and cut bouquets from the zinnias and cosmos because it encourages more blooms and it makes people happy.
One afternoon as I was sitting on a little stool weeding by the front sidewalk a little girl, about 8 years old, came riding by on her bike and stopped to talk. She gave me one of my favorite compliments when she said, “Your yard looks like a flower forest.”
How could I not like that?
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).
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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I started growing herbs when my Aunt Pearl, who lives in Georgia and is also a gardener, gave me a large pot planted with herbs. I’ve been growing them ever since. I like to mix them in among other perennials, although I have had beds with just herbs in them. Herbs are so easy to grow and since you need to keep pinching them back to make the plant fuller and to prevent blooming, you have plenty to use in cooking and you’ll have plenty to share, since it really is good for the plant to get pinched back. In most cases it would be hard to use that much of any herb. When I prune them back I put the clippings I’m not going to use in a basket on my kitchen counter. The smell is wonderful.
Put the ones you are planning on using in a glass with water in the fridge and they will stay fresh until you need them. When using fresh herbs in recipes you’ll need to use a larger amount (about 2-3 times as much) because measurements are usually for dried herbs, which have much less volume. Fresh herbs make such a difference in foods. For example, potato salad is a whole different dish when prepared with fresh oregano, thyme, parsley and chives. The flavors are so fresh and wonderful.
Some can be grown from seeds and some can’t. Some can be dried and used, some frozen. If you’re interested in planting herbs, now is a good time for planting the hardy ones. Depending on where you live, Rosemary is iffy, and basil surely can’t take the cold but most others are pretty hardy. I’ll talk more about herbs later, but for now you really should consider herbs for your garden. You’ll fall in love.
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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I have received some comments that reminded me, (I can’t believe I had forgotten) of one of gardeners’ favorite winter pastimes.
Looking at gardening and seed catalogs and planning the next garden, or garden project, is a fun way to spend cold winter hours. It helps to get ideas for next spring, trying to find a new and better strain of this or that. It is certainly a favorite thing for me to do and by the time warmer weather finally gets here, our catalogs are pretty worn and tattered.
Where do you get these catalogs? Most garden and seed nurseries have online sites and offer free catalogs to be sent to your home. Order up some now and by the time the holidays are over, you may have a stack of catalogs to enjoy. Here is a partial list of possibilities for you.
- Stark Bro’s (Great people to do business with) - http://www.starkbros.com
- Spring Hill Nurseries – http://springhillnursery.com/
- Gurney’s Seed and Nursery Company – http://gurneys.com
- Breck’s Direct To You From Holland – http://brecks.com
- Direct Gardening - http://www.directgardening.com
- American Meadows - http://www.americanmeadows.com
- White Flower Farm – http://www.whiteflowerfarm.com
- Wayside Gardens – http://www.waysidegardens.com/
- Park Seed Co. - http://parkseed.com
- Michigan Bulb Co. - http://www.michiganbulb.com/
As you go through these catalogs, not only will you become familiar with gardening terms, but you will learn about each plant that interest you. You’ll know if it is a perennial and if it will bloom all summer or just in the spring. You’ll find out how big it should get, so you will know where to use it in the garden.
These catalogs are a great source of knowledge that shouldn’t be overlooked. There are many, many other online nurseries out there, so check them out, find new ones.
Start making a list of the plants that appeal to you and in which catalogs you found them in. When you’ve planned your garden, then it’s easy to order the seeds or plants and have them delivered to your door in time for planting in the spring.
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I can’t remember a time I didn’t have house plants, and not just during the winter when we’re overwintering tender patio plants. Beautiful plants make a home more cozy and inviting. If there’s enough room, small trees, such as ficus, are really nice. Some plants are beautiful but more difficult to care for and maintain, while others seem to take care of themselves.
Some plants like lots of light while others can tolerate very low light. Few house plants can take very much direct sunlight though. The water requirements of plants differ too, but house plants generally require a lot less water than plants growing outside. It is easy to over-water house plants, to kill them with kindness. The easiest, and most accurate, way to see if a plant needs watering is to stick a meter in for a short time and it will give you a reading. Another easy way us to stick the tip of your finger into the soil or potting mixture about an inch deep. Sometimes the surface may seem dry when there is really plenty of moisture available to the plant.
Plants can be placed on table tops, on plant stands, sitting on the floor and even hung from hooks in the ceiling or from brackets on the wall. They work great on window sills and mantels, on kitchen and bathroom counters and on enclosed porches. So many possibilities, and so many plants to choose from.
It’s important to remember that containers need to have drainage holes, and with drainage holes come drainage. So protection is needed to protect furniture, floors, window sills etc. I like to use glass or plastic plant saucers and trays, that are big enough to hold the excess water that runs through from watering the plant. The glass and plastic doesn’t sweat and hold moisture that can be transferred to the surface it’s sitting on. I’ve learned the hard way that clay saucers can ruin furniture.
Some of my favorite house plants, and how to care for them: See Page: Container Gardening>50 Best House Plants: http://wp.me/P1OXDF-13K
It’s about this time every year that I long for a greenhouse. It isn’t only because our growing season is so short here in zone 6, I had wanted one even when I lived in zone 8, where I could almost garden year round.
A greenhouse can not only extend the growing season for plants, but it’s much easier to start seeds for the spring garden and manage cuttings and starts taken from mature plants. It would be so nice to be able to plant up my hanging baskets early and let them get a head start, so they would be beautiful by the time the weather is warm enough to put them out into the yard.
There’s something about the atmosphere in a greenhouse that I love, especially if there are some beautiful tropical plants and all sorts of new plants coming along. I’ve been in greenhouses during the winter that had tall tropicals in bloom, and hanging baskets full of beautiful plants, pots with tall, healthy tomato plants full of green tomatoes. I would love to be able to putter around in my own warm greenhouse during the cold winter days, looking out at the beautiful white snow. I love winter, with the snow and winter activities, but I sure do miss gardening during that time.
So I look at pictures of greenhouses and dream. I walk around the yard trying to figure out where in the world we could possibly put the greenhouse of my dreams, a place that would get the right amount of winter light and enough winter protection, so that it wouldn’t cost an absolute fortune to heat it.
It’s fun to dream though. I might as well dream big, right?
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With freeze warning out for tonight, I’ve been busy gathering the last of the snap beans, beets, green and ripe tomatoes, grapes and Basil and Tarragon. I’ll make pesto with the Basil and concentrated Tarragon tea to freeze. (See the post on Tarragon)
By the way, I failed to get a picture of the basil in my garden, so I’ve used the photo of potted basil. If you have potted basil, just bring it in to enjoy fresh all winter.
Last year when I had so much basil to use, I heard about making pesto and freezing it. Since I love pesto, this seemed like such a good idea. So I froze it in ice cube trays and when frozen, I put the cubes in a zip lock bag. Then all during the year I could just get out a cube or two and thaw it to use with pasta, or in salad dressing or in soups and best of all, spread on toasted baguette slices. So if you have a lot of Basil to use up, think about the pesto idea. You can follow this simple recipe to make such an easy pesto.
Fresh Basil Pesto
3 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
3/4 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts or walnuts or almonds
3-4 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place nuts in food processor and pulse a few times. in a food processor. Add Basil and pulse a few more times. Add the garlic, pulse a few more times.
Slowly add the olive oil while the food processor is on, stopping to scrape down the sides. Add the cheese and pulse a few times till blended. Add salt and pepper.
Makes 1 1/2-2 cups
Use fresh or freeze to use later.
Last fall, at the end of the season and the spent plants had been removed, I decided not to empty the pots, but to re-use them and the potting mix in them. There were spring bulbs on sale everywhere and perennials were being marked down at the end of the season. Since most of our pots are pretty large, it seemed like a good idea to take advantage of the plants and bulbs on sale. Not only would I not have to empty those big pots, but I would have something to look forward to next spring and summer.
For more of this article, recently published on Ezine, click on the following link:
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When we begin landscaping our yard with gardens instead of lawns, I didn’t think to take before pictures. It wasn’t until we had rolled up the sod and removed 3 of our 8 large trees that I even thought about it. So our before pictures aren’t really from the beginning, because in the beginning there were beautiful lawns, mature Viburnum and Forsythia shrubs and huge trees with spreading canopies in our yard.
So in the spirit of learning from my mistakes, remember to take photos of your projects in the planning stage, the before stage and all through the work stages. It is so interesting to look back and remember the way it was.
These are some photos of our yard as we planned our deck and designed the gardens around it. By marking where the deck would go, we could go ahead and plant the rose bushes, perennials and herbs around it.
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is a plant that was growing in our back yard, around a little water feature that had seen better days. Besides, it was located in the center f where our deck was going to be built and so I had to move it. When we designed our garden, we didn’t know what to do with it so I moved it to the area around the garden spigot, since I assumed it liked the moisture. It has gotten a lot bigger since I moved it and this year it bloomed, but the blooms were insignificant and not too attractive. The foliage is the pretty part of this plant. It has grown to about 18″-24″ tall and the texture of the leaves are sort of like a succulent.
I’ve asked quite a few people if they recognized it and so far no one has. I don’t think anyone has seen one quite like it.I’ve looked online and poured through my gardening books, but so far it remains a mystery plant in our garden.
If you have any information about this plant, will you please let us know about it?
Earlier, I had posted about our abundant crop of grasshoppers this year. I’ve been trying to find out how to prevent next years crop of them and I was reading a book by C.Z. Guest Garden Talk. She mentions a way to prevent damage by the grasshoppers, not necessarily getting rid of them, but lessening the damage they do.
Be for-warned that her remedy is disgusting, but I’m willing to try it, to see if it works. For all the plants in our yard though, I’d probably have to wipe out most of the population to use this remedy. Oh well.
Grasshopper Puree sprayed on plants, will protect them from the grasshoppers.
Now for the nauseating recipe: In a blender (one that you never intend to use for your food again) add
12 grasshoppers, medium to large, dead or alive (though fresh is best) and enough water to cover them.
Puree and then thin with water. You can sprinkle this mixture on the plants with a watering can or strain through a sieve and spray it on.
Reapply after rain. You can uses the same remedy on other bugs eating you plants. It seems that bugs don’t like to eat other bugs.
Isn’t it amazing the lengths gardeners will go to to protect their plants?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kids really do like to be in the garden, whether it’s flowers or vegetables growing, they just have such a good time. We like to create different garden rooms with places to sit and with different views. This really appeals to kids since they have no boundaries on their imaginations and can enjoy the garden in totally different ways than we’re able to.
We’ve started hiding objects like bunnies, chickens, gnomes, turtles etc. in the garden to make the garden even more fun for kids.They like “discovering” the hidden objects and are always on the look-out for them. We move them around from time to time and make some even harder to find, but they always do. Sometimes I think they know and love our garden about as well as we do. I really like that.
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.
I’ve just had a question come up about basil and if it will make it through the winter. Well that is a ‘yes’ and ‘no’ kind of deal.
Unless you live in the tropics, it won’t survive the winter outside. The first cold snap will turn it black. But…
bring it into your warm cozy home and it will do very well IF it has enough sunlight. Since all you need is a few leaves to flavor most dishes, this could be a great move on your part, to have basil at your finger tips all winter. Keeping it pinched back will keep it from getting too leggy and you’ll have basil to use. If it tends to keep getting leggy that is a very good indication it needs more light.
If you can get it through the winter then you will have a head start next spring because the roots will be ready to take off and grow and you’ll have mature basil much faster. Just a note about basil (and most other culinary herbs), keep the tops pinched out as it will make the plant fuller and keep it from blooming. You don’t want it to bloom but if it does just pinch them off.
Even if you have basil in a large planter you can still transplant it into a smaller container to bring in. If you plan to do that then go ahead and cut it back by about 1/3 so it will have time to recover before you transplant it. Be sure to get as many of the roots as possible as it will make it much easier for the plant to survive. Water it during the winter but be careful not to over-water. That is probably the number one cause of houseplants not thriving or not even living.
So give it a try, it will surely die outside in the cold, so what have you got to lose?
If you are unable to bring your basil in and want to harvest it before the cold gets it, here is a really good way to preserve that basil flavor in a way that will be convenient all during the year. You can make a large batch of pesto and freeze it in small (or tiny) ice cube trays. Then pop them out of the trays and put in zip bags and store in the freezer to use all winter long. Use it in salad dressings, on toasted French bread, or on cooked pasta. It’s a great way to enjoy your basil for a long time.