Posts Tagged ‘landscape tips’
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?
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.
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.
This should be titled “Confessions of a Seed Gatherer” since I am about to spill some of my secrets. I can’t even remember when it began but I have gathered flower seeds from just about everywhere. That’s why about this time of year I start taking little plastic baggies in my purse in case I gain access to flowers that have gone to seed….where ever I happen to be. I’ve gotten some mystery seeds from walks in the mountains and in the woods. It’s fun to plant those and see what happens.
I’ve gathered them from my own flowers too of course. Our first year in this house I bought 2 or 3 packets of Zinnias and 1 pack of Bachelor Buttons for little beds I’d created by the sidewalk on the side of our house. That fall I had a 1 gallon bag of Bachelor Button seeds and 6 gallon bags of zinnia seeds, both of which I shared. I doubt I will ever have to buy zinnia seeds again.
As the flowers mature you can either cut and use them or leave some for seeds. The petals will turn brown and crispy and then I just snip the whole dead flower into a large metal bowl or pan and spread them out to dry thoroughly. When dry just rub the seeds from the center core, seal up in airtight bags, label and store.
A mistake that’s easy to make though is to sew the seeds too thickly the next year just because you have so many. I did that with the Bachelor Buttons and they came up and grew but were so thick there weren’t many blooms. Just way too much competition for those roots I guess.
Hollyhocks, cosmos, marigolds, and so many others set seeds that you can gather and use year after year. They keep amazingly well if they don’t get too hot but they have to stay dry. Freezing doesn’t hurt them either, I keep mine in the potting shed, which in the dead of winter here is always frozen.
Don’t be limited by your own yard boundaries, check with friends, even strangers if they have pretty flowers. I’m pretty sure they’ll be happy to share. It’s surely an economical way of having a lot of blooming plants in your yard.
I should also add that you can also gather vegetable seeds IF they aren’t hybrids, which will produce mystery plants, not true to the vegetable you grew. Hey, that might be fun too.