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Posts Tagged ‘mulches’

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

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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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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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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