Friday, October 25, 2013

National Garden Bureau announces its 2014 "Year of the" plants

Each year the National Garden Bureau selects one annual, one perennial and one edible as its "Year of the" plants. Each plant is chosen because they are popular, easy-to-grow, widely adaptable, genetically diverse, and versatile. National Garden Bureau has selected the following plants for 2014:
Annual: Petunia
Perennial: Echinacea
Vegetable: Cucumber
National Garden Bureau has selected petunia as its annual plant
for its "Year of the" program in 2014.  




 

Time for garden cleanup tasks

Time is running out to clean up your garden this fall. Here are some tips from Michigan State University Extension about what you should and shouldn't do to your lawn and garden.

Things to do
1. Remove leaves from the lawn.
2. Remove diseased flower or vegetable garden plants.

Things not to do
1. Don't prune trees and shrubs.
Removal and disposal of diseased plant material from
garden beds in the fall will help with disease control
next season.

   

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What are going to be the hot colors for spring?

Pantone LLC, the global authority on color and provider of professional color standards for the design industries, has unveiled the "PANTONE Fashion Color Report Spring 2014," a comprehensive overview of designers' use of color in their upcoming collections. The report features the top 10 colors for women's and men's fashion for spring 2014.
Designers have taken a modern twist on the
traditional for spring 2014 by pairing soft
pastels with vivid bright colors.
 
 

What are the best cities for urban gardening? You may be surprised.

Nerdwallet reports residents of big cities without residences that afford space for a personal garden, have gardening options. Urban gardens are agricultural and horticultural areas within city spaces, often in unused or vacant lots. These urban gardens allow community members to plant, water and harvest, enabling them to create small oases amidst the asphalt and concrete.

To discover which are the best cities for urban gardening, Nerdwallet asked the following questions:
1. Are there community gardens?
Nerdwallet included the number of community garden plots per 10,000 residents in its analysis.
2. Does the city prioritize green space?
Nerdwallet assessed the city’s capital spending on parks and recreation per resident.
3. Is it sunny?
Nerdwallet looked at the average percentage of sunshine per year.

And the winners are.....
Washington D.C. ranked as the best city for urban gardening.
It offers 27 community garden plots for every 10,000 residents.  
 

Soil amendments can benefit bedding plant flowering

Most annual flowers prefer moist, well-drained soils. These plants have a very limited root system and require consistent soil moisture to survive. Roots need oxygen in order to survive and grow. If soil becomes too compacted or too wet, roots will die from lack of oxygen.

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension said soil amendments for clay soil should ideally help loosen compacted soil, improve soil drainage and increase soil porosity. Soil conditioners or soil amendments are not the same as potting soils, which are often blended with materials like peat moss and vermiculite that help retain moisture. Clay already holds plenty of moisture and has the highest water holding capacity of any soil in the world.
Most annual flowers like petunias prefer moist, well-drained soils.
Adding soil amendments to the soil can ensure the plants receive
consistent soil moisture.
Photo by Amanda Tedrow
 

Winners announced for All-America Selections Landscape Design Contest

The All-America Selections Landscape Design Contest has concluded its second year with a 20% increase in the number entries for the 2013 contest. The contest incorporates past and present AAS winners. Each contest participant is responsible for creating and executing the design, generating publicity surrounding the contest then submitting the photos, proof of publicity and an overall description of their design.

There were three categories, based on number of visitors to that garden in one year:
Category I: fewer than 10,000 visitors per year
Category II: 10,001 – 100,000 visitors per year
Category III: Over 100,000 visitors per year

1st Place Winner in Category III: Over 100,000 visitors per year,
was Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, Wis. It also placed
first in Category III in the inaugural contest last year.
Photo courtesy of All-America Selections 
 

Webinar shows gardeners how to support honeybees

The free, hour-long webinar "Smart Gardening for Pollinators" gives background and tips for gardeners wanting to do their part to help save honeybees. Produced by Michigan State University Extension, the presentation provides gardeners with an introduction to gardening that can benefit pollinators, including some background on bee biology, what bees need to be healthy, and some simple steps that can be used to provide nesting and food resources for some of the key pollinators. The talk emphasizes taking small steps and gradually building a more bee-friendly garden.
The "Smart Gardening for Pollinators" webinar provides
information on how to build a bee-friendly garden.
 

Plants that showed early fall color could be stressed

The leaves of trees and shrubs that changed color before fall are likely indicating stress. Plants could be letting you know they are having problems and may need help.

Michigan State University Extension advises to pay attention to changes in plants, such as leaves turning color during the last couple months of the summer. These types of indicators are a red flag that needs attention.

Not all injuries can be corrected, but the impact of the stress can often be reduced by watering heat- or drought-stressed plants. Mulches can be used to help reduce water loss from the soil and also to protect roots from quick changes in soil temperatures. Careful inspection of plants may show insect damage that if caught early may prevent needless injuries.
Early fall color in landscape plants can be an
indicator of stressed plants.
 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

To Plant or not to Plant a Fall Vegetable Garden

Fall is the perfect time in Southern California for planting perennials and non-deciduous trees. However, there is a debate in my mind if fall is the best time to plant a vegetable garden. I attempted a fall vegetable garden in the past, with mixed to poor results, despite all the advice my gardening books give to the contrary. Fall can be a great time to garden, as long as temperatures are cooler and more comfortable. But beware the Santa Ana winds; those devil winds bring miserable dry heat that makes yard work misery rather than a labor of love!

The logistics of a fall vegetable garden are very tricky. If you wish to start plants from seed for fall harvest, the seeds need to be started by mid-August and theoretically planted by mid-September.  But this means starting cool weather crops (root and leaf vegetables) during what is usually the hottest and driest times of the year. I often find that the hottest temps of the year occur in September or October, much to the consternation of our tourists. October starts exceptionally dry with Santa Ana winds blowing off the deserts, desiccating delicate plants, and aiding and abetting wildfires in the dry back country. This period can extend through November or end in early October depending on when the first wet season rains descend upon the region. This variability makes for frustrated attempts at cool season vegetables. I found that an early wet season tends to favor growth of cool season vegetables and extended heat and dryness stunts them or worse, kills them.

Pomegranates to be harvested
By early fall, I am usually spent, tried of all the responsibility of a vegetable garden, and am ready for the welcome respite of winter. I wind down the warm season crops: completing the final harvests of tomatoes, removing dying marigolds and other annual flowers, pruning perennial shrubs, and the general clean up that comes with preparing for winter. I also preserve the harvest: drying herbs, juicing and freezing pomegranate juice, making and freezing tomato sauce, and making and freezing fig jam. I still need to plant my cover crops (native wildflowers and crimson clover) after removing warm season vegetables from the beds. That is a lot to do and nurse tender cool weather seedlings through unforgiving weather!

Swiss chard
This year I successfully grew Swiss chard from seed for fall harvest. My poor kale plants are being eaten mercilessly by black beetles and white flies; they are going to end up a total loss. I started tomatoes later this year and have a later harvest because of the late timing. The wind down is taking longer this year, taking away focus from the broccoli, cauliflower, collards, and arugula that shriveled up and died as seedlings. My best advice for the fall is to focus on winding down the warm season, cleaning up the garden, and preserving the harvest. The cool weather crops can wait to be planted in late winter or early spring. Ultimately they prefer this timing, and weather conditions are more apt to allow them to grow and thrive.


Winding down the tomatoes - the 2 above photos are a Romanian heirloom we call "Corey's Grandpa." The one in my hand weighed almost 2 lbs! While the plants do not produce quantity, they produce huge quality fruits. This is one of my favorite tomatoes: gorgeous coloring, hug size, light, sweet yet flavorful taste - overall impressive on all accounts!


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Communicate your community garden message

Michigan State University Extension advises community garden organizations to have their promotional programs and communication needs planned in advance. This contributes to an organization's long-term plan and promotes community within the group. Regular communications build trust, respect, cooperation and inclusiveness among community garden members. Regular publicity also draws in the greater community at large. Be sure to consider organizational goals when developing the community garden's publicity and communication plan.
Regular communication helps to build trust, respect, cooperation
 and inclusiveness among community garden members.
 

Clean up garden tools before storing them

If your garden season is winding down, this is a good time to inspect, repair and clean gardening tools before storing them for the winter. University of Georgia Cooperative Extension offers a checklist to keep garden tools and equipment in good condition and operating properly.
With proper care, garden tools can last for years.
 

National Indoor Plant Week starts Sept. 15

National Indoor Plant Week, Sept. 15-21, was established to increase public awareness of the importance of indoor plants and their many attributes. Annually celebrated the third week in September, it was established to promote and increase public awareness of the importance of live plants in interior spaces.

Numerous studies have shown that plants have a positive psychological impact on people. According to a recent study, employees exposed to interior plant settings demonstrated better attitudes, positive emotions such as happiness, friendliness and assertiveness.
National Indoor Plant Week was established to
promote and increase public awareness of the
importance of live plants in interior spaces.
 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fig Fest!

Figs are the final burst of the summer bounty and in my mind, the ultimate form of food porn. I have never seen such a voluptuous and indiscrete fruit as the fig. Soft and tender on the outside and easily bruised, left one day too long on the tree and it is ruined by its own weight or marauding birds. Their delicate nature force customers pay dearly for them at the farmers’ markets or to purvey them in processed forms of dried fruit, preserves and jams, or dried-out cookies. If one can manage to find them, figs are best in fresh form, to better enjoy all their sensuous goodness.

The first fig of the season must always be enjoyed raw, unadorned, and in all its natural glory. But as with the dealing with this easily perishable fruit, nature in all her irony turns all the figs ripe at once, so time is of the essence.  Here are some of my favorite recipes:

Fig Pizza

This has to be Hubby and my favorite pizza. Better yet, it is very easy to make with pre-made dough. We head to our local Little Italy in Downtown San Diego to purchase pre-made dough, either from Assenti's or Mona Lisa's. Allow the dough to rise for a couple of hours then roll out into 2 thin pizzas. Transfer dough to pizza stone and cook in oven for seven minutes at 500 degrees. After seven minutes, pull dough out of oven to add toppings. First, smear goat cheese (not feta!) over the dough, then add sliced figs. Transfer back to oven and bake for ten minutes at 500 degrees. Remove pizza from oven (final time) and sprinkle arugula greens and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar over the figs. Buon appetito!

Fig Jam

A friend recently brought fig jam to an Afternoon Tea I recently hosted and was kind enough to share the recipe she found in the New York Times Magazine. It is so simple yet so unbelievably good! The key, as with all simple recipes, is to use only the best ingredients. (I used figs, fresh squeezed lemon juice, sugar, and 2 sprigs of thyme.) Please keep in mind that this recipe does not preserve the fruit, but rather, will last up to a week in a refrigerator. Hubby was in heaven in eating this recipe with cheese on toast. I offered to teach him how to make the jam, but he demurred, “a wife should always have her secret recipe; so her husband remains in awe of her.”

Healthy Fig and Yogurt Breakfast

Place 4 ounces of non-fat, plain Greek yogurt in breakfast bowl. Drizzle a natural honey over yogurt (to taste). Slice one large fig and add slices to yogurt. Add a tablespoon of slivered almonds for some added crunch. Just a satisfying as a doughnut, but so much healthier!

Figs with Goat Cheese and Prosciutto

Cut fig in half, add a dollop of smooth goat cheese (not feta) to empty pit of fig, then wrap the half fig in a thin piece of prosciutto, covering the cheese. How easy is that?! Now you can surprise your friends and family as a true gourmand!

Enjoy the figs while they last, for the won't last long!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Designing your "ideal" outdoor room

You can enjoy your outdoor living space by re-thinking your home’s landscape. Planting a few trees and shrubs along your home's foundation isn't going to cut it especially if you enjoy grilling and eating outdoors, bird watching or hosting guests. The outdoor spaces you desire need to be identified by “function” (e.g., grill area, flower garden, quiet space) first, then the design process can begin. Michigan State University Extension says that by combining basic principles such as scale, balance, repetition and dominance with artistic elements such as line, form, color and texture, you can create a beautiful landscape canvas to enjoy for many years to come.
To enjoy your outdoor living space may require
 re-thinking your home’s landscape.
Photo by Rebecca Finneran, MSU Extension
 

Create a four-season container garden

Have a decorative container that looks just too good to put away after the summer? The Chicago Botanic Garden offers some ideas on how to create a four-season container that can be enjoyed year-round. Miniature evergreens, low-growing perennials and ground covers can often survive winter conditions if they are heavily mulched.
The Chicago Botanic Garden suggests
rotating seasonal plants into containers
to reflect the best of the garden and to
extend the growing season.
 

Fall is a good time to upgrade garden beds

Fall is a good time to improve flower, shrub or tree beds by adding composted manure. Michigan State University Extension advises gardeners to remove mulch out of beds. Raking the bed helps to loosen the soil which may have become compacted during the summer. Add 2 to 3 inches of composted manure to the soil surface and replace the mulch. The soil on the bottom and the mulch above keeps the composted manure damp improving the habitat for beneficial earthworms and other soil insects. By spring the earthworms will have turned the compost into the soil. Also consider adding slow-release fertilizer which will be beneficial to the plants.
Adding composted manure to garden beds
during the fall can improve the soil for
plants and soil insects including earthworms.
Photo courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden
 

The American Garden Award winners are...

The 2013 American Garden Award, now in its fifth year, featured four new flower varieties chosen by their breeders for their excellent garden performance. Once these new varieties were planted and put on display at 31 participating gardens across the United States and in Quebec, the public was invited to vote for their favorite variety. The votes have been counted and the three winners are:

Grand Prize Winner: Verbena 'Lanai Candy Cane'


















 
Second Place Winner: Zinnia 'Zahara Cherry'


















 
Third Place Winner: Impatiens 'SunPatiens
Compact Electric Orange'
  


 


 

Sept. 7 is National Planting Day

 The second annual National Planting Day, sponsored by Keep America Beautiful, will be held on Saturday, Sept. 7. The purpose of the event is to mobilize Americans to bolster local ecosystems by planting native species of trees, shrubs and plants. Through National Planting Day, Keep America Beautiful, its affiliates and partners are raising awareness about the importance of native species in restoring balance to local environments, while creating vibrant, more beautiful communities.
National Planting Day celebrates the value and power of native
species in restoring ecological balance to the environment while
creating greener, more beautiful communities.
  

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Panzanella or Italian Bread Salad

One of my favorite recipes for end of summer tomatoes is Panzanella. It is so simple yet so good; the key is using only the highest quality ingredients. This is a dish that is both rustic and elegant, healthy yet a solid comfort food.

Ingredients:
4-5 large heirloom tomatoes (cubed) or 1-2 pounds of cherry tomatoes (halved)
One cucumber, seeds removed and sliced thin
One red or sweet onion, sliced thin
Fresh basil, cut in thin strips
Loaf of thick, rustic, crusty bread, slightly stale (cubed into crouton sized bites)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil – I reduce to 1/8 of cup to reduce calories
1/4 cup red wine vinegar – I reduce to 1/8 of cup to reduce calories
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop all vegetables using the above directions and place in large bowl (preferably one that can be sealed). Liberally salt and pepper the contents to taste. Remember – the salt brings out the flavor of the tomatoes! Add the oil and vinegars and lightly toss to mix. (I fill a quarter cup halfway with olive oil and the rest of the way with red wine vinegar. Do add the whole tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.)


I normally wait until a couple minutes prior to serving to add the rustic bread. It is supposed to be soggy with oil and vinegar, the key is to not let it get too soggy. Use slightly stale, thick rustic bread made from hardier wheat flour. This will hold up better than a soft, white flour baguette.  For a slightly crunchier texture, bread can be toasted in a toaster or under the broiler in the oven. Chop the bread in larger-sized croutons and toss salad again, making sure the oil and vinegars are evenly deposited on the bread. Salad will keep for up to three days – if it lasts that long!

Panzanella sans the bread

Thursday, August 29, 2013

KNARLY SAGETORUS


Have you ever had a plant in your garden that your wife hates and won’t die?  I have one of those in my garden.  Here is what it looks like.

 
Sweet Tomato hates it and has hinted strongly on multiple occasions that she would like to see that ugly excuse for a plant taken out and relegated to kindling.  A strong hint in our house is just above an eye roll, but not as bad as the ‘glare’.  If a ‘glare’ is held long enough it can burn a whole clean through you.   My take on the Knarly Sagetorus is that it is kind of like a really old pair of boots or an old t-shirt.  Each of them has been around a long time, they are useful, and I am comfortable with them.  Sweet Tomato doesn’t like my old boots or t-shirts either.

You are probably wondering at this point why I refer to this plant as a Knarly Sagetorus.  I came across this old book at a garage sale many years ago.  It did not have a publishing date, but it looked older than me, and that is old.  It was something of a cross between a farmer’s almanac and a book of folk tales.  It even had a very strange story about a briar patch, a rabbit and a tar baby.  I don’t think the story would be much appreciated today, but I found it hilarious.  Also in this book was a description of the Knarly Sagetorus accompanied by a water color painting of the plant.  While the artist had attempted to depict the plant truthfully, it was still ugly as a three tooth witch after falling off her broom.  I never thought much of it until the sage plant I have in my garden had reached an age of somewhere north of a score of years.  That was when I went looking for that old book again to check the description and painting against the sage in my garden.  Sure enough, the painting and description matched my sage to a T. 
 

At the bottom of the page was a written description of the Knarly Sagetorus  and what looked like a warning or a curse if you believe in such things.  It went like this:

KNARLY SAGETORUS

Rare specimen of the sage family of the genus Salvia L. of the species Salvia knarly, no variety or sub species.  Not indigenous to any particular region, but able to survive long cold winters and hot dry summers.  Identified by its signature ‘knarly’ trunk and bark.  Also known and identified by extreme age and ugliness.  Legend says that anyone cutting down a Knarly Sagetorus will be inflicted with toenail fungus until the end of their days.

I have been able to find references to the Knarly Sagetorus in the famous online resource Zippipedia, but they referred to it as ‘Gnarly Sagetorus’ and there was no mention of the legend about cutting it down.  I am not an unusually superstitious person, but ugly as it is and even if it is disliked by Sweet Tomato, I intend to leave it alone.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Outdoor living continues to increase in popularity

Remodeling magazine reports that an increasing number of homeowners want to break down the barriers to their backyard just as much as they want to tear down walls to create open interiors inside. One San Diego designer told the magazine that his clients have always been interested in outdoor living, but now many of them want an outdoor space that is seamlessly integrated and looks like it was part of the original house.
Homeowners should consider the impact that outdoor
 features will have on interiors.

 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Provide support for top-heavy flowering plants

Blooms on late-summer flowering plants can become top heavy and their stems may not be able to support them. Dahlias, sedums, cannas and rudbeckia are just a few of the plants whose flowers may flop over. Michigan State University Extension suggests using inexpensive supports such as plant stakes and garden fencing to help eliminate floppy flowers.

Most annuals and perennials will stand up on their own. Over fertilization or lower light levels can cause plant stems to stretch. Plants that have been pinched regularly don't usually need staking because of increased branching.
Individual stems or top-heavy flowers can be supported with
a single stake and twine.
Photo by Rebecca Finneran, Michigan State University Extension  



 

Suntory Combo Designer app is free

If you aren't familiar with Suntory Flowers' Virtual Combo Designer website, now you can access this site by downloading a free app. Available for iPads and Android tablets, go to the Apple or Google Play online stores and search for Combo Designer from Suntory Flowers. The app can be used to design mixed container plantings with Suntory varieties.
 
 


 

Add color to your late summer garden with containers

If your flower beds are starting to look a little past their prime, now is a good time to add some fresh color to your garden. Horticulturalist Neil Sperry said container gardens are a great way to spruce up landscapes during late summer. He said most garden centers have large plants available that  make an immediate impact wherever they are placed, including around the pool, patio, deck and front porch.

In addition to the plants, Sperry said any type of container will do. Its only must-have is a drain hole to ensure that mineral salts are leached from the potting soil. He advises gardeners to use the best possible potting soil. He said many of the commercially available soils are too heavy and don’t drain well. A lightweight potting soil is best. A suitable potting mix should contain as much as 50-60% sphagnum peat, 20% finely ground pine bark mulch, 10% or 20% horticultural perlite and maybe 10% expanded shale.

Sperry also recommends applying a water-soluble, high-nitrogen fertilizer at every second or third watering.
Container gardens are a great way to
spruce up landscapes during late summer.
  

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/08/23/5101124/the-garden-guru-let-it-all-go.html#storylink=cpy

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Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/08/23/5101124/the-garden-guru-leIt starts with a pot (or 15 or 20). Any type of container will do, whether it’s terra cotta, concrete, plastic, wood, fiberglass or metal (or anything else I might have forgotten). The only must-have is a drain hole. You simply can’t garden without one. Oh, sure, you can avoid overwatering if you’re careful. But you won’t be able to avoid the accumulations of mineral salts that will inevitably build up if you can’t flood water through the soil and leach out the excesses. So start with the drain hole and choose your favorite pot around it. If you’re planning a grouping of container plants, set the empty pots alongside each other to be sure they’re well matched.Use the best possible potting soil. Most of the commercially bagged soils I see are too heavy. They don’t drain well, and plants end up struggling to survive. Take a lesson from professional greenhouse growers and nurserymen. Use a lightweight potting soil that’s as much as 50 or 60 percent sphagnum peat, 20 percent finely ground pine bark mulch, 10 or 20 percent horticultural perlite and maybe 10 percent expanded shale.And the final hard good that you’ll buy will be plant food. Again leaning on the experience of the pros, go with a water-soluble high-nitrogen fertilizer. You’ll want to apply it every second or third time yoIt starts with a pot (or 15 or 20). Any type of container will do, whether it’s terra cotta, concrete, plastic, wood, fiberglass or metal (or anything else I might have forgotten). The only must-have is a drain hole. You simply can’t garden without one. Oh, sure, you can avoid overwatering if you’re careful. But you won’t be able to avoid the accumulations of mineral salts that will inevitably build up if you can’t flood water through the soil and leach out the excesses. So start with the drain hole and choose your favorite pot around it. If you’re planning a grouping of container plants, set the empty pots alongside each other to be sure they’re well matched.Use the best possible potting soil. Most of the commercially bagged soils I see are too heavy. They don’t drain well, and plants end up struggling to survive. Take a lesson from professional greenhouse growers and nurserymen. Use a lightweight potting soil that’s as much as 50 or 60 percent sphagnum peat, 20 percent finely ground pine bark mulch, 10 or 20 percent horticultural perlite and maybe 10 percent expanded shale.And the final hard good that you’ll buy will be plant food. Again leaning on the experience of the pros, go with a water-soluble high-nitrogen fertilizer. You’ll want to apply it every second or third It starts with a pot (or 15 or 20). Any type of container will do, whether it’s terra cotta, concrete, plastic, wood, fiberglass or metal (or anything else I might have forgotten). The only must-have is a drain hole. You simply can’t garden without one. Oh, sure, you can avoid overwatering if you’re careful. But you won’t be able to avoid the accumulations of mineral salts that will inevitably build up if you can’t flood water through the soil and leach out the excesses. So start with the drain hole and choose your favorite pot around it. If you’re planning a grouping of container plants, set the empty pots alongside each other to be sure they’re well matched.Use the best possible potting soil. Most of the commercially bagged soils I see are too heavy. They don’t drain well, and plants end up struggling to survive. Take a lesson from professional greenhouse growers and nurserymen. Use a lightweight potting soil that’s as much as 50 or 60 percent sphagnum peat, 20 percent finely ground pine bark mulch, 10 or 20 percent horticultural perlite and maybe 10 percent expanded shale.And the final hard good that you’ll buy will be plant food. Again leaning on the experience of the pros, go with a water-soluble high-nitrogen fertilizer. You’ll want ta water-soluble high-nitrogen fertilizer. You’ll want to apply it a water-soluble high-nitrogen fertilizer. You’ll want to apply it every secona water-soluble high-nitrogen fertilizer. You’ll want to apply it every second or third time you water.

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/08/23/5101124/the-garden-guru-let-it-all-go.html#storylink=cpy
d or third time you water.

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/08/23/5101124/the-garden-guru-let-it-all-go.html#storylink=cpy
every second or third time you water.

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o apply it every second or third time you water.

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time you water.

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u water.

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t-it-all-go.html#storylink=cpy

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Transitioning through the Season

This spring/summer growing season has been a mixed bag of victories and defeats. On one hand, I was able to successfully set up and grow a potager garden. (Many thanks to Hubby’s help!) This style of bed allowed me to diversify my crop yield. I was able to get a decent yield of long Japanese eggplant, cucumbers, green beans, beets, sunflowers, five different varieties of peppers, and some very prolific San Marzano sauce tomatoes. My basil suffered however, with a strange brown fungus appearing on the underside of the leaves. I believe I accidently bought diseased plants from the nursery and subsequently spread the disease by placing the plants too close together in the garden beds. Once I realized the problem, I completed a mercy killing of the plants and started fresh with a new set of seedlings from a different nursery.

The potager in transition
Spacing was a big issue this season for the tomatoes. Since I planted them closer together this year, they were more susceptible to each other’s ailments. My squashes spread powdery mildew to the closest set of tomatoes and then the wind and close proximity carried it to the rest. I have to seriously rethink my squash placement next year, or simply not plant it any more. I am too close to the coast for the weather to be hot enough to eliminate mildew on squash.  I have also been experiencing diminished soil fertility. While my San Marzanos were prolific in one part of the potager, my other tomatoes failed to thrive. Blossom drop has been a huge problem. Heavy amending of the soil is in order with focus on introducing lots of natural calcium. I may need to let some beds take a break from tomatoes next year in order to build up the soil, planting nutrient rich cover crops instead.

I am transitioning the garden over to cooler weather crops. If my seedlings are any indication, I just might be successful with a fall garden this year. The kale and Swiss chard have already been planted and the broccoli, cauliflower, lettuces, cabbage, and collards have been started from seed. So far, so good.

Swiss chard 
Kale seedlings in foreground, mature kale in background
My saving grace for the tomato season has been my unruly wild patch of cherry tomatoes. It spring up every year next to my tangerine tree. We used to have our compost heap here, so the soil is very fertile and all the seeds tossed out with the compost the year before have now blossomed into the hardy cherry tomatoes. They do not have the complexity and deep flavor of my heirlooms, but they are sweet and bright and beloved by my co-workers and their children. (I am not a stranger with candy; I’m a stranger with vegetables!) They make wonderful salsa and are the perfect fruit for my favorite salad, panzanella (recipe forthcoming). I need to stop being such a tomato snob. Sometimes the garden gives you awesome heirlooms, sometimes it gives you sweet cherries. Appreciate the fact you got something worth eating from the fruits of your labors. Even with hard work and diligence, the home gardener can end up with zilch. It makes every bounty, expected or not expected, big or small, a blessing from the earth.

The prolific yet neglected cherry tomato patch
The second string heirlooms have been besieged by gophers and plagued by blossom drop.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Guide makes it easy to plan, plant rain gardens

When rainwater flows over hardened, impervious, surfaces like sidewalks, rooftops and parking lots, it collects oils, soaps, fertilizers and other pollutants on its way to sewer systems. Contaminated rainwater can flow directly into waterways. Michigan State University Extension said strategically placed rain gardens can help contain rainwater before it gets into waterways.

The new "Step-by-Step Guide to Planning and Planting Rain Gardens in Detroit" is a great resource for people who want to install rain gardens not only in Detroit, but in other locations where residents want to prevent water pollution in local waterways.
"Step-by-Step Guide to Planning and Planting Rain Gardens in Detroit"
breaks down the process of planning and planting a rain garden into
eight easy steps, including the use of native plants.


 

Time to straighten up the garden beds

Horticulturist Neil Sperry suggests now is a good time to do a little urban renewal around your flower beds.
* Discard annuals that are past their prime. Trim back those annuals that can be salvaged, and apply a liquid high-nitrogen plant food to promote a burst of new growth.
* Deadhead annuals and perennials to remove dead flowers and seed stalks.
* Remove weeds.
* Apply a new layer of mulch. This makes beds look fresh, helps to conserve water and slows germination of competing weeds.

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/08/10/5066799/neil-sperry-renew-your-yard-for.html#storylink=cpy
Adding a new layer of mulch to flower beds can freshen up their
look, helps to conserve water and deters weed seed germination.
Photo courtesy of  Colorado State University 
 

Still got the "itch" to garden? Scratch it with fall edibles.

While spring may be the best season to plant some edibles, National Garden Bureau reports others are best planted during the summer for fall harvest. Crops, like cabbages, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and peas, prefer the growing conditions that late summer and early fall offer and they are actually more flavorful when grown cooler. Some can even add a touch of color to waning flower gardens.

Cool season crops like lettuce can be planted now for harvest in
the fall. Cultivars like 'Relic' also add a much-needed touch of
color to the garden.
Photo courtesy of National Garden Bureau   

  

Consider these landscaping techniques to help improve water quality

Michigan State University Extension is advising homeowners that they can improve water quality by preventing erosion, reducing flooding, saving water and providing habitat through simple landscape features designed to collect and treat run-off. Landscaping techniques, collectively known as Low Impact Development, utilize vegetation, soil and other landscape features to collect and absorb rainwater, and allow it to be naturally filtered on-site back into the ground. These management techniques can help prevent runoff of storm water into drains and ditches.

"Landscaping for Water Quality: Garden Designs for Homeowners" is a full-color resource guide that can help homeowners improve water quality by preventing erosion, reducing flooding, saving water and providing habitat for wildlife. The guide includes tips on garden planning and designing.
"Landscaping for Water Quality:
 Garden Designs for Homeowners"
is a resource guide for homeowners
looking to help improve water quality.  



  

Voting for American Garden Award ends Aug. 31

You have until Aug. 31, 2013, to vote for the American Garden Award program. There are four plant entries in this year's competition:
* Impatiens 'SunPatiens Compact Electric Orange' bred by Sakata Ornamentals
* Petunia 'Surfinia Summer Double Pink' bred by Suntory Flowers Ltd.
* Verbena 'Lanai Candy Cane' bred by Syngenta Flowers
* Zinnia 'Zahara Cherry' bred by PanAmerican Seed

If you want to participate in the program you can vote for your favorite plant in one of three ways:
1. Visit a participating garden and text your vote using the special voting codes found on the signs in the garden.
2. Go to the American Garden Award website and click on your favorite flower.
3. Use the pre-paid postcard ballots found at the participating gardens.
Voting results can be followed on Facebook or Twitter. Encourage friends, family and business associates to get involved in the program by casting their votes too.
Voting for this year's American
Garden Award program ends on
Aug. 31.  
 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Italian Connection


Sweet Tomato and I went on a cruise last summer to ports in the countries of Italy, France, Greece and Croatia.  While in the port of Taormina, Sicily, we went shopping at a local farmers’ market for fresh vegetables and fruits.  It was not that the food on the cruise ship was poor (it was in fact ‘over the top’ good), it was just that we wanted to sample local fruits and vegetables at the various ports of call.  Being always on the lookout for different varieties of tomato seeds, I purchased some tomato seeds at this farmers’ market. 

The seeds were Marglobe and San Marzano 2.  I have grown various types of San Marzano for years with good results.  I have never seen or heard of the Marglobe, but it looked pretty, and I am a sucker for good looking tomatoes.  Here is a picture of the seed packet for San Marzano 2, followed by the tomato’s description from the Semiorto Sementi web site (translated from Italian). A big deal is made of regions for tomato growing. This “regional purity” extends to wine, cheese, ham, etc, etc.



Description:
From the various ecotypes of S. Marzano widespreadin the Agro Sarnese-Nocerino, Semiorto. Theproceeds from this selection has improved uniformityin yield and quality of the product. The reliance by the Ministry of Agriculture of the conservation purityof this variety testifies to the reliability and validity of the variety. The plant is a permanent development, vigorous and rustic, with good foliagethat protects the fruit from the strong insolation. The fruits are elongated, cylindrical-rectangular, weighing 80-90 gr. and very uniform. Thick flesh and firm, with reducedinternal lodges. Varietiessuitable for both the fresh marketand for the industry. Tolerant to Verticillium and Fusarium.

The Marglobe, while pretty, must not have near the history or importance as the San Marzano.  Here is a picture and a very short description again from the Semiorto Sementi web site.
 
 
 
Description:
Table tomato, medium early. Vigorous plant with good leaf coverage. Seafood round shape, smooth, large size, excellent consistency and uniformity, intense red color when ripe.
Right now both plants are about 1 to 2 feet in height with thick foliage and looking healthy.  I will keep you abreast of how the plants grow and the tomatoes fare.
 
 


Monday, July 22, 2013

If you like container gardening, you may be ready for containerscaping

National Garden Bureau members have indicated that "containerscaping" appears to be the next step after container gardening. Container gardening has been popular for several years and now the goal is to have those containers look cohesive and well-organized. Containerscaping is the next level beyond basic container gardening. It can apply to balconies, decks, patios, front porches and even the yard.

There are even garden centers that are offering containerscaping services. These companies define containerscaping as container design and installation service for potted plants.
Containerscaping is the next level beyond basic container gardening.
It can apply to balconies, decks, patios, front porches and even the yard.
 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

National Garden Bureau announces its 2014 "Year of the" plants

National Garden Bureau has announced the three plants for its 2014 “Year of the” program.
Petunia is the plant for annual flowers; for vegetables/edibles, it is the cucumber, and for perennials, it is the echinacea. The non-profit organization selects crops that are easy to grow, genetically diverse with a lot of new varieties to choose from.
For 2014, the National Garden Bureau has selected petunia as
the annual flower for its "Year of the" program. Shown is
Surfinia Summer Double.
 Photo courtesy of the National Garden Bureau 
 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Program showcases All-America Selections perennial winners

All-America Selections is launching a perennial program that features six plant winners that have been tested and trialed in more than 25 different trial locations throughout North America. All of the plants have been proven to have outstanding garden performance.

The plants in the program include:
1. Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit,’ 2013 AAS Winner
2. Gaillardia ‘Arizona Apricot,’ 2011 AAS Winner
3. Gaillardia ‘Mesa Yellow,’ 2010 AAS Winner
4. Echinacea ‘PowWow Wild Berry,’ 2010 AAS Winner
5. Rudbeckia hirta ‘Prairie Sun,’ 2003 AAS Winner
6. Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cherokee Sunset,’ 2002 AAS Winner
Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit,’ 2013 AAS Winner
Photo courtesy of All-America Selections
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 



 


 


 


 


 


 

 
 
 

The right trees can lower your utility bills

Planting the right shade trees in your landscape can help keep you cooler and lower your electric bills. Shade trees can reduce heat gains by 40-80%, depending upon the trees' placement and density. In the right spot, a tree is a better energy saver than interior window blinds or curtains.

Shade trees can reduce heat gains by 40-80%.