Sunday, June 23, 2013


Sweet Tomato and I added a new member to our family in November.  We got a puppy we named Dax.  If you are a Star Trek aficionado, you will recall the character from Deep Space Nine.  Dax has been a great puppy, well-mannered and affectionate.  He is a real love bug.
However, he will munch on anything in the back yard that doesn’t move.  He eats dirt like kibble. He has munched on leafs, twigs, rocks, grass, cymbidiums, herbs and even the flowers off my protea.  He really likes lettuce, and will munch on it with abandon.  With the prospect of tomato season beginning, I was getting nervous.  You see, tomato plants (leafs) are poisonous to a dog, and with Dax’s munching proclivities; I had to assume that he would probably find tomato leafs to his liking. 

I tried to train him not to munch on everything with some success, but not to the point that I wanted to risk poisoning Dax with my tomato plants.  I searched for a number of remedies on different blog sites.  I tried orange peels that are supposed to repel dogs.  Dax munched on them like they were bones.  I looked into a collar that would provide a mild shock when Dax crossed a certain point.  After talking to some dog owners that tried the collars, they said that the collars worked great, however, their dogs were smart enough to learn that if the collar was off, they could cross the barrier with impunity.   Sometimes I think Dax is smarter than I am, and I was pretty certain he would figure out the collar thing.

I finally decided to try fencing.  I did not want a permanent fence, just something to use during the tomato growing season.  I tried a number of different fencing options and finally settled on some green, temporary fencing material I found at Home Depot.  The fencing is approximately 40” high and comes in 10 to 20 foot lengths.  I was able to cut the fencing in half and extend the range I could cover with one roll.  I used pepper/vegetable supports for bracing with zip ties to attach the fencing to the supports.  It turned out to be inexpensive, easy and cheap.  This is what my back yard looks like now.

I would be interested in hearing about anyone’s experiences with dogs and tomato plants.  So far this is working, but as you can see, now Dax is big enough to jump the fence if he was inclined to. 


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Watering primer--when, how often, how much?

Watering in the morning is best. Morning watering allows less water to evaporate as you water and allows plant leaves to dry out which can help avoid diseases.

Watering more thoroughly is better than watering more frequently. A thorough watering helps plants to establish deeper, stronger roots.

An overall rule of thumb is to give your plants 1 inch of water per week. The amount of water depends on the soil type, air temperature, wind, type of plants, age of the plants, in-ground vs. in containers, including type and size of containers.
Watering in the morning allows less water to evaporate as you water
and allows plant leaves to dry out which can help avoid diseases.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Take precautions if gardening in the summer sun and heat

Dan Dill at the Louisiana Ag Center advises gardeners who spend long periods of time outside in their gardens should take precautions to protect themselves from the summer sun and heat. He recommends that gardeners drink plenty of fluids before, during and after they work in their gardens, apply sunscreen, try to garden during cooler temperature periods and garden in the shade rather than in the direct sun.
Gardeners who spend long periods of time in
their gardens should take precautions to protect
themselves from the summer sun and heat.


Cajun hibiscus can make your garden sizzle

Cajun hibiscus, bred and released by the Dupont Nursery in Louisiana, feature flower colors ranging from bright yellows to pinks, reds and whites. Some of the more spectacular flowers offer color blends and bright red eyes.

Some flowers are wider than 9 inches in diameter. One of the most interesting flower features is the arrangement of stamens and pistil, which are unusually prominent and colorful.

Cajun hibiscus need cold-weather protection. Plants grown in containers can be moved more easily indoors before temperatures drop below freezing.

Cajun hibiscus, like 'High Definition,' offer gardeners plenty of color
choices, including bright yellows, pinks, reds, whites and color blends.
Photo by Gary Bachman, Mississippi State University 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Add a touch of the tropics to your garden

As summer temperatures start to rise and early spring annuals start to fade, it's a good time to replace spent plants with ones that thrive in hot weather. Tropical plants that can be used on patios or in garden beds include cannas, bananas, hibiscus, dwarf citrus trees, mandevilla, blue potato tree(Lycianthus rantonnei), agapanthus, bougainvillea and elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta). They might not quite reach jungle-like size in moderate climates, but they will provide a great show of color throughout the summer and into the fall.
Tropical plants like mandevilla can be used in patio
containers and landscape beds to add  a touch of
the tropics to summer gardens.

Seek feedback from community garden members

Asking for feedback from community garden members can help to guide future successes by taking the time to review and evaluate community garden program efforts. Evaluating the progress of specific projects is important because it helps measure factors important to the organization, including value or worth, effectiveness and participation rates. Evaluations can help to demonstrate the value of a community garden to the neighborhood, local officials, financial supporters and the greater community.
Feedback from community garden members can help to guide
future successes.

Wondering who spit on your plants?

Spittlebugs are likely the culprit of globs of bubbly froth found on trees, shrubs and plants during late spring. This small, true bug goes by several other common names, including frog hopper or spit bug. The small insect responsible for this spit is the nymph or immature spittlebug.

Control is often not necessary for spittlebugs. Spittlebugs and their foam can be removed from plants by washing them off with a stream of water that does not damage the plants.
The spittlebug and its foam can be removed from
a plant by washing them off with a stream of water.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Edible Plants for the Prairies

Urban Farmer has posted a useful list of “Edible Plants for the Prairies”. This includes various berries, fruit trees & vines, perennial vegetables, herbs, tea plants, edible ground covers, and even edible flowers.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Containers let you garden anywhere

Growing plants in containers enables gardeners to have plants in places that would otherwise be plant-less. Just like gardening in landscape beds, choosing a good growing medium is critical to the success growing plants in containers. The potting mix should be well aerated. The growing medium in containers tends to dry out quickly and needs to be watered more often than traditional gardens.

Plants in containers require more added nutrients depending on the growing medium chosen. Nutrients can be easily leached from the growing medium if the plants are water frequently. Depending on the how often the plants are watered, expect to have to fertilize the plants during the growing season. A 3- to 4-month slow-release fertilizer can be top-dressed on the surface of the growing medium to ensure the plants receive a steady nutrient supply.
The growing medium in containers tends to dry
out quickly and needs to be watered more often
than traditional gardens. 


Drought effects linger in ornamental plants

After last year's drought in many parts of the country, some landscape plants are struggling to recover this spring. Some of the drought-related symptoms that are evident are late leaf-out, sparse tree canopies or shoot dieback. These symptoms are likely the lingering effects of the extreme heat and drought that most locations experienced last summer.

The main strategy to deal with trees and shrubs that are struggling this spring is to avoid additional stresses to the plants this summer. For trees that are slow to redevelop a canopy this summer, a low rate of fertilizer may be warranted. For trees and shrubs that have leafed out, but show significant crown dieback, dead shoots can be pruned out to improve appearance.
Trees, like this maple, damaged by last
year's drought  will need pruning to
 remove dead shoots and improve form.



Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Time to vote for the American Garden Award

Voting is open until Aug. 31, 2013, for the American Garden Award program. This year there are four plant entries:
* 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
You can participate in the program by voting 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.

You can follow the voting results on Facebook or Twitter. Spread the word on the American Garden Award program to friends, family and business associates by encouraging them to vote too.
Voting is open until Aug. 31, 2013, for the
American Garden Award program.



Saturday, June 1, 2013

Get smarter about gardening with smart phone apps

Portable devices can now provide easy access to science-based horticulture information. There are apps available to help you design rain gardens, diagnose plant problems, search for plants based on a specific need, or find out more about whether the plants you’re looking at in the garden center are suitable for your landscape.
Smart phone apps put science-based gardening information in
the palm of your hand.

Saving storm-damaged trees

After severe weather outbreaks, one of the most common questions homeowners face is what to do with storm-damaged trees. Often the decision to try to keep a tree can be difficult.

Most trees or limbs that come down in typical thunderstorms usually have a defect that caused them to fail. Common defects include decay, poor branch architecture, pervious mechanical damage or poor root structure. If a tree loses a limb during a storm because of decay, it’s possible other limbs on the tree may have similar problems. Therefore, it’s important to try to determine where and why the problem occurred on the tree and if the problem is likely to be repeated.

The National Arbor Day Foundation has put together an illustrated a guide, “Can these trees be saved?” that provides useful insights to help homeowners gauge the condition of their trees after a storm.
A damaged tree is much more of a concern if it is near
a structure, sidewalk or children’s play area than if
it’s alone in a field or along an untraveled woodline.