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!