Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer Care for your Container Garden

It’s summer and the heat has set in.  You want nothing more than to find a cool spot and sip on some iced tea.  But what about your container garden?  Are your plants surviving?  Or are they looking a little weary of the heat too?

The key is watering. Of course you all knew that.  Right?  But, the best time to water is NOT when the container is completely dried out and the flowers are wilting. The key is keeping a regular watering schedule.  Water the containers thoroughly.  As long as the pots have drainage holes, I’d say go ahead and over water.  This allows the soil time to soak up the extra water.  Often we sprinkle the pots and they look wet, but if you stick your finger into the soil you’ll find that less than an inch down can be dry as a bone.  This means the roots are not getting the moisture they need the water is running off or out of the pot.

Fertilize regularly.  I usually use a time released variety in the spring.  I mix it into the soil prior to putting any plants in the pot and don’t have to worry about it later.  But if you didn’t do this, feed your plants every 2 to 3 weeks. Seeing as how there are many fertilizers out there, take time to read the instructions on the back of the product for best results.

Clean them up.  Remove the old blooms and pinch back the leggy limbs. You will be rewarded with more blooms in a short amount of time. I will pinch back my plants several times in a season, it makes the plant put out more stems and you’ll have a thicker looking pot of flowers.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Weeds - the real nasties!

I’ve posted before on weeding—no one’s favorite subject.  In those posts, I talked about proactive and reactive ways to rid your garden of the undesirable plants. But there is one more thing.  In this the age of information, knowledge is power.  Knowing the weeds in your area will give you the ability to beat them before they get to you.  Here are a couple I have encountered over the years:

Bindweeds.  I made the mistake of confusing these with the morning glories I grew over our back fence.  Big mistake, big, big, big mistake. Although they are a valuable honey plant and come from the morning glory family lineage, they are an obnoxious weed. These plants have t-h-o-u-s-a-n-d-s of seeds that come from each flower.  It can reproduce from seed or from one tiny piece of root left in the ground when weeding.  Once they penetrate your garden, they are nearly impossible to get rid of. 

Two suggestions for eradication: 
**1  Pull the dirt away from the base of the plants, exposing some of the roots to the sun. Wait until the plant dies off, then remove the plants roots and all. 
**2  If you can’t find the root source of the plant is to pinch off the flowers.  No flowers, no seeds.
Ragweed.  A major contributor of allergies come fall are just as annoying in your garden. They propagate from seeds, blown around by the wind that can live for decades in your garden soil. The key is to watch for new plants and pull them as soon as possible, mow them down before the seeds begin to grow.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pinching Back Annuals

 Are your annuals looking spindly? Out of control?

The best thing you can do is pinch them back.  This encourages your annuals to create more shoots on the remaining part of the stem, which in turn gives you more flowers.

All you have to do is pinch or cut off the last inch or so of the stem.  This does a couple of things.  First, like I noted above, it causes the plants to create clusters of stems to replace the one you pinched back.  The plant will end up being shorter and fuller.  Secondly, it will produce more blooms. By pinching off the stems you are redirecting the plant’s energy from producing seeds to creating more flowers.

If your annual is out of control, then you may have to pinch a few of the stems back to the last or second to the last set of leaves.  Although it will product great results I don’t suggest doing this to all the branches as it will end up looking like a hedge trimmer ran amuck through your flowers.  A few critically placed pinches more often will reward you with a bushier plant.

I usually pinch back my annuals about once a month, but not every stem.  That way the “trim” isn’t as obvious.  Cut back the thinnest stems at that time.  This will keep your plant blooming continually.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dividing Bearded Iris

A neighbor called me the other day and wanted to know if I wanted some of his Bearded Iris.  As with any avid gardener like myself would do, I said, “Yes!” 
Bearded Iris are tall, show-stopping plants that range in color from white to deep purple, some having two colors, or two tones of the same color.  They are an outstanding backdrop to smaller plants and make an excellent addition to bouquets.  Their foliage stays green long after flowering, which makes them a first-rate addition to any garden.

They are, however, a high-maintenance plant.  The rhizomes, the roots of the Bearded Iris, are susceptible to soft rot and borer damage.  This can be eliminated by dividing the rhizomes every two to three years. The rhizomes of a Bearded Iris can be divided any time after they bloom through the month of August.
Here are the steps to follow:

** Carefully lift the plants from the ground using a pitchfork starting about a foot away from the outermost edge of the plant.
** Shake off the loose soil then rinse them thoroughly.  By doing so, you can inspect the rhizomes and roots for damage from insects.

** Cut the foliage back to approximately six inches. 
** Gently pull separate rhizome sections apart and search each one for small holes or dark streaks.  This will indicate if you have iris borers.

** Soft spots in the rhizome indicate the roots have soft rot.
** Using a sharp knife, cut away infected areas and throw them away.

** One the infected rhizomes are eliminated, you can divide them.  The best place is at a place where the rhizome is forked.  Cut them so that each section has a healthy root system and is at least three inches long.
** Replant sections where they can get full sun, in shallow holes about two to three inches deep and about a foot apart, spreading the roots out in all directions. If buried too deep, the flower will not bloom.

** Water thoroughly and at least once a week thereafter until new growth appears.
This process needs to occur approximately every two to three years otherwise the flower will stop blooming.

Monday, July 14, 2014


There are basically five reasons to mulch:
1.      To prevent weeds
2.      To keep the roots cool in hot weather
3.      To slow evaporation of moisture from the soil
4.      To protect your plants from the winter winds
5.      To add nutrients to the soil (when using organic mulches)

However, there are some rules to mulching:

1.      Don’t put a thick layer around seedlings or mulch over seeds.  It will act like a blanket and discourage the seeds from sprouting, which is a good thing if the seed is of the weed variety, but not otherwise.

2.      Keep mulch pulled away (about 1 to 2 inches) from tender sprouts. Organic mulch will decompose.  And when it goes through the decomposition phase, heat is created.  If it gets too hot, the heat can kill young plants.

3.      Think brown.  Although adding grass to a compost heap is great, mulch created from fresh grass clippings can be deadly to your plants (young and old). 

4.      Some mulch contains seeds that can spread rapidly like Hay.  Avoid them if at all possible or your beautiful garden will soon become a hay field.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Cooking Disasters - How long do you cook your eggs?

This story, though not funny at the time, is funny now, so I thought I’d share it.
When my oldest son took I nap, I usually did too.  At the time, I was halfway through my third pregnancy and was eager for any chance I had to catch some shut-eye. 

This particular day, I didn’t feel very tired so I put several eggs on to boil and decided to put my son down for his afternoon nap.  He wanted me to lay down with him and I did, still truly believing I was not tired.
Yep, you guessed it.  I fell sound asleep only to awaken to a horrible smell.

I have to interject here that I laid him down in my bed which was upstairs at the front of the house.  Our kitchen was located downstairs at the back of the house.  The stench had to travel through the living room, up the steps, and to the opposite end of the house before reaching me.
It took me only about one-half of one second to realize my mistake.  I dashed down the steps—dashed being a misnomer as I was carrying twins and was already the size of a pregnant friend who was due any day.

What I found made my heart sink. Not only had the water boiled out of the pan. But the eggs had literally exploded.  Not only did my kitchen smell like sulfur, but also bits and pieces of eggs and their shells covered the walls and ceiling. It took me all afternoon to scrub the kitchen. Thankfully, it was only that considering the house could have caught fire.
About a week later, while visiting my in-laws, my mother in law asked how long I cook my eggs. My husband’s reply was, “Don’t ask.”

Now it’s your turn to make me feel good and tell me about one of your cooking disasters!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Weeding Tips

Weeding—the dreaded job.  I hate it and I’ll do almost anything I can to make it as easy as possible.  In a previous blog post dated May 19th, I explained how I do most of my weeding in the spring which is a proactive approach. Do it once—and you don’t have to do it again. (No, I’m not kidding.) But if time didn’t have time for that or you’ve just acquired a weed-infested perennial garden, then here are a few tips:

Get them when they’re young.  The best time to yank a week out of the ground is when it is small and the roots have yet to be established.  The longer you let the offensive weed grow, the bigger the root system and the more nutrients it will pull from the soil, thus depriving your plants of needed water and vitamins.

Weed when the ground is wet.  Like after a long summer rain or a thorough watering.  The key is to pull out the entire plant, roots and all.  But if the top 3 or 4 inches of the ground is hard and dry, the plant will break off leaving a portion of the root below ground . . . and I will promise you, the weed will reappear. A moist ground makes it easier to pull the whole plant from its moorings.

Forget the hoe. Some individuals—my husband included—believe it’s easier to chop the weeds off with the hoe.  This may help deter the spread of a weed, even keep it from going to seed, and in a pinch be the answer.  However, as I just explained, it doesn’t get to the “root” of the problem—or the root of the weed.

Tackle the worst first. The important thing to remember is—weeds spread.  Whether it’s by reseeding themselves or the attack of an invasive root system, they multiply and increase in size. So analyze your garden, pick the area that has the largest weed penetration, and start there.

Yes, there is a garden under there.  If you have more weeds than plants, it may mean you’ll need to take the aggressive approach. If this is the case, I have found it easier to dig out the plants I want to keep, pull as many weeds as possible, and re-till the ground.  The key to that is to rake out the pieces of roots and leaves left behind prior to replanting my plants or the weeds may reappear. Also, make sure there are no weeds integrated into the plants before putting them back into the ground. I know this sounds hard, but it is much, much easier than trying to eradicate weeds that have taken over a patch of ground.

Mulch and mulch often.  I believe in the power of mulch.  It keeps the roots of your plants cool and moist, but it also deters weeds from growing. This is the best weed deterrent I know.  If you mulch right after you weed, it will almost eliminate the need for heavy weeding for the rest of the summer.

Pat yourself on a job well done.  But, never assume your weed woes are over.  Revisit a site frequently for weeds determined to resurface. I know I promised you only have to weed once a year, and if you catch the weeds early followed by a heavy coat of mulch, your hours of weeding and re-weeding are over. However, I always make it a point on my nightly walk around my gardens to pull what weeds I have overlooked or sprouted in the interim—because they will come!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Plant of the Month - Daisies

Plant of the Month - Daisies

Who doesn’t love daisies with their bright, sunny disposition and easy-to-grow attitude?  They are a staple of a perennial lover’s garden and often one of the first perennials people will grow.  But did you know there are 23,000 species of daises?  And that not all of them are white? Did you know a Dandelion is considered a Daisy?

Some well-known varieties of varying colors are Chrysanthemums, Gerbera, Calendula, and another of my favorites Coreposis. Some daisies, such as Osteospermum are so tender they are classified as annuals. I’ve grown daisies that are not much more than a foot tall to ones that are three foot high and greater. With this flower the possibilities are endless!  Which is why I consider it one of my favorites.

Light:  Partial Shade/Full Sun
Zones:  3 – 9 (Depending on variety)
Plant Type:  Perennial
Plant Height:  24 - 36" (Depending on variety)
Plant Width:  16 - 20"
Flower Color:  Traditionally, white with Yellow disc of stamens
Bloom Time:  Early summer
Special Features:  Classic white and yellow daisies but with multiple flowers on each stalk. No garden should be without this classic flower. Enjoy in cut flower arrangements as well as the garden setting.

Friday, July 4, 2014

We are one nation under God

It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible. - George Washington.

We are, and should always be...One Nation Under God!

Happy Fourth of July!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tools for the Beginning Gardener

Sometimes people ask me what tools they need to start a garden. The list isn’t extensive, but the items listed below will make your job easier.  Gardening catalogs can tempt even the most seasoned gardener into believing a certain tool will solve all their gardening problems.  But I’d stick with the basics to start. 

Gloves:  I highly recommend a decent pair of gloves that will allow movement, but not too bulky.  They will save your hands and let you enjoy your new hobby without tearing up the skin on your hands.
Hand trowel:  Don’t skimp on this hand-held shovel.  If you can, try to get one that is stainless steel so it won’t rust.  It comes in handy for planting small plants and digging in tight areas. 
Shovel:  A shovel is the work horse of your garden.  I have two kinds:  a short handled and a long handled.  I recommend getting the best you can afford and it will last you forever.
Rake:  It’s a great tool for cleaning up the debris that falls in your garden, but don’t overspend here.
Hoe:  A hoe helps to keep your vegetable garden weed free, but not advisable for use in a perennial garden where next year’s root system is beginning to grow. There is no need to overspend on this item either.
Hose and nozzle:  Your plants need water to sustain life.  You need a long enough hose to reach every corner of your garden.  Nozzles with adjustable heads help you control the spray needed for the area you are watering. Cheap hoses are just that—cheap.  They will bend, crack, and leak. Look for a strong hose, even if you have to pay a little more.
Wheelbarrow:  This depends on the size of your garden and if you’ll need to haul extra dirt or mulch.  For a large garden, it’s worth every penny you pay for it!  Find one that is comfortable to move around.

Your turn:  What tool or gardening gadget have you been tempted to buy?