Monday, September 29, 2014

Keeping Geraniums over the Winter Months

Every fall, right around the first light frost of the season, I’ll gather several Geraniums into pots and bring them inside. They’ll keep on blooming for a while then go dormant. Then come spring, they bless me with another season of blooms. Although this is one way of overwintering Geraniums, there are several others:

Bare Root Method:
This is the easiest and most traditional way of keeping Geraniums.
**  Dig them up and shake the soil from the roots.
**  Hang the plants upside down in a cool place—a cellar usually, but a paper bag will suffice.
**  About once a month, water the roots by placing them in a bucket of water for about an hour or so.
**  In the spring, prune the stems and pot them.
**  Water thoroughly

Move plants inside:
I like this way best because it brings the color inside and I get to enjoy them for a little while longer.
**  Prune the geraniums to about 1/3 of their original height and put them in pot.
**  They will need a very bright room or sunny window in a cool room.
**  Water only when the soil is dry.
**  Keep them pinched back to avoid leggy limbs.
**  In the spring water and set outside.

Take Cuttings:
I’ve not tried this method with Geraniums, but I’ve done it with other plants.
**  With a sharp knife cut the top 3 to 4 inches from the ends of the plant
**  Pinch off the lower leaves and stick the cuttings in rooting soil in a pot with good drainage.
**  Place a plastic bag over the cuttings and container to act like a miniature greenhouse.
**  When they have rooted, move into their own pot and on outside when the weather is warm.

A few things to consider:
**  The older the plant, the woodier the stems become and in the end will bloom less often. This may happen with either of the first two methods.
**  You need to watch for diseases and insects such as aphids, gnats, or spider mites. Especially if you have other indoor plants.
**  Use only the healthiest plants.

Your turn:  Have you ever brought Geraniums in for the winter?  If so, which method did you use?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

When will Skype be a thing of the past?

My granddaughter, who is only three years old, has learned to Skype—mostly due to her father’s recent deployment to Afghanistan. Technology has gone a long way in recent years into areas my grandparents or my children’s grandparents never dreamed of. 

My husband and I watched as my granddaughter bounced from one side of her living room in Tennessee to the other, showing us a large array of toys and stuffed animals. Then she took us on a tour of her bedroom, digging out buried treasures from under her bed, flipping switches on every musical toy she owned.

At times she wasn’t much more than a blur of garbled pixels, but the fact that technology spanned twenty-two hundred miles and let us get a glimpse of her everyday life was priceless.

However, technology is moving at the speed of light.  Items we believed to be indispensable thirty or forty years ago, are now nothing more than a piece of history collecting dust.

Transistor radios:  At night I’d sit on our back porch and slowly turn the dial, trying to pick up radio waves that drifted in the sky. Only these weren’t local stations.  Some, depending on things like cloud cover, would come from thousands of miles away.

Slide rulers: I never got the real knack for using them, but by sliding the middle of three rulers back and forth, anyone could do mathematic equations such as multiplication, division, roots, and trigonometry.

Vacuum tubes: Prior to the early 1970’s and before semiconductors, you could open up the back of a television or radio and find an array of vacuum tubes. They were a mystery to me, but my father was an expert at swapping them out for new ones.  I’ve learned they can still be found in some audio equipment such as guitar amps, and high-end audio components due to their reliability. 
So maybe I'm wrong.  Perhaps some of the technology we have today will still hand around for awhile.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fall Care of Peonies

I love Peonies in the spring, their variety of blooms from sling rows of petals to those that rival the largest English Roses.  And their scent!  Heavenly!

And although they can grow in the harsh desert climate of Nevada, I have found most plants need a little TLC due to the temperature fluctuations and arid climate, especially in winter. So I did a little research and thought I’d pass it on to you.

Did you know Peonies have the ability to last for 50 plus years!  And probably longer if given a little extra attention.

Here are a few fall tips I learned to keep them blooming in the spring:
  • Let the leaves die back naturally.
  • After the first fall frost, cut the stems down to the ground and dispose of them.
  • Divide plants if necessary, but usually this should only every 15 or 20 years or if they stop putting out flowers.
  • Cover with a straw mulch to maintain even ground temperature.  This is especially true for climates such as mine where snow doesn’t create a blanket of protection.
  • If you live in a cold rainy climate, then make sure you destroy clippings and old much from around peony beds prior to covering with straw mulch to avoid fungal infections.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Feast for Thieves by Marcus Brotherton

I had the opportunity to read Feast for Thieves by Marcus Brotherton and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Marcus is not a stranger to the publishing world. His previous books, all non-fiction, include Shifty’s War, A Company of Heroes and New York Times bestseller, We Who Are Alive and Remain: Untold stories from the Band of Brothers. 

Feast for Thieves, however, is his debut fiction novel.  The story crafted by Brotherton, set if post WWII era, is a remarkable tale of forgiveness and redemption. The main character, Sergeant Rowdy Slater, is faced with a decision—either be tried and subsequently put in jail for robbing a bank, or trust in the wisdom of small town sheriff who, for some reason, has taken a liking to him.
Rowdy's punishment? Serve for one year as a minister in the lonely town of Cut Eye, Texas. Of course Rowdy will take his punishment because it beats going to jail. But a preacher? With his past?

Then, if that isn't enough, Rowdy’s finds himself face to face with his partner in crime when the evil Crazy Ake returns for his share of the money from the bank heist.  When Rowdy doesn't have it Crazy Ake has a plan that will get Rowdy killed, or at the very least send him to jail.

Add in a romantic interest, Bobbie, who is none other than the sheriff’s daughter and you’ll find Marcus has created an unforgettable story.

For more information about Marcus you can check out his website at

You can find out more about Feast for Thieves at Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dividing Perennials in the Fall

Although I divide most of my perennials in the spring, dividing them in the fall can be better for the plant.  It gives them more time to create roots before it must endure the heat of summer.
By dividing in the fall, the warm soil and steady autumn rains provide a constant supply of water to help promote root growth.  The basic rule of thumb though is it is better to divide the early blooming perennials in the fall. But, make sure to give them at least six weeks before the ground freezes. Divide perennials now to ensure a trouble-free spring. However, if you live in a northern climate where hard freezes come early, you may want to consider waiting until spring to divide your plants as I’ve always done.
So how do you know if your plant needs to be divided?  The norm is every three to five years, especially if the rate of flowering has dwindled or the growth of the plant is spreading outward, leaving a dead mass in the center.  Or if they have overgrown their space. If you’re not sure if the plant can be divided, then check online or in a garden book for the proper way to divide the plant in question.
Here is an abbreviated list of perennials that you can divide in the fall:
  • Achillea
  • Astilbe
  • Baptisia
  • Campanula
  • Coreopsis
  • Dianthus
  • Heuchera
  • Hosta
  • Liatris
  • Monarda
  • Peony
  • Salvia
  • Sedum
  • Veronica
  • Viola
  • Yucca

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Favorite Old Movie - Operation Petticoat

Okay, I have to admit I’m a Cary Grant fan. (Especially when I realized my post a couple of months ago was also about a Grant classic.)  Taken in by debonair demeanor and dashing tall, dark, and handsome good looks, I have to agree he is one of the best actors of all time.
This classic is another WW2 comedy about a submarine commander who finds himself stuck with a decrepit (and pink) sub, a con-man executive officer and a group of army nurses.  The latter giving him more troubles than thought possible when the clumsiness of one beautiful nurse wreaks havoc on his submarine—and his heart.
Again, Grant’s days as a pantomime serve him well.  Especially when the submarine tilts and the well-endowed nurse falls against him in the narrow hall of the submarine. His expression is priceless!
It isn’t until the end of the movie that you learn the clumsy nurse won his heart—and yes, she’s still as clumsy as ever.  When she rear-ends her husband’s staff car, he takes it in stride as any wise commander would do.
I can’t think of a favorite scene, because the whole movie that turns disaster into fun is a must see in my book.
Your Turn: Do you have a favorite Cary Grant Movie?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Lasagna Gardening - Preparing a garden for next year

This is a no-till option for building raised beds and great soil. It is similar to sheet composting and allows you to build raised beds without stripping grass or weeds off the site. You can also build a lasagna garden on top of an existing vegetable garden site.

If you are starting on a new site, first cut the grass as short as possible and/or scalp the weeds at ground level. Next cover the bed with a thick layer of newspaper (6 to 10 sheets) to smother existing vegetation. Use sheets of cardboard or flattened cardboard boxes if there are vigorous perennial weeds on the site. Either wet down the newspapers as you spread them or have a supply of soil or mulch at hand and weigh them down with handfuls as you spread. Be sure to overlap the edges of the newspaper or cardboard as you work.

Gardening in layers. To make a lasagna garden, spread newspapers or cardboard to smother existing vegetation, then pile on layers of grass clippings, chopped leaves, kitchen scraps, finished compost, and topsoil.

After that, begin layering organic matter on top of the site. Combine materials as you would in a compost pile, by mixing “browns” and “greens.” Add layers of organic materials such as grass clippings, finished compost, chopped leaves, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, seaweed, shredded mail or newspaper, garden trimmings, used potting soil, sawdust, and weeds (don’t add ones that have gone to seed or perennials with vigorous rhizomes, which will spread and grow in the bed). You can also add topsoil, which will help speed things along. Make a pile that is 1 feet or more deep, and top it off with a layer of mulch to keep weeds from getting a foothold. Then wait several months for materials to decompose.

You can build a lasagna garden any time of year. Building one in fall to plant in spring is a good idea, and there are plenty of leaves available for chopping and adding to the mix. If you’re building in spring or summer, you can speed up the time when it will be ready to plant by adding extra compost and topsoil in the mix. Top the bed with 2 to 3 inches of topsoil and/or compost for annual crops (more for perennial plants) and then plant seedlings directly into the topsoil/compost mix.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Hail, Torrential Rains, and Mudslides

I live in a desert but I have had to remind myself of that several times this year. Although the daily rainfall through the month of July and into August is a boon to our water supply, it is not normal.

Especially when the heavens open up and dump six inches of hail followed by four inches of rain in less than an hour on our heads.  That one storm brought with it a mud slide from the mountains at the rear of our property. It came down the clear path of our access road (shown here) into the hills behind us and dumped at least three feet of mud (mostly sand), in our side yard.

The water, eager to make its way to the river below us, carved paths into the hillside, washed the gravel from our driveway, and lifted and moved our propane tank off its foundation (shown here).  As you can see the tank is about one-third buried, plus as we found out later, it had been lifted approximately ten inches off the cement pad. We had to dig down about eighteen inches just so I could open my garden shed.

The hail wiped out many plants in my garden and my neighbor's garden. It shredded the leaves on my Iris plants and toppled the Monarda plants (shown here).   Even our road was flooded in several locations, leaving mounds of dirt and debris closing off the primary access to our home.

They call it the “Hundred Year Rain Storm”.  I hope they are right!

But thankfully God was watching over us. Even with the additional dirt in our yard, the missing gravel in our driveway, and the general cleanup we need to do—nothing was harmed. It could have been a lot worse.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Plant of the Month - Cone Flowers

I fell in love with Cone Flowers (also known as Echinacea) when I drove by a house that had Cone Flowers and Black-eyed Susan planted alongside the road.  It was breathtaking. Ever since it has been a love affair with the flower.  They used to be mostly pink and white, but now as horticulturists experiment with new varieties, I’ve seen them in yellow, orange and green.  Not only do they make a beautiful mix with other late summer perennials, if left unattended in a winter garden their empty stalks make for an excellent addition to the winter landscape.  

Light:  Partial Shade/Full Sun

Zones:  3 - 9

Plant Type:  Perennial

Plant Height:  27 – 32”

Plant Width:  18 – 24”

Flower Color:  Pink, white with new colors arriving every season 

Bloom Time:  Mid - late summer

Special Features:  Easy to grow, makes a vibrant mix with Daisies and Black-eyed Susan