Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Gardening on First Warm Day in Winter

This winter has been long, cold and there has been more snow this year than in previous years. Being unable to putter in the garden has been hard on me. Normally our winters are mild and my husband and I can work in the yard and gardens throughout the winter months.  So you can imagine how excited I was when I learned that tomorrow would be the first warm day in winter.

The alarm went off at 5 AM and I started to get ready for the first warm day in winter. I was out of the house at 7 AM but found it was still too cold 36 degrees. This afternoon the high will be 55 degrees and that is perfect weather for getting garden beds ready for early spring planting.

I intend on concentrating on cleaning up the gardens. There were branches that fell from the trees during the last ice storm. The debris (branches and leaves) will be removed from the gardens, then any wild grass will be dugout.  I will add a layer of compost to feed the perennials that are planted in the garden beds before moving on to my next garden project. 

The warm weather will last only two days then snow is in the forecast. So I am enjoying the winter warm weather while I can.

If you reside in a cold climate and love to garden, why not plant seeds indoors. You can plant annual, perennial flowers and vegetables in the grow kits. Then transfer the seedlings outdoors in the spring.

Here are a few photographs of my gardens.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Christmas Cactus After Holiday Care

If you love indoor plants that have beautiful flowers and are easy to grow, then a Christmas cactus may be the perfect plant for you.

I received a Christmas cactus that was covered with buds but had no blooms. So I fertilized it with Miracle-gro bloom booster every two weeks and in no time I had beautiful pink blooms. The flowers only lasted one day but I had many buds to enjoy during the Christmas holiday.

Unlike other cactus, the Christmas cactus will thrive in cooler temperature. An ideal temperature would be 68 degrees. So a cooler room with moderate light is best for your Christmas cactus. Do not put your cactus in direct light and a southern exposure would be too hot and would burn the leaves. I prefer to set my cactus off to the side so that the light is moderate and not direct.

Know that over watering your cactus will kill it. Evenly moist soil is not good for your Christmas cactus. I would recommend that you let your cactus soil dry. before watering. Allow the water to drain out of the pot. Do not allow the water to collect in the saucer. Instead of watering your plant daily you should lightly mist the leaves of your plant daily to maintain a level of humidity around your cactus plant.

After Christmas caring for you cactus is easy as long as you keep the plant in a cool room away from a draft or a heat source, provide it with moderate light and do not over water then your plant should thrive and live a long life of 20 to 30 years.

If you have cats or dogs you do not need to worry about the Cactus plant. According to the ASPCA poisonous plant database the Christmas cactus is not toxic or poisonous to cats or dogs.

Learn how to force your Christmas cactus to re-bloom by viewing this video.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Grow Bee Balm Flowers for Late Summer Blooms

The Bee Balm flower a native perennial in North America is commonly called horsemint, Monarda and wild bergamot. This plant is in the mint family and has a unique white, pink, purple or red flower that blooms in mid to late summer.

Here is a greeting card that I created from a
 photograph of a red bee balm flower.

Red Bee Balm Garden Flower Blank Inside Photograph Card

The entire bee balm plant is very fragrant, the leaves, stems, and flowers have a mint/oregano aroma. So if you enjoy fragrant flowers then I would recommend that you grow bee balm close to your outdoor living space.

I have red and purple bee balm growing close to my garden path and flagstone patio. Butterflies and hummingbirds find the bee balm to be attractive and we enjoy watching the wildlife.

Here are some photographs of bee balm
 flowers that grow in the garden.

The bee balm in this photo has powdery mildew 
due to excessive rain in June.

Bee balm growing wild in a field

My bee balm flowers bloom the end of June and continue to bloom through August provided I deadhead all spent blooms. In late summer I will not deadhead because the seed-heads provide a source of food for the sparrows and finches during the fall to the winter season.

Bee Balm Growing Tips

  1. Grow from seed, cuttings and root divisions.
  2. Plant in spring or in late summer / early fall
  3. Choose a planting area that has ample area for this plant to grow and spread. Grow plants 20 inches apart in a loamy soil that is slightly acidic. Soil should be moist but well drained.
  4. Plant in full sun, however, this plant will tolerate part sun in the late afternoon as long as it has six hours of direct sun daily.
  5. Grow bee balm in an area that has good air circulation. Avoid planting next to a wall or a wooden fence as these structures will prevent proper air flow and powdery mildew will form on leaves and stems. Excessive watering will also cause powdery mildew.
  6. Water plants to prevent soil from drying out.
  7. Bee Balm is hardy in the USA growing zone 3.4.5,6,7,8,9

Care and Maintenance

  1. Fertilize in the spring and weekly with a bloom booster flower food. I use Miracle-Gro a water-soluble weekly throughout the blooming season.
  2. Apply a layer of mulch around the stem to help to retain moisture and to prevent weed growth.
  3. Water plants to prevent soil from drying out. Soil that is moist but well-drained is best.
  4. After a hard frost cut back the flower stems to 2-inches above the soil. (or leave seed-heads throughout winter for the birds.
  5. In spring when plants start to grow in check your plants for overcrowding. Divide and transplant when needed or every two years.
  6. If not maintained in your garden this plant can become invasive.

Related articles that you may like

Friday, April 5, 2019

Removing Weeds From Flower Garden

Today I worked in the yard and garden by pulling the crabgrass and chickweed from the backyard irises I had weeded the bed in the fall but suspect that the leaves that had fallen onto the garden over the winter caused the weeds to grow in the spring.  

Due to the rainy weather, the weeds grew in thickly and my husband would like to use a chemical on the crabgrass and chickweed but I do not recommend using a chemical weed killer or a natural weed killer like Vinegar, salt and dawn dish soap in the yard or the gardens. It is best to keep those products away from your flower beds. Even if they have a safety cap to spray only the weed, the liquid seeps into the soil and can kill your flowers from the roots.

Know that at first I was overwhelmed because our flower garden is quite large. But made up my mind to remove the weeds by hand-pulling them.

The best way to hand pull weeds is to do the following. For weeds with a shallow root, you can hold the plant by the stem that is closest to the soil and pull up the weed gently.  Then for the crabgrass with the deep roots and the trailing grasses, you will need to use more care in removing. The best way is to loosen the soil around the crabgrass. Then with a small hoe or hand-held shovel, you will dig the grass out a little to loosen it then grasp the stem close to the soil and pull out. Try to get the roots because crabgrass will grow back

It took me three and a half hours to complete the backyard irises. Then my husband and I stood at the front of the garden and admired the clean weed-free appearance.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Gardening Is a Natural Cure for SAD

Gardening is good for you because it makes you feel good. Weed a garden bed and your stress will go away. Plant a container garden and you will feel calmer and happier.

Its been a long winter and we have been indoors a lot. We keep ourselves busy when we are home by planning our spring and summer gardens but it is not the same as being outdoors with our hands in the dirt. 

My husband was feeling SAD last week and I suspected it was due to another snow storm and too much time spent indoors.  So to put a stop to my husband feeling sad  I grabbed pots and soil from the shed and we planted seeds for an indoor garden. In no time we were talking and laughing and our entire mood had improved. This is why I say that Gardening is a natural cure for SAD.

For me, a day in the garden is a natural way to eliminate any anxiety or feelings of sadness.

Working with your hands in the dirt is the best natural antidepressant. There have been studies done on how dirt effects people. Did you ever notice that gardeners overall are happy and calm? The findings in the study showed that the bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae is found in dirt and it will mirror an antidepressant.  I guess dirt is a natural form of Prozac.

If you are having an off day, feeling sad or just in a mood then maybe you should plan to spend the day in the garden. If you do not have a backyard then you can shop for a container and potting soil so that you can plant and grow a flower, herb or vegetable garden.

Here is the link to the article that I read Dirt doubles as an antidepressant 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Growing Red Poppy Flowers

Red Poppies are a vibrant flower that can be grown as an annual or a perennial. This showy flower looks wonderful when grown in masses with other wildflowers in an open field or large garden area where you can enjoy watching butterflies.

Red Poppy Bouquet / Botanical Postcard

A few years ago I bought wildflower seed that was formulated with partial shade flowers. To my surprise, the red poppy was mixed in with this seed. 

I planted the seed in early spring (end of March) as it was in the time period recommended on the seed packet. (March-May)  The seeds were sowed on turned over soil that was amended with organic matter. I did not cover the seed with soil. I watered the seed after planting then daily until the flowers were established in the garden. Then I watched to make sure the flowers did not dry out and watered the flower garden as needed. Be careful to not over water as this flower does not grow well in soggy soil.

When fully grown your poppy will form a clump and the flowers will be 12 to 14 inches in height. 

My poppies bloomed in June and continued to provide my garden with color for four weeks. If you reside in an area that has deer know that they will leave this flower alone.

The poppy flower is beautiful when grown in masses or in a small garden. This flower does attract butterflies, hummingbirds and honey bees. So you will want to plant and grow where you can enjoy viewing the flowers and the wildlife.

  1. Poppy flowers do not last long when they are cut for a floral arrangement or in a vase. On average they will last for the day but no more than 8 hours. You can try a fresh cut on the stem and fresh water and they may last a little longer.
  2. Fertilize poppies in the spring. Use an organic fertilizer that is applied to the soil around your plants.
  3. You can cut back the poppy flower when it dies off or you can wait for the seed pod. 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

About Flowering Shrub – Forsythia

If you like flowering shrubs that bloom in the spring then you should grow the Forsythia. This shrub is not fragrant however it does produce branches that are covered with flower buds in late winter/ very early spring.  This flowering shrub is the first to bloom in my yard. When the buds bloom the bright yellow flowers are so cheerful.

forsythia and reflection postcard

Ashuelot Covered Bridge Forsythia Postcard

This showy flowering shrub can be grown as a hedge, free-standing accent plant or a foundation plant. This shrub is long-lived and the flowers can be cut for lovely centerpieces for your home. If you plant as a hedge plant the forsythia six feet apart.
I grew up with Northern Gold Forsythias in my backyard so when I moved back to the Midwest I planted this shrub in my yard, I joined an organization and received two bareroots that were four inches tall. The shrub took years to grow and to produce multiple branches. Of course, that was 8 years ago and now my forsythias are mature. My shrub is 10 feet in height with a similar spread.
Growing wild forsythia should be pruned after the spring bloom to keep in shape.

Forsythias are not hard to grow, as long as you plant them in full sun (at least six hours daily). Choose a growing site that has well-drained soil. I recommend growing this flowering hedge where you can enjoy seeing the showy flowers.
To prevent this shrub from getting out of control you would prune in the spring after it has bloomed. If you prune in the summer or the fall then you run the risk of having fewer blooms the following season.
There are many varieties of forsythia some grow best in cold climates others are hardy when grown in zone 3 to 9.  

Learn more about pruning your forsythia here

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Treating Transplants with Neem Oil Concentrate

Today we worked in the garden by digging up herbs and transplanting them into containers. We always bring our culinary herbs indoors to enjoy them throughout the winter months and think it is best to bring them in before the weather turns colder than 60 degrees. Herbs are heat seekers and when the days and nights turn cool the plants are stressed.

We transplanted Rosemary, Sage, Oregon Basil, Peppermint and Parsley today. But before bringing the plants indoors we sprayed all with Garden Safe Neem Oil Concentrate. Neem oil is an organic way to get rid of a variety of garden pests; aphids, whiteflies, powdery mildew, and spider mites.

It is best to treat your plants with the Neem oil solution a day or two before bringing them indoors. It takes approximately 24 hours to get rid of the pests on your plants.

Neem oil organic concentrate is easy to use because this natural product is mixed with water before applying with a garden sprayer to your plants. Spray your plants, saturate them with the pest control. Then wait a day or two before bringing your transplants indoors for the winter.

Note: Oil does not mix well with water so you need to shake the formula often before and during application.

Learn more about Neem oil by viewing this video.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Indoor Growing Tips for Chives

Chives are a delicious perennial herb that is in the onion, leek and garlic family. You can grow chives outdoors and indoors in a container as long as it gets ample light in a room that has good air circulation and the soil does not dry out.

Start the chives outdoors in the ground or in a container. The chive is easy to grow from a bulb or you can plant by sowing seeds in the spring. When fully grown chives tall sword-like leaves will reach the height of 10 to 12 inches. When planting it is best to grow a clump of chives in a container or the ground and I recommend planting 5 or 6 bulbs so the plant can grow into an attractive clump.
Harvest the leaves of fully grown chives for your salads, soups, 
stews, dips and herb bread recipes

The best way to grow chives indoors is to dig up chives from your outdoor garden after a hard freeze and replant into a container. Clip back the foliage before setting on your sunny spot. Water and fertilize the chives and wait for the new growth. You have tricked the chives into thinking it is spring and chances are there will be pretty purple flowers on your plant. Learn more about herbs here

View recipes for chives below

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Planting Oak Trees with Spouse

When it comes to planning the gardens and landscape I usually do all the drawings then my husband will help me with the labor. My spouse is someone who would rather watch the garden shows on TV than actually go out in the yard and create a specialty garden or plant a tree. However, if someone asks him a question about gardening he will give an expert opinion.
Oak trees planted 20 feet apart

Overall I like my husband helping me in the yard and garden but that is not to say that he does not get under my skin when he disagrees with me on how and where to plant trees.

A few years ago we both agreed that our landscape needed some shade trees plus we liked the idea of having a wind block in the winter and shade in our yard in the summer. We decided to plant oak trees.

I wanted to plant the trees 20 feet apart from each other and 15 feet away from the house. My husband wanted to plant the Oak trees in a row; 8 feet from the house and 12 feet apart.

I disagreed because an Oak tree needs room to grow and if it is grown too close to your house the branches will constantly need to be trimmed and the roots will grow into the foundation. Besides trees that are grown too close to each other are competing for sun, water, and soil nutrients. Too close means an unhealthy tree. So we disagreed about how many trees should be planted and where they should be planted.

If my husband thinks that he is right about where to plant the oak shade trees; in a row, 5 feet from the house and 8 feet in-between the trees, then nothing I say will convince him otherwise. He has his mind made up that these trees will provide a wind block in the winter and aid in conserving energy in the summer.

Whenever my husband and I disagree I make a point to convince him otherwise by going with him to the tree nursery. Once there I will seek the tree expert and ask him for his assistance. This is the best way for me to put an end to a disagreement.

If you have a husband like mine then ask the tree expert, master gardener or another garden expert for planting tips. Your husband will know then that you were correct, and instead of arguing with you he will heed the expert advice on planting.

Know that I won the disagreement because the tree expert confirmed what I said was correct. He was diplomatic and did not say your wife is correct, he just repeated what I had said. My husband knew I was right and he will never question me again about planting trees, but he will never admit that I was right because it’s a “guy thing”.

Learn more about growing Oak trees.