Saturday, March 26, 2011

Keep Fresh Cut Flowers Longer



Keep your fresh cut flowers longer without using floral preservative by cutting your flowers before they bloom or buying an arrangement from the grower. When you start out with flowers that are ready to bloom they will open up throughout the week.


I enjoy cutting flowers and making arrangements for my home decor.  I like the idea of setting a cheerful floral arrangement on the breakfast table and prefer that the flowers stay fresh for more than a day.  Through trail and error I learned how to keep cut flowers fresher longer. 

One way to keep your cut flowers fresh longer is to cut the flowers for your arrangement or bouquet in the morning when the temperature is cooler. Look for flower buds that are beginning to open. Cut the flower stem diagonally with a clean and sharp garden scissor


Once inside I like to rinse the flowers off to remove any garden pests and then I will remove the leaves from the stems so that the leaves are not inside the vase of water, leaves that are submerged in water will decay quickly.  


I will leave outward leaves as a little greenery looks good in a bouquet.  After I I have trimmed the leaves from the stems I will look for a vase to accommodate my cut flowers.  I like to choose a vase that will provide the stems with plenty of room.  Wash the vase before you use it with hot soapy water and rinse well. 

Fill the vase with three inches of tepid filtered water.  (water that has no chemicals, pipe sediments, trace minerals or bacteria). Your floral bouquet will keep fresh longer when the water is fresh and clean.  Add your cut flowers to the vase.



Maintain the fresh cut appearance by removing the flowers from the vase daily.  Cut the stems of the flowers and empty the water from the vase. Wash the vase with hot soapy water before you refill the vase with filtered water. Rearrange the flowers into the vase.



By changing the vase water daily and cutting the flower stems you will keep your fresh cut flowers longer. 













Thursday, March 24, 2011

Growing Tips for Tomato Garden

Roma Tomatoes: Image credit Wikipedia Commons


Growing a tomato garden will enable you to enjoy all the culinary and health benefits of  this delicious fruit.  

There is nothing better than picking a vine ripe tomato when it is plump, red and juicy.  One bite and you know that your labor of overseeing your garden was well worth it.  



I grow Beef Steak and Big Boy tomatoes for salads, sandwiches and salsa, my husband grows Roma tomatoes for Italian sauces.  We both enjoy the flavor of the tomatoes and we like that tomatoes are rich in vitamin C and Lycopene.  Tomatoes are nature’s way to keep your body healthy.   

If you want to improve your health by preventing your risk of some cancers then grow and eat tomatoes. 



Gather garden supplies for growing tomatoes:
Tiller
Compost
Tomato plants
Shovel
Stakes or cages
Irrigation with timer
Pruning shears
Garden gloves
Mulch
Tomato fertilizer spikes





Decide on the type of tomato that you would like to grow.  Many people like to eat tomatoes raw and some like to prepare culinary dishes with tomatoes.  The choice is yours to choose your tomato plants based on your needs.  

When you decide on the type of tomatoes you would like to grow you need to next decide if you want to grow them from seed or from a nursery grown container plant.  

If it is early in the season you could start your seeds inside; sow garden seeds 6 to 8 weeks prior to planting outdoors.  A plant tomato outdoors after the danger of spring frost has past and the ground has warmed.

Over the years I have had my share of ups and downs when it came to growing tomatoes and I will admit that I learned how to grow this fruit the hard way.  I learned that in order to grow tomatoes you must meet all of the tomato requirements.  


Tomatoes like it hot so select a garden site that is located in full sun.  A minimum of eight hours per day will keep your plants healthy and the fruit will be large.  Tomatoes also like well drained humus soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.8.  A good way to achieve a good soil for your tomato plants is to add compost or manure to your soil. 

Care for your tomato plants by applying organic mulch; pine needles, or grass clippings around the tomato plants.  The mulch will help to aid in moisture control, deter weed growth and will enrich the soil with nutrients.  

Water your tomatoes plants daily in the morning with drip irrigation.  When tomatoes start to grow the stems will weaken and will need to be staked or caged for support.  Tomatoes plants will grow to the height of 3 to 10 feet. 
Tips:
  1. Remove the suckers that grow out in-between the branches.   These suckers will compete for nutrients and will weaken the fruit growth.  Pinch off the suckers.
  2. Refrain from overcrowding and space tomato plants three feet apart.
  3. Fertilize tomatoes once a month throughout the growing season.
  4. Tomatoes need one inch of water per week, do not allow them to dry out.  Better if soil is evenly moist by not wet.
Warnings:
  1. Cracked or deformed tomatoes are due to not enough water.




Saturday, March 19, 2011

Old-Fashioned Lilacs Growing Tips





Grow old-fashioned lilac's and you will enjoy fragrant flowers every spring.  This spring-blooming flowering shrub will grow in your yard for many generations provided that you meet it's growing requirements.  

  

I love my lilacs and in the spring when the flowers bloom the fragrance is wonderful.   Over the years I have taken many photographs of my lilac blooms and turned those photographs into greeting cards.  Here is one of my favorites, it shows you how pretty the flowers really are.

Know that growing the lilacs and getting blooms such as the ones in the photo card that it will take several years. So I recommend that you buy a nursery grown shrub to plant in your yard.

Here are som growing tips

  1. You can grow the old-fashioned lilac as a flowering hedge and it will provide privacy as the lilac will grow to 15 feet in height with a 12-foot spread.   
  2. Select a growing site that offers full sun with well-drained soil.  The roots of the lilac are deep and prefer to not be wet so plant on the top of a hill or in an area where the water drains well. 
  3. Plant the old-fashioned lilac in the spring after the threat of frost has passed.  
  4. If you purchase a lilac from the nursery gently remove from the container.  Hydrate the roots by filling a large bucket with tepid water.  
  5. Set the lilac root ball in the water for a half hour.  While the roots are hydrating prepare your planting site. 
  6. Loosen the soil with your shovel and amend the soil with compost or manure.  
  7. Dig a hole that is the same depth and width as the lilac container. 
  8. Plant the lilac when it is hydrated.  Set the root ball in the center hole and fill the hole up with soil.  
  9. Water well.


Hand pull weeds then apply 4 inches of mulch


Caring for Lilacs




  1. Keep the growing site weed free. 
  2. Apply 3 to 4 inches of mulch around the base of the lilac.  The mulch will help to retain moisture and discourage weed growth.  
  3. In early spring remove the mulch and apply compost or manure around your lilac shrub. This is a natural way to fertilize your flowering shrub.
  4. Reapply the mulch after you add the compost or manure. 

Other Garden Tips 

The Old-Fashioned Lilac is easy to grow.  If the summer is hot and humid you may see aphids, if so treat with organic pesticide or release 1500 ladybugs into the yard.  Ladybugs are a natural way to remove aphids from your garden.  

  • Remove spent flowers
  • Prune or shape annually after lilac has flowered
  • Butterflies and hummingbirds will visit your yard when the lilacs bloom
  • Hardy in growing zones 3-7 



    

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Garden Clean up and Weed Removal

    Spring and fall is when you would cleanup your garden by removing all of the excess leaves sticks and weeds.  It is a time when you get your garden ready for the upcoming season. 

    Before you begin your garden clean-up walk through your garden and check the weed growth and grade your gardens by work level 1-3.  I use an easy grading system; 1 represents a garden that needs a moderate clean-up, this garden would be easy.  The next level would be a 2 and this garden would require some effort to do a spring clean up.  The 3 garden is the mother-load garden clean up.  The 3 level garden would need an extensive clean up.  I grade the gardens by work level so that I know what I am getting into and I usually tackle the hardest job first.   

    Make a list of products that are needed to do the garden work. I find it is best to be organized and have everything that I need before I start my spring garden clean-up.  If you have to stop while working, you may procrastinate, and spend too much time at the garden center so just purchase what you need before you start.

    I need these Products:
    • Heavy Duty Garden Gloves
    • Cushioned handle Garden Tools
    • Garden Knee Rest
    • Off Deep woods Pest Control
    • Waterproof Sunscreen
    • Yard Trash Bags
    • Preen Garden Weed Preventive

    Plan to start your spring garden clean up in the morning. Before starting any work in the yard I recommend doing a series of exercises that will allow you to stretch your muscles.  Stretch for about 20 minutes before beginning your garden work.  By doing this you will prevent cramping and sore muscles.  Work at a pace that suits your needs.  Try to get an entire garden done in one day and then work on the next garden the following day.

    For large flower beds you should section it off and then clean-up one section at a time before moving onto the next.  By doing this you will not become overwhelmed especially if it is a big job.  Remove all of the debris; last season leaves, twigs, branches and such.  Do a hand pulling of the weeds. For stubborn weeds, dig out the root.  

    Once the flower bed is cleaned, loosen the soil in the bed to about a inch, then sprinkle on some Preen Garden Weed Preventive.   I like Preen because it does not harm the plants or my flowers but it does prevent new weed growth.  





    Another way to control weed growth is to apply Scott’s natural scapes advanced color enhanced classic black mulch.  Normally I prefer to use natural cypress mulch but this year I opted for the Scotts black mulch .  The black organic mulch is a nice contrast to green foliage and also prevents weeds naturally. 


    Put the weeds and excess garden debris in trash bags before moving on to the next garden; complete each section before starting a new one.  

    Notes from Susan G
    Keep your garden clean up organized and you will work more efficiently.  If you have any questions please leave me a comment and I will respond.  Happy spring garden clean up everyone.


       



    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    Stella D' Oro Daylily Growing Tips




    The Stella d’Oro with its buttery yellow flowers will bloom all from June to August.  Plant this 18 to 24 inch high lily in a container or along a garden border. This lily is a great ground cover and looks good grown in a rock garden. Stella d' Oro lilies are easy to grow provided that you grow them in full sun and well drained soil.

    I grow stella d'oro lilies in a garden bed that is close to my patio table. The buttery yellow flowers always look cheerful and certainly brighten the garden.

    Stella D' Oro daylilies with pavestone


    The foliage of this lily grows out of a compact clump.  The leaves are long, narrow with a bend and point at the tip.  The dark green leaves are an attractive background for the vibrant yellow flowers. When fully grown the day lilies will be two feet high with a similar spread.  Plant this prolific bloomer in containers, along a walkway or in a feature garden or anywhere that you desire the cheerful yellow color.  

    I grow Stella d’Oro lilies along my back slope, I like the attractive green foliage and the yellow flowers look beautiful when grown in masses.

    Plant the lilies in the spring after the danger of frost has past. This particular lily is not fussy about the soil or the PH however if you mix your soil with compost or manure the plants are strong and the flowers are vibrant.  

    Choose a garden site that has six hours of sun with well drained soil. If your summers are extremely hot with temperatures well into the upper nineties, then select a garden site where the lilies will have part sun in the heat of the day. 

     Dig a hole that is the same depth as the nursery container.  








     Gently shake off some dirt from the root and then set the lily clump in the center of the hole, spread the roots so that they face outward.
    Fill the hole with soil and water well.  For bare root planting you would hydrate your bare root for thirty minutes before you plant.  Do this by filling a bowl with tepid water and set the barefoot in the bowl.  Plant the bare root so that the top of the root is one inch below the soil.




    Care for your Stella d’oro’s by watering in the morning with drip irrigation. It is better for your day lilies to provide them with a deep watering of 8 to 10 inches than it is to watering them sparingly.  

    When you view new growth, apply two inches of mulch around the lilies.  Fertilize with miracle grow bloom booster in mid May to promote blooms in June.






        

    Saturday, March 12, 2011

    Attract Wildlife with Crabapple Tree



    Spring blooms of crabapple tree
    Crabapple in full bloom


    Grow a crabapple tree for wildlife and for beauty. This tree is eye appealing in spring when flowers will cover every inch of the branches.  The spring blooms attract orioles and warblers, these birds enjoy the nectar that is found in the  flowers.  

    In late summer the tree will bear fruit, the fruit is small only two inches in diameter and the appearance is much like a normal apple.  The fruit has a bitter taste however it is edible and you can make a crabapple jelly. 

    I prefer to grow the tree for wildlife forage. Mockingbirds, bluebirds, robins and waxwings eat the crabapples.  Another way to feed wildlife is from the insects that are attracted to the fruit.  These insects  provide forage for birds and bats. The small apple shaped fruit will stay on the tree throughout the winter season.This fruit is forage for deer, possums and raccoons.

    When I moved to the central states I joined the Arbor Day Foundation and in return they sent me 3 flowering trees.  These trees were 16 inches tall when I planted them and within two years my crabapple was three feet tall with a similar spread. 

    October crabapple fruit
    As I recall the crabapple bloomed the second year that I had planted it and produced fruit in late summer.  The tree grew an average of one foot per year and when full grown it was 25 feet in height.  If you want to add a focal point to your landscape and attract birds and wildlife to your yard then grow a flowering crabapple tree.

    Learn more about attracting wildlife with crabapple trees by viewing youtube video:






    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Yard and Garden Snake Removal


    Removal of snakes from your yard can be a little tricky especially if they are poisonous.  The best way to remove the snake is to make your yard uncomfortable and change their habitat.  




    My home is located in the woods and for years, my yard was snake heaven.  The snakes resided in our rock wall, and in the garden close to the pond.  Know that I do not mind nonvenomous snakes living in my yard, but the venomous snakes must be removed.

     If you have snakes in your yard you will need to determine what kind of snake calls your yard home.  Black, garter and non-poisonous snakes are fine they control the rodents, but if there are venomous snakes then I would recommend that you remove snakes from your property.

    The best way to get rid of snakes is to manicure your yard and to remove their food and water source.  

    Remove ground level fountains: Image by Sgolis
    Remove woodpile as it attracts snakes: Image by Sgolis

    Clean up yard and garden. Remove all clutter; leaves, woodpile, excess rock, straw and ground level compost.   Mow your lawn so that the grass is short, cut back brush and weed your gardens. If possible remove all ground level water fountains as they will attract rodents

    Treat the manicured lawn and garden with a rodent pest control. By doing this you will remove the snake forage from your yard.  Make the snakes living area uncomfortable with mothballs. 

    Mothballs are toxic to other animals but when it comes to snakes they will leave the area that is treated.  The best way to remove the snakes from a rock wall area is to dig a trench that is a foot deep next to you rock wall  (see photo bellow of the trench that I dug)  Drop a few mothballs into the hole and backfill with the soil. Snakes that live in the rock crevices all year round will leave the area to get away from the mothballs.
    The trench along the wall for mothball snake control 


    Another way to control snake populations naturally is to encourage feral and stray cats to hang out in your yard.  These cats will hunt and eat the snakes.  

    If you are not a cat lover you can get rid of snakes from your yard by trapping them.  The humane snake trap is made of durable plastic however it is light in weight so if you intend on trapping outdoors it is best to set it up on a calm day.  The best way to achieve positive results from the traps to watch for snakes, note their location and then set the trap close to where you have viewed the snake.  

    The trap is baited with the scent of a rodent and the interior of the trap has a glue board.  When the snake enters the trap chamber it loses mobility and is not able to exit the trap.  

    If you have land that is over populated by venomous snakes, you can do a controlled burn.  Contact your local fire department to schedule a burn.

    Warning:

    Keep kids and pets away from mothballs

     Snake removal products that I recommend: 

    Humane Snake Trap
    Catchmaster Glue Boards

    You can find these products at Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Lowws.com