Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Summer Garden Care - Extreme Heat

Here in the central states we are under an extreme heat advisory which makes it difficult to keep plants, shrubs and trees hydrated.  

There has been no rain in 49 days and the average daily temperature has been 105 degrees with a low of mid 70’s from 4 to 8 a.m.  

In order to care for my gardens during this extreme heat and drought I needed to make changes to my work schedule and take steps to recycle water for my gardens, trees and shrubs.

My city has resident’s water restriction which allows us to water our gardens every other day.  I water my gardens, trees and shrubs on even days with city water from facet and  and on the odd days I recycle waste water from my home.  

The coolest time of the day is in the early morning and I must use the waste water from shower so all must  bath and shower at night.  When everyone heads off to bed I collect the bath water with buckets for my rain barrel. 

In the early morning I will then attach the hose to the barrel and use this water to hydrate my container gardens, herbs and vegetables.  The waste water allows me to water these plants when I am restricted from using city water.
  1. To help my plants, trees and shrubs to retain moisture I have added 3 to 4 inches of mulch.  I have also set my clock to 6 a.m. and have used this time to water yard and garden and to weed all of the flower beds.  Keeping the bed free of weeds is important as the weeds will absorb the precious water. 
  2. I use this time wisely and will check for garden pests; powdery mildew, aphids, brown grasshoppers.  If garden pests are observed I will treat the yard and garden with Greenlight Organic Neem Concentrate   Neem oil worked well with getting rid of the brown grasshoppers that were eating all of my plants, vines and shrubs.   You can also treat your yard and garden with Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth it is a natural method for control garden pests.  Garden pests tend to be aggressive during a drought.
  3. Because water is scarce I choose the flower beds that were blooming and the fall season flower beds to keep hydrated.  My wildflower gardens have gone to seed so I water them weekly with a deep saturation of 1 inch of water. 
  4. When I water my gardens on my assigned day I tend to saturate the soil by giving the plants a good watering. 
  5. Get to know your plants, they will tell you when they need to be hydrated.  Wilting leaves is a sign.  Water plants, trees and shrubs 1 inch of water per week.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Growing Herbs at Home for Profit

I started growing a herb garden a few years back because my husband is a Chef and his culinary recipes require fresh herbs. The herbs that he purchased at the grocery store were very costly so I decided it would be wise to offset the costs by growing our own. In passing, I mentioned to some friends that I was growing culinary herbs and they asked me to grow some for them too. In a few days, I had enough special orders for herbs to start a small part time business. 

If you enjoy gardening then you will love growing herbs for a profit. Start your business by having a business plan.  Study the demographics for your area to determine what herbs would sell best.  If there are many independent restaurants then culinary herbs would be marketable.  

If there are many  independent health  and  farmers markets then grow both culinary and herbs for tea or medicinal healing.  After you decide on the type of herbs that you will grow for a profit you would then check your business budget.  Know before you start a home business what funds are available.  Never start a business that cannot afford. 

Buying and Growing Quality Herbs
Look for quality herb plants to grow quickly for a quick return and also purchase seed in bulk.

Buy healthy and bushy herb plants at your local nursery at the end of season and grow them indoors or in greenhouse, under florescent grow lights . In the spring plant herb seed indoors 8 weeks before the last spring frost and then transplant outdoors into raised garden beds that are located in sunny section of your yard. 
Care for your outdoor herbs by installing a slow drip soaking hoses and set the hoses on a timer.  I set my herb timer to water the gardens from 6: to 7 a.m.
Check your plants daily for pests and brown spots on leaves.  Make sure your herbs are hydrated.  
Parsley Italian Flat Leaf Certified Organic Seeds

Organize your Herb Business
Organize your work day.  While my herbs were being watered I would check my website and answering machine for client orders. If there were orders I would contact the client and confirm address and give them a delivery time.  All herbs are picked fresh when the order is received and delivered to the client’s door.  

 To save on costs I purchased string, hole punch, and business cards. The business cards had my contact information, herb prices and the delivery information times and fee’s for delivery. The harvested stems of herbs were tied in a bunch with string and my business card was attached by looping string through the hole. I then placed the herbs in clear open ended plastic bags and sold the herbs in bunches that were either small or large.

Network Your Home Business
Network your herb business by handing out your flyer or business card to restaurants manager, friends, neighbors, and post on bulletin boards of churches, library, and gyms. 

Sell your herbs at farmers markets. Increase sales by selling herbs in larger quantities’ at 10 to 15% discount.  Offer the restaurant manger or natural food store a discount to entice client to buy more.  Sell high quality herbs to clients and they will advertise your herbs by word of mouth.
Raised herb garden with Swiss Chard, basil dill, chives, oregano, lemon mint rosemary

1 An answering machine is essential, as you do not want to miss a client herb order; however it is better to have someone answering the phone.  Sometimes you lose the sale if you miss the call.

Design a website for your small business.  Take photographs of her herb gardens so clients can see that the plants are high quality.  Add your photographs to your website.

 Add your delivery fee into the price of the herbs. The client will assume that delivery is free and will order more herbs. Set your boundaries for your delivery area. 


I made sample assortment of fresh herbs and gave to  my friends that enjoyed cooking.  I also gave them my business card.  By giving them the herbs I was able to introduce my business as well as my quality herbs to them. In return I gained new clients.  

Dill is my best selling herb. I sell out of it in June.  Here in my area people use it to pickle cucumbers. 

Start your herb business small and grow it over the years.  

Business Investment / Start up Costs
I used what I had and bought what I needed.  Here is a list of my costs for my herb home business.
Herb plants: $96.00
Starter Seeds $36.00
Bed installation: Weather treated wood and materials for frame $180.00 
(I made the raised garden beds )
Weed barrier: Newspaper liner $4.05
Gravel: shoveled gravel from creek. Used for proper drainage in bed.
Soil / Compost: Free made my own from compost bin
Mulch: Dried grass clippings
Soaking hose: 2 for $32.64
String /business cards: $20.00
Total $368.69

Growing herbs for a profit is a great home based business, for stay-at-home-moms or dads or for anyone who enjoys gardening. 

Start up costs for herb garden are minimal and the time required to care for your plants is part-time. Even if you work outside the home, you can maintain an herb garden and grow herbs for a profit.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Culinary Herb Garden – Growing Parsley

If you enjoy cooking then add parsley to your culinary herb garden.  Grow parsley indoors or outdoors in containers or in herb gardens.  Parsley deep green foliage looks great when grown in a garden next to chives, or other flowering herbs.  Curly parsley is perfect for American dishes.  Italian parsley has a more robust flavor that is well suited for Mediterranean recipes. No culinary herb garden is complete without parsley.  When the parsley is fully-grown it is a pretty plant and easy to care for.  Here are some tips on how to grow the culinary herb parsley.

Things you will need to plant parsley:
Parsley seeds or plants
Containers for indoor growing
Garden site for outdoor growing
Fertilizer formulated for herbs
Garden Gloves
Garden hose with mister nozzle
Grass Clippings for mulch
Pencil with eraser

Where to grow
If you reside in a region that has cooler, summers then grow parsley outside.  However if your area is known for extreme heat with a heat index of 95 degrees then parsley should be grown indoors.   Set your culinary herb garden next to a sunny kitchen window.
Select an outdoor parsley garden site that has abundant sun and rich, well-drained soil.  If your summers are extremely hot then a site with partial shade in the peak heat of the day is beneficial to your culinary herb garden.  
My herb garden: Italian and curly parsley, rosemary, lemon mint, basil, sage, dill, oregano, thyme, grown with Swiss chard

For outdoor parsley gardens, sow seeds outdoors several weeks before the last spring frost.  Or start your seeds indoors eight weeks before the last frost.  Parsley will germinate in about a month and is mature in approximately two months.  

Loosen the soil to ten inches mix in four inches of compost; work the compost into the soil.  Also, add a time released fertilizer formulated for herbs, into the soil and mix well. 
Plant parsley seeds in starter kit by digging a hole with a pencil. Use the eraser end to dig a hole that is one half inch deep.  Set the seed in the center of the hole and cover with soil.   Plant the seeds ten inches apart.  

Water your culinary parsley herb garden with a garden hose with nozzle set at mist.  Lightly cover the herb bed with grass clippings.  Water the herbs frequently and Keep the soil moist but not wet. 

When seedlings are six to eight inches tall, apply one inch of grass clipping mulch around them.  The grass clippings will nourish your parsley and will help to retain moisture.   
 Parsley Italian Flat Leaf Certified Organic Seeds

  1. Water your parsley daily with slow drip irrigation. 
  2. Harvest the parsley by cutting and not pulling or pinching off the stem
  3.  Store the parsley leaves in an airtight bag or container in the refrigerator until you are ready to use.
  4. Fresh parsley leaves may be dried or frozen.
  5. Parsley is deer resistant however groundhogs will eat.  Protect parsley by fencing in the garden.  I used chicken wire attached to three foot posts and it stopped the groundhog from eating my Italian and curly parsley.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

English Ivy Container Gardening

English ivy will enhance a hanging container or large clay pot by cascading down the sides.  This ivy is fast growing and evergreen.  Grow the ivy with a combination of brightly hued flowers and the ivy that spills down the sides will be eye appealing. 

The leaves of the ivy are a blue green with white tipping and in the fall and winter months the leaves turns to a purplish color which is attractive with a snow background. You can plant an English ivy garden in a large terracotta pot or in a hanging container.  The ivy container garden will be a focal point in your yard and garden. 

I like to accent my ivy garden urns  by changing the focal flowers seasonally.  In the spring red and yellow tulips with grape hyacinths grow in the center of the container and the ivy cascades down the sides.  

 In the summer I will plant annual flowers that are brightly hued as my focal flowers and in the autumn I will choose an assortment of plants for my feature container urn; carex buchananii, yellow garden chrysanthemums and kale these plants will provide the height for the container and the ivy will spill down the sides.  This combination of plants with the ivy growing down the sides of the container is attractive.
When to plant
Plant you are your container garden after the danger of a spring frost has past and for fall containers plant 6 weeks before a end of season fall frost.

Choosing a Container 
Choose a container that fits your needs.  You can grow English ivy in a window box, urn or hanging container.  Make sure all containers have water drainage holes.

Arranging and planting Ivy with other plants
Fill the container with 1/2 potting soil, then top with four inches of compost or manure.  Next, mix the controlled release fertilizer into the soil.  Plant  spring bulbs according to the depth instruction on your package.  Then plant your flowers in the center of the container.  Complete the container garden by planting with the English ivy close to the rim of the container.  By planting the ivy close to the edge of the container, the ivy will cascade downward as it grows.  Apply a thin layer of mulch or moss around the plants.  After you complete the planting, you would water the container thoroughly.

Care for your container
Plants that grow in containers tend to dry out quickly.  Mist the container in the morning to keep the plants looking fresh.  Water container gardens as needed. It is best to not let the soil dry out before watering.

Choose plants and flowers with the same growing requirements as the English ivy; Full sun, part sun and good drainage.  Ivy likes water but does not like wet roots.

Container gardens allow people with small yards to enjoy growing a variety of  plants. 

Grow in zones 5 to 8

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sweet Potato Vine Container Garden Ideas

Sweet potato vine is an annual vine that has lime or dark green leaves that look eye appealing cascading down the sides of a hanging container or window box.   You can grow sweet potato vine as a single container arrangement or you can plant it with annual flowers, ornamental grass or happy returns yellow lily, the potato vine will add interest to your sunny balcony, deck or outdoor living space.

Here is a zazzle.com photograph card that will show you a sweet potato vine

Blank Card with Sweet Potato Vines
Blank Card with Sweet Potato Vines 
Create custom greeting cards at Zazzle.

Grow sweet potato vine by planting the potato or you can buy a nursery grown plant.  For seed, you will need to start growing indoors under artificial grow lights or next to a southern exposure window.  The seedling will germinate in 30 days and as it grows the vine will need a stake to support it.  Transplant the seedlings into outdoor containers when the temperature has warmed to an average of 70 degrees.  

Vine growing requirements:
Full sun- part sun
Well drained soil
Water so that soil is evenly moist but not wet

Container Tips:
Choose a container that has good water drainage.  Many pots have small holes and these holes tend to get blocked with soil so the water does not drain properly. Remedy this with your drill. Enlarge the holes if you intend on planting in a deep container it’s helpful to fill the bottom of the container with an inch of pea gravel then top the gravel with plastic water bottles.  On top of the bottles add your potting soil; fill to one inch below the rim of the container.   By stopping one inch below the water will stay in the container and not run off the sides.

Planting a Container Garden
Dig a hole in the center for your accent plants; flowers, ornamental grass or lily. Choose a plant that is a repeat bloomer or a grass that has a flower so your container is eye appealing.  Plant the sweet potato vine along the rim of the container.  Then water the container until the water drains from the bottom of the pot.  

Caring For Container Garden
  1. Apply one inch of water retention mulch around all of the plants in the container.  The mulch will help retain moisture and will deter weed growth.
  2. Set your garden nozzle to mist.  Hydrate the sweet potato vine and feature plants in the morning and mid to late afternoon if the weather is hot and the soil is dry to the touch. 
  3. Water plants in afternoon four hours before the sun sets.
  4. Move sweet potato vine to a part sun area during the hottest time of the day.  This will prevent the leaves from wilting.  Morning sun or late afternoon sun is agreeable to the sweet potato vine.

A healthy vine will fill in quickly and will grow from late spring through summer.  If your autumn weather is warm the vine will continue to put out new vines.  Move sweet potato vine indoors or to your greenhouse or hang next to a southern exposure window when the weather turns cool.

I planted sweet potato vine in an antique baby bed.  This design was for a client of mine. The bed was a feature garden in her yard.  I planted red dahlias in the center of the bed and the lime green sweet potato vine grew along the edges.  This bed container needed to be misted and watered daily as all plants were grown in compost and moss planter box that was 8 inches deep.  I also planted the vine in the basket of an antique bike.  These antique container gardens made my client's yard more inviting.  Her guests were drawn to unique gardens.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Growing Coreopsis for Sun Gardens

A few years ago when I was hiking in the woods by my home I came across the yellow flowers of the coreopsis.  I noted that butterflies were in the area and decided to dig up one of the plants for my yard.  I grew the coreopsis amongst black-eyed Susan’s, ornamental grasses, spiderwort and liatris.  I liked the mix of plants as they were very eye appealing.

I planted the coreopsis by digging a hole that was deep enough to cover the roots.  The soil was amended with compost and I firmed the soil around the plant stem before watering it.  I kept the soil evenly moist and the plant grew quickly and produced many flowers.

Coreopsis flowers and peppermint

When the first batch of flowers were spent I removed them and sowed the seeds back into the garden. The seedlings grew in and soon I had a 9x18 area of prairie flowers.  These flowers will continue to bloom throughout summer provided they have 1 inch of water per week.  The roots are shallow and tend to dry out quickly.  

It is better to hydrate coreopsis once a week with a deep root watering than to water during the week.  If you live in a climate that has mild summers then no need to water.  You can watch your plant and water as needed. My summers are brutal with temperatures well into the 100's F.  I will water my coreopsis twice a week in the morning with soaker hose.  Plants receive 1/2 inch of water twice a week.

Planting tips for Coreopsis

The coreopsis is not picky about the soil and will grow in sandy, rocky or fertile soils provided it is well drained. Grow coreopsis easily from seed.  You can sow seeds outdoors 8 weeks prior to fall frost, or sow seeds in the spring after the danger of frost has past.  You can also buy a seedling in a nursery grown pot from your local garden center.  

If you are sowing seeds into the ground then sow them 12 inches apart and cover with one inch of soil.  Water the seeds so that the ground is evenly moist.  Take care of your seeds by covering them with a thin layer of organic mulch.  I have many birds in my area and so I covered my newly planted seeds with a thin layer of pine needles.  Continue to water the seedlings so that the soil is evenly moist but not wet.  Coreopsis is mature when the plant is 18-24 inches in height.
The plant grows into a clump and multi stems grow out of this six inch clump.  This plant will thrive in poor soil and is semi drought tolerant.

View gardens of coreopsis here:

Maintain Coreopsis
Remove the spent blooms, this will encourage repeat flowers. 

Feed the plants in spring with water based fertilizer.  I use spray-n-grow and the plants will grow stronger and healthier.

  1. Leave seed heads on the plants at the end of summer so songbirds have food.  
  2. Cut back plants to the soil surface after a hard frost and then apply two to three inches of organic mulch; straw, wood chips or pine needle mulch.
  3. Groundhogs and leafhoppers will eat the flowers, leaves and stems.  You can repel the groundhogs by putting up a fence or by enclosing your garden with chicken wire fencing.  Use natural insecticide Pyrethin which is formulated with chrysanthemums to get rid of leafhoppers, "brown grasshopper".
  4. Coreopsis will multiple the following spring.  Divide to prevent overcrowding.
  5. This bright yellow flower that will bloom from early summer to fall.  
  6. Butterflies are attracted to the coreopsis flower and will forage from the nectar.  
  7. Coreopsis seedheads provide forage for songbirds in the fall.