Wild Flower Gardening Part One

July 19th, 2008

A wild-flower garden has a most attractive sound. One thinks of long tramps in the woods, collecting material, and then of the fun in fixing up a real for sure wild garden.

Many people say they have no luck at all with wild flowers. It is not a question of luck, but a question of understanding, for wild flowers are like people and each has its personality. What a plant has been accustomed to in Nature it desires always. In fact, when removed from its own sort of living conditions, it sickens and dies. That is enough to tell us that we should copy Nature herself. Suppose you are hunting wild flowers. As you choose certain flowers from the woods, notice the soil they are in, the place, conditions, the surroundings, and the neighbours.

Suppose you find dog-tooth violets and wind-flowers growing near together. Then place them so in your own new garden. Suppose you find a certain violet enjoying an open situation; then it should always have the same. You see the point, do you not? If you wish wild flowers to grow in a tame garden make them feel at home. Cheat them into almost believing that they are still in their native haunts.

Wild flowers ought to be transplanted after blossoming time is over. Take a trowel and a basket into the woods with you. As you take up a few, a columbine, or a hepatica, be sure to take with the roots some of the plant’s own soil, which must be packed about it when replanted.

The bed into which these plants are to go should be prepared carefully before this trip of yours. Surely you do not wish to bring those plants back to wait over a day or night before planting. They should go into new quarters at once. The bed needs soil from the woods, deep and rich and full of leaf mold. The under drainage system should be excellent. Then plants are not to go into water-logged ground. Some people think that all wood plants should have a soil saturated with water. But the woods themselves are not water-logged. It may be that you will need to dig your garden up very deeply and put some stone in the bottom. Over this the top soil should go. And on top, where the top soil once was, put a new layer of the rich soil you brought from the woods.

Before planting water the soil well. Then as you make places for the plants put into each hole some of the soil which belongs to the plant which is to be put there.

I think it would be a rather nice plan to have a wild-flower garden giving a succession of bloom from early spring to late fall; so let us start off with March, the hepatica, spring beauty and saxifrage. Then comes April bearing in its arms the beautiful columbine, the tiny bluets and wild geranium. For May there are the dog-tooth violet and the wood anemone, false Solomon’s seal, Jack-in-the-pulpit, wake robin, bloodroot and violets. June will give the bellflower, mullein, bee balm and foxglove. I would choose the gay butterfly weed for July. Let turtle head, aster, Joe Pye weed, and Queen Anne’s lace make the rest of the season brilliant until frost.

Let us have a bit about the likes and dislikes of these plants. After you are once started you’ll keep on adding to this wild-flower list.

There is no one who doesn’t love the hepatica. Before the spring has really decided to come, this little flower pokes its head up and puts all else to shame. Tucked under a covering of dry leaves the blossoms wait for a ray of warm sunshine to bring them out. These embryo flowers are further protected by a fuzzy covering. This reminds one of a similar protective covering which new fern leaves have. In the spring a hepatica plant wastes no time on getting a new suit of leaves. It makes its old ones do until the blossom has had its day. Then the new leaves, started to be sure before this, have a chance. These delayed, are ready to help out next season. You will find hepaticas growing in clusters, sort of family groups. They are likely to be found in rather open places in the woods. The soil is found to be rich and loose. So these should go only in partly shaded places and under good soil conditions. If planted with other woods specimens give them the benefit of a rather exposed position, that they may catch the early spring sunshine. I should cover hepaticas over with a light litter of leaves in the fall. During the last days of February, unless the weather is extreme take this leaf covering away. You’ll find the hepatica blossoms all ready to poke up their heads.

The spring beauty hardly allows the hepatica to get ahead of her. With a white flower which has dainty tracings of pink, a thin, wiry stem, and narrow, grass-like leaves, this spring flower cannot be mistaken. You will find spring beauties growing in great patches in rather open places. Plant a number of the roots and allow the sun good opportunity to get at them. For this plant loves the sun.

Planting Flower Bulbs? Do It Right

July 13th, 2008

When it comes to planting flower bulbs, there is a right way and a wrong way of doing it. Make sure that you pay attention to the care instructions that came with the bulbs when you bought them.

Planting tools

You can either use a trowel or shovel to dig the holes for the bulbs. Your job would be made a great deal easier if you used a bulb planter.

It may be a good idea to mulch the newly planted bed of bulbs. This is recommended by most experts. The mulch will help to prevent weeds, cool the soil, retain moisture and it will provide more organic material that is necessary for the growing plants.

Watering Newly Planted Bulbs

After you have planted the bulbs, they should be given a good drink of water. It may also be helpful to water the bulbs occasionally if the fall and winter seasons were very dry.

You should plan on giving the bulbs at least an inch of water each week when the growing season becomes active. This can either be from natural rainfall or from supplemental watering.

Fertilizing the Growing Bulbs

When you begin to see the bulbs pop their tiny little heads out of the soil, it is very important that you begin to fertilize them every few weeks. It is best to use a good water soluble fertilizer. This will help to promote additional flowering and better bulb growth.

All of the above will make sure that you have beautiful flowers from the bulbs you have planted. It may take a little work, but it will be worth it in the end!

The Perfect Mum

July 13th, 2008

The Perfect Mum

Chrysanthemums are very popular perennials. You can get mums in a variety of colors as well as in various growths all the way from the smaller dwarf plants all the way up to the Maxi-Mums.

These plants are very easy to grow so they would be good for a beginner gardener to try. If taken care of correctly, they will give you years of enjoyment.

Make sure you choose an appropriate variety, plant your mums in a sunny, well-drained location and protect them during the winter.

Planting Time

The best time to plant your chrysanthemums is after the danger of frost has passed. You are able to use small plants that you have obtained from rooted cuttings or divisions or you may even use the larger container plants that you have bought from nurseries.

The chrysanthemums may be put in the ground at anytime in the spring, summer or even during the early fall.

Soil, Site, and Fertilizer

Garden mums will grow very well in a variety of soils but they must all have excellent drainage conditions. Mums also enjoy sunny locations. Try to mix in two to four inches of peat moss or compost into the soil. If you only use peat moss, then try to add a fertilizer in the spring.

Pinching

If your mums are pruned or pinched on a regular basis, then they will have a bushy and compact plant form. The traditional method includes pinching out the tip in order to induce branching so that stockier plants will be produced.

All pinching must be completed by the 4th of July to assure that your plant flowers before the frost.

Training Tree Branches to go where You Want

July 6th, 2008

Many people associate pruning with changing the structure of your tree to fit a different shape or style. However, this is not the case. Altering the structure of the tree is known as “Tree Training”. This is a much better way to develop an alternate form for your tree. Pruning should be used to prevent diseases, prevent lopsidedness, and encourage healthier fruit growth.

Pruning is also used to maintain the proper shape for the tree. For example, if you have an abundance of branches on one particular side of the tree, then you will use pruning to get rid of the larger segments which weigh down the tree to one side. Think about it more in terms of maintaining rather than altering. While pruning is useful occasionally, most of the time you can use training as a healthier and more efficient alternative.

Training has not been around for very long. Through tying down branches or propping them up from the ground, one can direct the growth of the tree to take whatever shape they want. This theory is usually used in the early days of the tree to encourage it to develop fully. If you direct the tree and get it started off on the right foot, you’ll save yourself a lot of pruning time later.

Usually, training occurs during the summer. Rather than just cut off all the branches that aren’t going in the right way, you try to redirect them. The mechanisms you use can be thought of as orthodontic braces for your fruit tree. They pull or push the branches, like teeth, in whatever direction you want them to go. Eventually they naturally grow that way due to your training.

It can be hard to decide how exactly to train your tree. There are many different forms and shapes to choose from. Some are meant to allow a high density of trees in one orchard, and some are meant to provide maximum fruit bearing per tree. Depending on where your tree is and how you want it to function, you will have to look for different types of forms that will perfectly fit your situation.

The theories of training can also be applied even if you are growing a tree in the traditional (natural) form. Sometimes branches will grow too close together and block each other out, so training them to grow away from each other can prevent the need to prune them later. This is highly beneficial even if you are just growing a tree in your backyard, in a non professional environment.

To train a tree, you will need some sort of outside brace to push or pull a branch. Alternately, if you want to push 2 branches closer together or further apart, you can place something in between them or lash them together with rope. Successfully training your branches just takes a little imagination in deciding what to tie things to and what to push things off of. I have found that stakes, fences, or simply an upright two by four leaning away can work wonders.

There is no tree grower that couldn’t benefit from using a little training in their tree growing escapades. Whether you have decided to give your trees a completely new form, or just optimize the branch placement for healthier fruit, there is surely some way that training can benefit you.

 

Top Tips For Growing Geraniums In Your Own Garden

July 5th, 2008

Growing Geraniums

Geraniums are plants that look good in a bed just by themselves or they even look good if they are mixed in with other annuals. It also makes for an attractive edging plant for the perennial garden. These plants are very versatile and will look good no matter where they are put.

Although the geranium can put up with a little frost, it loves the warm weather. Here are some tips for growing geraniums:

• Light – Most geraniums do well in full sun. That means that they should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.

If the climate you live in is very hot, then you may plant them in an area that is partly shaded. Many geraniums will do quite well in a partly shaded spot, but they will not bloom as prolifically.

• Soil – Geraniums thrive in rich soil that is very well drained. If you add compost to your soil, this will give your plants an extra boost.

• Fertilizer – When you grow geraniums, it is good to note that they are heavy feeders. You should plan on giving them fertilizer at least every two weeks. You may also feed them when you plant them with a time-released fertilizer that will last the entire season.

• Water – When it does not rain, you will have to make sure that you water your geraniums regularly. If you are not sure if you should water, just poke your finger down into the soil. If it is dry at least two inches down, then you had better get out the hose!

• Grooming – You want to keep your plants looking their best by dead heading them and by taking away any dried or discolored leaves. In this way, your geraniums will look great all season!

Improve Your Soil Without Chemicals Using Soil Solarization

June 27th, 2008

Would you like to know  an alternative way to get rid of pesky weeds, pests and some diseases as well? 
The answer  is to solarize your soil.

Solarization is predominantly used in areas that have a lot of sunshine and high temperatures. However, it can be utilised in cooler climates too. The results may not be quite as effective, but it can do wonders in your battle against weeds.

What exactly is soil solarization?
It is a technique that uses no chemicals, but instead captures the sun’s radiant heat and energy which, in turn, causes physical, biological and chemical changes in the soil. These changes include the ability to control or eliminate soil borne plant pathogens including bacteria, fungi, pests, and nematodes along with weeds.

In order to solarize the soil in cooler areas, you need to cover it with a clear plastic sheet for approximately 4 to 6 weeks during a time of the year when the weather is very hot and when the soil will be able to receive maximum direct sunlight for long periods. The soil heats up to temperatures which are hot enough to kill some soil inhabiting pests including root rot fungi, wilt, noxious weed seed and root knot nematodes. Soil solarization also stimulates the release of nutrients from organic matter that is present in the soil. It is very effective in treating garden soils where you intend to plant herbs, vegetables and flowers.

Now that you know what soil solarization is, you may want to give it a try to your soil rather than using different chemicals to control weeds and other pesky little critters!

More About Butterfly Gardening

June 24th, 2008

When creating a butterfly garden, the possibilities of what to include in your butterfly garden design are endless. Below are some suggestions to help get you started. They are designed to spark the creative process of your mind and get you started on your way to creating a lovely butterfly garden.

Before you even begin your butterfly garden, find out which species of butterflies are in your area. Consider taking an exploratory hike around your location with a butterfly identification book. This may take a little extra time and effort, but the results will be worth it. After you have compiled your list of local butterfly species, be sure to write down in your butterfly garden plan what these particular species of butterflies use for nectar and food plants.

Be sure that your garden is in a location that provides at least six hours of sunlight per day. Butterflies are cold-blooded creatures and therefore do better where they are warm and sheltered. Wind can be a butterfly’s worst enemy so be sure to have plenty of wind protection in your design. You can plant tall shrubs and other plants in order to create a wind break, but a location that avoids heavy winds is even better.
The best of all would be a butterfly garden placed on the sunny side of your home with windbreaks on both the west and east sides, or wherever the prevailing wonds come from in your area. Try and locate your garden close to a window so you can view the butterflies from indoors.

Provide seating outside too. If possible, you could excavate an area and build a stone wall around it. This would create the ideal windbreak for your butterflies. Mmake gravel pathways around your garden to save walking in mud. There are many creative ways for constructing a butterfly garden. Take your time to design a garden that you will enjoy and be proud of.

Dealing with Barren Trees

June 14th, 2008

Dealing with Barren Trees

One of the most frustrating things that can possibly happen to someone who has slaved for hours and hours in growing a fruit tree is the unexplainable barrenness that can sometimes occur when there should be a plethora of fresh fruit. I know this from experience. My neighbors all consider me the gardening guru because of my extensive knowledge. But this is only because gardening has been my passion for years and years, and like a sponge I have accumulated so much information in my mind. My learning has also come from past experiences with failure. For about 5 years after I started planting fruit trees, I did not see a single fruit for all my labor. I was nearly ready to give up, until I met who I think is truly the guru of gardening.

I was in the gardening store, looking for some sort of new fertilizer to put my hope in for my quest to obtain fruit. I don’t know if there was a look of desperation in my eyes, but a kindly old man came up and started speaking with me. He introduced himself as Ralph, and for some reason I opened up to him and told him about all of my difficulties. I’ve never been the type to spill all my problems on anyone who asks, but Ralph seemed like such a nice fellow that I just couldn’t help it. And I’m glad I did, because what he taught me truly helped me to get my fruit trees in gear and start producing.

I learned that generally, the inability to produce can be caused by a number of factors. Sometimes the tree is simply too young; If your tree is less than four years old, you shouldn’t exactly expect it to be producing yet. If it has reached 4 years and you still have seen no sign of fruit, then you should start to consider other factors that might be causing the barrenness.

If the tree is undergoing any type of water stress (this can be poor drainage, too much water, or too little water), then it will have trouble growing. If you suspect this is the case, you should evaluate your own watering techniques and compare them with the needs of the tree to see if you are causing water stress. Also always be on the lookout for any diseases or pest damages. If your tree is constantly being molested by all kinds of little creatures, then you can’t expect it to be lively enough to produce fruit.

If your tree blooms but still doesn’t produce any fruit, this could be because of cold temperatures during the bloom. The coldness damaged the flower bud or damaged the baby fruit. Aesthetically the tree may look fine, but the inside could be damaged beyond any hope of ever seeing fruit. Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do in this case except for wait until next year and hope that it doesn’t happen again.

If the tree’s pollination process has not been fully completed, it could have troubles growing fruit. If you planted different varieties, you may find that the requirements are different than you had originally thought and they were incompatible. In this case you need to replant the correct combinations.

Once I evaluated the conditions of my tree and everything that has occurred in its life, I realized that not only had I cross pollinated slightly incorrectly, but I was also giving my tree too much water. After I fixed these problems, I had learned my lesson and I have not had any trouble bearing fruit since then.

So if you are struggling with a plant that is not being cooperative, you should consult an expert gardener. If you can find a gardening mentor like mine that is willing to teach you everything they know, then you should be able to get your garden on the right track with no problems.

Planning a Butterfly Garden : Choosing the Right Plants To Attract Butterflies

June 8th, 2008

What is butterfly gardening?
Simply put butterfly gardening is the art of growing flowers and plants that will attract these colorful and dainty creatures to your garden. Delight your family and visitors with beautiful butterflies, but be sure to create a safe habitat for them. If you own cats rethink your plans, because it would be a shame to attract these lovely insects to their death.

The design of your butterfly garden is a matter of personal preference. Typical points to consider are the size of your garden and the types of flowers and plants you want to grow. Pick a style of garden that appeals to you, but ensure it also contains the plants and flowers that appeal to the butterflies you wish to attract.

It is important to find out which plants and flowers will attract the species of butterflies. that live in your area. This information can be found at the local library.
To create the kind of environment that they find attractive, you will also need water of some kind. A birdbath will look attractive and keep the butterflies up off the ground, away from stray cats or mischievous puppies. A shallow dish on a post or hung in a tree will do just as well.

When planting your butterfly garden be careful how you coordinate the colors you choose for your flowerbeds. Although butterflies do not care about your choice of color, you don’t want your garden to be a hodgepodge of unrelated colors and textures. Butterflies are attracted to those flowers that have nectar rather than pollen, like honeysuckle, milkweed, summer lilac, Valerian, daisies, Purple Coneflower, Yellow Sage, day lilies and lavender.

Some people find it helpful to draw and color a layout of their butterfly gardening plan to see what the finished product would look like. Keep in mind that warm colors like red and orange are flashy and showy. These colors have a greater impact against a strong green background. Cool colors such as blue and purple are soothing and toned down and would work better with a white contrast to create the look of freshness and brightness. 

GARDENING’S MOST VALUABLE ADVICE

June 8th, 2008

Many people may not be aware that gardening can actually harm the environment.  A large amount of carbon dioxide can be released through tilling the soil.  This contributes to global warming.  When you cultivating and compacting the soil, destroys good fungi.  Fertilizers like nitrogen and manure often leach out of the soil and pollute the water you drink.

Global warming

Did you know that the earth’s soil gives out carbon dioxide in the atmosphere 10 times more than all human activity?  This comes from the pill bugs, microbes, fungi and worms when they breathe, digest food and then die. Although in the past plants have been capable of absorbing carbon dioxide caused by small-scale tillages, this isn’t the case nowadays. 
The increase of the globe’s average temperature is because of the carbon dioxide the soil emits when tilled. The good news is that tilling can be minimized by mulching or sheet composting.

Good Fungi

In untilled soil, there is beneficial fungi known as the vesicular-arbuscular-mycorrhizae or VAM for short. VAM actually forms a symbiotic relationship with plants.  Their filaments increase root hairs and provide nutrients to the plant.  They give out zinc, copper, potassium and phosphorus.  Plants provide carbohydrates for the fungi in return.  It is possible to grow a garden without tilling the soil at all by mulching heavily until the soil is soft and friable.

Surplus Nitrogen

Many gardeners waste nitrogen and manures; farmers do otherwise. Farmers only need a quarter to a third of nitrogen to mix with an inch of compost, horse, or cow manure.  Kate Burroughs of Sebastopol California, uses the same rule for her home-grown lettuce and sweet corns. When it comes to broccoli and pear trees, farmers only need a small amount.  Notice that gardeners apply larger amounts of compost and manure than farmers. Obviously, they are not only wasting their fertilizer but also their money. 

The best gardening advice that can be given to those concerned is to do all things with moderation. Keep in mind that too little and too much of something is not healthy. This is the most valuable advice one can have in gardening.