Posts Tagged ‘Plants’

Durango, Colorado

Irvine, California


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The gardening season is winding down for many of us and even if you live in warmer climes like I do (Southern California), you’re probably looking around your garden and thinking about what worked well this past season and what didn’t work. And that’s exactly what Mary Beth and I talked about this morning. So of course we’re going to share — even if it means a couple of slightly embarrassing confessions.

Mary Beth:

My waterfall pond was one of my big successes this summer. I’d been wanting to expand my little pond for long time and I finally got around to it. This little oasis has been a constant source of wonder and entertainment for me. The pond is visited by all sorts of wildlife and I never get tired of watching them. Even the raccoons’ habit of rearranging plants and rocks every once in a while is funny — as long as they don’t get out of control. That’s when I start fantasizing about traps and dart guns.

Another project that worked for me was planting peppers and tomatoes in pots. This actually worked better than I thought it would. I planted 2 Black Krim tomatoes and 2 Hatch Chili peppers in containers to keep wildlife, especially the raccoons, from stealing my precious veggies. The plan was to cage the pots, or if that failed I was going to bring the pots into the house at night. Turns out neither was necessary. I was especially pleased with the Krims. They were big and juicy — best BLT’s ever!

As for failures, for some reason anything that I planted in the squash family didn’t do well. I got practically no harvest from these plants. Even the zucchini were a bust (embarrassing as it is to admit it). I haven’t quite figured it out. Maybe they weren’t in a sunny enough spot, or it could have been any one of a hundred other things. Gardening can be unpredictable like that. Hopefully next year will be better.


I’m going to start out with things that didn’t work for me: I’ve complained about them before and I’m still doing it. My California Natives are still not doing well. There are a host of possible reasons to explain why they aren’t thriving. The simplest is that I’m not patient enough, but I really think it has more to do with where they are planted. All of them are under eucalyptus trees where they are probably not getting quite enough sun and where they have heavy competition from the tree roots for nutrients and water. On the other hand, it might be because they are getting too much water.

The natives are planted in beds that surround what is left of my lawn, which is also suffering under the eucalyptus. I’m still watering it though and that might be too much water for the natives. Time will tell if this is the problem because my next big project is to rip out the lawn and install pathways and native grasses, or maybe a little meadow. Either will use much less water. I’ve been threatening to do this for a long time, but with the lawn in such bad shape and the fabulous new John Greenlee book, The American Meadow Garden (thank you, MB!) on my reading table I’m on my way.

Planting tomatoes in pots worked out just so-so for me. Our summer was cloudy, overcast and very cool making for a lousy tomato harvest for everyone this year. I’ll give it a try again next year.

And now I’m going to completely embarrass myself by telling you the secret of my biggest success. As you know I am a fairly haphazard gardener and I’ve never been good about tending to my plants. Becoming a Master Gardener this year changed my bad habits and put me on the path to garden success!

What was it that so improved my plants’ health and bloom production? Regular watering and feeding with fish emulsion. There’s my confession and it’s pathetic! But my teachers made a convert out of me after I learned in-depth about plant growth and development. I could practically hear the poor things begging me for food and water. So this year I was very diligent. And surprise, surprise, it really paid off and the results were a pleasure to behold all season long.

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Mary Beth: I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s time to start thinking about Spring. Go out to your garden or onto your balcony and imagine where you would like to see all the beautiful, bright spring flowers popping up. Imagine what a welcome relief all that lovely color will be after the long cold winter.

I know it’s a little shocking. Freezing temperatures sound foreign to me right now too because I’m melting from the heat and the unusual humidity that came with the rainstorm we had last night, but winter is on its way! And that means it’s time to get those spring-blooming bulbs ordered so you can get them in the ground in September and October. When you’re choosing bulbs for the mountain area, you can’t go wrong with Daffodils, Narcissus, Grape Hyacinths, Snow Drops, Dutch Iris, and Tulips. (Warning! Deer love tasty tulips so be prepared to protect them with deer spray.)

In high elevations don’t plant the bulbs deeper than 2 1/2 times the width of the bulb — the ground takes longer to warm up in the clay-heavy soils that we have here. I always sprinkle a little bone meal and kelp in the hole before I plop in the bulbs. Another nice touch is to plant a few bulbs in each hole (like 4-5) so you have a pretty bunch of flowers popping up like a bouquet rather than single flowers coming up here and there. I can just picture them now…

Speaking of bulbs, you might want to try an edible bulb like garlic in your vegetable garden this year. I plant mine in the end of September, or sometimes in early October. It’s really easy to do and the garlic will be ready to harvest in July. Directions for planting garlic are included in the bulb packaging and it’s usually posted on most of the online stores. Garlic likes to start its roots and feed in the fall in rich, well-fertilized soil before the cold sets in. When spring arrives garlic picks up where it left off as the soil starts to warm up.

Mulching is always a good idea after planting your bulbs. It conserves water and keeps soil temperatures more consistent lessening plant stress.

Don’t wait too long to order because many varieties sell out fast. I find it very hard to select which garlic to grow each year as there are so many fantastic choices. This year I browsed through The Garlic Store and, after a very long time trying to make up my mind, I chose Baby Elephant, Susanville, Chesnok Red and Morado Gigante — all of them are certified organic. Pick the garlic that’s best for your climate and your taste buds and you will really be happy you planned ahead. It’s so much fun digging them up!

Happy planting.

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There’s no theme or focus today, just a little of this and a little of that — kind of like what’s going on in my head today.

Tip #1 — Getting Transplants Off to a Healthy Start

Now that we’re all scrambling to get our baby plants in the ground, here are a few tips to help you do it right.

  • Make sure your soil is loose and friable — which means crumbly. Vegetables have very fine root hairs and need a looser soil structure to be able to grow well. This is especially true of carrots which will get gnarly if they encounter anything in the path of their root as they grow.
  • Amend your soil before you put in your transplants, but don’t put anything in the hole you dig for your plants. That means no fertilizer (dry fertilizer will burn the roots killing the plant) and no weird additions that your grandmother swears by. New research by the folks at the University of California shows that plants do best with nothing but the dirt you just dug up around their roots.
  • Now you can fertilize your plant, but only a little bit! To help your starts recover from transplant shock, mix a little fish emulsion into a watering can or bucket and water in your transplants. Use just enough fish emulsion to color the water.
  • Don’t forget to water your babies well over the next couple of weeks. Never let them completely dry out. Once they are established, you can water less frequently.

Tip #2 — Keeping Container Plants Watered

One of the big issues with containers is keeping them moist enough throughout the dog days of summer. To that end we suggest mixing water absorbing granules into your potting soil. We have been using Soil Moist in our pots and it works like a charm. But we only use it with ornamentals, never with edibles because it’s petroleum-based.

We recently heard about another product by Zeba called Quench which is an “all natural, starch-based product.” It supposedly releases water into the soil more readily than the petroleum-based products. A grower we talked to at a well-known nursery swears by the stuff. So we’ll be giving it a try it in our containers this summer.

Mix it into your soil according to the package directions. Use only the amount specified — more is not better. Use even a little bit more than you’re supposed to and the granules will swell up and push your plant right out of the pot! It should cut down your container’s water requirements significantly and save you from coming home one blazing afternoon to droopy or, worse yet, dead plants.

That’s all we’ve got for this week. Happy gardening!

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Jupiter's Beard

I couldn’t order my bees back in the beginning of the year because the date of our arrival in Colorado was constantly changing. I really needed to do it in January or February before the apiaries sold out, but up until a week before our departure I still wasn’t sure when we’d be in Durango. Once we decided, I started frantically emailing apiaries and Tweeting beeks to find out if anyone had any bees to sell. This continued while we were packing, loading the truck and into our cross-country drive. I got a few leads from Twitter folks, but nothing panned out and I resigned myself to the fact I would not have honeybees in Colorado this year.

But last Tuesday as we were driving across the country a small miracle happened. I got a phone call from an apiary and they told me they were shipping on a later date than normal because of the cooler-than-usual weather in the Northwest. They asked if I still wanted bees! Hell yes! What a wonderful surprise — pure luck!!

The bees will be here tomorrow and I’ve been getting my garden ready. I’ve been going over the plants that I have that will attract and feed my honeybees and making a list of what I’ll need to buy to have a diversity of blooms throughout the whole season.

Tip # 1: Plants for Honeybees

Here are the bee plants that I’ve bought so far with their bloom times:

Late Spring-Summer
Jupiter’s Beard (Ceranthus ruber)

Spike Speedwell ‘Royal Candles’ and ‘Red Fox’ (Veronica spicata)
Salvia ‘Blue Queen’ (Salvia x sylvestris)

Lavender ‘Munstead’ (Lavandula angustifolia)
Culinary herbs: Rosemary, sage, oregano, marjoram, dill, tarragon, etc.

Late Summer-Fall
Bee Balm ‘Jacob Cline’ and ‘Blue Stocking’ (Monarda didyma) Warning: this can take over you garden, plant it where it can be contained.
Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
Sedum ‘Rosy Glow’ and ‘Matrona’ (also called Stonecrop)

Aster ‘Wood’s Pink’
Golden Rod ‘Baby Gold’ (Solidago)

Tip # 2:  Attracting Honeybees

You don’t need a hive to support honeybees. Plant some bee plants following these guidelines and you’ll be helping bees and lots of other pollinators too.

  • Plant in clumps: plant 3 or more of the same species together in a clump. This attracts more pollinators than if scattered around the garden.
  • Flower colors: honeybees are attracted to blue-violet, blue-green, orange-yellow and white blossoms.
  • Plant a variety of flowers that bloom from spring to fall.
  • Don’t use herbicides or pesticides please! Once you invite honeybees into your garden, don’t kill them. All herbicides and pesticides are highly lethal to bees, butterflies and all the other beneficials in your garden.

Happy gardening!

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