GardenDishes

dishin' the DIRT on hit and myth landscaping

Archive for the category “plant care”

TransPLANTed…AGAIN!

Yes, I’m a gypsy. No sooner than I’ve completed the last project on my to-do list (and hubby’s done with his honey-do list),  and I develop an acute itch only cured by priming the ZILLOW app on my iPhone. Hubby recognizes that dazed look on my face. He’s come to hate that look.

Last spring, hubby retired. We decided we’d live at our farm during the week (a 2 1/2-hour drive away) heading back to an apartment on The Waterway for weekends so we don’t miss grandkids or church. Sounds like a perfect retirement plan, right: no-maintenance living on one end, never-ending on the other. After all, I can write from anywhere with an internet connection. Lots of people do that. It’s called tele-pathetic work, I think.

But, God…He not only has a big BUT, He’s got an impeccable sense of comedic timing. The second day out on our retirement road trip to Yosemite, we got a call that could not have come from anywhere except above. So my hubby took the job and I took to ZILLOW. Again. The farm will continue as a weekend hobby for now.

Apparently, my plants have a touch of gypsy, too. Neighbors (of numerous houses) swear they’ve witnessed shrubs and perennials in my yard lift their skirts…uh…er…ROOTS when they see me coming with a shovel. The home we bought THIS time was a rental property for several years. It had good bones; however, a few were brittle, the rest broken. So here I come with my shovel.

shrubface

Want a happy face on your shrubs? Transplant at the right time!

We straddle the Texas Gulf Coast and the Pineywoods here. Our weather is somewhat temperate. Also somewhat temperamental, but that’s for another post. The best time to re-do a landscape is our version of winter, which actually translates as less-hot-than-other-seasons. People who hate cold come live here in the winter, probably in this house till we rescued it. Heat’s the nemesis rather than cold when it comes to gardening here. And snowbirding, too, come to think of it. I guess plants and people are a lot alike when it comes to weather – we both hate both ends of the spectrum.

 

So if you’re like me, always itching to move, my hubby recommends a shovel rather than a U-Haul. He also recommends keeping an auxiliary honey-do list in emergencies. Got your shovel and ready to move? Here are some to-dos for the gypsy plants on your list. Also, check out my friend Skip Richter’s YouTube on digging up the root ball.

transplant.jpg

Root prune plants before moving. I love my sharp shooter shovel because of the no-slip spot for my foot. It’s made by Fiskars. (I received no $ for saying this, or even a discount, by golly!)

 

 

 

 

 

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Best fertilizer? Holy crap, BATMAN!

We’ve put in some new plants this spring and wondered what type of fertilizer you’d recommend.

Depends. What type of plants? What type of soil?  The best fertilizer for all plants and all soil types is rich soil. Don’t have that yet? Here’s my favorite fertility Rxs for the plantings here in my Texas garden. Here goes:

Crap happens. And when it does, let it rot and put it on your garden!

Crap happens. And when it does, let it rot and put it on your garden. Great soil is the best fertilizer for ANY plant!

ALL: Add 1-2″ composted manure over the whole landscape at least once per year. I try to do this Valentine’s Day. Why Valentine’s Day? It’s important this process occurs in cool months so plants or lawn won’t burn. The other reason for that date is I can remember it…fertility & Valentine’s go hand-in-hand…. or, well, you get the idea. For how long? I plan to stop with my annual cupid compost ceremony when I die, move, or my soil morphs into a rich loam yielding not only great produce, but also a shovel full of earthworms every time I effortlessly dig a hole. By the way, this is NOT mulch; it’s besides and underneath a spring application of mulch.

Osmaco&MedinaVEGGIES, FLOWERS, ETC. – Used as a foliar spray or poured-on soil activator, I keep a jug of Medina’s MEDINA PLUS  handy for monthly after-planting-pep-ups. This is also what I put into my compost to heat it up.

My double compost tumbler also boasts a spigot and container on bottom for an easy compost tea treat.

My double compost tumbler also boasts a spigot and container on bottom for an easy compost tea treat.

Speaking of which,  COMPOST TEA is a cheap – as in FREE – fertilizer. At my house, making compost tea is easy because of the composter I use: a double barrel tumbler with tea spout in the bottom. Never heard of compost tea? Here’s how to make it happen.

A local company (in Houston) called MICROLIFE has come up with great all-around organic fertilizers in several formulations for the different applications in the garden. They also have specialty formulations for specific plants, like azaleas and citrus, as well as for problems in the lawn, like brown patch. Their nifty online chart tells you what to use and when. I buy MicroLife by the 40 lb. bag, I’m such a fan.

When I tuck in just about any flowering/fruiting plant, I often add a dash of Osmocote for Flowers & Vegetables. This slow release, balanced (14-14-14) formula feeds the babies without burning or giving too much nitrogen (the 1st number in the 3 part formulation numbers, N-P-K), which makes it develop gorgeous green but few flowers. NEVER use lawn fertilizer in flowerbeds with blooming plants or they’ll spend all of their energy on the leaves and none on the blooms.

Another commonly used fertilizer that has no place in my garden is a “weed and feed” product. I absolutely hate these for many reasons, only one of which is how destructive it can be to plants other than lawn grasses. So if you have a grudge against me, you now know the chink in my armor!

NOTE: I am not paid, nor do I receive these products to endorse. I buy them at my local garden center just like you will.

Poinsettia Pointers & Other Plants to Ring in the New Year

The only care-free poinsettia is a fake one.

The only care-free poinsettia is a fake one, remaining perky even in snow. Or in the attic.

If you’re like me, it’s tough passing up after-Christmas bargains. And since my drug of choice is plants, a trip to the nursery the 1st week of January means I’ll extend the season with HUGE, beautiful poinsettias for less than $5 each. I look at this as a quick high, a temporary fix, though. You CAN get a return bloom next year, if you are willing to put in the effort. For 5 bucks, I’m not. In case you’re on JEOPARDY, by the way, what we call the blooms  are actually brightly colored leaves – or “bracts” – with the actual flower the tiny middle part. Feel free to share the prize money. It should get me a few more poinsettias for next year.

Kolanchoes have a long bloom period, come in several colors, and thrive indoors if given lots of light.

Kolanchoes (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana)

have a long bloom period, come in several colors, and thrive indoors if given lots of light.

Want an alternate, repeat-blooming Christmas-y flower without the hassle? Try kolanchoe. No. It doesn’t double as a breakfast food. You’re thinking ko-LA-che. Don’t eat these. Like poinsettias and many other houseplants, kolanchoes are POISONOUS to people and pets if ingested. (Here’s a list with more poisonous houseplants for you.) Kolanchoes not only make great houseplants, they can be planted in the ground for almost year-round color in warmer climates.

Christmas cactus – Schlumbergera bridesii – may be an old-fashioned, hand-me-down plant, but it continues to be one of my favorites for its dependability in low light conditions. My original plant came from Dad 15+ years ago and I’m pretty sure his was a cutting from someone else. It always amazes me when the buds start to pop out of nowhere around the 2nd week of December. I’ve divided mine now and am sharing pieces with friends, too, which is one of my favorite parts of gardening. And yes, having indoor plants is still gardening!

This year I surprised several special people in my life with red amaryllis bulbs for Christmas. My friend (and my co-author on HEIRLOOM BULBS FOR TODAY) Chris Wiesinger at The Southern Bulb Company offers them in a ready-to-give package. You can find a number of incredible bulbs to force for the holidays from Chris and Rebecca, in fact. Then after the blooms are done, plant them in your garden, if you live in a temperate locale like I do.

Do you have a favorite Christmas plant that’s easy to take care for? Not counting the silk poinsettias in your attic, of course.

Weeds or Woes? Choosing an Organic Method COULD Save Your Life!

Recently I heard you speak and you mentioned using RoundUp could hurt more than the weeds in my yard.

Can you explain?

New research shows WEEDS are not the only thing killed by Roundup....

New research shows WEEDS are not the only thing killed by Roundup….

Happy to expound on this one. A few weeks ago a neighborhood association asked me to look over their contract with a local lawn maintenance company. Immediately I redlined a problem: it specifically asked that RoundUp ®, a widely advertised glyphosate used in home and commercial gardening, be sprayed for weed control. I freaked, mainly because this is my HOA spraying next to my garden! I’d discovered genocide was going on in the neighborhood shortly after I moved in last fall when I drove up to a masked man, spray wand in hand in my front yard. I jerked open the car door, jumping up and down, screaming at the poor guy to get him to stop. I told him I’m an organic gardener and NEVER wanted to see his sorry spraying self in my garden again. He shrugged and moved the 4 feet over to my neighbor’s and began misting his poison again. 

So what’s the big deal? If you aren’t growing edibles – which I do throughout my entire landscape – you might not see any harm in using glyphosate as a short cut to weed eradication. Let’s face it: easy helps. Weeding is the toilet cleaning of gardening, in my opinion. And like toilets, it very seldom gets noticed… unless it does NOT get done. More and more research on what glyphosate does to our environmental systems AND our body systems should give us the heebie jeebies, even more than a nasty toilet. Just as it does with plants, glyphosate messes with our hormonal balance and cellular production. And since it’s designed to kill ALL plants, new findings show it does so IN us as well as around us, decimating the good bacteria needed for our intestinal health. And in September, the National Institutes of Health linked glyphosate to breast cancer. Here’s the article on their website. photo 1The stuff is especially dangerous to small children and pets. That means your little one playing in the lush lawn, or your pooch taking a poop where glyphosate has been applied exposes them to incredible danger, according to the National Pesticide Information Center, who offers some of the symptoms you can expect to see.

So what’s a healthy alternative? I’ll offer a few of my favorites – including cinnamon and white vinegar – in an upcoming article.

Many of the health issues we experience link unbreakably to our determination to travel easy street. The use of glyphosate is just one of the many toxic trails we find ourselves following when searching for a magic pill to perfection. I’m praying that as the public becomes more informed, getting rid of weeds the easy way won’t be as enticing to home gardeners and consumers as will good health for our loved ones and the planet we love. If we’ll insist commercial growers and maintenance companies ditch the poison completely, we might see a turn around in our generation. One neighborhood at a time.

WHEN to plant WHAT

Cherie's planting season wheel

My confession that rules were blatantly disregarded when I planted shrubs during  July brought sorrowful bent heads and looks of disapproval.  And those were just from Gus the Wonder Cat…..

Gus the Wonder Cat is wondering why I'm crazy enough to plant shrubs in summer!

Gus the Wonder Cat is wondering why I’m crazy enough to plant shrubs in the heat of summer!

I can imagine what your thoughts on the subject might be.

As a designer, I often myself tempted to The Dark Side, putting FORM before FUNCTION. Someone always pays when that happens. Sometimes it’s Mrs. Skywalker. This time it’s me. I’ve been shlepping water hoses through the common area next to my house several times a week and the newly-planted beauty berry still doesn’t look, well, beautiful. If you don’t want you to fall into the same trap, use this graphic telling you when to plant what at your house.  Your plants will thank you for following the rules. And Gus will think you’re a genius.

Need to know HOW to plant trees and shrubs? Here’s a video from my friends at The National Gardening Association Wanna TRANSPLANT a shrub or tree in the next few months? Here’s how!

Understory beauty berry bush, like this variegated 'Snow Storm' variety, prefer cooler temps when planted and show distress at anything less.

DEAD ENDS take on new meaning: this variegated ‘Snow Storm’ beauty berry is making its displeasure known, dying off on the tip ends after leaving the shade cover of a nursery for the sun cover of July.

FREE FRIDAY! and Summer is NOT the time to plant

To celebrate August, the end-of- summer (since schools start ever-earlier), I’ll have a FREE FRIDAY tomorrow. Go to my author FaceBook page and pick which one of my children’s books you want and I’ll pick you. Or Gus the Wonder Cat will pick for me. IF he’s in the mood for that kind of thing. He IS a cat, after all.  If you don’t FB, just comment on this post to get your name in the hat.

River rock boulder at A&A  Stone (www.A&AStone.com)

Arkansas creek boulder Linda helped me find at A&A Stone. Thanks Linda!

Following an afternoon choosing boulders for my entry garden (I’ll show you the before/after soon), I distinctly heard my name called. Sensing the voice beckoned from the nearby garden center, I was compelled to stop and walk through the rows of newly arrived plant material to make certain my garden was not lacking. As any other gardener would have, I soon recognized my garden was indeed lacking and began piling necessities onto the wagon to remedy my plight.

My usual time for summer gardening is morning. And when I say “gardening” in the summer, it means making the rounds to be sure everyone is happy and healthy, yanking a few errant weeds: maintenance type chores. Theoretically, PLANTING is an autumn/winter/spring activity. However, since I do not practice what I preach, feel free to drive by and see WHY you should not put out plants in Texas’ summer, which typically lasts from April-October. Other than the desert-dwellers, my new babies are suffering tremendously. Even the true East Texas Pineywoods natives, with almost daily spritzes of hydration from the end of a hose, show a waning spirit.

I don’t blame them a bit. It is August, after all.

I’m putting together a program on WHAT TO PLANT WHEN. If you want to know the answer to that age-old question, respond to this post and I’ll send you the chart.

Free Friday better than FREAKY Friday anyday!

Dramm’s classic Rain Wand along with their classic model showing its use. While I do condone using this product, I do NOT condone the white shoes after Labor Day. (Photo – and give-away – courtesy Dramm Corporation.)

Several weeks ago I got a package from Dramm Corporation, a great North American company that started out producing commercial landscaping products but known now primarily for their incredible hose-end watering tools, like the classic Rain Wand.

They asked me to try some of their other products and sent enough for YOU to try them, too.

Dramm’s Compact Pruners are a great stocking stuffer! (Cat not included.)

Want one? For FREE???

Just comment on this post or on my author FaceBook page to get your name in the drawing.

Oh, by the way, according to Captain Hook, their Compact Pruners are pet friendly, but not PAW friendly. c:

Planting seeds straight into the ground

Lately, I’ve gotten several questions about the best way to start seeds in the ground, also called straight sown seeds. (Of course, I don’t DO straight lines, so that is a bit of an oxymoron at my house…..)  I don’t know that my way is the BEST, but it works well for me.  I’m open to suggestions – and welcome royalties from a patent partnership –  if you’ve found one that’s better.

Bottomless, this pot-o-basil is not what it appears.

HIT: starting your own plants from seed is inexpensive and EASY if you protect the seedlings!

First off, be sure you’re planting the seeds at the proper depth. If they’re from a packet, it should tell you how deep to put them in; as a general rule, seeds and bulbs require planting between double – and – triple their height. (Here’s my friend WILLIAM MOSS with Patti Moreno showing you how it’s done with veggies.) If you’ve planted them properly, you’ll start seeing green several days or weeks – or even months – before they are established well-enough to become actual rooted plants. During that time, the underworks are branching out to support the upperworks, making it vital you baby those fragile seedlings. I find the main protection my new seedlings need are actually from ME, though. Forgetting I’ve put seeds down, I mulch over that bare spot. Or I can’t remember what I put there because the tag is missing.  Sometimes a heavy downpour is the culprit and my seeds end up down the street.

We even have a neighborhood pooch whose owner allows him too much roaming space and he did in some cassia seeds with a well placed dump.  Yes, it is organic, but come on!

I used to stack rocks, cairn-like, stick a flag in it with the plant name, and cross my fingers as I walked away.  Either the flag, the rocks, or both ended up missing.

All you need to be a seed superstar is a plastic planting pot, scissors and a marker!

Now I hold on to all those small pots when I buy plants at the nursery and recycle them into seed starting studs.  I use a few the traditional way, but what works even better is making them into a TEXAS-STYLE SEEDLING CORRAL. I cut the bottom out, turn ’em upside down, and write down the plant’s name and the date I planted it with a silver marker.  Then I bury it partially into the ground, up and over the “lip” that used to be the top of the pot. Then I add a bit of potting soil and push the seeds into place.  I’m always looking for activities to lure in kids to gardening and think this might be a great one for little ones to try.  (As a bonus, this method allows me to know exactly where I need to mist when it dries out, and it holds in the water for longer.  And this isn’t proven, but it seems the black color of the pot absorbs the day’s heat and gets my seedlings going faster in early spring.)

Cut the bottom 1/4 off the small plastic plant pot and turn it on its head for a plant perimeter/marker.

Ignore the label on this one….it’s actually G. aestivalis winklerii ‘Grape Sensation,’ not ‘Purple Passion.’ But I wouldn’t know WHAT or WHERE it was without its seedling corral, would I?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You might want to cut the perimeter away once the seedlings are up….

or just leave it in place so you remember those bulbs are there even when they aren’t in bloom.

WARNING: if a varmint wants those seeds, even an armed guard can’t stop ’em!  Need proof?

Here’s who came to dinner at my house last week.  Yes, those are carefully dried/saved/planted hibiscus seeds this little guy decided to grab in the run-through at Casa Colburn-a!

Container Gardening = Endless POTS-abilities

It can be overwhelming to start a project, can’t it.  There are just WAY too many possibilities.  But section it out, come up with a theme, and most of the choices are made for you.  If you haven’t started landscaping because you don’t know where to begin, how about putting it into perspective?  Bite off a small portion by beginning with a pot.  Not just any predictable pot, mind you.  Go with a theme, either based on the style of your environment or make an environment with your theme.  Clear as mud?

Fern urn or fern gully....your choice if you like shady characters!

In a couple of weeks, I’ll head to Little Rock to speak at the annual Arkansas Literary Festival.  I’ve been paired with one of the city’s own landscaping legends – author and owner of Botanica Gardens Chris Olsen – to show folks the easy way to DIG A LITTLE DEEPER into gardening.  Chris and I will put together some of our favorite plant combos for a little hands-on show-how for gardens anyone can make just about anywhere.  Whether it’s whimsy or wow you want,  a few simple tools and secret ingredients are all you need to create a barrel – or BUCKET – of fun.

TRADE SECRETS FOR POTTING IT UP!

HIT:sprinkle a few "watering crystals" into your potting soil to HALF the number of times you have to water your pots!

Soil: Scooping up a few handfuls of plain ‘ol dirt from your landscape just won’t cut it.  Why? Mainly because it lacks the ability to drain well, retain moisture and give off nutrients to your new plants.  A good potting soil will keep you steady on the tightrope between too much water and not enough. Don’t forget to feed it appropriately, too.  You wouldn’t give your baby dog food….although my nephew thought dog treats were cookies for some time!

Duel purpose, this container also holds rainwater runoff to irrigate the nearby veggie garden.

Container: Although it might hold plants just fine, your “pot” – in whatever form it comes – will probably need a few tweeks to make it a proper container for healthy plants.  Make sure there are holes of some sort for excess water to drain, or a “false bottom” allowing drainage to go somewhere else besides the root area.  Very few plants like wet feet. Or you can do what I do…put a smaller pot  within a larger, ornamental pot.

Instead of soil, I top the cinder blocks and brick pieces in this ornamental container with a FREE plastic pot from the nursery, insuring good drainage and easy change-ups!

And speaking of larger, teeny tiny pots = LOTS of trips with a watering can, so use the largest container possible to enable enough soil and water to be maintained around the roots of your plants.

Now that you have pot parameters, have some fun. Here are a few ideas you can borrow to explore the POTS-abilities for your landscape…….and I bet you’ll have a hard time containing yourself!

  • JUST EAT IT! – no disrespect to Michael Jackson or Weird Al for his parody of Michael’s song, but this is an edible pot you just can’t BEAT; fill with lots of lettuce, garlic, onions and peppers for a salsa pot, or Italian herbs and tomatoes for a pizza pot
  • MARGARITAVILLE  – combine some of your favorite adult beverage ingredients
  • LEMONADE STAND – citrus won’t grow in your clime? put it in a moveable pot for a moveable feast (bring this inside for harsh winter protection)
  • This FAIRYLAND CASTLE pot I found at Blue Moon Gardens in Edom, TX.

  • FAIRYLAND  –  a great one for little girls, or little girls at heart
  • JURASSIC POT – plants that are as old as dinosaurs
  • FERN GULLY – shady lovers
  • CLIMBING TO NEW HEIGHTS – rebar, wire coat hangers, just about anything that can be bent to your will gives vines a chance to grow
  • FOR THE BIRDS – berries and seeds and nesting, oh my!
  • WINGED WONDERS – hummingbird and/or butterfly plants bring beauty to your balcony or patio
  • LIGHT IT UP – pair flower bulbs with light bulbs for a night-time knock-out
  • EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSES – roses come in all shapes and sizes and most don’t mind be contained, so spill ’em and stake ’em and everything in between
  • SEASONAL WISDOM – change out a couple of props, or do a make-over for each month’s special day
  • CUT IT OUT – enjoy having cut flowers in your kitchen all the time? grow your own!

    Cut flowers from my yard in a vase my daughter made. LOVE monochromatic pairings!

  • PRETTY IN PINK – monochromatic is NOT monotony (one of my favorite themes)
  • UP AGAINST THE WALL – got a boring vertical space with no room below to garden? put a climber in a pot and give it something to hold on to then watch it go!
  • LIVING IN A GOLDFISH BOWL- fish for compliments with watery delights in an old goldfish bowl or make it into a terrarium
  • REBOOT – repurpose your favorite worn-out boots
  • MINT TO DO THAT – plant your favorite add-on for iced tea within arm’s reach of your kitchen sink
  • SWEET DREAMS – gather a few night-blooming plants for a dreamy combo

Now that I’ve stirred the pot, bet you come up with something even better.  Love to see what POTS-abilities you discover!

YOU CAN GROW THAT! POTATOES

Don't let taters-gone-native go to waste!

I can be lazy.

While that statement sounds very much like I AM lazy, the distinction is an important one.  For most of my life, it’s been difficult for me to even sit still, much less completely veg out.  Those days are over. Has my personality morphed, choleric gone phlegmatic?  Probably not.  When it comes to continuous, never-ending chores – such as house or yard work – my conscience has simply relaxed at the expense of years.  It seems my friend Brenda Beust Smith, the self-proclaimed LAZY GARDENER, must have arrived at the prescribed age of ease-allowance before I did, robbing me of the title.

Combine my newfound laissez-faire chore blinders, an obnoxious obsession for recycling (stemming more from being cheap AND creative than any environmental crusade), and a desire to buck time-tested gardening rules and what do you get?

The sum is often disaster. Last week’s discovery, however, will be dinner tomorrow night: plenty of yummy new potatoes.

Suppertime spuds? DIG IT!

HIT: sprouted potatoes beg to be planted!

Seed potatoes should be bought and then planted early in spring, according to the rules here in my part of Texas. My version?  Smelled something funny in the pantry after returning from vacation in October, my nose leading me to a bag of organic new potatoes pushed behind a cereal box. They weren’t so new anymore.  Already sprouted, I tucked them – untreated and uncut – into my garden after yanking my frost-bitten tomatoes out.  So here it is, 1st week of March, and my potatoes are faster food than a crowded drive-through at dinner-time.  Just pop them into a few cups of boiling water in my pressure cooker, top with a bit of olive oil, sea salt and rosemary sprigs and serve.  Sounds even lazier than a trip under the golden arches, huh?  Just sit and wait for the timer to go off!

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