Top Gardening Trends for 2017

With warm weather on its way, there’s never been a better time to start planning your garden. To help you get started this season, we asked Frank Ferragine, aka Frankie Flowers, for his thoughts on top gardening trends this year.

Big pops of color.

Last year we saw some contrast with loud hues married to more muted, pastel tones, but this year is all about bright colours. Calibrachoas will be this year’s showstoppers with brilliant purples and beaming yellows. Not only do they require little maintenance, but they’ll last from spring until first frost with masses of cascading branches full of petunia-like flowers. Expect to see a rainbow of vibrant impatiens with brighter reds, pinks and oranges in hanging baskets across the country.

Urban planting.

This year, condo and apartment dwellers aren’t likely to miss out on the gardening fun. “Urban gardening is going to be bigger than ever,” says Frankie. “Hanging baskets will be popular spring purchases and many gardeners are already excited about the wide selection of colourful pots from brands like President’s Choice to make a statement in their yards or on their balconies.”

Tough meets tender. 

A great way to keep your garden looking lush throughout the year is by mixing tough plants with tender ones. While softer, less hardy varieties like peonies, salvia and verbena look lovely, it’s a good idea to intermingle them with lower-maintenance resilient varieties like echinacea, roses and succulents that will keep your garden full in spite of harsher, dryer conditions.

Climate-consciousness. 

Canada is huge and our climate is varied, therefore it stands to reason that a plant that grows well in Victoria may not fare so well in Winnipeg. Plant tags contain key information on plant hardiness zones and what type of plant will do best in specific zones or regions. Still, Frankie shares that “Canadians are more informed than ever about the role our climate can play in growing a successful garden.”

Patriotic plants. 

Red and white plants are already gaining a lot of attention in the gardening world. “Without a doubt, this year’s hottest flower is the Canadian Shield Rose,” says Frankie. Made in Canada, this choice is a perfect way to celebrate our country’s 150th birthday. Named as 2017’s Flower of the Year by Canada Blooms, this flower is able to survive our rigorous winters from coast to coast. It’s the perfect way to celebrate Canada in your garden this summer.

www.newscanada.com

Tales from Green Country: Blackberry Container Gardening

My First Blackberry Plant

Yesterday I bought two blackberry bushes, one to put in the ground backyard, and one for my large porch container.  Then I let my dog outside, when I went back out to bring her in a little bit later, I noticed that she had chewed up the entire prickly blackberry bush that I had just planted in the backyard!  Then I was reminded that this is why the rest of my backyard garden is fenced in.

So, this was going to be a comparison between blackberry container gardening and ground gardening, but it will just be about container gardening now!

By the way, I’ve been wanting to plant blackberries for years because they’re tied with watermelon as my favorite fruit!  I placed one in a mostly sunny spot on my front porch this weekend, and also planted some more tomatoes and cilantro in the some different pots on the porch, too.

I figure that this might work really well, since blackberry plants like moisture and well drained soil.  That’s why they thrive like crazy in Oregon!  You can’t even plant blackberry in the ground in rainy regions like that because they will take over the entire yard!

I can’t wait to see how mine turns out in its pot!  I’ll post updates here.

 

Tales from Green Country: The Joys of Seed Gardening

From pretty much the beginning of this year, I’ve been tucked away in my house, suffering from allergies which turned into a very long lasting sinus infection, so when it finally started clearing up last weekend, just as spring was blooming, I was ecstatic to emerge from my cave and do some first-of-the-year gardening.

This year I decided to do things differently than I normally do.  Instead of buying new plants, I bought all seeds and bulbs.  I think that there was some security in buying baby plants, because I could see that they already had a healthy start.  But this year I took what seems to me a more daring approach of seed planting.

I also threw a little caution to the wind, and instead of worrying about planting calendars, I simply planted what I wanted to plant.  It felt pretty amazing.

So I bought Morning Glories and various bulbs for the front yard, and a host of exciting fruits and vegetables for the raised bed gardens out back.  First, I started by mixing some new mushroom compost into the raised beds.  Then, I planted two kinds of watermelon, two kinds of pumpkin, tomatoes, two kinds of cucumbers, and cilantro.  I simply traced lines in the soil and dropped the seeds in for the watermelons and pumpkins, and then covered it up.  And for the tomatoes, cilantro, and cucumbers, I poured the seeds over the soil in their separate areas, and then mixed them into the soil with my hands.

The most wonderful part was that right after I got everything planted, we had a nice natural rainfall all day to get them settled into their beds.  Hopefully I can keep them happy.  Today I’m going to apply a thin layer of peat moss over them just in case they need the extra topsoil.

Snug in Their Beds

-Jennifer, Tales of Green Country blogger bringing you novice gardening stories from lush Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Growing Organic Basil

Basil

Growing organic basil (pronounced bay-zul) is both easy and rewarding. We use it as a fresh herb all summer in various dishes, especially Asian and Italian cuisine. Sweet basil is typically the most common variety you’ll find if you’re planning on growing organic basil. Tropical areas in India and Asia have been growing basil for at least 5000 years. The name basil comes from the Greek, βασιλεύς (basileus), and means “king,” and it’s a member of the mint family.

When to Plant Basil

Because we reside (through no choice of my own) in a Northern climate area, we always plant basil indoors about 6 to 8 weeks ahead of the last frost. Basil needs around 70 to 80 days to reach maturity, although if you’re careful not to overdo it you can remove a very small amount of lower leaves ahead of that time. As there are many varieties of basil you can grow, check with your local seed distributor or a reputable national seed supplier. You can either plant or transplant basil after the last frost of the spring. Basil is a warm weather plant and while it doesn’t like temps below 50°F, we’ve been able to grow some varieties in our area.

Best Location to Plant Basil

Basil is a sun lover; in Southern climates it requires around 6 hours a day, and as you move North to our area, it needs about 8 hours daily. Make sure not to crowd your basil plants; air circulation around the plants is required for plant health. Fungal diseases almost always begin in damp conditions where your plants can’t dry out by noon. Basil is a semi-fragile plant, so it should be protected as much as possible from the wind.

Basil Likes a Sunny Spot in the Garden

Preparing the Soil to Plant Basil

Basil, like many herbs, likes soil that drains well and is nutrient rich. Organic basil should grow well with organic compost and/or composted manure. The pH range for growing basil is between 6.0 and 7.5. Basil is a heavy Nitrogen (N) feeder, and compost, composted manure, or bloodmeal are good sources of Nitrogen Basil does very well in raised beds if your soil doesn’t drain well. Our soil is pretty rocky, and although it’s a bit clayish, the rocks help it to drain well. Adding composted materials to clayish soils also helps it to drain well, and helps retain water in sandy soils. Prepare your soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches by mixing in 2 to 3 inches of compost or composted manure into about a 6 inch cubic foot area where the seed or plant will be planted. That’s about the size and depth of an average garden shovel.

Choosing the Right Seed Varieties for Your Area

Basil typically grows between 12 and 24 inches tall. The varieties we grow up North average about 12 to 14 inches tall, but tropical basil will usually grow up to 24 inches. Choose your seeds based on the climate zone you live in (your seed supplier will know what varieties grow best in your zone). Also, check with your county extension for diseases that may afflict basil in your area and choose seed varieties that are resistant to those diseases (such as fusarium wilt) if there are any.

Germinating Basil Seeds

Basil seed germinate best at around 65° to 85°F; at 65°F your seeds will germinate in 10 to 14 days and at 85°F they’ll take 5 to 7 days. Basil seeds, like most seeds that you plant in shallow soil, need a modicum of light, either artificial or sunlight, to germinate. If you’re planting outdoors (not recommended in the Northern climate zones), wait until night time temperatures are above 50°F.

Basil Seeds

Saving Seeds

If you’ve planted “heirloom” basil seeds, you will have the ability to save your seeds for next year’s crop. If you plant disease resistant varieties, they’re typically hybrid seeds and you won’t be able to harvest the seeds to plant next season. Personally, and I may get into trouble with seed purists, am not opposed to using hybrid seeds, although GMO seeds may be an entirely different animal (literally). We’ll be posting an article on GMO soon. We’ll look at all sides of the argument over GMO, and explain the difference between sysgenic and transgenic GMO (Europe outlawed GMO’s, or so we’ve been told, but they outlawed transgenic, not sysgenic GMO). OK, now that I’m back from that rabbit trail…let’s save some seeds. First, make sure your basil doesn’t seed until fall. Let the flower and dry, then pick the dried flowers and lay them on a jellyroll pan or similar. Let them sit for a few days, then bounce the tray on your table or countertop lightly, or tap the bottom of the pan and let the seeds roll out and collect them.

Starting Basil Indoors

It’s always the best practice to use a sterile potting soil to start your plants indoors. For starting basil seeds, it’s a good idea to add a bit of lime (dolomite) and sand to your mix (also sterile). There are lots of containers to start your seeds in…if you have the budget to do it, soil blocks are the most environmentally sound way to start seeds, followed by peat pots or “jiffy pellets,” then any re-useable plastic tapered seed tray or container you may have laying around. Just make sure if you’re using cottage cheese or yogurt cartons that you poke some holes in the bottoms to allow for proper drainage. Plant 2 or 3 seeds about ¼ inch deep in the potting mix. You’ll want to plant extra in case one or two fail to germinate which is common with many herb varieties. Once your basil seedlings have 4 true leaves, thin the plants to the strongest surviving plant per cell or carton.

Basil Sprouts

Transplanting to Outdoors

As you approach the final frost date for your climate zone, you’ll want to prepare your basil for being transplanted to your garden. This process is called “hardening off” and is kind of like weight-training for plants (very loosely speaking). Move your plant trays out of doors for a couple hours a day to start with (not too much sun initially), and increase the out-of-doors sunlight hours for one or two weeks. The reason you do this is that you may kill or stunt your plants if you don’t prepare them for transplanting, just like you wouldn’t run a 10K race without pysically preparing (unless you’re completely bonkers!). You’ll want your basil plants to have 4 to 6 mature leaves when you transplant them, and if possible, don’t transplant them if the night temps are falling lower than 50°F. The optimal daytime temperature for most basil varieties is about 85°F Your soil should be prepared per our instructions above. When planting your basil plants, slide the soil and root mass out of the pot (unless you’ve used soil blocks or peat pots).

Using a small garden trowel, create a hole large enough to accommodate the soil/root mass, and lifting the plant very carefully (I grasp the whole plant in the palm of my hand), slide it into the hole and gently pack the dirt in around the roots.

We plant our plants about 12 inches apart. This allows them plenty of air circulation which helps them avoid moisture-related fungal diseases. You can make double or triple rows, spacing the rows 6 to 12 inches apart, and then 30 to 36 inches between the doubled/tripled rows.

You may also trim the tops back to 6 inches or so in height to encourage lateral branching (and more leaves).

One thing I should also mention is that you can also root basil from cuttings from mature plants.

Planting Basil Seeds in Your Garden

As previously mentioned, unless you live in a warmer, Southern climate zone, we suggest you start your plants indoors. If you live in a more Southern region, you can seed your plants directly in your garden. Again, make sure your nighttime temps are 50°F or higher; this will typically mean your daytime temps are also at least 70°F. In the same way as outlined above, make your rows in doubles or triples, but plant 8 to 10 seeds per inch. Same as above, plant the seeds approx. ¼ inch deep. Why so many seeds? They germinate more sporadically most of the time if started outdoors, so you’ll want to be able to make sure you’ve got plenty to choose from when you thin them out. Basil is a delicate seedling, and the soil should not crust over after planting. You can either lightly mist the soil a couple times a day or add a light layer of vermiculite over the seeds to keep the soil from developing a crust.

Basil Plants

Successfully Growing Basil Until You Can Eat It

As previously discussed, you should thin your plants to about 6 to 12 inches apart for the best results. You can eat the plants you thin, or they also transplant relatively easily. Pinch back your plant tops to encourage the plants to become bushier. This also will help the flavor of basil and keeps it from going to seed, at which point it becomes flavorless and woody. Basil doesn’t like to dry out or get too hot. It will go to seed or stop growing, so it’s a good idea in hot climates to plant in an area where they can get afternoon shade. We don’t have to worry much about it here in the great white North. If you do see your basil starting to flower and go to seed, just pinch off the tops of the plants (not the flowers). Pinching off the flowers as they form does not stimulate new foliage; in fact it encourages flowers to form in the axils of the leaves thus reducing the yield of the plant. Mulching will help keep your basil plants cooler in the summer heat. We’ll cover that in the next section.

If perchance, you get a late cold snap, use row covers to protect your basil from a frost.

If you’ve prepped your soil per the instructions in the above section on preparing your soil, you shouldn’t really need to fertilize your plants during the growing season.

Potted Young Spring Seedlings of Basil

Mulching & Weeding

Mulching with grass clippings, chopped leaves, or barley straw helps both to retain soil moisture and control weeds. If you don’t mulch, make sure you don’t let the weeds take over your basil patch. Basil doesn’t compete very well with weeds. Weed carefully close to your plants and cut the weeds off at ground level if they’re too close to the plants.

Watering Basil

If you use organic mulches like grass clippings, it will help keep you from needing to use as much water on your basil. Basil needs about 1 to 2 inches of water every week to 10 days to make sure the roots have enough moisture. If you dig down a couple inches near your basil plants, and the soil is moist, you probably don’t need to irrigate. As with most plants, drip irrigation is better than overhead watering with sprinklers, but if you don’t have that option, water in the early morning so your basil plants have a chance to dry out by noon. If your plants stay wet, you’ll likely have problems with mildew or fungus. Finally, if you overwater basil, it can make the leaves lose flavor.

Companion Planting and Rotation Considerations

Starting with plants that basil plays well with…

Basil planted next to tomatoes is supposed to help their flavor. We did it last year, but honestly, I didn’t have anything to compare it to, and as we used OGM last year, the flavor was outstanding on all our tomatoes, both near and away from the basil.

Basil is said to repel thrips, flies, and mosquitoes; funny thing, I didn’t know mosquitoes bothered veggies, but I’m thinking I’ll put a few plants in my bedroom!

Basil grows well around petunias, oregano, peppers, and asparagus as well.

Petunias apparently fend off leafhoppers, some aphids, Mexican bean beetles, and asparagus beetles. Hot peppers also are supposed to prevent root rot and fusarium in basil. Plants that don’t play well with basil? Rue, which doesn’t play well with sage either, and rosemary, which basil will eradicate. Although I’ve read that basil should be rotated on a 2-year rotation, we’ve had no problem with planting it in the same area 2 years in a row, but maybe I just like to tempt fate!

Fresh Basil and Rosemary

Harvesting Basil

You can pluck leaves from your basil once it has about 8 leaves. Snip the top of the plant off, leaving 4 leaves; this will encourage the plant to expand laterally (it’ll get bushier). You should be able to harvest leaves up until the first frost in the autumn. Alternate the plants you harvest so that you’ll have a steady fresh supply of basil herbs. You can harvest one or two times weekly.

Basil Storage

Basil is good mainly for fresh eating, but can also be dried, although it loses much of it’s flavor when dried.

To dry basil, tie the basil stems together upside down in a warm, preferable dark area for a week or so.

You can also use a food dryer and lay the stems in the trays.

Remove the dried leaves and seal in an airtight container (I use mason jars) and store the dried basil in a cool, dark area or root cellar. It should keep for a year. Another method I consider now to be superior is to quickly blanch the leaves (a quick dip in boiling water suffices), then freeze them in airtight zip lock-style bags or another airtight container. Basil will keep in your fridge for a week or more, but it loses flavor over time, so it’s best if you keep your crop rotating until the first fall frost. One of the main ingredients for pesto is basil, so one way we preserve basil is to make pesto, put it into airtight containers, and freeze it (omit the cheese and add it upon thawing if your pesto recipe includes it).

Preventative and Natural Solutions to Common Pests

Japanese beetles and grasshoppers like to eat basil leaves (can’t blame them for that, can you?!).

Row covers are probably the most effective way to deal with these pests. You can also spray them off for temporary relief.

Slugs also like basil leaves. Diatomaceous earth is effective in ridding your basil patch of slugs, but it has to remain dry or you need to reapply it after a rain or irrigating.

Fresh Garden Basil

Environmental factors

Root rot disease is a group of fungal diseases that cause the roots of many plants, including basil, to rot and die prematurely, taking the entire plant with it. Planting basil in sunny areas with well-draining soil and moderate watering will usually prevent this fungus from destroying your basil plants. If your basil plants happen to contract root rot, dig up the dying plants and dispose of them to an area where they can’t affect other plants (such as your garbage can). Downy Mildew usually develops on the lower leaves only as that’s where moisture often stays.

Again, don’t overwater, choose resistant varieties, and don’t crowd your plants.

You can treat your plants with a homemade fungicide spray if you do spot some downy mildew.

You can also make this organic fungicide spray using bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). In a gallon of water add a couple drops of organic olive oil, a couple drops of environmentally-friendly liquid soap, and 3 tablespoons of baking soda. Spray it on your basil leaves to effectively control all of the above fungi.

You should rotate your basil to a new area if your plants are affected by downy mildew.

Fusarium wilt is a soil-borne fungus that causes various plants to suddenly wilt and usually strikes when the plants are mature. Early signs of fusarium wilt include brownish streaking in the stems and leaves suddenly dropping. Once again, overwatering is key in bringing this disease on, so if your soil drains well and you don’t overwater, you’ll likely not see much of this disease.

Of course, you can plant resistant varieties as well, but if you do have an outbreak of this disease, the pathogens can last in the soil up to 12 years; don’t plant any mint family members in the area for that long. Bacterial leaf spots or basil shoot blight is another damp condition disease. It shows up with spots on the leaves (hence the name) and premature leaf loss. You can plant resistant varieties, but also follow the no-crowding rule, don’t over-water, and plant in soil that drains well, or add enough organic matter so that it does drain well. And, of course, if you do have an outbreak of leaf spots, rotate your basil away from that area next year. Lastly, gray mold; as basil is an herb and herbs are susceptible to gray mold, it is important to remove affected leaves or the entire plant may die. Don’t harvest the plants during rainy spells or when wet as the pathogens may spread from plant to plant.

Of course, don’t overwater. Plant in well-drained soil. Rotate your basil out of the area next season. And if you aren’t morally opposed to hybrid seeds, find resistant varieties if gray mold is a problem in your area.

 

Barry Brown is a 3rd generation organic gardeners who is passionate about a sustainable and natural lifestyle. His personal standards for organic living far exceeds USDA certification, which he believes is more about money than food quality and purity.

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

Jobs to Do in the Garden During March

Iris Sprouts

There is an old saying that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. This refers to March as being a little bit unpredictable, with strong winds and heavy showers. Even a sharp frost can catch you out this month. But when the sun does shine this month it has some real warmth in it and the garden responds with spring bulbs and new growth almost everywhere you look. As the days become longer and the soil starts to warm up again, so those jobs in the garden start to increase. There is a lot of sense in the advice that if you get on top of things in the garden during March, the rest of the growing season will run smoothly. Here are some of the main jobs to be getting on with in March.

In the Garden

Marc h is a time when many more plants emerge or flower to give a stunning early display. Plants of particular interest for this month include daffodils, lily-of-the-valley, magnolia, japonica or flowering quince, forsythia, camellia, aubrieta, and primula.

Generally speaking, now is the time for a good tidy up. Tidy evergreen grasses and cut back deciduous grasses down to the ground. Finish cutting back dead growth in herbaceous border s and stake new growth with canes or plant supports. Now is also the time to divide clumps of perennials by digging them up and dividing them with a fork or spade. Also divide snowdrops once they have finished flowering and plant new clumps ‘in the green’ to ensure flowering next year. Give your roses a final prune. Sow wildflower seeds and hardy annuals this month, and plant lily bulbs. Clear the netting away from ponds and start to feed any fish you have if the weather is warm and they are active.

Lawns

If the weather is mild, give your lawn its first cut, making sure the mower is on a high setting. Redefine the edges of the lawn with an edge cutter this will make even an untidy lawn look tidy! Deal with any wormcasts or molehills.

Daffodil Bulbs

The Greenhouse

Just as you might give your house a spring clean, do so in your greenhouse too. Wash down the panes of glass both inside and out to make sure you make the best of the early sunshine. Washing down the greenhouse will also get rid of any pests and diseases that may have overwintered. Take empty pots outside on a sunny day and give them a wash too. Sow early vegetables like peas in guttering ready to plant out next month. Start dormant begonia and dahlia tubers by potting them up and keeping them in a frost free greenhouse.

The Vegetable Garden

Dig in overwintered green manures to prepare the ground for planting. Make sure you harvest the last of the sprouting broccoli, kale and brussels left in the ground over winter. Sow early salad crops like lettuce, radishes and rocket, as well as onion sets, leeks, broad beans, spinach and early varieties of carrot. Plant early potato varieties towards the end of the month. Sow early herbs and divide and plant perennial herbs.

Patios and Containers

Spruce up your patio ready for spring with a pressure washer. Freshen up pots you have planted with winter bedding by removing any spent plants and replacing them with spring bedding. Also, fill garden planters with a variety of spring bedding such as violas, primulas, spring bulbs and small evergreens such as ivy.

 

Jo Poultney is one of two people behind Garden Planters. I have an RHS general certificate in horticulture. Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts – whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. I believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden – they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs. If you would like to know more about Garden Planters, visit our website at http://www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com

How to Grow a Pineapple Plant from a Grocery Store Pineapple

Pineapples take time to grow. In fact, once you plant a pineapple stem in your garden, it can take about 2 years for the plant to reach a height of about 25 to 30 inches. At this stage, you can see the plant producing fruits.

Growing a Pineapple from Stem

In order to grow pineapple from the stem, it is vital to get a good, juicy pineapple. Using a knife, slice off the leafy part of the pineapple. You can see some of the fruit sticking onto the leafy part that you have just sliced off. Cut this out completely as you will need to use this part for planting and fruit parts will only rot away. After removing the fruit part, make circular cuts till you can see little round circles on the cut surface. The circles are the root buds, which will be the root of your new pineapple plant. You can see a lot of leaves around the side of the plant, which can be removed. Now the top must be left off to dry for a week, after which it becomes ready for planting.

Starting Your Pineapple Plant in a Container

Prepare a pot by using good potting soil that drains off water properly as pineapples get easily damaged by standing water. Place the pineapple top on the pot’s soil and press the soil firmly around the stem top. The pot must be placed in a warm area, but at the same time, it should be able to receive good enough sunlight. The outdoor temperature must be not more than 60 degree Fahrenheit and the soil must be watered evenly, until it is just moist, but not completely wet.

In the Garden

When the plant shows some significant growth, then it’s time to move it to a sunny spot in the garden.  Of course, it is going to take a while for the plant to show growth. The first sign is the appearance of a small flower blooming right in the middle of the plant. The first signs of a baby pineapple are when you see a small cone appearing. You can begin to pick the fruit from the garden when the pineapple is about the same size as the one you planted and when it turns in a completely yellow in color.

Tips

Once you have planted your pineapple fruit, it is important to water the fruit regularly and also put some water on its leaves. However, watering must be done lightly and there must be no chance given for sogginess in the roots. Fertilize the plant suing fertilizer, twice a month, when it is spring and summer. After a year has passed by, it is best to re-pot the Pineapple plant so that it can continue to grow without becoming root-bound.

 

Chris is the writer of this article, you can visit us for more information on How to Plant Pineapple and How to Grow a Pineapple Stem.

 

Marvelous Mint – Planting, Harvesting, and Usage

Mint Plants

Mint or Mentha is much more than a plant grown to brew tea. The aromatic fresh green leaves can be used in the kitchen to spice up a fruit salad, sherbet, and ice cream. There are numerous other reasons to grow mint. The list includes the following:

  • The rich nectar and pollen attracts beneficial insects in the garden
  • Mint deters bad bugs like flies and ants
  • Peppermint tea calms the digestive system and eases upset stomachs
  • Stop abdominal cramping with a cup of tea
  • Apply strong, refrigerated peppermint tea with clean cotton pads to sunburns for soothing relief.
  • A few drops of mint essential oil added to unscented house cleaners give your home a fresh smell
  • Use it as cold relief medicine

Planting Mint

Planting Mint

This fragrant perennial becomes a constant, sometimes aggressive, garden companion. The plant is invasive, grows fast, and is tough to remove. It spreads through underground root runners. Find a corner in your garden that you do not want to use for anything else.

You can plant mint in containers, which can be buried in the ground. You can also use a large half-barrel or plastic tub and leave it outside year-round. Do not keep ceramic pots outdoors when temperatures drop. They usually break during freeze-thaw cycles.

Healthy mint plants grow 1 or 2 feet tall. They require lots of sun, moist soil, and compost if you keep them in pots. It is a great companion plant for tomatoes and cabbage. These herbs are quite hardy. They will be among the first greens to emerge in spring.

Determine what you want to use the mint for before acquiring shoots. There are various kinds, including spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint, lemon mint, pineapple mint, and apple mint.

Harvesting Mint

You can cut fresh mint sprigs any time of the year, but wait until the plants are well established for a rich harvest. You can hack mint more than once in a season when you leave at least 6 inches of stem. The plants recover fast.

Like most herbs, the best harvest time is in the morning, as the volatile oils in the plant are then at their strongest. Wash and dry the leaves before processing. Freezing and dehydrating are excellent preserving methods. You can air dry mint, or use the oven or a dehydrator to remove moisture. The opinions on ideal air dry temperatures vary between 70F and 120F. I set my dehydrator at 115F.

For best results, store dried mint in air-tight, glass containers.

Mint

Irida Sangemino is an accomplished permaculture adviser, homesteading expert, and instructor. Follow her and her husband Joe’s adventures at the Stony Creek Permaculture Farm at http://www.stonycreekpermaculture.com. Your sustainable lifestyle starts here. Contact her at: info@stonycreekpermaculture.com

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Plant Fall Flowers To Brighten Cool November

Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum

November in southern California usually ushers in cooler temperatures and possibly rain, which means gardeners can take a break from constant care and watering of plants and trees and instead focus on adding color and fall vegetables to their gardens.

Plant Hearty Chrysanthemums:

Chrysanthemums love fall. They are annuals that need very little care. Plant them in bloom and expect the flowers to look healthy for over a month. Once the flowers begin to fade, cut plants back to only a few inches above the ground. They will be dormant in winter but will grow quickly in spring and produce another round of flowers.

Move Plants to Better Locations:

Some plants do not do well despite our best efforts. The cause could be their location (not enough sun, too much sun), soil conditions or nearby plants sapping the nutrients they need. Fall is a good time for a change in scenery. Cooler weather means most plants can tolerate transplanting. Select a site that receives the right amount of sunlight. Prepare the soil with the proper amendments. Once transplanted, keep the ground consistently moist (but not over saturated) for the first month so roots can take hold.

Keep Lawns Green:

Most lawns can remain green throughout winter. For an added boost, mow lawns so blades are about 1 inch tall. Then scatter grass seed over the lawn, especially in bare spots. Sprinkle a light covering of soil amendment and water daily or as needed until new blades appears.

Time to Plant Onions:

It’s time to plant onion seeds. The seed will need well-draining soil. If you have clay soil, add amendments to break up the chunks of clay. Plant seeds where they will get full sun. Leave plenty of space between the seeds so the bulbs will not crowd each other. Since onions have shallow roots, soil should be kept moist. Onion bulbs will be ready to harvest in spring-when the tops of the plants brown and easily bend. Dig up the bulbs and let them cure in a sunny location for several days and then in a cool dry place for two weeks.

Plant Annuals:

Brighten up flowerbeds with cool season flowers including pansies, calendula, snapdragons, stock and sweet alyssum. In addition, continue planting perennials, groundcovers, herbs and roses.

Plant Wildflowers From Seed:

Planting native wildflowers is easy. Select seed packets of the popular California poppies, and not so well known globe gilia grand linanthus and meadowfoam. Scatter the seeds in a flowerbed, gently tamp down and water.

 

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Article Source: EzineArticles.com

Planting Spring Flowering Bulbs

Purple crocus flowering in early spring

Purple crocus flowering in early spring

Spring season brings colorful flowers, chirping birds and warmth which makes the entire atmosphere vibrant and cheerful. If you want a colorful display of flowers in your garden during spring then you can plant bulbs. Autumn is the perfect time to plant flowering bulbs that produce beautiful flowers during the spring season.

There are many varieties of flowering bulbs that can be planted in the flower- beds or borders. The most natural effect comes from plants growing in clumps so you can plant several bulbs in the flower bed at the same time. This will ensure that they bloom together in spring covering the flower bed in beholding glory.

When buying bulbs ensure they are healthy and do not have any growth of mold on them. Soft or damaged bulbs should be avoided as they might not thrive and die eventually. Prepare the soil and make it rich by putting organic matter or compost. Remove the weeds from the area so that they do not compete with the planted bulbs for essential nutrients. The flowering bulbs need well- drained soil and they tend to rot in damp and excessive moist areas so it important to choose the location wisely.

Once the soil has been prepared you can plant the bulbs keeping the pointed side to face upwards. It is advisable to put plant markers where you have planted the bulbs so that you know the exact location. You can plant different varieties together and match them up to create a beautiful color contrast during bloom. Some gardeners practice the method of dropping the bulbs from waist height to save time and attain a natural effect.

Cover the flower bed with mulch so that the temperature is maintained and no severe damage is caused to the bulbs during winter season. You will have to remove the mulch as soon as the shoots start to appear otherwise the growth will be delayed. The plants will be in full bloom during spring and they will cover your flower beds with astonishing colors. After the bloom, foliage will start turning yellow and will die eventually. Allow the leaves to dry and die back naturally instead of removing them from the plants. The dried leaves on the plant might look unappealing but you can camouflage it and divert the attention by planting bulbs with ground covers and other perennials that remain in bloom during that time.

Some of the amazing flowering bulbs that you can plant in your garden this season are Daffodil, Tulip, Iris, Snowdrop, Hyacinth, Narcissus, Spring Beauty and Crocus. All of these plants bear strikingly beautiful and dainty flowers that no one can help but notice. You can grow them in your home garden and enjoy the results of your labor in spring season when all the plants will be in full bloom.

 

You can find more information on best quality plants at http://www.quick-growing-trees.com/

Quick Growing Trees is a certified nursery located in Tennessee that provides all kinds of native plants, shrubs, ferns and trees for your garden.

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

Spruce Up Your Yard for Fall

spruce-up-your-yard-for-fallChunky sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes and multi-colored leaves — some things are simply quintessentially fall. Others like giving your home an outdoor face-lift may not necessarily be top of mind, but rich fall colors open up a realm of possibilities for creative yard decorations. Not just for the summer and holiday seasons, outdoor décor help create a warm and welcoming exterior.

Fall Inspiration

Drawing inspiration from the season is the best place to start. A simple harvest wreath made from leaves, berries and twigs uses the gorgeous reds, oranges and browns of autumn. Accent it with a burlap bow for arustic touch.

Farmhouse Charm

If you want to add some farmhouse charm, repurpose household items to breathe new life into them. The opportunities are endless — an old door that used to have windows on it is the perfect way to display fall blooms in hanging flower pots. A chair missing its seat can act as a rustic flower pot stand. An old set of shelves is ideal for showing off vintage watering cans. And if you don’t have these hanging around, you can always pop by a local used furniture outlet, like Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which has been raising funds to invest in local communities for 25 years.

Autumn Colors

For added pops of color, place pots of burgundy chrysanthemums, purple asters or ornamental cabbage along your walkway. Flowers always freshen things up, especially when the temperature starts to drop. Create a country aesthetic by placing decorative gourds and pumpkins in between the flowers. These will transition well into late autumn, and you can even repurpose the pumpkin for carving a jack-o-lantern on Halloween.

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