Mar 22

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.

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Mar 05

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

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Feb 01

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.

 

Jan 15

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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Nov 02

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.

 

Bill Camarillo is CEO of Agromin, an Oxnard, California-based manufacturer of premium soil products and the composter for cities throughout Southern California. Each month, Agromin receives more than 30,000 tons of organic material and then uses a safe, natural and sustainable process to transform the material into premium soil products. The results are more vigorous and healthier plants and gardens, and on the conservation side, the opportunity to close the recycling loop, allow more room in landfills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. http://www.agromin.com.

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Oct 31

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.

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Oct 14

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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Oct 11

Fall Gardening – Planting Daffodil Bulbs in Your Garden

Daffodil BulbsDaffodils are amongst the most popular flowering plants that are grown throughout the world. They are known for their unmatched beauty that has the potential of transforming the garden completely. Daffodil is also known as Narcissus and it has many spring flowering varieties. The varieties of this flowering plant are very diverse and they come in many colors.

Fall or autumn is the best time to plant daffodil bulbs in your garden. Planting during fall will ensure that the bulbs grow and produce beautiful flowers during spring season. These plants require less maintenance and they are ideal for home gardens. You can plant them in flower beds, containers, tubs and even on the edge of trees. If the basic requirements are met then these plants can thrive well and adorn the garden with their mesmerizing beauty.

The important things that you should consider in case if you are planning to plant daffodil bulbs in your garden are-

Choosing the Bulbs– Choosing the right kind of bulbs is crucial for the growth of the plant. Bulbs should be healthy, firm and plump as such bulbs are more likely to thrive. You can choose from the different varieties that are available in the market. Make sure that the bulbs do not have any signs of mold growth on them.

Selecting Site for Planting – Select a location that receives at least five to six hours of direct sunlight. The soil should be well- drained as the bulbs tend to rot in swampy and wet soil. You can plant them in clusters on the edge of trees as they look great when they mature and cover the area with beautiful flowers. You can also plant different varieties in the flower beds.

Planting the Bulbs– Once you have finalized the site for planting, remove all the weeds from the area so that they do not compete with your plants. There should be enough spacing between the bulbs. They should be ideally planted 6 inches apart. For planting, dig the soil about three to four times deeper than the size of bulbs. Once the soil is loose, you can place the bulbs inside firmly with the pointed side facing upwards. Scatter the bulbs in the area so that you get a natural effect.

Fertilization-Daffodils do not require a lot of fertilization if grown in rich and good quality soil. Just a handful of fertilizer mixed with soil during planting is more than enough for the plants. Do not use large quantities of fertilizers as it can potentially harm the bulbs.

Mulching– After planting the bulbs you will have to cover the flower bed with mulch so that the weeds do not grow along with the plant. Mulching will also help in maintaining the temperature of soil during winter season. You can use pine needles, sawdust or wood chips for mulching.

There are some of the key things that can help you in daffodil planting. With little efforts you can grow these lovely flowers in your home garden. The flowers are really attractive and they will encourage you to keep growing them in your garden for years to come…

 

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

Oct 09

Growing Organic Raspberries

raspberry-basketRaspberry Facts
Growing organic raspberries have a dual usage; berries for eating and leaves for tea. Raspberry leaves can be dried and used for herbal and medicinal teas. Growing organic raspberries contain significant amounts of antioxidants which have been proven to improve your overall vascular health. There are two main types to be aware of when growing raspberries: the June-bearing and the Ever-bearing varieties. June-bearing raspberries are picked in the late spring typically for around 4 to 6 weeks and produce heavily during this time. Ever-bearing raspberries don’t produce as many berries, some varieties will bear fruit throughout the spring and summer, while other varieties will produce once in the spring and once in the fall.

When to Plant Raspberries
Raspberry canes grow for 2 seasons. The first year a new green cane, the primocane, grows; it develops bark, then goes dormant for the winter. The cane is called a floricane in its second year; it produces fruit, then dies. The roots, however, continue to send up new primocanes annually. Raspberry slips are usually planted in the early spring after the ground thaws in the North. In the South, you can plant raspberry slips in the fall or early spring.

Best Locations to Plant Raspberries
Raspberries like full sun. We tried planting them in partial shade a few years ago, and they simply never grew well. Areas with cold winters are preferable for June-bearing raspberries. New varieties are being developed, though, that grow well in Southern climates. Choose soil that drains well, has high organic content, and is slightly elevated if possible. To test drainage, dig a 12 inch deep by 12 inch square hole and fill it with water. If the water’s drained from the hole in under 3 hours, your soil drainage is adequate. Don’t plant too close to trees, and don’t plant your berries where raspberries have been planted recently.

Soil Prep for Raspberries
Raspberries prefer slightly acidic soil below 7.0 pH level. Optimally, it should be around 6.0, and never below 5.5. Compost and composted manure will supply most, if not all, the nutrients needed by raspberries. Once you’ve selected the area you’re going to plant your berry slips in, prepare the ground by deep-mixing several inches of compost or composted manure into the soil at least 12 inches deep into a 24 inch wide row. Space your rows 48 to 72 inches apart from edge to edge. This will make the plant 6 to 8 feet apart. Remember, you want your berries to have good nutrients for years to come, so you can hardly overdo the compost. You can also side-dress existing canes with composted manure to bolster production.

Choosing the Best Varieties for your Area
Raspberries are in the “rubus” family, and are known as brambles. There are three berry color varieties you can grow – red, black, or a combination of red and black known as purple raspberries. As always, it’s a wise action to call your county extension if you’re unfamiliar with raspberry diseases in your area. They’ll be able to advise you on varieties that are resistant to diseases in your local area.

Containerized Raspberries
If you have limited space or live in a rental house where the landlord won’t allow you to garden, you can grow raspberries in containers. You’ll want to use a good sterile potting mix to avoid soil pathogens if you’re going to grow raspberries in containers. Add plenty of composted manure to the mix, and put it into a 3 to 7 gallon container with several drain holes in the bottom. A five gallon bucket is about the right size for one plant. Plant the root slip 3/4 of an inch under the soil surface. Add composted manure annually as needed.

Red Raspberries Growing in the Garden

Red Raspberries Growing in the Garden

Planting Raspberries in Your Garden
In the early spring, after you’ve purchased a variety (or two) you like that is resistant to common diseases in your area from a reputable nursery, you’re ready to plant! Soak your plant roots in a compost tea (a cup or two of compost in a 5 gallon bucket of water should work) for around 6 hours prior to planting. In your pre-marked rows (prepped per the instructions above), insert your shovel as deep as it will go into the soil, and with a rocking-back-and-forth motion, open up the soil and insert the raspberry plant to where the dirt covers the roots. You should be able to tell where the root ends and the cane starts.

Make sure you spread the roots laterally to give the plant roots a good start. Put one plant every 24 to 36 inches apart in your rows. The distance between the rows should be around 6 to 8 feet. It is a good practice to “trellis” your raspberries to keep them from falling over as the canes can grow up to 8 feet tall. The way we do it is to use 4 x 4 inch posts with 36 inch 2 x 4’s nailed horizontally at 2 feet from the ground and 4 feet from the ground (you can also add a third horizontal bar at 6 feet off the ground if you need to). Then string wire between the horizontal 2 x 4’s to keep the canes standing vertically. During the mid to late summer, as the primocanes are growing rapidly, you’ll need to make sure, every couple of days, that the canes stay inside the wires as it becomes difficult to try to shove them back under them if they get too tall.

Getting the Most from Your Raspberries
The more bees you have in your patch, the more berries you’ll harvest. Keep the area between the rows weed free by rototilling regularly or mulching. Another option is to plant a cover crop. As mentioned previously, a trellis system or other supports is key to keeping your plants vertical – and production high. It is a good practice, in the spring before the leaves begin growing, to prune the tops of your floricanes to 5 or 6 feet in height. One trick for getting more fruit is to cut off the primocanes at about 30 to 36 inches. This will force them to put out branches, giving you more fruit production that is easy to reach as well.

After your fruit has been harvested, cut off all the dying floricanes at ground level to give the primocanes as much room as possible to grow. In the spring, thin out the new floricanes so that just the thickest and strongest canes remain. These will produce more fruit than leaving all the canes in the ground. If you need to, you can sidedress your canes with composted manure in the spring. Usually, if you’ve mixed in plenty of composted manure prior to the initial planting, you shouldn’t need to add much.

This past gardening season we tested a liquid organic leaf spray fertilizer called Organic Garden Miracle. We sprayed most of our garden plants with OGM. The sprayed veggies were more robust than the un-sprayed plants, and the flavor was superior as well – sweeter and juicier. We’re excited this year to continue the experiment as we were impressed with the size and flavor of the garden crops we sprayed.

Raspberries in the Garden

Raspberries in the Garden

Mulching & Weeding
Lawn clippings and barley straw are two of the best mulches for growing raspberries. I like to spread a few inches of mulch between the rows and around the plants to keep the soil moist and the weeds under control. It also provides organic matter for your soil over the summer as it begins to decompose. Too much straw may become a haven for mice or other rodents, so don’t get too deep with your mulch. If you choose not to mulch, rototill or hand-pull the weeds between the rows and hand-pull the weeds around the plants.

Hydrating (Watering) Raspberries
As mentioned above, mulching will reduce your need to water your growing raspberries, but you’ll still need to water between 1 and 2 inches per week all summer. It’s always a best practice to avoid overhead watering, but if you have no other option, water early in the day to avoid too much dampness in your plants which can lead to fungal diseases. If your soil is sandy, you may need to water less volume but more frequently. Don’t over-water as raspberry roots require a good amount of oxygen.

Companion Planting and Rotation Considerations
Turnips and yarrow are considered good companions to raspberries as they repel the Harlequin Beetle. Garlic accumulates sulfur which is a natural fungicide. Coupled with raspberries, garlic will prevent fungal diseases. It is also effective in keeping many insect pests at bay as well. Tansy is a poisonous flow which repels various pests including ants, Japanese beetles, cucumber beetles, and squash bugs. Don’t let it spread to your pasture, though, as it’s not good for some livestock. Wormwood, a bitter herb, repels insects and some animals. Don’t eat it; you may get a pretty good stomach-ache too! As they’re in the same family, keep raspberries out of area where blackberries, boysenberries, or loganberries are growing.

Don’t plant around potatoes either as they’ll make your raspberries more prone to blight. Never re-plant a new raspberry patch where the old one has been. However, if your soil is uninfected by fungal diseases, nematodes, or other pathogens, you should be able to leave your raspberry patch in the same location up to 15 years. Avoid verticillium wilt by avoiding planting raspberries anywhere eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, or strawberries have been planted in the past 5 years.

fresh-raspberriesHarvesting Raspberries
When raspberries are a bright red and are easily removed from the canes, they’re ready to pick. If you’ve had a recent rain, make sure to pick the ripe berries immediately or they’ll mold within half a day if it’s warm. If it is breezy, it’ll dry things out before mold sets in. Harvest your berries early in the day when it’s cool; they’ll last longer. Harvest at least every other day during the height of the season. This will prevent your fruit from getting over-ripe and molding. When you pick raspberries, don’t layer them more than a few deep or they’ll turn the bottom layers to mush. Pick with care to avoid crushing these tender berries.

Storing Raspberries
Once you’ve picked your raspberries, refrigerate them as soon as you can. They’ll keep up to a week in a cool refrigerator. Raspberries are great eaten fresh on ice cream, on flake cereals with half-and-half, or on shortcake with whipped cream, to name a few delightful ways to gain weight. Raspberries make excellent jam (with and without seeds), and are good frozen whole or pureed. If you puree raspberries and strain out the seeds, put them in ice trays and freeze them for smoothies. Mmmm! If you don’t mind seedy smoothies, just freeze the berries whole on jelly roll pans, then remove to zip lock-style bags or plastic cartons for later usage. You can also spread pureed and strained raspberries in pans, place in the oven at very low temp, and make raspberry fruit leather. We did this when I was a kid, but I haven’t done it recently.

Preventative and Natural Solutions to Common Pests
Sap Beetles love to eat over-ripe raspberries. They’re also known as “picnic” beetles. Sap beetles are about quarter inch long and black with 4 yellow-orange spots on their backs. The easiest way to prevent an infestation of this beetle is to not allow your berries to get over-ripe. You can pick these beetles to reduce their numbers, dropping them into a bucket of soapy water to drown them. Aphids are tiny little pests that come in a variety of colors from green to brown to red to black. Aphids typically congregate on the undersides of your raspberry plant leaves, sucking the sap from the leaves and leaving a sticky residue called “honeydew” behind. If you see leaves crinkling up you’ll likely find aphids on the leaves.

Aphids can be controlled by removing the infected leaves and destroying them along with the attached aphids. You can also spray them with an organic insecticidal soap spray, or even knock them off with a pressure-spray nozzle, although it’s better not to get your plants wet during harvest-time. Cane borers chew into your canes to lay eggs and feed on the inside of the canes. The larvae also feed on the inside of the canes as well. If you discover these pests, cut down any affected canes an inch below where wilting is occurring and destroy them.

If the infestation is heavy, organic rotenone powder may be used, but use this as a last ditch effort as it will also kill pollinating insects which is highly undesirable. Leaf rollers are the larvae of a small moth that are about 3/4 of an inch long, pale green or light brown, and have dark heads. Leaf rollers will eat raspberries, and when ready to form a cocoon will weave a silky web on a leaf and roll it inwards. Hence the name “leaf roller.” Parasitic wasps and flies can be imported to rid your patch of these pests. You can also use organic Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) if the infestation is severe. It’s best not to use even organic pesticides, though, unless absolutely necessary, as they take out both good and bad bugs.

Spider mites are tiny pests, that, if you look at under a microscope, have eight legs. Spider mites cluster on the undersides of raspberry leaves, sucking sap and creating yellow spots on the leaves. Spider mites seem to be the worst in drought conditions when the plants are weaker. Spraying these mites with water can get rid of them if they’re not too plentiful. Insecticidal soap spray can also take care of them. Avoid using too much nitrogen on your raspberries as it seems to encourage both mites and aphids.

Raspberry Diseases and Cures
Winter injury may occur in your raspberry plants if winter temperatures drop below -20°F. Purple and black raspberries may be damage at -5°F. Mulching raspberries will prevent most damage from occurring. Anthracnose is a reddish-purple lesion that shows up on primocanes. The centers of the lesions turn gray to brown over time and the margins become raised and purplish. These lesions will girdle the canes and cause them to dry and crack, often killing them. If they survive winter, the floricanes will produce irregular fruit and branches. The best prevention, if anthracnose is common in your region, is to purchase resistant varieties. It also helps to control weeds, and water early in the day or use drip irrigation as anthracnose is spread by splashing water. Applying lime sulfur during the early spring can also reduce anthracnose.

Cane blight appears as lesions that may be gray, black, or brown and appear like pimples. Infected canes often become brittle and break near the lesion. The canes may wilt, and auxiliary branches may die. The best prevention is purchasing blight resistant stock before planting if it’s a problem in your area. Avoid overhead watering for the same reasons as in the anthracnose section above and control the weeds. Destroy any infected canes, and apply lime sulfur in the early spring if your plants had any infection the previous year. Spur blight is another blight that causes lesions on the nodes of primocanes. The infections starts on the leaves and moves to the stem.

The infected leaves turn yellow and brown and die. The cane lesions appear purplish to brown. The following spring any buds near the infection will not bloom. The best cure is prevention by planting resistant varieties. Avoid overhead irrigation and too much nitrogen. Control the weeds. Thin the canes. Plant in well-drained soil. Apply lime sulfur in the early spring if your plants had any infection the previous year. Gray mold causes raspberries to rot and blossoms to rot as well. It is spurred on by cool, wet weather. Purchasing resistant varieties is the best preventative against gray mold.

Using drip irrigation can help prevent the mold. Don’t over-fertilize. Control weeds. Remove infected canes. Don’t overwater. Harvest ripe berries promptly. Phytophthora Root Rot is caused by a soil-borne fungus. Symptoms include yellowing and wilting leaves, water-soaked lesions near the base of the canes, and reddish-brown root tissue. Over-saturated soil is often a cause of Phytophthora Root Rot and can be prevented by planting your canes in well-drained soil, not over-watering, purchasing resistant varieties, and controlling weeds. Verticillium Wilt is another soil-borne fungus that can cause the entire raspberry cane to wilt and die. The sapwood of infected canes will often be stained reddish-brown. To avoid verticillium wilt, purchase resistant varieties, plant them in well-drained soil or raised beds, don’t over-water, use drip irrigation if possible, thin the canes, and destroy infected plants if you have an outbreak.

Raspberry Leaf Spot shows up on the top surface of raspberry leaves as tan, white, or grayish spots. Sometimes the center of the spot will drop out, making it appear as though the leaf has been shot. The prevention of this disease is the same as the diseases already discusssed – purchase resistant varieties, plant them in well-drained soil or raised beds, don’t over-water, use drip irrigation if possible, thin the canes, and destroy infected plants if you have an outbreak. Powdery Mildew appears on the underside of leaves as a gray to white powdery growth. While it is common to raspberries, it’s not generally a major problem to the health of your plants. The prevention of this disease is the same as the diseases already discusssed – purchase resistant varieties, plant them in well-drained soil or raised beds, don’t over-water, use drip irrigation if possible, and thin the canes to allow good air circulation. Rust Fungi appears on both sides of raspberry leaves as yellowish-orange spots. They typically don’t affect the health of the plants or fruit of red raspberries, but can be a serious threat to black raspberries.

Again, purchase resistant varieties, plant them in well-drained soil or raised beds, don’t over-water, use drip irrigation if possible, thin the canes to allow good air circulation, and remove and destroy any infected black raspberry canes.

 

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.

www.organicgardenmiracle.com

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

Oct 02

When and How to Harvest Pumpkins

PumpkinsPumpkins bring us a bounty of joy during the holidays including the Jack-O-lantern, decorative pumpkins, pies and cakes. Pumpkin is widely used during the Halloween season for fun festivities and in the Thanksgiving season to thank God for the bountiful harvest. Fall is the time when the pumpkins are ready for harvesting.

It is crucial to know when and how to pick the pumpkins so that you can utilize them properly after harvest. If you pick them at the wrong time then they might be of no use so you should decide and pick them as per your requirements.

Some of the key things to keep in mind about harvesting pumpkins are:

  • Do not harvest green pumpkins that have not ripened properly as they might not ripe if you pick them early. It is important to let them remain on the vine till the time they don’t turn orange in color. A perfect orange color indicates that the pumpkin is ready for harvest.
  • Discard the ones that have holes or large cracks on the surface as such pumpkins are most likely to have insects and pests inside them.
  • Be careful while picking pumpkins from the stem as it is prickly. It is advisable to wear gloves while harvesting.
  • To check if the pumpkin is ripe and ready for harvest you can try pressing or scratching the bottom of the fruit. Ripe pumpkins have a hard shell and you cannot scratch or make dent in them easily. This will help you to identify if the fruit has soft and weak spots.
  • If you plan to store the pumpkins for longer period of time then it is recommended to cure it in sun for at least 10 days. Curing will harden the outer shell and will improve the pumpkin’s shelf life.
  • Do not stack the pumpkins one over the other as it can cause rotting and bruising on the surface.
  • Get rid of the pumpkins that reveal signs of decay or damage. If you store decayed ones then the infection can spread to the other fruits as well.
  • Choose the best ones for carving and decoration as per your requirements. You can scoop out the fiber and seeds inside and let it dry for sometime so that it is ready for carving.
  • Smaller pumpkins are ideal for preparing pies, cakes and pumpkin puree. You can use the larger ones for decorative purposes.
  • Once you have used the pumpkin, you can save the scooped out seeds and store them for next season. Rinse the seeds well and dry them out properly before storing. It is advisable to let them dry for 4- 6 weeks before storing them. Once they are ready to store you can put them in an envelope or a zip bag and keep them in a cool and dry place.

These are some of the tips that can help you this season in pumpkin harvest. Enjoy picking huge and ripe fruits with your family and friends.

Fresh Ripe Pumpkins

Fresh Ripe Pumpkins

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

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