Category Archives: Compost

Garden Success And Failures

Gardening season is ending and the often bewildering holiday season will be dominating our life for the next 2+ months. Fall colors and cool weather will give way to barren and snow covered landscapes and the cold weather of winter.

Now is a good time to look back and evaluate our gardening successes and failures. None of us want to admit that many of our garden failures, both flowering and vegetable were self inflicted.

We often ‘want’ and plant plants that we know or should know are not well suited to our climate and weather conditions. I know avocados will not survive in my climate, but that does not stop me from wanting them in my landscape. Sometimes my wants and desires override my Common Sense.
These failed crops and flowering plants are self inflicted.

Just because a seed package list a plant as being hardy in zone 7(my zone) does not mean it it suitable to withstand my high wind and dry summer heat. Many plants will bolt and produce seed heads. Die from drought stress, will not properly pollinate in the heat of summer. Some plants like an acid soil when I know my soil is mildly to highly alkaline.

Carefully evaluate what crop and just as important, what variety will grow and produce given your climate and weather conditions.

Ask local gardeners that successfully grow flowers and vegetables if you can collect a few seeds or maybe even do a bit of seed trading to improve your gardening success rate.

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America And Organic Labeling

Organic can mean different things to different people, so, I will use (USDA) United States Department of Agriculture’s definition for Organic farming and labeling products as Organic.

USDA said “organic” might appear as one more piece of information to decipher when shopping for foods. Understanding what “organic” really means can help shoppers make informed choices during their next visit to the supermarket or farmers’ market.

Produce can be called organic if it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Organic meat, regulations require that animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors (like the ability to graze on pasture), fed 100% organic feed and forage, and not administered antibiotics or hormones.

When it comes to processed, multi-ingredient foods, the USDA organic standards specify additional considerations.
Regulations prohibit organically processed foods from containing artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors and require that their ingredients are organic, with some minor exceptions.
For example, processed organic foods may contain some approved non-agricultural ingredients, like enzymes in yogurt, pectin in fruit jams, or baking soda in baked goods.

USDA labeling: “100 percent organic”

“100 percent organic” can be used to label any product that contains 100 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and water, which are considered natural). Most raw, unprocessed farm products can be designated “100 percent organic.” Likewise, many value-added farm products that have no added ingredients—such as grain flours, rolled oats, etc. can also be labeled “100 percent organic.”

“Organic”

“Organic” can be used to label any product that contains a minimum of 95 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and water). Up to 5 percent of the ingredients may be nonorganic agricultural products that are not commercially available as organic.

“Made with Organic ______” can be used to label a product that contains at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding salt and water). There are a number of detailed constraints regarding the ingredients that comprise the nonorganic portion.

Principal display panel: May state “made with organic (insert up to three ingredients or ingredient categories).” Must not include USDA organic seal anywhere, represent finished product as organic, or state “made with organic ingredients.”

Use Caution when shopping and buying organic foods at Farmers Markets. Sellers can and sometimes do sell produce as organic when in truth the produce may or may not truly be an organic product.

Exemptions & Exclusions
Producers who market less than $5,000 worth of organic products annually are not required to apply for organic certification. They must, however, comply with the organic production and handling requirements of the regulations, including recordkeeping (records must be kept for at least 3 years). The products from such noncertified operations cannot be used as organic ingredients in processed products produced by another operation; such noncertified products also are not allowed to display the USDA certified organic seal.

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Cannas On The Cheap – Plant Canna Seed

Most canna cultivars grow to a height of 3 to 5 feet. However, there are dwarf cultivars that grow only 1.5 to 2 feet tall. A few “giants” may reach a height of 8 to 10 feet.
Cannas can be used as temporary screens, accents, or as background plantings in borders. Smaller cultivars perform well in large containers.

Canna seeds need to be collected soon, before their seed pods open and drop seeds to the ground. Canna seeds are rather large being 3/16 to 3/8 inch in diameter. Canna seeds are generally black to dark brown in color.

Canna seed are easy to germinate, however they do require special treatment before planting to insure the seeds germinate.

Scarification is the process of removing a small amount of the ‘hard’ seed coating to allow water to reach the seed. Sometimes it takes a few attempts to get it right.

Examine your seed carefully and you will find a spot some people call an eye, some call it a scar. This is the top of your seed. It is beneficial to plant your seed with the eye/scar pointing skyward.
Using a small bit of sandpaper or a small file remove some of the seeds hard outer coating until the black hard coat is removed and you can see the white interior of the seed. Stop as soon as you can see the seeds white interior material.

Soak your seed 24 hours in warm, not hot water before planting. Plant in good quality ‘new’ potting soil about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch deep. Eye facing skyward. Cover with soil and water lightly.
Not all seed will germinate, plant 4 or 5 seeds in each 2 or 3 inch starter pot. Keep your seedling pot soil damp, Not Wet until the first leaf is about 6 inches tall. Transplant thinning as needed into 4 inch or larger pots.
Keep soil near 70 – 75 degrees F. Seeds planted in cool damp soil may rot before germination.
Planting seed to transplanting into your garden will take 45 to 60 days. So plant your seed 45 to 60 days before the first days of May. in USDA zones 7-9. June or later in USDA zones 5-7.

If planting directly into garden soil insure soil temperature has reached 70+ degrees F. before planting your canna seeds. Plant many seeds and thin as necessary after germination. Plant 1/2 to 3/4 inch deep and keep your garden soil damp Not Wet for best germination.

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Plant irises in your fall garden for beautiful spring blooms

Marianne Lipanovich, Houzz has a great informative article about irises. (Fox news website).

Fall is the prime time to plant irises, however some varieties can be planted in early spring.
250 plus species of iris can provide variety and continuous bloom in your garden.

Irises can handle a wide range of moisture and soil growing conditions, most require good drainage. Irises are relatively deer resistant, and many, especially the bearded irises, are drought tolerant and fairly pest free.

Irises are hardy to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit(-40 degrees Celsius) USDA zones 3 to 10.

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First Fall day has arrived

If you don’t have a compost pile or bin now is a good time to start your composting project. It’s really worth the effort.
In return for a little time and effort you will get back a lot of compost to amend your garden soil and it will cost you next to nothing except the time you invest in putting plant litter on your compost pile.

Fall and Early Winter Projects A Town & Country Post (October 2010).

Fall is the time to can the last of your cucumber when making pickles, a time for making salsa, pasta sauces, red or green, sweet or hot relishes and fried green tomato’s.
It is time to can and freeze the last of your summer gardens goodness, before the first hard frost ends your summer garden.
Fall is the time to prune, repot as needed tender potted plants and move them indoors for the winter.

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Now is the time to start planning your 2018 Spring garden

Independent scientific studies from university programs confirm that late summer and fall are especially good times to fertilize lawns and gardens.

Fall is the time when cool season grasses recover from summer stresses such as drought, heat, and disease. If the lawn has been properly fertilized in the late summer and fall, turf grass can begin to store carbohydrate reserves in the stems, rhizomes, and stolons. These carbohydrate reserves help grass resist winter injury and disease, and serve as a source of energy for root and shoot growth the following spring. A late fall fertilization will also provide better winter color, enhanced spring green up and increased rooting.

The final fertilizer application should be when the grass has stopped growing or has slowed down to the point of not needing to be mowed. Do not wait until the ground freezes.
A recommended rate for lawns is 1 lb. of soluble nitrogen be applied for each 1000 square feet, or 1.5 to 2 lb. of slow-release nitrogen for each 1000 square feet. A complete fertilizer with a high ratio of both nitrogen (N) and potassium (K) is essential for enhanced rooting, cold hardiness, disease resistance and wear tolerance. Use something like NPK 24-4-12.

Flower and vegetable gardens are similar. A mild fertilizer feeding in the fall will replenish the soil and prepare it for a quicker green-up when planting begins the following spring. Gardens do better with this approach than with a heavy dose of fertilizer in the early spring.

Using natural sources of nutrients, such as compost on the garden or mulching lawn clippings rather than bagging them, can replace some of the traditional chemical fertilizer applications.
Many studies conclude that one late to mid-summer feeding of a lawn, followed by a light fall feeding, produces a better lawn than the old recommendation for three or four major feedings for each growing season.
Most gardens do very well with one feeding shortly after planting and one as the growing season concludes.

DIY Test Compost for Herbicides
Compost from grass clippings or cow manure can have persistent herbicides.

Fill a pot with the compost. Add seeds of red clover (Trifolium pratense) or use regular garden beans. Failure to grow is a good indicator of persistent herbicides.
See fact sheet from NC State University Cooperative Extension for more information about herbicide persistence in compost. Herbicide Carryover in Hay, Manure, Compost & Grass Clippings

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Last Chance – almost.. Plant your Fall and early Winter garden this weekend

It seems that there is always something that needs fixing. Browsers and windows 10 seem to be in a long battle with each other to take control of our monitors or smart phones screens. It is the end users that must suffer when windows 10 and browser programmers and coders are in conflict.

Fast growing cool weather crops like lettuce, turnips and radishes can still be planted in zones 6-10.

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Flowering Bulbs and Spring Harvested Garlic

Spring and Summer Blooming Bulbs: I will not repeat what so many others have spent so much time putting into print about Fall planting Spring Flowering Bulbs. I encourage you to visit Bulbs & More at the University of Illinois Extension Bulb Basics for a useful and easy to understand fact sheet on Spring and Summer blooming bulbs. This fact sheet covers everything from soil preparation, planting, care before during and after blooming. You will also find info on Planting & Care, Spring Flowering Bulbs to Landscaping with bulbs.

Fall Planted Garlic: The same information applies to your Fall planted Garlic cloves for Spring and Summer harvested crops.

For those of you that live in the Northern, colder parts of the U.S. information provided by the The University of Minnesota may be useful in designing and planning your flowering bulb gardens.

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Pansies for Cool Fall weather color in your garden

Pansies

Fall, Winter and Spring flowering garden plant worth considering to plant in your Fall garden.

Pansies will bloom Spring through early Summer, with repeat blooming in the Fall. In USDA hardness zones 7 – 9 can grow pansies throughout the winter and there are newer varieties, like the ice pansy, are bred to withstand light snows and may over Winter in zone 6 and with a little protection may even over Winter as far north as zone 5.

Pansies are popular and a recognizable cool weather annuals. Breeding has produced Pansies that are better able to stand up to the cold, but there hasn’t been much luck producing more heat tolerant varieties. Many Pansies are bi-colored, making them striking plants for their small size. Although delicate, they are surprisingly hardy.

Compact, low growers, Pansies are ideal for edging and for squeezing between rock walls and paths, as long as they can be removed in summer. They’re a great choice for early and late season containers and complement spring flowering bulbs, flowering as the bulb foliage begins to fade. If you like the variety of colors but still want a sense of cohesion, select plants from the same series. They’ll be similar in size and markings, regardless of the color.

Pansies are not fussy plants, they will grow best in a loose, rich soil with a slightly acid soil. They flower best in full sun and will get spindly in deep shade. Pansies do not like heat at all and will begin to decline as the days warm up. When buying plants, choose pansies that are stocky, bushy and have plenty of buds. Avoid buying plants with full open blooms. **Growing Note: Pansies can be difficult to start from seed.

You can allow your Pansy plants to remain in your garden and rest during the hottest months, they will probably begin blooming again in the Fall. Shearing the plants back when they start to set seed, will encourage new growth. Dead heading will encourage more blooms.

Chrysanthemums add Fall and early Winter color to your garden

Chrysanthemums

The Garden Helper How to Grow and Care for your Chrysanthemum Plants.

I know it’s hard to think about cooler weather Fall flowers. Believe it or not we will soon be having those wonderful cool sunny days called Fall. Chrysanthemum {Mums} are easy to grow herbaceous perennial that will give you many years of enjoyment.

Chrysanthemums come in a rainbow of colors. Yellow, red’s and white being the most common. Your local nursery, Walmart and other stores will soon have a good selection of Chrysanthemum to select from. Consider buying the smaller 4 inch pots for planting this year. While being less showy this year, they are also ‘much’ cheaper to buy and by next fall they will be large and put on a specular display for you.