Tag Archives: compost

Raised Bed Gardening – Not Always A Good Thing

A gadzillion (gadzillion is a word..right?) words and post have been published about the benefits of raised bed gardening and square foot gardens.

In truth raised beds are best suited to cooler and wetter climates than weather conditions found in Americas West and Southwest.

Pros of Raised Bed Gardening:
More control over the location of the garden
Ability to choose the best soil for your particular plants
More efficient draining
Can be easier on backs and knees due to less bending and stooping
Easier to keep out weeds
The soil warms up earlier in a raised bed, so you can plant earlier and extend your growing season
Better ability to keep out ground dwelling pests

Cons of Raised-Bed Gardening:
Can be more expensive to get started
Require careful planning to make sure there is enough room for plants that need to spread out, and to ensure that you can reach the middle to tend the plants
* Because raised beds drain so efficiently, they will also need to be watered more often and my require an irrigation system

In the west and southwest water is a valuable, often scarce commodity. Areas with little natural rain fall, daily temperatures at or above 95 degrees and humidity levels often dropping to 10% or 20%, tap water is an expensive way to water your garden.
Raised beds will often require watering 2 or even 3 times a day to prevent dry stressing plants.

Amending garden soil by digging in or tilling in large amounts of compost and planting directly in the amended soil very well may be a better choice over raised beds. You will over time develop a quality garden soil that holds moisture. Couple this with extensive use of mulch water needs will be greatly reduced and over heated soil temperatures can be moderated.
* This years mulch will be tilled into the soil as an amendment for next years garden.

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Chrysanthemums – “mums” And Pansies For Fall And Winter Color

This is a rework of a 3 year old post I made back in 2013.

Chrysanthemums, or “mums,” are popular perennials. They offer a wide variety of flower colors, from white and cream to dark maroon and burgundy, as well as numerous growth habits from small dwarf plants to giant shrub like Maxi-Mums.
Mums are easy to grow and can provide years of enjoyment if care is taken to select an appropriate variety, plant in a sunny, well drained, location and provide winter protection.

Plant chrysanthemums from seed or small sets in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Plant large ready to bloom potted plants in late summer and early Fall. Small plants derived from rooted cuttings, divisions, or rooted suckers of old plants can be used. Larger container plants purchased from garden centers may be planted anytime during the spring, summer, or early fall.

Garden chrysanthemums grow in a wide variety of soils but must have excellent drainage conditions. Growth is poor and winterkill likely in poorly drained wet soils. Sunny locations are good sites. Plants in semi-shady locations will be taller, have weaker stems, and bloom later in the fall. Incorporate 2 – 4″ of peat moss, compost, or well-rotted barnyard manure into the soil. If you use only peat moss or do not add organic matter, apply 3 to 4 pounds per 100 square feet of a complete fertilizer such as 5-10-10 or 5-10-5 in the spring. Side dressing plants with a complete fertilizer in early August, especially in years of abundant rainfall or irrigation, also is recommended. If the fertilizer applied in the spring is a slowly available type, such as coated or organic fertilizer, the second application may not be necessary. Space plants 18 – 24″ apart, depending on the mature size of the cultivar.

The University of Minnesota has introduced numerous hardy, attractive garden mums over the last 50 years. Early blooming cultivars assure flowering before frost. Late blooming cultivars may fail to bloom before damaging or killing frosts.

Pinching Mums maintain a bushy compact plant form if pinched or pruned regularly. Although newer cultivars do not require pinching, the traditional method has been to pinch out the tip to induce branching and produce stockier plants. Repeat pinching on side branches when they have grown 6″. Continue pinching until mid-June for early flowering varieties, late June for September flowering varieties, and early July for October varieties. Complete pinching by July 4 to assure flowering prior to frost. Very high summer temperatures may also delay flowering. Most mum flowers are resistant to frost; Centerpiece is especially frost tolerant.

Mums vary widely in cold hardiness. Cultivars listed in the table below have been developed based on years of plant breeding at the University of Minnesota. These plants have been selected for superior flower characteristics, growth habit, and winter hardiness. Most will survive winters in Minnesota. Florist mums, sold throughout the year in supermarkets and greenhouses, may not survive Minnesota winters, and if they do, will probably not flower before hard frosts. Proper location (good drainage and protection from winter winds) and a winter mulch of 4 – 6″ of shredded leaves, hay, straw, or evergreen branches applied as soon as the soil surface freezes is critical to winter survival.

Plant Division Plants can be dug and divided in spring as new growth begins. Stronger shoots are usually on the outside of the clump. Set the growing tip of each division just below ground level. For an attractive display of color, plant at least three shoots in a triangular pattern.

Florist Mums Are attractive blooming potted plants are available through-out the year from florists. After flowers fade, plants can be cut back to 3 or 4 inches and planted in the garden. Florist mums may overwinter, but usually flower too late for USDA Zone 3 and 4.
mum1
mum2
mum3

Pansies
Pansies are another showy 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.

Occasionally aphids will attack Pansies. Insecticidal soap should remove them. I have found a mixture of ‘Blue Dawn’ dish soap to be cheap and very effective in killing aphids.

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Forcing Bulbs For Winter Color

xmas color I have posted information about forcing bulbs in the past. This is just a reminder that time is running out if you want Christmas flowers.

When ordering or buying bulbs locally check to insure the bulbs have been pre-chilled, other wise they will grow producing foliage but will fail to bloom.

Amaryllis will flower about six weeks after planting, so pot now for Christmas blooms. Plant into pots just larger than the bulb, with 1/2 to 2/3s of the bulb above the soil surface.
After watering thoroughly, allow the soil to become dry. Water more frequently after the flower stalk appears, but never water when the soil is already moist.

Garlic order and plant garlic now and into winter before the ground freezes. The bulbs need cold in order to separate into cloves. Yes I do know Garlic is not a flowering pot plant but it is still time to plant next years Garlic in you garden.

Narcissus Paperwhites and Soleil d’Or can be grown without soil. Plant them in pebble filled containers with the base of the bulbs in contact with water at the bottom of the container. These bulbs don’t need chilling, but will benefit from a cool temperature (50 degrees F.) until the top shoot is a couple of inches long. At that point, you can move the plant into a warm, bright sunny area.

Crocus and Hyacinths can be forced, one bulb per jar or vase, in water alone without any soil. There are special forcing jars and vases for crocus and hyacinths.

Daffodil, Crocus, Hyacinths, Narcissus and Tulip bulbs plant bulbs in a good quality potting soil so the tops are not covered with more than 1/4 – 1/2 inch of soil. Put pots in a cool sunny place about 50 degrees F. works well, until the top shoot is about 2 inches long. Keep the soil slightly damp, not wet. Constantly wet soil may cause your bulbs to rot.
Note For a better effect plant Tulip bulbs with the flat side facing the out side of your pot.

Tulips, Narcissus (Daffodils), Hyacinths And More
Tulips, Daffodils And Hyacinths – Fall Planting
Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service
University of Missouri fact sheet
Iowa State University Horticulture Guide

October Gardening Tips University of Nebraska

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Fall Leaf Color – Double Your Pleasure

After you enjoy the Fall Colors and leafs fall to the ground. It’s time to double up on the benefits of fall leafs.

Leaves are valuable to the gardener? It’s simple. Incorporate them into your garden soil.
Leaves Add nutrients, including phosphorous and potassium.
Increase the soil’s microbial life.
Leafs boost your soils water holding capacity and improve your soils structure.

Add them to vegetable garden. You can incorporate whole or chopped leaves into any cleared out vegetable, berry and shrub beds. They will mostly decompose over the winter, then in spring you can mix in whatever is left. If you want to see leftover leaves in your beds, shred them first.
DIY leaf shredder. Use a 55 gallon(large) garbage can. Fill it three quarters of the way with leaves. Put the string trimmer in, turn it on and move it through the layers of leaves. Caution Be sure to wear eye and ear protection.

Make leaf mold. Leaf mold is simply wet leaves that have decomposed into a rich, black, soil like substance that makes a perfect mulch for plants. Pile the leaves in a spot where they’re out of the way and won’t blow away, cover with wire if necessary. Or make large 3-4 feet high pile(s) of leaves. Wet the leaves as you go so they’ll rot. Turn the pile a few times during the winter will speed up the decomposition of your leaf pile. Add leaves to your compost pile now, they’ll break down over winter.

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Plant Wildflowers Now For Spring Flowers

Spring is a popular time of year to plant wildflowers, however, fall is increasingly becoming the planting season of choice.
The flowers bloom a few weeks earlier the following spring (or summer) once the temperature is just right. All you need to get started is a bare patch of dirt and some wildflower seeds.

Wildflowers can handle tough growing conditions, such as poor soil and adverse weather. With a little preparation you can bring these flowers into your garden and enjoy a vivid show of spring color.
Wildflowers grow in nature without help, they will benefit from a little assistance to get started in your garden.

In in the wild, seeds of wildflowers fall to the ground in autumn and come up the following spring when rain and warm temperatures arrive. The same timeline can also work for planting wildflower seeds in the home garden.

Zones 1 to 6 – This region there is a time table in which seeds should be sown. This occures after temperatures dip below freezing 32 degrees Fahrenheit and before the ground freezes.

Zones 7 to 11 – In these zones, wildflower seeds can be sown about anytime between September and December.

Wildflowers that grow in your area will be the easiest to grow, they are adapted to the soil and climate conditions where you live.
Check with your local cooperative extension office or Master Gardener program for a list of wildflowers that do well where you live.
Visit WildflowerInformation.org for a list of wildflowers that grow well in your region.
In general, wildflowers do best in areas that receive at least six hours of sun. Wildflower gardens do best when provided with supplemental water during long dry periods.

To plant wildflowers, spread seeds by lightly throwing them with your hands over the prepared area. However, to make it easier to evenly spread seeds, mix them with sand (one part seeds to 10 parts sand) so you can see where you have spread them.
Lightly rake the seeds into the soil, roll the area or simply walk over the newly seeded area, to help press them into the soil, where they will receive the sun they need to germinate. It’s important to keep the seeds within the top quarter inch (1/4) inch of soil, or they may not germinate.

Hint Birds may become a problem in your newly seeded area, you can add temporary protection. Cover the area with bird netting suspended on wood stakes about 1 to 2 feet tall.

When flowers turn brown you may be tempted to pull them out, stop don’t do that. They need to dry completely so that they will drop new seeds onto the ground for the following year’s wildflower garden. After your wildflowers have dried and the seeds have had a chance to fall to the ground, you can cut them down with a lawn mower or string trimmer and rake away the old plants. Better yet leave them to act as a ground cover providing protection from harsh weather and birds.

I don’t work for eBay, but, they are a good source for many common wildflower seeds.

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California New Law – Farting Cows Are Violating Pollution Laws

California Gov. Jerry Brown kept up his assault on farming and business has pushed through a law to reduce cow fart emissions from dairy farms.

Brown’s approval of Senate Bill 1383 goes after short-lived climate pollutants, which include methane, cow farts!

Brown said “these gases don’t linger in the atmosphere, they still make people sick and hasten global warming. We’re protecting people’s lungs and their health.”

Senate Bill 1383 requires dairy farmers have to cut methane emissions to
40 percent below 2013
levels by 2030.

California Air Resources Board can also now regulate bovine flatulence, as long as there are practical ways to reduce the cows’ belching and breaking wind.

Composting also has to go up by 50 percent within four years to curb methane from organic waste.
The state’s head of the National Federation of Independent Business rails against the “arbitrary” limits and says they’re a “direct assault on California’s dairy industry,”

Fall Color = Planting Time For Spring Flowering Bulbs

Bulbs should be planted as soon as the ground is cool, when evening temperatures average between 40° to 50 deg F. At any rate you should plant bulbs at least six weeks before the ground freezes.

You can plant bulbs just about anywhere in your garden as long as the soil is well drained. Bulbs don’t like wet feet. So, avoid areas where water collects, such as the bottom of hills. Bulbs like sun and in many areas the spring garden can be very sunny, since the leaves on the trees are not out yet. So keep in mind when planting in the fall that you can plant in many places for spring blooms.

Till your soil deeply so it’s loose and workable. If it’s not an established garden bed, chances are the soil benefit from the addition of some organic matter such as compost or peat moss.

Loosen soil in your planting bed to a depth of at least 8 inches, deeper is better. Remove weeds, rocks or other debris. You can mix in compost, other organic matter or slow releasing fertilizer if your soil lacks nutrients.

Planting bulbs, follow the recommendation on the label for planting depth. As a general rule, plant big bulbs about 8″ deep and small bulbs about 5″ deep. Set the bulb in the hole pointy side up or the roots down. It’s easy to spot the pointy end of a tulip, it’s tougher with a crocus. If you can’t figure out the top from the bottom, plant the bulb on its side, in most cases, even if you don’t get it right, the flower bulb will still find its way.

After your bulbs are planted, back fill the hole with soil, lightly compress the soil but do not pack it. Water well to stimulate root growth. There is no need to water continuously unless you live in an area with low winter precipitation.

bulb-planting-chart

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Blackberries – easy to grow in your home garden

Now is a good time to start preparing your berry patch site for early spring planting.

Blackberries are considered one of the easiest fruits to grow at home. They are a native species to the United States and grow as a small shrub or trailing vine. Berries from this plant are excellent for fresh table fruit, syrup, jams and jelly.

Site Selection for your Blackberry patch.
* Light requirements: Full Sun
* Soil: Blackberries prefer acidic to basic Ph(6.0-7.0), soil should be a well drained organic soil. They adapt to most soil types except alkaline and wet. If you have clay soil, you should amend your soil with organic matter. To increase the soil’s organic content, amend with mulch wet peat moss, well aged sawdust, straw or leaf litter.
* Blackberries are self pollinating and hardy in zones 4-9.

Blackberries tend to form thickets and are vigorously rooted. Locate the plants where you can control “volunteers.” Blackberries have long roots and can send up suckers many feet from the parent plant. Leave room to mow around the beds.

Generally speaking T-trellis Support is recommended.
t-tressis

Annual Pruning after the first year. Use hand held clippers when pruning. First year erect canes should be left unpruned. Second year canes should be pruned back to 40″-48″. Pruning encourages lateral branching and increases cane strength, so they don’t fall over in snow and wind. Pruning should be done early in the growing season to decrease wounds that cause cane blight. Lateral branches should be cut back to 12″-18″.

During the second year, remove dead, damaged, weak and rubbing canes. You should thin out healthy canes closer than 6″ apart. Any pruned or removed canes should be disposed to eliminate the spread of disease and insects.

Oklahoma Gardening Video planting blackberries.

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Planning The Garden Plan A Plan B

Plan A, October 2015, move dead garden plants to compost pile. Store away for the winter water hoses, garden tools, tomato cages etc. Put down and till in compost. Put the garden to bed for the winter.

March 2016 I went in to the garden, first time I had looked at it since September 2015. Nothing had been cleaned up or put away for winter. No compost, nothing had been tilled.

Being the take charge kind of guy I am, I went back to the house and drank coffee until May 15, changing over to ice tea. July 19 I looked at the garden again.
I wonder where I planted those 2 grape vines. I can’t see them anywhere. I guess I better find them before tackling my weed and grass patch with a riding mower… A brush hog might be a better choice.

Plan B, Located and marked the grape vines. Poor little things, they didn’t have a chance competing for sun, water and nutrients with 4 foot tall weeds and grass.

Borrowed by son-n-laws whizz bang zero turn mower. Bad idea. I took out 2 T-post 3 feet of garden fence before I began to get the hang of steering that demon possessed mower.

Grass and weeds have been mowed. Garden fence taken down and T-post removed and stored safely out of my sight.

Grape vine trellis is in place ready to be installed.

If my garden doesn’t kill me, I’ll update when the trellis is up and vines are tied.

Down the road in September I have a red delicious apple dwarf tree purchased last fall, it’s still living in a large patio pot as well as 2 golden delicious semi-dwarf and 2 colette pear, semi-dwarf trees will arrive and be planted in my former cucumber patch.
FYI these are coming from Stark Bro’s nurseries.

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Easy Yard And Garden Tick Control

Mow Your Lawn, tick control begins by getting rid of tall grass and brush, especially at the edge of your lawn, to eliminate ticks’ favorite hangout spots. Also clean up leaf litter, and instead of tossing grass clippings and leaves into the garbage, add them to your compost pile and use the rich soil amendment in your garden. Grass clippings make great mulch that can help keep weeds from sprouting and help the soil retain water.

Ticks don’t like to cross areas lined with wood chips or gravel. Place a gravel or wood chip buffer zone between lawns and wooded areas to help keep ticks from moving onto your property.

Flock of chickens is not an option for everyone, but consider investing in a few chickens. Raising chickens not only provides you with fresh eggs, but they’ll also eat ticks on your property. Robins and some other ground feeding birds eat ticks, so a bird friendly yard will help keep the tick population down.

If tick infections become a serious problem you may need to resort to Chemical Warfare. There are a number of insecticides that are effective in killing ticks available at your local hardware and farm stores.

Read and carefully follow all label instructions and warnings when using any insecticide.

Happy and Safe 4th of July holiday.

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