Gardening Know How's Blog

What Your Garden Needs Now: Hugelkultur

What Your Garden Needs Now_ Hugelkultur

Every gardener loves the ease of a raised garden bed, but what if I told you that there is a way to take it to the next level! There is a super simple technique that will not only enhance the flavor of your veggies, but may have you never watering them again. On top of your food being so much tastier and your water use mirroring your ideals, this method will also have you joyfully doing a clean sweep around your property for all of that organic material your neighbor sees as clutter. What burn pile, I ask you?

In English we could say ‘wood buried in soil’, but if you want to add a new word to your garden vocabulary and start rolling with the Permaculture big boys, you can call it ‘hugelkultur’. Really, it’s so fun to say I think you’ll prefer it. Pronounced “hoogel culture”, this raised bed method has been kicking around the German frontier for hundreds of years, and has made its way over and popularized in North America with the thanks of Paul Wheaton and Sepp Holzer, to name only a few.

hugel-card

(Speaking of Paul Wheaton and hugelkultur, check out these awesome playing cards that will introduce 54 ways to get your Permaculture on! http://richsoil.com/cards.jsp)

Hugelkultur is literally wood and organic matter that has been covered with soil and left alone to rot over the years, resulting in the richest and most fertile growing conditions thanks to the wonders of soil biology. If you ever walk into the forest you can see that fallen trees are slow to rot, but as they shrink and decay they release vast amounts of nutrients into the soil, along with tiny air pockets that allow for space for other growies to take residence and thrive. The decaying logs become porous and trap any moisture that falls and settles like a big sponge. During times of need, like in drought, moisture from the spongy wood will release into the surrounding area, nourishing all of the plants that need it. Who needs irrigation and bagged fertilizer when you’ve got pals like that on your side?

By burying big chunks of wood in the ground you are mimicking mother nature’s very own design.

Before you start, be warned that not all wood is good wood to hugel with. Some trees, like cedar, old growth redwood, black walnut, and cherry are extremely challenging or toxic, and you’ll have a very difficult time getting your hugelkultur to produce anything. Alder, cottonwood, maple, oak, apple, poplar, and birch are all safe bets. If in doubt, read about the trees in your area and see if they are allelopathic, slow to decay, or otherwise toxic to plants.

For quality of wood? The more decomposed the wood already is, the better. Fresh wood requires lots of nitrogen to break down, so if it’s doing that in your garden there will be much less nitrogen in the soil for the plants to grow. You can use fresh wood, especially if that’s what you have and you don’t want it laying around, but it will take longer and you will have to exercise even more patience.

So, take a look at what you have and gather the right wood; the big wood and the small, twigs, leaves, branches, whatever you have. Check.

Next, where do you want it located? If you’re looking for maximum sun exposure, running the beds north/south is a safe bet. If you want more indirect sunlight or shade, east/west. Another wonderful feature of a hugelkultur is that it’s multi dimensional and will have a variety of different growing conditions for all kinds of plants. As an example, the plants that require the least amount of water and the most direct sun can be planted right on top, like sunchokes and sunflowers, and your more water loving, shade tolerant plants like tender greens and herbs can be planted towards the bottom.

Now you can start digging the trench your hugel bed will live. Some people use a shovel, others use an excavator. Whatever tool you have, start removing the top soil or sod, digging down at least a foot or two, and more if you’re industrious and it’s accessible to you. You want to keep your sod and soil within a shovels distance, so don’t go off carting this precious resource away.

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As you’re digging, think size. A good hugel bed will be about 3-4 feet wide, and about 4 feet tall. Paul Wheaton says make your mounds be upwards to 7 feet tall! Basically, the taller they are the more wood there is to decay and release yummy nutrients into the soil to feed your growies, the more water it will hold, and the longer your hugel mound will produce. Experiment. If you’ve got neighbors who would call the bad guys on you, then maybe keep them shorter, say 2 feet tall. If you want to have those hugel beds act as a fence, build them 7 feet tall. If you’re like me and don’t like bending low to harvest lettuce, 4 feet is perfect. This is also where digging a deep trench can be useful, as you can still make that ideal 7 foot mound but sink 3 feet of it underground, leaving you with a reasonable 4 foot mound above ground.

Some won’t heed any of this advice, and will just plop it all on top of their lawns and be totally successful. Do what works for you, but most importantly, do it!

You’ve dug it up, now fill it in. Take all of the logs and woody bits, and start filling in your hole. As you’re piling wood, you can layer with soil and whatever else you have; straw, green matter, dead leaves, manure, kitchen scraps. Keep on piling until you have a steep mound to the size of your liking.

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By now your mound probably looks quite frightening if you’re aesthetically minded.

This is the time where you want to cover what you’re just done by piling back on the top soil and sod that you had taken off. If it’s sod, flip it over so the grass is face down. Keep piling until all of the woody bits are buried, and what you have looks like a bed waiting to be planted. Exposed wood can wick away moisture from the mound, so be sure it is covered completely.

Now, patience. Your new hugelkultur bed is a masterpiece in the making, but the good news is that the hard work is done. Unless you have a lot of rain in your area, you may want to give your hugel bed a really nice big dose of water, and several times more over the course of a few months to help speed up the decomposition. Mulch your bed to keep the weeds out and evaporation to a minimal.

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In the first few months, you may just want to let it settle and start to mingle before throwing seeds at it, but if growing conditions are ripe you can get right to it. In the first year you may find you need to irrigate a bit, though I know of many people who have never irrigated and have had major success. The hugel bed is really an investment for the future, as the second year, third year, and beyond is where the magic really is. If you start building your hugelkultur bed right now, by next summer you will find yourself with a no-till, low-maintenance, easy to harvest and thriving garden.

For more inspiration on hugelkultur, check out Paul Wheaton’s articles, videos, and pictures at http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/.

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Liberty Garden Wall Mounted Hose Reel/Butler Giveaway

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liberty-logoTHREE LUCKY WINNERS will score Liberty Garden products in this FABULOUS giveaway (Monday 8/22 through Wednesday 8/24).

GRAND PRIZE: Liberty Model 704 Wall Mounted Hose Reel (photo: top right):   The Liberty Model 704 Decorative Wall Mounted Hose Reel is perfect for all your watering needs. Constructed from heavy gauge, non-rust, cast aluminum and features a 125′ of 5/8″ hose capacity.

FIRST RUNNER-UP: Model 671 Hose Butler (photo: top left):  The Liberty Model 671 Decorative Hose Butler mounts onto almost any surface and is easy to install. Features non-rust, cast aluminum construction; a decorative patina design, and a durable powder coat finish.

SECOND RUNNER-UP: Model 234 Liberty Star Butler (photo: bottom right): The Model 234 Liberty Star Hose Butler offers a stylish and functional way to store your garden hose. Holds up to 125′ of 5/8″ garden hose and features a keyhole design for easy installation.

To enter, just leave your answer to the question: “What’s the first project you would use your Model 704 Hose Reel for?” on the comments section of our FACEBOOK Liberty Garden Wall Mounted Hose Reel giveaway post anytime from Monday 8/22 through midnight Wednesday 8/24 as well as share the Facebook giveaway post on your timeline. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified through Facebook. (See rules for more information.)

Be sure to check out Liberty Garden for  more great products!  You can also connect with Liberty Garden on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube!

Good luck and happy gardening!

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Featured Scavenger Hunt: Diseased Christmas Cactus

scavengerhunts

Join Gardening Know How on a scavenger hunt! All you need is a camera and this handy list of scavenger hunt items to choose from. Enter as many open scavenger hunts on the list as you wish. Each scavenger hunt on the list is active and accepting submissions unless marked as ‘CLOSED’. It is at the discretion of Gardening Know How to mark a Scavenger Hunt Item as ‘Closed’ once they have received a photo that, in their judgment, best meets the criteria for that item and meets a standard of quality suitable for web publication. The list will be continually updated with new scavenger hunt items to seek, so keep checking back!

Every week we will be featuring one scavenger hunt from the list on our blog. This week’s featured scavenger hunt is for a ‘Diseased Christmas Cactus’, which will be featured on our article on ‘Christmas Cactus Diseases: Common Problems Affecting Christmas Cactus’! Once you have set your sights on a diseased christmas cactus, photograph it and share it with us hash-tagged #GKHpichunt via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram! If you do not participate in social media networks, you may also e-mail the photo to questions@gardeningknowhow.com with the subject line “Scavenger Hunt”. All submitted photos will be featured in our Facebook ‘Scavenger Hunt Contest Submissions” photo album.

The photographer ultimately chosen in each scavenger hunt category will receive a $25 gift certificate to one of the following five seed retailers of their choice: Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, Burpee, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Jung Seed or Seed Savers Exchange! In addition, the chosen photos will be featured, and credited, in an upcoming article on the Gardening Know How website!

THE RULES

  • Photo submissions must be original and the submitting photographer must hold all rights to the work. Originality of photos will be verified by Gardening Know How.
  • Photographers must have explicit permission from any people whose faces are recognizable in their photographs.
  • Multiple photo submissions are allowed provided each photo is unique.
  • Photographers retain copyright in their submitted work.

GOOD LUCK & HAPPY HUNTING!


Q&A with Nan Chase, Author of “Eat Your Yard”

EatYourYardQ&A

Nan Chase spent her formative years in central and southern California. Much of Eat Your Yard! was inspired by her backyard, which contained an almond tree, a peach tree, two different plum trees, huge rosemary bushes, kumquat bushes, and some strawberries. The tiny front yard had a persimmon tree and roses. Later, living in the South, she got into the culture of canning and putting up food, winemaking, and herbalism with the native plants. Bliss all around. By profession she is a writer, currently doing public relations and loving it.

Nan’s latest release, “Eat Your Yard“, has information on 35 edible plants that offer the best of both landscape and culinary uses. Edible plants provide spring blossoms, colorful fruit and flowers, lush greenery, fall foliage, and beautiful structure, but they also offer fruits, nuts, and seeds that you can eat, cook, and preserve. Read on for more information about this book and find out how to WIN ONE OF THREE COPIES from Gibbs Smith!


1. Why should we choose to landscape with edibles?

Well, why not? And let’s throw “drinkables” into the mix [I am co-author, with DeNeice C. Guest, of Drink the Harvest]. So often I think people concentrate on the “edible” of edible landscaping, whereas I always think first of the “landscaping” part. I am sure that much of that orientation comes from my childhood in California, where I got to know landscapes wild and intensely groomed. For the last 35 years I have lived in western North Carolina, which is a botanically rich region with many beautiful landscape plants that also supply nutrition or other gustatory pleasure.

2. How does your book help the reader develop an edible yard that offers the best of both landscape and culinary uses?

Eat Your Yard! embodies my criteria for a beautiful edible, drinkable landscape: Is a plant beautiful two, three, or four seasons of the year? And does it produce something both for eating fresh and to preserve in some way – canning, dehydrating, fermenting, pickling. So, I don’t consider such vegetables as tomatoes and squash part of the edible landscape, as they have no landscape value.

3. There are 35 plants featured in your book ranging from the ordinary to the exotic. Why did you choose these 35 plants and what are some plants that you wish had made that cut?

First, I wish serviceberry had made the cut. Serviceberry should be in there, but I didn’t even learn about serviceberries until just about the time the book was finished…and then discovered a row of mature serviceberry bushes growing across the street from my new house. Also called June bush or shad bush, serviceberry has outstanding landscape value in several seasons, and eventually produces loads of edible juicing berries. Yum. I also would like to have strawberries in, as a well cared for strawberry bed can be a knockout; strawberry wine is the best one I make.

Now, as to my choices. At the time I wrote Eat Your Yard! I had been gardening in the mountains of western North Carolina for about 20 years, and had learned so much from wise gardeners around me and from the exquisitely layered natural environment. It turned out that I had at least tried growing most of them, not all, but enough to have a good feel for the characteristics of various regional landscape plants: wildflowers of all sorts, flowering and fruiting shrubs, and fruiting trees.

I knew the plants that I had grown myself are cold-hardy, so I feel comfortable recommending them to gardeners in harsh climates. And I wanted to include some plants that only grow in hot regions. My California background influenced my choices, as I had known so many in my own yard as a child.

4. One unique feature of your book is the inclusion of recipes, which makes it much more than just a landscaping guide. What was the impetus for including the recipes and which one is your personal favorite?

I included recipes because I wanted the book to be not just a How To guide, but a Why To guide. Why To grow a whole lot of new and interesting landscape plants. And recipes for great and unexpected concoctions seemed like the best way to make the case. As to a favorite, I have to say that I have sentimental reasons for liking the recipe for Mint Wine the best. That’s because it was the first time I had tried making wine at home, I did everything wrong but somehow it came out fantastic. That accidental success gave me the confidence to keep going with garden wines, and today, making wines and meads and ciders from the garden (and urban harvesting) has become a major hobby.

5. What advice do you have for those interested in pursuing edible landscaping? How do you begin the task of establishing your edible landscape?

That’s such a good question. Look at the parallel timelines: it takes herbs about ten minutes to get established in the garden. It takes a couple of months for herbs and greens and vegetables to produce, and a year or two for berries and rhubarb and such. And it takes some years for fruiting shrubs and trees to start bearing fruit. So plant some of each. Yes, plant fruit trees and vines right away, even if it’s for a rental (you are leaving the world a better place, for not much money). And plant herbs right away so you can start using them for dinner. Then, as time allows, fill in the spaces with the rest. And don’t forget to plant flowers too, for eye candy and for the birds and bugs.

6. What’s in your garden?

Artichokes, bay tree, cilantro, daikon….do you begin to see the A to Z of it? In fact I am “farming” two urban plots now, a 9/100 acre (that’s 3,900 square feet for the lot) lot where I live, and a further .18 acre with a studio on it close by in the neighborhood. My prize fruit trees are my Callaway crabapple trees. The two oldest have produced as much as 90 pounds of fruit together in a year; I harvest it and crush it for an amazing crabapple cider. Roses are important, beautiful, of course, but also pollinator magnets. And rose petals and rose hips alike go into various foods and beverages. Traditional roses, not the fussy hybrid tea roses, are so easy to grow.

Herbs include mostly perennials, planted in beds near the front door – rosemary, bronze fennel, green fennel, parsley, sage, thymes, tarragon, lemon mint, and on and on. It’s a wonderland, as I also use grape vines to screen the porch, and that gives the place a Victorian feel. The pawpaw tree has started bearing fruit, and I am planting persimmon trees. Rhubarb is highly ornamental on walls, and so is yucca.

As far as vegetable gardening, I stick to cold-hardy plants and let farmers grow the rest. So I rely on onion family tucked everywhere, including leeks, shallots, garlic, and onions. Lots of greens as circular beds among the flowers.

WIN ONE OF THREE COPIES OF Eat Your Yard!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Thursday, August 25, 2016 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

What would you plant in your edible yard?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See Rules for more information.)


Top 10 Soil Amendments for Organic Gardens

TOP 10soilamendments

By Amy Grant

If you are starting a new planting bed, unless you are very lucky, your soil may not be quite up to par. It may be too sandy or too clay laden, in which case you need to amend the soil. Soil amendments are materials that are blended in with existing soil to augment its properties. They help to lighten clay or rocky soils or add body to sandy soils. They can also be used to alter a soil pH, aid in water retention and generally improve overall soil tilth.

Soil amendments are either organic or inorganic. Here are 10 soil amendments for organic gardens.

  1. Straw
  2. Sawdust
  3. Wood chips
  4. Grass clippings
  5. Sphagnum peat
  6. Compost
  7. Manure
  8. Worm castings
  9. Coffee grounds
  10. Biosolids

The first five organic amendments are often added to soil to lighten it and aid in water retention. Sphagnum peat is added to sandy soil, but the downside is its renewability and higher cost than that of others.

Both compost and manure are wonderful organic soil amendments. Manure, however, should be aged for at least a year and composted if used on fruits and veggies, lest the fresh manure burns plant roots due to its high ammonia content. Compost can be made yourself or purchased and promotes microbial activity in soil.

Versatile worm castings are probably just as good as compost and can be used as side dressing or tilled right into the soil.

Coffee grounds are a great addition to soil, especially around acid-loving plants.

Lastly, among the organic options is biosolid. Biosolids, or sewage sludge, contains 5-6% nitrogen by volume. They can either be purchased at gardening stores or obtained from some sewer treatment facilities.

Compost is definitely the best option for use as a soil amendment, especially if you make it yourself. This saves you big bucks, along with reducing waste and promoting healthy, organic gardening.


Kellogg’s Garden Products $50 Visa Gift Card Giveaway

kellogggardenproductsgiveaway-v2

logo-kelloggFor this weekend’s giveaway (Friday 8/19 through Sunday 8/21) we are giving away a $50 VISA gift card from Kellogg Garden Products.  Whether you’re new to organic gardening or a seasoned pro, growing healthy vegetable gardens, beautiful flower beds, caring for your organic lawn or all of the above, Kellogg Garden Products has the proven organic soils and organic fertilizers to turn your vision into reality.  They have a commitment to make sure every soil, fertilizer and planting mix product in both their Kellogg Garden Organics and G&B Organics brands complies 100% with the USDA’s National Organic Program standards.   To find your nearest Kellogg Garden Product retailer use the location search utility on their website.

To enter, just leave your answer to the question: “For your next gardening project, which specific Kellogg Garden product featured on http://kellogggarden.com/products/ would you use?” on the comments section of our Facebook Kellogg Garden Products giveaway post anytime from Friday August 19 through midnight Sunday August 21, as well as share the Facebook giveaway post on your timeline. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified through Facebook. (See rules for more information.)

For more information on Kellogg Garden Products, visit their website and connect with them on social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Kellogg.Garden.Products
Instagram: https://instagram.com/kellogggarden
You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXShqHvoHmxb0vgo3JnkEoA
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/kellogggarden

Good luck and happy gardening!

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All About Old-Time Cosmos Flowers

old-timecosmos

By Amy Grant

If you have anything but a green thumb, can’t grow a weed to save your soul and are hopeless when it comes to differentiating a weed from an annual but you love flowers, have I got a flower for you! Old-time cosmos flowers are amongst the easiest blooms to grow and can grow almost anywhere. Piqued your curiosity? Keep reading for more cosmos flower info and history.

Cosmos Flower History

Referring to cosmos as “old-time” flowers is apropos. Native to Mexico, cosmos plants were brought back to Madrid in great abundance by 16th Century Spanish explorers. The wife of the English ambassador to Spain collected cosmos seeds and returned to England with them in the late 1700’s. Fifty years later, cosmos made its way over the pond and into the gardens of the United States.

Spanish priests cultivated cosmos plants in their mission gardens and were so taken with the evenly placed petals they christened the flower “Cosmos,” the Greek word for ‘ordered universe of harmony.’ In the chaos of modern life, you too can have a little harmony and order in the garden by planting cosmos plants.

Additional Cosmos Flower Info

Cosmos is a member of the Aster family and, like asters, have a daisy-like flower. They are prodigious bloomers and ridiculously easy to grow from seed in almost any type of soil. While germinating, cosmos needs water, but once the plants are established, they are drought tolerant. They will self-sow and take kindly to being whacked back by blooming yet again. All in all a foolproof flower if ever there was one.

Cosmos belongs to the family of Compositae, wherein there are 20 species. Out of those 20, really only two are familiar to most gardeners: Cosmos sulphureus and Cosmos bipinnatus. I’ve been growing C. bipinnatus for eons, probably because my grandmother grew them. This variety has fern-like wispy foliage and blossoms that range from white through the spectrum of pink to dark rose in hue.

C. sulphureus has long, narrow lobed leaves with hairy margins. This species comes in more brilliant colors than its counterpart, in bold pops of yellow, orange and red. It’s also on my radar for next year.

Growing Cosmos Plants in Gardens

You can buy cosmos from the nursery or sow your own seed, which really is simple and less expensive. Either sow seeds directly into the garden after all danger of frost has passed or start them indoors 4-5 weeks before the last spring frost date. Choose a sunny site with well-draining soil of average to poor fertility and neutral to slightly alkaline pH. Space cosmos plants two feet apart or, for tall cosmos, place them closer together so the plants can support each other.

Oh, I forgot to mention tall cosmos. Some varieties of cosmos can get tall, really tall. When I was researching this, most sources said 5 feet, but I am here to tell you that we have a stand of cosmos that is as tall as the eave of our house! The house is only a single story but is still about 7 feet or more. They are amazing!

Now that you have planted your cosmos, what kind of care do they need? Not much. Really, problems arise if you care for them too much. It’s best to ignore them. Don’t feed them, don’t amend the soil or side-dress, don’t water them once they have established unless it’s so dry that they wilt. Ignore them.

Growing cosmos is probably the one time in gardening where not paying attention to the care of the plant will work in your favor. And, you get such a reward! Prolific blossoms for an extended period of time that make great cut flowers, dried flowers, companion plants and as an added bonus attract butterflies! Actually, our large stands of cosmos attract more than butterflies. Our resident Anna hummingbirds can’t seem to get enough of them!

So, gardening challenged, go ahead. Rake up some dirt lightly, dump some seeds in and water. Then sit back, literally, and prepare to be amazed at what an amazing gardener you are.


How To Choose the Right Perennial

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Tova Roseman is a horticulturist, educator, garden designer and professional speaker, offering workshops and gardening seminars throughout the U.S. since 1997 for growers, nurseries, gardening and floral associations, city planning departments and Lowe’s Home Improvement. Her specialty is water-wise gardening in difficult climates. You can check out her website at http://tovasgarden.com where you can purchase her best-selling book entitled Perennials for Intermountain and High Desert Gardens.


Perennials thrive and spread even during the coldest winters, only becoming fully dormant when the ground freezes.  Given any warmth at all, they’re off and running (although not to the naked eye, of course).  When you’re finally ready to break your own winter hibernation and venture outside, you’ll likely notice that your perennials have doubled.

If you’re located in a climate at the colder end of the USDA climate zones, from 3-6, you can have blooming plants from the first warming rays of spring sun, all the way to the dark cold days of winter.  Last winter, Delphinium ‘Magic Fountain’ was still flowering for my Thanksgiving table.  All told, there are more plant possibilities with perennials than I can fit in my half-acre garden.

Choosing the Right Perennial

How does one pick among all the perennials to create the a garden that blooms in every season?  Checking the tags is critical.  If you live in USDA climate zone 5, don’t choose a perennial that is for zone 8.  It will make a lovely annual, but is not designed by nature to survive cold winters.  Choose perennials that are in your climate zone or less.

Spring Blooming Perennials

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To get your garden started here are just a few suggestions for each season.  Early spring, tall-blooming perennials include the lacy, old-fashioned Bleeding Heart (Dicentra), brilliant Oriental Poppies (Papaver Orientale), Lupine (Lupinus), and the old garden staple, Peony (Paeonia).

With a huge array of colors, the beautiful Iris is virtually indestructible.  You can count on Iris to spread and fill out your garden, so plant liberally.  If you want to attract those large, fuzzy bumblebees, don’t forget Bee Balm (Monarda).  Where a garden is partially under towering pines, the soil moist and slightly acidic, try varieties of delicate Astilbe (Astilbe) or spectacular dark Monkshood (Aconitum) and Baneberry.

When spring-blooming perennials have completed their bloom, prune all the flower spikes back and you might see another bloom period in the fall.  The flowers will be smaller, but beautiful just the same.

 

Summer Blooming Perennials

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I love the summer blooming perennials for their continuous bloom late into the fall.  The soft brown centers of Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) blend with the varieties of purple and white Coneflower (Echinacea), pink Veronica, red Penstemon and purple Salvia.  In mid-summer, the Ornamental Grasses begin to send their seed heads spiking, ending in graceful foliage.  Some of my favorites include switch grass (Panicum spp.), and of the fountain grasses (Pennisetum) and most of the silver of maiden grass varieties (Miscanthus).

 

 

 

 

Fall Blooming Perennials

Sedum-asters

Enhance the grasses with the deeper colors of fall bloomers like Russian Sage (Perovskia), Goldenrod (Solidago), Chrysanthemum and Aster.  Daylilies (Hemerocallis) make a last, huge showing and are lovely when combined with the taller Sedums ‘Autumn Joy’ and ‘Matrona’, as they begin to turn a beautiful warm rust color.

A perennial garden will provide ecstasy for years to come.  Spend your early spring time planning the perfect color combinations within your garden.  Its a painter’s palette, so be generous and let your creative heart make the choices.  Then when the warm days are finally here to stay, plant it right, plant it once, and enjoy your garden forever.

In sync with nature,

Tova Roseman

www.tovasgarden.com – Organic Gardening for Body & Soul

author of the Best-Selling Perennials for Intermountain & High Desert Gardens, (available at tovasgarden.com)

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Compost Tea: A Magic Elixir

COMPOST TEA

As gardeners, we already know that compost is wonderful stuff for all types of plants, but compost tea provides even more benefits. This magic elixir contains a tremendous number of beneficial organisms that keep plants healthy and more disease resistant, while increasing the number of beneficial microorganisms in the soil. Although compost tea isn’t a substitute for fertilizer, it may, when combined with other good gardening practices, reduce the amount of fertilizer needed in the garden.

Processing Methods for Compost Tea

As the name suggests, compost tea involves steeping high quality, well-aged compost in water.

Compost tea is made using various processing methods. Many gardeners continue to rely on a simple, tried and true method that requires little more than a bucket, stirrer and cheesecloth strainer. Others use more sophisticated methods to aerate and mix the tea.

Aeration is a relatively new technique that uses newer technologies to introduce oxygen for optimum growth of beneficial organisms. Without proper aeration, the organisms quickly use the nutrients and oxygen, which can result in a smelly, anaerobic tea that is detrimental to plants.

Rogue Hydro offers a Flo-n-Gro Flo-n-Brew compost tea brewing system. The compact system is easy to set up and contains everything you need to brew high quality compost tea, including a submersible pump, two 3-gallon Xtreme compost tea brew kits, and a convenient drip-free tap.

Although many brewers continue to make compost without nutrients, the addition of “food” allows for speedy multiplication of beneficial fungi and bacteria. Rogue Hydro recommends Organic Bountea Bioactivator, a natural compost tea food source that boosts the growth of billions of beneficial microorganisms, creating a well-balanced tea consisting of healthy bacteria and fungi.

Using Compost Tea

Compost tea should be used immediately, preferably within four to six hours. Place the tea in a cool area, out of direct sunlight. Continue to aerate the mixture frequently to prolong the life of the compost.

There are several ways you can deliver compost tea to your plants – primarily spraying the tea on the foliage, pouring it directly on the soil around the plant as a soil drench for the roots, or spraying directly onto the soil. Although compost tea is frequently used for woody plants, ornamentals and vegetables, you can also use it as a lawn spray for healthy turfgrass.

If you choose to apply compost tea as a foliar spray, use a fine mist sprayer such as Rogue Hydro’s Sunleaves Select Sprayer, constructed of heavy-duty plastic with brass components. For a large garden, the Flo-Master automated sprayer simplifies the job and ensures that spray reaches all parts of the leaves. For small applications, a versatile Chameleon sprayer may be just the ticket.

Frequency depends on the health of your garden. If things are looking good, a single application in spring may be all your garden needs. However, if your garden has been deprived of nutrients, if the landscape has been exposed to pesticides, or if you don’t notice a lot of beneficial insects, you may need to spray every two to four weeks until health is restored.

The above article was paid for and sponsored by Rogue Hydro. The information contained in this article may contain ads or advertorial opinions.

Go for Olympic Gold in the Garden

Go for Olympic Gold in the Garden

Thousands of Olympians are headed to Rio with only one thing on their minds; gold. The quest to be best is what they’ve strived for their entire career, and for some, this is their only chance.

As we root on our favorite athletes, there is something else competing for your attention: your yard. Now is the time to create a space worthy of a gold medal. Luckily, gardeners have year after year to achieve gold.

The gold standard for the garden is a low-maintenance plant, suited for the space and climate, pest and disease resistant, and beautiful throughout the seasons. Plus, champions must provide added benefits to people and the planet.

However, no gold medalist gets there without training. The first step in getting gold is proper plant health care.

“Just as an athlete at the top of their game is healthy, and better prepared to ward off illness, healthy plants are better prepared to fight diseases and insect pests,” says RJ Laverne, urban forester at Davey Tree and ISA Board Certified Master Arborist.

“Garden Coach” Laverne outlines five training steps to achieve proper plant health:

  1. Find your zone. North America has many different climates ranging from hot and dry to cold and wet. A gold medalist thrives in the climate or “Plant Hardiness Zone” where you live.
  2. Overcome obstacles. Plants, especially trees, provide an incredible range of benefits to people and wildlife — from cleaning the air and producing food to providing shade. What do you and your landscape need to achieve success?
  3. Learn from your mistakes. Plant your future gold medalist in a space suited for its mature growth. Unless you choose a small ornamental species expected to grow 20 feet, do not plant trees near utility lines. Call 811 before you dig.
  4. Get grounded. Plants have different preferences for the soil their roots inhabit. Ensure you’re planting in gold medal territory by performing a simple soil test.
  5. Check out the competition. Some plants have more competition than others when it comes to resiliency. Choose species that can withstand disease and have little to no threat from pests. Plant multiple species that live in harmony together to increase diversity.

Laverne awards five gold medal winners in the all-around tree competition:

Viburnum Black Haw (Viburnum prunifolium)-2

  1. Gold Medalist for Shade: Blackhaw Viburnum

This winner was chosen for its small, interesting habit and ability to thrive in shade. It is hardy and produces clusters of small, cream colored flowers during spring and fruit in the fall. Bonus: Fruits are edible for both wildlife and humans. Grows about 15 feet tall and wide. (Zones 3 to 9)

Pruning Dogwood

  1. Gold Medalist for Spring Color: Kousa Dogwood

This species offers a terrific spring show of delicate pink or white flowers. What really sets this winner apart from the competition is that it keeps performing once spring ends. It fruits in late summer and foliage turns reddish-purple in autumn. Plus, it’s a disease-resistant alternative to its popular cousin, the flowering dogwood. Grows 10 to 25 feet tall and wide. (Zones 5 to 8)

LR Oct Sugar Maple

  1. Gold Medalist for Fall Color: Sugar Maple

This tree is loved for its maple-sugar sap, but it’s a true winner for its brilliant end-of-season look.  Featuring 5-inch leaves with three to five lobes, the sugar maple’s autumn foliage morphs from gold, yellow and fiery orange to an unmatched deep red. Native to the eastern and mid-western U.S. (Zones 2 to 10)

Japanese Maple

  1. Gold Medalist for Wow-Your-Neighbors Beauty: Japanese Maple

Both elegant and versatile, these trees are true chameleons. There are many cultivars of Japanese maple that have splendid color from spring through fall, and really interesting branching characteristics. Some go from intense red in spring, green in summer and welcome fall with yellow and orange. Others start red and keep the same, vibrant hue until winter. Leaves can be palm-shaped or lacy with five to seven lobes. (Zones 6-8)

  1. Gold Medalist for Pollinators: Native Oaks

Planting natives is one of the best ways to assist bees and butterflies. Native oaks support pollinators throughout the year in a number of ways, but especially by providing winter shelter and habitat. In fact, native oaks give more than 500 pollinator species a home and enable them to return for years to come. (Zones 3-10)

R.J. Laverne is responsible for coordinating and providing instruction in the company’s training programs, including Davey Institute of Tree Sciences, Davey Institute of Horticultural Sciences, Davey Institute of Lawn Sciences, and the online college. In addition, the education and training department has developed the Davey Online College providing the world with horticulture and arboriculture educational opportunities.

The above article was sponsored by Garden Media Group for Davey Tree. The information contained in this article may contain ads or advertorial opinions.

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