Monthly Archives: February 2018

Geraniums Galore – A Container Garden Delight

Geraniums Galore - A Container Garden Delight
Geraniums Galore – A Container Garden Delight

All over the country, geraniums flaunt their red and scarlet, rose, pink, and white blooms with a gay abandon that few other plants can rival. In boxes on city fire escapes and rooftops, in window boxes on suburban and country houses, in tubs and pots on terraces and patios, and in hanging baskets of the porches of summer cottages, they are beloved and cherished plants

It needs sun to bloom; it tolerates shade, where it is usually handled as a foliage plant. What it resents is too much moisture and a rich diet. Kept too wet, the leaves turn yellow; given a heavy soil, one high in nitrogen plants go to foliage and flower sparingly.

Even if you choose no other plants, you could have a varied potted garden of single and double zonal, fancy-leaved or variegated, scented-leaved, ivy and Lady or Martha Washington geraniums (also called show or fancy geraniums), not to mention a few oddities of cactus and climbing types.

The zonal geranium is characterized by dark circular markings on the rounded green leaves. Double types dominate the trade and are offered by florists in the spring for planting in gardens and window boxes.

Variegated geraniums, with leaves that are often brilliantly colored, are attractive even out of bloom. Set among green-leaved geraniums and other foliage plants, pots of the variegated plants add color and pattern.

The trailing, ivy-leaved geraniums are among the most profuse flowering when grown under favorable conditions. They dislike shade and high humidity and thrive best in climates with warm days and cool nights, as in California.

Lady Washingtonís, considered the handsomest of geraniums, are not so easy to grow. Like the ivy-leaved, they prefer cool nights and warm, sunny days, preferring shelter from wind and all-day sun.

If you are a geranium gardener, you may want to spark your pot plant collection with some cactus and climbing geraniums. They will give you bizarre and fascinating forms and flowers and are certain to arouse comment.

Geraniums flourish and look well in pots, boxes, and planters. They thrive in various soil mixtures if drainage is good. For abundant bloom, however, supply a special preparation, not high in nitrogen, or lush foliage and few blooms will result. I have success with good garden soil and a sprinkling of a 5-10-5 fertilizer and bone meal. During the growing season, plants respond to a low-nitrogen fertilizer in liquid form.

When potting, be generous with drainage material to insure free passage of water. As with any plant, always water with care, since too much or not enough can be harmful. The best rule is to water when the surface of the soil feels dry. Then soak the soil well and do not water again until plants need it. If soil is kept too wet, leaves will turn yellow; if too dry they wilt and discolor.

To maintain even plant growth, turn containers from time to time. Remove yellow leaves and faded blossoms which are especially distracting on plants at doorways or any other key spots. If rain rots and disfigures the center florets of the heads, pull them off with your fingers, leaving the unmarred outer florets and buds.

If you want plants for next spring, take two- to four-inch cuttings in August or early September. Look for mature stems (with leaves spaced close together) that break easily like a snap bean. Woody growth is hard to root and succulent tips tend to rot. Before planting spread out cuttings in a shady place for several hours so leaves will lose excess moisture.

When ready to plant, cut off the lower leaves, allowing but two or three to each cutting. Also pull off the little wings on the stem, since they are inclined to rot. Dip stem ends in hydrated lime to prevent decay and then insert about halfway, in a flat or large pot of pure sand or a mixture of sand and peat moss. With geraniums, rooting powders are hardly necessary. When cuttings develop inch-long roots, they are ready for spacing out in another flat or for separate planting in 2Ω-inch pots. Fill with a mixture of three parts sandy loam and one part peat moss or leaf mold. After planting, keep in the shade for the first few days, and bring indoors before cold weather.

When the separated cuttings have developed strong root systems, shift to 3Ω- or 4-inch pots. Use the same potting mixture as before, with bone meal added. Later as established plants begin to grow, feed periodically with a high phosphorous fertilizer, as 5-10-5 or 4-12-8.

To keep plants bushy and to encourage branching, pinch while small, starting when they are three to four inches high. Provide sunny windows, and keep turning pots to prevent lopsided growth. Water regularly, but allow soil to dry out just a little between applications

Plants may be wintered in cool cellars with little light. Remember only that the less light, the cooler the temperatures should be. This is because too much warmth and insufficient light cause lanky growth that undermines a healthy plant.

Gardeners with cellars or sheds when temperatures remain above freezing, can winter geraniums hanging upside down from the ceiling. The dead-looking sticks, set out in pots or in the garden in warm weather, will astound you when they develop into glorious flowering plants.

Copyright © 2006 Mary Hanna All Rights Reserved.

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Organic Gardening In The 21st Century

Organic Gardening In The 21st Century
Organic Gardening In The 21st Century

Over the course of the past decade, a significant number of men and women from different parts of the world have taken up gardening. In this regard, these people have found themselves interested both in creating magnificent flower gardens as well as in cultivating thriving vegetable gardens.

A majority of gardeners still rely on what might be considered “mainstream methods” when it comes to the care and maintenance of either their flower or vegetable gardens. In other words, these gardeners tend to rely upon various commercially availabable chemical treatments and products to care for their gardens. Various types of garden-related chemicals — from pesticides to fertilizers — are available readily at garden supply shops and discount retail stores. More often than not, these basic products can be obtained for a fairly reasonable cost.

As a person becomes more involved in the care and maintenance of his or her garden, such an individual tends to become more conscious and aware of how the materials he or she utilizes to tend a garden space actually effects the environment and the plants being grown (particularly vegetables). Consequently, many experienced gardeners (and, in reality, an ever growing number of novices) have turned to organic gardening practices.

Organic gardening practices actually have been around and utilized by people since certain ancient tribes gave up hunting and gathering and settled down to grow their own crops and to maintain their own domesticated animals. In their most basic form, organic gardening practices consists of the use of naturally occuring materials (organic materials) in the care and treatment of a garden patch — vegetable or floral. No man made chemicals or any type are utilized in true organic gardening regimens.

For example, when it comes to providing nutrients for an organic gardening, two resources normally are relied upon: compost and manure. Likewise, when it comes to the issue of pest control, natural steps are taken to rid a garden of offensive bugs and insects. In this regard, benign insects that do not damage plants but who prey upon bugs that harm foilage are placed in a garden or patch to deal with a harmful infestation problem or situation.

In the final analysis, people who espouse organic gardening practices and techniques maintain that the goal or such natural programs is to nourish and protect the soil well into the future rather than providing a quick, seasonal fix for one planting period. Through organic gardening, soil and water contamination is reduced significantly. Additionally, when it comes to the production of vegetables, the food generated from an organic garden is free of harmful chemicals and deemed to be far healthier for human consumption.

Learn About The Different Types Of Roses

Learn About The Different Types Of Roses
Learn About The Different Types Of Roses

A rose is a rose, is a rose, right? Actually, roses come in several distinct varieties and each has its pros and cons. Before you shop for roses for your new rose garden, you should know which types of roses there are.

If you love the way roses look climbing over an arbor, then you may want to take a close look at climbing roses. While most people call any rose that shoots up fast a climbing rose, some of these roses are actually sprawling roses. However, they all basically are roses with vigorously growing canes, small flowers that bloom profusely during the rose’s blooming season, and rather wicked thorns. As climbing roses become well established, some gardeners replace their pruning shears with a tree saw to hack these plants down to a manageable size. These roses are usually quite disease resistant.

When you plant a climbing rose, you should cut down all but three of the strongest, most powerful canes. This gives the rose plenty of energy to put into growing stronger, more vigorous vines. Tie the three canes gently into place to guide them in the direction youíd like them to grow.

If you prefer lush, fragrant blooms, you will want to take a close look at the tea rose. These roses bloom several times a year. The flowers are large, especially if you pinch off the side buds so that the center bud on each stem can get all of the nutrients and energy.

The floribunda rose blooms in groups of flowers. The flower in the middle of each group matures faster than the other flowers, so rose fanciers often pinch that flower off so that the entire group, or spray, opens at the same time.

Once flowering roses are those roses that bloom just one time each year. These roses are absolutely wonderful and are literally packed with blossoms when they do bloom, which is why they are still quite popular.

Shrub roses are incredibly hardy, thorny roses that are fairly low growing. The blossoms on these roses are rarely spectacular, but there are so many that the bushes are quite colorful, even from a distance.

Finally, you may want to consider miniature roses. These tiny roses are the perfect way to edge a garden border with color. Many of these roses are a bit delicate and susceptible to disease, but others are very hardy and grow so vigorously that, eventually, the only thing tiny about them is the size of their leaves.

Tips For Spring Gardening

Tips For Spring Gardening
Tips For Spring Gardening

It happens every year. One day it’s blustery, bleak, and cold, and the next it’s warm and sunny. You want to begin spring gardening, but you didn’t prepare like you should have. What do you do? It’s easy.

Spring gardening can be a fun and relaxing activity, especially if it’s done correctly. By following these simple tips, you will make the most out of spring gardening.

The first step to spring gardening is sharpening your tools. Go early and have all your tools, such as shovels, hoes, and pruning shears sharpened to a fine edge.

You may even want to splurge on buying a second, well-sharpened blade for your lawnmower. That way you will have a spare if the one currently on your lawnmower needs to be taken to be sharpened. A sharp mower blade is very important is you want to have a beautiful lawn. Dull blades can injure your grass and allow disease to creep in, which can be costly in the long run to correct.

If you plan to put in a new lawn or plant bed, or if you had problems getting things to grow properly last year, you may want to call for soil testing. A soil test will tell you exactly what type of fertilizers and/or soil conditioners are needed to assure your yard looks the best it can.

A very helpful tip for spring gardening, especially if you need a little help getting your yard into shape, is contacting landscaping professionals early. The later in the season you call, the better your chances are of having to be put on a waiting list.

You may also want to make arrangements early to buy sod or for sod delivery if you plan to put in a new lawn. You should choose only moist rolls. Any that have dry roots or yellowed turf are no good.

Keeping a journal is a great way to keep track of plants during spring gardening. You can write down what was a success last year, what was a failure, and what plants should be moved with the change of seasons. It will not only prove useful this year, but also next year when you may not remember all of the small details.

A definite must is throwing away any outdated chemicals. Following the instructions are the label are easy. Also check to make sure those you are keeping are stored where children and pets cannot get to them.

Tilling the soil where you plan to begin your spring gardening is important. Your soil should contain no ice crystals. Handfuls of the soil should easily crumble.

When should you begin planting? This frequently asked question can easily be answered. Weather, soil conditions, and what you are going to plant are the answers.

Lastly, while engaging in spring gardening you have to remember to prune. Since, for some plants, the flowers that will come up next year have set within 10 days of the end of a bloom, timing is very important.

Now that you know what to do, your spring gardening won’t be so much of a chore, but more of a pleasure.

Safely Manage Insects on Indoor Plants

Aphids on Plant_photocredit_Melinda_Myers_LLC
Aphids on Plant_photocredit_Melinda_Myers_LLC

Winter can be hard on indoor plants. “Low light, shorter days and dry air create a stressful environment for our houseplants while at the same time helping insects thrive,” explained gardening expert Melinda Myers. Myers said not to despair if insects have moved in and plants are struggling with yellow or speckled leaves. She shared these eco-friendly strategies to diagnose the problem and manage insects, so houseplants stay healthy and look their best.

Start by making sure houseplants are receiving the proper amount of light and water. A healthy plant is better able to resist and recover from insect infestations. Check the plant tag, internet or plant book for the recommended growing conditions. Make any needed adjustments to the plants’ care.

Take a close look at the upper and lower leaf surfaces and stems of the plants for clues to the cause of the problem. Here are some of the more common indoor plant pests and organic options, safe for children and pets, for managing them.

Fungus gnats are those small fruit fly-like insects that flit around the house. They feed on plant roots and organic matter in the soil. They usually don’t harm the plants, but certainly are annoying.

Just sprinkle an organic insecticide, like Summit Mosquito Bits, that contains the active ingredient Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis on the soil surface. This naturally occurring bacterium only kills the larvae of fungus gnats, black flies and mosquitoes.

Aphids are common pests of indoor and outdoor plants. These small teardrop shaped insects suck plant juices, causing the leaves to yellow, brown, wilt or become distorted. They secrete a clear sticky substance known as honeydew.

Mites cause similar damage, but are too small to see without a hand lens. If mites are suspected, shake a leaf over a white piece of paper and watch for specks, the mites, moving across the paper. Don’t wait until webbing is visible to control these pests. At that point there are thousands of mites making it difficult to control.

Both these types of pests can be managed in the same way. Start by placing plants in the sink or tub and knock the insects off the plant with a strong blast of water. Follow with several applications of insecticidal soap to kill the adults. Repeat as needed. Or suffocate all stages of the insects with a lightweight horticulture oil like Summit Year-Round Spray Oil.

Bumps on the stems and leaves of plants that can easily be scraped off with a thumbnail are scales. Their shells protect the adults and eggs from predators, weather and most insecticides. A similar pest, mealybug, has white waxy strands on its body for protection. Mealybugs can be found on stems, leaves and area where leaves and stems meet.

Both types of insects suck the plant juices, causing leaves to yellow and plants to decline. And just like aphids and mites, they secrete honeydew. Both are difficult to control and require persistence.

For mealybugs, remove the hard scale covering with an old toothbrush. Use a cotton swap dipped in alcohol to dissolve its waxy covering and kill the insect. Then spray with insecticidal soap to kill the immature insects. This takes time and persistence to control these pests.

Or apply a lightweight horticulture oil, like that used for mites and aphids, to suffocate both the adult and immature stages of these pests. Continue to watch for outbreaks and treat as needed.

No matter what products, natural or synthetic, make sure they are labeled for the plant and pest that are being treated. And always read and follow label directions carefully.

Investing time in managing pests as soon as they appear means healthy and more attractive plants to brighten the indoors now and for years to come.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Summit for her expertise to write this article. Myers’s web site is http://www.melindamyers.com.

Create A Garden And Patio Design To Enjoy Year-Round

Retreat to a garden and patio design that’s beautiful year-round, and takes minimum fuss. What makes this possible? Carefree plants with continuous blooms, and a well-planned garden structure.

You don’t need to be a lawn and garden expert or landscape designer to do this. Here are a few tips for creating a super yet simple garden and patio design that will be a knockout!

The first step is to take a birds-eye view of your garden and patio area. Make a rough sketch of your space, and play around with a few designs until you like what you see. As you’re doing this, get some great ideas from existing garden and patio decorations. Pay a visit to other people’s gardens, or public gardens. Look through home landscaping and gardening magazines, find what you like, and develop plans of your own.

Decide what style or theme is right for you… formal, casual, rustic, Southwestern, Japanese… there are enormous possibilities. Then stay with that style and theme so the overall effect does not become confusing. For instance, you wouldn’t want to combine bronze garden sculptures of saints or cherubs with rustic wooden wagon wheels.

Imagine what your patio area will most often be used for. You may plan to entertain lots of outdoor dinner guests. If so, be sure your patio space has plenty of room for the largest number of people right from the beginning. Your patio may be more of a private, reflective retreat for enjoying the sun, reading a book, or gazing up at the stars. Determine the use of shade, open sun, or even covering it with a roof.

Now take your favorite ideas and put them into your rough plans – and soon you’ll have a design that is ready for action.

The next step is to create your garden and patio design to scale – you can use landscaping software for this, or do it by hand. Choose the flowers you intend to plant, noting how many you will need for each month of your growing season, and select the landscaping structures that will give your design its form.

Some say the secret to a beautiful garden and patio design is having a good amount of hard structure. This is what landscape designers refer to as “good bones” – walls, fences, garden bridges, gates, garden arbors, landscape statues, garden fountains … even a strong line of evergreen plants.

Garden structures such as these create forms and lines, giving your garden and patio design definition and dimension. Plus, in the winter when most plants are empty and bare, your garden will preserve its shape and sense of completeness. It’s amazing how just one or two structures can produce this satisfying effect.

Most garden and landscaping structures are built to withstand the elements. Treated pine, cedar and teak garden furniture, trellises, arbors, and decorative fencing are great choices. Stone, copper, and bronze garden statuary will never let you down. Garden fountains bring incredible beauty and atmosphere to any garden and patio design – in fact, entire gardens have been built around them.

Next, choose annual spring flowers and perennial plants that will give you blooms from one season to the next. For instance, select carefree roses that need no pruning or spraying, and bloom continuously from spring through fall. Fill planters with beautiful blooming flowers such as Oriental lilies or verbena for different colors all summer long. Establish flower beds in corners or along walk ways. Always consider your local climate and plant according to the sun and shade needs of your plants.

As you plan your garden and patio design, create paths or walk ways that lead from one area to the next. Rambling garden paths are relaxing and charming… and if laid out thoughtfully, will be a big help to you as the gardener. Paths can be of stone, brick, flagstone, gravel, or mown turf, although grass paths require more upkeep. Garden sculptures or sitting benches thoughtfully placed along the way provide wonderful expression.

If you want garden and patio designs that are pre-drawn, there are ready-made plans available in books and magazines. This is another fine way to get off to a solid start. Use pre-made garden plans from start to finish, or incorporate parts of them right into you own creative plans.

Copyright 2006 Robert Mosse