Growing Cosmos

CosmosNative to Mexico, Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatu) were first discovered by Spanish plant collectors and sent back to Europe in 1799. Cosmos were not introduced to the commercial seed trade until the late 1800′s and did not gain popularity until new early-blossoming varieties were developed in the early part of this century. Growing cosmos adds beauty to gardens, especially when planted in a random pattern or used as a border. Excellent in floral arrangements, too! Half-hardy annual, 4-5 feet tall.

Site Preparation:

Easy to grow, cosmos thrives in full sun and will flower more abundantly in poor soil than in rich. Requires little water and little attention. Excellent for xeriscaping (water-conserving landscape design).

Tip: Cosmos attracts beneficial insects and butterflies to the garden. (more…)

Growing California Poppy

California PoppyFirst noted on the Pacific coast by Dr. Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz, who was the leader of a Russian expedition in 1815. This West Coast wildflower was officially designated the state flower of California on December 12, 1890. Home flower gardeners growing California poppies are rewarded with a spectacular, long-lasting display of lively colors. Self-seeding annual, 12-16 inches tall.

Site Preparation:

Plants do best in full sun and will tolerate poor soil and some drought.

How to Plant:

Direct seeding is preferable, as poppies do not like to have their roots disturbed. Sow in early spring when the soil is still cool and light frost is possible. Can also be sown in the fall just before the ground freezes. Seeds will germinate in 10-15 days. When flowers fade, trim off spent blooms. To use as cut flowers, sear the cut end with a flame or dip in boiling water. (more…)

Growing Calendula

Growing CalendulaReferred to as pot marigolds, growing calendula provides a spectacular display of light yellow to deep orange flowers. Blooms from early summer until frost and has been used for centuries in skin creams to soothe irritations and other inflammatory conditions. Plants are usually low and compact. Self-seeding, hardy annual, 18-24 inches tall.

Site Preparation:

Plants prefer full sun but will tolerate light shade in warmer areas. Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is best planted in prepared garden beds or large containers filled with fresh potting soil. (more…)

Growing Begonias

BegoniasBy Kim Haworth

We drove down to Capitola recently to take photos of fuchsias. Capitola isn’t too far from the Bay Area and there is plenty to see once you are there. My favorite nursery on the coast is Antonelli Brothers, located on Capitola Road just south of Santa Cruz. Antonelli’s specializes in fuchsias and begonias – I guess that’s why Capitola is the begonia capitol of the world. They have an annual begonia festival in town to celebrate these magnificent tubers.

If you have been growing begonias, you know that now is the time to put them to bed for the year. If you are a begonia novice, here are a few tips for preserving your tubers for next season. Anything of value must be treated with respect, and begonia tubers are no exception. As soon as the lower leaves on the plants begin to yellow, stop watering the plants. (more…)

Growing Bachelor Buttons

Bachelor ButtonsNative to Europe and Asia, home gardeners are growing bachelor buttons (Centaurea cyanus) for their many white, red, pink and blue flowers. Also known as cornflowers, these jolly plants will bloom throughout the growing season and their long “silvery” stems make them perfect for cuttings. Discovered in the tomb of King Tutankhamen who died in 1340 B.C. The flowers were woven into a beautiful wreath and given to the King to aid in the afterlife. Self-seeding annual grows to 3 feet high.

Site Preparation:

Bachelor buttons are not particularly fussy and will tolerate most growing conditions providing they receive plenty of sun. They will do well in average, well-drained soils and do not require large amounts of water. Tall plants tend to sprawl without some support and are easily flattened by wind; grow through a peony ring or select a site in a sheltered location.

Tip: For a spectacular effect, plant in combination with red poppies and snapdragons, or mixed with day lilies in a border. (more…)

Container Gardening Tips

Container GardenWhether you’re new to planting in pots or a seasoned expert, our collection of 25 container gardening tips should help. Enjoy!

1. As a general rule, thinner leaved plants need more water, and thicker leaved plants will need less.

2. Consider growing dwarf varieties, they are almost always perfectly happy in containers.

3. Garlic, leeks and shallots make great container gardening plants. They have very few insect and disease problems, have shallow roots and take up very little space.

4. Plants should be sized to the container and containers should be sized to the area.

5. If you live in a hot climate use light-colored containers. This reduces heat absorption and helps keep roots cool.

6. Seed saving is fairly easy to do and it’s a great way to stretch your gardening budget!

7. Plan ahead when planting a tree in a pot. Think how big it will grow in several years and if the container you chose is big enough to support it. (more…)

Container Gardens with Altitude

Vertical GardensGardening requires lots of water… most of it in the form of perspiration. – Lou Erickson

Don’t have much garden space? Want to grow tomatoes, beans, peas, cucumbers, squash and just about any other kind of veggie on a vine? If so, consider vertical gardening.

Many plant supports, including trellises, nets, cages or stakes can be used to maximize your garden in small areas. Not only will you save valuable space, but growing container plants vertically can turn just about any nook or cranny into a beautiful garden spot.

Even if you have plenty of room, vertical gardens will help keep plants up off the ground. They can also be used to define landscaped areas, by creating interesting focal points and eye-pleasing boundaries. Advantages include:

• Fruits and flowers are less susceptible to pest damage.
• Cultivating and harvesting is easier.
• More plants can be grown with less space.
• Can be used as a privacy screen or to cover up unsightly views.
• Provides better air circulation, reducing fungal problems.
• Allows for more efficient watering.
• Yields are generally higher.
• Creates a shady spot in the garden.
• Monitoring and managing pests is easier. (more…)

Potted Plant Pests

Potted Plant PestsUnlike plants grown in the ground, potted plants enjoy a relatively pest-free environment. In most cases, they are potted in quality soils or soilless mixes, and are often grown closer at hand, so they are inspected more frequently. As a result, they tend to have fewer problems with insects and disease.

With that said, there’s no predicting what could attack your plants. Just because they are confined to pots does not mean that they will be excluded from pest problems. Insects can creep into any garden and fungal spores are present in the air at all times. While the chances of potted plant pests are much smaller with container gardens, you still need to take precautions. (more…)

Fertilizing Potted Plants

Fertilizing PlantsEarly to bed, early to rise, Work like hell: fertilize. – Emily Whaley

Whether you are growing indoors or out, fertilizer is essential to the success of container gardens. The easiest way to go about fertilizing potted plants is by preparing a nutrient solution and pouring it over the soil mix. The fertilizer is absorbed by the roots and quickly adds what is missing from the existing soil. Even if your potting mix is perfect from the get-go, it will soon become depleted of nutrients as they are constantly used up by plants and leached out by watering. The faster a plant grows the more fertilizer and water it will require. Consequently, as watering is increased so is leaching and nutrient loss.

Once you’ve selected a fertilizer (make sure you use an organic one!), you’ll need to apply it about once every two weeks for container grown plants. This assumes that you’re growing in a high quality, compost rich potting mix that will help retain nutrients. With that said, some gardeners prefer to fertilize with a weak nutrient solution every other time they water. If this is your preference, make sure to use about 1/5 the amount called for on the label.

(more…)

December Gardening Tasks

Winter SeasonWhat chores are gardening blogs suggesting for December? Here’s an extension service that recommends knocking the snow off your low-growing evergreen shrubs. Really? I’ve lived in some places where that would be an endless task — not to mention unnecessary. If you live in the mountainous West, or along the Canadian border, or where the lake effect really has an effect you probably just consider any snow damage your evergreens suffer “natural pruning.” That same web site suggests — tell this to your kids — you “minimize traffic on frozen lawn to prevent damage,” unless of course, it’s packed with snow. Then you can park your car on it (just kidding… actually foot traffic on frozen, and we mean hard-frozen, grass will damage it.). Another website suggests you spend December concentrating on you houseplants. Sure, this is a good time of year to give them a leaf cleaning and to make sure they don’t dry out in the low-humidity of furnace heat. But let’s face it. You have houseplants? You’re caring for them all year long. Another blog suggests now’s the time to start saving kitty litter. We won’t even supply the link to that one. But remember that safely composting your pet’s waste requires temperatures higher than the home compost bin or heap achieve. (more…)

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