Few pursuits are as rewarding as growing your own organic garden. Not only do you get to enjoy the fruits of your own labor, but you have the satisfaction of knowing that the produce you are eating was grown free of chemicals, pesticides and herbicides. Growing organically produces healthy, more diverse ecosystems which are better able to resist significant pest damage… naturally!
Native to South America, the first petunia (Petunia multiflora) specimen was collected by an explorer at the mouth of the Rio de la Plata and was white in color. The original varieties were hardy plants that had trailing 2-3 inch stems and incredible scents. These scents have been lost in many of the modern-day varieties. Fortunately many of the heirloom varieties are still available to gardeners interested in growing petunias. The trailing types are suitable for growing in hanging baskets. Plants grow 10-18 inches tall. Self-seeding annual.
Petunias require full sunlight to thrive, but will tolerate some shade. The more shade they receive, the fewer flowers they’ll produce. Soil should be average to rich and well-drained. Prior to planting work a shovelful or two of organic matter, such as compost or well-aged manure, into the soil. This helps condition the soil, which improves drainage, and will also increase the ability of lighter soils to hold water and nutrients. (more…)
One of the most widely grown of all garden flowers, pansies (Viola x wittrockiana), also known as violas, will bloom in a variety of colors all summer long and thrives in cool, wet spring time conditions. Excellent in containers, rock gardens, borders or edging. Plants are short lived in hot environments. Self-seeding perennial (grown as an annual in the North), 4-10 inches tall.
Pansies thrive in cool, rich, moist, well-drained soil. They prefer partial shade, but will tolerate full sun where summers are cool. Add plenty of compost, or other organic matter, to the soil prior to planting to help retain moisture, and prevent plants from wilting during the heat of the day. (more…)
A fast growing annual plant that reseeds itself freely. Home gardeners are growing nasturtium (Tropaeolum) for their colorful flowers and attractive foliage. The flowers and leaves are edible and make a peppery addition to salads, pastas or used as a garnish. Hardy annual, 12-14 inches tall.
Nasturtiums prefer full sun and average moist soil, but beware; once established it may be hard to eradicate. In hot climates plant in partial shade.
How to Plant:
Sow outdoors one week after last frost 1/4 inch beneath the surface of the soil. Nasturtium seeds germinate in 7-12 days. Some of the taller climbing varieties will need support. Pinch off the spent blooms to extend the flowering season. (more…)
A favorite! Home flower gardeners are growing morning glory (Ipomoea) for their vibrant colors, including purples, reds, pinks and blues. This vining plant is often found covering old wire fences where their delicate flowers greet you with the morning sun. Reliably self-seeds each year. Plants grow to 15 feet if given proper support. Self-seeding hardy annual.
Choose a planting site that has full sun and moist average soil. Working some compost or old animal manure into the soil will help.
How to Plant:
Morning glory is easy to grow from seed. Plant outdoors 1/2 inch deep after the last frost. Keep moist while germinating. Seeds will germinate in 5-21 days. Seeds can be slightly chipped and soaked in warm water for 24 hours before planting for better results. Thin plants to 4-6 inches apart. Provide support so the plants can climb. If you have trouble getting morning glory started, make sure the planting site is in full sun and that the seedlings never dry out until they become established. Provide organic fertilizer rich in phosphorous two or three times during the growing season. (more…)
Marigolds (Tagates erecta) are a hardy annual plant ranging in color from pale yellow to deep orange and rust. There are many varieties of this popular garden favorite from miniature to giant. Growing marigolds in and around vegetable gardens can also help prevent insect damage.
Marigolds like full sun and a rich, well-drained soil. They are easy to grow, however, and will tolerate average to slightly poor soils. Generous amounts of compost and organic matter will improve the health of your marigolds tremendously. Keep the soil moist, but not wet.
How to Plant:
Sow marigold seed directly in the ground and cover with about 1/4 inch of soil. Water thoroughly. Thin to 8-18 inches apart after they have sprouted. Marigolds can also be started early indoors for transplanting outdoors about six to eight weeks before the last frost date. (more…)
A spring-time favorite, growing lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus) provides flower gardeners with a brilliant array of colors. Plants have stiff, erect flower spikes of 1-4 feet that emerge from horizontal foliage. Flowers are similar to those of peas or sweet peas, and grow in large, crowded racemes of deep blue, purple, yellow, pink or white. Found growing wild throughout most of the northern United States. Short-lived perennial.
Easy to grow, lupine thrives in cool, moist locations. It prefers full sun to light shade and average soils, but will tolerate sandy, dry soil. Plants develop long taproots, so loosen the soil to a depth of 12-20 inches, using a roto-tiller or garden fork. They will not grow in clay.
One of the most beautiful summer-flowering plants, home gardeners are growing lilies (lilium) for their exquisite trumpet-shaped blooms. Stems are strong, upright and unbranched, 1-6 feet tall. Flowers are large, beautifully colored in both bold and pastel shades, and often fragrant. May be grown individually in formal or naturalistic settings or en mass. Small species make excellent container plants, and all are a perfect addition to any border. Blooms from late spring through early autumn, depending on species.
Plants thrive in full sun or partial shade and prefer moist, well-drained soil and excellent air circulation. Most lilies perform poorly in extreme heat. (more…)
A biennial or short lived perennial, flower gardeners enjoy growing hollyhocks in borders or against walls where the striking flowers stand above all else. The classic variety (Alcea rosea) has graced outbuildings and farmsteads for more than a century. Single blooms of white, light-pink, pinkish-red, magenta and burgundy on 6-9 foot stalks. Blooms the second year and re-seeds.
Hollyhock prefers full sun to partial shade and rich, moist soil to thrive. Prior to planting, work in plenty of compost or well-aged animal manure.
How to Plant:
Sow outdoors just beneath the surface of the soil one week before last frost. Seeds will germinate in 10-14 days. Space plants 18-36 inches apart. Water regularly during dry conditions to keep them blooming. Fertilize a couple times during the season with an all-purpose fertilizer. When flower stalks fade, cut to the ground. (more…)
Summer bulbs are the perfect addition to the flower garden. They combine perfectly with annuals and perennials, offering a uniqueness that completes the scene. Gladiolus with their dramatic swordlike leaves have sturdy flowering stems 1-5 feet tall. The elegant flowers come in ravishing shades of every color. Home gardeners particularly enjoy growing gladiolus for cuttings.
Tip: For best results, take cuttings when at least 3 of the “florets” on the stem have opened. They will continue to open in the vase.
Gladiolas require full sun and regular water during growth and bloom. They should be planted in a sandy soil, rich in organic matter as soon as the soil is warm in the spring. Provide protection from the wind if possible. (more…)
My grandmother had a small nursery in Napa that specialized in growing fuchsias. I remember the pots of glorious flowers hanging along her driveway. As I grew older, and taller, I was able to reach the hanging baskets bursting with flowers and buds and, I’m ashamed to say that I spent many a delightful clandestine moment popping the fat buds between my pudgy fingers. Of course if I was caught, there was hell to pay, but the gratification of holding that soft, living tissue between my fingers and giving it a gentle squeeze, then being rewarded with the resounding popping sound was irresistible. It was a very tactile, but guilty, pleasure.
Dearie, as everybody called my grandmother, finally persuaded me to keep my hands to myself, and in doing that, gave me a deep respect for nature.
Although fuchsias are just getting ready to go into their dormancy period, I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you a little about this hardy and rewarding native to wet, mountainous areas of tropical America. Fuchsias are considered a woody shrub, some are deciduous and some are evergreen. (more…)