Organic Gardens

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!

Dahlias

DahliasBy Kim Haworth

Late summer brings up some of my favorite flowers. The first growing dahlia I ever met was in a hillside house I rented in Mill Valley. We had moved in during the winter months and were enchanted by the multiple surprises the garden revealed as winter turned to spring, then summer. One of the lovely things about moving into an older home is the opportunity to see the garden unfold, it’s rather like a surprise package.

The dahlias in Mill Valley were bright yellow and the tubers must have been in the ground for many years, because the flowers were the size of a dinner plate. They were the spidery shaped blooms, called ‘cactus form’ that looked like sunbursts. Magnificent! When we moved, I tried to take the tubers with me, but I’m afraid I did the plant a disservice. It never regained it’s former glory after the transplant. (more…)

Cosmos

CosmosFern-like leaves and abundant, daisy-shaped blossoms make cosmos a lovely choice for borders and background.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 65-90 days from seed to flower
Height: 24 to 60 inches
Spacing: 12 to 18 inches apart in all directions

Growing cosmos adds beauty to summer gardens, especially when planted in informal beds or used in mixed borders. Flowers come in striking reds and oranges or paler crimsons and cream. For arrangements, cut flowers shortly after bloom and place immediately in cold water. Shorter varieties are perfect for containers. (more…)

California Poppy

California PoppyWispy, bright California poppies are suitable for xeric (water conserving) gardens and provide a spectacular display of long-lasting colors.

Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 55-75 days from seed to flower
Height: 4 to 12 inches
Spacing: 4 to 8 inches apart in all directions

Home gardeners growing California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) are rewarded with their fern-like foliage and lively orange, red and yellow flowers. Easy going, drought-tolerant plants are a favorite for use in cointainer gardens, mixed beds, rock gardens and water-wise landscapes. (more…)

Calendula

Growing CalendulaAlso known as “pot marigold,” calendula’s familiar orange and yellow blossoms will last through the summer.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 45-60 days from seed to flower
Height: 18 to 24 inches
Spacing: 24 to 36 inches apart in all directions

Growing calendula (Calendula officinalis) provides a spectacular display of light yellow to deep orange blooms from early summer until frost. Sun-loving plants are usually low and compact with attractive double blossoms that can be 2-1/2 to 4 inches across. Start in flats for early season flowering or sow directly in the garden. Gorgeous in patio pots or mixed borders. (more…)

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…)

Bachelor Buttons

Bachelor ButtonsA popular annual that does well in most zones, Bachelor Button looks good behind borders, in arrangements and, of course, worn as boutonnieres!

Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 80-95 days from seed to flower
Height: 12 to 36 inches
Spacing: 6 to 12 inches apart in all directions

Native to Europe and Asia, home gardeners are growing bachelor buttons (Centaurea cyanus) for their frilly blossoms showing in pale blues, purples, pinks and reds. Also known as cornflowers, these jolly plants bloom throughout the summer months and are perfect for cuttings with their long “silvery” stems. Hardy annual, grows to 3 feet tall.

Fact: Discovered in the tomb of King Tutankhamen who died in 1340 B.C. The 1-1/2 inch blossoms were woven into a beautiful wreath and given to the King to aid in the afterlife. (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! (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…)

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. (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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