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Tag Archive | "gardening"

Maximize your harvest with limited space


DIG-Maximize-harvest-Cucumber-7.11by gardening expert Melinda Myers

 

Increase your garden’s productivity even when space, time and energy are limited. Just follow these six simple planting, maintenance and harvesting techniques for a more bountiful harvest.

Maximize your planting space with wide rows. Leave just enough room for plants to reach their maximum size. Make wide rows, 4 to 5 feet wide, so you can reach all plants for maintenance and harvest. Minimizing walkways means more planting space.

Try interplanting. Grow short season crops like lettuce and radishes between long season crops like cabbage, tomatoes and peppers. The short season crops will be ready to harvest when the long season crops are reaching mature size. You’ll double your harvest and grow more vegetables, not weeds between your longer season plants.

Grow more plants per row with succession planting. Start the season with cool season vegetables like lettuce and spinach. Once these are harvested and temperatures warm replace with beans and onions. Harvest these and plant a fall crop of radishes or lettuce.

When you use these intensive planting techniques, be sure to incorporate a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer, at the start of the season. Then add a mid-season nutrient boost if needed. The slow release nitrogen won’t burn even during the hot dry weather of summer. Plus, it won’t interfere with flowering or fruiting.

Go vertical. Train vine crops up decorative or functional trellises and supports. You’ll not only save space, but you will also reduce disease problems and increase the harvest. Growing cucumbers and melons increases light penetration and airflow, reducing the risk of fungal diseases. Pole beans are much easier to harvest and produce an additional picking. Secure large fruited vegetables like melons to the trellis with a cloth sling.

Be sure to plant vegetables in containers if in-ground space is limited. A 5-gallon bucket or comparable size container is perfect for a tomato. Peppers and eggplants will thrive in a bit smaller pot. Grow vine crops in containers and allow them to crawl over the deck or patio instead of valuable gardening space. Mix flowers and herbs in with your vegetables. You’ll increase the beauty while adding additional fragrance to the pot.

Harvest often and at the proper time. Zucchini and other summer squash should be picked when 6 to 8 inches long or in the case of patty pan squash it reaches 3 inches in diameter. The flavor is better than those baseball bat size zucchini and you’ll have plenty to eat and share. Harvest your head of cabbage when firm and full size. Leave the bottom leaves and roots intact. Soon you will have 4 or 5 smaller heads to harvest and enjoy.

With a bit of planning and creativity you can find ways to increase the enjoyment and harvest in any size garden.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening. She hosts the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV and radio segments and is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers web site is www.melindamyers.com    

Posted in Diggin' SpringComments Off

Add tasty edible plants to your landscape


(ARA) Window boxes overflowing with blooms, decorative pots lining the driveway with striking colors, and even a flowering vine climbing up the mailbox. The growing season has arrived, and it is time to decorate the landscape.

The latest gardening trend is growing your own produce, so incorporate edible plants as a beautiful compliment to the typical annuals and perennials. This year, spice up the landscaping decor with some tasty options.

Edible plants—whether herbs, vegetables, fruits or flowers—add a creative variety of interest to your landscape, and also produce a delicious bounty for your dinner table come harvest time.

Here are some ideas to help incorporate edible plants into your landscaping:

Decorate an arbor in the garden, along a walkway or near the house with grape vines. These vines can help shade an area and also can produce grapes good for eating, juicing, making into jams or jellies, or even wine. Different grapes thrive in different areas of the country, so research your region first before attempting to start some vines.

Switch to edible flowers like nasturtium, violets, chamomile, dandelion, hollyhock, honeysuckle, and pansies in your window boxes and decorative pots.  Do not eat flowers grown for ornamental purposes, instead, start edible flowers as seeds and grow them yourself. These flowers work great in salads, teas, summery drinks like sweetened tea, mocktails, and lemonade, and also can be crystallized to decorate cakes. To crystallize flowers, separate the flowers from the stem, and wash and dry the bloom. Heat up equal parts of water and sugar until the sugar dissolves, and the liquid becomes an amber color. Let the syrup cool. Take flower blooms and quickly dip the pedals into the liquid mixture, turn back over and let dry blossom face up. Stronger petals with form and shape work well.

Mix an herb or two into container gardens. Lavender, rosemary, thyme, oregano and lemon grass are just a few that grow extremely well in containers, and mix attractively with other blooming flowers. Not only are the herbs edible, but also emit delicious scents when picked or touched, making a great choice for window boxes or path plantings.

Pot a tomato plant right in the front yard. Or, the backyard. Tomatoes grow well in full sunlight, and are decorative when the vines drape along a trellis or arbor. Tomatoes also work well as a natural screen along a porch or patio. Also good for use on an arbor or trellis are cucumbers, smaller melons and squash, beans and peas. Inter-plant vines with containers or landscaping, and your small vegetable garden will get a pop of interest to make it stand out – and provide a great harvest for your family.

Create a hedge with berries. Try blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and even gooseberries to make a unique hedge along the edge of your property. Just remember, your family will not be the only samplers of the fruits. Consider covering the hedge with netting to help keep birds from stealing all the berries. Combining beautiful landscaping with delicious foods to serve at dinner is sure to create many compliments – both from visitors enjoying the front and backyard views, and from dinner guests enjoying the produce harvest. Follow these tips and this year your garden will look good enough to eat.

Posted in Diggin' Spring, SeasonalComments Off

Cool new concepts for gardening


(ARA) – One of the driving forces in gardening is many American’s pursuit of healthier eating and greener living. This means that the new face of gardening has begun to change considerably in recent years. Today’s gardeners are younger and more urban than traditional gardeners, therefore, making unique impressions on the green world.

So, what’s cool about gardening?

From growing vegetables in the front yard to creating an edible wall of green on the balcony, gardening is not limited to just a half-acre plot in the country anymore. Now, gardeners use any space available for a garden, no matter how urban or small. The key is adding individuality or personality to the garden in the form of handmade sculptures, water features, bird feeders or even the variety of unique heirloom plants that are used. Sustainability is also very important. Plants that serve a dual purpose—like low-growing thyme used as a ground cover in a small area or a cucumber plant that has been trained to grow up a trellis as a green screen—are excellent examples of how many gardeners have transformed traditional ideas of gardening. Looking at gardening and plants in new ways can lead to some great discoveries, and may even increase the productivity of a green space.

How can you join in the gardening movement? Here are some helpful tips to get started.

Maximize space

Even if you only have a window, and no outdoor space, you can have a garden. An herb garden, can be grown on a window ledge in the kitchen. No ledge? No problem. Just hang a hook from the ceiling and grow your plants in a hanging basket. For those with little outdoor space, try container gardening on the patio or use an outside fence or railing to grow a vertical garden. Simply hang pots on hooks or create your own “living wall” using chicken wire, coconut fiber lining and a quality potting mix. Then, plant trailing produce or flowers and watch your wall grow. If you have a sunny space in the yard, create a small garden using the new Miracle-Gro Ultimate Raised Garden Bed. This easy-to-use kit snaps together and can easily be customized to fit in nearly any space. Simply add nutrient-enriched soil, like Miracle-Gro Expand N Gro or Potting Mix, and plant the garden on a patio, deck, rooftop or balcony.

Redefine terms

Produce plants are for vegetable gardens and landscaping plants are for the front yard, right? Not necessarily. The great thing about gardening is that the only necessary rules are the ones Mother Nature created: plants need sunlight, water, food and soil with good drainage. Other than that, do not be afraid to mix it up. Plant vegetables in the front yard, use strawberries in a hanging basket or plant an herb for groundcover along a path. Tomatoes will grow beautifully next to marigolds and sage will add a nice contrast when grown in a container alongside yellow daisies. Grow what you like that will thrive in your climate, even if it is not what your neighbors are growing.

Stay true to yourself

If your favorite color is blue, then plant blue flowers. If you love salsa, then plant a “salsa garden” by using tomatoes, cilantro, onions and jalapenos. Add your own touch and make it personal. The materials used can represent your style and add interest in the garden as effectively as what is planted. With adequate drainage, even an old toolbox can come to life with some potting soil and impatiens. Collect stones and small objects with kids to make garden sculptures or bird feeders that the whole family can enjoy. Green plastic bottle caps can be turned into ornamental “trees” and grandma’s cracked tea cup could become a bird feeder with a little imagination. If you have extra produce, make sure to share it. Friends, neighbors, family and even many local food pantries will take donations of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Experiment

Although gardening can be seen as a science, it should also be looked as an art. Gardeners should feel free to experiment and express themselves through their gardens. Let your green space reflect your home, your interests and your individuality. Make it a tradition to try at least one new thing every year and you may be surprised how much you learn along the way.

 

 

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Get your garden growing


Four tips for starting a garden

(Family Features) The popularity of gardening is growing. In fact, according to the National Gardening Association,* more than 70 percent of all U.S. households participate in one or more type of do-it-yourself outdoor lawn and garden activity, with flower and vegetable gardening topping the most popular activities.
If you haven’t joined the millions of Americans who enjoy gardening yet, this year is your chance. Whether you want to start a garden as a new hobby to beautify your yard or to enjoy the fresher tastes of home grown vegetables, getting started can be easy.
Here are some expert tips from Black & Decker to help you start your own garden this spring:
•    Know the Lay of the Land – Assess the gardening conditions in your yard before you dig your first hole or plant your first seed. Conditions such as sun, shade, soil type, climate and moisture levels are all key factors to consider when creating your gardening plan.
•    Prepare Your Soil – Healthy soil translates to better plant growth, so be sure your soil has the nutrients it needs to flourish. Talk to a representative at your local home and garden center for tips on choosing the right type of fertilizer based on the soil and the plants you’re growing.
•    Choose and Care for Plants Expertly – Once you’ve prepared your gardening space, you can begin to explore plant options available. To prevent the discouraging cycle of trial and error gardening with new plants, try Black & Decker’s new PlantSmart digital plant care sensor, a revolutionary gardening tool that provides expert advice for growing and maintaining all types of plants and flowers, both indoors and out. Its reusable, water-resistant sensor uses patented technology to measure key environmental information from sunlight and temperature to moisture, soil conditions and more. Your readings are then uploaded to your personal PlantSmart online account and combined with real-time climate and horticultural information from your local area, for a foolproof gardening experience. This tool will help ensure you are choosing and growing the right plants in your new garden.
•    Take the First Dig – When you’re ready, dig a hole that is slightly bigger and deeper than your plant’s roots, and gently place the plant in the prepared hole. Pat the surrounding soil down firmly, but don’t pack it, and be sure to leave enough space between plants. If using seeds, refer to the package’s directions to gauge the soil depth needed for proper growth; drop the seeds in and place soil firmly on top.
Armed with expert advice from Black & Decker and its new PlantSmart tool, your garden is sure to be a success this year.
For additional tips, and to learn more about PlantSmart and other innovative outdoor products from Black & Decker, visit www.blackanddecker.com or www.rechargeyouryard.com.
*National Gardening Association’s 2010 National Gardening Survey; page five

Posted in Diggin' Spring, FeaturedComments Off

Grow your vegetables the earth-friendly way


(ARA) There was a time when it was the norm to go out in the yard and pull fresh vegetables up from the soil. At some point over the years, we moved from the goodness of home-grown vegetables toward processed foods and microwave dinners. Now consumers are becoming more aware of the financial value of growing their own vegetables, and how doing so can bolster the health of their families and of the earth.

Vegetable gardening might sound intimidating, but new technologies can make your thumb greener than ever. Combined with good old-fashioned growing techniques, your garden can be healthy and yield a good crop with less effort than you’d imagine—all while being good for the earth. Here are some tips for a garden that is doubly green.

Water, water everywhere, but not too much

A fine balance needs to be struck when it comes to watering your vegetable garden, especially during drought conditions. You want your plants to get adequate moisture, but over watering can be bad for plants and a wasteful use of a precious natural resource. Because it’s better for both your crops and the environment, careful water usage is essential to being a truly green gardener.

Installing an irrigation system is a good way to keep water usage at the ideal levels. Plus, you don’t have to plan a schedule around when you need to water. There are user-friendly, affordable solutions like Mister Landscaper’s new Drip Irrigation Vegetable Kit, which connects to your outdoor spigot. It’s a great way to ensure that your plants get the water they need, without wasting or over watering. The kit is drought approved in most areas and available at Lowe’s in the plumbing department. Watering timers can also make the job of watering even easier. Keep in mind that it’s best to water in the early morning, when the sun is lower in the sky, for 30 to 60 minutes, every other day. For more information about watering vegetable gardens, go to www.misterlandscaper.com.

One man’s garbage is another’s fertilizer

Ever feel guilty about throwing out vegetable and fruit peelings, rinds or scraps? Your intuition might just be telling you that there’s a better way to andle those leftovers. Composting is a great way to make use of organic matter that might otherwise just get thrown away.

Building a compost heap is relatively easy, and it will keep on giving back to your garden and the environment. The four necessary ingredients for composting, according to California’s “CalRecycle” program, are nitrogen (from sources like grass clippings or those throwaway veggie scraps), carbon (from sources like sawdust or twigs), water and air. Once your compost is at the ideal level of decomposition (it will be uniformly dark brown and crumbly), spread it on your garden to give plants a nutrient boost.

Get growing organically

From the moment you start planning a garden, think organic. The most basic and fun choice of all is deciding which plants you’ll grow. Choose organic seeds and starters so that you know you’re buying into an earth-friendly business venture. There’s the added bonus of knowing that your plants won’t be tainted with harmful chemicals.

When it comes to maintaining your garden, you’ll probably need things other than just compost. Look for products that are recognized as organic by respected organizations like the USDA or the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). You’ll be able to find an ever-growing supply of products like pest repellent or soil amendments.

Growing your own vegetables at home has many benefits: it saves money, allows you to control what your food is exposed to and provides a fun and easy activity that the whole family can participate in. And when you follow these green gardening principles, you’ll be doing something good for the earth, too.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Posted in Diggin' SpringComments Off

Digging up dinner:


Get in on the growing trend and raise your own veggies

(ARA) – Across the country this spring, more Americans will be cutting out sections of lawn, retiring flower beds, building raised vegetable beds and turning their spare time over to gardening. Many of them will be first-timers, inspired to try their hand at tilling the soil for economic reasons as well as the many benefits gardening offers.

In addition to pruning your grocery bill, raising your own veggies offers the benefits of freshness, flavor, convenience, healthful exercise, socialization opportunities and the ability to have more control over what your family eats.

So if you’re ready to try your hand at picking your own produce this year, roll up your sleeves, dig in, and arm yourself with this helpful advice from the experts at Bonnie Plants:

Pick your plot: Most vegetables thrive when they get plenty of sun, so pick a plot that gets at least six to eight hours of direct sun every day. It’s OK to plant leafy greens like lettuce and spinach in shadier spots, but get them in the ground early in the cooler part of the season. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash will do best in the hotter months.

Think outside of the box planter: Get creative with space. You don’t need a huge yard to plant a veggie patch. Try planting lettuce under tomato vines, or mix veggies into flowerbeds among the bright blooms.

Give veggies a raise: Try raised beds; they’re quicker than planning out a plot. Raised beds will enable you to use near-perfect soil, better organize your garden, improve drainage and provide easier access for maintenance. Time saving tip: Use transplants instead of seeds.

Feed natural plant food: Since one of the reasons for growing your own vegetables is to control exactly what your family consumes, be sure to use all-natural, safe products in your gardens like Bonnie Plant Food which is derived from oilseed extract such as soybean seed extract. Research shows plants are healthier and more vigorous using organically based foods, rather than chemical based options.

Water wisely: One inch of water weekly is adequate for most vegetables. Soaker hoses or drip systems deliver water efficiently and keep foliage dry, fending off leaf diseases.

Pick your produce: Be sure to pick the right plants. To maximize your grocery savings and ensure successful gardening choose vegetable and herb plants that are easy to grow, useful in a variety of dishes, and produce high yields throughout the season. Some sure-fire winners include:

Tomatoes – The most popular home-garden vegetable in America, tomatoes are hard to beat in terms of taste, health benefits and versatility. Bonnie Original Tomato can easily yield 50 pounds of tomatoes.

Yellow squash and zucchini – Although their growing season is shorter than tomatoes, squash are very productive. You’ll pick them every day once the season starts.

Lettuce – As long as the weather is mild, leaf lettuce will keep on producing. If you eat lots of salad, growing your own lettuce can save you lots of money.

Cucumbers – Grown in a cage or on a trellis, a single cucumber plant can produce 5 to 10 cukes. You can get two or three plants on a cage that is just 18 inches in diameter and 4 feet high, so that’s a yield of 15 to 30 cucumbers from a slice of ground no bigger than an end table.

Specialty peppers – Price specialty peppers like jalapeno, or even regular chili peppers, in the grocery store and you’ll be inspired to try growing your own. Hot peppers are especially high yielding and productive in areas with a long, hot summer.

Herbs – Expensive in the grocery store, fresh herbs are easy and economical to grow. Plant one each of sage, rosemary, mint, thyme and chives, and at least three plants of basil. There are several varieties of basil.  Good choices from Bonnie Plants are Sweet, Cinnamon, Thai and Boxwood basil, each with a unique taste.

Bonnie Plants offers a wide selection of vegetables and herbs in eco-friendly, biodegradable pots; just tear off the bottom of the pot and stick it in the soil. Biodegradable pots not only protect varieties from transplant shock, they save tons of plastic pots from entering landfills. For more gardening advice and tips visit www.bonnieplants.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Posted in Diggin' SpringComments Off

Growing your first rose garden


(NAPS)—Millions of people send roses to loved ones on special occasions. But when dinner-table talk turns to growing your own roses, one thing comes to mind—you consider running away because you’ve heard it’s just too difficult.

“Growing roses has gotten a bad rap over the years because homeowners are basing their opinion on old information,” says Bayer Advanced™ Rose Care Expert Lance Walheim, author of Roses for Dummies. “There are new roses and products that make it easy to grow Rose Parade–quality roses in your own backyard.”

Landscape roses like “Knockout” can make the front of your home stand out and add curb appeal in a competitive real estate market. Knockout roses are the best-selling roses in North America because they’re beautiful and easy to grow and come in a wide variety of colors that can fit into any landscape.

Here are a few tips to help make your first rose garden a success:

Pick a sunny spot to give you the most bang for the buck: Roses should be positioned to create the “wow” factor when visitors see your home. They require 6–8 hours of sunlight a day to grow big and healthy.

Roses require six to eight hours of sunlight a day to grow big and healthy.

Roses require six to eight hours of sunlight a day to grow big and healthy.

The melted-box-of-crayon look is out: It’s best to choose a color theme for a border, either with the same color rose or with colors that complement each other.

Mulch and water around the roots: Mulch keeps weeds out and roses moist. Water deeply around the roots once or twice a week during dry spells. Stick a finger in the soil to check for moisture. If your finger comes out dry, it’s time to add water.

Save money on rose care products: Roses need to be fed and protected against destructive diseases and insects. In most cases, that means buying three different products. One money-saving option, Bayer Advanced All-in-One Rose & Flower Care, provides all three solutions in one easy-to-use product. Just measure, mix with water and pour around the plant base every six weeks. It’s tested and endorsed by the American Rose Society. Always read and follow all label directions. (Product not registered on Long Island, N.Y.) For more gardening information and how-to videos, visit BayerAdvanced.com or call (877) BAYERAG.

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Gardening With Charlie


Kathy Bond-Borie, Guest Columnist

Selecting Tomato Varieties

(Family Features) – With store-bought tomatoes nearly devoid of flavor, growing your own is the best way to truly savor the taste of this vegetable that captures the essence of summer. But with thousands of varieties available—from cherished heirloom types to the hottest new hybrids—how do you narrow your choices?

Ripening time. If you’re buying seeds to start your own plants, read catalog descriptions carefully to discover “days to maturity.” This indicates approximately how soon you can expect ripe fruit once you’ve transplanted seedlings to the garden. Plants sold at garden centers are often labeled “early,” “midseason,” or “late” to indicate when the variety should start ripening.

Determinate vs. Indeterminate. Determinate plants stop growing once the flower buds emerge. Because of their more restrained size, many determinate varieties need no staking or caging, but providing support can improve the quality of the fruit. All the fruit ripens within a relatively short period of time, usually about a week to 10 days. This can be a boon if you’re canning, but for the gardener who prefers to have a fewer number of tomatoes over a longer period of time, indeterminate varieties are a better choice. The vines continue to grow and set fruit throughout the season and won’t quit until the weather turns too hot or too cold to sustain fruiting and growth.

How you will use the fruit. When selecting a tomato variety, keep in mind what you plan to do with the fruits. There are varieties suited for just about every purpose—eating fresh, making tomato paste, canning, drying—even for grooming into a county fair prizewinner.

Seeds or transplants. The easiest way to get your tomato patch started is to purchase young plants, also called transplants or starts. You can pick up plants at garden centers or order them through catalogs or the Internet.

That said, starting your own seed gives you an almost endless list of varieties to choose from, allowing you to get just the type that will suit your growing conditions and tastes. Starting seeds gives you a chance to exercise your green thumb earlier in the season, and nurturing plants from seed to harvest is a rewarding experience.

Plant seeds six to eight weeks before the last frost date for your region, and place them under fluorescent lights. Contact a nearby Extension Service office or your local weather service to find out your last spring frost date.

Disease resistance. By planting tomato varieties with built-in resistance to diseases, you can have a bit more control over your garden’s success.

For instance, many tomato varieties are resistant to soil-borne diseases such as Verticillium and Fusarium wilts and nematodes. Most seed catalogs indicate resistance to these diseases by putting F (Fusarium), V (Verticillium), N (nematodes) after the variety name. You’ll also see varieties with resistance to viruses such as tomato mosaic virus (T), and to Alternaria (A), the fungus that causes early blight.

Talk to a nearby Extension Service office or to other home gardeners to find out if any tomato diseases are common in your area.

For more tips and garden information visit www.garden.org

A former floral designer and interior plantscaper, Kathy Bond-Borie has spent 20 years as a garden writer/editor, including her current role as Horticultural Editor for the National Gardening Association. She loves designing with plants, and spends more time playing in the garden planting and trying new combinations than sitting and appreciating it.
Courtesy of Family Features

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