Category: Garden

Gardening: Growing Plants from Seed

While some women covet shoes, I go weak in the knees for a new packet of seeds. Each seed package offers the promise of a flower more beautiful than you’ve ever imagined or a vegetable so delicious yet disease resistant. Growing plants from seeds offers you the chance to grow unique varieties and lush plantings of flowers, herbs and vegetables. Plus growing seeds indoors offers avid gardeners the chance to get a head start on the growing season.

If you start seeds indoors around late Feb-March-April, your seedlings will be ready to set outdoors around mid to late April-May depending on where you live, once evening temperatures settle in around 55 degrees for about a week straight. If it’s getting to be late spring or even early to mid-summer, don’t bother with sowing seeds indoors as it’s easier to sow them directly outside. Don’t feel bad if you waited so long. The plants will be germinate quickly. I find plants that are sown directly outside are hardy, less susceptible to disease and are generally sturdy plants. Seeds like zinnias and sunflowers are best sown directly outdoors from mid April through early June.

It’s best to check the weather history in your area. Go to and enter your zip code. On the forecast screen, click on the yellow “Averages” tab. The blue dots indicate average lows but keep in mind these are only averages and certain years get hit by either unexpected freezes or an early warming trend. It seemswith global warming, areas are hit by unusual weather extremes by on the whole, I’ve noticed in my area of Washington, D.C. spring keeps edging forward earlier each year.

If you’re still uncertain about weather in your area, stop by your local garden center to ask for advice or check with your local state’s cooperative extension service. In some areas such as Washington, D.C where it’s a long growing season, it’s best to err on the side of starting later than to be stuck with a tray of leggy plants.

Most seed packages will tell you the plant’s preference to be sown directly outside or not, sun requirements, how tall the plant will get, the number of days to germinate and days to harvest. In high humidity areas, look for “mildew-resistant” varieties for plants that are susceptible to white powdery mildew disease such as zinnias, cucumbers and zucchini. Make sure in particular you follow the directions on how far to space the seeds apart. On tomatoes, “determinate” means the tomato will grow to a pre-determined height of two to four feet then flower, fruit and stop producing fruit. “Indeterminate” varieties continue to grow until the end of the season.

Seed starting kits will include a plastic tray and either plastic cell packs or jiffy pots and pellets. Be sure to get one with a humidity dome to keep your seedlings warm and moist. A standard kit is about a foot wide and less than two feet long while other more narrow windowsill versions are also available. On standard kits you can choose from 24 to 72 individual cells. The larger number of cells allows you to grow more plants but it’s likely you’ll have to transplant plants earlier because of the limited growing space. You can reuse plastic trays while jiffy pots and peat pots allow minimal root disturbance as transplants can be planted directly into the garden.

Use potting mix and preferably a seed starting mix. Avoid previously used potting soil and select a lightweight seed mix comprised of sphagnum peat moss and perlite or vermiculite to allow seedlings the moisture and oxygen they need. Seedlings are susceptible to diseases such as “damping-off” fungi. Before you use your garden trowel to scoop out any seed mix, be sure to clean off and rinse with a watered down solution of bleach.

Prepare the soil for planting by using a spray mist bottle to wet the soil until moist. Plant about 1-3 seeds per cell and use plastic markers to indicate the date and what you’ve planted. Place the plastic humidity dome lid on top of the seed tray to retain moisture and warmth. With any extra seeds, tape up the package and put the rest in a fridge in a zip lock bag to sow directly in the garden in case the seeds do not germinate.

The most important thing seeds need at first is heat. Avoid placing your seeds on a drafty cold windowsill. Place your seed tray on top of a fridge or water heater where it can get bottom heat of about 70 to 85 degrees. Otherwise, try a seedling heat mat such as one made by Hydrofarm which warms the rooting area to improve germination and rooting. It’s made exactly the size to fit under a standard seed starting kit.

Depending on the seed, you should start seeing seedlings in about a week or two. Once the seedlings emerge they’ll need light and ventilation. At this point, the heat mat is no longer necessary and the seedlings should be placed in a south-facing windowsill. If your home does not have these ideal growing conditions so you can place the seedlings under an inexpensive fluorescent shop light with two 40 watt cool white lights. Suspend the shop light on chains and use “S” hooks to raise the lights as the plants grow, keeping them about 2 inches above the plants. Keep the lights on about 16 hours a day.

The first leaves to emerge will be small rounded baby leaves followed by sets of true leaves which will resemble the mature plant leaves. At this point you will want to begin gently watering. Once the seedlings are about two inches or so, give them more growing room by repotting into larger containers. Begin a weekly feeding of half strength fish emulsion or liquid fertilizer.

Once temperatures outside have warmed to at least 55 degrees at night, take the next week to harden off your seedlings. Start with half a day in the shade then gradually increase the amount of time. By mid to end of the week, start with half a day in the sun and gradually increase the amount of time until the seedlings have been left out all night. It is recommended the hardened off plants then be planted in the garden on an overcast or cloudy afternoon to minimize further stress.

If it sounds like too much effort to start seeds indoors, try to limit the number of plants you start indoors so you don’t get overwhelmed with too many plants and too little space. If things don’t work out, don’t worry, you can always plant seeds directly outdoors. It’s so worth the effort and extremely gratifying to grow things from scratch. You will save on plant costs and it makes counting down the days to spring go so much faster.

Adrienne Jenkins has been gardening her entire life since her Dad taught her everything she needed to know about plants. She is grateful her father shared his love of seeds and has fond memories of carefully selecting a papery thin package of godetia seeds and being delighted when they sprung from the ground looking like those bright flowers pulled from a magician’s hat. Adrienne wrote a regular monthly column for “The Hill Rag”, a community newspaper in Washington, D.C. and was the garden center manager for the historic Frager’s Hardware on Capitol Hill.

Winter Gardening and Landscaping Ideas for the Sunbelt

Late November, December, and January are the months to get your Sunbelt garden going.

Wildflower Farms and Johnny’s Seeds are two companies that offer garden seeds specifically designed for the region that you live in. There is a Southwest Regional mix to plant for people who live in the Southwest, as well as a Southeast Regional Mix to plant for people who live in the Southeast. The planting season for some of the mixes is the last few weeks of December, however, the planting season for flowers is during the winter.

The birds will be back in your gardens, to bring life, color, and song to your yard. Planting flowers helps attract the birds, as does having a few bird feeders, or a fountain with water for the local birds. Deer, horses, dogs, even raccoons might also find themselves drawn to your bird feeder or drinking fountain, this might be an opportunity for photos.

Tomato gardens are a lot of fun to plant, especially when planted in combination with bug-repellent plants such as basil and marigolds. There are a few tiny tomato-colored berries that appeal to the lizards, that may be planted near the human-sized grape, cherry, plum, or beefsteak tomatoes. We also like to plant herbs such as rosemary, oregano and sage near the tomato plants. Staking or caging the tomato plants helps keep the area neat, and the marigolds certainly help to make the garden look pretty.

Small ponds for frogs and your local lizard population also attract birds, if you have a half-acre or more of property, this is a lovely way to landscape your yard, and is best done in the winter, when the weather is cool.

Bulbs can be planted for folks up north between October and December.Planting bulbs such as daffodils, iris, gladiolus, amaryllis and tiger lilly may be done, however, the planting season for everything in the Sunbelt is during the winter. Starting the plants indoors during the months of September and early October, when the weather is either too hot, or there is still a chance of a tropical storm, gives a person something to look forward to in winter – namely, planting the best garden in your neighborhood.

Doing this also gives a person an excuse to store a few gallons of water inside in plastic bottles, which are better when aged to allow the chlorine to evaporate for 24 hours or more. Leaving a few inches of air space at the top of the bottle will allow for shaking of the bottle, which aerates the water, and helps to remove more foreign chemicals from the water. This water may also be boiled or distilled at some future date in case of an emergency, and used by humans.

Those little store packets of seeds are great samplers to see what works in your yard. if everything grows well, buy more, or even if the plants don’t grow well, and you get a little return on your doorstep – plant more. Starting seeds indoors, letting them soak in a mixture of water and a spoonful of sugar, gives your plants a kick-start into growth.

Some plants, such as the California poppy, are easy to sow in your backyard. Be certain to obtain a small amount of beach sand to mix with the poppy seeds, in a 1 to 4 ratio. These plants will grow wild throughout any property that they are planted, and 1/4 pound of seed, plus 1 pound of sand is enough to plant about 625 square feet of garden. Just mark off a section of your property, remove the patches of grass for transplanting into weak patches of your lawn, and rake the soil. Then, scatter the seed over the garden area, in an even way.

Heliachrysthemum, is an excellent choice for planting for dried flower bouquets. Dried rushes, reeds, cattails from your trip to the seaside or lake, also look lively in the dead of winter. Baby’s breath and bachelor’s buttons are a few other flowers that dry well for flower bouquets, and these plants also look great while growing in your garden.

Bordering your yard with native plants, such as saw palmetto, sassafras, tomato, chicory; or joshua tree, christmas plant, straw flower; are good ways to keep the local wildlife fed, as well as a good learning experience for children. The plants go to seed quickly, and the seeds can be transported to a local park or community garden.

Even if you do not have your own yard, a community garden is a good place to pool efforts for planting, while learning traditional methods of gardening. Your average garden consists of rows of plants that are 3 feet to 9 feet long, spaced 18 inches to 4 feet apart. Mulch, wood chips, grass clippings may be used to cover areas around your plant rows to help keep your garden weed free, as well as to help keep your plants moist.

Hummingbird feeders look great on your patio. Who said that hummingbird feeders have to be the plastic-looking ones? I have heard a few complaints over the years that the hummingbird feeders look nice, however the plastic cracks in the wind, or during a tropical squall. Making your own crafty hummingbird feeder protector, using your own personal style, makes your yard look different, and helps to protect your little investment.

Potted plants, terrariums, and patio gardening techniques such as mini plant beds for apartment dwellers are ways of bringing the garden home for someone who does not have a yard.

Weeding is an easy task for places such as driveways, sidewalks, and patios if you pour some leftover hot coffee carefully into the cracks where the unwanted plants are growing, then wait about a half-hour, and pull out the weed carefully from its roots.

The editor evidently wants to know a little bit about how I bend tree limbs or vines. Actually, this is not that difficult, as long as a person waits until after the rain has happened. Then, the tree branches are moist and are more flexible, however, the branches must still be bent carefully and very, extremely slowly. Only this year’s growth will bend into other branches. This will allow usually a ten degree to thirty degree change from the original growth pattern of the tree branches into the form you are working on having the tree grow into.

Another way of naturally curving and bending trees into shapes is by pairing the trees with some natural vines, such as ivy, grape, or morning glory, then, using the climbing vines as ways of tying the branches into position for further growth. This complex, and sometimes frustrating way of cultivating a memorable arbor sculpture is worth the effort, if you are successful.

I have been lucky enough to observe the workers at Nancy’s Topiary, a company located in the Saint Petersburg, Florida area, and have discovered a little bit about her company’s interesting moss sculptures, which adorn Walt Disney World as well as a few other notable botanical gardens. Basically, these are made of wire sculpture bases, filled with a mixture of peat moss and sphagnum moss, then covered with living moss.

Her company creates the living sculptures such as baskets, and wagons, as well as Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, and other Disney character figures that are growing tributes throughout the grounds of Disney World.

These wire sculpture bases are infrequently sold at garden centers, and are ideal for the inexperienced do-it-yourselfer (DIY), who is interested in learning how to make their own living plant sculptures.

There are also fabric “tape” seed rolls that are sold at some garden centers, these make gardening fast, easy, and foolproof. After your garden bed is already weeded, rolling the tape across a row, which is already filled with seed, plants and sometimes fertilizes sprouting garden plants These fabric seed rolls are a useful tool for some garden sculptures, such as balls and rings. It has been a while since I have been able to use recycled paper mash mixed with grass clippings in order to create a simple, living garden sculpture. The only structure that the sculpture has when the plants finish growing are the plant roots, and some twine, so, try to avoid using this plant sculpture as a toy.

Sources: Wildflower Farms Catalog, Wildflower Farms; Johnny’s Seeds Catalog, Johnny’s Seeds; Country Living Gardening Guide, Country Living; The Gardener’s Idea Book, Proven Winners; Suppliers to the Wildflower Gardens, Ladybird Johnson Gardens, website; Nancy’s Topiary, observation; Walt Disney World, visit to grounds

Things You Can Do at the Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Summer time is just right around the corner! If your road trip or flight details gets you somewhere near Colorado Springs, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to plan a stopover at the Garden of the Gods. It is truly a magical place, making you wonder how the red giant rocks existed in a surrounding mountain area.

If you only have a few hours to spare, roaming around the park inside your car is enjoyable as well. You can still feast your eyes on the spectacular giant red rocks as you ride along. Then, there are designated parking areas if you want to go down from your car and take a few snaps near the red rocks. Do keep in mind though the massive “balanced rock,” for it is one of the highlights at this park.

On the other hand, if you are thinking of allotting the whole day spending time at the park, below is the list of activities you can do.

Watch a movie – the 14 minutes long movie that is. It is highly recommended for visitors to watch this movie first before exploring the park. Most of the guests who have been at the park said that you will better appreciate the Garden of the Gods if you have the proper knowledge of the park’s history. There is a fee though which costs $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for children ages 5-12.

Photography – Clean those lenses. You read it right. Take advantage of the mystical sights. The scenic views at this park are amazingly breathtaking. Just imagine the gigantic red rock formations with the stunning mountain views in the background. Add up envisioning beautiful clouds in the expansive blue skies as well. So with that, make sure that your lenses are well cleaned and pack extra batteries or cameras for others, just in case you’ll get mesmerized taking hundreds of snaps!

Walking/Hiking – Wear comfortable shoes. Expect plenty of walks so make sure you have your old dependable shoes with you. Some of the hiking trails are quite long and doesn’t have enough shades. So it is advisable for you to bring drinking water and wear appropriate attire. Light clothing, sunglasses, hats or caps, and sun block will keep you cool and protected as well from the harmful sun rays. Don’t forget to get a free map, you’ll never know when it is handy.

Be reminded that there are free guided walks every 10:00 am and 2:00 pm daily that lasts for about 30 minutes. It is a great way to learn more about the park’s flora and fauna as well as some interesting facts about Colorado.

Mountain Biking – Experience it, Colorado way. For those who have the passion of pedaling through the mountains, Colorado is said to be one of the country’s best. There are certain biking trails and paved bike lanes which you should be first familiar with. This is an important manner you should consider because these trails/lanes are shared with hikers and even those who are horseback riding. Again, there is a free map you can avail at the Visitor Center.

Horseback Riding – Add a spark to your visit. If you are looking for a fascinating way of exploring the Garden of the Gods, horseback riding might be the answer. You can either bring your own horse and explore on your own or opt for the guided horseback rides tour. For the guided tour, you may contact the Academy Riding Stables at 719-633-5667.

Rock Climbing – Engage in some workout. It does sound scary for some to climb those high peaks but the looks on the faces of those who brave these high climbs are unbeatable. If you are a daring individual looking for a remarkable adventure, this activity might just be a good fit for you. But for the rock climbing enthusiasts, the park promises the “best climbing routes in one of the world’s most historic climbing venues”. So if you are in for adrenalin of fun, sign up for this activity.

Picnicking – Relax and fill your tummy. Of course, aside from all the strenuous activities the Garden of the Gods offer, rest should include in your itinerary. There are two picnic areas which are open for all the visitors to use. If you wish to have some barbeque, you are allowed to bring a propane grill. Just make sure to clean up afterwards and leave no traces of trash.

Segway Tour or Van and Jeep Tours – Pick whichever you like. If hiking, biking, or horseback riding is not your thing, you may go for a Segway Tour or Van and Jeep Tours to better appreciate the astonishing views at this park. Although keep in mind the limited availability of the Segway Tour. So make sure to book a reservation beforehand.

In different circumstances, the Van and Jeep Tours can be availed at the information desk in the Visitor and Nature Center. The price for this tour starts at $10.

These tours are great options for those who want to get hold of all the enlightening facts and whereabouts at the Garden of the Gods Park.

Junior Rangers Program – Learn more about this park. This is a great program for kids’ ages 7 to 12 with activities enhancing their knowledge about the Garden of the Gods Park. It requires a $3 fee which includes an activity booklet, a badge and a certificate. If you are interested to engage your kids in the program, just inquire at the information desk in the Visitor and Nature Center.

Visitor and Nature Center – Don’t miss out this spot. Never leave the park without even peeking what’s in store for you at this center. You can find interactive exhibits, do some souvenir shopping, and even dine in. There is also a stunning view waiting for you at the terrace, so got to have a group picture there! And if you are still hungry for more of its culture, you may consider booking the Native American Dance group to perform for your group while dining for a cost of $150. Yes, it is a little bit pricey for some but if you are eager to experience a unique amusement, it is not that bad at all.

Colorado is one of our family’s most favorite destinations in America. Exploring the beauty of nature is a never-ending passion for us. So if you share the same sentiments, go and uncover a one of a kind adventure at the Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs, Colorado. You’ll never regret it. Plus the admission is free!

Address: 1805 N. 30th Colorado Springs, Colorado 80904

Park Hours: May 1 to October 31 from 5:00 am to 11:00 pm

November 1 to April 30 5:00 am to 9:00 pm

Visitor & Nature Center Hours: Winter months from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Summer Hours from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm

Contact Number: 719-634-6666


Organic Flower Gardening

The basic tenant behind organic gardening is really quite simple; feed the soil and the plants will thrive. In order to do this an effective organic flower gardener will need to obey 5 rules to obtain the healthy ecosystem goal:
*Enrich the soil with organic matter
*Choose plants according to growing conditions
*Use water and mulch optimally
*Use organic fertilizers
*Remain diligent over weeds, pests, and diseases, using organic remedies only as a last resort
When taken one at a time it’s really not as hard as it looks.

First things first; if you are new to organic gardening, the site of your flower bed is very important. Aside from the esthetic issues you’ll want to choose a site where no chemicals have been previously used. If you’ve used synthetic fertilizer or pesticides in the past for an existing garden bed, you might consider another site or using raised garden beds instead. In the event neither is a good option for you, it is still possible to employ organic gardening techniques in the existing bed, but it will be years before the chemicals leach out of the soil making it truly organic. Either way, it’s a good start towards a more healthy earth.

For many gardeners’ preparing garden soil is the least favorite job. It may be something less than glamorous, but for me playing in the dirt is where it’s at. If you’re new to organic gardening, or if the soil has been neglected through the winter months, roll up your sleeves ’cause this is going to take a while.

Before you even go sticking that shiny new spade into the ground there are two things you want to do first. Check the texture of the soil and its PH. Soil texture is easy, grab a handful and squeeze. If it sticks together like dough it has too much clay. Harsh or gritty soil which holds no shape is high in sand. Smooth or powdery, shapeless soil is high in silt. Any of these conditions will interfere with nutrient absorption. If you don’t have mature compost handy, while you’re out grabbing a good PH test kit, you’ll be grabbing a few other things. For high clay you’ll want some contractors’ sand, for high sand or silt you’ll want clay. In all cases you’ll want mature compost

In a utopian gardening world all PH levels would be taken at the end of the growing season prior to winter to give nutrient additives sufficient time to work. In the real world of organic gardening sometimes you have to yield to Mother Nature and work with what you have. Should your PH level lean to either side of the neutral line there is good news. Most common varieties of annuals, bulbs and perennials will thrive in a range of PH levels from 6.0-7.2. Additionally PH levels can be coaxed into balance slowly with the use of compost, or worm composting. Remember you’re establishing an ecosystem so avoid making any extreme changes.

If you haven’t already started now is a good time to get moving on a compost pile. In the meantime you can purchase mature compost usually in 40 lb bags, or as liquid teas. When buying bagged you’ll want to look for loose granular compost free from chunks of wood or bark. Quality compost will be very dark brown to black, with an earthy aroma. If this is your first flower bed bagged compost will serve as both fertilizer and mulch, making it the better economic choice. Do some homework before you make any purchase to be sure you are buying from a reputable dealer, knowledgeable with regard to the contents of the bag.

There is no end to the number of “best methods” floating around out there for how to prepare an organic flower bed. The truth is the best method is whatever works for you. There is work to be done and how you choose to do it matters less. You need to get out there and get rid of the grass either by digging out the sod or through solarization (which takes months). You can replant the sod in bare spots around the yard or remove the topsoil and get the compost pile started with it. Once you’ve removed the grass you’re going to turn over a good six to eight inches of dirt, either through old fashioned elbow grease or with the aid of a rototiller. Get rid of the rocks while you’re at it.

You’re almost there but not quite. Now you’re going to haul the 40 lb bag of compost over to the site and spread a good 2-4 inch layer over the lose soil and mix it in. Like ideas on the best method approach, there are many ideas on what to do next. Some folks will tell you to make further amendments to the soil by adding additional fertilizer, humus, sulfur or lime. If you want to spend the additional funds go right ahead, or you could take those funds and go get a massage after all your hard work. Here’s the deal, mature compost has all the nutrients your soil needs, it just needs time. Let it sit out there for 6 weeks before planting and you won’t need additional fertilizer. As far as the humus goes, once the composts nutritional value has been leached out of it, it becomes humus. You’ll also see the PH of your soil come more into line over time. Your mother was right when she told you patience was a virtue. While you’re waiting turn the soil a few more times over the next few weeks and water the bed once or twice a week.

Regardless of whether you choose to plant from seed or to purchase plants from a nursery, you want them to be native and capable of thriving in the environment in its present state. Choose only the healthiest plants to get your garden off to the best start. Plants of questionable health could be an invitation for disease and pest problems. When purchasing plants its important not to get ahead of yourself. Plants should be put into the ground on the same day you buy them. Once the garden has been successfully planted you can use the compost as mulch to insulate the plants and help control moisture.

Having chosen healthy native plants was your first line of defense against disease and pests. Keeping up with the weeds is going to play an important role in this area also. Frequent weeding will close the door on many pests while providing a good opportunity to monitor plants for any signs of damage. There are some bugs you might want to invite from the very beginning. Lady bugs and ground beetles love those 100 calorie pest snacks. If you do find you have a problem you can’t make peace with always choose the least drastic measure of pest control, there are many organic pesticides available but even they come with some consequence.

All that’s left is to water and fertilize. Adding some compost every 1-2 weeks should be sufficient for fertilization. Always check the soil before watering to be sure it is truly warranted. Instead of soaking the whole bed, aim for individual plants. Now go enjoy all your hard work.


Making a Gardening Scrapbook

Materials Needed:

  • 3×5 small blank scrapbook
  • Black Card Stock (or any color will be fine)
  • Variety of pattern scrapbook papers (with some kind of gardening theme)
  • Gardening Themed buttons,beads,stickers, and more
  • Sticker Letters (optional)
  • Regular and Decorative Scissors
  • Craft knife
  • Archival Pens, and Markers
  • Archival Glue Stick, Tape,or any adhesive

This is a great way to get rid of those scraps from your other scrapbook or card making projects, so start going through all of those scrap drawers or boxes, and let’s get crafting.

Decorating the Front and Back Covers of your Gardening Scrapbook:

If you small scrapbook has a spiral hinged you will need to first remove the front and back cover, by carefully separating the spiral to remove these two pieces. Next you will want to pick out from your scrapbook papers your main color, this will be for your front and back covers only. Measure this paper a little larger then the front cover, so the edges can be folded over the edges. Glue this colored paper to the front of the cover, now with your regular scissors, cut a small slit on all four corners, this will make it so you can fold over the flaps and glue them to the back side of the front cover. Choose a pattern paper or the same colored paper, and cut it slightly smaller then the inside of the cover, you can use your decorative scissors to do this, and glue this paper to the inside of the cover, doing this will help cover up the flaps on the inside. You will need to repeat these steps for the back cover as well. Next take one of your floral paper scraps and place this over the end where the spirals go, and over lapping to the back side. Then using either your scissors or and craft knife, carefully poke the holes where the spiral will go back into, please do not skip this step. Repeat this step for the back cover as well.

Now is the time to get creative, go through your papers, buttons, threads (fibers), and beads, and choose your favorites for the front of the cover. For example, you might choose to use, a blue marbled paper, and with my regular scissors cut it into a tag shape. Next, you might tare off the end to revel the white inside of the paper, to get this effect you need to tare the paper, towards you. Then string a black thread (fiber) through the hole, knotting it into place. You can use any found, images of flowers flowers on them, just make sure they are archival safe, To give this image a warn look, simply carefully tare around the image, glued this to the center of the blue marble tag, slightly off center, more pleasing to the eyes.

Now, you can used some of the left over letter stickers, from other projects, and gave this book a title, (ex. Marla’s Garden), and date. You can use some stickers that look like flowers, but maybe they have letters in the center that you did like, then simply go through your button collection, and find two buttons, that will fit the center of the flower. Place a cute dragonfly sticker on the front cover headed towards the wheel barrel with flowers. To add that special touch I took my black archival pen, and traced around each object, and wrote words, like artistic,butterflies,flowers, etc… just to let people know just what may be inside of this book this was done to just the front cover of this gardening scrapbook. Just be creative that is what this project is all about. For the back cover you can add small decorations, and a journal tag, with your name and the date that you created this scrapbook. Now that you have your front cover and the back cover all decorated you will need to reassemble the book, the same way you took it apart. Just make sure that the covers are not upside down, or facing in the wrong direction.

Now on the first page of the gardening scrapbook, you can use this to tell your views more of what they will find in this scrapbook. Let them know they will find photo’s of your garden, tips on what worked and didn’t work, and your ideas for the next gardening season. Remember to sign your name and date the page, s when your grandchildren look through this gardening scrapbook, they will know who wrote it and when. You may also decorated this page with a little sunflower sticker, and a flat flower button, to the lower right hand corner.

Let’s Design Your First Pages:

Next Marla, will show you how to design a double page layout, in your gardening scrapbook. A double page layout, is when you use the back side of one page, and the front of the other in order to tell your story. This is a simple design your pages, no fancy tricks were used, while designing this layout.

First you will need to get you black card stock and cut this slightly smaller than the page, you will do this for each page of the layout. On the backside of the front page, glue the piece of black card stock. Now pick out some decorative scrapbook papers, from your supply, these will be used for your journal tags. To make this step easier, write your information on the tags, and then cut them into smaller squares, and rectangles using your decorative or regular scissors. Example of what to do with these journal squares, are stamping and image of a butterfly and coloring it in, or write the name of the flower, when you purchased it, or if it was a gift. Also include on if you liked this plant and if not why. These little journal tags are great for placing the date on, and so on. You will glue at least two of these journal tags, to the black card stock covering the backside of the front page.

Next, choose two of your favorite photo’s taken, from your garden, and include some of your garden art pieces as well. You can cut around your photo’s, using either your regular or decorative scissors, making sure to cut around the flower bloom, or garden art, to better enhance the image we are focusing on. You don’t have to use the whole photo, this will take up to much room on the page. Glue these at a slight angle on the second piece of black cards stock we cut out earlier. Do not glue to the scrapbook yet, we still have a few more things to do first.

Now, we will be stringing some beads, these beads need to be mostly flat, so you will be able to close your book later. The simple way of stringing beads is, to leave at least a five inch tail and make your first knot, making sure it is large enough for the bead to not slide off. Place your first bead on the string, then make another large knot just above this bead, this will hold your bead in place. Do this for five more beads, and leave another 5 inch tail. Now lay this bead work over the front of your scrapbook page, run it in the middle with a slight bend, using archival tape, tape the tails to the backside of the black card stock. Now we can glue the black card stock page that we just decorated, to the front of the page that is facing up in the scrapbook. To better hold your beads in place put a small dot of glue on the backside of each one. Now using your left over journal tags, write the name of the flowers on one, the date on one, and then name of the garden art on the other. Glue these on to this page, in between the photo’s and beads.

Finishing Up:

Now that you have two pages finished in your gardening scrapbook, you will need to clean up your work area, and then start planning your next pages. Continue filling up this little book with all of your beautiful blooms, tips, art, and more, so next year you will know where to start improving your garden. Remember to keep the gardening scrapbooks going so you will be able to look through them in the dead of winter, and relive the wonders that grow in your yard.

Adventures in Gardening: Part 3

This is the third part of a series. You can read Part 1 and 2 on my profile page.

Well, it’s been a month and one day since we planted our garden. So far, so good! In the last couple of weeks, things have really shot up, especially the potatoes, pumpkins and sunflowers. Here is the run-down of updates:

I reported two weeks ago that there were a lot of gaps in the rows of corn and sunflowers. We assumed that the planter was at fault and bought a huge packet of corn plant in the gaps, only to see that they were already filling in, slowly but surely. Now they seem to be mostly filled in. We learned that you have to be patient before assuming that something isn’t going to grow. Some seeds take longer than others. The corn still isn’t too big. I don’t know if it will be “knee high by the Fourth of July,” so the saying goes. Well, I guess it depends on whose knee it is. I’d say it will reach a baby’s knee for sure. The farmer’s corn in the field right next to it is getting huge and he even planted it after our garden was planted. It just goes to show you how much better the commercial corn will grow with fertilizers and such.

We didn’t plant any more seeds after all, but we went to a family gathering for Father’s Day and my husband’s aunt had extra cabbage and Amish Paste tomato plants to give us. The Amish Paste tomatoes are supposed to be good for salsas and canning, which is good, because we love salsa. We took them home and I planted those along the edge, so I now have a total of 16 tomato plants! Yikes.

I also mentioned that there were some weeds popping up. Well, I neglected to weed the garden for a while and some rows were getting kind of bad (I was too busy weeding the rest of the landscaping). I tried to use the small rototiller we have and it didn’t seem to be working right. It was just going over the weeds. I had to kind of angle it to cut the weeds. It then ran out of gas and I gave up. It wasn’t until later when I told my husband it was acting up that I found out he had changed the tines on it to form hills. No wonder it wasn’t digging up the weeds; it was just covering them with hills! I had to have him change the tines before I went out and did it right.

Another problem I mentioned before was the bugs on my eggplants. They were making the leaves look like lace. We sprayed them and haven’t had any problems since. The new leaves look fine. You can tell a definite different between the new and old leaves. I think I need to spray the new leaves to be safe, though.

We also try to spray Miracle Grow when we have to water, or at least every two weeks. From previous experience, I know it really helps. I have had almost completely dead potted plants spring back to life and flourish using Miracle Grow. We have a hose attachment that automatically dispenses the right amount of fertilizer as we water, so that makes it a lot easier.

Although I mentioned needing to put up something for the Oregon Sugar Snap Peas to climb, we didn’t get around to it until two days ago. I went with stakes and string. We used a maul to put in three wooden stakes. Then I put three rows of string on them, a few inches apart. We put it up this past Tuesday night. By Wednesday, several of the plants had already found the first string and were spiraling around it. I was impressed with their seeming intelligence. It’s like they knew the string was there and reached up for it. I noticed some of the shorter plants were getting their vines tangled since there was nowhere else to go. I think I need to add a lower string.

It’s pretty amazing how quickly things can change in a garden. I checked over all the plants on Tuesday. I saw a few blossoms on the peppers and tomato plants, but that was it. Then on Wednesday, I saw a few pumpkin blossoms had popped up. I had seen the little green starts of the blossoms, but they seemed to turn yellow overnight. I’m so excited. I can’t pick them yet, though. I need to let the plants grow more and pollinate. I can almost taste the fried pumpkin blossoms. I already have several “dibs” on them. At first I thought I would have too many, but now I’m not sure I’ll have enough for all the requests. We’ll see, but I’m sure there will still be plenty to go around.

I guess I should refrain from getting too excited. Just as things can change quickly for the better, they can also change for the worse. One example was when the bugs ate the eggplant leaves. I also lost the strawberry plants. I’m not sure why. Another problem would be if critters get into my garden and have a nice feast. I already saw the most notorious enemy of the garden, the wild rabbit, snooping around. It was probably getting a run-down to tell its friends.

“Well, how’s it look?” they must’ve asked.

“Oh, it’s getting there, but there’s nothing too exciting yet. She didn’t plant any lettuce or carrots.”

“No lettuce or carrots?! What kind of garden is that?”

I can almost see their disappointed little bunny faces. Do bunnies like pumpkins, tomatoes or eggplant? I think I heard that raccoons like pumpkins, and of course, deer and raccoons love sweet corn. We don’t have a fence right now, so I guess we’ll just see how it goes. I don’t want to kill or trap anything. I actually like watching the bunnies. I just hope they don’t demolish all my hard work. If so, I might have to reconsider the garden next year unless we get a fence for the more vulnerable plants.

In addition to the plants in the garden, I also planted some potted herbs and other plants a few weeks ago. I have cilantro, chives and three kinds of basil. I like that I can go out with some scissors and snip some off for cooking anytime I want. Whenever I buy herbs from the store, most of them go bad, so this is nice. Here’s a tip about herbs you might want to know: you usually need to use more to get more. In other words, don’t let them grow tall and spindly. The more you cut, the bushier they get and the more they produce. Even if you aren’t going to use the herbs, you want to trim them periodically. This seems to be really true for cilantro and basil.

Well, that’s all I have to report right now. Things are getting exciting. I can’t wait until I can actually eat something from the garden. I’m betting the pumpkin blossoms will be the first on the list. I know I still need to post a recipe for fried pumpkin blossoms. I just wanted to make it myself first before sharing, so I could make sure to include any helpful tips. Stay tuned!

If you want to see more pictures of the garden, I have an ongoing slideshow that I will continue to update every two weeks or so.


Garden Sage Takes Center Stage in Autumn

Garden sage, also known as the ‘turkey-herb’, is a shrubby perennial in the mint family. In cold climates, it dies down in the winter. In areas of mild winters, the cooler temperatures of autumn are just what garden sage, Salvia officinalis, needs to perk up its leaves and become an ornamental as well as an edible.

Spotlight on Garden Sage

According to proactive herb grower Madeline Hill, sage should be grown in a sunny location with well-drained soil in raised beds or containers and away from plants that need frequent watering. Raised beds eliminate nematodes and one can control pH more easily. Sage prefers a pH between 6 and 7. By keeping sage with other xeriscaping plants, the risk of root rot, crown rot and fungal leaf disease is reduced.

Sage may be grown from seed, cuttings, division, or layering. Sage seed is sown in early spring and germinates in 14-18 days depending upon soil and temperature conditions. Sage matures in 75 days. Stem cuttings can be made from spring through fall. Think ahead to make enough cuttings to give to Thanksgiving guests. Divisions can be made in spring. Older woody stems that bend toward the ground are good candidates for layering.

Herb grower Jim Long maintains that we recycle the same herbal flavors and scents from the “beginning of thyme” by propagating sage and other herbs by cuttings and division. Therefore, we taste the same flavors our ancestors tasted long ago.

When harvesting herbs, Hill applies the rule of thirds: harvest no more than a third of the leaves. After the spring blooming period, cut back a few stems to prompt new basal growth. Mature sage plants become 2’-3’ high and as wide. One or two garden sages provide a generous supply for a family.

Landscape Uses of Garden Sage

Horticulturist Jim Wilson first grew sage and other herbs as a business, selling his herbs to restaurants. His focus changed to the landscape potential of herbs. He saw the spreading habit of sage, its grey-green foliage color, pebbled leaf surface, and lavender to purple flowers as attributes earning ornamental landscape status.

Assuming the role of a talent agent for herbs in the landscape, he recommended sage in containers, along garden paths, as edging plants for borders, in mixed perennial borders, and entwined in knot gardens.

Garden Sage Understudies

There are a number of extraordinary varieties of garden sage, including:

  • ‘Berggarten’ – broader oval grey-green leaves 3” long, blue flowers, compact mounded habit
  • ‘Icterina’- golden variegated sage and lavender-purple flower spikes
  • ‘Purpurascens’- green leaves interspersed with steely purple leaves and lavender-purple flower spikes
  • ‘Tricolor’- variegated leaves with white and purple and lavender-blue flowers

These cultivar understudies substitute for Salvia officinalis in cooking but bring the same flavor and pungency to food as the original. Garden sages season poultry, pork, lamb, sausage, fish, stuffing, eggs, butter and cheese spreads, apple dishes, mushrooms, vinegars, dry bean dishes, stews, soups, breads, muffins, and tea.

The flavor and culinary versatility of sage make it a cornerstone in the herb and kitchen garden. Once fresh sage is used in recipes, store bought containers of dried or powdered sage taste like herbal ashes.

While sage enjoys a long run in your garden, share the cuttings and divisions of the “turkey-herb” with a larger audience like your ancestors did.