Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ssssh... Garden is sleeping?

Wow it has been a month since I last posted...where did the time go? Well my garden is usually sleeping this time of year but the 70+ degree temperatures this fall has kept things blooming well past their normal season delaying some of my garden clean-up. I just can't cut back a plant that is still blooming so the final clean-up will have to wait until a freeze.

December's days are short, and the nights are long as winter arrives here December 22nd, the shortest day of the year. Hopefully you can chalk up another successful year of gardening and take a break from gardening chores. Most gardening activities this month will take the form of decorating touches in the front yard for the festive holiday season. I'll collect sprigs of Holly, Magnolia, evergreens and berries from the yard for indoor decorating and package decorations. I also decide which of my Christmas cactus started last year is ready for gift giving this year to family and friends.

Here is my December check list:

Perennials: Divide and replant perennials'
Tubers: Check dahlias and begonia tubers and glad corms and remove diseased ones.
Annuals: Start ordering flower seeds
Vegetables, Fruit & herbs: Plant fruit trees and bushes
Mulch herb bushes against cold
Ventilate greenhouse in mild weather
Bulbs: still not too late to plant daffodils, tulips and lily bulbs
Trees & Shrubs: Continue to plant new trees and shrubs on good weather days.
Lightly prune holly and evergreens using cuttings for wreaths and decorations
Lawns: Keep lawn free of leaves.
Avoid walking on frozen or over-wet grass

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fall Clean-up & Recycling Garden Planters November 8th , 2011

It has been a really busy time in my garden as I continue to pull out fading summer annuals and cut back perennial that have finished blooming. But of course I also found more deals on plants at Lowe’s last week and spent most of one day finding places for them. This included relocating several shrubs, 5 in all. The rule of my yard seems to be that plants are not in the correct location unless I have moved them at least once! While I was finding places for new perennials and a Limelight Hydrangea I also noticed that some of my large garden planters were looking a bit sad. So I decided instead of replacing them I decided to paint them instead. They turned out pretty well and from a distance they look really good. So I think they will make it another year. Using spray paint made things pretty easy and they were ready to plant the following day! Jim put the pre-emergent down a little later than I would have liked but better late than never when it come to preventing weeds! I hope you are taking advantage of this great Fall weather to do a ‘Fall Clean-up’ in your garden/yard.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Camellia’s are Blooming!

I decided to try my hand at growing camellias shortly after moving South Carolina. I’d heard in Master Gardener classes that the Sasanqua was easier to grow and was more tolerant of the sun. With very little shade in my new backyard I purchased a 1 gallon un-named plant for $6 at Lowes. To my surprise it grew and flowered the first year and even survived a mid-summer transplant to a shadier area 2 years later. I have 3 sasanqua camellias now and in the spring added 2 Camellia japonicas that should start to bloom about the time the 3 sasanqua have finished blooming.

Family: Theaceae (Tea Family)
Common name: Sasanqua camellias
Origin: China and Japan

Camellia sasanqua, like Magnolia, are synonymous with the south. They are frequently found in older neighborhood but seldom in newer one. What a shame and a mystery because they are a wonderful plant and deserve a place in every southern garden! Small plants are inexpensive and easy to find in nurseries. They can survive periods of neglect and have few pests. Best of all, the plants range in size from short to tall, and flowers come in colors from white to bright red.

Sasanquas are broad-leaved, evergreen shrubs with leathery, dark, green, shiny leaves. They are coveted for their flowers but have great foliage as well. They are stunning in a mixed boarder where they provide Fall and Winter color when little else is blooming in the garden. Where ever you place them, they are sure to be a hit. If you haven’t planted one in your garden you are missing out a great shrub! Don’t over look Camellia sasanqua. Plant one in November and it will be well rooted by the time Spring arrives.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

DON’T TOSS THAT POT! October 19, 2011

Or 8 useful ways to recycle your old nursery pots.

I read this article about recycling nursery pots and realized that I did a lot of these ideas already but found a few new ones as well and thought I’d pass them on in my blog. I keep some pots to use for pass along plants, seedlings and dividing but often end up with way more than I need so was happy to see there were some creative ways to use the left over pots. I also discovered that Lowe’s Home Improvement Stores will recycle your old pots too! I hope you find these ideas as useful as I did.

1. PLUG THAT HOLE*- Potting mix will often dribble out the bottom of a large container so use a multi-pack or 2-inch nursery pot to cover the drainage hole. The pots also have drainage holes but are small enough that the soil won’t wash through. FILL UP CONTAINERS- The pots can also be used to take up some space in the bottom of large containers instead of using packing peanuts, milk jugs or 2-liter soda bottles. Place them upside down and they will save on potting mix and even make the container lighter.
2. SCOOP SOIL*- Use a sturdy nursery pot to scoop potting mix out of the bag and into containers. Double up on them if you have flimsy one that keeps buckling.
3. PROTECT PLANTS- When a late frost or storms comes in, it can damage tender newly planted bedding plants. Protect them by placing a large pot over each plant before the threatening weather arrives. Use something like a rock or brick to weigh the plant down but be sure to test it first to see if the pot can handle the weight. Not all pots are sturdy enough to try this idea and you wouldn’t want to crush that new plant! Remember to remove the pot as soon as possible once the bad weather has moved on.
4. PLANT A BARRIER- Some plants if given the opportunity will take over the whole garden! Cut the bottom out of a pot, sink into in the ground and you can keep aggressive plants like mint, more controlled. Leave the edge of the pot sticking above the soil 1” or so the plant can’t send out runners.
5. STORAGE MADE EASY*- Keep plant tags, twine, or small tool all in one handy spot. Use several of the 4” pots one for tags, ones for gloves, etc. for even better organization in your tool shed or potting bench.
6. PLANT IN SHADE*- Growing annuals under a tree with a shallow root system is a challenge that often has us giving up having flowers in that spot. Nursery pots can make it easier. Try setting several empty gallon pots between the tree’s roots. Then fill a different gallon-sized pot with potting mix, plant your annual and slip the plant-filled pots into the empty ones. When the flowers fade or need replacing you can easily slip in a fresh gallon-sized pot filled with new annuals.
7. GET MORE PLANTS- Layering is a lot s easier using a nursery pot. To do this, find a low-growing stem you’d like to root. Dig a hole and set a soil-filled gallon-sized pot nearby the stem you selected. Then pull then stem down to the ground and pin it in the pot with a landscape staple. Roots will form in a few weeks and the new plant will already be in a pot. This method conserves water and keeps the pot from getting knocked over. When the layered stem has taken root, cut the connection to the main plant and lift the gallon container out of the ground and plant or pass the new plant along to a friend.
8. SPREAD FERTILIZER- Slip one round 4-inch nursery pot inside another and you have an instant spreader for palletized fertilizer. Lin up the drain holes and all the contents flow out quickly. Twisting the inner container reduces the amount of fertilizer coming out and allows for more even application.

I have already been using the * ideas in my own yard but was happy to see these other ideas and plan to try them as well. How about you? See any ideas you can use in your own garden?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

9 tips for Sensational Harvest

All across the country people are rediscovering the joys of growing their own vegetables, fruits and herbs. As well as producing fresh, flavorful food, a kitchen garden can be a source of nearly year-round enjoyment. If you are planning a fall garden or spring garden consider these ideas to improve your yield.

1. Contain your plants-Rusted washtubs; wheelbarrows, and watering cans make whimsical planters for salad greens such as ‘Red Fire’, Oakleaf, and butter lettuces. Containers add another level of interest while boosting growing space. (Be sure to drill holes for drainage.)

2. Plan for bounty & beauty-The French potager is a kitchen garden designed for visual appeal and productivity. Beginners should start small. Four 4 X 4 beds can provide one or two people with fresh greens, tomatoes, and herbs throughout the growing season. Check with your county extension service for varieties that are the best for your locality.

3. Raised beds to lift yields-Garden beds raised several inches above pathways are easier to tend, warm up faster in spring allowing for earlier planting and drain better than flat beds. Make beds 4 feet wide for easy maintenance; pathways should be 4-5 feet wide to allow easy passage with a garden cart.

4. Choose companions-Be skeptical about following of-repeated plant adages such as “plant carrots with tomatoes”. Many of these claims have not panned out in scientific trials, overcrowding beds can reduce yields. Instead, consider edging beds with compact herbs, like parsley or edible flowers like nasturtiums. Herbs and flowers add visual appeal and attract pollinators.

5. Embrace diversity-Grow herbs alongside your vegetables. Loaded with flavor and fragrance, herbs such as garlic and chives can be potent pest repellents. At the same time, tiny herb flowers attract and sustain beneficial insects and pollinators, which are critical for crop production. To reduce plant diseases, nutrient depletion, and insect pests, avoid planting the same crop in the same location is successive years.

6. Build a structure-The best kitchens gardens include a seating area--a shady place to rest and escape the heat of the day. While a well-placed shade tree will do the trick, a pergola also offers the opportunity to grow vines such as grapes.

7. Reach for the sky-Take advantage of vertical space by including climber, which produce more per square foot of garden space than bush varieties. Red-blossom ‘Painted Lady” and ‘Scarlet Runner” pole beans planted along one edge of a row of beds climb 8-foot tall stakes that form tepees over pathways. Tomatoes, peas, and vining fruits also should be supported with stakes, cages, or trellises for big blemish-free produce.

8. Blanket your soil-After the soil warm, lavish plants with a thick layer of organic mulch such as shredded leaves or grass clippings. Mulch helps retain soil moisture, blocks weeds and will gradually break down into humus-all will be beneficial to the plants growth. Mulching can also reduce plants susceptible to soil-borne diseases.

9. Plan to succeed-Double your harvest with relay crops.” Follow spring-planted veggies, such as lettuce, carrots, scallions, or peas, with late-maturing crops, such as sweet corn, melons, broccoli, or kale. Successive crops might occupy the same bed for a short time. By the time the second crop is big enough to take over the space, the first will be ready to pull out. Choose fast-maturing varieties when using this technique.

If you’ve dreamed of gathering basketfuls of sun–ripened fruits and vegetables right outside your door find a sunny location and give these tips a try.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Micro-climate Gardening

A couple of years ago I was gardening on an early spring day and uncovered several impatiens that had over wintered in a flowerbed. The summer flowers were in a protected spot up against our house and were buried under several inches of mulch. I’d discovered a microclimate in my yard. I’ve also discovered other protected growing areas in my yard against a fence and near my pond.

Within a given yard, different areas have different growing conditions, known as micro-climates. These planting pockets can offer a protected microclimate where marginally hardy plants can survive. By selecting plants adapted to each microclimate, you’ll see the most favorable growing conditions. Check your yard to see if you have any of these common microclimates.

Wind- Walls, solid fences, and buildings create wind turbulence as wind travels over and around them. Wind turbulence can damage broad-leaved evergreens, such as rhododendron or boxwood and knock over tall plants. Semi permeable barriers, such as hedges, trellis or nonsolid fence, offer the most effective wind shelter.

Surface colors- Dark colors in buildings; mulches, rocks or fences absorb daytime heat and radiate it at night, forming a warm pocket suitable for frost-tender plants. Light colors reflect heat onto plants during the hottest part of the day, perfect for growing succulents.

Raised beds- Soil in raised beds warms and drains earlier in spring, which hastens planting dates and plant growth. South-facing raised beds stays warmer in winter, allowing tender plants to over winter.

Exposure- Northern exposures tend to be cool, creating a shorter growing season. Southern-facing spots are warmer, offering moderated winter temperatures. Eastern exposures tend to have moister soil; western-facing beds have dryer soil and harsh afternoon sun. In wintry climates, these conditions can combine with cold nights to crack bark on young trees.

If you discover a microclimate or two in your yard see if you can take advantage of them by planting to the strength of the micro climates


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bargain Plant Buying Tips

I’ve been talking about shopping for bargain plants on the clearance shelf at garden centers so I thought I’d come up with some buying tips. Once the spring and summer buying rush is over you can find plans discounted 25-75%. I’ve picked up several perennials for $1 and even free in late summer this year.

· Save gas by calling garden centers first to see if sales have started.
· Check the small multi-plant bedding containers to make sure there is a live plant in each cell.
· Choose young plants that haven’t flowered yet and pick a bushier plant over a spindly one.
· Examine roots by sliding the plant carefully out of its pot; buy plants with plenty of white, healthy roots but not one so crowded that it is pot bound.
· Inspect leaves and roots for insects or diseases that will weaken plants or spread them to your other garden plants.
· Buy several of the same color and type of plant so you have enough to fill in pots and beds.
· Before planting at home prune blooming annuals 1/3 to ½ to encourage bushier growth and more blooms.
· Massage the root ball when removing a plant from its pot to release any tangled roots.
· Plant purchase as soon as possible, watering well.
· Group your new plants according to sun or shade requirement.
· Fertilize annuals following package direction, using a high–phosphorous product such as 5-10-10. (the middle number indicates phosphorous)

Many bargain plants look scruffy but with careful buying practices and some TLC they can soon be providing some color to your garden. Perennials may not produce until the following summer but at the bargain price it is worth the wait and fall is a great time to get these plants started in the garden giving them plenty of time to develop new roots and growth for next summer.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Color in my fall garden

Starting in late August I begin to shop the clearance rack in the garden centers. This year I have picked up at ½ price, $1 or even free plants mostly perennials for my garden. While shopping for seeds at Lowe’s yesterday I found a Rabbit eye Blueberry bush at ½ price to replace one of my bushes that died this summer. I already rescued Black and Blue Salvia, May night Salvia, Veronica, Gerbera Daisies, a Butterfly bush and Verbena and they are happily planted in my garden and flowering! I bring them home, add some compost and a bit of fertilizer to the planting bed, loosen the roots (if they are pot bound), then plant then and water well. I keep them watered during dry times and when I’m lucky they will bloom in the fall. If not they are well established to bloom next summer.

For more fall color this summer I took cutting from assorted Coleus when Cypress Gardens was pinching back their plants and started them at home. When it started to cool off a bit I put them out in the yard and now with Celosias coming up from last years seeds I have a nice amount of new color in my yard to go with the plants that are still blooming and the trees and shrubs that are beginning to show fall color in their leaves.

I’ve also used the cooler weather start my fall vegetables and herbs, clean out dead and dying annuals from the planting beds and to try and control the weeds. Soon I will be putting down a pre-emergent in hope of controlling winter weeds in the lawn.

Overall this is a good time of year to just enjoy your garden

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Spotted Spurge

I’ve been battling an invasion of spotted spurge from a neighboring yard all summer. It started with just a small patch near our property line and another next to the street 2 years ago and I was able to control but this summer it went crazy! Must have loved our hot dry summer! If you have a similar problem with this weed here are some suggestions. Whatever you try you will probably have to retreat many times if you do not get to this weed early.

Spotted spurge weed can quickly invade a lawn of garden bed become a nuisance. Using proper spotted spurge control cannot only eliminate it from your yard but can also help prevent it from growing in your yard in the first place. Keep reading to learn how to get rid of spotted spurge.

Spotted spurge is a dark green plant with red stems that grows low to the ground in a mat like fashion. It will grow outwards from the center in a rough wagon wheel shape. The leaves will be oval shaped and has a red spot in their center (which is why this spurge is called spotted spurge). The flowers on the plant will be small and pink. The entire plant has a hairy appearance.Spotted spurge has a milky white sap that will irritate the skin if it comes in contact with it.

Killing spotted spurge is relatively easy. The hard part is keeping it from coming back. The tap root of this plant is very long and its seed are very hardy. This weed can and will grow back from either root pieces or seeds.
Because of the spotted spurge weed’s mat like nature, hand pulling is a good option for removing spotted spurge from the lawn or flower beds. Be sure to wear gloves due to the irritating sap. Make sure that you pull this weed before it has a chance to develop seeds, otherwise it will spread rapidly. After you have hand pulled the spotted spurge, watch for it to start growing again from the tap root. Pull it again as soon as possible. Eventually, the tap root will use up all of its stored energy trying to regrow and will die completely.

Heavily mulching with either newspaper or wood mulch is also an effective method of spotted spurge control. Cover ground with spotted spurge with several layers of newspaper or several inches of mulch. This will prevent the spotted spurge weed seeds not to germinate and will also smother any plants that have already started growing.

You can also use herbicides, but many herbicides will only work for spotted spurge control while the plants are young. Once they reach a mature size, they can resist many forms of weed killers. When using herbicides for killing spotted spurge, it is best to use them in late spring or early summer, which is when spotted spurge will first sprout.
One of the few herbicides that will work on mature spotted spurge is Roundup. But be careful, as Roundup will kill anything it comes in contact with. Even with this, the spotted spurge may still regrow from the roots so check frequently for regrowth and treat the plant as soon as possible if you see it.

Pre-emergent sprays or granules can also be used for spotted spurge control, but these will only be effective before the seeds have sprouted.
As a last resort, you can try solarizing the area where the spotted spurge has taken root. Solarization will kill the spotted spurge and its seeds, but will also kill anything else in the soil.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Benefits of Fall Gardening

The weather is finally beginning to cool down and fall is just around the corner. Fall will be a busy time in my garden –It’s the best time for planting, bed building, path building and other big projects. Fall is like a second spring in the South.

As the overwhelming heat of summer takes a toll on gardeners like myself we also get the pleasure of being able to grow a fall garden. The weather returns to a manageable level and the onset of winter is still many months off so there is still plenty of time to grow flowers and vegetables and to plant shrubs and trees. Fall gardening can be similar to spring gardening in that plants that thrive in cooler temperatures are the best choice for the fall garden.

My fall garden planting plans for this year includes vegetables as well as flowers. Some vegetables I plan to grow in my fall garden this year are: Herbs, Tomatoes, radishes, Salad greens-Leaf lettuce, spinach, chard, peas, and peppers.

I also like to plant and transplant perenials- like Asters, Echinacea, and Veronica; bi-annuals- digitalis and hollyhocks, and sow annual plant seeds of cosmos, bachlor buttons, marigolds, larkspur, and poppies. I find Fall gardening in the Lowcountry to be very satisfying. With cooler temperatures and fewer insects, I can spend more time enjoying the garden and less time maintaining it. Fall is my favorite season to be outside even if I have to suffer sneezing and watering eyes because of Ragweed!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Evaluation Time

Summer usually takes its toll on gardeners and the garden. As late summer arrives and you feel as bedraggled as your garden, take some inspiration from fall-flowering perennials like garden mums, aster, Autumn Joy sedum, goldenrod swamp sunflower, and salvia. As summer’s heat and humidity yields to the shorter; cooler days of autumn, pay a visit to those far corners of the garden that haven’t seen a gardener’s eye since the 4th of July! It’s time to evaluate the landscape and make notes about what needs to be done in September. Plants in decline may need to be replaced by new plantings. Late summer and fall is a good time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials. Be adventurous and select a few new and delectable plants for you garden!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

August Checklist

In the summer “Gardening requires lots of water - most of it in the form of perspiration.“ ~Lou Erickson

I know it is hot outside in the garden during August so I try and make a checklist of things I need to do so I don’t waste time in the heat and humidity of the Lowcountry summer weather. I start by remembering the 3 D’s when evaluating what needs done in the garden: damaged, diseased, and dead twigs from trees, shrubs, and roses and even your annuals and perennials. This isn’t time for heavy pruning though.

I Check mulch in my planting beds to see if wind, rain and natural decay have decreased the thickness and replenish to 2-3 inches if needed to hold in moisture and keep out the weeds.

If the flowerbeds and cutting garden are looking bedraggled it is time toclear out the annuals that have finished blooming or are overgrown.

I trim away damaged, diseased or insect infested leaves from perennials and deadhead garden Phlox, perennial salvias, and purple coneflower to improve their appearance.

My Knockout roses often need a little boost from a fast acting fertilizer this time of year.

I collect seeds from annual vines as they ripen and save them to plant next year and check to see that actively growing vines are secured if needed. Moonflower vine grows quickly this time of year and the tendrils need some training.

It’s also time to pull out vegetables and herbs that have stopped producing and keep my tomatoes and peppers watered until the cooler weather encourages them to start producing again. I do this with a soaker hose.

This time of year insects and fungal diseases can pop up overnight so I make sure to walk through the garden often looking for problems. Aphids, spider mites Japanese Beetles are pests I watch for in August. Fungal leaf spots and powdery mildew damage can be minor needing only a few leaves removed or a fungicide may be needed. I may need to remove and discard a heavily infested plant. Sometimes I will thin the flowerbed to allow more air to flow between plants.

My husband mows the lawn regularly but I’m the one who watches to see if some areas dry out and need watering. I’m not sure how we ended up with both centipede and St. Augustine grass in my yard since we had only centipede when we moved in to our house but we did. So I have to watch for pests and diseases that are prevalent in both types of grass like mole crickets, white grubs and centipede decline in the centipede and chinch bugs and gray leaf spot in St. Augustine.

It may seem like a big list but I work at it a little in the mornings and evening when it is cool and before I know it the list is finished.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Flowers from the Garden

The dog days of summer are here but there are some things you can do to still enjoy this month in the garden. My garden has an abundance of flowers this time of year and I like to bring some inside to enjoy. If you don’t have a cutting garden considering planting one for yourself next year. Perennials are the basis for my cutting garden and this time of year you can buy many perennials at reduced prices in garden departments. Shasta Daisy, Coneflower, Salvias, Rudbeckia and Coreopsis are good choices. Pick some up and plant them now or wait a little until the temperatures cool down but be sure to plant them by fall so they will bloom for you next year. Also consider annual choices of Zinnia, Sunflowers, celosias, Cosmos and gomphrenas. I cut my flowers early in the morning and carry a bucket or watering can so I can put my flowers immediately in water when I collect flowers in the garden. Once inside I strip leaves that will fall before the water line in the vase then recut the stems at an angle before arranging in a vase. I change the water daily or often to prolong the life of bouquet. If you need extra vases consider using wine bottles, canning jars and pitchers work well for a casual look.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bird baths in the Garden

While working in the garden in this hot dry summer weather I like to keep plenty of water on hand for me, our dogs and my backyard birds.

Not all birds eat seeds, but all birds drink water. Birds need water to avoid dehydration and to maintain health. They are attracted to shallow dishes of water which provides them a place to drink and bathe. Bird baths are probably the best way to attract birds to your yard, even more so than bird feeders. Clean water is often the most difficult resource that birds must locate in order to survive. They use the water not only for drinking, but also for bathing which can cool their bodies during the heat of summer. Having water available is especially important in times of drought when birds may be stressed. If you can combine water, the appropriate wild bird food shrubs and trees, and maybe even nesting boxes, your opportunity to attract wild birds will be greatly enhanced.

Make sure to locate your bird bath where the birds can see around the area. Housecats and other predators can hide in nearby cover. Some of my birds like to bathe on a pedestal style bird bath, other like a ground level bird bath and still others will visit my fountains and pond. It is advisable to change the water in your bird bath everyday to provide fresh, clean water especially during hot summer months. Water that is exposed to direct sunlight may become stagnant and algae may grow. If you allow the water to sit for long periods of time, it will become less desirable for birds and will be much harder to clean.

Pedestal styles are the most common but there are also ground and hanging bird baths. Pededtals also provide a nice centerpiece for your garden. Solar bird bath use the suns energy to power a pump that can filter and keep the water moving. The dripping sound seems to attract birds. Grounded bird baths or bird ponds can be placed anywhere in your yard. Various modes are available and can add beauty to your garden as well as provide water for bathing and thinrsty birds.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Moonflower Vine- a plant for an evening garden

The moonflower vine (Calonyction aculeatum) is one of the wonders of the evening garden. Giant 5 to 6 inch white blooms that resemble morning glories are nestled against large heart shaped deep green leaves. As the sun begins to set in late afternoon the flowers begin to unfurl and release a lovely fragrance. When the sun rises, the blooms gently spiral closed. Considering adding this moonlight marvel to your garden. I’ve been growing it in my gardens since 1999 and enjoy what they add to my evenings in the garden. Macroglossum stellatarum often called Hummingbird Moth have covered my vines in September and October. I don’t usually have to plant it because it does re-seed readily. Sometimes I will collect seedpods and save for next year but often the vine just shows up in my garden.

If starting moonflowers from seed here are some hints for you:

· Prepare the seeds. Use a knife to make a small nick in the moonflower vine seeds. Sandpaper will work to rough up the surface of the seed. Place seeds in a custard cup or other small glass container and cover with water. Allow to soak overnight.
· Plant seeds in peat pots. Fill peat pots with soil-less planting medium. Moisten with water. Place 2 or 3 vine seeds on the soil and cover with 1/2 inch of soil-less mix. Water again gently. Planted peat pots should be kept moist and in a warm location until the seedlings are large enough to transplant. Start vines indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last anticipated frost.
· Prepare seedlings for transplant. Moonflower vine seeds germinate in around 3 weeks. Before planting, thin seedlings to one vine per pot. Remove weak or extra seedlings by cutting them with scissors. Do not pull seedlings from the soil. Pulling may damage the tender roots of the remaining seedling. Seedlings that are ready for planting should have formed 2 or 3 leaves.
· Choose outdoor planting location. It prefers a location that receives full sun and the soil should be moist and well drained. Choose a location that provides the vine ample support, such as a trellis, arbor or fence, and away from other plants. The Moonflower vine can grow up to 40 feet in height with tendrils that can, if left untended, engulf nearby plants or trees. I think my vines have grown as much 1-foot a day. So I do have to train the vines to a trellis or fence.
· Transplant the seedling. Loosen the soil in the desired planting area. Dig a hole slightly larger than the peat pot and the same depth. Remove the bottom on the peat pot and place the peat pot and seedling in the planting hole and lightly cover with the original soil. The peat pot will disintegrate in the soil and will provide added nutrients. Gently water the transplanted seedling.
· Collect seeds. Moonflower vine seeds are easy to gather for next year's garden or to share with friends. When the husks that follow the white blooms become black and dry, they can be gathered and stored in a dry place. The seeds are the size of a garbanzo bean and white in color.

I hope you will give this vine a try on an arbor, trellis or fence.

Monday, July 18, 2011

July Garden Tips

Rain can become very elusive in July. Humidity begins to peak and in the lowcountry we are actually passing out of prime growing conditions into the lethargy of the dog days of summer. Gardeners just have to play it by ear. It is important to keep an eye out for pests and disease.

General tips for July

· Slow down and give you and your plants a rest from the heat
· Give plants a mid-season feeding or side dressing, to get them through to fall
· Keep eye on rainfall and water as needed
· Stay ahead of the weeds
· Watch garden centers for clearence plants
· Keep lawns at about 3”, to protect from heat
· Keep bird baths and feeders clean


· Keep dead heading flowers
· Cut back spent annuals by 1/3
· Put focus on heat resistant flowers like: coleus, hibiscus, melampodium, pentas, plumbago, portulaca and zinnias.
· Pinch back fall blooming flowers one last time in mid-July like mums and asters
· Divide Iris

Now sit back and enjoy your garden and all the efforts you put in earlier in the year to get where it is now.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Midsummer Makeover

By midsummer most of your garden is usually looking pretty good. Your perennials are growing and the annuals you planted are blooming like mad. Yes all is doing well except for that one planting bed. Now what can you do about that one bed? Just because the calendar says it’s the middle of summer doesn’t mean it is too late to rejuvenate a flowerbed. Here are a few ideas to perk up a lackluster perennial border.

1. Size It Up- Take a good look and see what you can salvage in the bed.
2. GO “Sale-ing”- Take advantage of late-season plant sales at garden centers and pick up perennials for a lot less than you’d play in the middle of May. Buy a few annuals like begonia to fill in the gaps around the perennials while they are small. I also like to sow seeds of fast-growing annuals like zinnias, cosmos, or celosia.( I can often harvest these seeds from flowers that bloomed earlier in the season.) Next year the perennials will be larger and you won’t need to fill in with as many annuals.
3. Dig In- Summer heat and drought can be hard on young plants. Don’t skimp on preparing the planting holes for the new plants. Add moisture crystals if your area is especially hot and dry and don’t forget to add 2-3” of mulch to help hold moisture and cut down on how often you need to water.
4. Spot Some Pots- Container plants are often in their peak by midsummer. Place a few colorful pots among the plants to quickly fill in thin areas. A pot of coleus can add some texture and color to a bed. Other plants that look great in containers in late summer are dahlias, sedums, and asters.
5. Add A Personal Touch- Finally, don’t forget to include some hardscaping or a piece of garden art to personalize your bed. Whether bold or subtle, art should accent your plants not overpower them. Make sure they are sturdy enough to withstand summer wind and rain with out toppling over into the plants.

Midsummer plants: Aster, Blanket flower, Celosia, Coleus, Cosmos, Dahlia, Phlox, Purple Heart, Sedum and Zinnia.

For more heat tolerant plants check out: “Some Like It Hot” Flowers That Thrive in Hot Humid Weather by P.J. Gartin, “Tough Plants for Southern Gardens” by Felder Rushing and “The Carolinas Gardener’s Guide” by Toby Bost & Jim Wilson

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Harvesting Vegetables

Since temperatures are a little closer to normal (Staying in the mid-90’s) my garden vegetable is doing a little better. I located my peppers in some partial shade this summer and I’m not having sunscald on my peppers this year. I was having more tomatoes than I could eat for about two weeks but that has slow down some. I found this link about harvesting vegetables on the Clemson Home and Garden Information Center to be helpful. I had not grown cucumbers until this summer and didn’t know how to tell when it was ripe. Picked it and used in salads last week. Clemson HGIC:http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/vegetables/gardening/hgic1262.html

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Water Wise

We had a very dry May and June and I finally had a little relief last week from dragging my hoses all over the yard to keep my garden/yard alive! I recorded 2.5” of rain in 2 days after a really dry spring. Hot, dry summer months are stressful times for plants in the landscape. Without proper moisture, plants cannot grow normally and can become inclined to other stresses like bugs and diseases. It is important to water plants so they develop deep roots. Daily watering can promote shallow roots making it hard for a plant to survive a hot dry summer.

During a drought I worry first about my Trees and shrubs, which are harder and more expensive to replace. The best time to water is in the early morning, when there is less evaporation. It is best to water these in the root area where it will sink in to be taken in by the roots.

After I’m sure my trees and shrubs are cared for I look at the lawn, which can also be expensive to replace if it succumbs to the drought. You have two choices during long, dry, hot summers: Water the grass to keep it green or don't water and let it turn brown and go dormant.

If you decide to keep it green then first determine that your lawn is really dry. Some clues are: Foot printing: Walk across your lawn. If your footprints remain in the grass very long, the lawn is dry. Color test: When a lawn is dry a long time, it will have a bluish-gray cast. Watering brings back the color.
Check leaves: Dry grass responds by wilting, rolling or folding the leaves.

Apply about an inch of water when you determine your yard is dry. This amount should moisten the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Runoff is a problem in my front yard so I apply half and let it soak in before applying more water. I try to water early in the morning but don’t have Irrigation timers. If you have a timer it should be set to water the lawn between 4 and 6 am. Water only as needed. Watering daily can be harmful and encourages shallow roots making the grass less drought tolerant.

Use mulch to decrease evaporation of water from the soil around plant and trees. It will also lower soil temperatures and reduce competition from weeds for water.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Enjoying all my work!

Sometimes I’m so busy caring for my garden I forget to enjoy it…but last night it was so nice with temperatures in the mid-80’s and a nice cool breeze I decided to spend some time after dinner on the garden swing admiring the flowers and watching the birds. My two Labs Maggie and Lucy and several birds including House Finches, Grackles, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina chickadee, Northern Cardinal, Mourning Dove, and Eastern Bluebird joined me. A Mockingbird also stopped by to pick a blueberry and then flew off. Luckily I planted the blueberries in my yard for fruit loving birds when I was planned my garden to provide food for wildlife. If the birds don’t find the berries I harvest them. This morning as I was watering my potted plants I also took a few minutes to enjoy the flowering plants in the garden. I hope you take a few minutes to enjoy your garden and all it attracts this time of year!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Plants Blooming in June

Now blooming in my June gardens:

Butterfly weed
Chaste Tree
Crepe Myrtle
Garden Phlox
Queen Anne’s Lace
Rose Mallow
Sage, Pineapple & Russian
Salvia, blue & red
Water Lily

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tips for Curbside Plantings

What do you have planted in that area between the street and the sidewalk? Most people have no idea what to do with that little strip of grass and usually leave it alone because it can be a difficult spot to make attractive. Before getting started on your design remember to contact your city and utility companies and HOA to find out what can and can’t be planted in this area.
My HOA won’t allow me to plant the whole strip between the street and the sidewalk but I was able to a small portion near the mailbox.

· Plant selections- Look for plants that are durable and look good with minimal care. Aim for 80% of the plants to have some winter interest to keep the area looking good year round. Use the remaining 20% to embellish with seasonal flowers.
· Plant in layers- Start your design with several short shrubs or grasses that won’t block visibility. Next find an evergreen groundcover to help cover the ground and keep out weeds. Now add flowering bulbs, perennials and annuals. Choose varieties that don’t need constant deadheading or dividing. A few ideas: black-eyed Susans, sedums, Russian sage and purple coneflower. All these tolerate hot, dry conditions once established.

Some design tips:

1. If you have a privacy fence or retaining wall Create a “Walk Through” Garden by growing plants on both sides of the sidewalk. If you don’t have a privacy fence along the walk, choose a few plants for your curbside garden that tie it to the rest of your front yard or foundations plantings.
2. Remember Accidents Do Happen. It’s inevitable that people will step into the beds. Choose plants that can take some abuse, like tall sedum. If they get damaged they’ll quickly bounce back.
3. People Will Always Take The Most Direct Route so let them by including several narrow paths or stepping-stones so they can walk through the garden instead of having to walk all the way around. Remember to keep tree branches trimmed high enough so people don’t have to duck.
4. Don’t Block The View of drivers or pedestrians especially at intersections. You can figure this out by driving your car along the area you want to landscape and look around. Then park, get out and walk along the sidewalk to determine how tall the plants can be.
5. While Your Car Is Parked along the curb, open the passenger door to help you figure out how far to set plants back from the street so visitors don’t have to step directly into your perennials. This distance is usually a foot but wider is better. A border of bricks or a few stepping stones show visitors where to step.
6. Use Separate Soaker Hoses in each bed so you don’t have them stretched across paths where they can trip people. When you attach soakers to the house clearly mark the location where they cross the sidewalk. Cover the hoses in the beds with mulch so they don’t show.

Durable shrubs: Althea, Hollies, Spirea, Abelia, Flowering Quince, Forsythia, and Shrub Roses
Tolerant small trees: Crepe Myrtle, Grancy Greybeard, Redbud, Serviceberry, Smoke Tree, Spicebush, Witch-Hazel
Enduring Annuals : Celosia, Dusty Miller, Coleus, Gomphrena, Moss Rose, Sweet Potato, and Zinnia
Hearty Perennials: Daisy, Goldenrod, Hellebore, Purple Coneflower, Black-eyed Susan, Salvia, Aster, Daylily

For more plant suggestions check out: “Some Like It Hot” Flowers That Thrive in Hot Humid Weather by P.J. Gartin, “Tough Plants for Southern Gardens” by Felder Rushing and “The Carolinas Gardener’s Guide” by Toby Bost & Jim Wilson

Before photo was taken Oct. 2008, After photo taken April 2009

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Backyard Pest

Its that time again! Who doesn’t hate the Japanese beetle and the destruction it leaves in its path? The adult Japanese beetle is a little less than 1/2 inch long and has a shiny, metallic-green body with bronze colored outer wings. Both as adults and as grubs (the larval stage), Japanese
beetles are destructive plant pests. Adults feed on the foliage and fruits of several hundred species of fruit trees, ornamental trees, shrubs, vines, and field and vegetable crops. Adults leave behind skeletonized leaves and large, irregular holes in leaves. The grubs develop in the soil, feeding on the roots of various plants and grasses and often destroying turf in lawns, parks, golf courses, and pastures.

This highly destructive plant pest of foreign origin was first found in the US in a nursery in southern New Jersey in 1916. In its native Japan, where the beetle's natural enemies keep its populations in check, this insect is not a serious plant pest. With favorable conditions in the US the beetle infestation has grown to become a serious plant pest and a threat to American

During the feeding period, females intermittently leave plants, burrow about 3 inches into the ground—usually into turf—and lay a few eggs. This cycle is repeated
until she lays 40 to 60 eggs. By midsummer, the eggs hatch, and the young grubs
begin to feed. In late autumn, the grubs burrow 4 to 8 inches into the soil and remain inactive all winter. This insect spends about 10 months of the year in the ground in the larval stage. In early spring, the grubs return to the turf and continue to feed on roots until late spring, when they change into pupae. In about 2 weeks, the pupae become adult beetles and emerge from the ground. This life cycle takes a year.

No quick fixes can rid homeowners of the Japanese beetle once it becomes established. However, scientists with the USDA, ARS and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) have developed an integrated pest management (IPM) program for homeowners based on field experiences. The program combines biological, cultural, and chemical strategies. It will be effective if homeowners are willing to monitor both adult and larval beetle populations closely and implement this program with neighbors and their local agricultural or horticultural organizations.

IPM attempts to manage pests, not to eradicate them, while at the same time exerting minimal impact on the environment. IPM uses biological, cultural, mechanical, and chemical controls to keep pest populations below levels that cause economic damage. Because tolerance to
the presence of insect pests varies among individuals, the choice of control methods will reflect the management objectives of the user.

Why Follow an IPM Program?
Here are a few reasons:
■ Automatically and routinely applying pesticides can be counterproductive, economically wasteful, and environmentally unsound.
■ The Japanese beetle is here to stay. Therefore, we must learn to “live with” or manage this insect pest while attempting to minimize its impacts.
■ It is not necessary to eliminate the beetle in order to protect your trees, plants, and lawn.
■ It is hard to predict when and where Japanese beetle populations will increase, and there is no guaranteed control formula to follow. Intermittent monitoring and appropriate planning are necessary for adequate management of this landscape pest.

If you battle this pest from year to year you may want to do more reading. Start with the attached links:

For more information on the beetle check this Clemson Home and Garden Link: http://entweb.clemson.edu/eiis/pdfs/to5.PDF
For more on IPM see this link : http://entweb.clemson.edu/pesticid/saftyed/PestIPM.htm

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Parsley in the Garden- many uses

The first time I planted parsley in my garden was in Florida. I did it to have on hand to feed my husband’s cockatiels. At the time we had an aviary of breeding birds and they liked to eat parsley as a source of greens. Caterpillars found it and ate more than half of my plants!

Then we moved to Georgia and no longer had the birds. This time I planted the parsley as a landscape plant in my garden. Both times I had plenty of extra to use in cooking. Then we moved again this time to South Carolina. This time I was working on a Backyard habitat for birds and butterflies and wanted to attract the black swallowtail butterfly caterpillar I planted a lot of parsley including curly, flat leaf and cilantro along with dill, fennel and Queen Anne’s lace from seed. Once again I had a lot of extra for cooking but no caterpillars this time!

Most of my plants over wintered and were really huge. One day in late spring I went to pick some parsley for cooking and discovered my plant was stripped and I saw 5 or 6 fat caterpillars. Checking my other plants I discovered caterpillars on most of my plants. Since that time I always plant extra parsely, dill and fennel just to feed the caterpillars. Once in a while I’ll see a Black Swallowtail Chrysalides, and when I’m really lucky I see a butterfly recently emerged and drying its wings before flying off to find a flower.

Butterfly Gardening: A host plant for the Black swallowtail butterfly

Landscape uses: For small gardens, parsley makes a great edging for flowerbeds and borders. When used for this purpose, it is best to sow parsley seed thickly in late October or November in twin rows close together (3 or 4 inches apart).

Kitchen uses: Parsley is perhaps one of the most commonly used herbs in the kitchen. From a culinary standpoint, parsley can be used as an ingredient or garnish for most any dish.

Parsley Root: Parsley root can be served as a boiled vegetable.

Leaves: Whether fresh or dried, parsley leaves can add a touch of flavor and color to most any dish. Minced green leaves are often mixed with other vegetables just before being served. Parsley transforms plain, boiled potatoes to a new level particularly when young, red potatoes are used.

Whether you like to cook or just attract butterflies parsley is a good choice for your garden.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sweet Peas – For a Fragrant garden

For the 3rd year in a row I planted Sweet peas and for the first year I got some to not only grow but also bloom. This year I planted them earlier (in February) and that could have been the difference since blooming is curtailed by heat. Mine are planted on trellis right outside my screened porch and what a wonderful fragrance every time I step out the door to let the dogs in or out! These annual climbers bear clusters of flowers in a wide variety of colors including red, pink, blue, white and lavender. They will bloom late spring into summer and in cooler climates, they can bloom through fall. Sweet Peas lend a cottage feel to gardens and can be grown on bamboo tripods. They are great in a vegetable garden as they attract bees and other pollinators needed in the vegetable garden.

Sweet pea vines have tendrils and will attach themselves to most any type of support with meshing or lines. Regular deadheading or cutting for display will keep them blooming longer. Sweet peas require regular watering, especially as the temperature increases.

If you love Fragrance in your garden try sweet peas.