Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Weeding, Propagating and Planting in Spring

On Saturday I spent time digging up blackberries. They grow like crazy here on the north coast and can be a real problem in the garden. We have some regular spots in the garden we have to attack yearly to get rid of the blackberries, one spot is behind the shed and the other is behind our metal arbor both of which back up against the back yard fence. If you are lucky some of the plants roots aren't too established and they come up easy with a shovel. Most of them I encountered had longer roots and needed some serious digging and tugging to get them dispatched. I have a small shovel my husband bought especially for me with a short handle and smaller shovel, being shorter myself it works perfectly for my digging needs. Digging up blackberries is the best way to get rid of them, dig far enough to get all or as much of the root out as possible.

I bought two more of the small cannas on sale at our local store. I dug spots on either side of the first canna I planted near the kiwi structure. I'm hoping the three red cannas grow well there in the sun spot the kiwi vines love. The baskets hanging from the kiwi structure with tomato and pepper seeds failed, my fault with it just starting to warm up here I should have kept the baskets in the greenhouse for a few weeks until the seeds got a good start. I planted some yellow and orange nasturtiums in each basket and hope they will flower well in the sunny spot they are hanging.

Two years ago I planted out some small rosemary plants I propagated by cuttings, rooting the cuttings in water then planting them in small containers until they got big enough to plant in the garden. As I've mentioned before some heat loving plants don't do well here on the coast and the rosemary is a prime example. The three plants I planted have stayed very small during the past years. I noticed when planting the cannas that one of the rosemarys was finally getting bigger. Kind of a shock as I'd thought they'd never do well. I was glad to see one of the rosemary plants taking hold and growing, and hope it gets growing bigger during the growing months ahead.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Summer Bulbs Potted Up

I got a few new smaller pots at a dirt cheap sale at our local store and decided that was all the excuse I needed to pot up the rest of my summer bulbs. I have had two metal containers sitting around for months ready to plant them up. My husband drilled the holes in the bottom of the planters for me last weekend and I planted them up with my remaining summer bulbs.

The off white pots are decorated with flower motifs and should look great once the bulbs flower. The pink gloxina bulbs are planted in the flower pot with a pink tulip motif and the blue salvia bulb is planted in the flower pot with blue flower motif. The gloxina are already peeking out of the top of the soil in the white pot.

The metal pots are planted up and set out in the back yard. The small metal pot is one that originally held our small live Christmas tree. My dad had the idea of potting up a small Christmas in a pot to move it from garden to the house during the holidays then planting the tree out in our backyard once it got bigger. I've carried on with that tradition and have our Christmas tree sitting in partial shade on our deck. Once our Christmas tree was planted in a large planter I knew I'd find a use for the silver metal pot it came in. I've added the pink rain lilies and another set of pink gloxina bulbs so one blooms in spring and the other in summer.

The silver metal pot I bought at IKEA is tall and the perfect fit sitting between my two "Goodwin Creek Grey" lavender plants below the dining room window. I decided to plant another set of the tall red lilies in this pot. I hope I have luck with these summer blooming lilies since I've never grown standard lilies before. The red lilies combined with the tall branches of the purple flowered lavender should be a great pairing against the grey color of the house.

I'm thinking of buying some lobelia or alysum seed for the tops of these pots to give a little more shape to the edge of the pots as the bulbs grow tall above the shorter flowers. I'm eager to see the results of the planting up of the four pots of bulbs this spring and summer.

The final planting of the day was the planting of the red canna bulb in the ground back near the kiwi vines. I've always wanted to grow a canna and this one should be positioned perfectly for sun exposure. This particular red canna is not the huge variety I've seen before but I believe it grows up to three feet in height. If there are any of the canna bulbs left when we next visit the store I may grab up two more to make it a trio of cannas for the backyard.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lavenders in The Coastal Garden

I've found since I've lived here on the northern California coast that warm weather plants struggle to do well, which is no surprise. I have a number of lavenders I planted in the first year we move into our victorian home. Most are almost fully grown and doing well.

I have two lavender "Goodwin Creek Grey" that are really spectacular. This lavender originated in Oregon and has a very long bloom time, from summer well into winter. I planted the pair of lavenders under my dining room window and they are thriving even though they are not in full sun all day long.

The other pair of lavenders I planted are "Grosso", with long dark violet blue flowers and a high oil content. These plants produced a large number of fragrant flowers, long wands of which I cut last year to dry the flowers. The base of the plant is very rounded and the lavender flower wands are probably a foot long when in full bloom. The "Grosso" lavenders are planted under the main window in the front yard. Both of these lavender varieties grown 30 inches tall or better.

Along with these two varieties I bought a very small six pack of "Munstead" lavender. The other varieties came in a 4 inch pot, the "Munstead" lavender were packaged in a tiny six pack for a great price. I thought it was a great deal, purchased them and planted the tiny lavenders out year before last in the spring under the climbing pink roses in the front yard. Currently the plants are no bigger than four or five inches tall and limping along, growing poorly at best. I'd imagined how pretty they would be billowing out under the feet of the pink roses. I've used "Munstead" lavender in my Petaluma garden and had no problem with them growing in the past. Whether it is the coastal weather, the variety, the area they are planted in or the small original size they came in these lavenders are sulking and barely growing.

I'm giving the "Munstead" lavenders one more season to get growing, otherwise I will need to replace them with one of the other variety and move them to the sun area in the back yard.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Summer Vegetable Planting on the California North Coast

In the last two years I've had no success growing basic vegetables here on the north coast. I'm not really an experienced vegetable gardener but figured I'd try to grow a few things here. Tomatoes have done poorly whether grown outdoors or in my greenhouse. I don't have a raised bed ready but plan to in the future. After growing tomatoes on my back yard deck with little success I've decided the best area to grow vegetables is in the back yard at the far end where the kiwi vines and butterfly bushes are located. This area gets more sun than the rest of the back yard and the sun loving plants are growing in that location.

This year I received some free vegetable seeds through my BBC Gardener's World magazine. One of the articles in the magazine talked about using a general rule of planting seeds no deeper than the size of the seed which I thought was a great shortcut to use when planting seed up. I got a great deal on hanging metal baskets and decided to plant up the seeds for cherry tomatoes and cayenne peppers and hang the baskets off the metal kiwi structure. Should be pretty much snail proof as the baskets are quite far up in height and the metal structure has a rough surface which should deter them if they try to crawl up to the baskets. The plants should receive a great deal of sun in this location. If this works it's bell peppers and zucchini next.

The coastal weather doesn't bode well for tomatoes overall, it is generally pretty chilly here most of the time and much harder for tomatoes to do well with fog and cooler weather. Since the average temperature here is 55 degrees with a high of 70 in the summer its been a challenge to say the least. I think cherry tomatoes may fare better overall because of the small fruits so they may grow easier here than the larger varieties. Store bought tomatoes tend to be pretty flavorless and I'm eager to home grow them to supply us with some real tomato flavor. As for the cayenne peppers they are not my first choice for pepper growing (I prefer serrano peppers for salsa) but they were free and I've never grown them before so we'll see what happens.

I should say that the past homeowner planted two artichoke plants beneath the kiwi vines and they both do fairly well here. One of the plants is planted farther out into the sun and produces some artichokes although none have been viable yet. I'm pretty certain both plants are not very old as I've read that artichoke plants can get up to 4 to 5 feet wide and tall when fully grown. If you are growing artichokes on the coast place them in a location with full sun available throughout the day and give them plenty of room to spread out as the plants mature. I don't know much about artichokes but the artichokes being produced so far aren't of good quality or edible so we'll see what happens with this season's crop.

Keeping the vegetable seeds watered enough may be a problem but I'm hoping they do well in the hanging baskets and in the full sun location near the kiwi vines. If all goes badly in the planters I'll plant them up with trailing nasturstiums instead and enjoy the yellow and orange colors draping from the baskets.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Planting Summer Garden Bulbs

I have a number of summer bulbs to plant in the coming weeks. This past weekend I planted a dahlia and three lilies in the front yard. I've never grown dahlias or lilies before although I've grown dwarf calla lilies and have had the large white calla lilies in both my Petaluma and Eureka gardens.

The dahlia is a deep fuchsia pink color, really pretty. I wanted a taller plant to grow between my lavenders on either side at the base of the front window. I managed to seed some nigella in that space although the flowers are fairly short compared to the lavender plants. I planted a cutting I rooted of thymifolia fuchsia in the space between the lavenders but it is not growing well there, I will probably transplant it elsewhere. It took a few years for the main thymifolia fuchsia I have growing under the holly trees to really take hold and grow but now it has a great display of tiny fuchsia colored pink flowers.

I have three deep purple dutch iris blooming in the space between the two lavenders for spring and they are ready to bloom. The dutch iris have a yellow streak on the purple leaves that is very striking. I planted the summer dahlia bulb in the center space surrounded by the spring iris bulbs. Our neighbors in Petaluma had a number of dahlia bulbs growing and they appeared to be very hardy. I'm looking forward to a beautiful display of the large deep pink dahlia flowers surrounded by the wands of lavender flowers against the grey house, they should be a beautiful combination.

The lilies are a deep red color and are going to grow in front of a line of crocomosia next to the back fence in the front yard. There is nothing else in place in this space and I thought the upright red lilies would go well with the sprays of crocosmia bulb leaves and orange flowers. I planted three of them across the line of the crocosmia.

I grew some crocosmia bulbs in my Petaluma garden and found out they are prolific naturalizers. If you are looking for a bulb that spreads this one is for you. However I should warn you they crowd out other plants and bulbs, growing tightly together to form grass like foliage. I wish the previous homeowner hadn't planted them here but there they are, crowding out the flower bed in the front yard and seeding along the side of the house traveling into the back yard area. Be aware when you plant crocosmia bulbs, as pretty as they are they can be a handful to manage and from experience you can't really manage them well.

In the coming weeks I have some smaller lilies and gloxina bulbs to plant up. The pink rain lilies are being planted in a tall silver metal container, we need to drill some holes in the bottom for drainage. This metal planter will sit between two lavenders below the dining room window which should be a very pretty combination. I can't wait to get started planting the next round of summer bulbs in my garden.

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