Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Summer Bulbs To Plant and Pruning Spring Shrubs

Last weekend was finally a clear weekend with no rain here on the north coast. With this break in the weather my husband and I got out into the garden. His first priority was to mow the front and back lawns since they were so overgrown since the last dry time we were able to mow.

If a plant or shrub seems to be growing well I tend to let it be. I decided this weekend maybe its time to let the butterfly bushes grow as they will. I took some time to prune back part of the butterfly bush sitting against the fence. This butterfly bush tends to grow the tallest and parts of the branches hang over into the neighbor's yard. I trimmed back as much as possible of this magenta butterfly bush until it was cleared out a bit from the fence. I thought about it and decided to let the butterfly bushes grow "as is", with no pruning this year. The butterfly bushes are already a good ten to fifteen feet tall from last year. They are getting so large in the stems its much harder to prune them back. When we first started to visit the Eureka area we spent our vacation time in Ferndale, about ten minutes south of where we are now located. In the middle of Ferndale there is an area between shops where an enormous set of lavender colored butterfly bushes grow. I'm quite sure no one has ever trimmed these back and they flowered every summer we visited while on vacation. This helped me realize it would be worth one season to see if our butterfly bushes flowered as well with or without the annual pruning. As I mentioned the butterfly bushes are so tall and thick that it makes pruning much more difficult. I know they will survive fine without the pruning, this season will tell us if the pruning makes a major difference for bloom as well.

During the rest of my time in the garden I planted a few bulbs. I planted two large dinner plate sized dahlias on either side of the obelisk structure so when they bloom I will be able to see them clearly from the dining room window. The dahlias are a bright yellow with orange/red markings on the inside and edges of the blooms. The plants are supposed to have at minimum eight blooms to each plant. I am hoping they do well in this spot. The dirt has not been changed or added to, which is probably not a bad idea. I will see how the dahlias grow in this spot and then add some new fertilizer and dirt this coming fall after things die back. I also planted some purple brodiaea bulbs to the side of my purple clematis in the front yard near the porch. The clematis has one flower ready to bloom and there are many new green leaves on the stems. The clematis was moved from a pot to the ground fall before last. I am hoping it finally takes off and grows well this season. The brodiaea bulbs multiply easily, this would be a good area to brighten up next to the clematis and lavenders.

There are a number of other bulbs to plant for summer, for now I have to be patient as the rains have begun again on the north coast. It is always fascinating to watch the bright spring growth of bulbs as it keeps raining through April and sometimes even into May in Humboldt County.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spring Tulips Blooming

A number of weeks ago I planted two sets of tulips in my back yard. Both sets are comprised of yellow and deep purple tulips, really a pretty combination. I'm a huge fan of purple and I love how the color yellow helps add spark and highlight to the numerous shades of purples, blues, and pinks in my garden.

The first set of tulips is on either side of my metal obelisk structure in the back yard. Looking from the dining room window I can see this little V shaped section behind the back yard flower bed. Already in this section there are two large areas filled with blooming bluebells that were established long before we moved here. I planted a number of the yellow and purple tulips on either side of the obelisk, they are growing and beginning to color as the bluebells grow inside the area of the obelisk and in front of it. I'm excited to see the bloom coincide so closely together for the established bluebells and the newly planted tulips.

The second set of yellow and purple tulips are in a container placed on the patio table in front of my kitchen window. This set of tulips is growing faster and taller than the tulips near the obelisk. I planted quite a few in the container and they are looking fantastic so far. I also planted a set of multi-colored ranunculus bulbs in the pot for summer blooms. I have never grown ranunculus so I am looking forward to how well they do in the container.

I am thinking of planting the new dahlia bulbs I have next to the obelisk for summer blooms. I tried planting a few dahlias last year in the front yard and had no real luck with them. I will try them in this spot and see if they take off. I am thinking it would be helpful to add some new dirt and fertilizer to that area since the container is doing better than the ground area for the tulips. I've never added anything to this V shaped area and its probably time to try and improve the soil. I guess I'd better get a few more dahlias tonight at the store, three won't be quite enough for planting if I want a good display this summer.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Gardening Article: Beginners Guide: Vegetable Gardening

Gardens are a marvelous way to spend time alone, bond as a family, or simply enjoy a home-grown harvest. At first, having a garden may seem daunting, but it's primarily an issue of having the right tools, and not allowing weeds to gain control.

As with any project, there are specific tools that are needed for the job. The first tool needed is the tiller. This may be rented, and its use in digging up the earth for the garden is invaluable. Next on the list is a spade. This handheld shovel assists in planting seedlings and digging up weeds by the roots with very little disturbance of the vegetables‚ roots. Hoes help to shape the rows and are of great assistance in weeding and managing the earth surrounding the plants. A shovel helps with breaking clumps of earth, creating and expanding rows and dealing with larger plants or heavier soil. Gloves are useful for protecting hands from irritants and kneepads can be very soothing to tired knees. (A garden shed may be a useful place to store the majority of these tools and equipment).

When choosing a spot for your garden, look for a fairly large level area with approximately six hours of sunlight. A 10 feet by 16 feet plot near the house, but at some distance from any trees, is excellent. The soil needs to have good drainage and few rocks. If your soil is primarily clay, a bit of sand mixed in when tilling will alleviate the clumping problem. Depending on the richness of the soil, fertilizer may be needed either when tilling, planting, or periodically. A local nursery or farm bureau will be able to guide you to precisely what your soil needs.

When preparing the garden for planting, the plot should be tilled two times before the final frost. Digging out the rows with a shovel and then using a hoe for mounding the soil where the plants are to be planted is tiring, but can be completed in a day. The rows of a garden should be wide enough to easily walk through and kneel to weed or tend to plants without endangering surrounding rows.

Even before the vegetables are planted, there is something else to consider: weeds and pests. How one deals with these will do a lot in determining the ease and enjoyment of gardening. For weeds to be killed before they grow, light must be cut off from soil surrounding the vegetable plants. The most aesthetically pleasing method is mulch. Other alternatives are straw, whether fresh or fertilized from your local farmer, and black weed fabric. Black weed fabric may be used for several years, is extremely effective, and fairly low profile. If one is not intent on organic gardening, pesticides such as Sevin will do much to keep vegetables lovely and unbitten. Some organic methods of handling pests are spreading coffee grounds around plants, planting a few rows of basil or marigold, or using a Spinosad-containing spray.

Five tomato plants, four zucchini plants, six pepper plants, plus a row each of cabbage, bush beans, lettuce or mixed salad greens, pumpkins, corn, onions, carrots, and potatoes should be plenty for the gardener with enough left to store and share. The beginner will most likely find that purchasing seedlings from the local nursery is the most effective and streamlined approach to planting the garden. Later, when experience has emboldened the gardener, seeds may be purchased and started at home under a growth light. Always plant as seed packet or nursery prescribes.

Many find gardening a pleasantly absorbing pastime. Enjoying, sharing, bragging on, and storing the harvest are certainly delightful ways to finish months of time well spent.

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About the author: Arron Brown is a gardening writer for Tiger Sheds. Tiger Sheds have a blog on their website which is regularly updated with gardening related content. To view more about Tiger Sheds and their gardening resources please visit Tiger Sheds.

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