Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gardening Article: 5 Must Have Salad Plants For Your Edible Winter Garden

We all know that getting a jump on the growing season means starting plants indoors early each spring. Why not spread that excitement throughout the year and sow seeds in fall for an edible winter garden?

Depending on your location November is the perfect time to plant salad crops that will overwinter, providing you with fresh greens all winter long. In maritime or mild climates the plants below can be grown outside. If you happen to be in a place with a little colder temperatures then growing these in a green house or cold frame may be necessary. For best results try germinating seeds inside and transition plants outside once they are a few inches tall.

1. Collards – Collards are often forgotten as a winter type green, especially in the West. Typically cooked, collards have a strong bitter flavor so use them sparingly in fresh salads until you are comfortable with the taste. Many of the “bitter greens” as they are called (kales, endive, escarole etc.) are not widely available in stores and as a result most people are not used to the flavors. Collards are also easy to grow and easy to overwinter.

2. Kale – What can I say other than Kale is awesome! There are many types of kale with a wide variety of leaf shapes, colors and textures. Not only does kale taste great, it will add to the beauty of your edible garden. Kale does very well as an overwintering plant. In fact, some varieties even become sweeter after a frost. Most people only like using the young leaves for salad but I find the mature leaves add much needed texture and flavor to most salads. Mature leaves are also great in soups or baked dishes as they don’t wilt and fall apart like lettuce or spinach would.

3. Maché (a.k.a. corn salad, lamb’s lettuce) – Maché is an incredibly easy plant to grow. It was discovered in cornfields where it was thought to be a weed. This is a low growing plant with very delicate leaves. The growth pattern of maché is neat. Every whorl of leaves are paired and off set by 90 degrees. Maché to me is similar in taste to spinach but has a lighter texture.

4. Peas – While not a green leafy salad plant, peas, especially snow peas are a perfect addition to any green salad. Peas do best in cooler times of the year but are not as cold tolerant as kale or chard so you might find these better suited to growing in a greenhouse. Nonetheless, peas can be grown for winter harvest. Peas are a fast growing plant with harvest between about 55-70 days for most varieties.

5. Swiss Chard – Like kale, there are many varieties of Swiss chard with a range of colors and textures. Most of the difference in color is related to the stalks of chard, some are pure white while others are bright yellow, orange and red. Again, smaller leaves are more suitable for fresh salads while mature leaves and stalks are typically saved for cooked dishes, but the choice is yours.

The great thing about all of the above plants is that the harvest can be prolonged, spread out over weeks or months by taking outer leaves first. In the case of peas, the harvesting will induce production of additional pods in most cases. For more specific growing information on the above plants check out

Plant now and enjoy a bounty of greens for your holiday dinners!

Image courtesy of

About the author: Galen is a gardener who enjoys writing about edible gardening. Read his gardening articles at

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Summer Rains And Steady Garden Plants

When it was starting to warm up here in the summer months, we did have some rain (and not just a shower) July. In July it stayed at 60 to mid 60's mostly so far but there is more sun out there in summer than the rest of the year. That weekend we were in the garden mowing, watering, weeding, and trimming up the roses. Later that afternoon we looked out the window and it was raining! It's never rained here in July before, so we were surprised. It still looked like it could rain in the next or two as well, and in fact it did rain again. I found it so strange that it rained in July. This past summer was far from even the slightly warm coastal summer we usually get.

I decided one weekend while we were gardening we needed to re-do the trellis boxes in the front of the house. The plants in the trellis boxes just aren't doing well and the passionflower vines that are growing in there only go half-way up the trellis and hardly bloom at all anymore. There are a couple of dead passionflower vines also in there, and the pink jasmine vines in the trellis boxes are not doing much of anything. We think it's best to dig everything out and start all over with new vines. Wouldn't you know that the pink jasmine vines the previous homeowner planted all over the front and back yards grow like crazy except in the trellis boxes.

I would like to plant purple jackmanni clematis vines in each trellis box. I'm guessing having two different vines would be ideal, something that blooms in early spring then the clematis blooms in summer and fall. I've had no luck planting sweet peas in there but maybe once we clear things out and add new soil and vines the sweet peas would do well in there. I'm going to ask the people at our local nursery for advice in planting vines in the trellis boxes and see what they suggest.

The summer blooming heathers started to bud and flower in July, they really are pretty. I have lithodora, a ground cover that looks like tiny ice plant and has brilliant blue flowers all over it during summer. It really grows well but a gallon container is pretty expensive and they don't carry six packs of this ground cover. I'm going to try and root some of the lithodora to see if I can make more plants from the original plant.

The garnet colored pestemon had gotten huge, it was a good three feet tall and just as wide, covered in dark fuchsia tubular blooms, it's beautiful. My hebe shrub was growing well near the roses after I moved it from the other side of the yard, it's doing better in this spot. Hebe shrubs usually have white flowers but this shrub is rare in that it has purple flowers. The shrub is starting to bloom and looks great against the fence. The blooms are small and remind me of bottle brush blooms.

I have a piece of what I believe is a white Shasta daisy I dug up from a crack in the sidewalk in front of our yard. I planted a few of them and one of the pieces grew in July and produced two white blooms. I hope this plant gets bigger next year. The seeding came from the daisies across the street where they have big bunches of Shasta daisies blooming, so pretty. I hope it grows bigger over time.

The kiwi vines had gotten so big this year they were covering the metal structure and creating a shaded area under them. When you walk by the kiwi vines with their cream colored flowers it smells of kiwi fruit and the fruit hasn't even formed yet. The butterfly bushes were full of blooms, lavender, dark purple, and the dark magenta blooms which are my favorite. They have to have grown a good 12 to 15 feet tall this year.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gardening Article: Smitten With Roses

Guest author Jacqueline from, republished with permission.

The pink rose symbolizes femininity, and refinement, grace and gentleness.

The rose’s happy countenance is contagious. They comfort, cheer, and please everyone that they meet. Roses are easy to live with if you choose wisely. The many David Austin English roses are hardy and disease-free, while many of the new hybrids take lots of work. I am thankful for a selection of roses that does not take much pampering… for life has other more pressing needs!

When we moved to our home I put in 3. They are not very expensive (about $20 each) for the joy they give. I must admit I am still finding out about these beauties! There are 3 lessons I am learning:

1. This spring, I forgot that last spring the deer had a feast, chomping away on the new leaves. I had used a ‘smelly’ bar soap (Irish Spring) and found relief for the roses by placing it on the top of the fence posts… all 3 bounced back, finishing last season well. This year, my helpful husband put more soap near the 3 climbers!! The greedy deer must be made to think “Man” is close by even at dawn when they feed! If you don’t have deer, so much the better.

The young opening blossom and the older, more mature one

Wisely 2008 (above and left) is a David Austin rose of exceptional delicacy and charm. It is well suited to growing on a fence or a wall. Extremely tough, it has reliable arching growth up to 5 feet. The flowers are a soft, pure pink and have a slightly cupped rosette up to 3″ across. The substantial fragrance is of raspberry and tea.

2. Also, this spring, I forgot that it is wise to use a systemic rose fertilizer. Oh, how I dislike chemicals!!! But this is the one time I bend the rules on chemicals of any sort. I use a granular formula (Bayer All-In-One Rose and Flower Care) with great care. It fights three problems: it’s an insecticide, an anti-fungal and a fertilizer. It fights from the inside out. So this means no more spraying or combining different chemicals in order to achieve one result. It literally is three-in-one. Please use it responsibly.

3. Roses, when newly planted need 3-4 gallons, (yes, gallons!) of water /day during the hottest part of the summer. I use a 2-gallon watering can twice. Once established, they can use a good deep watering once in a while (if there is a drought), but do not water the leaves!

I want to introduce you Gertrude, or rather the Gertrude Jekyll rose, (below) by David Austin~ she will perfume your yard! Her blossoms are lighter pink around the edges when first opening, but once in full bloom the color is only the deepest pink.

Gertrude Jekyll blossoms after 3 days of rain this spring.

Deep, rich pink ~ a delight to the senses

Her flowers (above) start as perfect little scrolled buds and soon open into the most beautiful, large, rosette-shaped flowers of rich glowing pink. The 8-10 foot growth is upright and vigorous and in every way reliable. The most outstanding characteristic of this lovely rose is its perfectly-balanced Old Rose scent. The garden is suffused with it and carried by the breeze. Gertrude Jekyll was a famous garden designer, who has had a huge effect on the style of English gardens of the 2oth century.

Englishman David Austin who lives in Shropshire has spent the last 50 years perfecting these amazing roses so you and I can grow them, too. He bred them by crossing old roses with newer roses to achieve the superb fragrance, delicacy, and charm of the old-world blooms combined with the repeat flowering characteristics and wide color range of modern roses. Before you decide to plant an English rose, do research it here, and you will be rewarded with a rose that will still be there for your grandchildren. There are some special requirements for planting.

~ Jacqueline

Photos courtesy of Jacqueline.

About the author: Jacqueline writes the inspirational blog, covering organic food and gardening, health, music, and life.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gardening Article: Top Tips for Fresh Herb Gardening

Fresh herb gardening isn't anything new. In fact, it has been a very popular hobby for a long time now. After all, herbs have a lot of uses. For one, they can flavor foods, but they can also make homes smell very nice. Aside from that, a lot of them also have medicinal traits and they can even be used in arts and crafts.

Now, if you want to start a garden of your own sometime soon, the first thing you will have to do is pick out the perfect location for it. Fortunately, you wont' need too much space if you want to grow herbs, so you can opt for a simple container garden for them. If you want, you can also put hanging baskets to use to grow cilantro, thyme or oregano instead.

Of course, you need to remember to place your herbs somewhere under the sun that isn't too hot, as well. Ideally, your plants should be able to catch the sun in the morning instead of in the hot afternoon.

Your plants' location should also be convenient to a door or your kitchen. This will ensure that you always remember to water them. The majority of potted plants in today's day and age tend to need daily watering, but make sure you check their seed packaging anyway. After all, overwatering and underwatering are just as bad as one another - remember that.

If you have potted plants, they may not need too much water. Conversely, if it is the rainy season, you won't have to water them unless you go through some sort of dry spell.

Now, although it is true that rain comes with a lot of nutrients, you may still need some additional fertilizer anyway. Loamy soil for potted plants are fortunately very easy to find, so you can fill up your containers with it in no time. If you have a bigger garden, though, you might have more trouble finding soil for it.

If you plan on having a huge garden, then you might want to invest into a guide for beginners. After all, there are a lot of different herbs out there, all of which have their own personal soil preferences.

Unfortunately, herbs generally aren't a huge nutritional source since they are only used in smaller quantities. However, even in smaller quantities, these herbs may come with a lot of health benefits.

A lot of common herbs come with natural anti-inflammatory traits, so adding some herbs to your diet on a daily basis may actually reduce your overall risk for health problems in the future. So, overall, fresh herb gardening will make it much easier for you to take care of your health and enjoy the taste of your food at home. Grow your own today!

About the author: Shaira Lee is a writer that focuses on topics about outdoor furniture and gardening. She also writes topics for Brookside Patio Furniture which specializes in resin wicker patio furniture which can be stored in this recommended Toledo storage facility.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Summer Miniature Dahlias And Anenomes

During the summer months here on the north coast it did not get very hot, even for Eureka. I purchased some summer bulbs from the local store at the usual $2.00 price, such a deal but sometimes the bulbs do not come up, the price you pay for cheap bulbs. Among the flower bulbs I purchased were anenome bulbs and some miniature pink dahlia bulbs.

The miniature dahlias were potted up in containers on the patio table, both came up in summer, producing some very sturdy, bright green leaves. One of the dahlia stems that started to come up for flowering was damaged somehow and never produced a flower. The other dahlia bulb grew two flowers successfully. The first which you can see in the photo came out perfectly, very impressive and a beautiful shade of pink, lasting for a number of weeks. The second flower stem produced a flower one third of the size of the first bloom, it did not fare as well and was finished within a week or two. Of course the bulb box states this bulb should produce a large number of flowers. When buying on the cheap for bulbs I am always aware that the bulbs are no doubt much smaller than usual, which is why they can sell for a lower price. As we headed into fall weather in October the two dahlia bulbs still have bright green leaves in each pot and look very healthy. It will be interesting to see when the leaves die back on these hardy plants.

The anenome bulbs were successful this past summer, coming up like clockwork in the container with my hosta and two amaryllis bulbs. It seems like a lot in one pot but amaryllis like close quarters and the hosta grew just fine, in fact as small as the plant was for the second year growing it produced a pretty white flower on a tall stem. I expect the hosta will grow bigger each year. The anenome bulbs are purple and white, with mostly purple flowers emerging on very tall stems. The flowers were really beautiful and quite large, a good three inches wide and tall. The display was impressive and the anenomes blooms were much bigger than the anenomes I grew in Petaluma. Typically anenomes grow the best the first season then the second season the blooms are less and smaller or sometimes they do not bloom a second time. The anenomes I grew in Petaluma kept coming back with smaller blooms and less flowers overall, but they grew for three or four seasons before they gave out. These $2.00 bulbs made me smile during the summer with their brilliant blooms.

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