Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Few Garden Resolutions for the New Year

Gardening is good for us. We know this because, as a group, people who garden tend to be healthier and more optimistic than those who don't garden. During this time of the year, looking forward to the promise of the upcoming gardening season, we can resolve to become even better gardeners by developing our gardening skills, by improving our existing garden and by doing simple things that make our gardening experience even more enjoyable.
Simple things such as labeling your plants. This is especially true of bulbs. They come up and bloom beautifully and before you know it, the foliage has died back and you've forgotten about them until you go to plant something and you accidentally dig up your bulbs.  All that can be avoided by simply labeling them while they are blooming. Resolve to get in the habit of marking your plants as you go.
Resolve to keep a garden journal. A garden journal is a record of what you've done in the garden through the season, including planting dates, seed types, weather conditions and so on.  A journal becomes complete record of your garden and you can use it to make decisions on which plants or vegetables you'd like to keep and which ones you'll start over.
Not interested in a written journal? Take pictures. This is a simple yet effective way to document your garden through the season. Most of us have our cell phone with us all the time. Take a picture of your garden as it grows. This a great way to document where things are planted and will help you make decisions on what to plant next year and where.
Resolve to buy good tools and take care of them. The right tool makes all the difference when it comes to working in the garden.  Keeping tools sharp and oiled and organized is another way to make your garden chores more efficient.
Resolve to protect yourself while you're outdoors gardening. Wear a hat, apply sunscreen, pick up a good set of gloves and lotion. And use them.
Resolve to become a better gardener. Take a class, join a garden group or community garden. The more you know, the better you'll grow. Resolve to share your enthusiasm for gardening. Get your children or your grandchildren involved. Teaching them what you know about gardening is a gift they will use and remember all of their lives.
Finally, make time to smell the roses. Or enjoy the dahlias or the zinnias or whatever is growing in your garden at the time.
Working in the garden isn't all about the chores you "have to do". Whether you're growing tomatoes or dahlias, make sure you pause every now and then and enjoy your garden. It's one of the healthiest aspects of your life. Enjoy it!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Gift ideas for gardeners 

Got a gardener on your Christmas list? Give them gifts they can use to make their gardening hobby more enjoyable. Gifts such as a garden knife, a good set of pruners, a pair of trimming scissors, scoops and trowels, gardening  gloves and hand lotion. 
For versatility, its hard to beat a garden knife, also called a Hori Hori knife. Once you use it, you'll want this tool with you everytime you work in the garden. It's great for digging, weeding, planting, opening bags of soil or mulch, cutting garden twine and much more.
A good set of pruners is another essential tool for every gardener. Th
ey'll use them to prune roses, perennials, shrubs and small tree limbs. Choose a quality bypass pruner for best results.
Trimming scissors are good tool to have for some of the finer work in the garden, such as deadheading and light pruning. They are also useful indoors for keeping houseplants neat and trimmed. This is the tool we use at the 'Bin for all of our pruning and trimming chores. 
Garden scoops and trowels are useful for many tasks, including digging, weeding, filling pots with soil and planting. For the gardener who has everything, buy them a trowel and a garden scoop.  They will discover many ways to use these tools in the garden!
Another unique gift would be one of these portable potting trays, filled with seeds, pots, a bag of seed-starting soil and some organic fertilizer, everything they'll need to start some seeds after the first of the year.
Finish up your shopping for your
gardener with a good pair of gloves and add some hand lotion while you're at it. These are gifts your gardener will really use and they'll think about you everytime they do.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Houseplants you can use as Christmas trees 

At the top of the list for Christmas tree substitutes are Norfolk Island Pines and Rosemary plants. Norfolk Island Pines grow slowly and maintain their shape naturally. These pines like a location where they will receive bright, indirect light. Water your Norfolk pine when the top inch of soil feels dry. Water thoroughly, until water comes out the bottom of the pot.
The herb rosemary  is a good choice for a table top decoration at Christmas because the leaves are needle-like and the plant is very aromatic. It's easy to prune your rosemary plant in order to keep the pine tree shape. You can buy rosemary in several different sizes ranging from a few inches to several feet tall. For best results, place your rosemary in the sunniest and coolest place you have, usually by a large window. Rosemary likes water so keep the soil moist at all times. Be consistent in your watering.  Try to avoid letting the plant dry out and then over watering it. More choices for small table top tree decorating include Lemon Cypress, conifer bonsai plants and ivy topiaries.
Lemon Cypress trees have plume-like yellow-green foliage that releases a lemony fragrance to the touch.
Ivy topiaries formed in the shape of a tree make great
holiday decorations and will continue to grow after Christmas is over.
Another idea for decorating naturally would be to use a conifer bonsai plant. Lack of humidity is generally the biggest problem you'll encounter with Norfolk pines, rosemary and other houseplants as well.
You can improve the humidity around each plant by placing them on a pebble tray. Pebble trays are easy to assemble and use.
You can also use a cool mist room humidifier to increase humidity.  Feed these plants every two weeks with Fertilome 20-20-20.
For your rosemary, use
Age Old Fish and Seaweed. For best results, supplement with  SuperThrive each time you fertilize. These plants will help to decorate and freshen your house long after the holidays are over. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Choosing your Christmas tree

When choosing a Christmas tree, the tree varieties that have the best shape, color and superior needle retention include: When choosing a tree, the Christmas tree varieties that have the best shape, color and superior needle retention include: Balsam fir, Canaan fir, Douglas fir, Fraser fir, Noble and Nordmann fir.
Balsam fir trees have a nice shape with short, flat dark green colored needles. Their flexible branches make them easy to decorate.
Canaan fir trees have sturdy branches which feature soft, round needles that are dark green on top with a silver accent underneath. The fragrance of the Canaan fir trees that makes it a great choice for your Christmas tree.
Douglas firs can be purchased as forest cut trees. Forest cuts are grown naturally without shearing and shaping. Forest cuts are like "Charlie Brown" trees. Douglas firs have a nice shape, rich green color and good needle retention. They are very fragrant. You can keep that fragrance going by snipping off a small bit of some of the branches every day or two. Pick a branch that's hidden and cut off a little bit of the end. This will open the branch and release the fragrance.
Fraser fir trees are noted for their shape, their dark green needles and nice scent. There is adequate space between the branches to make decorating easier.
Noble firs feature upturned blue-green needles and evenly spaced branches.
Nordmann firs have a very symmetrical shape, with open branches, making it easier to hang ornaments. They have very good needle retention. Regardless of the type of tree you choose, here are some basics. You’ll do well to go looking for trees knowing how tall a tree you want and how large a tree your tree stand will accommodate. Choose a tree at least a foot shorter than your ceiling. Measure the opening of your tree stand so you’ll know how big a tree base will fit in it. When choosing a tree, freshness is important. Run your fingers along the needles. They should feel soft to the touch. Shake the tree. A fresh tree will not drop a lot of needles.
Once you have chosen a tree, we’ll give it a fresh cut off the base. This is important because will make it easier for the tree to take up water. Use a tree stand that holds at least a gallon of water. Keep your tree well watered. Trees can take up several quarts of water daily, so check the water level in the tree stand frequently. Don’t let the water level fall below the base of the tree or the cut end may seal over, preventing the tree from taking up water.
Adding a preservative to the water will help keep your tree fresher, longer. Placing a bag under the tree when you set it up, will help with cleanup once Christmas is over.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Time to put the roses to bed

The prolonged fall has given us a few extra weeks to enjoy some of the hardier plants in our garden including roses, mums and winter pansies. Now's the time to put your roses to bed, finish cleaning up the perennial beds and water everything well.
To prune your roses, you'll need a good pair of pruners, some garden shears and a lopper. These tools will make it easier to prepare your roses for winter's irratic weather. 
Most seasonal damage to roses, as well as trees, shrubs and perennials, comes from winter's fluctuating temperatures, dry winds and lack of moisture.
You can help reduce winter wind damage by pruning your roses back to about 24". Check your roses for dead and diseased canes and for diseases on leaves such as powdery mildew. 
If you see any diseased branches and leaves, cut them off and dispose of them. While you're at it, rake up any leaves on the ground around your roses.  Don’t let them winter over in the mulch and re-infect your roses next spring. Next, water your roses.  Roses with dry roots will suffer more damage in cold temperatures than roses with well-hydrated roots. 
Last, add 8"  to 10" of mulch around the base of your roses. This mulch will help keep the ground cold and stable during those warm winter days. Mulch will also help retain moisture. Compost, Cedar Mulch and Gorilla Hair mulch are good choices for mulching your roses.
Rose collars help hold the mulch in place through the winter.
While you're at it, finish cleaning up any perennials still standing.
We left these mums to the last minute because we had pollinators  in the garden up until a few days ago. They look scraggly, but provide some forage. Water all of your perennials once you've finished cleaning them up. If you feel like planting something when you're done with clean up, it's not to late to plant some spring bulbs and some garlic.