Urban Garden

Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

Preserving Your Summer Garden Produce for Delicious Winter Meals

By Melinda Myers All your hard work is paying off with a bountiful harvest. Fresh produce is filling your garden, countertops, and refrigerator while the garden keeps producing more. Preserve some of your harvest to enjoy throughout the winter with some tried-and-true or updated variation of food preservation techniques. Hanging bundles of herbs to dry is a long-time practice that works. Harvest herbs in the morning just after the dew has dried off the leaves. Rinse, allow them to dry, and remove any damaged or dried leaves. Gather the dry herbs into small bundles and secure with a rubber band. Use a spring-type clothespin to hang the bundles from a clothesline or hanger in a warm, dry, airy place out of direct sunlight. A modern twist on this tradition is the space-saving Stack!t Herb Drying Rack (gardeners.com) hung from the ceiling. You will be able to dry large quantities of herbs in any narrow, out-of-the-way space. Extend the life, flavor, and nutritional value of squash with proper harvesting and storage. Only store blemish- and damage-free fruits and vegetables to reduce the risk of mold and decay developing during storage. Harvest zucchini when the fruit is six to eight inches long and scalloped squash when three to six inches in diameter. Store these in a plastic bag inside the vegetable crisper drawer in your refrigerator for several days. Wait to harvest winter squash when the fruit is full-sized, and the rinds are firm and glossy. The portion touching the ground turns from cream to orange when the fruit is ripe. Use a pruner to harvest the fruit, leaving a one-inch stem on each fruit. Cure all winter squash, except for acorn, in a warm, humid location. Then move to a cool, dry, well-ventilated area to store for several months.  In the…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

July In the Garden

Thanks to our friends at GardenHelper.com, here are a few gardening tasks and projects that you can do to help keep your garden looking it’s best for the rest of this season as well as what you can do to make sure your garden comes back in full force next spring. We have been utilizing the “expertise” of these “experts” off and on for several years. Watering The amount of water that your garden will need is going to depend on the weather conditions in your area. The primary rule of summer watering is to water thoroughly and deeply each time and to allow the soil dry out between waterings. Deep watering will allow the plant’s roots to grow deeper, where they are less likely to dry out, as well as the added benefit of anchoring the plant into the ground better. Light, surface watering actually wastes water, because the water never actually reaches the root zone of the plant, and the moisture rapidly evaporates from the top inch of soil. The best way to tell if your plants are receiving enough water is to take a trowel or shovel and dig down a few inches. The soil should be moist at least 3 or 4 inches deep to insure that the water is reaching the root zone of the plants. Of course, if you planted drought resistant plants in your garden, you won’t have to water as often, but the principal of deep watering still applies. As the weather dries out, your container plants may need daily watering, especially if the pots are exposed to the drying sunlight. Push your finger into the soil in your container plantings at least once a day (more often on hot, dry days) to feel for moisture and be certain that plants are…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

Take It Up a Notch Out Back – Adding Appeal to your Patio or Deck

By Melinda Myers Summer means time spent gardening and relaxing with friends.  And just like the kitchen in winter, the patio or deck tends to be the gathering spot when the weather turns warm. Get the most from this space with a bit of preseason planning and decorating.  Select functional and beautiful furnishings to create a special spot for you, family and friends to enjoy whenever the weather allows. First, sketch out the space and measure the dimensions of all furnishings you are considering, making sure they will fit.  Allow extra space for people to pull chairs in and out from the table and navigate around furnishings, preferably 3 to 4 feet. Next, select a table that fits the space and provides ample serving space.  An extension table allows you to expand your surface if a few more folks drop by.  A round folding table provides space for guests, and it can be stashed against the wall when workspace is needed. Small and large-space gardeners will enjoy the benefits of elevated gardens with built-in trellises.  These maximize growing space even on a small deck or patio and bring the garden to the party. Look for self-watering planters and especially those with wheels so you can easily move them out of the way of a family gathering or closer to the kitchen for easy harvesting. Include a multifunctional piece like a potting bench.  Look for a versatile and well-built, furniture-quality piece like that complements other furnishings and can be used as a serving surface when entertaining.  Consider features like a faucet for washing and watering that drains into a bucket or the ground, as well as hooks for hanging tools and baskets and space for storage. Bring nature to your door and mask unwanted background noise with the soothing sound of…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

Designing a Beautiful Garden for You and the Pollinators

By Melinda Myer You don’t need a prairie or large lot to attract and support pollinators. A meadow or informal, formal and even container gardens can bring in bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to help pollinate plants. It’s just a matter of selecting the right plants, adjusting your maintenance practices, and skipping the pesticides. Create your garden by converting a few square feet of lawn, garden bed or front yard into a pollinator-friendly garden. You may want to start by switching out part of an existing garden or container to more pollinator-friendly flowers. Expand your planting options by converting a portion of your lawn into a pollinator garden. Outline the bed with a hose or rope. Remove the sod, add compost as needed to improve drainage and you’ll be ready to plant. Simplify and dress up your efforts by using an easy-to-assemble raised garden kit like the Pollinator Garden Bed (gardeners.com). Its long-lasting cedar planks slide into aluminum corners to create a hexagonal bed. Get creative while increasing the garden’s size by adding additional sections to create a honeycomb or other interesting design. Mark the outline of the raised bed you select. Cut the grass short and cover with newspaper. Set your raised bed in place and fill with a quality planting mix. Mulch four to six inches surrounding the raised bed for ease of mowing and to eliminate the need to hand trim. Once your planting bed is prepared, you’re ready to plant. Include single daisy-like black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, and asters that allow visiting insects to rest and warm when sipping on nectar or dining on pollen.  Add a few tubular flowers for butterflies and hummingbirds. They both like bright colors and can be seen visiting salvias, penstemon and nasturtiums.  And don’t forget the bees that are attracted to bright…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

Spring Has Sprung…

As you begin your quest for the perfect garden, don’t overdo it! It’s probably been a few months since you gave those muscles and bones a good workout, so start out slowly and avoid that Monday morning backache. Because the world has such a multitude of microclimates, it would be impossible to create a list of gardening tasks that would cover everyone. Therefore, this monthly list is based on general weather patterns for the northern United States (zones 6-8). Much of the information may also be useful for other areas of the world in coming months. Here are a few April garden projects that you can do to help keep your garden looking its best the rest of this season. Shrubs and Trees There still is time to plant trees and shrubs. However, by mid-month it will be a little late to transplant large trees or shrubs, so do them now. The months of March, April and May are ideal for pruning evergreens. So if you have a Juniper, Cypress or conifer that need shearing or pruning this is a good time to accomplish this task. Remove all dead, diseased, and undesirable wood. However, do not prune back into the bare wood part of the plant. Prune your Forsythia after it finishes flowering and remember that broadleaf and needle leaf evergreens benefit most from lightly spreading a high nitrogen fertilizer around their bases. Perennials, Annuals, and Bulbs April is the month for planting summer flowering bulbs like http://www.thegardenhelper.com/bulbsrhizomes.htmldahlias, gladiolas and lilies. Mix bulb fertilizer, processed manure and peat moss into the planting soil. Tuberous Begonias and Canna should not be set outdoors until all danger of frost has passed, so wait until next month. Plant annual seeds of asters, cosmos, marigolds, zinnias in the garden. When all frost danger has…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

How to Grow a Shamrock!

In the spirit of the month of March and one of the Old Town Crier’s favorite celebration days – St. Patrick’s Day – here is the annual scoop on what you need to know and a couple of secrets to growing these lucky plants! Stories have it that shamrocks won’t grow any place other than in Irish dirt. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. The word, “shamrock” is the English form of the Irish word “seamrog,” which means “little clover” and clover is something that grows just about everywhere. If you’d like to grow shamrock, also known as “white clover,” you’ll find it to be a fun and flowering, low maintenance plant. Read on to learn how to grow shamrock: Select a good plant by looking for one with new growth, a few flower buds just opening and more ready to bloom. You can grow shamrock from seed, but starting with a plant is much more reliable.   While it can be grown outside, it does best indoors. Shamrock needs bright light (not full sun) and moist, well-drained soil until its two- or three-month dormancy period in the winter. That’s when you’ll need to keep the plant in a cool, dry area and the soil barely moist until spring when watering should resume.   Place plants in trays or flower boxes for best results. Shamrock grows from the tip by sending out runners that take root. Being in containers allow the tips to make contact with the soil to produce the runners.   Keep your plants cool at night, about 50 to 65 F and don’t let them get any warmer than 70 to 75 F during the day. Plants habitually exposed to warmer environments will go dormant quicker.   Fertilize your shamrock once a month during the…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

February In the Garden

Even though it may still be cold, damp and miserable outdoors, an occasional dose of sunshine could certainly put the gardening bug into you. With a little luck, Mother Nature will send a few blossoms your way this month. We are now at a time when we can no longer put off those garden projects, waiting for a nice day……don’t be caught off guard though, winter is far from being over! If exceptionally cold weather is forecast, provide protection to early flowering or tender plants by covering them with some type of cloth material. Remove the covering as soon as the weather moderates again. Shrubs and trees Deciduous shrubs and trees are still dormant enough to transplant this month, once the buds have begun to swell, it will be to late. Click these links for information on transplanting azaleas or moving specimen plants. Trees which weren’t fed last fall should be deep fed by punching a series of 1-2 inch holes two feet apart around the drip line and filled with an appropriate food. A mulch of well composted manure is also an excellent treat for your tree. Mid to late February is the time to fertilize shrubs and evergreens. Use an acid type rhododendron fertilizer to feed evergreens, conifers, broad leaf evergreens, rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. Use an all-purpose fertilizer to feed roses and other deciduous trees and shrubs. If you use dry type fertilizers, be sure to water it in thoroughly. Prune your summer flowering shrubs now but be aware that spring bloomers have already produced their buds last fall, and pruning them now will result in the loss of flowers. Forsythia, quince, spirea and other early spring flowering shrubs should be pruned a little later, after they have finished flowering. Pruning to improve the shape of the…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

What To Do With Poinsettias After Holidays!

By Nikki Tilley What To Do With Poinsettias After Holidays! So you’ve received a poinsettia plant over the holiday season, but what on earth are you to do next, now that the holidays are over? Read on to find tips on how to care for a poinsettia after Christmas in this article so you can, hopefully, enjoy your plant year round. With their brightly colored bracts swaddling the plants during the drearier days of late fall and winter, and just in time for Christmas, who doesn’t love the poinsettia? That being said, once the holidays are over, many of us are left with questions about what to do next. Do we keep the plant or toss it? After all, won’t there be another one available next year, like the ever abundant chrysanthemums lining storefronts and nurseries each fall. Well, the good news is that caring for poinsettia plants after the holidays is possible BUT keep in mind that your poinsettias will require specific attention. After Christmas poinsettia care begins with suitable growing conditions. If you’ve taken care to keep your poinsettia in a nice, warm sunny window (free of drafts) thus far, you’re halfway there. It should receive at least 6 hours of bright, indirect sunlight each day. For continual bloom of your poinsettia care following Christmas, the plant also needs day temps between 65 and 70 degrees F. (18 and 21 C.) and slightly cooler at night, though keep it above 60 F. (15 C.) to avoid leaf drop. Continue your normal watering routine until spring (or first of April), then allow it to dry gradually. Around the middle of April or May, or if your plant becomes leggy, cut the stems back to about 4 inches (10 cm.) above the soil and repot in a larger container with…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

The Legend of the Poinsettia

By OTC Staff The month of December is pretty slow in the garden but really bustling with the arrival of holiday plants the likes of the Poinsettia, Amaryllis and Paper Whites. Many of you give them as well as receive them as gifts and we all know that the Poinsettia is the most popular of the three for decorating during the Christmas season. We found the following very interesting and have published it in years past and thought you would enjoy it again as well.  The Legend of the Poinsettia   A charming story is told of Pepita, a poor Mexican girl who had no gift to present the Christ Child at Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked slowly to the chapel with her cousin Pedro, her heart was filled with sadness rather than joy. “I am sure, Pepita, that even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes,” said Pedro consolingly. Not knowing what else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common weeds, fashioning them into a small bouquet. Looking at the scraggly bunch of weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed than ever by the humbleness of her offering. She fought back a tear as she entered the small village chapel. As she approached the altar, she remembered Pedro’s kind words: “Even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes.” She felt her spirit lift as she knelt to lay the bouquet at the foot of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into blooms of brilliant red, and all who saw them were certain that they had witnessed a Christmas miracle right before their eyes. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

It’s Not Too Late To Plant Bulbs!

By Christa Watters It’s Not Too Late To Plant Bulbs! Procrastinators rejoice! Though those of us who grew up in colder climes may think it’s too late to plant our bulbs for spring bloom, it’s really not – at least not for all bulbs. Tulips, for example, can rot in the ground in our heavy Virginia soil during warm, wet falls. Some sources say that waiting until about first frost is better for tulip bulbs, which like colder climates. Plus, it gives the squirrels less time to dig them up before frost hardens the ground. Still, you need to get them in before the ground really freezes. So November, and sometimes even early December is still fine. It’s also fine for planting daffodils and narcissus bulbs, hyacinths, crocuses, even grape hyacinths. Be generous – color massing is the most effective way to create an impressive and heart-lifting display next spring. So cluster the bulbs in drifts that complement the rest of your borders or beds. In our area, most hybrid tulips don’t successfully come back in succeeding years, and should thus be treated like annuals. If you do leave them for a second year, choose Darwin varieties, some authorities recommend. Alternatively, choose species tulips that generally perennialize better and naturalize well in rock garden clusters, as in this photo of Kaufmanniana tulips at the Simpson Waterwise Garden. Daffodils and narcissi are much more reliable at coming back year after year and even multiplying in the ground. Choose some bulbs for their massing effect, yes. But also consider choosing some for their individual beauty, like these gracefully winged white and yellow Cyclamineus narcissi. For fall crocus and colchicums, the fall-blooming relatives of our spring bulbs, it is, unfortunately too late this year, but while you peruse the catalogs, make a note…

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