Urban Garden

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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Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

A Campaign for September

By Rosemary Verey A Campaign for September Autumn is approaching – here are some tips to ease the gardener into that time of mists and mellow fruitfulness. September is the start of autumn, when nature is having a final fling of beauty before quieting down for winter. And it is helpful to prepare a program or campaign for your autumn activity. We will be taking cuttings of our doubtfully hardy and tender favourites – verbenas, diascias, felicias, argyranthemums and pelargoniums. Do not forget the violas, rock roses, dianthus and fuchsias that are useful for infilling after the tulips are over. Most of our cuttings go on the mist bench, carefully noted with the name, number and date. If you don’t have the facilities to create a mist, put these cuttings in pots with a polythene bag over the top to conserve moisture. Hardwood cuttings are easy. We have a well-drained shady bed where cuttings 10-12 inches long are lined out, with half their length buried. For an extra shrub or two put these round the parent plant. By late spring they will have enough roots to move them to their permanent home. Try ribes, spiraea, privet, rue, honeysuckle, philadelphus, weigela, hebes and willows. Seed gathering continues into the September program. Gather seeds in paper bags, then transfer them into sealed envelopes and store them in your fridge. Sow some now in drills and watch out for slugs eating the young growth. We order new bulbs every August, many of you may have done the same. Some crocuses, both species and Dutch, scillas and puschkinias and others ring the changes, and keep up a selection each year. Plant the prepared hyacinths in September so they are in flower at Christmas. Paper white narcissus are wonderful for forcing. Put them on the…

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Urban Garden

Keeping Things Cool In the Garden

  Keeping Things Cool In the Garden While the list of gardening tasks for August is shorter than in many months, there are still ongoing tasks to perform in the garden. The hot temperatures of mid-summer make it tough to spend much time working in your garden, so take advantage of any cooler days to take care of grooming and weeding. Right now, your primary concern will be assuring an ample supply of water for your plants. Weed control is also very important, because with the warmer weather and increased watering, weed seeds will germinate and grow faster, and mature to the point of producing more seeds. Take advantage of your spare time to keep the weeds cultivated out of all parts of the garden.   Here are a few August gardening tasks and projects that you can do to help keep your garden looking it’s best for the rest of this season:   Watering   Watering can be the biggest task this month particularity if the weather gets really hot. Vegetable gardens, most flowering plants, and the lawn all need about one inch of water every week to keep them green and looking nice. Be sure to water thoroughly, and deeply each time you water. When possible, do your watering in the morning or early afternoon so the soil has a chance to warm up before the cooler evening hours set in.   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. Be sure to check the hanging baskets and container grown plants every day during hot weather and about every second day on moderate summer days. Don’t just check the surface, push your finger an inch or two into the soil…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

The Slug… Your Adversary

The Slug… Your Adversary Slugs may be a very serious problem to you if you live in moisture-laden areas of the country. A single “lawn prawn” can successfully remove an entire row of seedlings from your garden in no time at all. He can turn a perfect plant into Swiss cheese over night and return to the safety of his hideaway, leaving you to wonder what happened. As slugs wander about, doing their evil little slug deeds, they leave behind them a trail of slime that amounts to nothing less than a road sign for themselves and every other slug to follow to the grand feast. To make the situation even worse, slugs are hermaphrodites, they all have male and female reproductive systems. Yes, they can mate with themselves, and in the privacy of their own abode, each slug will produce two to three dozen eggs several times a year. The egg clusters look like little piles of whitish jelly BB sized balls. They will hatch in anywhere from 10 days to three weeks or longer, and these “sluglings” can mature to adulthood in as little as six weeks. Destroy the eggs… wherever you find them. Slugs may live for several years, getting larger with proportionately larger appetites each year. Now, do you really want to go out to your garden some morning and find an 18-inch Banana Slug waiting for you? The Battles and the War Although you may never win the war against snails and slugs entirely, you owe it to your plants to fight them with every weapon at your disposal. You can control slug populations with several different methods. With each battle that you win, you have prevented hundreds of new slugs from hatching. The Battlefield As with any battle plan, it is to your advantage…

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