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Gardening Success

Thriller, filler, spiller

Every times don’t use  same formula in your home garden. Change the formula

THRILLER :

  • A dramatic, attention-getting “THRILLER”

Tomato , Brinjal ,  Bhendi

  • An accent “FILLER” for shape and volume

Amaranths , Fennel  , Mints

  • And a “SPILLER” to extend the visual effect downward

Lotus , Hibiscus , Moringa

Discover how easy it is to create a vegetable garden to savor with your eyes AND your taste buds!

You’ll be amazed at how beautiful, productive, and easy this groundbreaking technique makes your vegetable garden!

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Gardening with Containers

CONTAINER GARDENING

Container gardening is a method of growing fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers in pots, hanging baskets, planters, and other containers. Container gardens are a great way for gardeners who don’t have lots of space to grow their own food!

GETTING STARTED

To create a container garden, you will need:

  1. Containers
  2. Potting soil
  3. Seeds and/or plant starts
  4. Water and a watering can or hose.
  5. A natural fertilizer (compost tea or fish emulsion)

Step 1: Survey for Sun and Shade

Look around your home for the best place to put your container garden. Which areas get the most sun? Which areas are shaded? Put your containers in the spot with the most sun! Vegetable plants need lots of sunshine to grow and produce food.  For example:

  • Tomatoes, peppers & eggplant need full sun. Leafy greens & root vegetables can live with a little shade.
  • Patios, balconies, porches, and windowsills can all be good places for your garden.
  • If you have a fence or railing, you can use it like a trellis for peas or beans.

Step 2: Find Your Containers.

For most vegetable plants, you will need five-gallon containers, or larger. The containers must have holes in the bottom so that water can drain out. Otherwise the soil can become waterlogged and plant roots won’t be able to get the air they need to survive!

Step 3: Pick out Your Soil

Soil in a container garden needs to be good at holding water and nutrients. Potting soil is usually made with this in mind. Do not use soil from the ground, because it will not hold water or nutrients very well. You can buy potting soil at any garden store, but make sure the soil package says that it can be used in a vegetable garden. We recommend using organic potting soil, because it holds nutrients better and does not have chemicals.

Step 4: Selecting the Right Plants

Choose varieties of plants that are well-suited for growing in containersPlants in containers will have less space and less soil than they would if they were planted in the ground. For example: Smaller (dwarf) plant varieties grow better in containers than larger varieties (i.e. cherry tomatoes grow better in a container than large slicing tomatoes).

Step 5: Water Often!

Plants growing in containers need a lot more watering than plants growing in a backyard garden. This is because water drains out through the holes in bottom. You can put a tray underneath your containers to catch the water that drains out. The plant will then absorb the water later.

  • During the summer, you will probably need to water your containers every day, especially if they are in full sun.
  • Water in the early morning or evening. When the sun is less strong, the plants will be able to absorb more water, and you will lose less water to evaporation.

Step 6: Make the Most Out of a Small Space

  • Grow Vertically! Use trellises, stakes, or a nearby fence to help your plants grow UP instead of across. This works with VINING PLANTS like squash, peas, beans, and tomatoes!
  • Companion Planting: Instead of planting one type of vegetable in each container, mix and match different vegetables! Most vegetables have other plants that they grow well with. These are called ‘companion plants’.

Step 7: Fertilizing and Soil Care

Well-fed plants are happy plants! Plants in a container garden need to be fertilized oftenbecause nutrients in the soil wash out of the container’s holes every time you water. We recommend that you fertilize your containers at least once a month! This will make a big difference in the amount of food that your garden produces.

Fish emulsion and compost tea are good organic (non-chemical) fertilizers. They are safe for food, people and pets to be around:

  • Fish emulsion is a nutrient-rich natural fertilizer. You can buy it at any garden supply store. You will need to dilute it with water, then pour it on the soil around your plants. The bottle will tell you the proper mixture. It is actually made from fish parts—so it can be a little stinky!
  • Compost tea: Compost tea is a natural liquid fertilizer made from finished compost and water. Put a few cups of finished compost in a bucket of water and let it sit for 5-10 days, or until the water turns the color of weak coffee. Use the finished mixture to water your containers!
  • Worm composting is also great way to make your own fertilizer! Check out our blog in upcoming weeks for more information on worm composting.

Step 8: Preparing for Winter

You can use the same containers and soil for many years.

  • Every winter, cover the soil with a layer of mulch to protect it from weeds and rain. Fallen leaves make a great mulch!
  • Put the containers under cover if possible, to protect them from the rain.
  • Add fresh compost to the containers in the spring.

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COMPOSTING BASICS | HOW TO GET STARTED WITH COMPOSTING

Composting-Basics-for-the-Beginner-How-To-Get-Started-With-Composting-745x1024

composting is nature’s way of taking waste and turning it into nutrient-rich soil that makes a great amendment to your garden soil (especially if you are square foot gardening) or mixed into a potting soil. One of the misconceptions and why more people don’t compost more is that they are worried about the smell or that it could get overrun by bugs. You need some of those bugs to do their job and eat the refuse and produce the compost.

Basically, compost is bug poop. And it is essential to a healthy garden and a healthy environment. Bugs are the Universe’s way of cleaning up our mess!

Most of the bugs that your compost pile attracts are microscopic and you won’t be able to visually see them. If you’re lucky, you will get an earthworm or two that has found their way into your compost pile. One of the things I loved as a beginner was seeing science in action and learning how our environment worked based on something as simple as composting.

To start out your first compost pile you need to decide if it will be a true pile in a corner of your yard somewhere or are you going to invest in one of those compost bins. If you go with a compost bin, I highly recommend the composting bins that turn (and be sure to out my Getting Started with Tumble Composting post!) If you have a pile, you can create a bin made out of 4×4 wood or just leave it as a true pile. You will need to turn the pile every week to keep the microbial activity active.

To start your compost, you will need to get a few necessary ingredients.

  • Start by picking up any brown materials in your yard like dried leaves or twigs. Break up the twigs if they are branches into small pieces and let the brown materials be your base.
  • Then add in green materials which is easiest found in lawn clippings and newspaper.
  • If you are a coffee or tea drinker, start to add the coffee grounds with the filter to the pile. This includes tea bags and loose leaf teas.
  • Add in egg shells (crumbled up if you can), all your leftover fruits and vegetables except for citrus can go onto your compost pile.
  • Stay away from adding meats, oil and dairy as that’s when you attract the bugs you really don’t want as well as animals and even maggots.  Leftover salad that never had cheese, dressing, etc put on it can go in the compost bin.  Salad that has been dressed or had cheese in it is not.
  • Try to cut your kitchen scraps in to smaller pieces to help speed up the composting process.  For example, don’t throw that banana peel in whole – chop it up a bit (and if you do any juicing, the leftover pulp is a great addition!)

Once you have all of those ingredients on your pile, add in one scoop of existing compost or potting soil if you have it, as this acts like a starter. Then grab the hose and water the compost pile down. Take a break and either use a pitch fork or a shovel to mix everything, or turn it if it is in a compost barrel. Water it down again until it is completely wet, through and through.

Every time you turn the pile over the next six weeks you let in much needed oxygen which reinvigorates the compost. If you turn it every week and keep it moist, you will have finished compost in just six weeks. You can then add this compost to your garden and enjoy watching your flowers and veggies doing a happy dance.

Do you have a compost pile?  Does this make you want to start one?

                                                by

G.Muthuraman

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SEED STARTING AND HOW TO MAKE NEWSPAPER SEED POTS

Seed starting is a family affair and a great spring time activity in anticipation of gardening season. Learn how to create your own DIY newspaper seed pots for garden seeds. Re-purpose, re-use, and recycle with newspaper seedling pots. | EveryDayCare

Care giving means so many different things to so many different people. It can mean total care, it can mean providing food and shelter, it can also mean caring for someone while they’re not feeling so good, it can mean little acts of care the list could go on and on. I like to think of it as encompassing various responsibilities and activities that are a part of daily life, as well as activities that enrich our lives as a family. Part of caring for our family means trying to make sure we’re all eating healthy foods. That means when spring comes, making our annual seed order (and this year an order of a rooster to protect our growing flock), so we can set our garden in motion. Seed starting is a family affair.

By the time we’re done, our dining room will probably be filled to the gills with trays of seedlings waiting to be planted.

We recently started the process of planting all the seeds that need to be planted indoors prior to placing them in the ground outside. We started with peppers and tomatoes. Dan had learned, in one of our gardening groups, that newspaper makes great little seed pots… Not only that, but it’s a great way to re-purpose newspaper. We actually don’t pay for a newspaper, so we ran to a convenience store in town and picked up a few papers for 50 cents apiece – much cheaper than seed pots would have been for all the seeds we need to plant.

Supplies You Need for Seed Starting

You really don’t need that many supplies; in fact, it’s more affordable than people think. With a little creativity and re-purposing, you can save a LOT of money.

  • Seeds – We prefer heirloom seeds because then we can harvest our seeds and re-plant the next year.
  • Newspapers – How many depends on how big your garden will be.
  • Seed starting trays, with or without lids – We picked up plain seed starting trays, no lids, at our local hydroponics store.
  • 1 regular-sized tin can
  • Scissors or box cutters
  • Potting Soil Mix – This will probably be the most expensive item on your list.
  • Water

How to Make Newspaper Seed Pots

Making newspaper seed pots is so simple. If there are a few of you working together, you can start an assembly line and help each other, making the process go by even more quickly

Making your seed pots… Take a regular-sized tin can and use that to measure and roll the newspaper into a sort of pot.

Seed starting is a family affair and a great spring time activity in anticipation of gardening season. Learn how to create your own DIY newspaper seed pots for garden seeds. Re-purpose, re-use, and recycle with newspaper seedling pots. | EveryDayCare

Fold your bottom end up, closing it in.

Seed starting is a family affair and a great spring time activity in anticipation of gardening season. Learn how to create your own DIY newspaper seed pots for garden seeds. Re-purpose, re-use, and recycle with newspaper seedling pots.

hen fold your top down over the top, creating a crease so it’s easier to fold down once you remove the can. Unfold that top fold and remove the can from your seedling pot.

Seed starting is a family affair and a great spring time activity in anticipation of gardening season. Learn how to create your own DIY newspaper seed pots for garden seeds. Re-purpose, re-use, and recycle with newspaper seedling pots.

Following that crease, fold the top back down. Fill each newspaper pot with dirt, and place in an empty seed-starting tray.

Seed starting is a family affair and a great spring time activity in anticipation of gardening season. Learn how to create your own DIY newspaper seed pots for garden seeds. Re-purpose, re-use, and recycle with newspaper seedling pots.

 

you can fit 21 pots in one seed starter tray; you definitely want the tray, so when you water the seeds, it can hold the excess water.

Seed starting is a family affair and a great spring time activity in anticipation of gardening season. Learn how to create your own DIY newspaper seed pots for garden seeds. Re-purpose, re-use, and recycle with newspaper seedling pots.

Once you have your pots made and filled with soil, it’s time 

Seed starting is a family affair and a great spring time activity in anticipation of gardening season. Learn how to create your own DIY newspaper seed pots for garden seeds. Re-purpose, re-use, and recycle with newspaper seedling pots.to plant your seeds

Seed starting is a family affair and a great spring time activity in anticipation of gardening season. Learn how to create your own DIY newspaper seed pots for garden seeds. Re-purpose, re-use, and recycle with newspaper seedling pots.

Then be sure to water and place in a sunny spot indoors.

Dan has another seed tray set-up in the garage underneath a grow light. He’s already got some lettuce coming up. We have so many plans for this spring and summer… These little seedlings get me so excited for the season ahead.

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Best Vegetables to Grow in Pots | Most Productive Vegetables for Containers

 

 

Best Vegetables to Grow in Pots

 Tomatoes

 

Tomato in pot

Without a doubt, tomatoes are the most productive vegetables you can grow in pots. Tomatoes need ample sun (5-6 hours minimum). The pot size depends on the type of tomatoes you are growing. In containers, growing dwarf varieties of determinate type is best. You should also try cherry tomatoes for higher yield.

Beans

beans in container

 

Most of the beans are climbers or bushier type and they grow upward. They are productive in pots and are easy to grow. You can grow them on a trellis near a wall and within weeks, you will get a green wall of beans running across the trellis. For growing beans you need a sunny place, and a pot that is minimum 12 inches deep (the bigger the better) and a strong trellis like structure for support. Since beans fix the nitrogen most of the vegetables that require more nitrogen are good to grow underneath them. If you’re growing beans in a very large pot you can grow summer savory, kale, or celery with them.

 Lettuce

 

lettuce in container

 

Lettuce grows up quickly and you will have the opportunity to harvest them multiple times throughout the growing season. As lettuce is a cool season crop, you’ll have to decide what is the right time for its growth according to your climate, usually, seeds are started in spring. But if you live in a warm climate, grow lettuce in winter.

For growing lettuce, choose a wide planter rather than deep (6″ deep is enough). When planting, make sure to leave space of at least 4 inches between each plant. Remember, leaf lettuces can be grown more closely than head lettuces. Use well draining soil and do shallow and frequent watering to keep the soil slightly moist always.

Peppers and Chilies

how to grow bell pepper in pots

Peppers and chillies are super productive and excellent candidates for growing in containers. They look great in pots and need a sunny and warm place to thrive. If you keep the pot in a sunny spot and provide right soil and fertilize the plant time to time it will fruit heavily. A large pot that is at-least 12 inches deep is optimum.

Cucumber

 

cucumber in pot

How to Grow Cucumbers Vertically

Choosing Container and Trellis

If you’re growing cucumbers vertically in containers, prefer large containers that are about at least 12 inches deep and wide. How many cucumber plants you can grow in such a container depends on the variety you are planting. A vining variety grows tall and send long roots, whereas bushier varieties are short.

Trellis Size

Choose a 5 to 6 feet tall trellis that is sturdy and doesn’t topple. If growing climbing varieties use “A frame trellis” so that the plant crawl up and down from it easily.

Propagation and Planting Cucumbers

Sow seeds directly onto the desired spot or in small pots. Cover them with about 2 cm of soil. Once the seedlings germinate and have a few leaves, transplant the healthiest ones into a bigger pot or on the frost free ground in spring or summer when soil temperature is around 70 F (20 C). If you live in tropical or subtropical climate, you can grow cucumber year round.

Cucumber plant is a heavy feeder like tomatoes, prepare your soil well before planting by incorporating decomposed manure and compost.

Requirements for Growing Cucumbers Vertically

Position

Cucumber loves a warm and sunny exposure that is less windy. It does not tolerate temperature below 50 F (10 C). Optimum temperature to grow cucumbers fall in the range of 60 – 95 F (15 – 35 C).

Soil

It prefers well drained, loose and deep soil, rich in organic matter and neutral in pH.

Watering

Regular and deep watering is the key of productive harvest, when growing cucumber. It is due to the high water content of its fruits. While watering, avoid wetting the foliage as it may encourage fungal diseases.

Mulching

Mulch around the base of plant to improve moisture retaining ability of soil.

Fertilizer

At the time of planting add all purpose slow release fertilizer in soil. Once the plant starts to flower, side dress the plant with aged manure. Also apply balanced liquid fertilizer at that time according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Diseases and Pests

Cucumber plants particularly suffer from anthracnose, powdery mildew and in pests look out for aphids.

Harvest

When and how to harvest cucumbers?

Cucumbers are ready for harvest in 60 to 90 days after seed sowing, depending on the variety. Pick cucumbers when they are developed enough, do not let the fruit to overripe.

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Rose Planting Guide

ro1

You’d never guess that such lovely flowers could spring from anything as homely as a bare-root rose. This awkward assemblage of stubby, thorny canes and wiry roots is poised for quick growth, making bare-roots the first choice of experienced gardeners. Look for dormant plants, their roots swaddled in plastic, in garden centers or nursery catalogs. Bare-root roses settle in with a minimum of transplant shock, then swiftly move on to the business of cranking out flowers.

ro2

1. On planting day, refresh the roots in a bucket of water while you dig the planting hole. An hour-long soaking plumps up shriveled roots.

2. Clip off damaged roots (this one is cracked). Shorten roots that are too long to fit in the planting hole without bending.

3. Some rose sellers trim the stems, or canes, for you. More likely, you’ll need to prune them yourself. Remove the broken ends of canes, canes with blackened or diseased spots, and twiggy growth. Leave three to five sturdy canes in an open-centered arrangement. Cut back any extra-long canes so all are about the same length. Don’t worry about making a pruning mistake; it’s hard to go wrong.

4. Timing is crucial for bare-root planting: in most areas bare-root roses should be planted in early spring before their leaves unfurl; where temperatures rarely dip below 20 degrees, winter planting is best. If you can’t plant a bare-root rose right away, keep its roots moist and cool. An alternative to bare-root roses — container-grown or “potted” roses — can be planted any time they’re available. Potted roses are a convenient way to extend the planting season.

Cutting & Pruning Rosebushes

ro3

1. Make your pruning cuts at a 45-degree angle, about 1/4 inch above a leaf axle with a dormant eye.

2. Choose an eye on the outside of the cane and slope the cut down and away on the opposite side. This allows excess natural sap to rise and seal the cut without interfering with the developing eye. Pruning to an outward-facing bud also promotes outward growth, opens up the plant to air circulation, creates more pleasing shapes, resists disease, and prevents the canes from becoming a tangle. Cuts closer to the eye than 1/4 inch may damage it. Cuts higher than that will leave a visible stubble — a haven for both pests and disease.

. If the rose bush has foliage present, the location for your cut is easy to spot. Where there is no foliage to guide you, find the dormant eye by locating where the foliage was once connected. The eye is normally visible as a slight swelling above the surface of the cane.

4. Use this same pruning technique when cutting stems for display and when removing spent blooms. Remember to sharpen your pruning tools periodically — either do it your self or have someone do it who’s specially trained.

5. Wipe metal surfaces after each use with a soft, lightly oiled rag to prevent rust. Store tools in a dry area.

Feeding Roses

Roses need three primary nutrients — nitrogen (the “N” on a fertilizer label), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) — as well as a number of secondary and trace elements in order to thrive. Nitrogen promotes foliage growth; phosphorus encourages healthy root and flower development; and potassium maintains vigor. Calcium, magnesium, and sulphur (secondary elements) and trace elements (boron, chlorine, copper, and iron) also promote plant-cell and root growth.

Primary nutrients are available from both organic (derived from plant or animal life) and synthetic or inorganic materials. Synthetic fertilizers come in dry, liquid, or foliar liquid form. Work dry fertilizers into the soil (moisten the soil first) and water after application to carry the nutrients to the roots. Liquid fertilizers are added to water with an in-hose applicator, and foliar liquids are sprayed on and absorbed by the leaves. Whatever you use, be sure to follow the directions and dosages exactly. Excessive doses can damage plants.

 

Most roses need regular feeding

— with fertilizers that are balanced for roses, your region, and your garden soil. Begin fertilizing newly planted roses once they are established — about three to four weeks after planting. Start feeding older plants in spring when new growth is about 6 inches long. At a minimum, species roses, old roses, and climbers need an application in the early spring as the buds prepare to open. Repeat-blooming roses, old roses, and climbers will benefit from a second feeding of liquid fertilizer after the first bloom, and modern roses need regular feeding.

ro4

Alfalfa pellets worked into the soil are an organic source of nitrogen and can be used as a slow-release supplement in spring. Use pellets that are not feed-grade so your rose food doesn’t feed the rabbits. A time-release synthetic fertilizer applied in the spring and again in July will reduce the need for reapplications. In zone 6 and colder, stop fertilizer six weeks before the average date of the first frost and let plants harden off for their winter rest.

A Guaranteed Analysis statement must appear on all mixed fertilizer labels. The label must indicate the proportion of each element present, as well as its sources (in this example, ammonium phosphate, potassium nitrate, etc.). The numbers 8-10-8 denote the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium present in this mix. This example contains 8 percent nitrogen, 10 percent phosphorus, and 8 percent potassium. Some fertilizers also contain secondary and micro-nutrients. Look for fertilizers with micro nutrients derived from EDTA complexes as they are water soluble and hence immediately available to the root system. Rose foods containing all three levels of nutrients (primary, secondary, and micro-) are the best choice. In some cases, a soil penetrate will be added to the fertilizer to assist in delivery of the nutrients in clay soils.

Regular Feeding Schedule

Roses are heavy feeders. They require a constant supply of nutrients to sustain growth and bloom production. Here are two methods that will meet their demand for food:

1. The Organic Method: For a continuing cycle of decomposition, regularly space applications of fertilizers on the rose beds about every four weeks. It is best to work the fertilizer into the upper soil levels. This program can be supplemented with biweekly applications of fish emulsion.

2. The Chemical-Fertilizer Method: Start with a time-release synthetic in the spring and reapply midsummer, with monthly applications of a complete rose food (with all primary, secondary, and micro-nutrients) in between major feedings. Always follow label application and safety instructions when using a chemical rose food

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10 Reasons to Grow Mint

Mint is one of those plants that people feel very strongly about having in the garden, and for good reason.  Because of its spreading nature and tendency to take over, many of us opt to just go without it all together.  The problem with doing this is that the mint wins!  Seriously, though, we humans are definitely smart enough to outwit the mint, making it possible to enjoy all that it has to offer.  Mint is a tasty plant that can be made into all kinds of goodies, while also being a powerful medicinal herb.  There are many different varieties of mint such as peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, and apple mint, all with similar growing habits.  There are also other plants that are in the mint family that grow without abandon such as lemon balm, bee balm, and catnip that can included in this discussion as well.  Here are 10 reasons to grow mint, without fear of it taking over your garden!

Mint Can Only Move So Fast

The truth of the matter is that mint is a plant, and while it can and will most definitely spread, it takes some time for this to happen.  I would steer clear of planting mint in or anywhere near your regular garden beds as it will eventually try and take over, but it’s a great plant for a rocky herb garden, a neglected corner of your yard, or a high traffic area.  This is mint that is just starting to spread after one year in the ground.

mint-spreading1

Mint will spread from its underground roots, and can cover great distances and under obstacles to get to where it wants to go, so keep that in mind when planting. But, although it may sometimes seem like it, this won’t happen overnight. Just keep a close eye on it and harvest any new plants that you don’t want

Mint Can Be Contained

Probably the best way to grow mint is in a container.  This will ensure that it will stay where you want it, without any worry of garden takeover.

mint-in-pot

Since the rhizomes that cause the mint to spread don’t go very deep, it’s also possible to plant mint in a raised bed without worrying too much about it jumping ship. It will try and take over the raised bed, however, so make sure to plant other things that can keep up with it. Other hardy perennial herbs like rosemary, sage, oregano, and thyme can usually tolerate the aggressive nature of mint, especially if they are already established

You Can Take as Much Mint as You Please (& then some)

The best part about growing a plant that is as aggressive as mint is that you can be just as aggressive back at it without worry of harming it.  You can cut handfuls of mint at a time without any damage done.  See a mint plant that is growing where you don’t want it?  Chop it down and turn it into something delicious, or cut large bundles of mint and hang to dry for use in the winter months.

Mint Grows Well in the Shade

If there is a shady area of your yard that you have trouble growing things in, try planting mint.  While it prefers full sun, it can tolerate some shade, and it will probably keep it from spreading as quickly.  Regardless, I would still take the necessary precautions so that you don’t get a complete mint takeover (unless that’s what you want, of course).

Mint Can Grow from Cuttings

Mint is super easy to propagate from cuttings and will readily re-root itself.  You can cut out mint where you don’t want it, put it in water until it grows some roots, then transplant it where you do want it.  In fact, you don’t even have to put it in water first as it will root right in soil.  Do it as a science experiment with your kids, or root a bunch of cuttings, pot them up, and give away to friends.  Mint is the gift that keeps on giving (and giving).

mint-roots

You Can Completely Ignore Mint (& it won’t feel bad)

Let your mint go and do it’s thing, then come and take from it as much as you want, and it will still thrive.  Don’t worry about watering or fertilizing it.  Really, it will grow without any inputs.  Unless you’re trying to naturally thin it out, it may like a little water from time to time, but it will honestly be ok if you literally leave it alone for months on end.  It’s a great plant for lazy gardeners

mint-close-up-e1464493977804

Mint Attracts Beneficial Insects (& Repels the Bad Ones)

Let your mint go to flower and it will attract bees, beneficial wasps, hoverflies (aphid eaters), and tachinid flies (parasitic on nasty bugs).  The smell of the mint plant will also repel houseflies, cabbage moths, ants, aphids, squash bugs, fleas, mosquitoes, and even mice.  Not a bad deal, if you ask me!

Mint is Good for Your Pets

Chickens love fresh herbs and mint is no exception.  The best part is that it’s also great for them and their coop.  It keeps bugs, flies, and parasites at bay, as well as being an antioxidant and digestive aid for your flock.  Be sure to plant lots of mint (as well as other herbs) in and around the coop and run for chickens to munch on daily.

 

Mint is Good Medicine

Mint is also an amazing medicinal herb.  It is well known as a digestive aid and breath freshener, and is also good for an upset stomach.  Peppermint is especially great for headaches, and the essential oil can be rubbed on the temples for relief.  It can be helpful for seasonal allergies, and can also be added to body care products like salves and lip balms, soaps, shampoo bars, and lotions.

mint-rosemary-shampoo-bars-680x468

Still too scared to grow mint but want to enjoy all of its benefits?  Order high quality, organic dried peppermint or spearmint from Mountain Rose Herbs (my favorite place for dried herbs).

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Container Grown Pomegranate Trees – Tips On Growing A Pomegranate In A Pot

wpomegranate-in-pot-390x600

I like food that you have to work a little at to get to. Crab, artichoke and my personal favorite, pomegranate, are examples of foods that require a little extra effort on your part to get at the delectable interior. Pomegranates are not only delicious but are getting bonus points for their high levels of antioxidants, leading many to try their hands at pomegranate growing. If this includes you, let’s look at caring for pomegranate plants with an emphasis on indoor pomegranate trees in containers.

Pomegranate Growing

Pomegranates (Punica granatum) are steeped in history and have been grown for thousands of years through the Mediterranean regions of Asia, Africa and Europe. Native from Iran to the northern Himalayas, the fruit eventually traveled to Egypt, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, India, Burma and Saudi Arabia. It was introduced to the Americas in the 1500s by Spanish missionaries. A member of the Lythraceae family, pomegranate fruit has a smooth, leathery, red to pink skin surrounding the edible arils. These arils are the edible part of the fruit and are its seeds surrounded by sweet, juicy pulp. The seeds can also be used for planting. Pomegranate trees are grown not only for their juicy, tempting fruit, but also make attractive ornamental specimens with orange-red blossoms prior to fruiting, set off upon glossy, deciduous green leaves. Trees usually have thorns, and are grown as a bushy shrub. That being said, pomegranates can be trained as a small tree ideal when growing a pomegranate in a pot.

How to Grow Pomegranate Trees in Containers

Pomegranates thrive in areas of warm, arid conditions. While not all of us reside in such climactic regions, the good news is that growing a pomegranate in a pot is entirely possible. Pomegranate trees in containers can either be grown indoors given sufficient arid provisions or outdoors during part of the year and moved indoors if cold snaps are imminent. Pomegranates are self-pollinating, so you only need one to set fruit. They are relatively hardy and will bear fruit within the second year. For outdoor or indoor pomegranate trees grown in containers, you will need around a 10-gallon container one-quarter full of potting soil. Set the root ball into the container and begin to fill in around the roots with the soil to the top of the container but not covering the trunk. Water the new tree in well and lightly tamp the soil down to eliminate any air pockets.

Caring for Pomegranate Plants

Pomegranates need full sun. Keep an eye on the weather report and if temps threaten to drop below 40 degrees F. (4 C.), move the plant indoors to a sunny window. Water the tree deeply about once a week, possibly more often during peak summer months. Fertilize the tree with half cup of 10-10-10. Spread the fertilizer atop the soil and two inches away from the trunk. Water the food into the soil. During the first two years of the tree’s growth, feed in November, February, and May, and thereafter fertilize only in November and February. Prune out any crossing branches or shoots to three to five per branch after the tree’s first year. Prune out any dead or damaged limbs in the late winter. Prune out suckers to create a more tree-like appearance. Follow the above tips, and within two years, you’ll have delicious pomegranate fruit of your own that last as long as apples (up to seven months!) in cool, dry conditions.

Pruning
Pruning is necessary to give and maintain desired shape of your pomegranate tree and encourage flowering and fruiting. Pruning it best done after all danger of frost has passed when the tree is about to start growing.

Prune off weak, dead and undesirable branches to direct tree’s energy to right part and shorten long branches to encourage flowering.

Fertilizer
During the growing season pomegranate tree is fertilized regularly, fertilize after every two week using half strength liquid 8-8-8 fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Pomegranate tree in pot often becomes zinc deficient, which is indicated by yellowing leaves. To overcome this, you can spray diluted zinc solution on foliage.

Application of compost or manure is also beneficial. Take care not to over fertilize it as it can cause the tree to produce lots of foliage and comparatively less flowers

Propagation by seeds
Buy as ripe pomegranate as possible. Separate and clean seeds from the pulp by rubbing them from paper towel, let them dry up for a few days before sowing.

Plant the seeds no more than ¼ inches deep in light seed-starting mix. Place the pots in a bright location, optionally inside a plastic bag or greenhouse that maintains a temperature around 68 F (20 C). Always keep the soil moist. Seeds will germinate within 1 – 6 weeks depending more on the variety and climate.

Propagation by cuttings
Take several 8 to 10 inch-long cuttings. Plant the cutting in a well drained potting mix. It roots easily and quickly at ambient temperature of 20 degrees Celsius and high humidity.

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5 Tips for Growing Tomatoes in Containers

Growing Tomatoes in Containers

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Tomatoes are the Holy Grail for many gardeners. Growing tomatoes in containers can be hugely satisfying or a flat out disaster. Sometimes there is nothing you can do to prevent tomato fail – bad weather, late blight or critter problems. However, there are some things that you can do to improve your chances for tomato success. Tomatoes are not the easiest but they are my favorite plant to grow. To me, a fresh picked tomato, still warm from the sun, is the closest a taste comes to magic. TheseMORE tips, in no particular order, can help you have success with growing tomatoes in pots.

 

Use Really Big Containers

One of the most important things you can do to ensure tomato success is to use a big enough container – the bigger the better. For one plant (unless it’s a very small tomato variety), you need a pot or container that is at least a square foot – 2 square feet is better. Five-gallon buckets (the ones you get at hardware stores, or for free at restaurants of food factories) are the perfect size for one plant. I use a large size reusable grocery bag and that’s a perfect size too.

I’m a tomato fanatic and grow them primarily for food, not for looks, so I put one plant per container (unless it an Earthbox or an enormous container or raised bed). Lots of people suggest growing herbs and other plants in the pot too. Not me. It’s hard enough to give tomatoes the consistent amount of moisture they need without throwing in other plants that will compete for the water.

Also, fill up that large container with a good quality potting soil and make sure you have good drainage.

Water, Water and More Water (But not too Much!)

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Water, Water and More Water (But not too Much!)

The key to tomato success is to give your tomato plants a consistent amount of water, which can be the biggest challenge for growing tomatoes in pots. The goal it to keep the soil moist, not wet. Too much water and your plant’s roots will rot. Too little water and your plants will get weak and your tomatoes will get blossom end rot.

Inconsistent water–too little and then too much water and you will have exploding (or at least cracking) tomatoes. TheMORE easiest way to deal with this is to use self-watering containers. Otherwise, you will have to check your tomatoes every day. I often find in the heat of the summer, or if it’s hot and windy, I have to water twice a day.

If you are using conventional containers, and you are getting too much rain, protect your tomatoes by moving them into a sheltered area or cover them – if they are small enough.

Another trick with tomatoes is to, water them in the morning (plants take up and use water more efficiently in the morning). Also, water the soil, not the plants as wet leaves can encourage blight and fungus.

Self-watering containers and grow boxes work really well for tomatoes.

Feed Your Tomatoes

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It is critical that you feed your tomatoes. I find skipping this crucial step may be the biggest and most common error most people make when growing tomatoes. Most potting soil (which is essential for growing almost anything in containers), has no nutrients in it. However, some have fertilizer mixed in, so make sure you check your bag.  If your potting soil doesn’t have fertilizer already in it, and I prefer potting soil that doesn’t because then I can control it, you will need to add aMORE slow release fertilizer to your potting soil, making sure to mix it in throughout your container. I like both Bradfield Organics or Espoma, tomato specific fertilizers, but you can use any all-purpose, slow-release fertilizer.

I then give my tomatoes a watering with a diluted liquid fertilizer–usually liquid kelp meal or a fish emulsion fertilizer every week or every other week, depending on my industriousness.

Let the Sun Shine

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Most people way overestimate the amount of sun they get. So a key to happy and healthy container tomatoes should happen before you ever plant them. When picking where to grow your tomatoes you will need to accurately figure out a place where they will get enough sun. Tomatoes will be ok with 6+ hours of full sun –which is the bare minimum and 8+ hours is better. Either use a sun calculator or go out and check your tomato containers several times over the day and time how much sun heyMORE are getting. If your plants aren’t getting enough sun, move them to somewhere they will. Also, check throughout your growing season, as the sun moves across the sky, what was once a full sun area can be shaded during a critical part of the day.

While tomatoes love sun, it can kill delicate seedlings if they aren’t slowly acclimated. Make sure to harden off your tomato seedlings as too much early exposure to wind and sun can weaken or kill your small plants.

Tomatoes also like heat, so don’t put them outside before it gets really warm (nights 50 °F), or be ready to move or protect them from the cold. That said, if it is too hot, tomatoes can fail as well. 

toma5

Most plants will not thrive if you plant them deeply, however, tomatoes are different. You want to plant your tomatoes deeply so that roots will develop from stems that are underground and your tomatoes will be stronger and healthier. When planting a tomato seedling, dig a hole so that most of your plant is covered by soil (though you will want to make sure you have leaves sticking out of the soil), making sure that you remove all the leaves and branches below the soil line. If your potMORE isn’t deep enough to sink the tomato deeply, (though it should be if you followed item 1!) you can also lay the plant on its side and bury it that way.

Choose great tomato varieties. There are a lot of bad tomatoes out there – mealy and tasteless – even heirlooms, so make sure you are planting tomatoes you will love.

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What Is Vermiculite: Tips On Using Vermiculite Growing Medium

We all know that plants require soil aeration, nutrition and water to thrive. If you find that your garden soil is lacking in any or all of these arenas, there’s something that you can add to improve the soil structure — vermiculite. What is vermiculite and how is using vermiculite as a growing medium beneficial to the soil?

What is Vermiculite?

vermiculite

Vermiculite can be found in potting soil or purchased by itself in four different sizes for gardening with vermiculite. Germinate seeds using the smallest size of vermiculite as a growing medium and the largest size for improved soil aeration.

Vermiculite is the name of a group of hydrated laminar minerals (aluminum-iron magnesium silicates) which look like mica. Horticultural vermiculite is processed with massive heat that expands it into accordion shaped pellets composed of multiple layers of thin plates. It will not rot, deteriorate, or mold and is enduring, odorless, non-toxic and sterile.

Vermiculite is generally a neutral 7.0 but is dependent upon the source from around the globe and its reaction is alkaline. It is very lightweight and mixes easily with other mediums.

Vermiculite Uses

Vermiculite added to the garden or vermiculite in potting soil increases water and nutrient retention and aerates the soil, resulting in healthier, more robust plants. Perlite may also be found in potting soils, but vermiculite is far superior for water retention. Vermiculite, although less aerating than perlite, is the amendment of choice for water-loving plants. Here are other uses for vermiculite:

  • Add vermiculite to soil for conditioning and lightening either alone or in conjunction with peat or compost. This will accelerate the growth and promote anchorage for tender young root systems.
  • Using vermiculite as growing medium will also enable the plant to more easily absorb the ammonium, potassium, calcium and magnesium necessary for vigorous growth.
  • Medium grade vermiculite can be used directly for root cuttings. Just water thoroughly and insert the cutting up to the node.
  • Use vermiculite alone or mixed with soil or peat for seed germination. This will allow seeds to germinate more rapidly. If vermiculite is used without soil, feed the seedlings a weak fertilizer solution (1 tablespoon of soluble fertilizer per 1 gallon of water) once the first leaves appear. Damping off is thwarted since vermiculite is sterile and the seedlings are easily removed without damage to the roots.

Vermiculite mixed half and half with soil, peat or compost eliminates packed down soil in flower pots and houseplant containers while allowing excellent aeration, reducing watering frequency and allowing root spread.

  • To transplant using vermiculite, dig a hole 6 inches larger than the plants roots. Fill in with a mix of vermiculite and the removed topsoil. Again, this allows for root spread, provides moisture control and protects the roots from drying out due to sun or wind. Three inches of vermiculite can also be used as mulch around shrubs and other garden plants like roses, dahlias, tomatoes.
  • Place bulbs or root crops in a container and pour the vermiculite around them. The sponge-like quality of the vermiculite will absorb any excess moisture and prevent rot or mildew while protecting them from temperature fluxes.
  • Even newly seeded lawns can benefit from an application of vermiculite. Mix 3 cubic feet of vermiculite per 100 square feet, seed, then cover the entire area with ¼ inch of vermiculite. Water in with a fine spray. The vermiculite will hasten germination and increase the number of seeds that germinate while maintaining moisture and protecting from drying and heat.
  • Lastly, vermiculite can be used when arranging flowers. Fill the container with vermiculite, thoroughly saturate with water, pour off the excess and arrange the flowers. This eliminates the need to change the water, eliminates spills and keeps blooms fresh for day. Just be sure to use horticultural vermiculite and not that sold for house insulation — it is treated to repel water!

 

About Plants For Hanging Baskets

Hanging baskets are a great way to enjoy your favorite plants anywhere, anytime. They’re great indoors and out. Whether you’re growing houseplants or your favorite perennial or annual hanging plants, the options for what to grow are nearly endless, making it easy to find a plant to suit your specific needs, though the choices can sometimes be overwhelming.hanging-basket1-400x533

Best Flowers for Hanging Baskets

 While some of the better options for hanging baskets include trailing plants, nearly any plant will work, including veggies, when given the proper growing conditions. However, some plants do work better than others. For this reason, listing some of the most popular of these should make choosing plants for hanging baskets a bit easier. Let’s take a look at some of the most common perennial and annual hanging plants.

Sun-Loving Hanging Basket Plants

If you have an area with lots of sun, these plants will make excellent choices. Just don’t forget that hanging plants have a tendency to dry out faster, so keep them well watered and check on them daily

.Flowering plants

Moss rose (Portulaca grandiflora – annual)

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Geranium (annual)

Lantana (perennial)

Container Plant Watering

It is often difficult to gauge how much water for container garden plants is necessary. There is a fine line between drought and soggy soil, and either one can be detrimental to plant health. Summer is the most difficult time for container plant watering. Some tips and hints can help the gardener determine when to water container plants. Tools like moisture gauges are helpful for ascertaining how much water for container garden plants is the healthy amount.

When to Water Container Plants

Potted plants tend to dry out more quickly than their in-ground counterparts. The small soil space and the construction of the pot mean the container stores very little moisture. In general, early morning or early evening is the optimal time to water your containers, as this will give the plant some time to take up the water before the heat of the day kicks in but will also allow excess water on the plant to evaporate quickly so that the plant is not vulnerable to fungus.

In summer, watering outdoor potted plants is necessary daily (and even twice a day) for most species, especially when temperatures reach over 85 degrees F. (29 C.).

How Often to Water Potted Plants

If you are consistently checking the pots, you will know when to water the plant. The frequency depends upon the species. Succulents and drought tolerant plants need to be watered less often then annuals and vegetables. Well-established plants can go longer before water than newly installed plants.

It is best on most plants to water deeply and slowly so water can access all parts of the soil and roots. Short, light watering just goes out the drainage holes before the plant can acquire the moisture or the soil can absorb the water. In fact, most potting soils can start to repel water if allowed to completely dry out. Slow and deep watering will not only ensure the water gets to the roots of the plant, but will also force over dry potting soil to absorb water again.

If you have accidentally allowed the soil in your container to dry out completely, it would be wise to soak the entire container in a tub of water for a half hour or so in order to force rehydration of the potting soil.

Container plant watering on baskets and coir or moss lined wire cages works best if you dunk the entire container in a bucket of water and let it soak.

How Much Water for Container Plants

The amount of water may vary from species to species. Find out the average moisture needs of your particular plant and then get a moisture gauge. These are very useful tools for container plant watering. The gauge has a probe that you stick into the soil and gives you a reading that rates the soil moisture level.

If your plant needs moderately moist soil and the gauge reads in the drier zones, it is time to water. If you practice slow deep irrigation, water until the moisture leaches from the drainage holes. Let the top few inches of soil dry out before watering again.

Knowing how much water for container plants is appropriate is usually a matter of trial and error until you know your particular plant’s preferences.

Tips for Watering Outdoor Potted Plants

Container plants outdoors need more water than those indoors. This is because higher temperatures, direct sunlight and wind, dry the soil quickly. These tips will make watering your potted plants easier:

  • Use glazed pots to help prevent evaporation or place clay pots in another container.
  • Apply a layer of mulch or rocks to the soil surface to slow moisture loss.
  • Set up a drip irrigation system for watering outdoor potted plants. This allows for slow, even watering that the soil can absorb before it all runs through the pot and out the drainage holes.
  • Apply water in early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler and direct sun will not cook off the moisture before it can seep down to the roots.  

 

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