Organic Gardening News

Never New, But Never Boring

Organic Gardening 2 - Sun, 2023-03-12 08:00

Sustainability has become very trendy, with people of all walks of life indulging in the concept. It is quite easy to dip one’s toe into the trend with small changes such as recycling and composting. Still others are more hard-core and go all out with their sustainable life style. I would say we are somewhere in between. But one thing we rarely do is buy new items. This approach to sustainable living is sensible but has also provided us with everything we need by repurposing old items.


I am very frugal by nature and necessity. We don’t tend to purchase much beyond the necessities, unless you are referring to my plant obsession. Yet even with these, many of my acquisitions were cuttings, divisions, or gifts from other gardeners. We live a sustainable life for several reasons. One of them is our motto and the other is due to our isolated location. I cannot pop off to shop every day, which keeps my purchasing in check and helps avoid unnecessary spending. It also avoids wasting fuel and contributing to greenhouse gasses. We have the advantage of volunteering at the local thrift store which supports our community. When new items arrive, we have the first glimpse and can opt to buy.

I have little new furniture in my home. I love to refinish wood and have made old bookshelves, my roll top desk, end tables, and more, look brand new and modern. We did purchase new beds for ourselves and the guest room, but really, as I look around, everything came from someone else. Even my artwork came from Goodwill and other thrift shops. All my tchotchkes were given to me. My cookware is used, my dishes were my mother’s, and even my curtains were made or purchased used. My containers for the plants are old or I fixed them up for repurposing as plant homes. Upcycling comes very naturally to me, as I have a crafty nature and love fun projects.

Sustainable Living

Our clothes are occasionally purchased new. That is the case for socks, under garments and the like. I have a few shoes that were new, but many were used. I knit our slippers, hats, gloves, and sweaters, as well as throw blankets. We are not fancy people and live in the sticks, so it matters not what we look like. Our clothes are worn until they are nearly threadbare in most cases and are primarily practical garb. We each have a “nice” outfit for family get-togethers or other special occasions.

I admit to having many kitchen gadgets. I was a chef and love to cook, and I “need” a big stand mixer, waffle maker, and air fryer. Even many of my appliances are used. My coffee maker died and I needed a new one. Found one at the thrift store. My neighbor had an extra microwave for some reason, so he gave that to me. I wanted a rice cooker and found a free one. Much of what we use on a daily basis can be found used, free, or bartered. Speaking of bartering, I have acquired items by doing landscaping, trading plants, and even cooking for small events.

I find this lifestyle to be budget friendly and as an added bonus, makes me feel like I am contributing to the sustainability movement. When it comes down to brass tacks, who really needs all that stuff? There is so much waste in the United States and other countries. The landfills are full of stuff that is still usable. People throw out perfectly good things every day. It is really almost criminal how much waste we have because of our consumer society. I’ll take my free, but old, stuff any day.

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Categories: Organic Gardening

A Sign That Spring Has Arrived

Organic Gardening 2 - Sat, 2023-03-11 08:00

Some of our strongest memories are directly tied to scent. From the rich smell of freshly worked soil to sweet honeysuckle blossoms, the same is also true in connection to the garden. Many of my own garden memories are directly linked to the scent of specific varieties of plants that I have grown. One variety of daffodil, called “Geranium,” is especially meaningful, as it always serves to mark the official start of spring in my backyard.

Fragrant Daffodils to Signal The Arrival of Spring

I first obtained a small handful of Geranium daffodil bulbs, by chance, during a sale at my local garden center. At more than a 50% discount, my expectations for the bulbs were quite low. Still, I was eager to plant daffodils in my backyard for the first time ever. I soon began to research the variety online and admired the photos I was able to find that had been taken by various garden bloggers.

As their namesake would imply, Geranium daffodils are noted to have an unmatched fragrance. Though I was already quite familiar with daffodils, I had never encountered any fragrant varieties. My expectations in terms of scent were very low. When spring finally arrived, I was more than surprised to find that the Geranium daffodils had far exceeded my presuppositions.

Growing Geranium Daffodils

Unlike their more traditional counterparts, Geranium daffodils produce 2-6 smaller flowers on each stem. Each bloom features pristine white outer petals and a shallow orange cup. Though beautiful in their own right, the true magic of Geranium begins once the flowers begin to open.

On the first official day of spring, I stepped into my garden and was immediately immersed in a delightful cloud of fragrance. Naturally, I began to search for its source. As I came closer to my small daffodil bed, the scent became stronger and stronger. Though difficult to put into words, the heady aroma of Geranium daffodils is simply unmatched in the spring garden.

Though this variety is certainly not the most showy daffodil available, it will always have a much loved home in my spring flower beds.

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Categories: Organic Gardening

Brian Minter: Addition of a few novel jewels is guaranteed to make a garden sparkle

Organic Gardening - Fri, 2023-03-10 12:00
Opinion: Having lavenders continue to bloom well beyond our summer gardens is an unexpected pleasure and a real treat, especially for pollinators.
Categories: Organic Gardening

My First Philodendron

Organic Gardening 2 - Fri, 2023-03-10 08:00

I have a lot of early failures in my horticultural timeline. There was the bare crown of thorns I kept alive, and probably shouldn’t have, for a few years. The ficus that was destined to fail didn’t even last one season. The first plant I remember growing that was truly my own was a philodendron.

My First Houseplant

I got this philodendron from a friend who made a cutting for me. I wanted a houseplant of my own for my bedside table. I didn’t have any idea what to do with it beyond sticking the new roots in a pot of soil.

I didn’t know what a philodendron was, and because this was pre-internet, I didn’t research it. I simply planted it, watered it, and hoped for the best. Little did I know then that this is the perfect beginner houseplant.

That philodendron stayed with me for several moves, from home to college, to first apartments. In fact, I still have it today. It sits in my office by the window and keeps me company.

Philodendron – the Plant for Newbies

This could not have been a more perfect plant for my first. If I had started with that crown of thorns or the ficus, I may never have continued gardening. You can neglect it for weeks and still not kill a philodendron.

Philodendron is a genus of tropical plants from Central and South America. There are many species in this genus, of which a plant may be vining or not vining. My philodendron is a vine. It grows long stems that drape down over the bookcase on which it sits.

How to Grow a Philodendron

To grow philodendron, you need a warm climate or to grow it as a houseplant, which is what most people do. They like indirect light rather than a bright window. Mine grows next to a north-facing window with a tree outside that filters afternoon sunlight.

Although I’m guilty of having neglected to water my plant for periods of time over the years—and it has forgiven me—it does best with consistent moisture in the soil. I water it once or twice a week. It usually lets me know I’ve forgotten to water it by getting droopy and yellowing a little bit.

Our next adventure together is to create a terrarium. I took cuttings recently from my long-lived philodendron. Once they sprout roots, I’ll see how they like the moist conditions inside my terrarium. I have high hopes that it will thrive.

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Categories: Organic Gardening

Passionate For Penstemon

Organic Gardening 2 - Thu, 2023-03-09 08:00

For those of us who love plants, a difficult question to answer would be which one is your favorite? I certainly can’t answer that question since I have so many plants I’m overly fond of.

It helps to narrow things down a bit. For instance, if I were to be asked what is my favorite native Northwest perennial, my resounding answer would be penstemon, of which I have several varieties.

Interesting Penstemon Facts

Penstemon (P. laevigatus) is amazing. There are about 300 varieties of penstemon, the largest genus of flowering plants native to North America. The tube shaped blooms come in a variety of hues, and species sizes range from low-growing to over 7 feet (2 m.) in height.

Suited to harsh landscapes, penstemons are often the first plants to arise from disturbed areas of wildfire, erosion and manmade disruption of a landscape. Most are self-sufficient, requiring no supplemental feeding and rare, but deep watering.

Resilient as it is, penstemon’s other great claim to fame is its nectar rich blooms which attract pollinators — both bees and hummingbirds alike — in droves.

Growing Penstemon

The tube shaped blooms with a prominent staminode gives rise to the plant’s other name ‘beardtongue’. Its name is derived from the Greek “penta” meaning five, in reference to the unusual fifth stamen found on the blooms.

Excellent naturalizers when allowed to re-seed themselves, penstemons are a low maintenance, easy to grow, native plant that is suited to a slew of environments provided they are in full sun.

Leave seeds on the plant to ripen and re-seed, and mulch with gravel rather than rot-inducing bark, grass or compost mulch.

It turns out that I’m not the only devotee of penstemon. The American Penstemon Society was formed in 1946 to study and foster interest in the many varieties of this native wildflower, so you see, I’m in good company! Maybe after reading this, you too will be encouraged to incorporate one or more of this native North American species into your landscape.

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Categories: Organic Gardening

My Favorite Gardening Book

Organic Gardening 2 - Wed, 2023-03-08 08:00

When it comes to reading, I like to look at the pictures. Which is why The Ultimate Visual Guide – Flowering Plants has become my favorite gardening book. With more than 1,000 illustrations, this, to me, reads more like a children’s picture book than a gardening resource for adults. So why do I like this book so much?

My Favorite Gardening Book

The Ultimate Visual Guide – Flowering Plants contains a wealth of information for gardeners of all experience levels. This 192 page book begins with descriptive pages full of detailed anatomical plant terms. This is where I turn whenever I encounter a complex written description of a plant.

From pinnate leaves to funnelform flowers, the clearly labeled illustrations are a must have resource for deciphering written plant descriptions and ultimately identifying unknown species. I find the detailed drawings make it much easier to compare identifying features of plants more clearly than the multitude of plant photographs found on the internet.

The remainder of the book reveals two page spreads featuring 145 flowering plant families. Each family is briefly introduced using both common and scientific names, followed by a general overview of facts and features highlighting familiar characteristics.

This is followed by high quality illustrations of a select number of species within each family. In addition to the picture, each species is listed by both common and taxonomical names and includes an interesting blurb about the plant. The highlighted species are both rare and unfamiliar flower specimens from around the world as well as commonly known plants of economic importance.

I find this part of the book the most interesting. Like a child with their favorite picture book, I peruse the pages of The Ultimate Visual Guide – Flowering Plants simply to admire the exquisite drawings. I find this volume goes far beyond its coffee table book format.

Visualizing Plants

Both as a writer and a flora enthusiast, I find this guide to flowering plants to be both informative and interesting. I often use it to gain insight on plant families or to double-check the taxonomical spelling of family names when writing articles for Gardening Know How. It’s one of the few hard copy resources I keep within reach of my desk.

So, would I recommend this book to other gardeners? Perhaps, but be warned that The Ultimate Visual Guide – Flowering Plants does not contain gardening advice, information on garden design, or long lists of commonly grown plants.

Instead, it serves as a bridge between garden how-to books and stuffy, hard-to-read reference manuals. This book is perfect for gardeners like me, who want to learn more about the plants they grow, not just how to grow them.

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Categories: Organic Gardening

Going Nature-al

Organic Gardening 2 - Tue, 2023-03-07 08:00

In this age of global crises – including ongoing conflicts, rising populations, and climate change – it’s hard not to fear for the future. There are so many curves on the road ahead that it is impossible to get a realistic view of what to expect. But in my mind, one thing is certain: the relationship between humans and Mother Nature must grow closer if our planet is to survive.

Going “Nature-al”

This might be called the golden age of technology, as machines are built to take over our day-to-day tasks and solve some thorny problems. But machines have not led the world back from the brink of war, nor have they caused us to steer clear of the life-changing nightmare of the warming atmosphere resulting from our reliance on fossil fuels.

It seems to me that, in order to help the planet move toward peace and balance, tending nature must move to the top of our priority list. Does this mean we have to give up our computers and vehicles? Not necessarily. It just means that the first question for each of us should be: how will what I am planning to do impact the natural world?

What Is Going Nature-al?

To me, going nature-al is like going natural, but only if one use “natural” in the sense of working closer to nature. Sometimes the term is used loosely as a synonym for casual or even careless. But in its original sense, it means in harmony with nature.

Like all lofty goals, going nature-al is much harder than it sounds. To work in harmony with nature requires a vision and commitment to a larger good than our personal or even national interests — it requires a universal and global commitment to the planet, its plants and its animals. While most of us will not be in a position to shelter endangered monkeys or foster plant species on the brink of extinction, we can help the cause by tending our own gardens. I believe that this must be — and will be — the trend of the future.

Working Our Gardens

As we develop and tend our backyard gardens in the future, we can help the planet if we keep this goal at the forefront of our minds. Maintaining a greenspace around our homes can do so much more than just up the curb value,

The small act of installing plants in the backyard can create habitat for beneficial insects and small mammals. But putting in a vegetable garden or small home orchard can reduce our dependence on big agriculture, with its pesticides and fertilizers, and allow more space for organic produce.

In addition, when some members of a community set an example, others follow. Your neighbors, not to mention your own family members, will think and talk about your efforts and, with a little luck, be nudged into planting gardens themselves. This “earth first” attitude is not optional but necessary for the world to survive, in my opinion. That’s why I see a bright future for home gardening in the decade to come.

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Categories: Organic Gardening

Cultivating the Future: A Sensory Therapeutic Garden For Special Education

Organic Gardening 2 - Mon, 2023-03-06 10:00

Meet Mr. Steven Rude, a school psychologist in the LA school district. At a unique school in Reseda California, Steven evaluates very young children with varied severe and complex special needs. This school is one where children have the most serious disabilities. Some are in wheelchairs. Some are autistic, some have limited communication and some are intellectually challenged.

Steven spent 20 years working with kids placed in non-public programs due to acute emotional problems. With a deeply empathetic heart for those less fortunate, he is dedicated to his work with children facing great adversity. Prior to his current sensory garden project, Steven managed a 15-bed vegetable garden at a local Headstart kindergarten. It was flourishing and even provided some food donations to homeless folks but, sadly, was abandoned when COVID forced the school district to close it.

Red Tape

The principal of the district’s Early Special Education/Preschool Assessment Center asked Steven to create a garden for the children here, many of whom have the most severe limitations. When he accepted this challenge, Steven realized that this garden would have to be as special as the students – one that could provide them with an experience that would engage all of their five senses.

Although the LA school district is flush with funds, no school district money was allocated for this project. The paperwork, permits and red tape would have taken at least nine months to get the project started, so Steven got busy planning and organizing.

A Garden For the Five Senses

Steven knew that creating a meaningful garden space for these special kids would take a lot of effort and expertise. A Go-Fund-Me account allowed him to engage architects, designers, master gardeners and plumbers. An underground irrigation system was built; paths covered with decomposed granite designed large enough for wheelchairs and walkers were constructed. A chain link fence was taken down and replaced by an inviting white picket fence.

Two redwood beds were created just for unique and colorful vegetables, like eggplant and bright orange squash, that would appeal to the senses of the children. Since many of them have feeding tubes, there are no spicy peppers or vegetables with strong flavors growing here.

The children here now have the opportunity to experience the fragrances of herbs like mint, cilantro and rosemary. Flowers, native plants and succulents invite them to touch and explore visually and, with caution, some children are allowed to sample the strawberries. The teachers named the garden “Cultivating the Future.” A beautiful garden sign that incorporates some of the classroom art was designed by a former Disney employee.

Perhaps the most charming aspect of this garden, besides the colors, smells and ambience, is the outdoor speaker system that pipes in sensory sounds of nature, like birdsong.

Green Space in LA

The new superintendent at the LA School District is big on green space, according to Mr. Rude. He is looking at getting schools involved in composting, recycling and pollinator gardens. He’d like to incorporate the science aspect of organic gardening into the curriculum, and wants to develop green space to replace the asphalt at the schools. This kind of thinking in the heart of the second largest city in the country is encouraging.

This sensory and therapeutic garden sets a brilliant example of how gardening can enrich the lives of everyone, including our most unique citizens. Steven Rude’s incredible compassion, insight and empathy for children with special needs is reflected in this serene space where these children, far from the mainstream, can fully experience peace and the wonders of nature.

If you like and support what this project is doing for special needs kids, you can donate to Cultivating the Future here.

Every year, Gardening Know How awards $1,000 to 20 different, hand-picked garden projects across the United States and Canada. If your community or school garden has a growing, unmet need for more soil, seeds, fertilizers, building materials, or even just help getting the word out about your program, we’re ready and willing to help you meet those needs. As community gardens and school gardening programs spring up all over, we’re happy to do our part to help. Click here to learn more about how to apply to the GKH Sponsorship.

Interested in learning more about school or community gardens? Visit our Community Gardening for Everyone page today.

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Categories: Organic Gardening

Sickly Lawn Into Healthy Turf

Organic Gardening 2 - Sun, 2023-03-05 08:00

Growing perfect turf grass is a skill people master in university horticultural programs. It’s both an art and a science, and the end goal can be circumvented by so many different issues. I inherited a patchy, weedy, muddy lawn, which while still not perfect, is better than when I received it after diagnosing and correcting several problems.

Diagnosing in the Garden

One of the most important skills a gardener can develop is the ability to diagnose a problem. What’s causing yellowing leaves? Lack of growth? Wilting leaves? Eventually, you learn. You can read the signs and what your plants are telling you.

Diagnosing and correcting problems in a turf lawn is another level. One reason growing turf is so challenging is that it isn’t natural. Nature doesn’t produce perfectly green monocultures. A lawn requires a constant input of maintenance to stay in this unnatural state.

When I moved into my current home, its lawn stood out. It was patchy. There were a lot of weeds. And, with several big trees throwing shade, moss and dirt outcompeted grass in many areas. Not knowing much about growing turf, it took years to diagnose all the problems.


Shade in my garden has been the primary issue with growing grass in several areas. With several old maples, a walnut, and an oak tree, shade is plentiful. I don’t consider this a problem, exactly, but in learning about growing turf, I can definitely diagnose it as the number one barrier to growing a perfect carpet of green.

I did not correct this issue by cutting down trees, of course, although we do get them trimmed regularly. We — my husband and I — have taken a variety of approaches to avoiding dirt spots under trees.

First, we have reseeded some areas with shade-tolerant grass seed, mostly fine fescue. This has bulked up some of the turf, but in the deepest shade, I have happily accepted the green offered by moss. I have also embraced other grass alternatives. In my deepest shade corner, I have a lovely patch of ferns that thrive in the low light.


One problem that took some time to diagnose as a newbie in the world of turf was damage caused by grubs. Even in sunny areas where most of the grass grew well, we had brown patches. I expected and accepted that grass in sunny areas would brown up over summer, but these were irregular patches surrounded by areas of green.

It took some research into grass problems to determine the cause. The first sign I had that it might be grubs was that the spots felt loose and spongy. Grubs nibble at the roots, detaching grass from the soil, which causes this effect. When I suspected grubs, I actually dug into the ground and found the culprits: white and fleshy with darker heads. Although I don’t like to use chemicals, pesticides seemed necessary here and took care of the problem.

Compacted Soil

Isolated problems like shade and grubs caused isolated damage or patchiness. We also seemed to have an overall issue with the grass being patchy and thin throughout the lawn.

The grubs were fairly easy to diagnose compared to this issue. As someone new to being responsible for a lawn, I had no idea compacted soil could be a problem. One sign I now would recognize right away include the fact that it was nearly impossible to dig into the soil in areas where I wanted to replace grass with other plants, like ferns.

Another was the shallow root system in much of the lawn. When soil gets dense and packed, it’s hard for grass to send down roots into it. We also had areas where water would puddle after the rain. Aeration every few years has been a good solution to breaking up the soil and allowing grass roots to move more freely and deeply.

Diagnosing problems in the garden is easier now than in the past. There are so many online resources to help. In spite of this, it still takes experience to really read your plants. The longer you garden, the easier it gets to understand what ails them.

Note: Any recommendations pertaining to the use of chemicals are for informational purposes only. Chemical control should only be used as a last resort, as organic approaches are safer and more environmentally friendly.

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Categories: Organic Gardening

Roses Are Red, Violets Are…

Organic Gardening 2 - Sat, 2023-03-04 08:00

Some plants bear the name of a color… or is it vice versa? It’s a bit like what came first, the chicken or the egg. At any rate, many plants share the same name as a color.

Flower Colors

There are lots of examples, of which fuchsia is one. When the word “fuchsia” is said, who doesn’t conjure up an image of the hot pink hue? Speaking of pink, pink is also a word for both a color and a plant. Pink was first used as a color name in the late 17th century. The pale red color got its name from a flower of the same name. One might be tickled pink to see a pink pink.

We’re all familiar with blue jeans. When Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss began marketing the work pant, they chose to dye the fabric blue, indigo blue. Indigo is a color derived from several plants in the genus Indigofera, members of the pea family. Indigo is not only the name of a plant, but also one of the seven colors of the rainbow blending in between blue and violet, yet another color that is a plant.

Of course there’s also the rose, so named for its rosy hue. And then we have the color blind Sir Edmund Spence and later Gammer Gurton who oh so poetically (and incorrectly in my opinion) wrote “The rose is red, the violet’s blue, the honey’s sweet, and so are you”. Violets are well, violet to my eye. Definitely not blue.

Really the list could go on and on regarding colors names that are also the names of plants, but my favorite holds a special place in my heart: lilac. I was born and raised in what has become known as the Lilac City.

The Lilac City

The historical background on how my Spokane, Washington became known as Lilac City is a bit fuzzy. Lilacs are not native to the area so someone brought them here, but who and when is in dispute. Regardless, by 1938 there were sufficient shrubs with accompanying lilac blooms to promote a Lilac Festival complete with parade. Of course, again it depends on who you talk to; the official Lilac Festival folks say the first festival was held as early as 1896…

Today the Lilac Festival is in its 76th year (or is it?) and probably a good two out of three homes have a lilac somewhere in the landscape; except mine.

Despite a sentimental attachment to the name I actually abhor lilacs except when they are in bloom. They are a rather large, rangy shrub with multiple trunks that tend to be rather unattractive except from May to June when they are in bloom.

Despite my distaste for the shrub, it is still a spectacular experience to go visit the Lilac Garden in Manito Park during the peak of bloom when over 100 named lilac cultivars from 23 species vie for your attention.

And, there might just be a lilac that I might consider adding to my garden. More compact than other lilac cultivars, the Bloomerang has something else… it blooms twice a year! Two blooms of fragrant flowers might, just might, be enough to entice me to join the lilac craze in my hometown.

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Categories: Organic Gardening

Brian Minter: These planters will give your spirits a much-needed lift

Organic Gardening - Fri, 2023-03-03 12:00
Opinion: The beauty of these containers is that ultimately everything in them can go into your garden perennial or shrub beds.
Categories: Organic Gardening

Not Pruning Is A Mistake

Organic Gardening 2 - Fri, 2023-03-03 08:00

Pruning can be confusing for a new gardener. When do you do it? How much do you remove? Which stems or branches should you prune? I have learned a lot over the years about how to prune correctly, and I’m still learning. With some wisdom gained I can advise newbies that the biggest mistake isn’t pruning incorrectly. It’s never pruning at all.

Pruning Can Be Scary

As a new gardener I just didn’t understand pruning. I didn’t realize that some plants desperately need it and what the benefits could be. I had some sense that you were supposed to prune, but it seemed complicated.

The thought of chopping back branches seemed like it could backfire. In other words, I was too nervous to take up the task. I worried I would end up with a bunch of dead stumps rather than healthier, bushier plants.

Overgrown, Thin Shrubs

We have a large bush honeysuckle in your backyard. I know, it’s invasive, but it was there when we moved in, and I didn’t know what it was then. It houses a lot of birds, which I like, but we never trimmed it for the first several years we were in the house, and it began to look pretty unattractive.

What happens when you don’t trim a large shrub like this it goes beyond out of control growth. That was problem number one. It began to engulf the Rose of Sharon next to it. It overhung the sidewalk leading to the back door, causing me to walk with a lean to get by it.

The other issue, which I discovered when I finally researched how to prune a shrub like this, was that the leafy growth became thin. Outside of a green, lush outer growth of leaves, the large interior of the shrub was all sticks and few leaves. The sunlight couldn’t penetrate to stimulate more leaf growth. The overall effect wasn’t very attractive.

Ultimately, we learned how and when to trim back a bush that had grown out of control. This includes removing some of the stems right down to the base and doing so strategically to allow light to get to the interior. The result today is a well-shaped, fuller, if still invasive shrub.

Leggy Plants

When I first started growing annuals in the garden, both in beds and containers, I didn’t know what legginess means. I knew that some of my plants looked spindly and bare, but I didn’t know why or what to do about it.

I now know this means the plants were getting leggy from lack of trimming. There are other reasons plants can get leggy, like low light conditions for houseplants, but for my outdoor annuals, lack of pruning was definitely an issue.

Leggy is the opposite of full and bushy. When the stems get long and floppy with leaf growth mostly at the top, you have a leggy plant. It’s not attractive.

Fortunately, pruning plants to stimulate fuller, bushier growth is easy. For most plants, you don’t even need any tools. Simply pinch off the newest bit of growth at the end of the stems. Pinch just above a leaf node and those two leaves will grow into two new branches. The result is fuller, denser growth throughout the plant. I do this throughout the growing season but especially early on.

Pruning can seem complicated for new gardeners, and yes, plants survived before there were humans to prune them, but we’re going for more than survival in our gardens. If you want attractive, healthy, and productive plants, learn how to prune and then get to it.

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Categories: Organic Gardening

BC Home + Garden Show: Event highlights to kickstart your spring

Organic Gardening - Thu, 2023-03-02 12:44
Show manager Amber Beaton sees the show as resonating even more with consumers today
Categories: Organic Gardening

In the Garden: Trends to watch for in the months ahead

Organic Gardening - Thu, 2023-03-02 09:00
Privacy concerns, organic plantings and wildflower gardens all likely to be top of mind
Categories: Organic Gardening

A Healthy Harvest

Organic Gardening 2 - Thu, 2023-03-02 08:00

Being outdoors and enjoying all that mother nature has to offer is always good for the body and soul. But working in a garden multiplies the healthy harvest. Digging and weeding and even planting a garden count as exercise, and the organic crops you can grow are among the best-for-your-table produce available.

I cannot laud my backyard garden enough when it comes to keeping me healthy. Very few outdoor activities offer a fraction of gardening health benefits.

Growing a Healthy Body

Yes, gardening is exercise. This will come as no surprise to active gardeners, since it’s impossible to shovel and hoe without breaking a sweat. Raking and grass cutting are moderate exercise, but breaking up the soil is likely vigorous exercise. This helps keep down weight as well as getting solid sleep every night.

But that’s not all. Working out under the sun allows the body to create Vitamin D, essential for strengthening bones and upgrading your immune system. Vitamin D also is proven to keep the doctor at bay, reducing a gardener’s chances of many diseases including many kinds of cancer.

And, to top off these benefits, studies have shown that gardening improves cognitive function in the brain. In fact, it is recommended as an effective treatment for people with dementia in some countries.

Stress Reduction and Mindfulness

Gardening has been called good for the soul. First, just interacting with nature on a regular basis promotes mental health. Working outdoors and tending crops just makes us feel good and upgrades our moods.

I know that “gardening” is on my short list of activities that cheer me up when I feel self hatred or despair. It pulls me out of regret for the past and fear of the future to keep me in the moment. And let’s face it: just unplugging from technology is refreshing for the mind and spirit. So now’s the time to trade in your BlackBerry for blackberry bushes!

Stress isn’t nice to our bodies. When unpleasant events raise the level of stress hormones like cortisol in your body, there are all sorts of negative consequences. But working in a garden can help you recuperate from stress fast. Studies have even established the connection.

Low-cost Organic Produce

Who hasn’t excused themselves for passing up organic produce in favor of processed foods by pointing to the exorbitant prices of the best produce? This excuse disappears when you garden. This hobby has easily and effectively increased my daily access to healthy foods at a reasonable price.

Although not everything grows well in cool San Francisco, all leafy greens are very happy in the garden here most of the year. I eat my own organic lettuce, spinach, kale, and chard all year long. And it’s so handy, all that produce is just a stone’s throw from the kitchen table.

And it goes without saying that regular access to fruits and vegetables has improved my nutrition. It is hardly surprising that gardeners in general eat more fresh fruits and vegetables than those who buy all their food at the stores.

Healthy Harvest

Still not convinced? Give gardening a try for one season and you will become a confirmed gardener as well as a healthier individual.

The post A Healthy Harvest appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Ebony Blooms

Organic Gardening 2 - Wed, 2023-03-01 08:00

I have always had a fascination with black flowers and foliage. I suppose this is because the hue is not something normally observed in nature. Over the years I have peppered my landscape with any black varieties I could find. I have had black pansies, iris, calla lily, and I once even grew a black bat flower indoors. Bulbs are also a favorite of mine, and when I found a black tulip bulb, of course I had to have it.

Are There Any Black Flowers?

Black flowers aren’t truly black in most cases. If you look at them in good light you can see they are usually a deep purple that appears to be black. Selective breeding has almost achieved what Mother Nature could not, black flowers. In the case of the black calla lily, it is quite convincing in its darkness. Black tulips are more purple except in low light, but they are still spectacular and unusual.

I once made a black and white garden bed. It was a funky bit of garden design that appealed to me at the time. The white plants were the usual suspects. Tulips, snowdrops, peony, roses, freesia, hydrangea, etc. I had almost white foliage plants like Lamb’s ears, too. The black plants were more challenging to find. Black mondo grass, sedum, and Colocasia provided dark foliage. A black Hellebore provided black foliage and black flowers. Next came more black flowers. This was a bit tricky since they all had to be hybrids, so I went to a fancy nursery nearby for some retail therapy.

Varieties of Black Plants

What I found was actually astonishing. There were the aforementioned calla lilies but many more. I got hollyhock, iris, geranium, pansies, Dahlia, and petunias. But my real prize was black tulip bulbs. There are a few varieties of black tulip. I cannot remember which variety I acquired but once planted they popped up in spring and I was pleasantly surprised. The flower really did appear to be so dark as to be described as black. I loved these tulips. Over time their number increased and by the time I sold that house I had a large crop of the deeply hued blooms.

Moving Bulbs

I wish I’d had the foresight to dig up some of the plants and bring them along with me. The only ones I have currently are the black tulips. Because there were so many, I had dug a bunch of bulbs up, intending to transplant them elsewhere in the garden. They went unplanted for 2 years and I had little hope they would be good when I bought this home.

I don’t have a black and white garden anymore. What I do have is a lack of opportunities to purchase plants here in this very rural setting. So when I unpacked the gardening stuff and found the tulip bulbs, I thought, why not? I planted them out front, one of the first things I put into the ground at the new home. I doubted they would come, but waited patiently for a year.

The weather here is much harsher than where I originally grew these black flowers. We freeze very hard and there is hardly any spring weather. Rather we go from frozen to desert conditions. But to my surprise, the tulips bloomed. They have been in the ground nearly 3 years and I have seen the flowers twice now. With a little bit of luck, I will see them again this spring.

The post Ebony Blooms appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

Growing your own food made simple

Organic Gardening - Tue, 2023-02-28 10:01
Start with sprouts, says garden expert Alex Augustyniak
Categories: Organic Gardening

Growing your own food made simple

Organic Gardening - Tue, 2023-02-28 10:01
Start with sprouts, says garden expert Alex Augustyniak
Categories: Organic Gardening

Spring Woodland Wildflowers Of Michigan

Organic Gardening 2 - Tue, 2023-02-28 08:00

It would be impossible to pick one native plant I love best in my home state of Michigan. As a group, my favorites are definitely the intrepid little flowers that come out in early spring in the woodlands around my home.

Why I Love the Woods in Spring

I live in the suburbs, but in an older development that left a lot of wooded areas intact. Walks through these areas are nice any time of year, but in spring, when the air and soil begin to warm, it’s a joy to see the first wildflowers appear.

Summer is hands down my favorite time of year, but there is something special about spring. When the first green appears, then the little flowers in the woods, it’s exciting to start anticipating and getting ready for the summer season.

My Favorite Woodland Wildflowers

Of all the native woodland flowers, I do have a few favorites. They’re all lovely, but these are the ones I look for every year with the most anticipation:

  • Trillium. The large-flowered white trillium crops up in abundance in my local woods in spring. Groups of these large, three petalled white blooms look like confetti sprinkled over the forest floor. Once in a while I see a less common trillium species. Some of these are threatened or endangered, so it’s extra special to see a snow or painted trillium.
  • Spring beauty. The name of this flower says it all. They bloom early, especially in the beech-maple forests in my neighborhood. The flowers of spring beauty are white and delicate with five petals striped with light pink.
  • Bloodroot. This name is not so evocative, at least not of the flower. The petals are pure white with a yellow center. Although I have never tried it, sap comes out blood red when you break up the plant. The sap of bloodroot is poisonous.
  • Jack in the pulpit. My local woods always have one or two of these flowers. The bloom of Jack in the pulpit is green, so not easy to spot right away. It’s shaped like a pitcher or narrow glass with a stalk emerging from inside, the “Jack” in his pulpit. A hood covers Jack like an umbrella.
  • Yellow trout lily. Although not present in my area in large numbers, yellow trout lily are easy to find. The bright yellow flower stands out against the brown forest floor and the plants spotted green leaves.
  • Dutchman’s breeches. I have yet to find Dutchman’s breeches in my own neighborhood, but when I venture to a local park, I sometimes spot one. They’re a favorite for the unique flowers, shaped like an upside-down pair of white pants.

There are a few reasons these are my favorite natives. One is that they signal the beginning of spring and the end of winter. Another is that they are simply beautiful flowers. Finally, the ephemeral nature of these beauties makes them even more special.

The post Spring Woodland Wildflowers Of Michigan appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening

My Noisy Garden Is Good For My Health

Organic Gardening 2 - Mon, 2023-02-27 08:00

“Stop and smell the roses” is a familiar gardening metaphor meant to remind us that life is short, and we should make the time to enjoy it. What about the sounds of our gardens? Shouldn’t we also close our eyes and simply listen when we take a break in the garden? You may be surprised at what you hear. I was!

I Have a Noisy Garden

My vegetable garden sits at the back of our long, narrow, two acre lot. The two neighbors flanking each side of our property also have long lots with houses close to the road, like ours. Behind our collective properties are woods and farm fields. Naturally, one would think my garden would be a quiet, peaceful place to work.

Nothing could be further from the truth. When I close my eyes and listen, I’m amazed at how noisy my garden really is. It all begins with the rustling of leaves as the breeze passes through the woods. Did you know there was a name for this sound?

“Psithurism” comes from a Greek word which means whispering. Pronounced sith-err-iz-um, this word literally means the sound of the wind in the trees or the rustling of leaves. Yet on particularly breezy days, I’d hardly consider this sound a whisper. It’s more like a roar.

Next, I hear the sounds of the many species of birds that inhabit my yard and the nearby woods. I have to admit that the beautiful melodies of the native songbirds are quite enjoyable, but the fingernails-on-the-chalkboard screeching of the raptors can be a bit unsettling.

Finally, there’s the buzzing of the pollinators. From the honeybees that visit from my neighbor’s hives to the native wasps and hornets, I always stop and take notice when I hear these bugs. Luckily, I’m not allergic to bee stings, but they are quite painful, and I make every attempt to avoid these garden visitors.

Good Noise Vs. Bad Noise

As we listen to the sounds of our gardens, it’s easy to contemplate if there is such a thing as good and bad noise. Can some types of noise actually improve our health? Are other types of noise linked to medical conditions? According to scientific research, apparently there is a difference.

Traffic is the primary contributor of urban noise pollution. The constant hum of automobiles coupled with early morning trash pickup, street cleaning vehicles, and delivery trucks can cause an increase in urbanites’ anxiety and depression levels. This type of noise is also linked to higher incidents of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

On the other hand, scientists have found noises from nature reduce our sympathetic (fight-or-flight) response. It’s not our imagination that the rustling of tree leaves and the songs of native birds help us feel more relaxed. Research is indicating that these peaceful sounds may be physically altering the connections in our brain.

So apparently, my noisy garden is good for my health. Now, if only I could dispense with that other noise I hear when I’m in the garden. “What noise is that” you ask.

Oh, that would be the little voice in my head that’s constantly reminding me the garden needs weeded or watered, the veggies need harvesting, or that it’s time to plant next season’s crops. Geez, talk about stressful garden noise!

The post My Noisy Garden Is Good For My Health appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

Categories: Organic Gardening


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