Pollinators For Fruit Trees and Berries

Most fruit trees require pollination and chilling temperatures from November to mid-February to break dormancy in the spring. Pollination is the process of pollen from one flower being transferred to another flower, required by certain plants and trees. The process of pollination can be by insects, animals, wind, or humans.  Fruit trees need pollination for good fruit set, which occurs when a recommended fruit tree, (pollinator) is planted nearby. A pollinator can be describe as a tree or shrub that produces flowers at the same time and needs to be a different variety or cultivar, but of the same fruit. For example, apples pollinate other apple trees. For good pollination, the recommended spacing is 50 to 75 feet apart. When a fruit tree or berry plant is described as self-pollinating, the tree or berry plant is pollinated by their own flowers, but it is recommended to plant more than one for better fruit set. A plant or tree starts to go dormant when exposed to chilling temperatures. Chilling temperatures for a plant or tree are when night time temperatures drop to 45°F or below. Chill hours can be described as the number of hours the plant or tree receives temperatures at or below 45°F. Listed below are a few cultivars and pollinators for southern fruit trees, nuts trees, and berry plants.

Apples – All apples require pollinator depending on the variety. Listed below are a few cultivars for the south. Chilling hours are when night time temperatures are 45° or below.

Anna requires a pollinator with another cultivar. Dorsett Golden is a good pollinator for the Anna cultivar. Chilling Hours: 200 – 300.

Dorsett Golden - requires a pollinator with another cultivar. The Anna cultivar is a good pollinator for Dorsett Golden. Chilling Hours: 250.

Ein Shemer – self-pollinating and very productive. Anna and Dorsett can be used as pollinators. Chilling Hours: 200.

Fuji – requires a pollinator and tolerates summer heat. Any cultivar is good for pollination. Chilling Hours: 400 – 600 hours.

Gala – requires a pollinator and tolerates summer heat. Golden Delicious can be used a pollinator. Chilling Hours: 600.

Golden Delicious – benefits from a pollinator, Red Delicious. Chilling Hours: 600 – 700.

Granny Smith – self-pollinating and heat resistant. Chilling Hours – 500 – 600.

Red Delicious – benefits from a pollinator, Golden Delicious. Chilling Hours: 900.

Avocado – Avocados are self-pollinating, but benefit from a pollinator. Choose a different cultivar as a pollinator. Avocado trees should be planted in a well-drained area. Keep the planted area free from grass 2 – 5 feet away from the trunk. Fertilize newly planted trees every 2 months for the first year starting when new growth appears after planting. TheAvocado second year after planting fertilize 3 to 4 times a year ending in October. Use a fertilizer recommended for Citrus, Avocado, and Mango or 10-6-4 or 6-4-4.

Banana – are heavy feeders and require sufficient amounts of water. Keep the planted area free from grass 2 – 5 feet away from the trunk. Fertilize every month with a fertilizer recommended for Citrus, Avocado, and Mango, or 10-6-4, or 6-4-4. Bananas are clumping by nature and the new growth or suckers should be removed by cutting down to the soil line. Always keep at least 5 mature banana stalks. When the banana stalk produces fruit and is ready to be harvested cut off the bananas and then cut down the entire banana stalk that produced the fruit. At this time, let another sucker mature to produce fruit, but always keep at least 5 mature banana stalks. One can tell the banana is ready to be harvested when the fruit starts to turn yellow in color. If, the bananas start to split before harvesting increase the water times or the amount of water received by the plant.

Blackberry – All blackberries are self-pollinating and can grow on poor soil and will produce fruit after the second year of planting. Apply 10-10-10 or 16-16-8 fertilizer in early spring and after fruit production is done. The canes only produce fruit once and should be removed and cut down to the ground.

Blueberry – All blueberries are self-pollinating, but will produce more blueberries if pollinated by another variety. Blueberries need an acid soil and you can use Miracle-Gro (MG) Azalea Soil, or MG Rose Soil, or Humus and Cow Manure Mix. Also, add mulch or pine straw to help with the acidity of the soil. Apply a slow-release Azalea type fertilizer in early spring and summer.

Citrus – All citrus are self-pollinating and requires well-drained soil. Fertilize with a citrus fertilizer. Start fertilizing new planted trees when new growth starts. For older citrus trees, fertilized 4 times a year, but no later than October for the last application. Keep the planted area free from grass 2 – 5 feet away from the trunk and do not use mulch, but use pine straw instead. All citrus trees can be grown in a large cedar planter box. Click to view cedar planter boxes on sale at HibiscusAndMore.com.

Fig – All figs are self-pollinating, easy to low maintenance and produce heavy amounts of fruit. Figs natural growth habit is a large shrub, but can be trained as an espalier.

Grapes – All grapes are self-pollinating and need a support such as a trellis, lattice, or fence. Fertilize in the spring and early summer the first two years after planting with a 10-10-10 or 12-12-12. Grapes are not heavy feeders.

Mango – All mangos are self-pollinating, but will produce more fruit if pollinated with another variety. Mangos are very sensitive to temperatures that drop below 40° F for extended periods of time. When temperatures drop below 40° F there will be damaged to the flower and temperatures that drop to 30° F or below will damage the trunk of young trees. Wrap the tree with a blanket or frost cloth to prevent trunk damage. Newly planted trees fertilize every month for the first year with 6-6-6, or 8-8-8, or 10-10-10 plus minors ending in October. Thereafter, fertilize 3 to 4 times a year.

Peaches – All peaches are self-pollinating, but will benefit from another variety to be more productive.

Pecans – All pecans require a pollinator of a different variety for better nut yield.

Plums – Most plums require a pollinator. For pollinators use a different variety. Plum trees require 400 to 500 chill hours.

Pomegranate – All pomegranates are self-pollinating. Wonderful variety productive. Planting two or more improves fruit set.

Strawberries – All strawberries are self-pollinating and can be grown in a hanging basket.

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Spring is just around the corner...with, or without all of this snow!   It's the perfect time to add a bit of early color out there in your garden with one of Coë Steinwart's bright Coe Steinwart Garden Flagsand colorful garden flags! Click to Order.

Attract birds to your garden with different types of bird feeders. Bird experts recommend a selection of bird feeders that hold wild birdseed, thistle seed, and some that have suet cake holders. Hibiscus And More has an excellent selection of Bird Feeders. Click to Order.

Photography and digital images are ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2014. All Rights Reserved. All photographs and digital images displayed in this article are for viewing purposes only and cannot be duplicated ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2014. Texas Certified Nursery Professional #1282.

How to Compost

 

As the leaves fall off your deciduous trees and shrubs with every slight breeze of the wind and gently fall to the ground that is our sign as gardeners that the fall season is here. Your deciduous leaves are an excellent choice to start composting the leaves. All the nutrients that you gave your plants during the year are harnessed in the leaves. By composting the leaves and other organic material you can make an excellent and inexpensive soil amendment, and avoid wasting natural resources. Composting is a natural form of recycling that continually occurs in nature. Studies have shown that by home composting you can divert an average of 700 pounds per household per year from the waste stream.

 

Beginners may ask: Where do I start? How do I begin to compost? The answer is very simple. The apple, carrot, potatoes you just peeled for lunch or dinner that is organic material that you can compost. The coffee grounds used to make your coffee in the morning make an excellent choice to compost or take the grounds and sprinkle on top of the soil of all your acid loving plants, such as Azaleas, Camellias, Rhododendrons and many others. Not a coffee connoisseur, but enjoy tea instead? The tea bag or tea leaves can be composted, too.  When composting: do not include any oily fats, bones, meat or fish products as these items will attract unwanted wildlife to your compost area.

 

There are three components to composting: aeration of the compost, moisture, and carbon to nitrogen ratio. Aeration of the compost can be achieved by turning your compost. There are mainly two different types of composters. The compost tumblers, which you can turn by hand after adding new organic material or stationary composters when new compost is added one can use a pitch fork or compost turning fork to aerate the compost. The moisture of the compost should be between 40 to 60 percent. Natural occurring microbes and water begin the composting process. Microbes are microscopic live forms, bacteria and fungi, that break down or ingest organic material and the waste that is formed is called compost. Too much moisture slows down the composting by not allowing enough aeration or air to the microbes and compost. To little moisture the microbes and composting process slows down or becomes dormant. The microbes and compost need water to set in motion the composting process. The carbon to nitrogen ratio are the ingredients you will need to make your recipe for composting. When composting think of the process as following a recipe to make a dinner or dessert. The carbon to nitrogen ratio is 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. The ratio simplified is 3 to 4 pounds nitrogen to 100 pounds carbon. You can think of the carbon to nitrogen ratio as this: carbon is the food and nitrogen is the digestive enzymes. Carbon to nitrogen ratio can be viewed as organic green material and brown material. Below is a list of organic material that can be used in the compost bin. Each organic material is divided into carbon or nitrogen category.

 

Organic material that contains CARBON:

Leaves, shrub prunings (thick woody stems will take longer to break down), straw and hay (no seeds in the hay), pine needles (very acid use moderately unless the natural soil is very alkaline), wood ash, dryer lint, corn cobs and stalks (cut before composting), dried grass, egg shells (neutral).

 

Organic material that contains NITROGEN:

Table scraps (no meats or bones), fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, lawn and garden weeds (no weed seeds), flowers and cuttings, fresh manures: horse, chicken, rabbit, cow, coffee grounds (paper filters can be included), tea leaves (loose and bags), left over fruits and vegetables from the garden, egg shells (neutral).

This is the recipe for composting success thou the recipe does not have to be exact. Just throw everything into to the composter and stir.

 

Hibiscus And More has an excellent choice for a stationary composter that is hand crafted with northern white cedar. Click To Order.

 

©Cheryl Ann Meola

Texas Certified Nursery Professional 1282

 

 

Growing Herbs in Containers

 

As a horticulturist, we have favorite endeavors such as growing plants especially herbs in colorful containers of all colors and shapes. Herbs make an excellent choice to decorate a sunny patio, deck, or balcony, and the flowers that are produced on herbs will provide twice the amount of fun to your growing area. The seeds and flowers will provide additional ingredients to recipes. Processing the seeds produced by herbs make additional ingredients to add to recipes. For example, when Cilantro goes to seed the seeds are called Coriander when crushed; and when Dill goes to seed the processed seeds are called Dill Weed. Most flowers produced by herbs are edible and are used in salads, garnishes, and cooking or can be used in dried floral arrangements. For example, add Mexican Marigold Mint flowers to salads and Lavender flowers can be dried and used in floral arrangements. Plants that are classified as Herbs are very diverse and have multiple uses around the home. Here are a few tips to get you started with growing Herbs in containers.

 

Deciding a Location: Choose an area that gets 5 - 6 hours of full sun; and if, you have an area that receives more than 6 hours of sunlight that’s all right, too.

 

Deciding a Container(s): Choose a container that is 6 inches or larger, some of the perennials can be grown in larger containers are Lemon Grass and Sweet Bay.

 

Deciding a Soil: There are several potting soils on the market and choosing one is a matter of your gardening preferences. Some of the choices are inorganic verses organic, with moisture control or without moisture control, with timed-release fertilizer or without fertilizer. Some potting soils are especially formulated for herbs and vegetables, which would make an excellent choice to use.

 

Deciding a Fertilizer: There are several fertilizers on the market and choosing one is a matter of your gardening preferences. Some of the choices are water soluble, granular, time-release, slow-release, organic, or inorganic. Choose a fertilizer that is formulated for herbs or vegetable plants. Most gardeners agree in using a combination of time-release fertilizer and a weekly or bi-weekly feeding of a water-soluble fertilizer of your choice.

 

Choosing an Insecticide: When growing herbs in containers, you may want to consider an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach method to control insects on your herbs and using an IPM approach involves a two-step method approach, inspection of the herbs, and what type of control method you are going to use. The first part would be scouting, observing, and inspecting your prized Herbs for insects or chew marks on the leaves. Constantly scouting and observing daily for any insect or worm that would start eating your prize Herbs, and when one was seen, you can simply dispose of the insect. However, sometimes these critters multiply overnight and when this happens it is advisable to spray with a Safer Soap or a Horticultural oil. Using Safer Soaps or Horticultural Oils on all the Herbs mentioned is an organic and an IPM approach to growing Herbs.

 

Watering: Of all the ingredients that have been mentioned for Herb Container gardening success, water, is the most important to a successful Herb Container garden. The soil for your Herbs will need to be consistently moist at all times, but not soggy wet and the water source should be city water or treated water. This is one of the reasons of last’s years Salmonella outbreaks on produce; the Herbs that were recalled received Salmonella during either the growing process or the production process. Due to all the current recalls of produce, more gardeners are starting to grow their own Herbs this year versus last year due to the recent outbreaks in store-bought produce. Just another reason to start growing your own Herbs, you supply the water, you supply the insecticide, and you know exactly what ingredients went into your Herbs. For states that are currently under water restrictions, you can water your food crops, personal food garden, or personal Herb garden without penalty. Wash all Herbs before eating or cooking, whether Home Grown or Store Bought.

Put on your gardening gloves and reap the rewards and benefits of an Herb Container garden. You will have tastier Herbs than store bought that you harvest on your own. As an Herb Container gardener you know the ingredients, and there is nothing more rewarding than tasting the “Herbs” of your labors.

Listed below are just a few favorite Herbs that can be grown in Containers and have done extremely well. Note: spacing requirements are for growing Herbs in the ground instead of containers.

 

Arugula - Eruca sativa. Type: Annual. Height: 12 – 18 inches. Spacing: 6 – 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Uses: Excellent companion plant for salad mixes. Arugula prefers cool temperatures and can be grown from seeds or plants in early spring or fall. Can harvest 21 days after planting. To extend the growing season keep flower buds pinched back.

 

Basil - Ocimum basilicum. Type: Annual. Height: 18 – 30 inches. Spacing: 12 – 18 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Blooms pink flowers in summer. BasilAdditional Uses: Leaves can be used fresh or dried in tomato dishes, pasta dishes, vegetables, and soups. A companion plant that repels aphids, mites, and tomato hornworms. There are several different cultivars of Basil some favorites are Lemon and Cinnamon Basil. Basil image right. © Cheryl Ann Meola 2012.

 

Catmint - Nepeta mussinii. Type: Perennial. Height: 12 – 18 inches. Spacing: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. CatmintProfuse lavender blooms on spiky stems. Good for containers and the perennial garden. Soft, crinkled, gray-green leaves on a compact, mounding plant. Additional Uses: Butterfly nectar plant and your cats will love it. Catmint image left. © Cheryl Ann Meola 2012.

Catnip - Nepeta cataria. Type: Perennial. Height: 2 – 4 feet. Spacing: 12 – 18 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Vigorous, high-yielding plants. Cat-attracting perennial with gray-green leaves and white flowers. Additional uses: Butterfly nectar plant and your cats will love it.

 

Chives - Allium schoenoprasum. Type: Perennial. Height: 18 – 24 inches. Spacing: 4 – 8 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Chives have a mild onion flavor that is very pleasing and is easy to grow. Uses: Can be added to soups, salads, egg dishes, potatoes, fish dishes, or any dish that requires a mild onion flavor fresh or frozen. Additional Uses: Mosquito Repellent Plant or border/edger plant. Chives image left. © Cheryl Ann Meola.

Chives

Cilantro, Coriander - Coriandrum sativum. Type: Annual. Height: 12 – 18 inches. Spacing: 6 – 8 inches apart. Light Requirements: CatnipFull sun to partial shade. Leaves are used in salsa, guacamole, sauces, and seafood. When Cilantro produces seeds the seed of Cilantro are called Coriander. Catnip image right © Cheryl Ann Meola 2012.

 

Citronella Grass - Cymbopogon nardus. ( (Cymbopogon flexuosus) (East Indian)). Type: Perennial, annual outside zone 9. Height: 5-6 feet. Spacing: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Nectar plant for butterflies, Mosquito repellent plant, leaves are used in cooking, in potpourris, sachets, and the oil from the plant is used in citronella candles.

 

Cutting Celery, Leaf Celery, Celery Leaf – Apium graveolens var. secalinum. Type: biennial. Height: 10 – 12 inches. Spacing: 10 – 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Excellent plant to grow in containers. Cutting Celery is an excellent substitute for traditional celery, but without all the growing hassle. Very easy to grow and taste just like traditional celery, and cutting celery can be used in every recipe that calls for traditional celery.

 

Dill – Anethum graveolens. Type: Annual. Height: 18 – 36 inches. Space: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Yellow blossoms in summer, seed heads can be harvested. The seeds can be crushed and used in cooking. The leaves can be used fresh in potato, tuna, and chicken salads; fresh chicken and fish dishes. Additional Uses: Attracts butterflies and a larval food plant for butterflies. (Plant enough for you and the butterflies!). Dill image right. © Cheryl Ann Meola 2012. Dill

 

Epazote - Chenopodium ambrosioides . Type: Annual. Height: 3 – 4 feet. Spacing: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Leaves are used in bean, soups, eggs or cheese dishes.

 

FrenchTarragon – Artemisia dracunculus ‘Sativa’. Type: Perennial. Height: 24 inches. Spacing: 8 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Leaves are used in eggs, poultry, salads, cheese, and fish.

 

Garlic Chives - Allium tuberosum. Type: Perennial. Height: 18 – 24 inches. Spacing: 6 – 8 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Garlic Chives have flat, thin leaves with a mild blend of garlic and onion. Uses: Can be added to soups, salads, egg dishes, potatoes, fish dishes, or any dish that requires a mild onion flavor fresh or frozen. Additional Uses: Mosquito Repellent Plant or border/edger plant. Garlic Chives image left. © Cheryl Ann Meola. Garlic Chives

 

Greek Oregano - Origanum vulgare subsp. Hirtum. Type: Perennial. Height: 24 inches. Spacing: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Leaves are used in Italian dishes, pizza, shellfish, egg dishes, beef, pork, and poultry dishes.

 

Italian Oregano - Origanum vulgare. Type: Perennial. Height: 24 inches. Spacing: 8 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Leaves are used in Italian dishes, pizza, shellfish, egg dishes, beef, pork, and poultry dishes.

 

Lavender - Lavandula angustifolia. Type: Perennial. Height: 18-24”. Spacing: 12-18” apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Nectar plant for butterflies, flowers can be dried, in potpourris, and sachets.

 

Lemon Grass - Cymbopogon citratus (West Indian). Type: Perennial. Height: 2-3 feet. Spacing: 12” apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Nectar plant for butterflies, Mosquito repellent plant, leaves are used in cooking, in potpourris, and sachets. Lemon Grass image right. © Cheryl Ann Meola 2012. Lemon Grass

 

Lemon Thyme – Thymus x citriodorus. Type: Perennial. Height: 12 inches. Spacing: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun. Light purple flowers in summer. Wonderful Lemon scent when leaves are crushed or walked upon. Additional Uses: All leaves have a distinct lemon flavor that can be used in cooking. Attracts Butterflies and Hummingbirds to the garden.

 

Lemon Verbena – Aloysia triphylla. Type: Perennial, treat as an annual outside zone 8. Height: To 4 feet. Spacing: 18-24” apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: The oil is used in perfumes; the leaves are used in flavoring teas and jellies.

 

Mexican Marigold Mint - Tagetes lucida. Type: Perennial. Height: 24-30”. Spacing: 12-18” apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Butterfly nectar and larval food plant, Mosquito repellent plant, fresh flowers are used in salads; leaves are used as a substitute for Mexican Marigold MintFrench tarragon. Mexican Marigold Mint image left. © Cheryl Ann Meola 2012.

 

Parsley - Petroselinum crispum. Type: Annual. Height: 12 – 18 inches. Spacing: 8 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Leaves are used in meat dishes, soups, and salads. Parsley image right. © Cheryl Ann Meola 2012. Parsley

 

Pennyroyal - Mentha pulegium. Type: Perennial. Height: 6 – 12 inches. Spacing: 12 – 24 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Purple flowers in late summer through fall. Additional Uses: A groundcover, nectar plant for butterflies, the leaves are used in the flavoring for fish dishes, and grows well in a hanging basket.

 

Peppermint - Mentha piperita. Type: Perennial. Height: 24-36”. Spacing: 12-18” apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Leaves are used fresh in hot and iced teas, butterfly nectar and larval food plant.

 

Pineapple Sage – Salvia elegans. Type: Perennial. Height: 3 - 4 feet. Spacing: 3 – 4 feet apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Blooms red flowers in spring, summer, and fall. The leaves when crushed smell and taste like fresh pineapple. Additional Uses: The fresh leaves can be used in drinks and salads. The leaves can be used in hot or cold drinks, and the flowers and leaves are used chopped in salads. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden.

Prostrate Rosemary

 

Prostrate Rosemary - Rosmarinus officinalis 'Prostratus’. Type: Perennial shrub or groundcover. Height: 12-18”. Spacing: 2 feet apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: The leaves are used in lamb and fish dishes, butterfly nectar plant, Mosquito repellent plant, and drought tolerant plant. Prostrate Rosemary image left. © Cheryl Ann Meola 2012.

 

Rosemary - Rosmarinus officinalis. Type: Perennial shrub. Height: 4 feet. Spacing: 3-5 feet apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: The leaves are used in lamb and fish dishes, drought tolerant plant, Mosquito repellent plant, and butterfly nectar plant. Rosemary image right. © Cheryl Ann Meola 2012. Rosemary

 

Sage - Salvia officinalis. Type: Perennial. Height: 3 feet. Spacing: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Leaves are used in stuffing and meat dishes.

 

Salad Burnet - Sanguisorba minor. Type: Perennial. Height: 12 inches. Spacing: 8 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Leaves have a mild cucumber taste and are used in salads, vinegars, and cold drinks.

 

Spearmint – Mentha spicata. Type: Perennial. Height: 24-36”. Spacing: 36-48 inches. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Leaves are used fresh in hot and iced teas, Butterfly Nectar and Larval Food Plant.

 

Stevia - Stevia rebaudiana. Type: Hardy Perennial in USDA zones 9 and 10. Height: 18 – 24 inches. Spacing: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Uses: Stevia is a natural sweetener that is used as a sugar substitute that is calorie free. Leaves can be used fresh or dried in beverages, sauces, and salads. Do not plant outdoors until temperatures are above 45 degrees. Avoid afternoon summer sun in extreme southern areas during July and August. During these months it’s recommended to put the container in afternoon shade. Check for leafhoppers and whiteflies which may be a problem.

 

Summer Thyme – Thymus vulgaris. Type: Perennial. Height: 6 – 12 inches. Spacing: 6 – 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Blooms lilac to purple flowers in summer. Additional Uses: All leaves are used in cooking. Attracts butterflies to the garden. All thyme plants can be used as an alternative ground cover.

 

Sweet Bay Laurel - Laurus nobilis. Type: Perennial. Height: 12-15 feet. Growth rate slow and plants growing in containers will be somewhat shorter. Spacing: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Blooms pale yellow flowers in spring. Leaves are used in Italian and fish dishes. Companion plants are Prostrate rosemary, Lavender, and Oregano.

 

Sweet Marjoram - Origanum majorana. Type: Perennial. Height: 12 to 18 inches. Spacing: 9 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Leaves are used in eggs, meats, rice, pastas, soups, vegetables.

 

Photography and digital images are ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2012. All Rights Reserved. All photographs and digital images displayed in this article are for viewing purposes only and cannot be duplicated ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2012. Texas Certified Nursery Professional #1282.

 

 

February Gardening Calendar

 

Trees and Shrubs can be planted now. This is the best time to plant Nut Trees, Fruit Trees, and Shade Trees. Applying SuperThrive instead of a root Butterfly Bush Copyright Cheryl Ann Meolastimulator will get your newly planted trees and shrubs established much faster. Prune Apple and Pear trees the first week in February, wait until mid-March for Peach trees. Remove stakes, trunk wraps, and guy wires from trees planted last fall. Prune back ¼ of the branches on Figs. Save the horizontal branches, they are the branches that produce fruit. Is your Burford Holly overgrown? Now is a good time to severely prune back. Burford Hollies can be prune back to 12 to 18 inches. Butterfly bushes can be pruned back by ½ the original height. You will be rewarded with bigger blooms this summer. Butterfly Bush image right. ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2012.

 

Gerber Daisy ©Cheryl Ann Meola

 

Perennials trim back all the brown, and if necessary, this month is a good time to divide all perennials. Gerber Daisy image left. ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2012.

 

Roses Prune back rose bushes to about 18 to 24 inches. The best time to prune is between February 12 – 20th. For more information on roses and rose care. Rose image right. ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2012. Rose ©Cheryl Ann Meola

 

Lawns apply a pre-emergent to your lawn to prevent dormant weed seeds from germinating during the growing season. Most pre-emergents last about 3 to 4 months.

 

Vegetables cool season veggies like lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, asparagus, elephant garlic, garlic, snow peas, and strawberries can still be planted. To get a head start on your spring garden start thinking about starting your spring vegetable garden from seeds now. Organically grown Lettuce image left. ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2012. Organically Lettuce Lettuce ©Cheryl Ann Meolagrown Tomatoes image right. ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2012. Tomatoes ©Cheryl Ann Meola

 

Ornamental Grasses can be pruned back to 12 inches. Liriope that is looking a little be draggled can be trimmed back, too. Pampas Grass image left. ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2012.

 

Houseplants water with a houseplant fertilizer and turn your plants a ½ turn every week. Bamboo Palm image right. ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2012.

Bamboo Palm

Pampas Grass Lettuce ©Cheryl Ann Meola

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Photography and digital images are ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2012. All Rights Reserved. All photographs and digital images displayed in this article are for viewing purposes only and cannot be duplicated ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2012. Texas Certified Nursery Professional #1282.

 

©Cheryl Ann Meola 2012.

Texas Certified Nursery Professional #1282

 

 

 Fall Bulbs

As the Labor Day Weekend comes to a close that is our signal that the fall season will be coming very soon. We as gardeners know that we have a mental list of gardening duties to perform before the fall season ends. One of the gardening duties would be to plan ahead for planting fall bulbs in your garden. Fall bulbs are sold only for a limited time during the season and should be purchased in advance because a few of the bulbs mentioned require to be chilled in the refrigerator before planting, if you reside in USDA zones 11, 10, and 9. Crocus, Hyacinths, Narcissus, Daffodils, and Paperwhites all require 4 to 6 weeks of chilling. Tulips require 8 weeks of chilling. Bulbs are easy to plant and give you wonderful spring color.

Anemone. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Height: 10 – 15”. Planting Requirements: 2 “ deep at 3 – 4” apart planting on their sides. Soak the tubers over night before planting and water well after planting. Planting months are from October through December, and to extend the blooming season you may plant the tubers at two-week intervals starting in late October. The flowers are good for cutting.

Calla Lily. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Height: 14 – 18”. Planting Requirements: 3 to 4” deep at 1” apart. Planting months are from September through November, and to extend the blooming season you may plant the tubers at two-week intervals starting in late October. The flowers are good for cutting.

Crocus. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Height: 4 – 6”. Planting Requirements: 1 to 2” deep at 2 – 3” apart. Planting months are from September through November and require 4 – 6 weeks of refrigeration before planting.

Freesias. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Height: 18 – 24”. Planting Requirements: 1 – 2” deep at 3” apart. Planting months are from October to November, and to extend the blooming season you may plant the bulbs at two-week intervals starting in October. The flowers are good for cutting, and are very fragrant.

Hyacinths. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Height: 10 – 12”. Planting Requirements: 5” deep at 6” apart. Planting months are from November through December and require 4 – 6 weeks of refrigeration before planting. The flowers are good for cutting and are very fragrant. The Dutch varieties are good for forcing.

Iris – Bearded. Light Requirements: Full sun to light shade. Height: 30 – 32”. Planting Requirements: ½ - 1” deep at 8 – 12” apart. Planting months are from August through November. The flowers are good for cutting.

Iris – Dutch. Light Requirements: Full sun to light shade. Height: 18 – 22”. Planting Requirements: 2 – 4” deep at 3” apart. Planting months are October through November. The flowers are good for cutting.

Leucojum. Light Requirements: Partial shade to shade. Height: 16 – 20”. Planting Requirements: 2 to 3” deep at 4” apart. Planting months are from October through November. The flowers are good for cutting.

Muscari. Light Requirements: Full sun. Height: 5 – 6”. Planting Requirements: 1 to 2” deep at 3” apart. Planting months are from October through November.

Narcissus – Daffodils. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Height: 18 – 20”. Planting Requirements: 4 – 5” deep with 5 to 6 bulbs per square foot. Planting months are from November through December and require 4 – 6 weeks of refrigeration before planting. The flowers are good for cutting.

Paperwhites. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Height: 14 – 16”. Planting Requirements: 4” deep with 5 to 6 bulbs per square foot. Planting months are from October through November and require 4 – 6 weeks of refrigeration before planting. The flowers are good for cutting.

Ornithogalum. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Height: 10 – 12”. Planting Requirements: 2” deep at 5 – 6” apart. Planting months are from October through November. The flowers are good for cutting.

Ranunculus. Light Requirements: Full sun. Height: 18 – 24”. Planting Requirements: 2 “ deep at 4 – 6” apart planting with the claws pointing down. Soak the tubers over night before planting and water well after planting. Planting months are from October through December, and to extend the blooming season you may plant the tubers at two-week intervals starting in late October. Can be combined with Anemones. The flowers are good for cutting.

Tulips. Light Requirements: Full sun. Height: 20 – 22”. Planting Requirements: 6” deep at 5” apart. Planting months are from late December through January and require 8 weeks of refrigeration at 48 to 55 degrees before planting.

Watsonia. Light Requirements: Full sun. Height: 4 – 6 feet. Planting Requirements: 3 – 4” deep at 4 – 6” apart. Planting months are from September through November. The flowers are good for cutting.

 

Tip: Keep your bird feeders full all year long, and attract more birds by providing a variety of bird feeders.  

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Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Garden

Attracting Hummingbirds to your garden can be very easy. All you need to do is follow a few simple steps and you will have these wonderful creatures visiting your garden on a daily basis. You do Autumn Sagenot need to redesign your entire landscape or hire a professional landscaper to design a Hummingbird garden for you, because by providing a few key elemental ingredients and plants you can attract beautiful hummingbirds to your garden. There are certain plants that are Hummingbird magnets that you can use to attract Hummingbirds in your area.

 

To attract and keep Hummingbirds returning to your garden we need to discuss the key elements and simple steps to follow:

  •      Create a habitat to encourage Hummingbirds to nest and feed.
  •      Provide at least 3 Hummingbird feeders.
  •      Provide Nectar rich, tubular flowers.

Creating a Habitat for Hummingbirds to Nest and Feed would involve providing trees or places for the Hummingbirds to nest. This can be Autumn Sageprovided for the majority of Hummingbird species by having horizontal tree limbs, and shelter from surrounding tree limbs. The material used by most Hummingbirds to build their nest is organic in nature, and is available to your Hummingbirds in most back yard habitats. A few of the organic items used by Hummingbirds are: downy plant material, bits of leaves, bark, fallen leaves, and moss.  A Hummingbirds diet consists of 90% of their food coming from nectar, and the other 10% of their diet consists of insects. When attracting Hummingbirds to your garden you’ll need to be aware of the use of insecticides on the plants that the Hummingbirds feed upon. There are two ways to approach the use of insecticides in the garden. One way would be let the Hummingbirds take care of your insect problem, or you can use organically friendly insecticides that are safe for Hummingbirds. By providing a consistent supply of nectar rich flowers and an additional supply of nectar coming from the Hummingbird feeders you will have very happy Hummingbirds in your garden. Blue Porterweed

Providing at Least 3 Hummingbird Feeders will entice more Hummingbirds returning repeatedly to your garden. By providing an additional, and constant food source you will encourage Hummingbirds to stay in your garden for food, and to nest. Place your feeders where you can see all the Red Columbineactivity going on. You can place the Hummingbird feeders in any tree limb near your patio, or hang from eaves outside a kitchen window, or an exterior window(s) that you frequently visit. By placing your Hummingbird feeder near the places you frequently visit outdoors your Hummingbirds will eventually become accustom to your presence and no longer be afraid when you are present. There are two key ingredients to remember when using Hummingbird feeders in addition to nectar rich plants.

1)       Always keep a good supply of nectar in the Hummingbird feeders. Butterfly Bush

2)      Always clean your Hummingbird feeder once a week to keep your Hummingbirds healthy.

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Providing Nectar Rich, Tubular Flowers will give your Hummingbird garden an additional food source that will keep your Hummingbirds coming back each year. Attracting Hummingbirds to your garden is an art.  Nutrition for the Hummingbirds, and how to attract Hummingbirds year-round, all must be taken into consideration.  An abundance of nectar rich flowers, at least 3 Hummingbird Feeders as an additional food source, creating a habitat for nesting and feeding all need to be provided.  The more nectar plants that are provided and Hummingbird feeders provided will attract more Hummingbirds to your garden for years to come.

 

To bring numerous Hummingbirds to your garden you need to plan for masses and clumps of nectar rich perennials and annuals. Both perennials and annuals should be planted, but perennials are more useful since they bloom year-round, thus attracting Hummingbirds throughout the year.  The blooming periods of the annuals should be staggered also, in order to attract Hummingbirds year-round. Both flower shape and flower color are important in regards to attracting Hummingbirds to feed are the best.  Hummingbirds prefer single flowers with a tubular shape and upright blooms for feeding, and they also prefer flowers with bright colors and a distinct scent, Firebush Plantwith shades of red, from pink to orange being their favored colors. After planting the plants and hanging your Hummingbird feeders it will take some time for the Hummingbirds to find you, and as the year’s progress you will see more Hummingbirds visiting your garden. Each year the Hummingbirds will come back to the same area as the year before. My father’s house in Georgia has a Miss Huff Lantana bush and that same year the bush was planted the Hummingbirds were frequent visitors, and continue to this day to visit the Lantana bush each year. Some of the plants that I will mention will also attract butterflies to your garden as well. Firebush Close up

Autumn Sage: Salvia greggii 'Maraschino'. Type: Perennial. Height: 3’ – 4’. Spacing: 18” – 24” apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Butterfly attractant.

Bee Balm: Monarda spp. Type: Perennial. Height: 3 – 4”. Spacing: 24 – 30” apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Butterfly attractant.

Blue Porterweed: Stachytarpheta jamaicensis. Type: Perennial. Height: 2 – 3’. Spacing: 24” apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Butterfly attractant. Firecracker Plant

Butterfly Bush: Buddleia davidii 'Pink Delight'. Type: Perennial. Height: 4 – 6’. Spacing: 4 – 6’ apart. Light Requirements: Full sun. Additional Uses: Butterfly attractant.

Columbine: Aquilegia 'Cardinal'. Type: Perennial. Height: 24 – 28”. Spacing: 18 – 24” apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Butterfly attractant.

Garden CannaFirebush: Hamelia patens. Type: Shrub. Height: To 15’. Spacing: 3 – 5’ apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Butterfly attractant.

Firecracker Plant: Russelia equisetiformis. Type: Perennial. Height: 36” – 48”. Spacing: 3 – 5’ apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Butterfly attractant. Miss Huff Lantana

Garden Canna: Canna X generalis. Type: Perennial. Height: Depends on variety, but can range from 3 – 5’. Spacing: 1 – 2’ apart for rhizomes, and 3 – 5’ apart for container plants. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Butterfly attractant.

Homestead Purple Verbena: Verbena canadensis 'Homestead Purple'. Type: Perennial ground cover. Height: 6 – 10”. Spacing: 12 – 24” apart. Light Requirements: Full sun. Additional Uses: Butterfly attractant, heat and drought tolerant.Purple Verbena

Korean Hyssop: Agastache rugosa. Type: Perennial. Height: 3 – 4’. Spacing: 12 – 18” apart. Light Requirements: Full sun. Additional Uses: Butterfly attractant.

Lantana: Lantana camara 'Miss Huff'. Type: Perennial. Height: 4 – 5’. Spacing: 3 – 5’ apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Lemon BottlebrushAdditional Uses: Butterfly attractant, heat, and drought tolerant.

Lemon Bottlebrush: Callistemon citrinus. Type: Shrub. Height: To 12’. Spacing: 4 – 6’ apart. Light Requirements: Full sun. Additional Uses: N/A.

Mexican Sage: Salvia leucantha. Type: Perennial. Height: 2 – 4’. Spacing: 3 – 5’ apart. Light Requirements: Full sun. Additional Uses: Butterfly attractant, and drought tolerant.

Pentas: Pentas lanceolata. Type: Perennial. Height: To 3’, depends on variety. Spacing: 24 – 36” apart. Light Requirements: Full sun. Additional Uses: Butterfly attractant, heat and drought tolerant.

Petunia: Petunia X hybrida 'Purple Wave'. Type: Annual. Height: 4 – 6”. Spacing: For a thick coverage, 12 – 15” apart, 3’ apart for regular coverage, plants will spread 3 – 5’. Light Requirements: Full sun. Additional Uses: Butterfly attractant, heat and drought tolerant.

Pineapple Sage: Salvia elegans. Type: Perennial in USDA zones 9 – 11, treat as an annual outside zone 9. Height: 3 – 5’. Spacing: 3 – 5’ apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Butterfly attractant. Crushed fresh leaves in fruit salads and drinks; the fresh flowers can be used in salads and desserts.

Mexican SageTexas Gold Columbine: Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana. Type: Perennial. Height: 18 – 36”. Spacing: 12 – 18” apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Butterfly attractant.

Texas Hummingbird Mint: Agastache cana. Type: Perennial. Height: 24 – 36”. Spacing: 12 – 18” apart. Light Requirements: Full sun. AdditionalPentas Uses: Butterfly attractant, and drought tolerant.

Trailing Lantana: Lantana montevidensis. Type: Perennial, annual outside USDA zone 8. Height: 18 – 24”. Spacing: 3 – 4’ apart, can spread to 5’. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Butterfly attractant, heat and drought tolerant.

Tropical Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Type: Shrub, annual outside USDA zone 9. Height: To 12 – 15’, pruning can control height. Spacing: 3 – 5’ apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Butterfly attractant, and heat tolerant. Hibiscus and More is having a sale on 4.5” container Hibiscus plants. Click Here To Order Your Plants.

Turk's Cap: Malvaviscus arboreus. Type: Shrub, annual outside USDA zone 9. Height: To 12 – 15’, pruning can control height. Spacing: 3 – 5’ apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Butterfly attractant, and heat tolerant.Purple Wave Petunia

Wax Begonia: Begonia X semperflorens-cultorum. Type: Annual. Height: 6 – 12”. Spacing: 8 – 12” apart. Light Requirements: Partial shade to shade, the bronze-leaf varieties will tolerate more sun. Additional Uses: None.

Yellow Elder: Tecoma stans (Stenolobium stans). Type: Shrub, annual outside USDA zone 7. Height: To 12 – 15’, pruning can control height. Pineapple SageSpacing: 3 – 5’ apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Butterfly attractant, drought, and heat tolerant.

All photographs and digital images are ©Cheryl Ann Meola. All Rights Reserved. All photographs and digital images displayed in this newsletter are for viewing purposes only and cannot be duplicated or copied. Scroll over the picture to view the plant name.

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Fall Vegetables

With the arrival of August, and the month of September just around the corner we need to start planning our fall vegetable garden. There are numerous vegetables that require a cool growing season rather than a warm growing season. For my readers that reside in USDA Zones: 11, 10, 9, and 8 you get the benefits of having two vegetable growing seasons, one in the spring and one in the fall. As the weather cools in your area, and as gardeners we start thinking about fall and what fall brings to us; it’s time to start gardening again. With this in mind I would like to mention the wonderful benefits of a fall vegetable garden.

Home-grown vegetables have a richer, fuller taste and tend to be fresher than store bought since you pick them yourself. Home-grown vegetables are easy and inexpensive to grow as well. Vegetable gardening can involve the entire family from the little ones to the teens. As well as being an educational tool, the time the family spends in the garden is quality time spent together, and can give one a sense of pride.

In today’s economy more and more families are finding ways to save money, and one way to save money on your grocery bill would be to start your own vegetable garden. Vegetables can be grown from seeds or vegetable starts, and more retail garden centers this year are reporting that vegetable starts and seeds are up from last year’s sales; and as a result of our current economy more families decide to spend more time at home and in the garden.

Some of you maybe thinking to yourself I have never grown vegetables before, and I don’t think I can grow vegetables. One of my task as a professional horticulturist to a private estate was to grow home-grown vegetables, and my thoughts were exactly the same; and as a Texas Certified Horticultural Professional I would advise our retail gardening customer’s on how to grow vegetables, but I never grew vegetables professionally. I took my vegetable gardening advice that I gave to my retail gardening customers, and my horticultural experience and put all that knowledge to the test. The results of the vegetable garden test are in the pictures included in this article.

The vegetable garden that I planted last year had a wide variety of root vegetables and above ground vegetables. Root Fall vegetables would include: potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, beets, radishes, shallots, and asparagus. Asparagus is the only fall perennial vegetable. You need to find a place where it can grow undisturbed for many years. The key to growing root vegetables is giving enough space in between each plant so the actual root (vegetable) will mature and not be misshapen because of planting to close. I grew Georgia Sweet onions from onion sets, Cherry Belle radishes, and Tall Top Early Wonder beets, all from seeds. The wonderful aspect of radishes is that the radishes mature in 22 days, and to have radishes all season replant your seeds every ten days. I was amazed and thrilled at how easy it was to grow vegetables from seed. The above ground Fall vegetables include: peppers, tomatoes, (with the peppers and tomatoes there are varieties to plant for the fall versus varieties for the spring), spinach, lettuce, snow peas, broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, mustard, cauliflower, chard, and collards. For the above ground vegetables I grew from vegetable starts, green peppers, tomatoes; and from seed there was Snow Peas, Black-Seeded Simpson lettuce, Mesclun Sweet Salad lettuce, Little Caesar Romaine lettuce. For recommended varieties to your area, contact your local extension office.

When planning your vegetable garden, either from vegetable starts or seeds don’t forget to add a little color to the garden. In the last couple of years seed companies have established several different colors in vegetables. You can now purchase peppers, carrots, and tomatoes seeds that will produce a wide range of colors. You can purchase bell pepper seeds that come in ivory, lavender, chocolate brown, yellow, and orange. Wouldn’t some or all of those colors look wonderful in a fresh tossed salad or homemade stuffed bell peppers? Carrot seeds now come in colors of yellow, white, golden yellow, red, light and dark purple, and of course your typical orange. Your family will just go wild over the variety of colors that will adorn the family dinner table each evening. Tomato seeds are now available in different shades of red, orange, yellow, and even a dark brown. With all the vegetable colors that are available on the market today, you can now color coordinate your dinner plate with home-grown vegetables, and become the ultimate gourmet chef without paying a gourmet price tag.

Vegetable plants can be grown in a container or a special designated area in your yard. When considering a container versus a designated area there are a few considerations to be reviewed before deciding. Containers are excellent for growing a small amount of vegetables and a good choice, if you have a nice sunny patio or have a small sized yard. When growing vegetables in your yard the designated area that you choose should be in raised beds versus planted in your local soil. Vegetables plants require a loose and peat moss soil mixture. Purchasing landscape timbers or landscape edging at your local hardware store or home improvement store can easily do this.

Deciding a Location: Choose an area that gets 5 - 6 hours of full sun; and if, you have an area that receives more than 6 hours of sunlight that’s all right, too.

Deciding a Container(s): Choose a container that is 14 inches or larger, but the lettuces and radishes can be grown in smaller containers than recommended above.

Deciding a Soil: There are several potting soils on the market and choosing one is a matter of your gardening preferences. Some of the chooses are inorganic verses organic, with moisture control or without moisture control, with timed-release fertilizer or without fertilizer. Some potting soils are especially formulated for vegetables.

Deciding a Fertilizer: There are several fertilizers on the market and choosing one is a matter of your gardening preferences. Some of the chooses are water soluble, granular, time-release, slow-release, organic, or inorganic. Choose a fertilizer that is formulated for vegetable plants.

Choosing an Insecticide: Choosing an insecticide is a matter of your gardening preferences, and while I was growing the vegetable garden I had an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach method. I would only use Safer Soaps or Horticultural Oils on all the vegetables that I grew, and realistically I hardly had to spray the vegetables at all. I was constantly watching for any insect or worm that would start eating my prize vegetables, and when I did see one I would simply dispose of the insect.

Choosing a Vegetable Support: Some of the vegetable plants that I mentioned above will need to be staked or in need of a vegetable cage such as tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, peas, cantaloupes, and sometimes peppers.

Watering: Of all the ingredients that I have mentioned for vegetable gardening success, water, is the most important to a successful vegetable garden. The soil for your vegetables will need to be consistently moist at all times, and the water source should be city water or treated water. This is one of the reasons for one of last’s years E. coil outbreaks; the vegetables that were recalled received untreated water during the growing process. More gardeners are starting to grow their own vegetables this year versus last year due to the recent E. coli outbreaks in store-bought produce. Just another reason to start growing your own vegetables, you supply the water, you supply the insecticide, and you know exactly what ingredients went into your vegetables. For states that are currently under water restrictions, you can water your food crops, personal food garden, or personal vegetable garden without penalty. Wash all vegetables before eating or cooking.

Planting: There are a few vegetables that do not like to be planted next to each other, and the vegetable combinations to avoid are: Onions with peas or beans. Tomatoes or squash with potatoes. Carrots with dill or fennel. Beans with onions and garlic.

Planting tomato Plants: Another planting rule that has always worked for me is to plant your tomato plants deeper than the original soil line, even if you grow your tomatoes from seed. When you are ready to plant your tomato plants remove two sets of leaves or four leaves total and plant the tomato plant that deep in the soil. You just do this with tomatoes and the reason for this procedure is that tomatoes will establish more roots along the stem where you removed the leaves, and tomatoes require a lot more water than the other vegetables mentioned in this article, and tomatoes are one vegetable that is a heavy feeder, i.e. tomatoes require a steady supply of fertilizer.

Put on your gardening gloves and reap the rewards and benefits of a fall vegetable garden. Tastier vegetables than store bought that you harvest on your own. As a vegetable gardener you know the ingredients, and there is nothing more rewarding than tasting the “vegetables” of your labors.

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All photographs and digital images are ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2007. All Rights Reserved. All photographs and digital images displayed in this article are for viewing purposes only and cannot be duplicated.

 

 

Improving the Air Quality Inside Your Home

As a horticulturist I have always had houseplants in my home and I would like to explore with you the health and medical benefits of having these wonderful creatures around. As a child I remember there were always houseplants around the home. Having houseplants around the house became second nature to us; it was like having another brother or sister around, it just did not talk back to you. It was not until years later that houseplants received recognition for all the benefits that you receive from them. Several studies have been done on the benefits of houseplants and how houseplants in your home or office remove indoor pollutants, and toxic chemicals from the air. These studies have shown which houseplant removes what indoor pollutant or toxic chemical from the air. There are many health benefits that people receive from plants in the home or work place.

As newly built homes and offices were being constructed to be more energy efficient, the homes and offices become airtight and sealed, and the quality of air inside these newly built homes and offices led to indoor pollution or what is called sick building syndrome. Newly built homes or offices are loaded with indoor pollutants such as: benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde. There are more indoor pollutants and toxic chemicals, but these are the big three, and are found in numerous household products and building materials. Formaldehyde is found in many building materials, and consumer products including paper towels, garbage bags, facial tissues, carpet-backing, plywood, and particleboard. Benzene is found in adhesives, caulking compounds, ceiling tiles, electro photographic printers, floor coverings, paints, particleboard, photocopiers, wall coverings, stains, and varnishes. Trichloroethylene is found in duplicating machines, electro photographic printers, and photocopiers.

A NASA study was a huge stepping-stone to raising public awareness of the benefits of houseplants. NASA’s 2-year study done in conjunction with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) showed that certain houseplants remove a specific indoor pollutant better than other houseplants studied. The study also showed that some houseplants would remove more than just one indoor pollutant. Another study involving houseplants showed that employees that work in office buildings that had interior plants in their lobbies and also in their offices had a lower rate of sickness, had better employee morale, and had a lower rate of employee sick days, when compared to employees that did not have interior plants at their work place. In a recent study published in February involving houseplants and patient recovery times, researchers monitored hospital patients that had undergone the same exact surgery. One group of patients had houseplant(s) in their room, and the other group did not. The group with plants required less pain medication, were in less pain, and had a faster recovery time than the patients that had the same surgical procedure done, but did not have houseplant(s) in their hospital room.

In the book “How To Grow Fresh Air” by Dr. B. C. Wolverton, He mentions 50 interior plants that remove indoor pollutants from your home or office. The plants in his book were rated according to ease of plant care maintenance, pest resistance, efficiency of chemical removal, and transpiration rates.

Here are a few of my favorite houseplants that remove indoor pollutants and toxic chemicals from the air. I have chosen these plants for their excellence in improving the air quality in interiors, and also for their ease of care.

Bamboo Palm – Chamaedorea seifrizii. The Bamboo Palm is easy to care for, is more resistant to bug infestations, will give you an overall of 6-8 feet, and will take any type of light conditions. Bamboo Palm has a high transpiration rate, which means during the dry winter months with dryer air coming from your heating system the air will feel less dry. Due to the Bamboo Palm’s upright growth it is an excellent plant to place in bare, empty corners or anywhere you need a little more . This palm removes high rates of benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde.

Chinese Evergreen – Aglaonema spp. The Chinese Evergreen will remain one of interior landscapers favorites because of its durability indoors. The plant is easy to care for and is fairly resistant to pest infestations. The overall is about 3 feet and maybe placed in any type of light conditions, except direct sunlight.

Lady Palm – Rhapis excelsa. The Lady Palm is another excellent choice for removing indoor pollutants. The palm is fairly slow growing and is easy to care for.

Janet Craig Dracaena – Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig'. There are two cultivars of Janet Craig Dracaena. There is Janet Craig Compacta variety that can be used as a table plant and there is Janet Craig Dracaena that makes an excellent floor specimen. Both varieties can be placed in dimly lit areas, and can tolerate neglect.

English Ivy – Hedera helix. English Ivy is a vining plant and can be used in hanging baskets or trailing down the sides of pots. The plant will take any type of interior light conditions, and I have realized during the winter months to let the soil dry out between watering. There are several cultivars to choose from, but anyone you choose will be an excellent choice. The English Ivy removes high levels of formaldehyde.

Ficus Alii – Ficus maclellandii ‘Alii’. Ficus Alii will enhance your home interiors with its stately tree shaped form. The Ficus can be grown as a bush or as a standard (grown as a tree). This Ficus is not as picky when it is moved and is easier to care for than Weeping Fig. The Ficus will tolerate lower levels of light than Weeping Fig and does not drop its leaves.

Peace Lily – Spathiphyllum spp. The Peace Lily will enjoy any type of light conditions, except being in direct sunlight. Peace Lily will group nicely around other plants, and reaches an overall of 2 to 3 feet. This plant has been rated as one of the top performers of removing benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde from the air.

Corn Plant - Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’. Corn Plant is a wonderful plant to have around because of its ease of care and the natural upright, columnar growth habit of the plant. This plant can be placed in Low to Bright light areas, and is one of the plants that removes formaldehyde from the air.

Golden Pathos – Epipremnum aureum. Golden Pothos is a beautiful plant to use in hanging baskets or anywhere you would like a trailing plant. The plant can be placed in any type of light conditions and can tolerate neglect.

Warneckii Dracaena - Dracaena deremensis ‘Warneckii’. Warneckii Dracaena will brighten up your living space with its green and white foliage. The plant makes an excellent specimen that will tolerate lower light conditions, and will remove benzene from the air.

Dragon Tree - Dracaena marginata. Dragon Tree has wonderful green with red-edged foliage and with age will develop a small trunk. The plant needs medium to high light, and removes trichloroethylene from the air.

Syngonium - Syngonium podophyllum. Syngonium is a vining plant that can be used in hanging baskets or trailing down the sides of pots. The plant will take any type of light conditions and is very easy to care for.

Weeping Fig - Ficus benjamina. Weeping Fig will enhance your home’s interiors with its stately tree shaped form. The Ficus can be grown as a bush or as a standard (grown as a tree). This Ficus is picky when it is moved, and does not like to be placed in drafty areas. Once Weeping Fig has adjusted to its new interior home the leaf drop will stop. Weeping Fig requires high to medium light, and removes formaldehyde from the air.

Schefflera - Schefflera actinophylla. Schefflera at one time was one of the most popular interior houseplants, but as new varieties of houseplants were introduced to the market its popularity lessened. Schefflera is a good plant for beginners, and can tolerate some neglect. The plant has a tendency to attract some pests, and to prevent this, mist the foliage monthly.

Schefflera - Schefflera arboricola. This variety of Schefflera is bushy in nature, and will take less light than S. actinophylla. There are several new cultivars on the market that will give you a variety of colorful foliage.

Heart Leaf Philodendron – Philodendron scandens oxycardium. Heart Leaf Philodendron is one of my personal favorites because you can place this plant anywhere in your home. It can be used in hanging baskets or trailing down the sides of pots.

Moth Orchid – Phalaenopsis spp. The Moth Orchid is an orchid for beginners and will give you years of enjoyment. After the flower has faded trim back underneath the faded flower(s), and sometimes a new flower spike will emerge. I give my orchids a weak solution of water-soluble orchid food bi-weekly.

Dendrobium Orchid - Dendrobium spp. The Dendrobium Orchid is an orchid for beginners and will give you years of enjoyment. After the flower has faded trim back underneath the faded flower(s), and sometimes a new flower spike will emerge, or a new plantlet will emerge. I give my orchids a weak solution of water-soluble orchid food bi-weekly. Dendrobium Orchid removes formaldehyde from the air.

Anthurium – Anthurium ‘Lady Jane’. Anthuriums will give you tropical foliage and flowers.

Oakleaf Ivy – Cissus rhombifolia ‘Ellen Danika’. Oakleaf Ivy is excellent to use in hanging baskets, or trailing down the sides of pots. This plant has beautiful oakleaf foliage, and will take any type of interior light conditions. I have realized during the winter months to let the soil dry out between watering.

Here are a few guidelines to help you care for your houseplants:

Water: As a general rule, I water my houseplants once a week or biweekly depending on the plants light requirements. The less light the plant is located in the less frequently you would have to water versus a plant that is located in a high light location. Plants that are located in high light areas should be checked once a week for water, and plants that are located in low light areas should be checked every other week for water. This rule has always been a successful way to guide a new plant owner to success.

Fertilizer: I fertilize my interior plants with a water-soluble plant food once a month or I use a time-release indoor-outdoor fertilizer. If I were using a time-release fertilizer, bimonthly I would give my plants a treat by applying a half recommended strength water-soluble plant food for a little extra boost. The orchids that I mentioned in this newsletter would need a fertilizer recommended for orchids, but you may use an orchid food for your houseplants, too.

Containers: For newly purchased houseplants I would keep them in their original pots and just purchase a wicker basket, a ceramic, or a brass container as a pot cover. When putting the plants in a decorative container don’t forget a plastic saucer to put in the bottom of the decorative pot, and especially with wicker baskets.

Lighting: There are several houseplants to choose from and each has their own light requirements. Some houseplants tolerate the darkest corner in the room, while other houseplants need the brightest area of the room. When choosing houseplants pick the one best suited for the room and also the lighting of the room. You don’t want to pick a houseplant that will overwhelm the room, or pick a houseplant that gets dwarfed by the room size.

Placing: For a home that has 2,000 or less square feet, use a total of 15 houseplants that have a pot size of six inches or more. I would recommend placing one to two houseplants in the rooms that are occupied the most for best removal of indoor pollutants. Depending on the size of my rooms, I use at least two or more houseplants in every room.

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Take advantage of our 10% off spring coupon of orders $50.00 or more. Hurry the coupon expires June 30, 2009. Use redemption code: Newsletter at checkout. For more information on Gardening Click on Our Blog.

All photographs and digital images are © Cheryl Ann Meola 2007. All Rights Reserved. All photographs and digital images displayed in this article are for viewing purposes only and cannot be duplicated. Place your cursor over the picture for the plant name.

 

 

An Introduction to Butterfly Gardening

In recent years, the natural habitat of the butterfly has gradually diminished due to the rapid growth of modern cities and suburbs.  In an effort to increase the butterfly population within suburbia, utilization of butterfly gardens by homeowners introduces a small haven for the butterfly within today’s cities.  In addition, the garden provides the homeowner with endless entertainment; and the sights, sounds and fragrances of the garden offer the owner peace and contentment as well as a feast for the senses.

Attracting butterflies to your garden is an art.  Nutrition for the butterflies, how to attract butterflies year-round, deterrents and preferences all must be taken into consideration.  An abundance of nectar rich flowers, plenty of food source plants, rocks for sunning and a water source all need to be provided.  The more nectar and food source plants that you plant, the more butterflies your garden will attract.

To bring numerous butterflies to your garden you need to plan for masses and clumps of color perennials and annuals. Both perennials and annuals should be planted, but perennials are more useful since they bloom year-round, thus attracting butterflies throughout the year.  The blooming periods of the annuals should be staggered also in order to attract butterflies year-round.  To attract numerous and different species of butterflies try to plant a selection of native and non-native plants to your garden.

Shade and wind are deterrents to butterflies and will repel them from the garden.  To counteract this, provide a sunny location (they need to be able to warm their wings); and place the taller plants in back to create a windscreen.  Butterflies are most active between 11 AM through 3 PM; thus, a location should be selected that will provide sun during this time period.

Flower shape is more important than flower color in regards to attracting butterflies to feed, and old-fashioned flowers that retain scent and nectar are the best for attracting the adults.  Butterflies prefer single flowers with tubular shape and upright blooms for feeding, and they also prefer flowers with bright colors and a distinct scent, with red and yellow being their favored colors.

Aspects to consider when selecting your butterfly plants are: The favorite butterfly colors are warm colors: red, orange, yellow; the flowers should have a sweet odor and a platform to land-on.  No butterfly garden is complete without these must have butterfly garden nectar (N) and food (F) plants: Achillea millefolium – Yarrow (F), Anethum graveolens – Dill (F), Asclepias curassavica – Scarlet Milkweed (N & F), Buddleia davidii – Butterfly Bush (N), Helianthus annuus – Sunflower (F), Heliotropium spp. – Heliotrope (N), Impatiens spp. (N) (red & orange colors), Lantana spp. – Lantana (N), Menta spp. – Mint (N & F), Monardella odoratissima – Mountain Mint (N & F), Penta spp. – Pentas (N), Petroselinum crispum – Parsley (F), Salvia spp. – Salvia (N), Stachytarpheta jamaicensis – Porterweed (N), Tagetes spp. – Marigolds (N & F), Tagetes lucida – Mexican Marigold Mint (N & F), Verbena spp. – Verbena (N), Zinnia spp. – Zinnias (N).  These simple plants are the tried and true to butterfly gardening and will attract butterflies to your garden.



Planning the Garden

Survey the area of where you are planning to place the garden. The area should have full sun from 11 AM to 3 PM.  Butterflies are most active during this time frame and you want to entice them to your garden.  The plants can be purchased at local garden centers, Home Depot, and Lowe’s in your area, usually Home Depot and Lowe’s has a nice selection of butterfly garden plants.  Plant the trees first, the shrubs second, the annuals and perennials last.  The annuals and perennials are your main attractors for nectar and larval plants and will also act as filler plants too.

Gardening Tips and Guide Lines

  • Position the plants three feet away from the foundation of the house by doing this will give the homeowner room for maintenance.

  • Plant shrubs, annuals, and perennials in a zigzag arrangement °◦°◦°◦°◦°.

  • Consult the recommendations for spacing requirements on the individual plant information tag.

  • Odd numbers mimics nature, thus, always plant in odd numbers.

  • Provide a mixture of spring, summer, and fall blooming species that are both annuals and perennials.

  • Large-leaf shrubs and trees provide shelter and hiding places for the butterflies during rainstorms.

  • Butterflies require rocks for sunning, and a water source. A terra cotta saucer can provide water and small rocks can be placed in the saucer for sunning.

  • When planning your butterfly garden, butterflies are attracted to masses of color so group 7-11 plants together of the same color.  Then group 7-11 plants that strongly contrast or compliment the color.

  • The greater the variety of nectar plants and larval host (food plants) provided, the more variety of butterfly species will be attracted to your garden. After planting your butterfly garden and as the year’s progress you will see more and different varieties of butterflies. I designed my sister’s butterfly garden in Texas, and each year she reported more butterflies and different species of butterflies.

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Take Advantage of our 25% Off Coupon on all Orders $50.00 or More. Hurry the Coupon Expires June 30, 2009. Use Redemption Code: Newsletter at CheckOut.

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All photographs and digital images are © Cheryl Ann Meola. All Rights Reserved. All photographs and digital images displayed in this newsletter are for viewing purposes only and cannot be duplicated. Scroll over the picture to view the plant name and all pictures in the newsletter are for butterfly gardening.

 

 

 

Spring Vegetables
 

As the weather warms in your area, and as gardeners we start thinking about spring and what spring brings to us; it’s time to start gardening again. With this in mind I would like to mention the wonderful benefits of a spring vegetable garden.

Home-grown vegetables have a richer, fuller taste and tend to be fresher than store bought since you pick them yourself. Home-grown vegetables are easy and inexpensive to grow as well. Vegetable gardening can involve the entire family from the little ones to the teens. As well as being an educational tool, the time the family spends in the garden is quality time spent together, and can give one a sense of pride.

Home-grown vegetables have a richer, fuller taste and tend to be fresher than store bought since you pick them yourself. Home-grown vegetables are easy and inexpensive to grow as well. Vegetable gardening can involve the entire family from the little ones to the teens. As well as being an educational tool, the time the family spends in the garden is quality time spent together, and can give one a sense of pride.

In today’s economy more and more families are finding ways to save money, and one way to save money on your grocery bill would be to start your own vegetable garden. Vegetables can be grown from seeds or vegetable starts, and more retail garden centers this year are reporting that vegetable starts and seeds are up from last year’s sales; and as a result of our current economy more families decide to spend more time at home and in the garden.

Some of you maybe thinking to yourself I have never grown vegetables before, and I don’t think I can grow vegetables. One of my task as a professional horticulturist to a private estate was to grow home-grown vegetables, and my thoughts were exactly the same; and as a Texas Certified Horticultural Professional I would advise our retail gardening customer’s on how to grow vegetables, but I never grew vegetables professionally. I took my vegetable gardening advice that I gave to my retail gardening customers, and my horticultural experience and put all that knowledge to the test. The results of the vegetable garden test are in the pictures included in this article.

The vegetable garden that I planted last year had a wide variety of root vegetables and above ground vegetables. Root vegetables would include: potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, beets, radishes, sweet potato, and shallots. The key to growing root vegetables is giving enough space in between each plant so the actual root (vegetable) will mature and not be misshapen because of planting to close. I grew Georgia Sweet onions from onion sets, Cherry Belle radishes, and Tall Top Early Wonder beets, all from seeds. The wonderful aspect of radishes is that the radishes mature in 22 days, and to have radishes all season replant your seeds every ten days. I was amazed and thrilled at how easy it was to grow vegetables from seed. The above ground vegetables include: peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, spinach, lettuce, peas, beans, sweet corn, cucumbers, and cantaloupes. For the above ground vegetables I grew from vegetable starts, green peppers, tomatoes, and strawberries; and from seed there was Tender Pod bush beans, Black-Seeded Simpson lettuce, Mesclun Sweet Salad lettuce, Little Caesar Romaine lettuce, and Early Long Purple eggplant. For recommended varieties to your area, contact your local extension office.

When planning your vegetable garden, either from vegetable starts or seeds don’t forget to add a little color to the garden. In the last couple of years seed companies have established several different colors in vegetables. You can now purchase peppers, carrots, and tomatoes seeds that will produce a wide range of colors. You can purchase bell pepper seeds that come in ivory, lavender, chocolate brown, yellow, and orange. Wouldn’t some or all of those colors look wonderful in a fresh tossed salad or homemade stuffed bell peppers? Carrot seeds now come in colors of yellow, white, golden yellow, red, light and dark purple, and of course your typical orange. Your family will just go wild over the variety of colors that will adorn the family dinner table each evening. Tomato seeds are now available in different shades of red, orange, yellow, and even a dark brown. With all the vegetable colors that are available on the market today, you can now color coordinate your dinner plate with home-grown vegetables, and become the ultimate gourmet chef without paying a gourmet price tag.

Deciding a Location: Choose an area that gets 5 - 6 hours of full sun; and if, you have an area that receives more than 6 hours of sunlight that’s all right, too.

Deciding a Container(s): Choose a container that is 14 inches or larger, but the lettuces and radishes can be grown in smaller containers. I would like to suggest when growing tomatoes or peppers to put one plant per container.

Deciding a Soil: There are several potting soils on the market and choosing one is a matter of your gardening preferences. Some of the chooses are inorganic verses organic, with moisture control or without moisture control, with timed-release fertilizer or without fertilizer. Some potting soils are especially formulated for vegetables.

Deciding a Fertilizer: There are several fertilizers on the market and choosing one is a matter of your gardening preferences. Some of the chooses are water soluble, granular, time-release, slow-release, organic, or inorganic. Choose a fertilizer that is formulated for vegetable plants.

Choosing an Insecticide: Choosing an insecticide is a matter of your gardening preferences, and while I was growing the vegetable garden I had an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach method. I would only use Safer Soaps or Horticultural Oils on all the vegetables that I grew, and realistically I hardly had to spray the vegetables at all. I was constantly watching for any insect or worm that would start eating my prize vegetables, and when I did see one I would simply dispose of the insect.

Choosing a Vegetable Support: Some of the vegetable plants that I mentioned above will need to be staked or in need of a vegetable cage such as tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, peas, cantaloupes, and sometimes peppers.

Watering: Of all the ingredients that I have mentioned for vegetable gardening success, water, is the most important to a successful vegetable garden. The soil for your vegetables will need to be consistently moist at all times, and the water source should be city water or treated water. This is one of the reasons for one of last’s years E. coil outbreaks; the vegetables that were recalled received untreated water during the growing process. More gardeners are starting to grow their own vegetables this year versus last year due to the recent E. coli outbreaks in store-bought produce. Just another reason to start growing your own vegetables, you supply the water, you supply the insecticide, and you know exactly what ingredients went into your vegetables. For states that are currently under water restrictions, you can water your food crops, personal food garden, or personal vegetable garden without penalty. Wash all vegetables before eating or cooking.

Planting: There are a few vegetables that do not like to be planted next to each other, and the vegetable combinations to avoid are: Onions with peas or beans. Tomatoes or squash with potatoes. Carrots with dill or fennel. Beans with onions and garlic.

Planting tomato Plants: Another planting rule that has always worked for me is to plant your tomato plants deeper than the original soil line, even if you grow your tomatoes from seed. When you are ready to plant your tomato plants remove two sets of leaves or four leaves total and plant the tomato plant that deep in the soil. You just do this with tomatoes and the reason for this procedure is that tomatoes will establish more roots along the stem where you removed the leaves, and tomatoes require a lot more water than the other vegetables mentioned in this article, and tomatoes are one vegetable that is a heavy feeder, i.e. tomatoes require a steady supply of fertilizer.

An article on honeybees and crop yield that has just been published I believe will entice my readers to plant more than just a vegetable garden this spring. The article states by planting more flowers to attract honeybees helps plants defend themselves against attacks from caterpillars. The study suggests that this could lead to a new biological control method to try.

Put on your gardening gloves and reap the rewards and benefits of a spring vegetable garden. Tastier vegetables than store bought that you harvest on your own. As a vegetable gardener you know the ingredients, and there is nothing more rewarding than tasting the “vegetables” of your labors. Take advantage of our 10% off spring coupon of orders $50.00 or more. Hurry the coupon expires June 30, 2009. Use redemption code: Newsletter at checkout.

All photographs and digital images are ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2007. All Rights Reserved. All photographs and digital images displayed in this article are for viewing purposes only and cannot be duplicated.

 

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