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Posts Tagged ‘How-To’

Getting the yard and the house set up with Christmas lights is a great time to think about winterizing the garden. You can put a string of Christmas lights around sensitive plants like the aloes and citrus.  When there is a frost warning I take a cotton sheet (with a Hawaiian print) and cover the plants.  The little bit of heat from the lights and the cotton cover creates a nice, cozy environment for the tender ones. Sometimes I have my Christmas lights up through January  because it is a long cold winter but I can live with that.  No plastic covering on plants.  Plastic conducts cold.

I re-potted my black bamboo and other plants that go dormant. This is what my potted bamboo looked like. Yikes.

I had to take a hammer to the roots to separate them.  It was nasty.  I should have done this 3 years ago.  But I got about 25 new black bamboo plants.  They are sitting in dirt in a plastic bag for the time being. I need more pots and dirt. Repotting is good to do also before a nice rain to give the roots a reassuring boost and encourage them to set up housekeeping in their new home.  I gave them all a hot toddy (a drink of worm tea) in case they were experiencing post uprooting shock.  This was not a fertilizing treatment.  It is never good to fertilizer in the winter. It encourages growth and they are putting out shoots in the dead of winter. Ouch.  So, no fertilizing just yet. If you are having a dry fall and winter make sure and check your watering schedule. If the roots of any plant or tree dries out it will die.  Pay close attention to potted plants.  North winds are particularly brutal, they seem to suck every ounce of moisture out of the air.  So, check your plants after a windy day.

www.victorylandscaping.com/

Grrrrrr

Weed. And put the weeds in a bag not on the compost pile or come spring you will have a weed pile for a compost pile. Everything else that will not reseed itself put on the compost pile. I did a major cut back on deciduous plants like the pear, apple, roses, jasmine, honeysuckle, wisteria, purple basil, and ginger. I learned from the California Rare Fruit Growers just recently that the best time to cut back fruit trees is in the summer. Less chance of diseases setting in and wintering over.  Just have to be careful that you do not cut back next years fruit bearing branches.  Will do a section on pruning which is a whole thing into itself.

Munching is always good especially when it starts to get cold. It protects the roots and discourages weed seeds from germinating by blocking out the light when the ground starts to warm up in the spring. Try to put at least 2″ of mulch in the garden and move it away from the tree trunks and stems of plants. You don’t want anything that is going to harbor constant wet and moist conditions touching your trunk and stems. That kind of environment just invites the nasties like mold, fungus and diseases. www.bgky.org/tree/mulch.php

If you have bare spots in your yard  where flowers once grew plant a winter garden. So easy to throw some lettuce seeds, carrots, spinach maybe a radish or two in that spot. Plant continuously every two weeks  so you never run out.  Also check with your local nurseries for winter garden plants.  They will carry starts of whatever grows well in your area and time of year.  Fresh greens in the winter is a real treat.  My parsley is re-seeding itself and has taken over the pot. The purple basil which is a perennial is still blooming and no matter how much I cut it back it just keeps growing.  I also took all the pieces I cut off and stuck them in a pot and now they are all growing.  We have a lot of great fixings for spaghetti.

www.flickr.com/photos/ian-s/2817994346/

Which reminds me. This is a great time to plant bulbs like garlic. Put your garlic in a perennial garden or permanent pot somewhere in the sun.  If you don’t harvest it all the first year it just keeps growing and multiplying. It also likes parsley and you can put it anywhere in your garden as a bug deterrent. Just make sure it has good drainage.  You can buy any organic garlic and it will grow. Break a clove off a bulb and plant the fat side down and leave a little of the tip showing and that is all there is to it.  Mother Nature does the rest.

If you have empty pots around make sure and turn them over so they will not collect water.  Mosquitos love to lay their eggs in standing water.

Don’t forget the birds. Take the hummingbird feeder down when the temperature starts to get cold at night.  Most hummingbirds are migratory.  They need to get out-of-town and winter in warm places and the feeder keeps them around perhaps a little longer than they should stay.  Check your local area for birds that home and feed accordingly.

This is the first year I am hosting a couple of worm bins. I know they don’t like it too cold either so will cover them up when there is frost in the air. They are going to stay outdoors and  I am looking forward to the worm tea I will get from the rain water.

Get all your tools out of the weather and clean them off good.  A shot of WD 40 will keep them from rusting.

O.K. Kids that about wraps it up for now.  Got any questions or suggestions feel free and chime right in.

Staying warm

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In our continuous effort to be absolutely ubiquitous, I have started posting on YouTube.

Our first piece is an excerpt from Episode 6: the “solar oven scene” to be precise. It’s fun and exciting. (My mom’s excited anyway). In the future I see us moving toward the YouTube format and away from the structured episodic format to give us more freedom and the ability to stay current. (Not that staying current is in any way related to my inability to stay on schedule).

So, what do you think? Any suggestions for quick, 5-minute bits we can do?

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Hey all!

Well, I’ve FINALLY finished this episode. The past few months have been…epic. Lots of things going on in the Blackwell household, the biggest thing being the move to Austin.

But enough about me. This episode has it all: intrigue, humor, excitement, fun, children, and Tom Ogren. Take a look. Leave a comment if you would like to encourage our behavior.

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It’s true, the sunflower has mutated into some hydra-like plant that seems to produce an endless number of sunflowers. Not that I’m complaining, because I now have dozens of little sunbursts to ogle at, but it’s truly amazing how much it is producing. In fact, it’s producing so many sunflowers that the sheer weight of them is overloading the branches and causing them to break off. It’s a bit mind-blowing.

But not completely inexplicable.

You see, when the sunflower was still a wee lass, Denette mistook it for a weed. And pulled it. Denette is very industrious and efficient. I love you, sweetheart. When I came out to the garden and saw the poor little sunflower splayed out on the ground beside the bed I cried a little.

“Oh,” said Denette, “I thought that was a weed.” (I’ve already told you this part, but the dialogue seemed important).

“Hmm…” I said, “…it wasn’t. It was a cute, innocent sunflower and you murdered it.”

Denette gave me one of her oh, puh-leeze looks, picked up the dying sunflower, and jammed it back into the soil of the raised bed.

“There,” she said. “It should be fine.

I did not concur. And I fully expected it to find a shriveled stalk the next day. But what I found instead was a sunflower that knew it had a second chance and threw all it’s energy into making as many descendants as possible as fast as possible in case it was again mistaken for a weed in the future.

The bees are certainly happy.

They’re also happy with my pumpkin. Yes, that’s one pumpkin. Growing out of a mound of compost.

And taking over.

...

I have had to hack it back with a pair of clippers to keep it in line. So far, it’s tried to kill pretty much everything else in the garden, save the tomatoes, which can totally hold their own. My poor little Stars and Moons melons are surrounded and feeling very claustrophobic. “We didn’t sign on for this,” I can hear them saying.

Every day the pumpkin grows another foot. Seriously. A foot. Now it’s into the cucumbers we planted.

And the actual gourds themselves? Yeah, there’s already a dozen of them. One is as big as my head. Already. I have no idea how big it’s going to be by Halloween. Or, more importantly, where it’s going to fit.

The rest of the garden is going crazy, too, especialy the tomatoes which have boldly resisted our attempts at control, but that’s a subject for another post.

Oh, and here’s how the kids “help out” in the garden. Gotta love ’em!!

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We have a wonderful, shiny new episode for you! It’s summer garden planting time, and that’s just what we do. We’ve learned a lot from last year’s planting and we use that to make this year’s garden even more prolific.

But wait, there’s more! In this episode we have a lively discussion about sustainability and government with Adam Hill, newly elected county supervisor. He’s also a former English professor of mine from Cal Poly, so the conversation is an easy and a fun one to have.

And if you act now we will even throw in a segment about building a clothesline, complete with all of my struggles, mistakes, and brilliant recovery. In the end, it actually works. And five months on we’re still hanging clothes exclusively. FYI, major money savings! Check out the Project Expense Tracker and our Energy Savings Tracker to see how our savings are adding up.

But you must act now! Hurry, my mom is standing by to hear your opinions of our latest endeavor!

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CalpopsGarzasWash08www.montereybaycnps.org/

Let’s do it. Get rid of the grass, at least most of it and plant fire resistant, drought tolerant, disease and bug resistant, sexy, wild, natives.  Native fire resistant plants are a real asset to your yard anywhere in California. Did you know that a watered apple tree or Indian Hawthorne burns better than an unwatered Ceanothus, and with just a little water Salvias (Sages) are harder to light than a watered fruit tree?  This and much more information about fire prevention  provided by Las Pilitas Nursery. Easy fixes for high risk fire areas.  Here is a picture of a garden landscaped with fire retardant plants.garden-tour-2

Plant natives grapes which are fire resistant make a beautiful arbor or barrier and you can eat the grapes.  fire_562s

Plant natives to attract bird, butterfly and hummingbirds.  Milkweed is the only plant the monarch uses and it also attracts swallowtails.  butterflyweedThe natives  are very low maintenance. They can be very showy and spectacular like our California Lilac,  Ceanothus, left, Ceanothus_L.T.Blueor low and inconspicuous like Pacific Mist Arctostaphylos, right.images Pacific Mist loves coastal sandy gardens where it grows one foot high and 6-8 feet across. Then there are the fragrant varieties for your smelly garden. California Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii) center.  Thumbnail pictures from Las Pilitas.

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And so many sages.  This one is called Hot lips and hummingbirds love it. large_salvia

Natives have everything you need for a carefree spectacular garden.   Save money on water, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, save time, mowing, weeding, hedging, spraying, and the energy savings in hard labor are all good reasons to Go Native.

By planting natives and getting them established, which does take a little time in the beginning, you can just let them do what comes naturally and leave all the work to them.  There are perennials which come back every year, annuals that reseed themselves, hardwoods, softwoods, bushes and trees for the layered effect.   There are many varied reports on  deer resistant natives.  You will have to check with your local extension or neighbors on what works best in your area.  I think the general consensus is they love roses and if they are hunger they will eat anything.  So, this one is up to you.

Check out the gardens below.

nativeplantswww.thedigeratilife.com/…/

p_ng_mass_bl2www.cnps-yerbabuena.org/…/local_gardens.htm

gardenwphttp://tinyurl.com/ctx8l4

This is a very good site.  Full of fun facts and information.  It is hosted by Randy White. The site below, Food Not Lawns, is just a little off subject. I just thought I would put it in here to give you something to think about.  It is well worth a look see.  You can’t help but learn something.

flores_food_not_lawns_1

http://www.foodnotlawns.net/

I have taken you on quite a tour and it is just the tip of the iceberg.   If you just want to get started a good place to start learning about natives is at  the California Native Plant Society.  They have field trips to local areas and a great list of nurseries that carry native plants.   One nursery on the list is Las Pilitas.  It has an online Landscape and  design plan.  You just answer some questions about your planting area and it will tell you what plants to plant and where. Also, a must read on fire prevention.

And now that you are thinking about Going Native you can also start thinking about what you are going to do with all the extra time and money you will have after planting a native garden.  The time you save you could spend oh, I don’t know, sleeping, surfing.  Kowabunga.

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The whole shebang

Container gardening can be very practical and fun.  I do container gardening because I rent.  Which means when I move my plants go with me. I have a yard the size of a VW beetle and it is jammed packed with potted everything.  I plant for food, smell, looks and love.  I plant herbs for medicine rare and common.  I have fruit trees in pots.  Ready to go!Black, stripped, variegated, running and clumping bamboo for looks.  Ginger, comfrey, borage, violets for all those reasons.  My potted veggie garden this year is a Cherokee purple tomato.  I put my basil right in there with the tomato and everyone is happy. I have onions and garlic in a window box planter. And the parsley is very happy in with the clover, chia and alfalfa. I grab a handful of this and mix it in the blender for a green smoothie.

I use anything and everything for a container.  Standard pots, clay, plastic bags, wooden boxes, anything that will hold dirt.  Anything you can put  drainage holes in can become a potted garden.  I have wheel barrels, teapots, wastebaskets, woven baskets, laundry basket, window boxes, water buckets, and even plastic bags.  I put bulbs in the laundry basket and then bury the basket.  Easy to dig up the bulbs and deters gophers and what not from eating my bulbs.

Tempest in a teapot IMG_0484I use good organic soil, compost, mixed with a lot of coffee grounds I have collected from coffee houses. Coffee grounds make great drainage and the worms love it.  Keep the soil light and airy and enough holes so the plants are never sitting in water.  Only marsh plants like wet feet.

Container plants typically use more water than plants in the ground.  I noticed clay pots dry out faster than plastic pots and a North wind sucks the moisture right out of the air.  Dry on top means could use some water. I like to put an indicator plant, like violets, in with the plants. Violets are pretty, and have shallow roots so when they start to droop it means my pot needs water.

Hydrangerous...

Have to keep an eye out for root bound.   Root bound plants do not take up water because it is so dense.  I had a hydrangea in a pot that I watered everyday but the leaves still drooped saying, I am thirsty.  I took it out of the pot. Yup, it was root bound and the roots were bone dry.  It was dying of thirst. And I don’t know what happened to all the dirt. I think the plants eat it.  So just watch you leaves.  They will tell you what they need.

Feed a good organic fertilizer, worm tea is the best, perhaps every other week during the growing season and then let them rest during the fall and winter.  No fertilizer.

Trees especially citrus are great in pots. They have dwarf and semi dwarf varieties for just such occasions.  Fruit trees like apples, apricots, plums, etc are fine in a pot too.  They just will not form a taproot so repotting and clipping the roots occasionally may be necessary.  Grapes and berries are great in a container just put them in a cage or trellis them. I have honeysuckle growing outside my window for the sweet smell. I strung three fishing lines from the pot and attached it to the overhang. Smells great, and makes a dense barrier for privacy or shade. You can cut it down to nothing making it easy to move.  Put your big pots and trees on wheels if you can. Easy to move around.IMG_0473

A pot garden for asparagus, rhubarb and Aloe Vera can go anywhere you do.  These things take time, 2 or three years, before you can harvest, so you don’t want to be starting them new each time you move.   And make sure you never turn down or throw away anything that you can put a plant in.  When all this stuff starts growing it will make babies and you will need to put the babies in something. I once used an old pair of work boots to transplant some starts.  It worked fine and looked kinda of cool too.   Keep all your thirsty plants like parsley, cilantro, and basil in a separate pot from your dry plants like sage, rosemary, and fennel.  It’s a water thing.

I have some 20-year-old plants in containers I have hauled all over hell’s half acre.  I may be an extreme case but I don’t think I am alone.  Do you have a unique or unusal container you would like to share? inch by inch

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