Archive for May, 2010

3 2 1 Acclimate! Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

My babied seedlings of tomatoes and peppers have had a rough go of making it to the garden. For weeks I did really well. Watering when slightly dry, timing their artificial grow lights, repotting when necessary. Then I try to set them outside to acclimate a little and boom! I let them dry out too much, then they get sunburned, the children water them too forcefully and the dog topples all of them over. Good grief! So now I’m attempting some resuscitation to see who will make it out of my 20-some little plants. That would’ve been too many for our garden plot but now I’m hoping I have a 1/2 dozen of pepper and tomato each to put out some time this week.

Seedlings you do at home need time to toughen up to the outdoor conditions: wind, sun, night and day temps, all are much more severe than the conditions in your home, garage and in some instances the greenhouse where you purchased them.

What I should have done to acclimate them:

  • Mimic the sun time they will have with my artificial lights a couple weeks out
  • Start setting them out in a shady spot during the day when the temp is 65 and above
  • Move them to a sunnier location where they will get just a couple hours of sun
  • Slowly increase their time in the sun an hour or two each day until they are staying in the sun for a full 8 hours
  • Plant them in the garden when the nights are only getting down to the high 50s or 60s (right now!)

Oh well, this is the most success I’ve had starting my own seedlings anyway so I’ll chalk this up to another lesson learned the hard way.

Allium Friday, May 21st, 2010


Allium is the onion family. My decorative allium are blooming right now. They tend to show up after the daffodils, early tulips and hyacinth have all wilted and just before my bigger iris shoot up bloom spikes.

The orb-shaped head is actually a cluster of many individual little purple flowers.

Globemaster allium

They look just like a larger version of a chive flower. They should be planted like other bulb flower, in fall for spring-time blooms. They need little in the way of division, are adaptable to different soils and hardy to zones 3 or 4. The decorative ones don’t give off anything in the way of an oniony smell. They are great for cutting and my globemaster had to be since it bent right over on its 30″ stalk. (I think it had help) I’m just glad that it’s the first year I actually go a bloom from it. Previous years it sent up a bud shoot only to be killed off by frost. They take a while to open but once they do their unique bloom adds an ethereal note to any perennial bed. Definitely a good one to try.

Perennials put in place Saturday, May 15th, 2010

I’ve picked up a handful of perennials in the last couple weeks. The first one I won by drawing at a Parkview Nursery event where they were introducing some new species. I let my daughter pick my prize from a variety of perennials. She went with the biggest and pinkest:

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Twist-n-Shout'

  • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Twist-n-Shout’ is a lace cap hydrangea vs. mophead. It’s blooms are clusters of small and tiny petaled flowers. In more acidic soil a periwinkle color comes through the blooms but in alkaline (which we have) the blooms will undoubtedly be pink. If you want to try for bluer blooms adding aluminum sulphate will change the soils pH to more acidic. this is easier to do if you leave your hydrangea in a container instead of straight it the garden. I planted mine on the east side of my house so it will be protected from the hot afternoon and evening sun. I added a good dose of my home compost to the planting hole. This plant will be a heavier feeder so I’ll probably need to add more until mid-summer.

Lychnis 'Orange Gnome' Maltese Cross

  • Next I picked up Lychnis ‘Orange Gnome’ also known as Maltese Cross. The dark green to burgundy leaves and electric orange flowers will add a lot to my almost completely green perennial bed. Most of my flowers now are purple so I wanted to add some pops of other colors here and there to up the interest. It’s stalks were tall and top heavy so I braced it with a cut-off tomato cage so it doesn’t just flop to the ground. I planted it on the south side of my house between catmint and a perennial grass so it’ll be a mid-height plant in that area. Hopefully it will tolerate a full day’s worth of sun, which is what the tag says. I can also pinch it back if I’d like a more compact growing habit.

Ajuga reptans 'Black Scallop'

  • Another color pop I purchased is an Ajuga with dark purple/black scalloped leaves. It’s brighter dainty purple/blue blooms are very cute. It’s a ground cover that should be highly adaptable to most conditions – as state on the accompanying tag. We’ll see. It also is planted on the southside in the front of my perennial border between some sedums and liatris.
  • I was able to find an Ash Leaf Spirea. I have high hopes for this one. Spirea are highly adaptable shrubs

    Sem Ash Leaf Spirea - Sorbaria sorbifolia.

    that are great for foundation planting and xeriscaping.They are low maintenance and black-thumb proof. This particular one is of interest because of its unique foliage. limey greens and pink tips with a fern-like quality.

Super excited to have these specimens in my garden! Even more excited for a spell of good weather.

Anticipation Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

During a brief time of it not raining, my son and I got some herb seeds planted in a pot. I’ll probably plant more directly into the garden but it’s fun to do with the kidlet when we are both stir-crazy from the wind and rain. Basil, Purple Basil, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemay and Luffa. Yup, Luffa – it’s a gourd that can be picked and eaten when young, but if you leave it on the plant to mature it looks like a bath luffa and can be used as such. I’ve never tried this before but I’ve wanted to so I decided this is the year.

There are also some random boards laying out in my untilled garden. Happy Mother’s Day to me. The Hub and kiddos got some supplies for raised beds. I’m pretty excited but it will be a lot to get accomplished even if I push the date to June 1. This coming weekend marks the last average frost date and is also supposed to show a weather turn-around – from 40s to 70s and 80s next week. So I’ll be more than eager to get my garden planted before the skeeters come and my maternity leave is up.

Lovely lilacs Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

As stated in an earlier post, lilacs are hitting bloom time a little earlier this year. I still have strong daffodils and the lilacs are opening their sweet buds.

Last night, while watching Garden Line, a caller had asked how to get lilacs to stay fresh in a vase. Well, the panel looked at each other and little suggestion was given. Like with most flowers, cutting them in the morning (Dr. John Ball’s suggestion) and plunging them immediately into water will help.

Lilacs have woody stems. Mashing the ends allows for more water absorption.

I’ll elaborate: lilacs have deciduous, woody stems, unlike other cutting flowers like daffodils, daisies and zinnias for example. Woody-stemmed flowers benefit from having their ends mashed. This allows more surface area to take up more water – a key in keeping any cut flower fresh.

Other cutting flower pointers:

  • Save those packets of vase water fertilizers that come when you get a purchased bouquet and use a little of that in the water.
  • Overnight your vased flowers in the fridge and bring them out again in the morning.
  • Change the water daily with fresh, cold water.
  • Cut the flowers from their plants, then recut them under running water before plunging them immediately into a water-filled vase.
  • Recut the stems every couple days as they will heal over hampering water absorption.
  • A tiny amount of bleach can keep your vase water clear.
When something ‘fishy’ is good Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

A recent comment spurred this post. Fish can be good in the garden. A reason to leave it out of the compost pile is because of smell and how it’d lure scavengers and flies. That said, I do add shrimp tails to my compost with little ill effect.

How to use fish properly – most recently (last summer we buried our beloved pufferfish under our newly planted larch. He’d met an early demise (though +7 years old) and so the larch marks his resting place.

Burials aside, when I was growing up I had an uncle or two who would go ‘smelting’. Smelt is a smaller, slender fish that (think anchovy-ish), I believe, have an annual ‘gathering’ of sorts and smelters net them while they are gathering at the waters edge. The uncle(s) would then give some to my father who would always bury them a couple inches under our pumpkin and squash seeds. Because they were immediately buried, we never had any type of maggot problem and seemed to have good luck with our produce. So, go ahead and bury in the heads and skeletons, staying away from the overly fleshy parts, in your garden soil. Skeletons (and shells of shrimp/lobster/crayfish) of fish contain high levels of calcium and other trace minerals that enrich the soil naturally – much better in my book than any synthetic fertilizer.

Garden Line – Crabgrass prevention Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Garden Line has started on SDPB (was on last week too, sorry for the late reminder). You can catch it on Tuesday nights from 7-8 CST on your local PBS station. Once again, Garden Line brings in a panel of guests from around the state, many from SDSU as well as local extension officers and other experts on all things garden/lawn/tree/bug, etc. There is even an 800 number to call to get your questions answered live on TV.

Watching the start of this most recent episode I’m reminded that the near-blooming lilacs are a sign that it is time to treat crabgrass with a pre-emergent if you are one who likes to do that. I’m also reminded that it’s been a crazy year weather-wise and lilacs look to be hitting bloom time a couple weeks earlier than normal. That’s why it is great to use nature’s cues for things like crabgrass prevention instead of a date on a calendar. Plants don’t read calendars after all.

Resist being the early bird Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

I made my first nursery trip of the year this past weekend. It was wonderful just feeling that greenhouse heat and humidity while the winds whipped up a frenzy of dust and chill outside. I did purchase 3 items which I’ll talk about later but I wanted to use this post as a simple warning. Aside from cold-weather veggie crops, trees, shrubs and very-hardy perennials, please put off any planting for a while longer. We are still more than a week from the last average frost date and even then it won’t wait to hurt a little longer before filling up your flower and garden beds.

Soil temperature is a huge factor, especially with warm-weather crops like tomatoes, peppers and melons. You may have good-sized transplants that can weather a few cool days but it can really stunt their progress to have cold ‘feet’. I might wait closer to June before setting my transplants out. Transplants set out earlier can actually be set back weeks when it comes to actual production, so resist until the soil is warmer – 60F if you want to get technical. I had a grandmother that didn’t start her veggies until June and she always seemed to have a bumper crop.

Pots, baskets and raised beds will be more susceptible to temperature changes. Annuals might be in full bloom in the nurseries and garden centers but that doesn’t mean they can weather a night outside yet. If you are eager to get some pops of color outside, plant your annuals in baskets and make sure to bring them in when temps dip below 55-60F. Same goes if you fear your favorites will be picked over at the stores if you wait until they can actually spend the nights outside.

There are a few things you can do to start a little earlier in the garden:

  • Use bottles with bottoms cut off and caps removed to shelter new transplants for a week or two. Make sure to remove them if it does get hot outside or you could risk cooking the baby plant.
  • Mulch heavily
  • On an especially cool night, cover your tender plants or ones that have just set buds with cloth, overturned buckets, plastic bags or blankets.
  • Cover the ground around plants with plastic to make it heat up quicker – cut ‘Xs’ where you want to put your transplants