| seeds & bulbs |
seed growing indoors
Fill pots or flats to within 1/4 inch of the top with your potting mixture and level the surface. It's a good idea to water the soil and allow it to drain thoroughly before sowing the seeds. Make a hole for each seed with your finger or a pencil. Keep in mind that most seeds need to be planted four times as deep as the seed is wide. If your seeds are very fine, cover them with a fine layer of soil.
moisture and humidity
Germinating medium should be kept evenly moist but not soaking wet. Too much moisture will cause the seeds to rot. Use a fine sprayer to water newly planted seeds and tiny seedlings or, if possible, water from the bottom. If you can, slip your pots and flats into plastic bags to keep the humidity and moisture even and reduce the frequency of watering.
Some seeds require light to germinate while others prefer total darkness. Your seed packet should tell you what your seed's requirements are. Once germinated, all seedlings need light to develop into strong, healthy plants. Supplement the natural light with florescent bulbs if necessary.
The care you give your seedlings in the weeks following germination is critical. Keep it moist, but not dripping. Small pots and flats dry out quickly, so check it often. If your seedlings are growing in a windowsill, turn often to encourage straight stems.
The first two leaves you will see on the plant are not true leaves but food storage cells called cotyledons. Once the first true leaves have developed, it's time to start fertilizing. Choose a good liquid organic fertilizer and use a weak solution once a week.
One week before transplanting your seedlings outdoors, start to harden them off. This process acclimates the soft and tender plants, which have been protected from wind, cool temperatures, and strong sun, to their new environment. Move the plants to a shady outdoor area at first, and bring them indoors for the night if night temperatures are cold. Each day, move them out into the sun for a few hours, increasing the time spent in the sun each day. Keep them well watered during this period, and don't place them directly on the ground if slugs are a problem. Monitor them closely for insect damage since tender young seedlings are a delicacy for insects.
Don't be in a rush to set your plants in the garden. If they won't withstand frost, be sure all danger of frost has passed before setting them out. Plan the garden in advance. Consider companion planting and plant sizes. Make sure your tall plants won't shade low growing neighbors.
Water the ground outside and the seedlings thoroughly before transplanting. This helps prevent transplant shock. It's preferable to transplant on a cloudy day so strong sun won't wilt your seedlings. Dig a hole about twice the size of the root ball and set the transplant into the hole so the root ball will be covered by 1/4 inch of soil. Press the soil firmly around the roots. A small depression around the plant stem will help trap moisture. Water immediately after transplanting and every day for the first week. Be sure to water deeply so you plants won't develop shallow roots.
provide some of the earliest bloom in spring gardens. Growing and using them successfully requires a knowledge of life cycle, cultural requirements, and use. "Hardy" refers to their ability to withstand low winter temperatures and bloom year after year.
A true bulb is defined as a modified, underground stem, usually surrounded by scalelike, modified leaves, and containing stored food for the shoots enclosed within. The scales are held together by a hardened stem tissue, known as the basal plate (at the base of the bulb). Tulip, daffodil, hyacinth, and lilies are examples of true bulbs. Crocus, thought by many to be a bulb, is actually a corm. This is a mass of fleshy tissue with a bud on the top surface. This tissue disintegrates as the stored food is used to produce roots and shoots. A new corm forms on top of the old one's remains. Bulbs and corms are living structures and require careful handling even while in a dormant state.
In general, hardy bulbs produce foliage and blooms in spring. They are in a dormant (resting) state over the summer months. Low temperatures are required to break dormancy so growth may resume in fall and early winter.
Good quality bulbs produce good bloom. Usually the larger the bulb, the better it will bloom. Beware of "bargain" bulbs that are often too small to bloom the first season. Bulbs should be firm, heavy, and in good condition. The tunic (skin) should be smooth, of good color, and free from injury. The basal plate must be intact.
Bulbs can be obtained from many sources in the fall. Planting can occur from mid-August until the soil freezes. Daffodils, however, are best planted in September or early October because they require a longer period for root development. In the event that bulbs obtained through a mail order source arrive at an inconvenient time for planting, they should be stored in a cool and well-ventilated area.
Choose a planting site in full sun, but with protection from the hottest midday summer sun. Planting under or near large deciduous trees that cast filtered shade works well. Plants in full sun will bloom earlier than those in partial shade. A few plants that withstand partial shade include daffodils; Triumph, Parrot, and Fosterana tulips; some hardy lilies; some Crocus; Siberian squill (Scilla); checkered lily (Fritillaria); and some windflowers (Anemone).
Soil of a medium sandy-loam texture is ideal because it provides good aeration and drainage. Bulbs must not be planted in areas that do not drain well, or they will perform poorly or rot. If soil is a heavy clay, mix it with one-third to one-half organic material such as peat moss, compost, or aged bark. Raised beds also provide good drainage. Soil pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0.
Work soil 12 inches deep; loose soil below the bulb is important for good root development. Incorporate three pounds of a complete fertilizer (such as a 5-10-10) per 100 square feet as you are preparing the soil.
Recommended planting depths are given to the bottom of the bulb. For hyacinths, plant six inches deep; tulips, six inches or deeper; and daffodils, six to eight inches deep. Smaller bulbs in these groups and the minor bulbs are planted shallower. Large bulbs should be spaced four to six inches apart; small bulbs one to two inches. For a greater effect, plant in clumps or irregular masses rather than singly.
Once planted, replace half the depth of soil, then water. Finish covering with soil and water again. If fall weather is dry, water as needed to promote good root development. Mulch may be placed over newly planted areas once the soil has frozen to a depth of one to two inches. This keeps soil frozen and prevents alternate freezing and thawing, which may cause the soil to heave and injure newly planted bulbs.
Mulch can be placed over bulbs planted very late in the season to extend the root development period. The mulch can also be used to keep prepared soil from freezing. This method can be used for bulbs, such as hardy lilies, that cannot be obtained until very late in the season. After planting and as soon as soil has frozen to a depth of one to two inches, replace mulch.
Further care is required in spring. When bulb foliage has emerged two to three inches and is making rapid growth, hand weed to eliminate competition. After spring cultivation, replenish mulch, if needed, to a two to three inch depth. This conserves moisture, suppresses weeds, and prevents mud splash to blooms.
Water is needed especially during bud and foliage expansion. If rainfall is insufficient, apply additional water. Use a soaker hose or otherwise apply water at the soil line, rather than overhead sprinkling.
Of all the bulbs, tulips are "heavy feeders" and require fertilization as foliage emerges and again after flowering. Fertilize other bulbs after flowering to support foliage and increase bulb size. Use a complete fertilizer, such as a 5-10-10, or 6-12-12, at two pounds per 100 square feet.
Flowers may be cut for indoor use when just past the tight bud stage. Cut in the morning, plunge stems in deep water, and store cool (as low as 40 degrees F) and dark for several hours or overnight to harden. If so treated, blooms may last up to seven days indoors.
As bulbs finish blooming, remove faded blooms to eliminate seed set that reduces bulb growth. Maintain foliage for six weeks for good bulb growth and rebloom the following season. Do not cut or braid foliage, but allow it to die down naturally. Foliage can be removed when it has yellowed, fallen over, and comes loose when slightly tugged.
Over the years, flowers may become smaller or less abundant, indicating that bulbs may need to be divided. After foliage dies back completely, dig bulbs with a spading fork and separate them. Bulbs can be respaced and replanted right away or stored to replant in the fall. To store, remove all soil, air dry, place in a mesh bag (such as an onion bag), and hang in a cool (65 to 70 degrees F), dark, well-ventilated area.
| biennials |
how to grow biennials
Biennials require a certain amount of cold treatment before flowers can form. Biennials need to survive the winter in order to come back into flower next spring. Generally, there are four methods of growing biennials, depending on the climate in which they will be grown.
Where winter survival of biennial plants is not assured, they may be dug up and overwintered in coldframes to be re-planted next spring.
In moderate and mild climates, biennials are planted as seeds in late summer or fall. The emerging biennial plants will go dormant to survive the winter and flower the following season.
Sowing biennial seeds in cool greenhouses in winter is another option. This passes as a cold treatment, which may provide enough chilling for the biennials to flower during the same season.
An alternative to starting biennials indoors is to buy biennial seedlings in their second year, then raising them as you would an annual.
Care and Maintenance of Biennials
Biennials require the same care and attention as annual plants. A light feeding of nitrogenous fertilizer the first year is sufficient to help it develop healthy foliage. If left to overwinter in the ground, treat the biennial as you would a perennial. First cut back the top growth to the crown, then cover with coarse bark or topsoil mulch as a protection from severe cold and ice. Alternatively, if the plants are too tender to survive a harsh winter, careful removal and placement in a cool, airy place over the winter months will greatly improve their chances of survival.
Once the second spring arrives, treat your biennials to a good helping of compost or manure, plenty of moisture and monthly feedings with organic sources of nitrogen, phosporus and potassium. These organic sources will provide the macro and micro-nutrients needed by the plants and they may be a combination of Fish Emulsion, Alfalfa Meal, Rock phosphate and/or Bone Meal and Wood Ash.
self-sowing biennial varieties
Some biennials produce a large number of seeds their second year. As the seeds spread in the garden and sprout new plants, they may seem to mimic plants with perennial characteristics. These are in fact self-sowing and cause a gardening phenomenon called 'naturalization.' If the conditions are right and if they are left to continue their natural cycles, they will continue to self-perpetuate.
Some examples are the Honesty or Money Plant, Lunaria annua; the Forget-Me-Not, Myosotis sylvatica; and the Pansy, Viola spp.
There are relatively few true biennial species, but they are well worth the effort to grow. Some, like the Hollyhock and Forget-Me-Not, are cottage garden classics. Others are grown for their everlasting qualities, such as the Honesty Plant, which sports showy papery seedheads. Some varieties of biennial flowers have been developed to grow and flower the same year. In this category are found the Hollyhock (Alcea spp.) and the Foxglove (Digitalis spp.).
Many herbs and vegetables, namely Parsley (Petroselinum); Carrots (Daucus carota), and Kale (Brassica), are all grown as annuals but in fact are biennials. They would flower the second year if they were not harvested but left to their natural inclination. One biennial herb that is well known for its medicinal qualities is Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis). Its bright yellow flowers in the second year produce an abundance of seeds high in essential fatty acids.
Campanula medium ~ Canterbury Bells
Delphinium ajacis ~ Delphinium
Myosotis sylvatica ~ Forget-me-not
Digitalis purpurea ~ Foxglove
Alcea rosea ~ Hollyhock
Lunaria annua ~ Honesty
Papaver nudicale ~ Iceland Poppy
Viola x wittrockiana ~ Pansy
Daucus carota ~ Queen Anne's Lace
Dianthus barbatus ~ Sweet William
Verbena bonariensis ~Verbena
Daucus carota ~ Carrot
Salvia sclarea ~ Clary Sage
Carum carvi ~ Common Caraway
Oenothera biennis ~ Evening Primrose
Petroselinum crispum ~ Parsley
| perennials |
Herbaceous perennials generally live for three or more seasons, but usually the tops die back to the ground each fall. The crown and roots of the plant resume growth in spring. A few perennials are evergreen or keep a green rosette of leaves at the base in winter. Hardy perennials can live through the winter without protection.
Perennials provide year-round color and interest; with endless variations in colors, sizes, habits and time of bloom. Although some perennials flower for only a few weeks, the ever-changing color display forms much of the excitement of a perennial garden. Some perennials, such as ferns and hostas, are grown principally for their beautiful foliage. Include foliage plants to extend seasonal color and texture in the garden.
While the traditional English perennial border was entirely made up of herbaceous perennials, they are attractively used in combination with other plants in the total landscape. Perennials are easily used as ground covers, mixed with annuals, grown in containers, and used as accents or specimen plants.
There are perennials for full sun or heavy shade, for dry or wet soil. Select perennials that are suited to the growing conditions where they will be planted.
Select a planting area with good air circulation to help avoid diseases.
planting perennials - soil preparation
Good soil preparation is extremely important for perennials, since they may be in place for many years. Deeply spade the beds to a depth of eight to 10 inches. Amend clay soils by mixing in at least 2 inches of pine bark humus, compost, leaf mold or small pea gravel to improve drainage and aeration. Improve water retention in sandy soils by mixing in 2 to 3 inches of pine bark humus, composted leaf mold or peat moss. Good soil drainage is critical to the success of most perennials. Raised beds can be used to ensure adequate drainage.
Base fertilizer and lime applications on the results of a soil test for best results. In the absence of a soil test, add a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 at the rate of 1 pound per 100 square feet of bed area or a complete slow-release fertilizer following label directions.
A pH of 6.0 to 6.5 is ideal for most perennials. If growing in acidic soil, incorporate lime and fertilizer into the top 4 to 6 inches of soil after mixing in the soil amendments. Rake the soil surface smooth.
Most perennials can be planted in the fall or early spring. Fall planting gives the plant more time to become established before the start of active growth in the spring. Autumn-planted perennials are usually well-established before hot weather. Autumn planting should be finished at least 6 weeks before hard-freezing weather occurs.
Early spring is also considered a good time to plant perennials. Planting early, just after killing frosts have passed, is better than later spring planting.
Many perennials can be grown from seed, but most gardeners prefer to start with established plants. Perennials are available grown in containers, field-grown, or shipped bare-root and dormant.
If plants are somewhat pot-bound at planting time, loosen the roots around the bottom and sides of the root ball and spread them out in the bottom of the planting hole. To encourage side root growth, make the hole twice as wide as deep. Refill the hole, firming the soil in around the plant to avoid air pockets. Be sure the crown of the plant (the point where roots and top join)is even with the soil surface.
Water plants thoroughly following planting to settle the soil around the roots. Pay especially close attention to watering the first few weeks while plants develop their root systems. Adequate moisture is essential for the growth of perennials. Most perennials require at least 1 to 1½ inches of water per week from rain or irrigation. More may be needed during very hot weather.
To promote deep root growth, water thoroughly and deeply. Allow the soil surface to dry before watering again. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation are ideal watering methods since they save water and avoid wetting leaves and flowers.
Mulch with a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost, pine bark or pine straw to help keep down weeds and conserve moisture. Avoid overly heavy mulching to help prevent crown rot.
Weed control should usually be done by hand-weeding or with the use of herbicides to avoid damging shallow roots. Read and follow label directions before using any herbicide.
Maintenance fertilisation should be based on the results of a soil test. In the absence of a soil test, apply a complete fertilizer such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 at the rate of 1 to 2 pounds per 100 square feet of bed area just before new shoots emerge in the early spring. Avoid touching any emerging leaves with fertilizer to avoid leaf damage.
Many newly planted perennials will not bloom the first year. A few, such as peonies, may take several years to bloom heavily.
Many perennials should be staked to prevent them from bending or falling over during wind and rain. When staking is done correctly, the plants grow to cover the stakes.
Remove old flowers to encourage rebloom on perennials. Many perennials should be cut back to ground level after bloom is finished to encourage new leaf growth from the base.
Remove dead foliage and stems in the fall, and mulch to protect crowns and roots from alternating mild and freezing weather.
Most perennials eventually become overcrowded and require division. Many perennials are also easily propagated in this way. Other methods of propagating perennials include stem cuttings, root cuttings and seed.
| roses |
Here are some of the best ideas and tips for planting.
Check with your local gardening center or florist for the best type to grow in your climate. If you are a novice, you should look for disease resistant types because they require a lot less maintenance.
When planting roses, you want to pick a spot that is well lit in the morning. You also want an area that is sunlit for at least 6 hours a day. They need a great deal of light if they are to grow properly.
Pick an area that has plenty of well drained soil. Great soil has a PH level where the amount of acid in the soil is at about 5.5-7.0. You can get a testing kit for your soil at any garden center.
Organic matter like manure or lime helps to nourish the roots of your plants. You should soak the roots in water or puddle clay for many minutes, and cut off the root's ends that are broken.
The first 3-4 weeks after planting , you should water them often. Usually this is when the top 2 inches of soil is dry. Roses need a lot of hydration and food to remain healthy.
Four weeks after planting, you should start soaking the bed every 2 weeks or so. You should do this in the morning for the best results.
Begin fertilization approximately 3 months after planting. Use 3-6 inches of mulch to control the moisture, temperature, and to stops weeds from coming up. Mulch also helps to lock in the vital nutrients they need in order to remain healthy.
Planting in the Spring is the best.You want to plant in an area that is well circulated with air,as they will not grow in an enclosed or tight area
Dig a hole that is two times bigger than the amount of space that your roses take up. It makes it easier to plant them and creates a spaced area for them to grow with freedom. Poor circulation can cause fungal diseases. Using a larger hole also makes it easier for you to pull them up later and pot them if you'd like.
caring for your roses
Taking proper care can seem like a very taxing, and time consuming thing to do, but the results of such care far more than make up for it. Unfortunately, they are the most difficult flower to manage and keep healthy; however, all good things require high maintenance.
There are many small things that have to be done to keep them looking their best, but all of those small things add up to one very large one. Here are some great tips for the regular upkeep of your roses.
You should prune in the early spring. Or at least once the others start budding because the buds will eventually become new branches later.
You should cut the dead and damaged branches first. Next, you should cut all but five of the leftover healthy branches. They should end up at about the thickness of a pencil.
Cut the bushes by approximately one third or one half, depending on how tall you want them. Cutting above the outward facing buds, which are the buds that are on the outside of the bush because this will help the bud to grow upward; which will make the center of the bud open up for better air circulation and shape.
You should always sharpen your hand shears before pruning, and prune the climbers with caution. The branches have a tendency to overlap and you wouldn't want to prune the wrong branches
Mulching is necessary because it helps to keep your maintenance down a bit. Mulching means a lot less watering, weeding and helps to prevent diseases. The best mulches are organic ones like wood chips, pine needles, and grass clippings.
Protect your bushes during the winter months by adding a few extra inches of soil to the base of your plants. This should provide the extra needed heat in the winter.
You should feed them water often, but lightly. When you water avoid directly watering the foliage because it will cause fungal diseases. Remember you should water at the roots.
Keep the area around your roses cleared to prevent them from getting locked in an area that doesn't provide enough circulation.
cold climate roses
Most roses will grow just about anywhere, and in any type of climate. Certain types do not function very well in cold climates, but will grow just as well in any other. Hybrid Teas are not however, a cold climate rose. They must be grown in a warmer climate like Florida. They simply don't have the necessary winter protection that some cold climate flowers have.
If you live in an area that is prone to harsh winters, you will likely find it relatively easy to find good, cold climate roses at your local garden center. It is necessary to plant cold climate varieties in areas that are prone to cold winters because planting anything else would be a waste of your time as they couldn't survive properly during the winter frost.
Cold climate roses are great for many reasons. They are very low maintenance flowers, especially good for the novice. Cold climate roses also have their very own protection set up against diseases and bacteria that can plague any flower.
| garden planning |
planning your garden
To set out a garden from scratch may seem daunting, but this Greenfingers workshop will simplify it and help you to avoid expensive mistakes. Whether you are revamping an old garden or making a new one, you'll need to make lists of the features you want to include, plants and items to be kept, eyesores to screen and good views to borrow from outside. Most gardeners find it difficult to imagine how their plans will look. Setting things out on the ground will help you put everything in the right place and allow enough space for relatively expensive features and plants. You may need to draw up the garden either completely or as individual features, depending on whether you are going to do the building work yourself, or get contractors to do some or all of it. The BBC website has an excellent virtual garden section to help you visualise your ideas. To access it click here
| feed your beds |
Nature's way of recycling helps to reduce the amount of waste we put out for the bin men. By composting kitchen and garden waste you can easily improve the quality of your soil and be well on your way to a more beautiful garden. The following easy guide to home composting will provide you with all the information needed to get the best out of your garden.
siting your bin
Site your bin on a level, well-drained spot. This allows excess water to drain out and makes it easier for helpful creatures such as worms to get in and get working on breaking down the contents. Placing your bin in a partially sunny spot can help speed up the composting process.
Like any recipe, your compost relies on the right ingredients to make it work. Good things you can compost include vegetable peelings, fruit waste, teabags, plant prunings and grass cuttings. These are considered “Greens.” Greens are quick to rot and they provide important nitrogen and moisture. Other things you can compost include cardboard egg boxes, scrunched up paper and fallen leaves. These are considered “Browns” and are slower to rot. They provide fibre and carbon and also allow important air pockets to form in the mixture. Crushed eggshells can be included to add useful minerals.
what not to use
Certain things should never be placed in your bin. No cooked vegetables, no meat, no dairy products, no diseased plants, and definitely no dog poo or cat litter, or baby’s nappies. Putting these in your bin can encourage unwanted pests and can also create odour. Also avoid composting perennial weeds (such as dandelions and thistle) or weeds with seed heads. Remember that plastics, glass and metals are not suitable for composting and should be recycled separately.
making good compost
The key to good compost lies in getting the mix right. You need to keep your Greens and Browns properly balanced. If your compost is too wet, add more Browns. If it’s too dry, add some Greens. Making sure there is enough air in the mixture is also important. Adding scrunched up bits of cardboard is a simple way to create air pockets that will help keep your compost healthy. Air can also be added by mixing the contents. After approximately 6-9 months your finished compost will be ready.
using your compost
Finished compost is a dark brown, almost black soil-like layer that you’ll find at the bottom of your bin. It has a spongy texture and is rich in nutrients. Some bins have a small hatch at the bottom that you can remove to get at the finished product, but sometimes it’s even easier to lift the bin or to tip it over to get at your compost. Spreading the finished compost into your flowerbeds greatly improves soil quality by helping it retain moisture and suppressing weeds. Composting is the easiest way to make your garden grow more beautiful.
Once you've made your own compost you can use it in a variety of ways to help your garden bloom.
Here are some handy tips on how to use your compost.
Firstly, best make sure your compost is actually ready to use! Check that it is dark brown in colour, has a spongy texture and smells earthy.
Don’t worry if the compost doesn’t look like the stuff you buy from garden centres - it may be lumpy, with twigs and bits of eggshells in, but will be still as effective. Any large twigs can just be put back to carry on composting.
Your fresh new compost will be very well received by your plants and flowers. Nutrient-rich compost helps to improve soil structure, manage moisture levels, modifies and stabilises pH, provides key growth nutrients and suppresses plant diseases – no wonder plants and flowers thrive in compost!
New garden or flowerbed
Help your new plants and flowers bloom by digging a 4-inch layer of compost into the soil prior to planting. Fresh plants will enjoy the benefits of compost’s fertility, disease-protection and moisture control.
If the flowers have already been planted, simply spread a thin layer of the material around the base of the plants – the nutrients will work their way into the roots.
Mulch is compost scattered over flowerbeds and around shrubs to prevent soil erosion and enrich the soil with extra nutrients.
To create mulch, use compost that is not quite finished and still has larger chunks of wood and organic debris present. Mulch works best around shrubs and rose bushes. The more you prune the shrub, the more mulch you can apply. Make sure to leave a gap around any soft-stemmed plants as the mulch will ‘scorch’ them.
Spread a 2-4 inch layer around the roots to provide nutrients, protect mature or newly planted trees from drought and disease and help suppress weed growth. Apply the compost once or twice a year.
Spread a two-inch layer of compost over the existing soil surface – worms will quickly work the compost down to soil level. Alternatively, dig a similar amount into the soil of the bed prior to planting. Again, remember to leave a gap around soft-stemmed plants.
Plant new containers for the patio
Mix regular soil with finished compost to create your own potting mix for houseplants or to start new plants from seeds. About a third of the mix should be compost, less when you are planting seeds, the rest soil, to allow the plant roots to take hold firmly.
Replenish established containers
Give your pot plants and containers an extra boost by removing the top few inches of existing soil and replace with your nutritious new compost, leaving a gap around any soft-stemmed plants.
Feed the lawn
Sieve the compost and dress the lawn. You'll need to spread the compost to a depth of about ¼ of an inch over a newly seeded lawn to help young grass take root and thrive, mixing it with sharp sand will help to spread it evenly. Mature lawns will also benefit from a 'compost boost'.
Healthy herbs and vegetables
Compost works well for growing herbs such as chives, parsley and mint. Crumble some compost around the base for healthier herbs. Vegetables thrive in compost and you end up with a healthier crop. Apply compost with each rotation, or use it to earth your potatoes and carrots. .