- Author: Marian I Chmieleski
Spring is such a happy time with flowers bursting out all around that I always want to get into the act and replant the large terra cotta pot for my front porch. However, last week as I looked under the laundry room sink and saw the long-abandoned Easter baskets from my daughters' youth, I had a new idea. Why not use those baskets as my planters?
Because my locally-owned nursery seems to be closed, I headed down to a local big-box hardware store with a garden department. I knew I wanted to line the baskets with something that would let water drain, but keep the soil in. My idea was to get sphagnum moss, but I found something even more interesting: a coco fiber liner intended for hanging planters. With that in my basket I headed for the bloom aisles.
Recalling all the beautiful planters I've seen in Sunset Magazine, I wanted something a little taller for the center of each basket with smaller flowers around it. There were lots of good candidates: primroses (Primula), cyclamen, French marigolds (Tagetes patula), pansies (Viola wittrockiana), ranunculus (Ranunculus asiaticus) and Kalanchoes (Kalanchoe Calandiva)--but you could use anything that suits your fancy. Just be sure to choose flowers that have similar requirements in terms of water and light. I happened to choose a couple of the Kalanchoes and lots of pansies, and ended up with 4" pots of Kalanchoe because that's all they had, but you only need buy the 6-pack size. They will fill in beautifully in no time at all.
The coco liner was easy to tear into pieces to fit each basket. Then the plants went in. I added some compost from my backyard pile to a commercial potting mix and filled in around the plants. The finished baskets are so cute on my front porch. With quite a few pansies leftover I saw some very small baskets at the craft store for only 99 cents. Who could resist? So you'll see by the pictures, I now have porch baskets and table baskets and am eager for guests to arrive to enjoy my festive decor. Happy spring!
- Author: Betty Victor
The wreath workshop is just days away. Master Gardeners have been busy gathering redwood, rosemary, lavender, Nadine and so much more greenery for people that attend to make a wreath of their own design.
Starting in late October-early November the Master Gardeners have been busy cutting drying, and spraying decorations for you to choose from to add to your wreath. We have agapanthus heads, hydrangea flowers, statice, lavender, pine cones, and so much more (feathers, grass flowers). In addition, participants are welcome to bring any items they have from home that they would like to add to their wreath. There are assorted colors of ribbon that can be made into bows to complement your wreath .
Food did I mention food? Yes there will be food and drinks for you to snack on, as you make your wreath. Complements of the Master Gardeners.
This event is held on the first Saturday of December at the Buck Mansion in Vacaville. Seating is limited to 40. If you have not registered on line this year to attend, it could be to late. Here is the link http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/survey/survey.cfm?surveynumber=9007 Make sure you mark your 2013 calendar in late October or early November to watch for the announcement for 2013 so you don’t miss this fun event next year.
- Author: Karen Metz
One of the many special joys of gardening is coming face to face with hummingbirds. I love to watch them sip from flowers or just perch and survey their territory. That's why Keith and I were thrilled to see a tiny hummingbird sampling the flowers at a flower box at a restaurant in Rudesheim, Germany. He was the tiniest thing we had ever seen. He was brown and rust and white and hummed and hovered enchantingly.
I vaguely remembered that there was a hummingbird referred to as a bee hummingbird, so that evening I lhit the Internet. No, the bee hummingbird is from Cuba and is a striking blue color which this creature was not. As I researched I found that there are no hummingbirds in Europe, only the New World. Interestingly about two years ago they did find hummingbird fossils near Frankfurt Germany. I did find out there was a zoo near Rudesheim that had a hummingbird enclosure; perhaps one had escaped.
Then I found a question to a bird site where someone else had seen a small hummingbird in Germany. The expert gently suggested that they had perhaps seen a European hummingbird hawk moth, Macroglossum stellatarum. No Way! I was a biology major. I'm a Master Gardener for crying out loud. I'm not going to mistake a moth for a bird. Nevertheless I did Google the European hummingbird hawk moth and sure enough that was exactly what my husband and I saw. The moth flies during the day time, hovers and even has the hummm of the hummingbird. It's incredible. They say it's an example of convergent evolution that they have ended up so similar. Take a look at the pictures that my husband took and see if you would have been fooled too.
- Author: Sharon L. Rico
It’s such a pleasure spending time in the garden, especially this time of year. Even with our erratic weather, we have color and life everywhere. The garden is abundant with vegetables and flowers. We have been busy the past 2 months harvesting cherries, followed by peaches. A couple of days ago, I pulled the yellow onions, cleaned and trimmed them for storage. The ‘Big Boy’ and ‘Juliet’ tomatoes are providing us with tomato sandwiches and salads. The zucchini is trying it’s best to hide from our searching eyes. The last one was about a foot long (oops). Eating outdoors just about daily is the best summertime treat and a relaxing way to catch up on our daily activities. Listening to the splashing of our water features, watching the bees and hummingbirds-zipping back and forth. What a treat. The dahlias are blooming in several corners of the yard and these blooms have been cut and placed in a vase gracing our kitchen island. The begonias, in pots and hanging baskets are glorious. As busy as we are each day, enjoying the fruits of our labor, is the best feeling. There is no better time than “the good ole summertime” and right now we’re enjoying every minute of it before it’s over.
- Author: Cheryl A Potts
Soil texture is an important factor in determining the success of your gardening venture. Texture is determined by the proportions of sand, silt, and clay minerals of your soil. Clay, predominate in this geographic area, is very fine-textured, and referred to as a 'heavy soil'. Clay has one thousand times more surface area per gram than silt, and almost a million times more surface than course sand.
Sandy or silt loam is said to be the best soil for home gardening, as this provides a mixture that retains water and is able to percolate and infiltrate. Clay can become hard as rock and does not drain well.
Several things can be done to deal with our clay. One is to add raised beds to your garden, bringing in good loamy soil from a reputable source, and placing it on top of existing soil, where you want to plant.
Secondly, you can amend your existing clay soil with organic materials. Two common methods for doing this are: one, to add compost to soil and work it in. This is best done with hoes and or shovels, as tilling can destroy living organisms, such as worms, which are most beneficial to the garden. Severely compacted soil may require tilling. Of so, till down 10-12" deep. Allow soil to dry out--two to three days prior to adding amendments. Remove rocks, roots and debris. Break up any large clods with a hoe. Place two to three inches of compost on the area and work in. Do not do this when the soil is too wet or to dry. Peat moss would work as an amendment, but is expensive. Compost and well rotted manure both are organic and ideal for garden plots. A second method is to cover the area with 4-6" of rotten hay or straw and let it sit for up to a year, as this will slowly break down the soil. Easier on the back but takes much more time.
A third approach is to accept the clay and plant items that do well in that texture of soil. Here is a partial list of some flowers that actually will do fine: Black-eyed Susan, bluestar, aster, baptisia, coreopsis, purple cone flower, sea holly, perennial geranium, false sunflower, daylily, coral bells, blazing star (great for a butterfly garden), bee balm, Russian sage, yarrow, and switch grass, said to actually thrive in moist or dry clay.
So clay does not have to be a gardener's four letter word like mole, weed, or mold. Work with it, amend it, accept it.