- Author: Janet Snyder
Happy Independence Day to all, with a special thank you to all of those who made our Independence possible! It is a great day to celebrate our freedom, and one of my favorite ways to mark an occasion such as this is by planting something special in my garden. You’re in luck, as I know just the plant!
A few years ago, I found a beautiful plant at a nursery-a Shooting Star hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Hanabi’. This is a lace cap hydrangea of pure white, double, flattened flower heads shaped like a star. Very much like fireworks in your own garden! Like any hydrangea, you’ll need to plant it so that it is shaded from the hot sun and drying winds. They require frequent watering to keep it lush and beautiful, so you don’t want it to dry out. Plant in a slightly acidic soil that offers good drainage (if you have clay soil, you’ll want to keep it amended with compost). After 4 years, my plant is about 3’ tall and wide. However, they can grow to about 5’, so be sure to give it room to breathe and grow.
So go out and find a shooting star hydrangea and plant it to honor our forefathers!
- Author: Kathy Thomas-Rico
Our wacky spring weather has taught me a lesson, again: I am so NOT in control of anything in nature.
In my last blog, I pledged to get my tomato seedlings planted before the self-imposed deadline of April 15. Didn’t happen. I had to wait out the frost warnings and hailstorms that rolled through. Then when rain soaked the soil (which was really very welcome), I had to wait a few more days for it to dry out. But wait I did, and the tomato seedlings are now happily in the soil, soaking up warmth and sunshine, nearly doubling in size after just a week.
So patience paid off. I’ll try to remember that next year when tomato-planting season comes around.
This made me think of other areas of the yard where patience comes into play. We have three well-established rose bushes, which were planted by the previous owner of our 36-year-old home. Because I am not a rose fancier (the blossoms are lovely, but the plants are a thorny, unattractive pain, in my opinion), I have steadfastly refused to fuss over these roses. I do not prune them in winter. I do not spray off the aphids in spring. I do not deadhead the fading blossoms. I never, ever fertilize the plants. Mind you, I am not trying to kill them. I simply do not have any patience for the problems they bring.
You know what? Those darned roses thrive, putting on dinner-plate-sized blossoms all spring and deep-orange rosehips the rest of the year.
In that sense, having no patience (call it laziness or benign neglect) has its benefits. But, lesson learned: Mother Nature is driving this bus, not me. Guess I’d better buckle up and enjoy the ride.
- Author: Jennifer Baumbach
Good Saturday morning all. Just a bonus blog here. I wanted to include this photo in Sharon Rico's sweet pea article, but I didn't have it at the time the blog was posted. I wanted to share this with you if you were planning on planting sweet peas for your yard.
I too grow sweet peas and have taken Sharon's advice in pre-sprouting or 'chitting' sweet peas. I use the paper towel method. However, there are other methods of preparing sweet pea seeds for growing: soaking the seed in hot water, using sandpaper to scratch the surface of the seed or also nipping a tiny bit out of the seed coat.
In this picture are the dry sweet peas, the smaller darker colored seeds in the middle of the group. There are also the plumped up seeds. This happens just before they put out their first little root, which is the other seed you see here in this photo below.
My sweet pea seeds are planted and the seedlings are already breaking through the soil!
- Author: Sharon L. Rico
October is the month to plant sweet pea seeds and I can hardly wait to get mine in the ground! In 1817, poet John Keats wrote “Here are sweet peas, on tip toe for a flight; With wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white, And taper fingers catching at all things, To bind them all about with tiny rings.”
Sweet peas, which have the descriptive Latin name Lathyrus odoratus, are incredibly gorgeous and powerfully perfumed. Often we smell them before we see the blossoms and the perfume invites us to find them, lifting our spirits and making us smile. Having a passion for sweet peas, I’ve been growing them annually for nearly 50 years.
It’s ideal to plant the seeds in an area where they can climb and be supported. Cement wire against a fence or wire between two poles in an open area will work well. The soil needs to be amended with compost and manure.
These tiny, round, hard seeds need to be soaked in water overnight. Soaking them softens the hard seed shell and encourages them to sprout. My grandmother placed her seeds on wet paper napkins on a tray in the basement and left them for several days until they were swollen and ready to “pop.” I use the same technique, using paper towels and an old cookie sheet. I carry that into the garden and place each seed individually 3 inches apart and ½ inch deep, thinning to 6 inches apart as they grow.
As soon as the plants emerge, grab some snail bait, as slugs and snails will feast on these seedlings! As the vines grow, they may need to be wound between the wire support until the tendrils grab hold. At this point, there’s not much to do until mid-April when the vines will vigorously grow and the incredible flowers appear. Sweet peas need to be picked daily for continuous blooming. The flowers will scent your home and are welcome gifts for friends and neighbors. As the vines turn brown and dry in June, there will be pods you can collect seeds for the following October. I’ve found that everyone loves sweet peas! Now, I’ve got to get busy!
- Author: Betty Victor
Another good day working at the New Foundations Garden located at the Solano County Juvenile Hall Detention Facility, in Fairfield.
This garden was started last year with the cooperation of the Solano County Grounds Supervisor Jim Simon, the counselors at the facility and the Master Gardeners. The idea is to turn a huge empty field into several types of gardens and paths, along with a teaching area.
Over the last few months planting beds were constructed, filled with compost, and made ready to plant. The young men at the detention facility did the work under the supervision of the Master Gardeners. Summer vegetables were planted as well as red and golden raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. A citrus orchard has also been started with the trees off to a good start. So far the young people have learned how to plants seeds and trees, how to install drip irrigation, and how to compost by starting a compost bin. The Master Gardeners have taught the young men how to keep the garden tools clean and ready for use, as well as plant propagation.
Over the summer months, zucchini, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, corn on the cob, watermelon, and pole beans were harvested. Some of the bounty has been donated to the food bank. The blackberries, raspberries and strawberries were eaten right of the vine by these hard-working young people.
This last week the beds were cleaned of the summer vegetables, except for a tomato plant, pumpkin, watermelon, and the zucchini as they were still producing. The cleaned beds were then planted with butter lettuce, ‘Pixie’ cabbage, tricolored carrots, broccoli, and green onions as the winter crops to be planted so far.
For color, one of the beds was planted with iris and cannas and another bed has been planted with sweet peas.
Also on their waiting list the giant pumpkins that were planted early in the year. All are wondering how large they will get and if any will be ready by Halloween.
More projects are planned for the coming months, watch for updates.