Paying Attention to the Foliage in the Garden

by Admin 9. November 2012 08:11

Leaves contrasting in size, shape and colorBy: Eliza Osborn

Sometimes, we focus so much on the flowers in our garden, we forget to notice the foliage. The variety of shapes, sizes and colors that leaves come in, is amazing. If you plan it right, you can have a very beautiful and colorful garden using plants that have no, or insignificant, blooms.

The foliage has always been important as a backdrop for the flowers. Can you picture a garden with just stems and flowers and no leaves? Leaves have always played an important part in the design of the garden, but I’m just saying that they don’t have to be just in the background.
By placing plants with contrasting leaves, whether is size, texture or color, near each other, it creates interest. In some shady gardens, it is really hard to get light and color in with blossoms, but some plants, such as coleus, can add color to the shady garden, and by using the light colored coleus, can add light to a darkened area. Coleus do bloom, but the blooms are incidental and usually pinched off to help the plant.

Thanks and Happy Planting!

Feeding Plants for Success

by Admin 28. September 2012 09:24

Liquid FertilizerBy: Eliza Osborn


I’ve recently heard about a new concept in fertilizing and it sounds exciting. There is a company making liquid fertilizer that contains some rich substance which is rare and found in very few places. This substance, leonardia… or something like that. It works inside the plants and helps them to take up nutrients faster and more efficiently.That means less fertilizer is needed, which is great, because fertilizers can get expensive.

Anyway, I’m excited about all I’ve heard and wish I could try some. Unfortunately, it isn’t sold retail and is only sold in huge quantities to the agricultural community, here and in other countries. I’ve heard there are amazing results from it though. I’ve used fertilizers before and not only does it take a lot for all of our plants, but I worry about how much to use and am I burning the plants, not to mention the residue left in the soil.

I’m checking further into it because I want my plants to be as healthy and robust as possible. I want them to thrive!


Thanks and happy planting!

Rhubarb – A Beautiful, Edible Plant

by Admin 27. August 2012 11:05
By: Eliza Osborn

Rhubarb is a beautiful vigorous plant that comes up faithfully every spring and gets bigger and bigger each year. It will send up a huge stalk with a not very pretty bloom on it but you shouldn’t let Rhubarb bloom. Cut back the blossom stalks to the ground to keep the plant vigorous and producing. Also, the leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid and are considered toxic. So when you cut the stalk to eat be sure to cut the leaf off immediately since the poison will travel into the stalk once cut. Actually the leaves can be simmered in hot water to make an insecticide.

The stalks are delicious in pies and you can dip the raw stalks in sugar and eat like celery. This is really good and kids love it. It is high in Vitamin C and Calcium.

Rhubarb is one of the most carefree plants to grow. It does best where the winter temperature goes below 40′ and the summer highs average around 75-80. Don’t harvest any stalks the first year and only a few the second year. But after that you can harvest up to 1/2 the plant. Stop harvesting though when the stalks become thinner because it means the roots are getting weaker.

Since we really enjoy more tropical settings than we are able to have where we live, it’s fun to use some plants that look tropical, like the rhubarb with its big, leathery leaves. We are even trying to grow some palm trees, but I think that is pretty optimistic of us. Maybe some of them will make it though, if we can have a few milder winters until they can get established.

Thanks and happy planting!

Sparing Tomatoes

by Admin 24. August 2012 08:16

By: Eliza Osborn

Cherry TomatoesIsn’t one of the greatest things about summer having fresh, delicious tomatoes right out of your own garden? Well, here in the “Klondike” of the Rocky Mountains, we don’t get tomatoes till the very end of the summer and this year with our cold, wet spring we didn’t get them until September. We’d had a few cherry tomatoes get ripe but the big, slicing tomatoes took a very long time. That means, at least for us, there will probably be a freeze long before all of our tomatoes have ripened. That can be very frustrating. Fortunately there are some things you can do to keep from losing a lot of green tomatoes.

There are 3 tricks that I’ve heard of to save tomatoes, 2 of which we’ve tried and had success. The other we just recently learned of and are looking forward to trying this year.

If you have green tomatoes late into the season and you’re pretty sure they won’t have time to ripen before the cold hits them, you can bend the stalks over at the ground and it will trigger the tomatoes to go ahead and ripen. Green Tomatoes

Or if you have green tomatoes on the vine and freezing weather is imminent, you can carefully pull up the vines and hang them upside down in a protected area, like a garage. The tomatoes will ripen and won’t be wasted.

We’ve just heard of a way to save the plant for a head start in the spring. Cut the vines back and carefully lift the root ball. Place it in a container of sand and put it in a protected area that doesn’t freeze and doesn’t get too warm. Keep it moist but not wet. In the spring, when the ground has warmed up enough,just set it out in your garden. As I said, we haven’t tried this yet but will this fall. If anyone has tried this last trick we’d like to hear how it worked out for you.

If you live, like we do, where the growing season is so short you’ll do just about anything to extend your harvest.

Save Those Lemon Seeds

by Admin 9. August 2012 05:52

By: Eliza Osborn                                              

Lemon TreeWhen you eat an orange or tangerine or even a kumquat the seeds are a nuisance. But they can become beautiful plants.

The seeds are easy to germinate by just poking them about 1/2″ into potting mix in a pot and keeping them moist. After they sprout, just water every 4-6 days. They make beautiful house plants and as the little “tree” grows you can move it into larger pots. In the warmer seasons they will be happy on the deck or patio or even in the ground if you live in Zone 8 or higher. If you’re growing them inside they’ll need to be by a sunny window or at the very least, by some bright light bulbs.

Emerging from the ground, the sprouted seed quickly presents a stand of shiny, green, fragrant leaves a surprisingly sturdy, stem with every intention of becoming the hardwood trunk of an evergreen tree. Yet these seedlings can be pruned so that they remain at whatever sizes you want. Try several seedlings started in a larger pot to make a fuller planting.

Since citruses readily cross their species lines, (which have already been manually crossed and recrossed), the fruits are varied and many. So don’t plant a tangerine seed expecting to get tangerines. Maybe these should be called surprise plants. If all the conditions are right and the plant is happy and grows to maturity, then it will be fun to see what kind of fruit it will produce.  Happy Planting!

 

 

What Does Your Dirt Feel Like?

by Admin 25. July 2012 07:09

Soil? Dirt? Looks like clay to me.By: Eliza Osborn

Even though it’s one of the most important factors of gardening, it’s often overlooked when planning a garden.

Do you have any idea what your soil is like? Good soil is made up of about 50% air and water and the remaining portion is mostly minerals products with a small amount of organic matter.To learn the make up and amount of nutrients in your soil you will need to get a soil analysis done. This can be done at the county extension office for a small fee.

The mineral portion is made up of very large, small and tiny particles. These particles determine the texture of the soil, which determines how often you might have to fertilize and irrigate. Most soils are a combination of these textures. The problem is when there isn’t a good balance and there is too much sand or clay.

The largest particles are sand. Sandy soils drain very quickly and it is then necessary to water and fertilize more frequently.

The small particles are silt and these particles allow medium drainage.

The tiny particles are clay and these particles can hold a lot of water and nutrients. The problem is that the clay can get very compacted and hold the moisture and nutrients so tightly that they can’t be used by the plants.

I’ve gardened in very sandy soil and in very hard clay soil. The sandy soil is very easy because there isn’t much resistance to the shovel, and weeds pull out easily. However, plants need watering and feeding really often because there aren’t many nutrients in the sand and the water just zips right on through. Adding organic matter to the sand will greatly increase it’s texture and nutrient content as well as it’s moisture holding capabilities.

On the other hand, clay soils are a real challenge to garden in. We literally had to use a Maddox and a pick ax to plant fruit trees and shrubs. The soil has to be broken up in quite a large area,  with sand and a lot of organic matter added, to give the roots a chance to grow. You have to be sure not to over water because the water doesn’t drain off and can rot the roots. There are usually a lot of nutrients present though, so you need less fertilizer.

Really good soil is sandy loam, which is a good balance of all of these textures. It’s easy to work with, is fertile and drains well. If you’re blessed with sandy loam in your yard, both your thumbs can be green.

Until you get you soil analysis done, there are couple of quick test you can do to try to find out what your soils texture is. The easiest way is to rub a small amount of moist soil between your finger and thumb. If it’s sandy, you’ll be able to feel the coarseness and if there is a high clay content, it will feel silky, almost slimy.

Another way is to put a small amount of soil, (taken from different spots in your garden area), into a large jar (quart – gallon) and add 5x -10x the water. Shake it up really well and just let it settle. After a few hours you’ll begin to see different levels of sediment appearing. Leave it for a few days, and you’ll be able to get a pretty good idea of the texture of your soil. The large sandy particles will be on the bottom, silt in the middle and the tiny clay particles on top. The proportion of these layers will give you an idea of how to garden in the soil you have.

Of course there is much more to soil than texture, but it’s a step toward understanding how to care for your plants and help them thrive.

So, take off the gloves and feel the dirt.

Thanks and happy planting!

Growing Rosemary

by Admin 13. July 2012 08:13

Potted RosemaryBy Eliza Osborn

Rosemary is one of those wonderful smelling herbs that is also beautiful and so useful in the kitchen when cooking with fresh herbs. Isn’t it great to know that Rosemary is extremely easy to grow? It is an evergreen, perennial plant that needs plenty of sunshine, 6-8 hours a day, well drained soil and don’t let it get cold, as in 35′ or less. That’s why mine is in a pot, because it has to come in for the winter. I prune it back in the autumn, a few weeks before bringing it in, so that  it doesn’t take up so much room in the house. When it does come inside, it needs to have as much light as possible, and don’t over water it. It’s a Mediterranean plant and likes it a little on the dry side.  If, however, you live where you can plant it into the ground (zone 10-11), then it can become a pretty good sized shrub.

It can be pruned but doesn’t need to be. It responds very well to pruning though and can even be used in a topiary. You can prune it just to shape it or to keep it within a certain size and that can be done pretty much any time. The bits that are pruned off can be dried and used for seasoning in cooking. Also, just handling Rosemary makes your hands smell oh, so good.

To use in cooking, either strip the leaves off the woody stem and put into recipes, or put a whole sprig in and remove it later. Rosemary has a strong flavor so it doesn’t take much to use as seasoning. It’s really good used to season olive oil or vinegar. The flavor also works well with other herbs such as , chives, oregano, garlic, parsley, sage and thyme. So experiment with it and see how you like it.

Why don’t you add Rosemary to the list of the herbs you should be growing?

Thanks and happy planting!

Where to start? – How To Plan a Garden, How To Plant a Garden – How To Be a Gardener

by Admin 11. April 2012 05:01

Back yard in 2009, before garden planted, arbor and deck builtBy: Eliza Osborn

I’m trying to decide whether to begin at the end or the beginning of our garden. Maybe I’ll just jump back and forth.

In 2009 we’d bought a very old home in the Rocky Mountains (zone 5b-6a) and had taken up most of our lawn. I didn’t mention that we also took down four huge trees and many large, old shrubs. You can imagine what a mess our yard looked. But…we had a plan.

Here is a picture of our yard when we began laying it out. The big crater is where a large stump was ground out and where the Queen Elizabeth roses now stand beside the deck. You can see 2 of the 5 little peach trees planted early that spring. The small one on the end is stunted because deer ate the top out of it when it first put on leaves.

I think the neighbors were a little worried about the nut jobs that had moved in next door. It did look pretty bad but we did put up a privacy fence to protect their eyes. Of course the picket fence in the front yard didn’t hide very much and the front yard looked this bad too.

Thank you and happy planting!

Never Ending Variety of Succulents…and Their Uses

by Admin 15. March 2012 08:03

Figure Created Using SucculentsBy: Eliza Osborn

I have to admit that I’ve not grown too many succulents. Ive had the Hen and Chicks and the Kalanchoe, but not much else. Lately though, I’ve been noticing them more and more in other people’s gardens and in the garden centers. I had no idea that there was such a huge variety of these beautiful plants.

They are not only beautiful but very easy to grow, if the conditions are right. When we were in the San Diego Botanical Garden I fell in love with these figures that had been created using succulents. How do people even dream up things like this, much less figure out a way to do it?

One of the garden centers we visited in California had such a huge selection of succulents to choose from, I would have like to have had one of each.

When our garden centers get up and running this spring, I intend to check them out to see what wonderful little treasures I can find. I will be finding ways to use them in our garden from now on.

Thank you and happy planting!

Soil2o welcomes Eliza Osborn as a contributor to the blog!

by Admin 26. January 2012 09:28

We are excited to announce that Eliza Osborn from "Our Garden Gate" blog has graciously decided to republish her awesome gardening content here on the Soil2O blog!

Take a look at her BIO:

I was born in the west but grew up in the south and I love both areas. My husband and I now live in the west. I have 6 children and 15 grandchildren and my husband has 5 children and 13 grandchildren. With 28 grandchildren, I am definitely a granny.

I have been a gardener for many years. I love plants, especially ones that produce flowers or good smells or food. I’m a big fan of perennials, roses, and herb plants, especially Tarregon and Agastache.

I  completed the Master Gardening Course a few years ago, since I was really getting serious about planting, planting and planting. I thought it might be a good idea if I knew a little bit more about what I was doing. Each summer we attend weekly Garden Seminars taught by Master Gardeners.

Two years ago we bought a 1914 house, removed almost all of the lawn and 4 of the 8 large trees. Then added 19  fruit trees, 11 grape vines and grape arbor, rasp., black. and strawberry beds as well as raised beds for vegetables. There are herbs & perennials everywhere, even some annuals. We even have a white picket fence . Our yard is a little over 1/4 acre. It’s been a real challenge trying to fit everything we wanted onto this small space but we’ve been up for the challenge.

We’ve made mistakes that you can learn from and we’ve had some good successes that you can repeat. There will be lots of before and after pictures.

You may contact me at:     grannygreenthumbs@gmail.com

 

We are looking forward to sharing her content with all of you.

 

Thank you and happy planting!