Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Time For Spring Baskets!

Sshhhh, don’t anyone tell my Elantra sedan that it’s not a pick up truck! I hauled home more flowers today than I ever have before in one trip!

Back seats folded down to hold four 12” hanging baskets, the front passenger seat and truck full of flats!

This post may well bore anyone who isn’t a gardener. I know my DearHusband’s eyes glazed over when I was telling him all of what I bought, name of flowers and quantities, what will go where. Remember the “blah blah blah blah…” sound the kids from Peanuts heard when their teacher or any adult spoke? Yeah, I think that’s what he was hearing as he watched my mouth moving.

Seeing as I have been using this blog to remember what I do from year to year in the garden, I am going to detail my purchases today. Feel free to yawn and look bored, if so inclined.

For my window boxes, deck planters and pots for the front walk I bought (in order of importance):

1 flat of 4 packs (48 plants) “Midnight Dreams” Petunias - fragrant dark purple

1 flat of jumbo 6-packs (36 plants) “Vintage Red” Stock - I especially love to put this in the back row of my window boxes so I can enjoy their spicy clove scent.

1 flat of jumbo 6-packs (36 plants) of Red Verbena

1 flat of 2.5” pots (32 plants) of White Bucopa to trail over the edges of the pots

1 flat of jumbo 6-packs (36 plants) of “Regata Mix” Trailing Lobelia

1 flat of 4-packs (48 plants) of Yellow Marigolds

And 20 Zonal Geraniums of assorted colors for the center of each pot or window box.

For landscaping use I also bought:

1 flat of 4” pots (18 plants) of “Giant Purple Empress” Salvia - hummingbirds love this plant!

1 flat of jumbo 6-packs (36 plants) of Ganzia in assorted colors. I’ve actually had this ‘annual’ come back for a second year!

I also bought two 4” pots of “Jack Be Little” pumpkin starts. One pot has 3 young starts and one pot has 4 starts. I am thinking of training these to climb up the two (accidentally dwarfed) flowering cherry trees in the front yard. Won’t it be fun to see mini pumpkins hanging from a tree?!

I have been going to this nursery for 15 springs now (I have watched their children go from riding their Big Wheels through the greenhouses to the oldest now holding her own sweet baby). I have always bought their 12” mocha colored pots that are nice and deep with lots of room for root growth but I didn’t like the color and plant combinations this year so I bought the more shallow 12” pulp pots. It looks like the are trying something new as these pots were labeled with “Inspired by Design” tags that listed the plants in the pots. I saw 6 differently titled baskets and I think I showed considerable restraint on only bringing home four.

For the front porch I picked out a basket titled Blueberry Sorbet. It has Blue Petunia with Dark Blue Vein, Dark Blue Petunia, Lavender Verbena and White Bucopa.

Between the front bedroom windows hangs Raspberry Sorbet: Pink Petunia, Dark Fuschia Petunia, Dark Fuschia Verbena and White Bocopa.

On the far end of the back deck I hung up Jazzy: Supertunia Raspberry Blast, Deep Burgandy Verbena and Lime Ipomoea (Sweet Potato Vine).

In the coveted position in front of the immobile side of the dining room sliding glass door is Blue Ribbon: Dark Blue Petunia (so they say, I call it a dark purple-my favorite), Petunia Glow in Lavender Shades, Light Blue Lobelia and Lavender Calebrochoa. This is where I put my favorite basket as it’s the one I look at all day long when I’m in the house. It is easily viewable from living room, dining room and kitchen.

Keeping my fingers crossed for a rain-less day tomorrow so I get busy potting these beauties!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How to get your tomato starts off on a strong foundation

The last few years I have only planted one tomato plant: a Sweet 100 or Sweet Million, whichever variety was available that year. This lone tomato plant had a prominent place among the all the planters on our backyard deck, trellised up against the privacy screen around the spa. With only one tomato plant to lavish my attention on, it grew to amazing proportions and continued to produce huge clusters of sweet mini cherry tomatoes until a hard frost would do it in. This is how I lay the foundation of my colossal tomato plant:

First start with healthy young plants. It's okay if they are leggy, but avoid the rootbound who are sure to have suffered stress from bouts of water deprivation. I usually only buy one plant, but the nursery had one plant in a 4" pot for $1.99 or a 4-pack for $1.29 and as my daughters expressed an interest in gardening on their apartment decks, I made the logical choice of more plants for less money!
Next start with a deep, but not necessarily oversized pot, as this is a transition home. Add an inch or two of good soil. Having just had 6 yards of 5-way mix delivered by dump truck to our driveway, I had lots on hand!
Now here's the hard part: Cut off all branches up to the last two sets of leaves. Use a clean, sharp pair of scissors or garden snips as you want a clean cut, not a tear that might wound the stalk.
Next take the rootball and place it on it's side against the soil, bending the stalk gently upward to center the stalk in the pot.

Next surround the stalk with the soil, gently tamping in place, up to the remaining set of leaves, hopefully not too far above the top of your container.

Tomato plants will send out roots all along the buried stem which will result in more roots and stronger growth. Having more roots allows the plant to take up water in a more even way, helping to avoid the stress brought on by drought-to-flood situations common to plants in deck planters.
I will repeat this process a time or two into successively deeper pots until I have their final destination prepped and ready, at which time I will repeat the process, leaving only 2 sets of leaves above the soil.
Don't be afraid to snip off any early blossoms. I want the plants to first put down a good foundation of roots to support the abundance of fruit to follow, which will in turn produce better quality and quantity of the harvest!
Next, I watered thoroughly with tepid water from the house as it's still too cold outside and the water from the hose would be shocking to these beauties.
Finally, I placed the planted containers into a garbage bag lined laundry basket to bask in the warmth of my house and the warmth of the light coming through the sliding glass door onto the deck, until all danger of frost has passed.
I hope this primer will assist you in your gardening pursuits!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A hearty welcome to an early spring

I was standing at my sewing room window while talking on the phone with my Auntie Jan about what a beautiful springlike day it was when a little male hummer with a bright red godet flew up to the window, said "zeep, zeeep, zeep" to announce he was here and hungry and off he zipped!

It was an amazingly mild winter with only one prolonged spell of snow and ice back between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Looks like the only casualty in the yard is the supposedly "hardy" gardenias I bought from Lowes. Wish I'd saved the receipts-do they offer a guarantee anymore?