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August 12th, 2011

A Bouquet of Summer Flowers

gaillardiaI’ve decided there is no such thing as a normal growing season. At least something in the garden does well, no matter what the conditions. But it’s been a tough season for our Minnesota gardens. This year we had a cold, very wet spring that made planting difficult. For the first time ever, we planted some of the early salad crops without working the soil first. If we had waited until the soil was dry enough to till, it would have delayed planting by another month!

Not wanting to upset those of you in the South, I’ll say only very quietly that we are more than 4 inches over normal rainfall for the year. We’ve certainly had ample rain, but the cold was a problem early, followed by unbelievable humidity once it warmed up in July. Of course the humidity and rainfall have contributed to a bounty of fungal diseases. My tomatoes are now around 7 feet tall, but the bottom half of the plants are denuded of leaves from fungal leaf spots of one kind or another. But, hey, it’s a lot easier to find the tomatoes when you don’t have to dig through a riot of leaves.

salviaIt seems like a good time to report on three of the trial flowers we’re growing this year. Gaillardia ‘Arizona Apricot’ (top), which won an All-America Selections award this year, is a very nice gaillardia that has bloomed non-stop since early June. The color is a bit more yellow than apricot, but certainly a different shade than the older ‘Mesa Yellow’ from a couple years ago.

scabiosaSalvia ‘Summer Jewel Red’ (left)—another All-American—is identical to the older salvia ‘Lady in Red’, only much smaller. I like the more compact form, but the taller ‘Lady’ works better when intermingled in a perennial border.

Scabiosa ‘Black Knight’ (right)—beautiful! The flowers of this heirloom annual draw comments from everyone who sees them. —Jackie Smith, Belle Plaine, Minnesota

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June 2nd, 2011

Slow-Motion Spring

nanstermanAfter a marathon spring, I’ve finally finished planting seedlings.

Spring in Southern California has been really, really cool, which means that seedlings have lagged. Even at more than 8 weeks, some still weren’t as big and sturdy as I’d have liked, but I really felt they needed to get in the ground. Sometimes getting them into a volume of soil makes the difference between poking along and zooming. Hopefully that will be the case.

silvermulch

I’m playing with the silver mulch that Leslie turned me on to. It will be interesting to see how it works. It added about 30 percent to the time it took to plant, but part of that was learning to work with the stuff.

And I’m really proud of myself, I actually have enough room to plant everything. I usually start so many seedlings that I’m cramming them into every nook and cranny. It’s nice to have enough space to poke some extra squash and cucumber seeds into the ground here and there. Not to mention some extra basil!  —Nan Sterman, Encinitas, California

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May 5th, 2011

Impatient for Spring

linda_tnWell, my popcorn is NOT planted! Nor actually anything else. We have just gone through the wettest March and April on record. The word from farmers and the wineries here in Niagara is that we are about 3 or 4 weeks behind.

I have some beautiful transplants that would love to be getting in the ground, but my ground is so wet and cold still. Yes, yesterday the sun shone and hope springs eternal!

I have been transplanting tomatoes for 2-1/2 weeks now, and the hoop houses are seas of green. I’m hoping for a warm spell so the plants surge and look magnificent for my “Tomato Days” event on the Canadian holiday weekend, May 21-22 (Victoria Day).

All my Organic Gardening variety trial plants look great. The tomatoes and peppers have been very vigorous growers in their little pots. Can you warm-weather folks send a little heat this way? Much appreciated!  —Linda Crago, Wellandport, Ontario

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