Five Reasons for Gardeners to Raise Worms

Gardeners know that if you care for the soil, you can have a great garden. It’s all about the soil. Worm compost eliminates kitchen scraps from the garbage and landfill, and puts it back into the soil. But recycling isn’t the only reason to raise worms.

Check out the guest post I made for My Personal Accent which discusses the 5 main reasons gardeners should raise worms!

5 Reasons for Gardeners to Raise Worms by Cindy Morgan

…On Slugs

Slugs are gross little slimy produce-eating critters. They’re active when the air is cool and damp and seek shelter in the shade when the temperature rises. I squeal when I accidentally touch them. It’s difficult to get their slime off my fingers. Yuk! I know people who will step on them, or skewer them, or drown them in beer. I can’t do that. But, I have found that an empty dish soap bottle with one cup sudsy ammonia – filled up the rest of the way with water, squirted on the little buggers melts them down quickly. Grandma used salt on slugs. The salt, left in the slime trail on the plant leaves, caused desiccation. Sudsy ammonia is nitrogen. It won’t hurt the plant the slug is crawling on.  Try it on your slugs.  It works for me.

Japanese Maples

Angela at My Personal Accent interviewed me about Japanese Maples recently. I grew maples in my nursery for 23 years and have about 50 varieties planted around my yard. It was fun to answer her questions. She even jazzed up some pictures of my favorites for your viewing pleasure. So head on over to the link I’ve provided and take a look. 

Here’s a sample of what was posted:

Angela: How should I care for a Japanese Maple?

Cindy: Japanese Maple varieties can be weeping or upright in growth habit. The leaves can be palmate – much like the native Big Leaf maple in shape but smaller in scale, or the leaves can be dissected and thread-like. Some varieties are green, some mottled in green, white and pink, and others are shades of red or orange.

  • Plant Japanese Maples in a well-drained area. Slow draining and puddling around the tree can promote root rot. Take the tree out of the pot and place into the planting hole. Don’t disturb the root ball. Cover with soil and water well to get all the air bubbles out of the planting hole.
  • Water the new planting with B1 or fish fertilizer (which has B1 in it) to promote root growth and ease transplant shock. Water the rootball only. If you have an irrigation system, water the tree in the early morning about 3 a.m. so it has time to dry the leaves off before the sun hits them. Watering the leaves mid-afternoon, during a hot summer day, will defoliate and kill the plant. Water deeply, at least once a week, during the summer for the first growing season.
  • Japanese Maples grow in zones 5 through 8 in sun to partial shade. They like a ph of 4 to 6.5 (acid to garden loam). Japanese Maples also do well in containers on a deck or patio.

Seiryu Japanese Maple

Garlic: Likes Full Sun

Garden Corner

Garlic: Likes Full Sun

Garlic is a member of the lily family and a close cousin to the onion. Garlic’s Latin name is ‘Allium sativum’.

Garlic has flat leaves, pinkish flower heads and roots that can penetrate two feet into the soil.

Grown as a perennial, garlic ‘sets’ or cloves are planted in August in this area and allowed to establish themselves before winter temperatures slow growth. Some references say to plant as late as October, but remember to follow natures’ clock. You will want to give garlic cloves time to develop some root and top growth before frost.

Cloves are planted about 2”deep, 3 to 6” apart and in rows as close as 12 to 16”. Cover with a mulch to insure adequate moisture and plan to water deeply during the summer.

When tops fall in late summer, irrigation should stop. In very rich soil bulbs will be large and tops will be strong. Bend any tops that don’t fall over on their own. Allow the bulb to cure.

When the tops are dry, pull or dig them from the soil. Lay them in the field or in a covered airy storage shed out of the direct rays of the sun.

At this time some people braid long strands of garlic leaves with bulbs attached, incorporating new garlic strands into the braid before running out of leaves. These garlic braids are hung in the root cellar and can be used by cutting what you need off the braid with scissors. Or, cut thoroughly dry tops and roots with shears leaving one inch of top and ½” of root on the bulb. These bulbs store nicely in airy burlap or onion bags in a cool dry place.

The large French, Giant or Elephant Ear garlic as it is sometimes called is a milder form and requires the same cultural needs.

There are many ways to enjoy garlic such as fresh on salads, baked, or in a stir fry. Organic gardeners make their own insect deterrents from garlic. Mix ½ cup of ground up garlic with 1 cup of water. Strain the chunks out of this mixture and spray on crops with aphid infestation. Be sure the spray the insect. This spray has been known to keep aphids from peas for as long as 30 days.

A more potent brew consists of 10 – 15 minced garlic cloves in a pint of mineral oil and let that stand for at least 24 hours. Strain this mixture. Add 2 teaspoons of this oil to insecticidal soap spray and use.

Daylily

Daylily  

The daylily is a long-lived, easy care perennial whose leaves resemble mounds of thick-bladed grass. The blooms come from long stocks, and only last one day, as the name implies. There are many buds on one plant and that plant may give a beautiful show of blooms for as long as a month. Daylilies come in numerous varieties in a wide spectrum of colors from the palest yellows and oranges to deeper shades of red and violet.

Daylilies are very versatile, but perform best in full sun areas in well-drained soil with only moderate fertility the plant should be spaced 20 to 30 inches apart and requires watering only during dry periods. You may remove the spent blossoms to improve their appearance. This plant makes a nice addition to the perennial border. A long flowering habit and inch-wide strap like leaves at a bit of dramatic texture to the landscape. In the Pacific Northwest, the south side of the house is ideal for the Daylily. This plant is tolerant of light shade areas but you get the best display of flowers in a full sun location. Starts of this perennial are available at the local garden centers and nurseries or by root divisions taken from older established plants in the early spring and late summer.

Taking apart a daylily is no small task, but is the only way to get the divisions. You will be rewarded with many fine plants. Daylily from seed is a long arduous task usually left to the professional plant breeder.

In summary the Daylily is a very versatile, decorative perennial plant to have in the home landscape. It is widely tolerant of shade and sun locations and has no special soil requirements. This plant is drought tolerant and can be planted permanently, but some varieties show improvement if divided every 7 to 8 years. Daylilies can be recommended to anyone who wants an easy care, attractive perennial, long flowering plant.

Arbor Day: A Celebration of Trees

Garden Corner

Arbor Day: A Celebration of Trees

Arbor Day is a nationally celebrated day to encourage planting and caring for trees. This year the day falls on Friday, April 28. (Originally published  4/27/2005 The Reflector Newspaper, Battle Ground, WA.)

The celebration began in 1872 in Nebraska Territory when J. Sterling Morton encouraged citizens to plant trees.

A journalist, Morton had moved to the treeless plains from Detroit, MI and missed trees. Morton began Nebraska’s first newspaper and used it to spread agricultural and tree information to his growing audience.

Morton encouraged tree plantings by individuals, groups and organizations. He became a prominent citizen and eventually was Secretary of the Nebraska Territory. On January 4, 1872, Morton proposed a day to plant trees – Arbor Day, to the state agriculture board.

Arbor Day became a legal holiday on Morton’s birthday April 22, in Nebraska. Today it is celebrated nationwide and internationally. The actual day of celebration varies with the best planting time for each region.

Now is a good time to plant.

Spring is a great time to plant a tree. Plant selection and placement are key to tree survival. Most trees will thrive when planted on a well-drained site, but there are trees that can tolerate ‘wet feet’.

A garden center or nursery employee can help with the requirements of selecting trees.

Tree planting begins with site improvement. Dig the planting hole slightly larger than the root ball. Loosen the soil in the hold with a shovel and add a couple of handfuls of bonemeal. Remove the tree from its pot and loosen roots by cutting through them with a knife.

If the tree is wrapped in burlap, set the burlap-wrapped ball into the hole, cut the twine, fold the burlap back and tuck it under the root ball, and cover with soil allowing the burlap to decompose in the hole.

The tree should be planted no deeper than the soil line. Stakes can be placed around to help it stand straight and keep the wind from loosening it in the new site. Leave plenty of room for growth where the tree is tied to the stake so the tie doesn’t girdle the trunk or branches. Water deeply for the first year – a newly planted tree has a limited root system.

Trees have some affects on climate control. Planting a tree in a strategic location can shade the house in late summer and cool the area by absorbing and deflecting radiant energy produced by the sun.

Trees also intercept rain waiter and store some of it, which reduces run-off and flooding. Their roots help hold soil together to inhibit erosion, and shade streams which cool water.

In short, trees increase quality of life and bring nature and wildlife into urban surroundings.

Rhododendrons & Azaleas

Rhododendrons and Azaleas:  Low Maintenance Easy Care Shrubs

Rhododendrons and azaleas are found in many settings in the Pacific Northwest. They are very easy care, low maintenance shrubs that add a dramatic touch of texture and color to the landscape.

Azaleas and rhododendrons in the wild prefer the rich, loamy acid soil found on the forest floor. They thrive on an organic mulch of needles, leaves and twigs that keep their root zones moist and shaded. Some protection is needed from the heat of the sun, yet sunlight stimulates heavy flower production.

To provide the best care possible for rhododendrons and azaleas in the landscape, duplicate the needs they’ve shown from living in their natural range.

Potted rhododendrons and azaleas may be planted any time of year. Remember to loosen the root ball enabling the plant to stretch and spread its roots. Plant in a richly composted garden soil in a well drained area. When packing the soil around the root ball, keep the crown above the level of the ground. This practice will aid in good drainage. Root systems of rhododendrons and azaleas are fairly shallow. After planting your rhodie or azalea, mulch with leaf mold, needles or barkdust. This will hinder weed growth and keep the soil cool and moist. Any weeds that do come up should be pulled by hand because the root system is so near the top of the soil that mechanical tools could damage the plant.

Rhododendrons and azaleas are not heavy feeders. If they are healthy and producing nice flowers, a little acid base fertilizer should be applied once a year.

If a large plant is desired, a higher nitrogen fertilizer should be given after the plan is done blooming. This is when the natural growth takes place and will allow time for the new growth to harden before any severe winter weather conditions arrive.

After fertilizing in the spring; water well until early August. Begin tapering off the water at this time to prepare the plant for winter extremes. The only exception would be a new planting which would need continued water to further establish the root system before winter.

Consider growing rhododendrons and azaleas in containers on the deck or patio. They are attractive, adding a variety of form, color and textures to the landscape. The soil in the planter should be 75 percent organic matter and 25 percent good garden loam.

Rhododendrons and azaleas come in many colors from whites and pinks, to reds, oranges and lavender. Varieties can be purchased in bloom from February through the spring and summer, and into fall.