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Bountiful Harvest from Your Patio

At National Garden Bureau, we like to encourage even the brown thumbs out there to attempt gardening, even if on a small scale. And what better way to start than with produce grown on your own patio?

Container growing offers many benefits, not the least of which is that you can put a “garden” just about anywhere. Cement balconies on a highrise building can become urban gardens, and a backyard deck or patio becomes a produce garden at your fingertips. Some of the top vegetable breeders are encouraging this trend by breeding smaller more compact varieties that still are prolific producers.

Without a doubt, container gardens will require less weeding than their in-ground counterparts. This makes them ideal for busy people who love gardening but have limited time. However, watering has to be monitored more closely. Containers in hot sun can dry out quickly, and even a gentle summer breeze will wick moisture from plants. Be prepared to water daily or even twice daily during long, hot, dry spells.

As for supplies, the shopping list is small:

* Appropriately sized container (bigger is

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Techniques for a healthy productive organic garden

Not only will you grow delicious, fresh, healthy foods; you will also contribute to the health of the environment and community by not using harmful chemicals. But organic gardening doesn’t just mean not using chemicals. It is a method that encourages life and diversity in the soil, plants, and insects that live in the garden.

The component that puts the ‘organic’ in organic gardening is organic material (OM). This is the stuff that was once alive and, with the help of beneficial bacteria, is now decomposing in your garden. For a great garden, you want as much of this decomposed matter as possible.

Addition of OM. If you are ambitious this time of year you can start putting OM into your garden now. Put a thin layer of dead leaves, straw, hay, or grass clipping on your garden right away. It will break down, and when it is time to start planting you will have already incorporated some ever-so-important OM into your soil.

Compost. A key component to

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Designing a Shade Garden

At my house, I have a small shady area, which I have been piecing together for a few years. I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but it has always been sort of a dump for perennials that I don’t know where else to plant, but no longer. This year I have resolved to design an organized shade garden.

I have never been a great fan of hostas; however after a visit to see a hosta collection owned by a Master Gardener friend and his wife, I discovered just how beautiful hostas can be. The combination of different colors and textures is a site to behold. One I am going to try is a combination of varieties like Kabitan, a small leafed light green and yellow combination, backed by Hosta Blue Moon with its large blue-green leaves.

A small collection of coral bells resides in my present shade garden. The different leaf colors contrast nicely. However, because of the deep shade, they haven’t been blooming

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Preserving Cut Flowers

There’s nothing like fresh flowers around the house whether they come straight from your garden or from a florist. But when you take the time to put together an arrangement, you’d like it to last forever or at least for more than a few days! Here are some step-by-step tips for extending the vase life of cut flowers.

Tools and Materials

  • Stem-cutting shears or sharp pruners
  • Pail
  • Vase
  • Water
  • 7-Up
  • Bleach

Cut flowers. Cut flowers in your garden in the morning before the dew has dried, or in the early evening. With stem-cutting shears or sharp pruners, snip above a node or dormant bud to spur new blooms. Put stems in a pail of lukewarm water as you cut them.

Recut stems. Recut stems on a slant indoors under water to eliminate air bubbles that block uptake of food and water. Certain types of flowers (including celosia, sunflower, and zinnia) benefit from scalding the stem ends in boiling water for 20 seconds or over a candle flame to stop nutrient-rich sap from oozing. To prevent decay, remove bruised leaves and foliage below the water line.

Condition flowers. Condition flowers several hours before arranging. Rest stems in lukewarm water in a cool,

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Fatsia japonica, a Shady-Loving, Evergreen Shrub

Cultural PreferencesImage

Fatsia flourishes in slightly acid, rich, moist but well-drained soil in full to partial shade. Fertilize if leaves turn pale or yellow or otherwise indicate a nutritional deficiency. Although Fatsia is tolerant of heat, humidity, pollution, deer, and rabbits, it should be protected from harsh, drying wind and from burning sun.

Even though fatsia is capable of growing to 12 feet tall, many growers cut off the stalks long before they attain that stature. They become top heavy, and the weight of the leaves may cause the plant to lean or even fall to the ground. New stems are positioned right at the base of the tall stems just waiting to take their place. Cutting old stalks back to the ground rejuvenates the plant and makes it once again a young-looking, attractively rounded landscape specimen. Variegated forms are available. One attractive cultivar is aptly named ‘Spider Web’. Image

Fatsia is easily propagated by stem (or stalk) cuttings. Simply cut the stalk into pieces about 9 inches long and place in damp soil. Use the young, upper part of the stem for propagation. The bottom, woody part is much harder to root. New plants

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Marketing Panache, Plant Lore Invigorate Garden Center’s Sales

A purple petunia at the Wal-Mart store in Mohegan Lake, N.Y., sells for 26 cents. A short drive away, Matterhorn Nursery in Spring Valley, N.Y., sells the same purple petunia for more than triple Wal-Mart’s price — 83 cents.

Yet on Mother’s Day, the unofficial kickoff to gardening season in the area, long lines of customers at Matterhorn waited to pay a premium for their flowers and shrubs. The Wal-Mart nursery was nearly empty.

“I’d rather pay the extra,” said Donna Robbins of Stony Point, N.Y., who purchased so many plants at Matterhorn that she rented a small truck to carry them home. “If you pay half the price, you get half the quality.”

Petunias may seem like a commodity, indistinguishable without their packaging, but Matt Horn, owner of Matterhorn Nursery, has figured out how to produce and merchandise plants and other garden supplies so customers drive miles out of their way to pay higher prices. Even a bag of dirt from Matterhorn is special: It contains composted kelp, shellfish shells and barnyard manure and sells for $12.98. At Wal-Mart, the same amount of humus and manure costs about $4.

“I think of the

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What are Seed Tapes and How Can I Use Them?

They are a pre-sown product of single or multiple species of seeds that are already spaced between tissue layers at the correct distance for growing. As well as the simple, linear tape, there is a wide range of other shapes and sizes, such as discs, mats and carpets. Many flower, vegetable or herb seeds can be purchased already incorporated into these products.

Advantages include:

  1. Even seed spacing prevents oversowing, especially with crops like lettuce, greens, carrots, wildflowers, etc. This also eliminates the need for thinning the young seedlings.
  2. The lightweight tape prevents birds from eating freshly sown seeds
  3. The tape, when covered with additional soil, won’t wash away in a sudden spring downpour, ruining evenly spaced and sown rows.
  4. Almost all seed tapes are biodegradable to protect wildlife and have no damaging impact on garden ecosystems.
  5. For gardeners experiencing arthritis or other mobility issues, a seed tape is a quick and easy way to sow tiny seeds.

Seed tapes:Come in various lengths, single track or multiple tracks, both available with the option of one seed variety or a multiple of seeds – suitable for salad, mixed vegetable and flower collections.

Seed discs: Small discs, from 8-12cm diameter

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Resolutions for Gardeners

A new year typically brings about resolutions right? Be they for losing weight, being more organized or simply an overall “being better” wish, resolutions are good goals to have.

Gardeners are no exception to wishing for the better; better gardens, better planning, better record-keeping, etc. Following are five resolutions that we wish every gardener, no matter their level of expertise, will embrace in the new year:

1. I will not blame myself for gardening failures. Oftentimes, Mother Nature is not our friend when it comes to gardening. Or life gets in the way. We do not want you to despair! Simply try again and learn from experience. Your garden, and your gardening friends, are both extremely forgiving.

2. I will not be afraid to ask questions. How else can you learn? Take advantage of the experience of your neighbor, your aunt, the garden center employee or the local extension agent. If they are like typical garden fanatics, they will appreciate your interest and be flattered that you want to learn from them. And learn you will!

3. I will try something new. This is kind of a no-brainer, right? Have you ever met a

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Spectacular Desert Plants

Noah Webster was wrong. In his dictionary, he defined desert as “a desolate or forbidding area.” Clearly, the famed lexicographer had never traveled through this country’s Southwest. If he had, he’d have been amazed by the vast palette of colorful, vibrant perennials, shrubs and trees that are native to our Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave deserts–plants that present a softer, gentler vision of desert landscapes.

Yet it’s difficult to fault Mr. Webster. Many gardeners who live in this part of the country are also largely unaware of the many landscape possibilities these native beauties provide. The typical home landscape in desert communities, from El Paso to Palm Desert to Las Vegas, falls into one of two categories. It either duplicates a Back East look, dominated by a labor-intensive thirsty lawn better suited to the Carolinas or it is a stark gravel-and-cactus display that emphasizes the harshest aspects of a desert, using the kind of thorny, prickly plants that Webster probably had in mind. This all-too-common landscape is at best a caricature

The true desert landscape is a combination of many types of plants, a large percentage of which are very showy and put on a dazzling display

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Corn History and Lore

Evidence shows that maize (corn) was domesticated and cultivated in central Mexico, in what is now the Tehuacan Valley. Scientists theorize that it is the product of crossing two types of grain or grasses. One ancestor, teosinte is a grass-like plant that resembles a type of wheat. The kernels are spaced along the stems much like wheat and the grains have a sheath, or hull, like so many grass varieties do. Between 7,000 and 9,000 years ago, people started selecting plants that displayed desirable characteristics and whether it was an accident or by plan, the plant was crossed with another primitive grass plant and the results were the first plants that vaguely resembled modern corn. The image at right shows the teosinte, the second-generation maize in the middle with modern corn at the bottom.

cornKnowledge (and more importantly, seeds) of this new grain spread quickly through North and South America and by the time Columbus arrived in 1492, maize was a staple food crop of most of the native peoples in this hemisphere. Indigenous peoples depended on the dried harvest for much needed winter stores, but they also wove useful items such as baskets, mats and moccasins