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Introduce Yourself to Husk Cherries

By guest writer Jennifer Burcke
(taken from the October Naturally e-magazine)

I remember vividly the first time I tasted a husk cherry. It was more than a decade ago while shopping at the local farmers market with my young daughter. One of the farmers had a small basket of papery lantern shaped fruits on his table. I asked if they were tomatillos based on their appearance. He was happy to offer us a generous handful of husk cherries to taste while he told us all about these interesting fruits.

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drying chilis

Dry Your Peppers with Ristras

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It’s that time of year, when there’s a chili in the air.

The ristra, a strand of dried peppers commonly seen in the New Mexico area, is a symbol of abundance and hospitality. This time of year, they decorate the walls and doorways of homes and restaurants as peppers air dry on strands of string or twine. Some say drying outside enhances the flavor, but you’ll have to find out for yourself.

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Seize the Daylily!

If your grandmother had a garden, chances are good she grew daylilies. This easygoing perennial has been a favorite for generations, but the newer kids on the block are definitely not for the old guard.

I always recommend daylilies for a garden because they’re low-maintenance, showy in the garden and the late-blooming varieties will offer bold, trumpet blossoms until fall. If you choose several different varieties that bloom early, mid and late in the season, you can extend their bloom time throughout the entire season.

The scientific name for daylily is Hemerocallis, which translates from Greek to “beauty” and “day.” The blooms only last one day, but don’t worry! Daylilies grow in clumps with many blooms on each stalk. Much like fireworks, they’ll give you one exploding bloom after another for many weeks. Bloom! Bloom! Pow!

Daylilies are perfect for slopes, beds, near foundations or even in containers. They need at least six hours of direct sun per day to thrive, but they will bloom even better in a full day of sunshine. When planting a daylily, set the plant in the ground or in a container at the same depth it was growing in the pot you bought it in. You want to avoid planting it too deeply. Space plants 10 to 12 inches apart in the ground or grow just one as a “thriller” in your combination container. For best results, add some compost, especially if you have heavy clay or sandy soil. Water your newly planted daylilies consistently during the first growing season as they establish themselves

You’ll find one of the best things about growing daylilies is they multiply! Divide and share with friends or plant elsewhere in your garden. Spring or late summer is the best time to divide and share daylilies. To do this, carefully lift the clump out of the ground with a shovel and divide it with a sharp knife, removing any sickly looking foliage. Cut the foliage down to about half its height and then transplant the divided pieces back into the garden immediately.

Because of their association with grandmothers, daylilies have a vintage feel, but I prefer to call them “timeless.” Though they’ve been around for generations, newer varieties have improved upon the older ones, making them stronger, brighter and more generous with their blooms. The following varieties are colorful, floriferous and vigorous; everything you expect from a daylily, but more of it. They are certainly Proven Winners in my garden, and I recommend them for yours.

'Primal-Scream'-PWRAINBOW RHYTHM® ‘Primal Scream’ Hemerocallis

  • Very large 7 ½ – 8 ½” flowers
  • Glimmering tangerine orange, gold dusted flowers with twisted, ruffled petals
  • Blooms in early midsummer on 34” tall scapes loaded with buds
  • Full sun to part shade
  • Mid-season bloomer

 

 

'Going-Bananas'-PWRAINBOW RHYTHM® ‘Going Bananas’ Hemerocallis

  • Lightly fragrant, lemon yellow, 4” blooms
  • Reblooming variety that begins flowering early and continues into fall
  • Heat tolerant
  • Relatively short; 19 to 22 inches tall
  • Early season blooming

 

 

'Ruby-Spider'-PWRAINBOW RHYTHM® ‘Ruby Spider’ Hemerocallis

  • Gigantic 9” flowers
  • Blooms are ruby red with a radiating yellow throat
  • Tall scapes reach up to 34”
  • Mid-season bloomer

Plan your summer vacation: A self-watering container review

A guest post by Gary Pilarchik

In early May, I was fortunate enough to attend Garden2Grow 2016 at Moss Mountain Farm in Little Rock, and I had a wonderful time.  I never would have thought my experiences there would lead me to grow an entire cucumber and tomato salad garden in a single container.  The greatest issue with container vegetables is water or more specifically, watering.  Once the soil in a container completely dries out, a lot of harm is done to the plants.  Months of work can be lost by accidently missing a single day of watering.  I have been there too many times while battling our 100-degree summers in Maryland (Zone 7).

During the event, teams of five competed to build a fairy container garden, and the winners got their choice of a Crescent Garden container.  Before the contest started, we were introduced to Crescent’s TruDrop® self-watering system. I was intrigued at the size of some of the plants in the containers. Well, a bit of luck fell our way, and my team won the contest!  That little, yet exciting, victory, led to the experiment I am starting in my container garden today. Maybe now I can beat the heat.

fairygarden

 

This is a demanding experiment, so I did some research on the TruDrop containers.  The one I looked at was 26 inches wide and 26 inches tall, a solid design for growing larger vegetables. The watering system is self-contained and sealed. No insects will find shelter in the water. The TruDrop container’s reservoir holds 12.8 gallons of water, and it has a simple visual display that tells you where the water level sits; making it extremely easy to know when water needs to be added. The container is double walled, which helps with temperature regulation.  It is made from food safe material and it is recyclable.

photos crescent 004I then had the idea to grow a complete tomato and cucumber salad garden in one container. The 26-inch containers were the perfect size.  I typically grow single tomato plants in 5-gallon containers which can be a challenge as they generally need to be watered twice a day in July.  Vacation is almost not an option during the heat of the summer. When I saw the TruDrop container holding large plants, I really wondered how vegetables would fare in that type of self-watering system. Now I can find out and come late July I will have the results!  And I have to say the brail design and color is so much more attractive than my gray 5-gallon containers.

The system evenly waters from the bottom, which is the best way to water plants. It cuts down on waste and decreases the chances of fungus and other diseases that can occur from overhead watering. The soil stays evenly moist at root level and this promotes a strong well-developed root system.  I will be mixing a water soluble fertilizer in the reservoir to keep the plants evenly fed. With this size container, I will only need to fill it about every 10-14 days when the plants are up to size, maybe less.  I could honestly take a vacation and not worry about watering.

photos crescent 003All of the needed vegetables will be planted in a growing area with 19.5 gallons of soil capacity. That space will hold both a dwarf determinate tomato that delivers pink, 12-16 ounce fruits and an indeterminate compact cherry tomato for sweet cherry tomatoes all summer long.  A bush variety cucumber will be joining the bunch.  Nothing beats the scent and sweetness of a freshly sliced cucumber picked straight from the vine.  I’ll add a jalapeno pepper plant to spice the salads up occasionally, onions of some sort, some basil and maybe some cilantro into the Crescent container.  Like I said, not an easy test for any self-watering system, but I think this one can handle it. Stay posted for updates here or on my channel.

Gary Pilarchik’s Rusted Garden YouTube channel has more than 75,000 subscribers and 600 quick, focused vegetable garden videos. A video update on this tomato and cucumber salad container will be featured at  the end of July.  The channel is a culmination of more than 20 years of gardening experience, and he hopes to help you with your gardens and teach children that vegetables don’t come from a grocery store!

Plants for Color All Summer

Life is hard, gardening shouldn’t be. Here are seven plants you can grow that will be colorful all growing season without a minute’s trouble.

 

LUSCIOUS® Bananarama Lantana                                       
BUY

  • Tough-as-nails annual is extremely heat and drought tolerant, tolerates poor soils; protect from frost
  • Large clusters of bright sunny yellow flowers on mounded plants
  • Blooms all season without deadheading
  • Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, not preferred by deer
  • Full sun

 

LUSCIOUS® BERRY BLEND™ Lantana                                  

  • Tough-as-nails annual is extremely heat and drought tolerant, tolerates poor soils; protect from frost
  • Large clusters of fuchsia, orange and yellow flowers on mounded plants
  • Blooms all season without deadheading
  • Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, not preferred by deer
  • Full sun

 

COLORBLAZE® KEYSTONE KOPPER® Solenostemon(Coleus)
BUY

  • Richly saturated orange-bronze foliage
  • Bred to bloom very late or not at all, making the plant last into fall with little maintenance
  • Wonderful in large containers and landscapes
  • Heat tolerant and less preferred by deer
  • Full sun to shade

 

COLORBLAZE® LIME TIME™ Solenostemon(Coleus)
BUY

  • Vigorous selection with bright chartreuse foliage that brightens up any combination or landscape in sun or shade without burning
  • Bred to bloom very late or not at all, making the plant last into fall with little maintenance
  • Wonderful in large containers and landscapes
  • Heat tolerant, less preferred by deer, and mildew resistant (which can be a problem with other chartreuse coleus)
  • Full sun to shade

 

COLORBLAZE® ‘RAINBOW RHYTHM®’ Hemerocallis                      
BUY

  • Enormous 7 ½ – 8 ½” flowers
  • Glimmering tangerine orange, gold dusted flowers with twisted, ruffled petals
  • Blooms in early midsummer on tall scapes loaded with buds
  • Full sun to part shade

 

AMAZING DAISIES™ ‘Banana Cream’ Leucanthemum
BUY

  • Picture perfect, large 4-5”, lemon yellow flowers age to creamy white
  • Disease resistant variety with strong stems that are great for cutting for long lasting fresh bouquets
  • Blooms begin in early summer with some rebloom from secondary buds; benefits from deadheading
  • Full sun

 

LO & BEHOLD® ‘Lilac Chip’ Buddleia                                    
BUY

  • Award winning, seedless butterfly bush that won’t sow its seed around the garden
  • Soft lavender pink flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds from midsummer to frost without deadheading
  • Dwarf, compact habit grows only 1 ½-2’ tall x 2-2 ½’ wide
  • Perfectly sized for containers and small-scale urban landscapes
  • Full sun

 

DIRT, can you dig it?

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Ever thought about the importance of dirt? You know, that stuff you walk on every day. In the hustle and bustle of life, we often fail to notice the significant roles that the Earth’s various elements play. We all know how important water is but Dirt, despite its endless functions, is literally overlooked. Dirt is the anchor for building foundations, the preventer of floods, the vessel for wells, a buffer against metals buried deeper in our planet’s crust, and the sustainer of all our food sources.

As a gardener, we’re certain you consider dirt more than most. With your hands dug in, you’ve probably cursed clay, hated sand, been thankful for a good rainfall, and maybe even laboriously composted your way to a rich soil full of recycled nutrients. That’s where we come in. After a lifetime spent getting dirty in the garden and on the farm, we knew our flowers and crops were yearning for an easy alternative to composting and yet a safer way than harmful man-made soil additives – our family and our Earth deserves better.

So we did our research (lots of it) and we set out to find a living soil. With our daughter in tow wearing her rain boots, we trudged through a wetland of peat moss and discovered the overwhelming benefits of a renewable bog. We worked with a harvester in the midst of Canada’s lush landscape to develop and license BogBits. And we created a line of products, enthused with love (& some plant probiotics) that we feel great about. Our potting mix and soil conditioner improve porosity so roots can breathe while increasing the soil’s innate capacity to capture and maintain just the right amount of water; all the while, using our Earth’s naturally occurring nutrients to benefit soil instead of potentially harmful chemicals.

The name is simple and our promise to users is as well – a sustainable soil that will produce a successful planting season. Why are we so passionate about dirt? Because gardening cultivates more than just plants; for us, it is a way of life and time spent outside, is food for the soul. With respect for the Earth and what we put back into it, we’d like to invite you to try GOOD DIRT and let us know what you, your family, your pets, and your garden think of it. We hope you dig GOOD DIRT as much as we do.

Sincerely,
Al & Suzy Newsom
Founders, GOOD DIRT

Abundant Tulip Container

When it comes to the spring season there is one flower that I just can’t resist and that is the tulip. It is a classic beauty that can really put on a show. In my garden I plant tulips in lots of different places including containers, which can be a real show stopper if you plant them just the right way.

To begin, select a container, you can use anything you like. For this particular design I will use a terra cotta pot that is 17 inches in diameter. Next fill your container with a fast draining potting mix. Fill it up to about 6 inches within the rim of the container. Next moisten the soil to allow it to settle and remove any air pockets.

Now it is just a matter of getting all the bulbs placed and for the best display, I like to really pack them in, shoulder to shoulder or cheek to jowl as they say. I used 50 bulbs in my 17 inch container and next year when they bloom it will be nothing short of spectacular. I chose the variety ‘Menton’ because I like the salmon pink color.

Now with the bulbs in place it is just a matter of covering them with about 5 inches of potting soil. Leave about a 1 inch gap between the top of the soil and the rim of the container for watering purposes.

Tulip ContainerWith the bulbs planted I’ll move the container to a shady part of the garden, out of the way, and I’ll keep it there all winter, just checking on it occasionally to make sure the soil has consistent moisture.

If you live in part of the country where you cold winters are the norm, one way to help insulate the container is to take wire mesh and create a band around the container with about 6 inches between the container and the wire. Stuff the space with straw and leaves.

Then in the spring when the tulips begin to emerge move the pot out into a sunny location.

Remember if you want tulips in your garden in the spring you have to plant in the fall. Before you know it your tulip container will make a spectacular display that you can use in to any of your garden rooms.

Strawberry Jar How-To

I was just given a large terra cotta strawberry jar for my garden. What can I grow in it (besides strawberries) that is visually interesting yet low maintenance?

Strawberry jars are excellent containers for showcasing just about any low growing plant.

Good foliage plants are mat forming sedums such as ‘Tricolor’, sempervivums (hens and chicks) and succulents or herbs such as creeping thyme and oregano. A nice silver gray plant that would suit a strawberry jar is helichrysum ‘Dwarf Silver’.

The winning characteristic about all these plants is that they are drought tolerant and low maintenance.

Whatever you choose for your strawberry jar, watering can be a bit tricky. All of the water seems to run out of the upper holes and it never reaches the plants at the bottom. But I’ve discovered a solution to this problem.

It starts with a piece of PVC pipe. Get one that is two inches in diameter and cut a few inches shorter than the interior height of the container. Next, just drill a series of holes along the side of the pipe using a 1/4 inch bit.

Place a few pieces of a broken terra cotta pot over the drainage hole and set the pipe on them. Add about 3 inches of gravel around the pipe and about 4 to 5 inches in the pipe itself. This will help stabilize it as you add the potting soil. Add soil until you have covered the bottom row of the pouches.

Now you are ready to begin adding your plants and the remainder of the soil.

When you are ready to water just pour the water into the pipe and it will distribute the water evenly through the soil.