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Archives for July 29, 2013

Gardening Tips: Grow Tropical Cannas – in Pots!

 Cannas are elegant colorful tropical flowers that are easy to grow and pretty darn rugged! Here’s how to grow them.

About cannas

Cannas are tender plants from tropical regions of the world but are easy to grow outdoors in many areas providing there is no risk of frost. They were very popular in the Victorian garden for their elegant tropical look and landscape ease. Then in many parts of the country, particularly sunny California and Florida, they became popular as city landscape plants in road medians, traffic circles and public gardens. Now they are making a come back with home gardeners who want a taste of the tropics from an easy care flowering plant–there is a canna for every taste! They range in height from 2 1/2 feet (dwarf or Opera series types) to 16′ the Omega) The dwarfs only grow to 3′ and tend to have larger flowers. The average tall canna is 4-6′. Foliage colors vary from green to purple to bronze and varigated yellow and green or even red orange with colorful flowers of pale or lemon yellow, scarlet or ruby reds, salmon or hot pinks, orange and multi-colored spotted or striped.

Gardening Tips: Grow Tropical Cannas – in Pots!

Cannas can be grown in pots, windowboxes and the ground. They make great landscaping plants to fill in large areas as they multiply each year and can form a screen or windbreak, but if you don’t want them to spread, sink pots into the ground. They prefer full sun and can take lots of rain. They aren’t fussy about soils but are big feeders I am told. They do like soil enriched with organic matter and dressed with a general fertilizer such as Miracle Grow. I add coffee grounds, egg shells, and shredded leaves regularly and sometimes Breck’s Dutch Bulb Treat 5-10-5 a couple times a year but it isn’t necessary. Cannas do well with other plants and can be underplanted with annuals, perennials, vines or shrubs. I find ferns, sedums and aloes look good, attracting and holding the moisture they adore. I like combining colors and textures– chartreuse sedums and black leaved peppers, coleus, and even trailing vines. Some cannas grow well in water too. The ideal temperature is 60F but cannas will grow at much higher or lower temperatures provided they do not get frost. Cannas make good container plants for the patio or sunroom. They don’t mind crowding but plant in good sized pots (10″) and windowboxes using a good potting compost, water and feed regularly. In a greenhouse, if temperatures are kept at 55F or above, cannas can grow and flower all year, just dead head old flowered stems from time to time– cut them off conservatively just below the last bloom as they often shoot out more flowers! Divide in spring or fall when they are more likely to be dormant. Many cannas like the Bengal Tiger, Tropicana and purple leaved varieties like Black Knight and Wyoming look beautiful even without blooms because of their colorful foliage. (More about these in upcoming aticles.)

During the growing season, keep the plants well watered and for maximum growth, use a liquid feed. Mulch also helps hold in moisture but if you underplant, you will have attractive living mulch! Dead-heading prolongs the display and keeps the plants looking tidy. Remove dead blooms and yellow or brown leaves and shred for mulch. Be sure not to remove the side-shoots below the first flowers, as these become subsequent blooms. Most cannas do not need staking.

Pests: Very few pests bother my cannas. If slugs are a problem throw some pennies in the soil with broken eggshells. Beer placed in shallow dishes or film canisters attracts them as well and they drown. Few other pests or diseases attack cannas but occasionally small caterpillers or “leaf rollers” may cause damage that is easily confused with slug damage. The leaves will be rolled and sticky and often have a few distinct holes in them. Remove and consult a local nursery for the best remedies.

After Summer: 
At the end of the season, make sure the plants are carefully labelled before the blooming ends or you may get confused over colors and varieties! I do! In colder climates, you may want to bring the pots indoors to a sunroom or near windows before that first frost. If they are in the ground, as soon as frosts blacken the foliage, dig up the rhizomes and store in frost free conditions such as a garage or cellar. You can pack the roots into peat or newspaper to keep them moist. Do not allow the roots to dry out completely or they may shrivel up and die. In green all year climates like mine, I leave them in the pots and cut back on water but would never leave them outside for a freeze. I put them under row covers or in the back porch under sheets and blankets. Cannas can be left in the ground permanently in some places, covered with a thick mulch to protect from frost before winter. Overwintered plants may be divided in spring but do not rush it. To divide them, wait til they put forth new shoots and easily break apart. Pot in any good potting soil in a 6″ or larger pot. When I pull mine apart and they aren’t dormant I stick them in water and they keep for a long time.

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4 Tips for Growing Juicy Tomatoes

By now your tomato plants should be starting to bear fruit, tantalizing you with their green promises of what’s to come. After all, no store bought tomato can ever compare to the juicy sweetness of a homegrown tomato.

However, tomato plants can quickly become overburdened with long heavy limbs and dozens of fruits. Sometimes a tomato cage won’t cut it. Here are four tips for wrangling and managing your tomato plants this summer.

Tip 1: Cage ’Em

I know I just said that sometimes a tomato cage won’t cut it, but there are times when a cage will cut it—namely while the plant is still young. You can buy tomato cages at any home improvement or gardening center or you can make one by wrapping chicken wire into a tall cylinder. Whatever you use, place the cage over the tomato and carefully thread the limbs through it, allowing them to rest on the cross wires or the center rings. It’s easiest if you place a cage over the tomato when you plant it so that you can help the limbs use the cage as they grow.

Tip 2: Stake ’Em

Organic tomatoes growing in Darla Antoine's garden in the cloud forest of Costa Rica. (Darla Antoine)

Stakes are a great solution for a larger vegetable garden. Your stakes should be at least 1-inch thick and five or six feet tall. Plant the stakes at least a foot in the ground. You can use wooden stakes you buy at the home improvement center, you can harvest large branches or small trees from your property, you can use bamboo or you can use fencing stakes—you get the idea. Use smaller pieces of wood or tightly pulled baling twine to create cross supports between the stakes. Carefully thread the limbs through the support system. You can also secure the limbs to the system with twine, twist ties or zip ties.

Tip 3: Net ’Em

Even if you cage and/or stake your tomatoes, they may still require another layer of support—depending on how far out their limbs decide to reach. I like to buy tomato nets and secure them to the top of their support system. Zip ties work great for this. Use the netted squares to support the ends of the limbs.

Tip 4: Prune ’Em

It’s not completely necessary, but your plant will benefit from a little pruning. The very bottom leaves (they often look wilted or yellow) are great ones to prune because they aren’t going to produce anything. You can also prune or pinch off the little “suckers” or leaves that shoot up in the elbow between two limbs. These suckers also won’t produce anything and they really do suck the plant of energy and nutrients that the plant could send to the tomatoes. You can also selectively prune back some of the leaves on the plant—namely the ones that are inadvertently shading tomatoes or blossoms. Don’t prune too much though! The leaves are gathering the sunlight that create the sugars and other nutrients the plant needs to produce and survive (photosynthesis, y’all).

And there you have it. Four simple tips to help you get the most of your tomatoes this summer. Here’s to many tomato sandwiches.

Darla Antoine is an enrolled member of the Okanagan Indian Band in British Columbia and grew up in Eastern Washington State. For three years, she worked as a newspaper reporter in the Midwest, reporting on issues relevant to the Native and Hispanic communities, and most recently served as a producer for Native America Calling. In 2011, she moved to Costa Rica, where she currently lives with her husband and their infant son. She lives on an organic and sustainable farm in the “cloud forest”—the highlands of Costa Rica, 9,000 feet above sea level. Due to the high elevation, the conditions for farming and gardening are similar to that of the Pacific Northwest—cold and rainy for most of the year with a short growing season. Antoine has an herb garden, green house, a bee hive, cows, a goat, and two trout ponds stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout.

Darla Antoine on a recent visit to Washington State (Courtesy Darla Antoine)

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Get fall vegetable gardening tips at Urban Harvest event


Bayou City Heirloom Bulbs sale: Formosa lilies, oxblood lilies, gingers and more. 8 a.m.-2 p.m. at 5842 Velma Lane, Humble; 713-471-4383.

Fall vegetable gardening: Sponsored by Urban Harvest. 9 a.m.-noon at University of Houston, 4361 Wheeler; 713-880-5540, $24 members, $36 nonmembers.

Introduction to Chickens: With John Berry. 1:30-3:30 p.m. at Wabash Antiques and Feed Store, 5701 Washington; 713-863-8322, Free.

Aug. 3

Arboretum at Night: Wine and Cheese and Bats: With Cullen Geiselman. 7-9 p.m. at 4501 Woodway; houston $30 members, $40 nonmembers.

Starting a community/school garden, Class 1: Sponsored by Urban Harvest. 9-11:15 a.m. at Green Planet Sanctuary, 13424-B Briar Forest Drive; 713-880-5540, $24 members, $36 nonmembers.


Houston Urban Food Production Conference: 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Aug. 17 at the United Way of Greater Houston, 50 Waugh Drive. Participants can select sessions pertaining to starting commercial operations and production methods. Commercial topics include organic certification, marketing options, agricultural valuation for land, efficient irrigation and funding support. Production topics include poultry, goats, beekeeping, integrated pest management, fruit and nut growing, irrigation, season extenders, soil building, weed control, vegetable production and cut flowers. To register, call Diana Todd at 281-855-5614; Registration prior to Aug. 9 is $35 and thereafter is $50. Lunch included.

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Garden: Tips for spring lawn maintenence for beautiful spring green grass!

A Beautiful Spring Green Lawn

Dreaming of greener grass? Longing for relaxing summer evenings in the hammock with a glass of lemonade and full view of a beautifully manicured lawn? You’re not alone. A crossword puzzle I worked recently gave the clue, “suburbanite’s pride.” The answer was an obvious little 4-letter word: “lawn.” All of us though, whether we live in the suburbs or out on a rolling country road, take great pride in a beautiful lawn. It becomes the centerpiece of summer gatherings and the favorite spot for good family times.

Spring and fall are the best times to take a good look at your lawn and do the work necessary to ensure it will be its best come next spring and summer. All lawn maintenance activities are best done in the late summer and early fall. This includes sowing a new lawn, fertilizing, repairing, and reseeding. Here are some tips for fall lawn care that will let you enter winter carefree and anticipate the greener grass of summer.

Garden: Tips for spring lawn maintenence for beautiful spring green grass!

First, determine the status of your lawn right now. Is it (1) already healthy and green with little need of repair; (2) basically in good shape with just a few spots that need some work; or (3) in need of total restoration so that you feel like you need to start from scratch?

A healthy lawn is free of weeds and disease, free of brown and dry spots, has little or no thatch, and doesn’t have you sending the kids out everyday to pick the dandelions. (Thatch, by the way, is a term that means that layer of dense, tangled up grass roots and dead organic material in your lawn’s root zone. It’s bad, and you don’t want it.)

A lawn that does have some bad spots but is basically more than 50 percent good can be restored to perfection with some work. A lawn that has more than 50 percent of it covered with weeds, dry spots, or diseased areas should be totally reworked and begun from scratch.

Once you decide which category you lawn falls into, you are ready to get to work. Even the perfect lawn needs some work this time of year to ensure it will stay that way. The perfect lawn should be fertilized now and again in the spring. Choose an organic fertilizer free of harsh chemical salts. Avoid anything that says “fast acting.” You don’t need fast acting; there’s plenty of time to get the job done, and those fast acting chemicals just kill the earthworms and get to the water supply. Fertilizing in the fall prepares the lawn for winter by inviting strong vigorous growth to build the root system and store energy. Your grass will overwinter better and be ready to face the stress of summer heat if fertilized and strengthened now.

It is very important to not overfertilize. Too much nitrogen is especially harmful to your lawn. Grass will do something called “luxury consumption” when it comes to nitrogen. That means it will just keep on consuming nitrogen if it’s available. The result is too rapid growth and increased susceptibility to disease. Use a slow release organic fertilizer and apply only twice a year according to its directions or at the recommended rate of a soil test.

The perfect lawn should also be treated now for pest control. Many common lawn weeds such as dandelions germinate in the fall when the weather turns cooler. Check your garden supply store for a pre-emergence weed killer and apply according to its directions.

Also, check the “perfect” lawn now for thatch. You should be able to stick your fingers between the clumps of grass. You should also be able to feel the soil when you push your finger through the grass. If all you feel instead is a tangle or roots and matted organic material, you probably have thatch. Thatch keeps your lawn from properly utilizing water, provides habitat for nasty lawn pests, and prevents nutrients from cycling between your grass and the soil.

Early fall is the best time to de-thatch. You can rent a power dethatcher from garden supply centers. After you dethatch, fertilize and water the lawn well. It should recover in about 6 weeks.

The not-so-perfect lawn should also be fertilized and treated for pest control during the fall. Now is a good time to get a soil test done if you haven’t had one in several years. Contact your local extension service about soil testing and follow their recommendations. Brown spots in the lawn can be a result of thatch, overzealous mowing, compacted soil, or lack of water and nutrients. Check for thatch and remove if necessary as described above. Also, make sure that you are mowing at the correct blade height. Most lawn grasses should only be cut by 1/3 of their blade height. If you are cutting shorter than that, you could be damaging the roots and stolons.

If your soil is heavy or seems compacted, it’s a good idea to aerate the lawn now. (A good indicator of a compacted soil is poor water drainage.) A garden aerator can be rented or you can hire a professional to do the job. After aerating, add a topdressing of sand or ground compost. This helps the roots and improves the soil quality.

Now is also the time to take stock of your watering habits. Lawns should be watered in the early morning so grass can dry before sundown; otherwise the wet grass becomes an invitation to disease overnight. Also, be sure to water infrequently and deeply as opposed to very often shallow waterings. Shallow waterings discourage root development and keep the roots from getting down in the soil to where the nutrients are.

To repair bare spots, remove any dead grass and rake some compost into the soil. Then sow new seed.

If you need to start from scratch, be sure to start in time. You will need about 1 and 1/2 months before the first frost. Start by tilling your old lawn. Till up everything–grasses, weeds, all of it. Then fertilize with a good organic fertilizer as described above. If you have a heavy soil, you can also add compost or manure at this time to improve soil tilth. Then, smooth out the area and fill in any low spots. Go over the area with a rake to remove any stones or debris.

Purchase high quality grass seed. Be sure to read the label. Grass seed should have a guaranteed germination rate of at least 75 to 85 percent and it should be less than 0.05 percent weeds by content.

Using a rotary spreader, spread the grass seed over your lawn area. Then cover with weed-free straw. Be sure that you get even distribution of the seed. It’s a good idea to sow half the seed in one direction, then the other half in right angles to the first. Water thoroughly and make sure the seeds receive constant moisture until established.

Then sit back and relax. Your lawn is ready for winter and will bring lots of satisfaction at the coming of spring.

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Gardening Tips: Using water as efficiently as possible

No part of the country has an endless water supply. Even gardeners dwelling in humid eastern areas have come to expect water restrictions during dry summers. Using water as efficiently as possible makes good sense, no matter where you live and garden. For example, traditional overhead watering loses 50 to 60 percent to evaporation and runoff.

Here are some guidelines to help you make the best use of water in your garden.

-Start with good soil preparation. Adding organic matter will increase the water-holding ability of light soils and improve drainage in heavy ones.
-Choose plants that tolerate dry soil or drought conditions. Specific choices will depend on your climate. Garden for the area you live in by planting native plants.
-Plan your landscape with water conservation in mind. A windbreak of drought-resistant shrubs and trees planted on the windward side of an art exposed site can reduce the water needs of the other plants.
-Use intensive planting methods in the vegetable garden. Closely spaced plants in beds will shade the soil surface, reducing water loss.
– Use mulch to reduce moisture loss from the soil. It will cut down on your weeding chores at the same time.

Gardening Tips: Using water as efficiently as possible

-Drip irrigation will put water right where it’s needed, with little lost to evaporation or runoff.
-If you use sprinklers, water either first thing in the morning or in the evening, to reduce water loss by evaporation in the daytime sun. Apply water only as fast as the soil can absorb it, otherwise you will lose a lot as runoff.
-Reduce the size of your lawn. Even in humid climates, lawns need frequent watering to keep them lush and green through the heat of summer. Keep only as much lawn as you absolutely need for children and dogs. But those of you that need all the lawn you’ve got-and could still use some more-try planting some of the varieties of drought-tolerant turf grasses that have been developed recently.

GET THE MOST FROM YOUR COMPOST THIS SPRING: Despite all its benefits-both for the environment and for your garden-composting can seem like more trouble than it is worth.

Many gardeners who faithfully compost kitchen scraps and lawn clippings find the process takes too long and, when it’s done, there isn’t enough compost for an entire garden. You can avoid this and other common composting problems by adding peat moss to the compost bin and by mixing compost into the soil.

Spring is an especially good time to renovate an existing compost pile, since the compost material has had plenty of time to decompose over the winter.

While it takes some elbow grease, the entire composting process is easier when you incorporate peat. In the compost bin, peat helps produce better compost by speeding up the process, reducing odors and controlling air and water in the compost pile.

Start by mixing a 1-inch layer of peat with every 4 inches of compostable material, being sure to flip over the top layers of organic materials every week or two. Keep the center of the pile moist, but not soggy, by adding water when needed.

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Spring comes early to Durban gardens – tips


Abundant and beautiful in local gardens around this time of year are bougainvilleas.

Durban – After the short days of mid-winter, everything in nature’s garden starts to wake up about the middle of July on the KwaZulu-Natal coast.

We nurserymen have always maintained that spring starts on July 15 in Durban, so get out into your garden now as there is lots to do.

It shouldn’t be too much of a chore as we have glorious gardening weather at this time of year in these eastern parts.

Nothing beats an early show of winter and spring-flowering seedlings – or bedding plants, as they are now called. This is my favourite time of the year for these bright gems, especially all the Ps: pansies, poppies, petunias and primulas. There is a huge variety of “P” seedlings which are easy to grow, are colourful, and will last for months.

Remember, they have to grow, flower and die all in one season, so give them an uninterrupted growing time – regular watering, feeding and “dead heading” (the more you pick, the more they will flower).

Bedding plants can be used in many places – beds, borders, rockeries, pots and hanging baskets.

Pansies, poppies, primulas and petunias are among the flowers that make an early showing as winter rolls over into spring.


Also abundant and beautiful are bougainvilleas, which are coming in to full flower now.

Easy to grow, drought-tolerant, free of disease and pests, colourful and versatile, they are suitable for pots and tubs, screens, fences, pergolas, banks and shrubberies. They have been on nursery bestseller lists for decades – and rightfully so.

Tropical Rainbow is a variegated yellow and green-leafed variety that is compact growing and keeps its leaf colour all year. It is fantastic in a tub and has bright cherry-red bracts (all bougainvillea flowers are tiny and creamy-white). They flower up to three times a year.

Some varieties have double bracts and are spectacular in flower. Bougainvillea Bridal Bouquet, for example, has double pink and white bracts and is possibly the prettiest.

Durban is famous worldwide for the Natalia variety, with dusty pink bracts which fade on the plant to a parchment pink. It drops its leaves before flowering and is covered in colour – quite breathtaking.

Bougainvilleas require full sun, regular feeding and drought-stress to flower best – so go easy on the water.

July is also the time to start pruning. Roses must be pared down, and it is a good time to cut hedges and topiaries, if you have any.

There is a lot written about the dos and don’ts of pruning, and this sometimes scares gardeners.

Pruning roses is not difficult – just remember you are shaping the plant for future growth and flowering. Remove twiggy, spindly growth first, and thin out and shape the plant. leaving an open shape that allows in the sunlight.

Roses (and most other plants) possess apical dominance, which means they will send sap to the furthestmost growing point first. This means the plant will make a new shoot just below the point where you cut the stem.

Bear this in mind when you prune and you will be able to determine the future growth of the plant. Always prune to an out-facing “eye” to encourage an open shape. Pruning to a downward facing “eye” will encourage a weeping or cascading shape. It takes about 40 to 45 days for newly pruned roses to flower.

After pruning roses it is a good idea to spray them against pests, such as scale and aphids. I do not recommend spraying with a winter spray of lime sulphur as it does not really get cold enough in Durban for the roses to be sufficiently dormant. The lime sulphur will burn any soft growth and set the plant back.

I suggest you rather use a mixture of mineral oil and a general insecticide – ask your nurseryman for advice.

There is now an all-season-long insecticide for roses and other plants which will keep them insect-free for almost a year. It can be applied as a soil drench and is systemic so it travels to all parts of the plant.

It is also effective against white ants. Once you have pruned, give the plant a good feed to encourage maximum growth and performance. Use a 3:1:5 or 5:1:5 fertiliser for flowering plants and roses.

These formulations are deliberately low in the middle number which is for the phosphate content, as it is presumed you have applied the phosphate separately.

Phosphate is important for roots and flower formation. It is slow-acting in the soil, so it is best to apply it separately, once a season.

Bone phosphate or bone meal is the best form of phosphate and is organic, but superphosphate is just as acceptable.

If you need to transplant any shrubs, now is the time to do so. The plants are just beginning to wake up for spring, so will start to grow easily in their new position.

Cut back enough top growth to compensate for the roots that will get left behind when you dig up the plant. Try not to damage the root system, and take as much root as you can.

Dig and prepare a big enough hole to take the plant without cramping the roots, adding compost and bone meal.

Flood the plant into the new hole by using lots of water to wash soil right into the root ball and to expel any air pockets. Stake and support the plant well until you are sure it has established itself.

For excellent advice on planting a shrub, visit the Life is a Garden page on Facebook and follow the link to a YouTube video.

We have had good rains for this time of year, so your lawn will now start to wake up and grow – and, unfortunately, so will the weeds. If it is a bit patchy and sparse, give it a feed of 2:3:2 fertiliser to encourage root formation. Water well.

If your lawn is looking satisfactory, start feeding it with any lawn feed such as 4:1:1 or 3:2:1 or 5:1:5. I prefer to use a slow-release fertiliser that will not leach out of the soil, and does not need watering in.

Grass is shallow-rooted, so the fertiliser mustn’t leach too far down.

There are organic pelleted fertilisers available which are also good as they contain trace elements.

Note, though, that they have a farm smell to them for a day or two after application, so do not apply just before a party.

Mow your lawn long as it is the leaves that are the food factory, and you want your grass to get growing at the same rate as the weeds.

I do not subscribe to the idea of scarifying or decapitating your grass by deliberately mowing as low as possible in spring to encourage growth – it seems self-defeating, and is not required in Durban for the usual grass varieties of Berea, Buffalo or Kearsney.

Kikuyu grass is another story, though, but is not a typical Durban lawn as it grows too vigorously and needs constant mowing. Life is far too short to spend it mowing (or weeding for that matter). – The Mercury

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Herb garden design: Starting an outdoor herb garden

The right location, proper preparation and choosing the right herbs is very important when designing your new outdoor herb garden.

Planning an outdoor herb garden is the same as planning any other type garden. The plants you choose will determine the where and when of planting. You can have herbs in a garden by themselves or mixed with vegetables. You can also use herbs to landscape your yard.

Herb garden design: Starting an outdoor herb garden

Which herbs are right for you? The zone you live in will determine which herbs will do well for you. Your local nursery will usually have plants for your specific zone. Most gardening magazines will have a zone map where temperature determines each zone. You can also call your local nursery to find out which zone you live in.

Do you have lots of sun or shade? When you visit the nursery pay attention where each herb is sitting. If it is located in full sun? When you get this herb home you will want to put it in a similar area with full sun. If the nursery has it sitting in the shade then the shade will be the best location for it in your yard. Most herbs need full sun or dappled shade for at least four to six hours of the day. Many herbs come from the Mediterranean area and like it hot and on the dry side. Not all yards are suitable for growing herbs. If your yard is one of these, consider growing herbs in containers on your patio.

What kind of soil do you have? The perfect soil for growing herbs is equal amounts of sand, loam and clay. This allows good drainage which is very important for successful herb growing. If your soil needs amending you can add compost from your garden center or compost you have made yourself. Compost or any organic matter will greatly enrich the soil. You want your soil to crumble when you squeeze and release a portion of it in your hand. If your landscape is just too wet and does not have adequate drainage then consider raised beds to avoid rotting roots. Soil pH test kits are found at your local nursery or garden center. Herbs tend to like neutral to more alkaline soils. A test kit will determine if your soil is acid or alkaline. You may have to amend your soil to get the correct pH for herbs. Proper preparation is key to a successful herb garden.

What style of herb garden do you want? That will depend on how much work you want to put into it. There are herb knot gardens which require more work than the usual informal herb garden. Do you want a fence around your garden? If so, what kind? What kind of material do you want the pathways between the beds? Do you want annuals or perennials or both? Annuals require more maintenance than perennials, therefore plant them where they can easily be reached.

More tips for your herb garden

1. Learn about your herbs before planting.

2. Don’t let the taller herbs like dill, angelica or lovage be in front of small herbs like thyme or santolina.

3. Consider colors and textures when planting.

4. If you want to attract butterflies or birds find out which herbs are suitable.

5. For culinary purposes be sure to find out which herbs are safe to eat.

6. Mass plantings look very pleasing.

7. Mix herbs with colorful vegetables for a kitchen potager.

8. Keep invasive mint in an area where it won’t overpower other herbs.

9. Don’t plant dill and fennel together as they will cross pollinate.

10. Use natural pest control for your outdoor herb garden. For instance learn which good bugs will eat and feed on the bad bugs.

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Tatton Park flower show opens

(clockwise from top left) Phil Hirst's A Stainless Century, Mike Russell's The Star Gazer's Retreat, Tony Woods' Escape To The City and Leon Davis and Brendan Vaughan's Gravitational Pull Nine gardens have won gold medals at the show

An annual flower show created as a “sister to Chelsea and Hampton” opens in Cheshire later.

The Tatton Park Flower Show, which was first held in 1999, was created by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) to complement the southern shows.

Organisers said they were expecting around 80,000 visitors across four days on the 28 acre (11 hectare) site.

As with Chelsea, the show organisers award medals to exhibiting gardeners, with nine being given golds this year.

The awards, which have been given out ahead of the show’s opening, have been made in a number of categories, such as Best Large Garden and Best Galaxy Garden, an award inspired by the nearby Jodrell Bank Observatory.

The Best Large Garden crown went to Phil Hirst, who won gold for A Stainless Century, which celebrates the invention of stainless steel in Sheffield 100 years ago.

Four galaxy gardens were also awarded gold – Mike Russell’s The Star Gazer’s Retreat, Howard and Dori Miller’s Watch This Space, Leon Davis and Brendan Vaughan’s Gravitational Pull and Peter Styles’ Life on Enceladus.

The Star Gazer’s Retreat is a woodland glade which houses an observatory, while Gravitational Pull, which also won Best Galaxy Garden, centres around a wooden black hole.

Life on Enceladus was inspired by the recent news that one of Saturn’s moons could be a home to life forms and Watch This Space looks forward to an event later this year, when a huge cloud of dust and gas will encounter the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.

‘Ecologically diverse’

Also gaining gold were Louise Harrison-Holland’s Alzheimer’s Society Remember to Reflect Garden, Mary Hoult’s Networks: A Garden for Cancer Research, Graham Hardman’s Reflections of Japan and Tony Woods’ Escape To The City.

Mr Woods’ garden, which the RHS said was “designed to deliver a message to garden owners that you don’t have to compromise on design to have an ecologically diverse garden”, also saw him named the organisation’s National Young Designer of the Year.

The title is bestowed on gardeners aged 28 and under.

The Best Small Garden award was the only one not given to a gold medal winner, with Clive Mollart and Clive Scott’s silver medal winning Sound Idea taking the title.

The show runs until Sunday at the National Trust property near Knutsford.

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Container Gardens are a Versatile Tool in Garden Design

2013-07-29 · 
By  Kathy Alford 

Colorful Container Gardens

Want to add a splash of color to your garden? Containers are great for perennial planting. Photo by Kathy Alford, Alford’s English Gardens.

For many of us, when we think of we imagine pretty yards with flowers bursting from the dirt. Others may picture delicious rows of veggies waiting to be harvested from an outdoor plot. However, there is a wonderful type of garden that often gets forgotten. Container !

There are many advantages to having a container garden. And, with so many options for style and design, containers are a creative way to add a focal point or accent an area with living plants. (See a collection of styles on my Container Garden Photo Gallery on Houzz!)

Of course, it’s not just about design, these are many practical reasons to choose a container garden too. 

Container Gardens are Functional and Versatile

Pots are great for first-time gardeners as they offer a micro-environment to experiment. If something isn’t working, simply dig it up and start over with a new plant.

Container gardens are also good for older gardeners because pots can be placed at varying heights which make it easier to till the soil and tend plants without the bending over. The ability to add height also makes these gardens kid- and pet-friendly because it keeps plants up and out of reach.

In short, a smartly designed container garden is incredibly versatile! It works with people and pets of all ages.

Containers Can Help Keep Plants Healthy

Containers are a smart way to quarantine plants and keep those which may be prone to disease separated from the rest.

Pots also offer mobility that can be useful for maintaining healthy plants. During seasons where the weather changes drastically, containers make it easy to move plants indoors for protection from the cold.

Fairy Garden Containers

Container Gardens offer a chance to add an element of whimsy to a yard or patio. Photo by Kathy Alford, Alford’s English Gardens.

Garden Anywhere

Container gardens are great for patios, porches and other small spaces where a traditional landscaping might not fit. A collection of planters can be a good solution for folks living in condos and apartments with little or no yard.

Simplify Seasonal Gardening

Want to add a splash of color to your garden? Containers are great for perennial planting. Switch the plants out each season to add fresh color or set a mood for your outdoor space.

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About Kathy Alford

Kathy Alford is a landscape designer and the owner of Alford’s English Gardens. Visit her website for more ideas, or contact her at (562) 997-4111 to schedule an appointment.

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