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Archives for July 1, 2017

Naturally better: Alan Titchmarsh’s tips on organic gardening

Predatory insects such as ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies are in abundance, thanks to lots of nectar-rich flowers and, along with the blue tits, will help keep on top of greenfly. A good mulch of bark, garden compost or manure keeps soil moist around susceptible plants and weeds are kept in check by dense planting.

My gardening is not labour-free but as a result I have a richly varied garden and a clear conscience.

Don’t miss Alan’s gardening column today and Tip Of The Day every weekday in the Daily Express. For more information on his range of gardening products, visit

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Be an urban farmer

In the urban concrete jungle, people are going vertical to get their spot of green by repurposing their terraces as kitchen gardens. Food entrepreneur and baker Kishi Arora has been growing spinach on her terrace along with other herbs. Organic food and kitchen garden expert Sangeeta Khanna grows lauki, karela and okra on her terrace. Khanna says that going organic and growing your own vegetables is what the ‘green conscious’ movement is all about. “Many companies and online groups offer help in setting up a terrace garden to facilitate the pot-to-plate trend,” she adds.


If you want a thriving terrace garden, picking the right soil is the first step. Don’t use normal garden soil. Use good quality potting mix for the healthy growth of plants. You can also prepare it yourself by composting everyday organic garbage from your home. Gardening entrepreneur Shabnum Kapur, who runs Khetify – a startup that helps convert your balcony or terrace into a farm – says that picking the right vegetables is important. “Grow vegetables that need less water. In summer, tori, brinjals and microgreens grow well. Avoid cherry tomatoes that need gallons of water,” she says.


Opt for a raised bed, which will help you grow more vegetables. But waterproof the terrace before starting. You can start with a pre-made farming kit for terraces, as offered by a Hyderabad-based startup Homecrop. The kit helps you grow four types of vegetables. To optimise space use hanging planters. Khanna says, “You can grow beans and gourds on walls and railings.”

One of the simplest things is to grow microgreens by planting them in small wooden sandboxes. Herbs like basil, rosemary, thyme, and veggies like lettuce, spinach, ginger grow well in sandboxes. Also you can join a gardening group for support, says Priyanka Amar Shah, of iKheti – another gardening startup that runs its own interactive groups and societies to encourage terrace gardening.

Care for your garden

1. Water regularly. Overwatering and under-watering can be fatal. Do your research on how much water each plant really requires.

2. Check plants for pests.

3. Cut and prune plants.

4. Make sure the plants get enough sun. In the hot summer months, provide an afternoon shade to the plants.

What to grow

Cucumbers, Radishes, Beans, Potatoes, Onions, Carrots, Beetroot, Lettuce, Garlic, Chillies, Peppers, Gourds, Eggplant (brinjal)

You can plant almost any vegetable in pots. Use large earthen pots. Avoid plastic pots, as they heat up and drain poorly.

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Monsoon isn’t easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy for plants. Here’re some …

Every season has its own importance in the world of gardening. But monsoon is the best time of the year for garden lovers for planting and re-potting.

This season is usually considered to start from the month of July and is in full force in August and starts to lessen in September.

Monsoon is considered fast growing season. July is an active month and it is the time to sow, plant, re – pot, propagate, to divide and to de-weed.

Harpreet Ahluwalia of Earthly Creations shares some useful tips for Monsoon gardening for the gardening lovers to take delicate care of their beloved plants.

1. Attention should be paid to plants in pots and beds. They should be kept free from any standing water through proper drainage. Water should not stagnate and block the soil.

A post shared by SANGJAE LEE (@jae_eeee) on Jun 30, 2017 at 7:43pm PDT

2. Flower beds must be slightly raised so that water flows down but let the moisture stay.

3.Humid weather also brings in prolific growth of weeds. Constant de-weeding is one of the most important activity of this season.

A post shared by Lacamas Lavender Farm (@lacamaslavenderfarm) on Jun 30, 2017 at 7:50pm PDT

4.Pruning is another important task soon after summer. Pruning just prior to monsoon helps in faster growth of plants and ensures air and sunlight reaches every part of the plant.

5. Dead growth should be removed as this encourages plants to throw fresh shoots.

6. Take extra care of plants in monsoon as along with weeds. This is the breeding period of insects and worms. They are good also but at times can damage your plant.

A post shared by 2acco (@2accojapan) on Jun 30, 2017 at 7:53pm PDT

7. While monsoon is good for roses and annuals like balsam, zinnia, cosmos, celosia, and palms. It is tough on chrysanthemums, mother plants and succulents and cacti.

8. Clear rain water by bringing non chlorinated water which is very important for the growth and rejuvenation of the plants.

9. The most important activity of monsoon is to plan the layout of your garden for winter sowing of flowers and vegetables.

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7 tips for a buzz-worthy garden – Post

As a garden designer, Kate Frey judges the vitality of her creations not by the appearance and performance of the flowers but by the variety of bees, butterflies, and other beneficial critters that visit them. Planting gardens that attract and sustain bees is especially important because they pollinate food crops, but are facing worsening pressures including habitat loss and lack of forage. Frey urges homeowners to do their part to ease these pressures by providing flower-rich, bee-friendly landscape features. 

“Without a lot of effort we can really make a difference, but it matters what we plant,” says Frey, co-author with Gretchen LeBuhn of “The Bee-friendly Garden.” “Luckily for bees and humans alike, we tend to be drawn to the same flowers. A lot of the traditional favorites are bee-friendly.”

There’s more to a bee-friendly yard than a profusion of flowers. Incorporate these seven elements and practices to create a space that’s as pleasing to pollinators as it is to people. 

1. Replace part of your lawn with flowering plants

Bees need pollen and nectar from blooms produced by trees, bushes, annuals and perennials, vegetables, and herbs. “Lawns – unless they have flowering weeds in them – don’t provide for bees,” says Lois Berg Stack, sustainable agriculture professor and extension specialist in ornamental horticulture at the University of Maine.

Seed remaining grass with bee-friendly clover, and give a section of lawn over to dandelions each spring because they are the first abundant food source for bees emerging from winter hibernation.



2. Plant native flowers for peak performance

Native plants are uniquely adapted to your region’s soil and climate. Hybridized plants, though not harmful to bees, are bred to produce scant amounts of nectar and pollen, according to the Honeybee Conservancy.

The USDA’s online Plant Hardiness Zone maps indicate which trees, shrubs and perennials will survive year-round climate conditions in your region. You can also check with local nurseries or master gardener programs for plants suited to our climate (Southeastern Minnesota is located in zone 4).

3. Stagger bloom times for a constant food supply

Bees need food from early spring through late fall. Provide resources throughout the year by planting several different types of flowers in spring, summer, and fall with overlapping bloom times. Enticing menu items include honeysuckle, crocus, hyacinth, calendula, coneflowers, phlox, snapdragons, zinnias, asters, goldenrod, hostas, lavender, mint, oregano, and rosemary. 

“There’s a combination of trans-seasonal blooming plants to fit every space,” says horticulturalist Michaela Medina Harlow, author of The Gardener’s Eden blog. “Go for flowering plants with basic shapes and avoid double-flowering cultivars with frilly centers.”

4. Plant in single-species groupings

Large patches of flowers of the same variety – 3-by-3-foot plots are generally recommended – are more enticing and rewarding to pollinators than a random dispersal. You can still mix and match flowers in beds as long as you have same-species swaths or clumps. 

“Bees practice flower constancy, especially honeybees,” Frey says. “They’re creatures of efficiency and prefer to keep coming back to the same concentrated food source.”



5. Provide a clean, reliable water source

Shallow water with a landing platform is best. “Bees don’t walk on water any better than we do and can drown in an open pond,” Stack says. “A bird bath is good if you float a piece of wood in it.” A pie dish with pebbles also works and is easy to replenish. Changing the water frequently will prevent it from becoming a mosquito-breeding site.

6. Provide cover for solitary bees

While honeybees live in hives and colonies, natives ranging from tiny sweat bees to fat, fuzzy bumblebees have different habitat requirements. “If we’re not quite so tidy in our gardening activities, the bees will have an easier time finding places to nest,” says Stack, adding that unkempt hedges, weedy spots, and bare, sandy patches provide cover for a variety of bees. Leave a few untidy spots at the edges of your landscape or add nesting blocks or boxes for tunnel- and cavity-dwelling bees. You can buy bee blocks and boxes online or find instructions to build them.

7. Avoid chemical treatments

Bees are weakened or killed by pesticides and other chemical applications. Residual amounts can remain on plants treated prior to purchase, so find an organic seed and plant supplier, Harlow recommends. 

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Garden Tips: Are yellowing tree leaves a sign of sickness? – Tri

On recent visit to a local park I noticed some yellow-green oak and maple trees.

There are a number of normal cultivated varieties of plants with yellowish or yellow-green leaves. But the yellowish leaves on these oaks and maples are not normal.

The abnormal yellow discoloration is a symptom of a problem called chlorosis.

The most common cause of chlorosis in oaks is a lack of iron caused by alkaline soil conditions. When the soil is alkaline, certain nutrients, especially iron, become less available for absorption by the roots.

Pin oaks (Quercus palustris) are intolerant of alkaline soils and prone to iron chlorosis, while other oaks are more tolerant. Silver maple, red maple, sweetgum and dawn redwood are also predisposed to iron chlorosis in strongly alkaline soils.

Soils in our region tend to be slightly alkaline to strongly alkaline. In landscape situations, soil may be more alkaline due to the leaching of limestone from nearby concrete walls and walkways. Increased alkalinity can also be a problem when topsoil is removed and replaced with more alkaline subsoil during construction activities.

Plants with iron chlorosis are not able to produce enough carbohydrates needed for plant growth. As a result, the plant’s health is compromised, leading to a reduction in plant growth and vigor. When severe, the plant will eventually die unless the problem is corrected.

While there are various soil and foliar applications which can help alleviate a tree’s iron deficiency, these practices are not permanent and will need to be repeated for the entire life of the tree. It would be much wiser to check the soil pH before planting. If the soil is alkaline, plant trees that are not as vulnerable to iron chlorosis.

Take note that there are other problems not related to soil alkalinity that can cause chlorosis. Excessively wet soil conditions, root damage, girdling roots, and compacted soil can all lead to chlorosis.

I like a variety of green colors in my landscape, including plants with normal yellow-green foliage. They can be real showstoppers.

There are numerous deciduous trees with yellow or golden leaves available for planting including, Princeton Gold Norway maple, Hearts of Gold eastern redbud, Cloud weeping birch, Aurea catalpa, Aurea alder and Wredei elm. The most widely planted tree with yellow-green leaves is the Sunburst honey locust.

The species or common honey locust is a large tree growing up to 70 feet tall. It is tolerant of alkaline soil, drought, compacted soil and road salt, as well as being bothered by few insect pests.

It initially found popularity in urban parks for its adaptability, fast growth, lacy compound leaves and filtered shade. However, it was disliked for its nasty thorns and the messy excessive seed pods it produced.

Gardeners and cities rejoiced when a thornless honey locust that did not produce seed pods was introduced. They were excited to plant the smaller (35- to 40-foot) thornless and podless Sunburst honey locust with yellow-green leaves.

While well liked at first, it has also lost popularity once it was noted that they tend to develop prolific surface roots that lift sidewalks and driveways and make mowing difficult.

If your tree has yellow leaves that are not normally yellow, there is a problem. Check it out.

Note: Imperial honey locust, is the smallest (35 feet) of the thornless honey locusts. It has green leaves and a compact crown. As a somewhat smaller tree it should not produce as many troublesome surface roots, especially if it is planted in good soil that is not compacted and if it is encouraged to develop deep roots with proper watering practices.

Marianne C. Ophardt is a retired horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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This week’s gardening tips: don’t miss the City Park plant sale


This week’s gardening tips: Don’t miss the New Orleans Botanical Garden’s plant sale today (Saturday, July 1) from 9 a.m. to noon at the Pelican Greenhouse off Henry Thomas Drive in City Park. These sales offer an amazing variety of plants, including an extensive selection of hard-to-find natives. For a list of available plants, email a request to

Caterpillars on cannas: Cannas that have brown, deformed leaves with holes in them have been attacked by canna leaf-rollers, a caterpillar that is devastating to the cannas in our area. Control is difficult and requires regular spraying all summer. If you decide to treat, use a systemic insecticide, such as acephate or imidacloprid.

Time to stake the trees: If you did not stake young trees planted within the past few years, consider staking them just before a hurricane hits our area to prevent them from blowing over. Make sure the stakes are driven deeply and securely into the ground.

Prevent peach tree borer: Spray peach tree trunks thoroughly with permethrin to prevent the peach tree borer from getting into the trunk and causing damage. Repeat in late July and August.

Consider adding ornamental grasses: Ornamental grasses are an excellent choice for gardeners trying to introduce more drought-tolerant, pest-resistant plants into their landscapes. There are many types suitable for virtually any landscape situation.

Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter.

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