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When the weather is hot and dry and there is no measurable rain, even rookie gardeners are aware that most plants will not survive without regular watering. Unfortunately, just giving them a squirt with the water hose isn't going to do much to relieve their stress. Wise gardeners give their plants the amount of water each one needs in ways that save time, effort and water.
It is important to use the right equipment. Much water can be saved in the summer by watering each part of the garden by a method appropriately suited for it. Briefly, hand sprinkling is fine for sprouting seeds, but all other watering should be done with conventional irrigation systems or drip systems. Reserve watering by hose for filling furrows and basins around trees and bushes, when these are not equipped with bubblers. (When you water this way, put the hose right down on the ground, and let the water sink in slowly.)
In summer (or anytime for that matter), it is best to irrigate deeply but less frequently to encourage plants to send down deeper roots that are protected from the summer heat. Vegetables and annual flowers, though, will have to be watered more frequently since they don't produce deep root systems. For most grass lawns, watering to the point of runoff every 2-3 days is sufficient. Always water your garden in the early morning hours between 4:00 AM and 8:00 AM to reduce water evaporation.
Be sure to give special care to plants in containers. Plants in containers often suffer at this time of the year. Water them frequently, especially plants in terra cotta pots. These porous containers “breathe,” allowing water to evaporate faster than plastic or glazed ceramic pots. If you take good care of your plants in summer, you will be rewarded throughout the rest of the year.
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In the summertime, when the weather is hot, heat-loving annuals will dazzle your gardens with vibrant colors. They are the sun-bathing beauties of any garden. With so many different flower forms, colors, sizes and foliage shapes, every gardener will have a dozen or two favorite annuals blooming in the garden to brag about.
Versatility is their name; garden pizzazz is your gain. Annuals can make themselves at home in your garden beds, around your trees and shrubs, and in containers of all kinds. Some annuals are groundcovers, some are midsized and perfect for borders, and some will stand tall in the rear of the garden bed or as a focal point.
For a huge colorful impact, plant in swaths or waves. Or plant in patterns and create a colorful design. Use your imagination and don't be afraid to try new arrangements. Unlike perennials, annuals don't hang around for years. So experiment! If you don't like one effect, you can always try something else the next time you plant. You can do the same with potted annuals, of course--and those are even easier to rearrange.
If you plant your annuals in the ground, we recommend using a good planting mix. Most annuals need regular water, as they don't have the time to develop extensive root systems.
Fertilize to encourage continuous blooms. Also, to keep your annuals blooming all season long, "deadhead" (which means to pluck off the spent flowers). This will keep the plants from thinking that it's time to spend all of their energy developing seeds for the next season. Remember that annuals are plants that grow and bloom within one season.
Whatever your garden style or colors, we have annuals for you! Come in and pick out your favorites. Arrange them in your gardens for a spectacular summer flower show!
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Gardening can be a great form of healthful exercise. Depending on the intensity of your garden work, you can get quite a good workout. All that bending, stretching and lifting will keep your body limber and muscles toned. But when done incorrectly it can lead to injury.
Before starting any gardening activity, consider stretching for a few minutes to warm up your muscles and prepare them for the work ahead. And if you take any extended break, do a few more stretches before returning to the task at hand. Also, don't double-dig a whole garden if you've not been exercising regularly.
It's also important to remember to replenish your body fluids while working outside. It's easy to get dehydrated on a hot day while enjoying the sunlight if you don't make a point of replenishing the fluids your body is burning off.
Speaking of that sunlight, make sure to apply plenty of sun block to exposed and unprotected parts of your body before starting your gardening activity. While sun visors will help shade the front of your face, a wider brimmed sunhat hat will also shade the sides and, more important, your ears.
Don't forget that garden safety is another important aspect of healthy gardening. Wear appropriate clothing, safety goggles and ear protection if you plan on using power equipment. Using tools with padded and/or spring loaded handles will reduce stiffness in your arms and hands. Wear knee pads or use a knee cushion or kneeler seat if you plan on spending a lot of time on your knees, and wear gloves to protect your hands.
When using a stepladder, be sure its height is appropriate for the type of job you are doing so you aren't tempted to stand beyond the safety step. Finally, avoid spraying or dusting plants on windy days to reduce the chance of absorbing or exposing your body to harmful chemicals. Keeping these things in mind will help you enjoy a safe and healthy time in your garden. So be safe and have fun!
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If you have an herb garden you know what a great pleasure it is to have access to your own home-grown herbs--ones that are exactly to your taste, rather than a generic supermarket blend. Drying or freezing some of your herbs can give you that pleasure year-round. Along with the taste advantage, your own herbs are much, much cheaper.
The method of preparing herbs for storage that gives you the best flavor and fragrance is air-drying. But if you don't have a warm, dry area that is suitable, or you have herbs that aren't suited for air-drying, don't despair! There are other methods that work almost as well.
Sturdy, low-moisture herbs are best suited for air-drying. Some examples are bay leaves, dill, oregano, marjoram, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. This method is also effective for large batches of herbs. Basil, lemon balm, and most mints have high moisture content--these can mold if not dried quickly.
Air-Dry Method 1:
- Cut large stems/branches from mature plants. Shake them to get rid of any insects, then remove any damaged leaves.
- Rinse them with cool water and gently pat them dry with towels or paper towels. Turn the branches upside down and take off some of the leaves along the lower stem (the top, after you've turned them upside down). Gather five or six branches together in a bunch.
- Get a large paper bag and make several holes in it for ventilation. Put the bunch upside down inside the bag, gather the opening around the leafless stem ends, and tie securely. The bag will protect the bunch from dust and other pollutants. (You can skip the bag if drying for sachets - but keep them away from direct sunlight; that will tend to reduce the fragrance.)
- Hang the bag in a warm airy place and leave it alone for several weeks.
- When the leaves are dry, check for any signs of mold growth; if you find mold, discard the whole bunch! If the bunch is clean, strip the leaves off of the stems and toss the stems. Store the whole leaves in small airtight containers (plastic "zip" bags are great). Label them and store them in a cool, dry, dark place.
Air-Dry Method 2:
- The second way to dry herbs is to spread them out to dry.
- With fine-leafed herbs such as oregano and thyme, simply remove the foliage from stems and spread the leaves on a cookie sheet or piece of clean window screen and set in a warm, dry, airy place away from direct sun.
- Stir them up every few days to turn them over. Once the leaves feel crisp, you can store them in an airtight container for later use.
Drying in an Oven:
This works well for herbs that tend to mold if not dried quickly--but can also be used if you don't have a warm, dry, well-ventilated (and convenient) place to hang herbs.
For oven-drying, heat the oven to a low heat (150-200F), place the herbs on a baking sheet in the oven, keep the oven door open and bake the herbs until they are dry. This will take several hours, maybe longer if you are drying high-moisture herbs. Keep an eye on them--you want them dried, not burned!
Some people dry herbs in the microwave--we don't advise that, as it takes out a lot of the flavor and fragrance. If you must dry this way, put about 4 branches in the oven between paper towels. Heat for a minute or two on high. If the herbs are not brittle and dry when removed from the oven, repeat for 30 seconds more each time until dry.
Don't freeze herbs to use as garnish--they may become limp and unsightly. Some herbs that freeze well: basil, borage, chives, dill, lemongrass, mint, oregano, sage, savory, sorrel, tarragon, and thyme.
If they are to be used in soups or stews, you can do a quick and handy freeze in an ice cube tray. Chop up the leaves and put a teaspoon of the herb in each section. Fill with water and put the tray in the freezer. To use, simply remove the pre-measured herb in the ice cube, and drop as many as you need in your soup or stew.
You can also simply put a few bunches in a freezer bag or other container and put them in the freezer.
With summer here, garden herbs are in high gear, producing lots of pleasing, aromatic foliage that is great for cooking and potpourris. Freshly harvested leaves are wonderful for cooking, but you might want to preserve some to use later in the year or to create sachets that will fill your home with wonderful scents.
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The leaves on some of my plants are starting to turn brown. How can I tell if the cause is lack of water, or salt or chemical damage?
That's fairly simple.
- If a plant is too dry, the tips of the leaves will turn brown. The longer without water, the farther down the leaf the burn will extend.
- If a plant is suffering from salt damage, the entire leaf edge will appear brown or dry.
- If it's chemical damage, the foliage will generally have burn spots all over the leaf surface.
And here are the usual causes:
- If a plant is too dry, it needs deeper or more frequent watering.
- Salt burn is most often caused by excessive fertilization.
- Chemical damage results from weed killer drifting onto a plant, a chemical solution being mixed stronger than label recommendations, or a spray being applied to (or too near to) a plant that is sensitive to that spray.
Please note that all three scenarios have man-made causes.
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"How cunningly nature hides every wrinkle of her inconceivable antiquity under roses and violets and morning dew!"
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Do you love cole slaw but not the calories associated with the mayonnaise that goes with it? Wish you had a recipe for something fresh from the garden that you would be able to throw together quickly and know it is healthy for you?
This Fresh Garden Cole Slaw is just the ticket!
What You'll Need:
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar for a lighter and less sweet taste)
- 1 freshly squeezed orange
- 2 tablespoons water
- Freshly ground black pepper (season to taste)
- Salt (season to taste)
- 1 head of cabbage, shredded
- 4 carrots peeled and shredded
- 1 stalk of celery, diced
- 1 sweet red onion, diced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- In a mixing bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, orange juice and water.
- Set aside, covered, in the refrigerator.
- Toss together cabbage, carrots, celery and onion.
- After thoroughly tossed together, add dressing from the refrigerator.
- Make certain all is coated, then gently blend in the tomato halves.
- Cover bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.