I don't know about you, but I am in full holiday shopping mode. We're just about finished shopping for the kids, and now my attention is turning to the gardeners on my shopping list.
Books are always a good choice, especially if you're buying for a gardeners who is just starting out. When I started gardening, Barbara Damrsoch's Garden Primer was my constant companion, as were the Lone Pine books dedicated to growing in my region. Other favorites came along: McGee and Stuckey's The Bountiful Container; Gayla Trail's You Grow Girl and (more recently) Grow Great Grub; and Stu Campbell's Let it Rot!
Here are some great gardening book reviews from the gurus here on the About.com Home and Garden channel. Happy shopping!
- What's Wrong with my Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?) by David Deardorff
- Herbal Tea Gardens: 22 Plans for Your Enjoyment and Well-Being by Marietta Marcin
- Fresh Food From Small Spaces by RJ Ruppenthal
- The Complete Idiot's Guide to Composting by Chris McLaughlin
- Succulent Container Gardens by Debra Lee Baldwin
- The Complete Compost Gardener's Guide by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah Martin
- Don't Throw It, Grow It! by Deborah Peterson and Millicent Selsam
What are your favorite books about gardening?
Newest Articles on About.com Organic Gardening:
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- Growing an Organic Perennial Garden: Choosing Plants
- Perennial Gardens: How to Pinch, Cut Back, and Thin Perennials
- How to Grow Spring Flowering Bulbs Organically
Ah, holiday plants. You know the ones I mean: the paperwhite and amaryllis kits that show up in just about every type of store this time of year. Christmas (or Thanksgiving) Cactus. Poinsettia! We could (and some of us do) grow these plants all year long, but for many of us, they are tied strongly with the traditions of the holiday season.
The good news is that it's also quite easy to care for these plants organically. The biggest key to success with any plant is giving it the conditions it needs to grow its best. All of the plants listed above need bright light. The bulbs (paperwhites and amaryllis) can be moved into less-bright areas of your home once they start blooming; this will often prolong the bloom time, actually. But once they're finished blooming, they should be put back in bright light if you plan to keep the bulb and have them bloom again the following year.
As far as fertilization, I like to give my holiday plants bi-weekly feedings of vermicompost tea, which is quite easy to make and great for your plants. Here is more information about growing these traditional holiday plants, courtesy of my fellow About.com Experts:
Gardening expert Marie Iannotti has some great tips for caring for your poinsettia, as well as how to get it to bloom again next year.
Our Flowers expert, Jamie McIntosh, has plenty of advice for growing a holiday cactus.
If you want to grow beautiful paperwhite narcissus, check out container gardening expert Kerry Michaels' tips for forcing paperwhites.
Flowers expert Jamie McIntosh provides a wealth of information about choosing and growing amaryllis.
I hope these links are helpful! Which holiday plants do you grow in your home?
Well, the jack-o-lanterns are carved, the pumpkin seeds have been roasted, and the Halloween cookies have been baked and decorated. I hope you all have a safe and happy Halloween! Below are some of the most recent articles here on About.com Organic Gardening:
- Review: Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars
- Review: Paradise Lot
- Review: The Urban Homestead
- Review: Rodale's Organic Gardening Success Series
- November Organic Gardening To-Do List
- Review: Made by Hand by Mark Frauenfelder
- Two Short Reviews: Black Plants and Herbal Remedy Gardens
I recently received this email from one of my readers:
"I have a weed on my BE Susans, was wondering if you could help me. It started about a month ago, a thin vine that latched on to the stems. Strangely, this weedy vine did not have roots. It just hooked around the stem and made it's way up to the BES flowers, choking them off. The weed ended up flowering, tiny white flowers, a few weeks ago. Those flowers are now green balls. Any idea what this is and what I could do about it? I've been picking it off by hand, but I had it in the same place last year too so I would like to figure out how to rid it for good.Thanks!"
Without having seen the weed, I'd venture that you're dealing with bindweed. Bindweed has roots, but the vines are able to spread so far, so fast, that it can sometimes seem that there are no roots. My guess is that you'll find roots somewhere nearby, possibly several feet away, and that the end of the bindweed vine is what you're seeing tangled up in your black eyed Susans.
Bindweed can be a real pain to get rid of for good. The seeds stay viable in the soil for thirty years or more, and the roots can extend into the soil to a depth of three feet. The only surefire way to get rid of them immediately is to dig out the entire plant, being sure to get all of the root -- as you've noticed, this can be a challenge because sometimes tracking down the spot where the vine meets the soil is pretty difficult! Less instantaneous, but much easier, is to simply keep pulling it out whenever you see it. Bindweed, like every other plant, needs its leaves for photosynthesis. If you keep pulling off the leaves and vines whenever you see it, eventually the plant will starve to death and stop coming back.
When we moved into our current house, there was a terrible patch of bindweed behind the garage. It took us a couple of years of dutifully pulling it out, but it finally stopped appearing.
One more thing: don't compost the bindweed vines. It will form roots and start growing in your compost. Throw it in the trash instead. Best of luck to you!
Recent Articles on About Organic Gardening:
- Book Review: The Organic Seed Grower
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- Book Review: The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook
- Book Review: Barnheart by Jenna Woginrich
- Tips for Using Eggshells in Your Organic Garden
- Plant Propagation: Layering to Make New Plants
- Testing Seed Viability
- Common Seed Starting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Gardening can become a pricey proposition -- but it doesn't have to be. It is definitely possible to garden on a budget and still have a beautiful, bountiful garden. All it takes is some creative thinking, some patience, and (as in all gardening) effort.
I've always been a frugal gardener. I reuse materials destined for the trash for seed starting, I make compost instead of buying fertilizers, and I start plants from seeds and cuttings whenever I can. I am a bargain shopper when it comes to plants; I can't remember the last time I paid full-price for a plant.
This tendency toward frugality increases my enjoyment of gardening. I love figuring out creative ways to save money, and I get a kick out of getting something out of the trash or recycling bin and putting it to use instead of buying something new. If you're hoping to start gardening more frugally, check out my article full of tips for frugal organic gardening.
Growing up (the few years we had a garden -- my parents were not into gardening) September was the month in which we pulled everything out and the patch behind the garage became a boring and barren place until the following June. But September is a great time to sow a few seeds in the vegetable garden. It's very likely that you (like me) have been pulling out tomato plants that have ceased to be productive, or maybe you've just gotten tired of dealing with powdery mildew on your cucumber and squash vines. This doesn't mean that your garden is finished -- there are plenty of vegetables you can plant in September, no matter which region you garden in.
In my case, I'll be planting mesclun, turnips, beets, spinach, peas, and mache this month. Some of it will be planted in areas that recently held tomato plants and summer squash, so I'll be adding a good layer of compost before planting to increase the nutrients in the soil. I'll also start thinking about what I want to plant in my low tunnel for winter crops -- most likely, mache, lettuce, and spinach.
Of course, sometimes, you are ready for a break from gardening, and that's fine too. Some years, I'm gung-ho to keep gardening, and others, not so much. Even those years in which I'm feeling less-than-enthusiastic about gardening, I end up throwing a few seeds down. It's always nice to see something green and edible growing in my garden in October!
If you're not into canning your tomatoes, but you want to find some way to preserve them before you are over-run, you may want to consider drying them. Sun drying is the traditional method, but if you live in an area where it's just too humid to dry tomatoes outside, you can use your oven to accomplish the same thing.
When you've finished drying them, you'll have to decide how you want to store your dried tomatoes. If you plan on using them within the next few weeks, you can place them in a jar, cover them with olive oil, and store them in the refrigerator. If you have a lot of tomatoes, and need long-term storage, place your dried tomatoes in freezer bags or other storage containers and store them in your freezer. Either way, they really liven up pizza, pasta, or salads.
This is one of the easiest ways ever to preserve your tomatoes. Have you tried drying your own tomatoes?
New Articles on About Organic Gardening:
- How to Grow Ageratum in Your Organic Garden
- What is a Bulb?
- Garden Tasks for September
- Garden Design Basics: Repitition, Contrast, and Color
- Garden Design Basics: Texture and Focal Point
- Garden Design Basics: Planning a Shrub Border
- 7 Easy, Colorful Annuals for Your Organic Garden
- Tips for Growing Red Twig Dogwood Organically
Whether you grow purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) as an ornamental, to harvest for herbal remedies, or to provide food for back yard wildlife, it's definitely a plant worth growing. This drought-tolerant U.S. native plant is a low-maintenance perennial that deserves a place in just about any landscape. A few quick facts about purple coneflowers:
Purple coneflower seeds are a valuable food source for many birds -- it's a great idea to leave your seedheads in the garden over the winter to provide food for birds that live in your area year-round.
- The blossoms can be harvested and made into a tincture that will help increase your immunity to colds.
- The roots can be dried and ground, and you can take ground echinacea root to increase your immunity as well.
- Purple coneflowers will self-sow, but you can also grow them from seed sown indoors or via wintersowing.
- The fancy modern cultivars of Echinacea, while very attractive, tend not to be as hardy as common Echinacea purpurea.
New Articles on About Organic Gardening:
I have a special treat for all of you would-be composters out there. You know who you are: you want to compost, but you need to have some type of bin first. You keep seeing bins constructed of wood or concrete block, and you swear that, eventually, when you get the time, you'll make one so you can start composting.
I have just the project for all of you time-challenged (or construction-challenged) gardeners. You can make a simple, efficient compost bin out of nothing more than wire fencing, which you can purchase in any home center, and some twine or zip ties. Even better, this project will take you less than fifteen minutes.
I use these bins in my garden, usually when I have an overflow of materials to compost and I've run out of room in my main bins. They are also perfect for holding all of those wonderful fall leaves. You can store them to add to your main compost pile as you need them, or you can chop them finely and let them sit. You'll end up with leaf mold, which is one of my favorite substances on the planet.
I hope you try this, and, if you do, I hope you'll drop by and share your experiences, either in the comments or in the forum.
One of my readers from Wisconsin asks:
"I've been vermicomposting since last fall, and I'm wondering if I can move the bin outside now that it's warm out. I am getting tired of having it in the kitchen."
There's no reason you can't move the worm bin outside. There are a few things to keep in mind if you decide to do that:
- Be sure to move the bin into a shaded area. If you put it in an area where the hot summer sun beats down on it all day, the intense heat will kill your worms.
- You may need to monitor the moisture levels in the bin more closely. The heat can make it dry out faster, and if it's in an area where it will catch the water when it rains, it could get too wet.
- Other wildlife can be a problem. If you have a rodent problem in your area, they can try to get into the bin.
Since you're undoubtedly monitoring your bin anyway, since it's in your kitchen, the monitoring shouldn't be a problem for you. The wildlife may be another issue. I have tons of squirrels in my neighborhood, and I can't even tell you how many times I caught them trying to claw their way into the worm bin. You know best what type of wildlife you'll be dealing with, so I'll have to leave that part up to you!
Thanks for the great question!
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