The Importance of Soil: The Foundation of Your Garden

The Importance of Soil: The Foundation of Your Garden

As counter-intuitive as this sounds, I know much more about my online customer’s gardens that are literally hundreds and thousands of miles away from my greenhouses than I knew about gardens belonging to my bricks and mortar customers, whose gardens were sometimes less than a mile from my store!

The technology that allows you to send that incredible looking meal to your Facebook friends is the technology that allows my customers to share their gardening experiences, both good and bad. Got a problem, no problem ~ send me a photo! Within minutes, we are able to review, assess and get back to the customer with hopefully a suggestion or a remedy that will ensure complete success.

But, there are times when there is nothing I can do short of pulling out my hair (well, that’s not a good option any longer) or screaming in frustration. It’s usually about the soil. Yes, one or two photos can tell a scary story and there have been times when it’s too late to offer a remedy; the damage has been done. Soil feeds a plant, and when you have crummy soil, completely depleted of nutrients or clay soil that clings to the roots and basically destroys them, plants will die. (more…)

Everything You Wanted to Know About Plant Hardiness Zones (*but were afraid to ask)

Everything You Wanted to Know About Plant Hardiness Zones (*but were afraid to ask)

You’ve Seen the Pretty Colors, on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map So What Do They Mean?

The USDA and Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum established a set of guidelines, a Zone Map, to help gardeners figure out how well a particular plant would survive the winter cold in their particular area. The first zone map was created in 1960, followed by a revision in 1990; both used historical weather patterns, and the Hardiness Zone Map was created dividing the US into 13 Zones. Looking at these earlier maps, you can see that each hardiness zone differs by 10F. The ‘Gold Standard’, the current map, was updated in 2012 using sophisticated methods and equipment; the new version added 2 new zones (12 and 13) and further divided into 5 degree Fahrenheit zones using “A” and “B”. This version includes a “find your zone by zip code” feature – a pop up box will provide the zone, giving gardeners the exact coldest average temperature for the zip code, and the latitude and longitude.

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Indoor Herb Plants: Don’t Go… Grow!

Indoor Herb Plants: Don’t Go… Grow!

This past weekend was spent preparing my 12 favorite herbs for their trip back indoors.  All spring, summer and into fall, they have enjoyed a life of rugged survival.  Hot, humid days and pounding rain storms.  Hot sun, thirsty days and most made it through my vacation when they were ‘on their own’.  They were attacked by slugs, munched on by unknown critters (in my yard, it could be anything) and of course cut back at any conceivable time for summer recipes.  They made it.  Rough around the edges, but survivors.

Now comes the real test;  can the herb plants survive the transition from their ‘wilderness experience’ to the lush confines of my glassed in porch.  Life is actually going to be more challenging indoors where they will have to contend with less light, more pests and of course, overzealous gardening!  However, they survived the fall and winter of 2015 so I am hopeful.  However, here are a few things I need to remember: (more…)

Growing Moonflower Vines in Your Garden

Growing Moonflower Vines in Your Garden

Gardeners are creatures of habit, it is only the changing seasons that give our garden activities variety. And like all creatures of habit we collect favorite tools, seeds, and even favorite methods and motions as we happily plod through garden chores. To the casual observer, we may not appear locked into our set ways. But there is one favorite that always gives us away, our favorite plants!

There are those few plants a gardener plants year after year. One of those plants, for me, are my most cherished moonflower vines. For moonflowers to grace my patio rail in summer, the young plants must first scale a four feet high brick wall to reach the railing. They cannot do this alone, and this wall must be crossed and covered will foliage before the summer sun makes the bricks too hot for vines and leaves. For moonflowers to grace the patio rail in summer, the planting should be soon after night temperatures are over fifty degrees. Ipomea alba is a tropical plant and cool nights will stunt or kill young moonflower plants. (more…)

Help Save the Monarch Butterfly with Asclepias Tuberosa, Butterfly Milkweed

Save the Monarch Butterfly, Plant Butterfly Milkweed

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias Tuberosa) is a native plant that creates a wonder area of your garden for monarch butterflies. The Growers Exchange wants to encourage our gardening friends to set aside a sunny space in their gardens to help these majestic butterflies thrive and slow the decline of their population.

The bad news: there can be no question that natural habitats, areas where monarch butterflies live, are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Habitat destruction, defined as changing an area in which a plant, animal or other organism lives to the point where that species can no longer survive. The destruction is generally described as either actual destruction, degradation or fragmentation. In the case of the Monarch butterfly, the major threat to their survival is the loss of milkweed habitat, which is an essential plant in their life cycle. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the counts of Monarch butterflies are trending down sharply, and their migration is now under threat.

The good news: restoration of habitat can be achieved with very little effort on the part of concerned gardeners. You can easily offset this loss of a critical host plant in your own yard by planting milkweed, the vital host plant for Monarch butterflies. (more…)