Southern California Garden Club
Established June 13, 1927

Horticulture

 

 

 

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The following articles have been published in
"The Green Thumb" our club's newsletter.

 
 

INDEX
by subject


Annuals
Avocado
Bird Gardens
Botanical Names

Buddleia
B
ulbs in Depth
Bulbs More on ..

Crop Rotation
Cutting Flowers
Deciphering the Label
Earthworms
Edible Flowers
Edible Landscaping
Environment & Gardening
Garden Detective
Heirloom Plants
Houseplants
Hummingbirds
Low-Maintenance Plants
Patio Vegetables
Potpourri
Rose Terms
Transplanting Vines
Winning Team

 

GUIDE TO CROP ROTATION

The Michigan State University Information Services suggests that gardening in the same location year after year can lead to a building up of plant disease organisms in the soil. Two good ways to prevent these organisms from causing trouble are; use disease-resistant varieties and rotate crops so closely related plants don't follow one another in the same area.

To do this you need to keep track of the previous year's garden layout and have some understanding of which crops are related.

Use this guide provided by the horticulturists at Michigan State University to avoid following any crop in any group with another from that same group.

Group I – Nightshade family
Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes

Group II – Cole crops
Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Chinese cabbage, collards, kale and kohlrabi

Group III – Cucurbits
Melons, squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, and gourds.

The National Gardener

ATTRACTING HUMMINGBIRDS

Sandy Messori, assistant landscape manager who designed the Ojai Valley Inn's hummingbird garden, said “Home gardeners in every climate can be successful in attracting these little flying jewels.” Hummingbirds are not easily deterred by the presence of people. They will feed and nest in gardens that contain flowers, shrubs, and trees with intensely colored blossoms, especially red, blue, and purple. Provide a shallow birdbath. You will be treated to metallic flashes as they dart around from blossom to blossom.

Hummingbird's favorite plants include fuschia, salvia, Chinese lantern, penstemon, hibiscus, petunias, violet trumpet vine, lavender, and foxglove. They are attracted to the golden yellow flower clusters of the Grevillea robusta (silk oak), honeysuckle, and the creamy-white blossoms of orange trees.

The National Gardener - 1997

NOTES ON EDIBLE FLOWERS

No longer used just as garnishes, flowers are being used as foods and flavorings. As long as they are grown without herbicides or pesticides, the choice of blooms for eating is vast.

The best time to harvest edible flowers is in the morning, just after the dew has evaporated. The next best time is before sundown.

Look for and remove pests hidden between the petals. When picking and storing, leave on the stems and leaves that will be removed later.

After packing flowers loosely in an airtight container with a moist paper towel folded in the bottom, store in the refrigerator.

Refrigerated flowers will stay fresh for several days, but they taste best when picked and eaten on the same day.

Edible flowers, like herbs, should be added near the end of a dish's preparation. Add to salads after tossing and to soups after they've been ladled out.

Some suggestions:

•  Pansy or nasturtium blossoms in summer salads.
•  Rose petals with fresh fruit.
•  Daylily buds in an Oriental dish. These can be stuffed.
•  Chop squash blossoms into casseroles or vegetable medleys.
•  Garnish peas with wild violets.

Organic Gardening's All-Time Best Gardening Secrets

BOTANICAL NOMENCLATURE

Botanists developed botanical nomenclature as a systematic was of naming plants so they could precisely classify every plant they study. The system gives a plant a two-part name, which identifies and classifies it in relation to other plants. The two parts of the name are the genus and species.

A species is a group of individual plants that share common attributes and are able to breed together. A genus is a group of one or more species with closely similar flowers, fruits, and other characteristics.

Being analogous to people's first name and surname; the genus name is like a surname. It indicates a group of plants have some shared characteristics. Genus names often derived form Latin or Greek word, or from names of people. Nicotiana (the genus of tobacco) was named for Jean Nicot, who introduced tobacco to Europeans.

The species name is like a person's first name. The species name alone won't help you identify a particular plant. It takes two names, genus and species, to identify a plant, for example, Viola odorata (sweet violet).

As botanists correct past errors or achieve new understanding, botanical names and groupings sometimes change. It takes years of study before a revised classification is published and then several more years pass before the changes are widely accepted.

Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

SMART SHOPPING – ANNUALS

Choose the annuals you want to grow and know how many you need before your trip to the garden center. Don't leave home without a list! Before buying any plant, check them carefully using these guidelines:

• Gently tug on the stem to make sure the plants are well rooted: a plant with rotten or damaged roots will feel loose.
• Choose plants with compact lush foliage.
• Avoid plants that are leggy and overgrown. The crown should be no more than three times the container size.
• Do not buy wilted plants. Being under-watered can weaken them and slow establishment.
• Check carefully for insects on the leaf tops and undersides, and along the stem.
• Avoid those plants with yellow or brown foliage. They can have disease problems or have dried out.
• Don't but the expensive large size plants. Smaller plants quickly catch up once in the ground.
• If you can't plant immediately, be sure to keep them well watered.

Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

HEIRLOOM PLANTS

Every fall, “heirloom” gardeners harvest the seeds that will keep little bits of history alive for one more year. The seeds they gather are from cultivars of plants grown in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. Many of these old cultivars would not survive today if it were not for these dedicated heirloom gardeners. Many survive only because the seed have been passed among family members and friends for generations.

CHARACTERISTICS

Heirloom plants are not good choices for large-scale production because they cannot be harvested mechanically or transported long distances to market. Many heirloom crops taste better or are more tender than their hybrid replacements. Having adapted to climate and soil conditions in one area, they can out-produce modern cultivars. Many have greater disease and insect resistance making them invaluable to organic gardeners. They add interest to garden and table providing a wide range of shapes, colors, and tastes.

GENETIC DIVERSITY

A more important reason for growing old cultivars is that heirloom plants represent a vast and diverse pool of genetic characteristics that will be lost forever if allowed to become extinct. Even those that seem somewhat inferior may hold a disease resistance or valuable compound vital to future generations of gardeners and plant breeders.

As part of its commitment to maintaining genetic diversity, the federal government maintains a National Seed Storage Laboratory in Fort Collins , Colorado .

Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

SMART SHOPPING – ENVIRONMENT AND GARDENING

You can be a responsible shopper, help conserve resources, and ease environmental pressures by:

•Buying locally grown produce (organic if possible) saves energy in transportation. Organic production lessens chemical pollution that can damage water supplies.
•Buying grocery items in bulk and repackaging in your own storage containers saves packaging and reduces waste.
•Bring a reusable cloth or string sack, or bring last weeks grocery bags to hold this week's groceries.
•Buying items in returnable or recyclable containers and return and recycle them.
•Looking for items made from recycled materials to encourage even more recycling.
•Reading labels carefully and choosing products that are low in toxicity.
•Trying old-fashioned remedies instead of commercial preparations that often toxic. Ex: Baking soda makes a fine all-purpose cleaner.

Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

EDIBLE LANDSCAPING - Colorful and Tasty

The possibilities are nearly limitless when working with edible landscaping designs. Some attractive combinations of food-producing and ornamental plants that are suitable for container or garden beds are listed here.

• Curly parsley and yellow pansies
• Red leaf lettuce with dwarf yellow marigolds
• Red chard and New Zealand spinach
• Basil with carrots and dwarf orange marigolds
• Dwarf curly kale with dusty miller and pink nemesia
• Eggplant and ageratum
• Yellow zucchini and coreopsis
• ‘Royal Burgundy ” bush beans with “Royal Carpet” alyssum and oregano
• Cherry tomatoes on a trellis with pansies at the base

Indepth information is available in the following:

The Beautiful Food Garden by Kate R. Gessert; The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping by Rosiland Creasy; and Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally by Robert Kourik.

Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

THE EARTHWORM – A Gardener's Friend

There are more than 3,000 species of earthworms in existence. One acre of cultivated land may be home to 500,000 earthworms. Earthworms are among the gardener's best allies.

The 4” long, pale red garden worm has been called “nature's plow.” Using the point of its head, the earthworm pushes through the soft earth and eats its way through hard soil, forming interconnected burrows, some several feet deep. The burrows loosen the soil, admitting air and water, thus helping roots grow.

As earthworms feed they pass organic matter through their bodies and excrete granular dark castings . An earthworm produces its weight in casts daily. These casts are rich in nutrients plant need. Adding nitrogen rich compost helps the worms whose bodies are 72% protein. They require a lot of nitrogen. However, adding synthetic nitrogen fertilizer may repel the worms that are very sensitive to physical and chemical changes, especially the salty conditions created by applications of chemical fertilizer.

Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

KEY WORDS – BULBS

TRUE BULBS
True bulbs, like onions, have layers of food-storing scales surrounding the central leaves and flowering stem. Most bulbs are covered with a papery skin, called the tunic. True bulbs include daffodils, tulips, lilies, and hyacinths.

CORM
A corm is a rounded , swollen stem covered with a papery tunic. Corms are solid, with a bud on top that produces leaves and flowers. Gladioli and crocuses are corms.

TUBER
Tubers are fleshy underground stems that have eyes or buds from which leaves and flowers grow. Some tubers (caladiums and tuberous begonias) are corm-like. Tubers can sprout roots from the bottom, sides, and top. Some tubers are woody, like anemones.

TUBEROUS ROOT
These are swollen, fleshy roots. They have a pointed bud on top and roots that sprout from the bottom. Dahilias have tuberous roots.

RHIZOME
Rhizomes are actually thick, horizontal stems. Roots grow from the bottom, leaves and flowers sprout from the top. Calls, cannas, and bearded irises have rhizomes.

Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

AVOCADO

Avocado trees are attractive, easy to grow broad-leaved evergreens. The yellow-green flesh of the fruits is rich in oil and protein.

The tree can mature to 15' to 45' and be as wide as they are high – they need plenty of space! The Mexican types have dark, rough skins and are hardy to about 22°F while the Guatamalan x West Indian hybrids have smooth, green skins. They are less hard than the Mexican types. Pollination requirements vary – not all are self-fertile.

Plant a grafted tree a little higher than it was growing in the original container. Plant in full sun in well-drained soil. Good drainage is important to prevent root rot.

Water young trees weekly, mature trees every two weeks. Avocados don't require much fertilizer.

Avocados don't need much pruning either. The tops can be pinched back to control the height. Limit pruning to removing damaged branches.

Avocados bear in about three years. They ripen almost year-round depending on cultivar and its location. Avocados will stay hard while on the tree and will soften only after picking. Harvest when they have reached full size and the color starts to change. If left on the tree too long, they will lose flavor.

Harvest by cutting the fruit from the tree leaving a small piece of stem attached. Be careful to avoid bruising. If they yield slightly when squeezed, they are ready to eat!

Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

DESCRIBING ROSE FLOWERS

Presented here is the special terminology used to describe the variations in petal number, color combinations, and shape.

When referring to rose flowers, also keep in mind that they are arranged on the stem as either solitary, terminal blooms or grouped in clusters or sprays. In addition, roses are termed either once-blooming roses, typically the old roses, have one big flush of bloom. Repeat-blooming roses have flushes of bloom all season.

FLOWER FULLNESS

SINGLE: 5 to 7 petals in a single row ‘ Dainty Bess'
SEMIDOUBLE: 8 to 20 petals in 2 or 3 rows ‘ Celsiana '
LOOSELY DOUBLE: 21 to 29 petals in 3 or 4 rows ‘ China Doll'
FULLY DOUBLE: 30 to 39 petals in 4 or more rows
VERY FULL: 40 or more petals in numerous rows. ‘ Queen Elizabeth'

FLOWER COLOR

SINGLE: Petals have similar color throughout. ‘ Iceberg '
BICOLORED: The reverse, or back, of each petal is a distinctly different color from the front. ‘ Love '
BLEND: Two or more distinct colors on the front of each petal. ‘ Peace '
STRIPED: Two or more distinct color on each petal, with at least one in distinct stripes or bands, ‘ Camaieux '

FLOWER SHAPE

GLOBULAR: Very double flower with petals curving inward to form a globe-like shape. “ Constance Spry ®”
OPEN-CUPPED: Double or semi-double flower forming a distinctly rounded, cup-like shape. ‘ Ferdinand Pichard'
POMPOM: Very double flower with short petals evenly arranged into a rounded bloom. ‘ Alba Meidiland ' TM
REFLEXED: Outer petals reflex (curve back down) as they open. Very double types almost form a ball, while other double and semi-double cultivars form a looser, less pronounced ball shape. ‘ Salet '
ROSETTE: A double flower with short petals evenly arranged into a flat, low-centered bloom. ‘ Cornelia '
SAUCER: Single, semi-double, or double flower with outer petals curving slightly upward in a saucer-like shape. ‘ Betty Prior'

FLOWER CENTER

BUTTON CENTER : A round green center, or eye, in the fully open rose bloom, formed in very double roses. ‘ Madame Hardy'
HIGH CENTER : The long, inner petals of the bud arranged in pointed cone. The form most often found in hybrid teas, grandifloras, and floribundas. ‘ Iceberg '
MEDDLED CENTER: Double or semi-double flower with inner petals forming an irregular central area that covers the stamens when the flower is fully open. ‘ Rose de Rescht '
OPEN CENTER : Stamens are prominent when the flower is fully open: single, semidouble, and double forms may have this characteristic. ‘ Iceberg '
QUARTERED CENTER: Inner petals folded into 3, 4, or 5 distinct sections (or quarters) in fully open flowers. ‘ Souvenir de la Malmaison'

“The Encyclopedia of Roses” by Judith McKeon

IS YOUR GARDEN FOR THE BIRDS?

Sometimes gardens are planned for the birds! You can plant your garden with individual flowers matched to specific types of birds.

Your garden will be full of feathered friends if you provide these bird necessities:

FOOD: berried shrubs, trees, and lots of feeding stations.
WATER: a birdbath or small pool, ponds and streams or other moving water.
COVER: vines, shrubs, and trees to protect birds from predators.
SAFE NESTING SITES: good cover or trees.

Contact the Audubon Society or local nursery for help finding the perfect plants for your bird habitat. Or contact the National Wildlife Federation at 11100 Wildlife Center Drive , Reston , VA 20190-5362 , or check their Web site at www.nwf.org.

Great Green book of Garden Secrets by Jerry Baker

PATIO VEGETABLES

Don't think container gardening is only for cherry tomatoes or peppers. Many vegetables are easily adapted to growing in containers.

•  The seed of many vegetables can be sown directly in to the container. Kale, garlic, celery, potatoes, beans, peas, carrots, and cucumbers are candidates for this. Radishes, onions, lettuce, and spinach are easily from seed. If you sow several types and plant at weekly intervals, you will be harvesting continually throughout the season. Don't forget to thin the seedlings when they are small.
•  Pole beans, peas, and cucumbers can easily be grown in containers, but staking is required.
•  Use dwarf cucumbers and cherry tomatoes in well-drained hanging baskets.
•  Even carrots (choose a stump-rooted variety) can be grown in deep containers.
•  Potatoes can also be grown in containers. Plant only one transplant or tuber with a minimum of three eyes per large pot. Placing more than one plant per pot will greatly decrease your yield.
•  Hanging baskets or containers are good for many herbs such as chives, basil, bay, marjoram, thyme, mint, parsley, and sage.

Great Green Book of Garden Secrets by Jerry Baker

GO FOR A WINNING TEAM

If you think of your vegetables as team players and yourself as their manager, you will realize the importance of placing each player on the field in a position where they'll perform their best. Follow these tips and your team will be sure to make it to the championships!

•  Plant perennial crops (asparagus, artichokes, and herbs) in a separate area so they won't be in the way when you cultivate your annual crops or plow up the garden in spring or fall.
•  Group your plants by the time it takes them to reach maturity. Place fast growers (radishes, turnips, greens, mustard, spinach, lettuce, and green onions) on one side of the garden. Plant slower growing vegetables (peas, bees, carrots, Swiss chard, kale, head lettuce, collards, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, bulb onions, and early potatoes) on the other side of your garden. This will allow you to harvest the fast growers without disturbing the slower growing ones.

Great Green Book of Garden Secrets by Jerry Baker

POTPOURRI

Potpourri is a French term for a simple process; drying rose petals and other flowers and herbs to preserve their scent. Dried centifololia and damask rose petals are the most fragrant potpourri ingredients. Scented gallica, alba, and moss rose petals can also be dried and used in potpourri, but their perfume is not as strong. Fragrant modern roses do not maintain their scent when dried. Dried lavender, rosemary, and other fragrant herbs, can also be included for a more complex fragrance and to add nor color and texture.

Cut roses for potpourri in the morning after dew has dried on the petals. Select flowers that are 2/3's open, trim off the stems, and pull off the petals. Spread them in a single layer on a screen and dry them in a cool, dark location. Store the dried petals in an airtight jar. To make potpourri, combine the dry ingredients in a large blow, sprinkle with fixative and essential oil (if used) and mix well. Place the potpourri mixture in a large, airtight jar and place in a dark location. Periodically shake the jar to blend the ingredients.

Recipe for Potpourri

8 cups of dried centifolia, damask, or alba rose petals
2 tablespoons ground allspice
2 tablespoons ground cloves
2 tablespoons ground mace
2 tablespoons ground nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick, crushed
2/3 cup of orris root powder, for a fixative
5 drops of rose oil, optional (if petals used are not
strongly scented when dried)

Encyclopedia of Roses Judith McKeon

BUDDLEIA – Butterfly Bush

Gracefully arching branches give Buddleia alternifolia , fountain buddleia, a fountain-like appearance. When mature it can reach a height of 12 feet. It bears alternate , silvery gray leaves. The flowers bloom in the leaf axile of last year's growth. It is a good choice for Zones 4-8.

Buddleia davidii , orange-eye butterfly bush, matures at 5 to 8 feet. Opposite, silvery gray leaves are found on upright stems that arch with age. The flowers that are white, pink, red, and purple, bloom on current season's growth. These are a good choice for Zones 6-8.

Both Buddleia alternifolia and Buddleia davidii have intensely fragrant flowers.

Requirements include fertile, loamy soil and full sun. Annual pruning keeps plants growing vigorously and blooming profusely. Prune orange-eye butterfly bush in winter – either cutting all stems to the ground or removing the older 1/3 at ground level. Don't leave stubs! Prune the fountain buddleia immediately after it blooms. You can prune to the ground if you want a smaller shrub, otherwise remove 1/3 of the oldest branches.

A fine focal point, butterfly bushes offer great summer color and lovely fragrance in a sunny spot. They can make a good deciduous hedge when grown in rows. In a butterfly garden they are indispensable.

Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

HOUSEPLANTS

Choosing a plant compatible with conditions you will provide in your hone will help insure a happy houseplant.

Plants for any conditions : aglaonema, aspidistra, crassula (jade plant), dieffenbachia, ficus, philodendron, sansevieria, zebrina.
Plants for dry conditions : bromelaids, cacti, peperomia, sansvieria, zebrina.
Plants for large tubs : dieffenbachia, dracaena, fatshedera, ficus, palms, pandanus, philodendron, schefflera
Plants for low temperatures (50° – 60°F at night): Bromeliads, cineraria, citrus, cyclamen, English ivy, Jerusalem cherry, kalanchoe, primrose
Plants for moderate temperatures (60°– 65°F at night): Christmas cactus, chrysanthemum, gardenia, grape ivy, palms, peperomia, ti plant, tuberous begonia, wax begonia
Plants for high temperatures (65° - 70°F at night): African volet, agalaonema, cacti, caladiums, croton, dracaena, ficus, gloxinia, philodendron, scindapsus, schefflera, succulents
Plants for low light: Aglaonema, ferns
Plants for medium light: Begonia, dieffenbachia, dracaena, plams, peperomia, philodendron, schefflera, scindapsus, syngonium
Plants for high light: Cacti, croton, English ivy, sansevieria, and succulent

Great Green Book of Garden Secrets by Jerry Baker

ANNUAL VINES

A fast-growing annual vine can be a lifesaver because it will hide unsightly spots and add beauty to your landscape. One of the most beautiful vines is the morning glory. This vine needs something to twine around as it grows.

Morning glories will thrive in poor soil and will grow almost anywhere as long as they get enough sun. The flowers will stay open on cloudy days, but on sunny days the flowers will close by noon. So try to plant them where they won't get sun in the early morning and the flowers will remain open longer.

Cathedral bells, cypress, and gourds are also good vine choices.

Great Green Book of Garden Secrets by Jerry Baker

BE A GARDEN DETECTIVE

All plant problems fall into three general categories: insects and animals, disease, and cultural problems (water, stress, heat or cold, nutrient imbalance). The symptoms caused by different problems may look very similar. Be a detective and investigate the possibilities.

•  Examine the entire plant and also those around it. Is just one plant or an entire row affected? Is the whole plant affected or just part of it? Does it seem to be random or is there a pattern, such as only new growth being affected?

•  Check for insects, eggs, webs, and borer holes, on the roots, stems, flowers and undersides of the leaves. Closely examine the infected areas using a magnifying glass, looking for tiny insects and fungal growth.

•  Save samples of insects and damaged leaves in plastic bags or jars for later identification.

•  Many good books are available that can help in identifying pests, diseases, and cultural problems. Sometimes the information is arranged by plant type, listing common problems. You can ask gardeners, garden center employees to help you diagnose the problem.

•  Once the problem is identified, try to find out as much as you can about it, then develop a plan to control it.

•  Give plants the best care you can. They may recover when conditions improve, but keep your eye on the problem to make sure more plants aren't developing the same symptoms. If they are then it's back to being a “plant detective”!

Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

TRANSPLANTING TO CONTAINERS

Transplanting simply means moving a rooted plant from one plane to another.

If you start seeds in flats, transplant when seedlings are still very young but have developed the first pair of true leaves.

Before you start, assemble your transplanting supplies and put down a layer of newspaper to catch spills. Follow these steps:

•  First fill the containers with soil mix. The depth of the soil depends on the size of the seedling: nearly to the top for small seedlings, but only one inch of soil for large ones.

•  Pour warm water over the soil mix, and allow it to soak in for an hour. Having the potting soil moist prevents the seedling from drying out.

•  A Popsicle stick makes a good tool to dig out either individual seedlings or small groups. A tablespoon or narrow trowel works well for larger transplants.

•  Grasp the seeding by one of the leaves, not around the stem, which could easily be crushed. If you grasp it by the stem tip, you could kill the growing point and ruin the seedlings' further growth.

•  When transplanting very young seedlings, poke small holes into the soil mix with a pencil. Large seedling should be held in the pot while you fill in around the roots with soil. Use your finger tips to firm the soil.

•  After transplanting, return the seedling to the window or light rack. If they wilt from stress, mist lightly with water and cover loosely with a sheet of plastic wrap. Keep them cool and out of direct sun for a day or two, then you can remove the wrap and place them back in the light.

•  Keep the soil lightly moist but not soggy by pouring water into the tray holding the containers. Feed regularly using a weak solution of water- soluble fertilizer.

•  As plants grow, remove extra seedlings, leaving only the strongest ones.

Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

TRANSPLANTING TO THE GARDEN

To toughen your plants for outdoor growing conditions, stop feeding and slow-down on watering for about two weeks before transplanting. One week before, put them outdoors in a protected area, out of direct sun and wind. Leave them outdoors for only one hour at first, then two hours, then all morning, until they get used to a full day. Water frequently.

Transplant on a cloudy or drizzly day or in the early evening. Water them before you start and follow these steps for best results:

•  Dig a hole slightly wider than and of the same depth as the container. Tomatoes can be planted deeper.

•  Turn the transplant container upside down and slide out the plant. Whack the pot with your trowel to dislodge the stubborn ones. Peat or paper pots can be planted pot and all, but they should be opened up for better root penetration after planting. Slit the sides and remove the bottom of the peat pot unless many roots have already penetrated the pot. Always tear off the rim above the soil line because even a small piece will draw water from the soil surrounding the transplant's roots, leaving the plant in danger of water stress.

•  Gently place the plant in the hole and spread out the roots.

•  Fill and firm the soil with your hands forming a shallow basin to collect water.

•  Slowly pour about a quart of water at the base of the transplant. Keep well watered until the transplant starts showing new growth.

Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

EIGHT STEPS TO CUTTING SUCCESS

One of my favorite ways to propagate new plants from my favorite perennials is by taking stem cuttings. The best time to take cuttings is during spring or early summer. This is how to do it:

•  Choose the plants you want to propagate and cut a two to six inch segment from the top of a mature stem using a sharp knife or pruning shears. Make the cut ¼ inch below a node, which is the point at which a leaf joins a stem.

•  Pinch off any buds or flowers at the top to encourage the cutting to devote all its energy to root production. Pinch off lower leaves as well, so that the lower inch is bare.

•  Don't try to root them in the garden. They need pampering. Put the cuttings in flowerpots, wood or plastic flats, peat pots, or other containers that are about four inches deep. Whatever you use be sure it has good drainage.

•  Fill the container with sterile rooting medium, such as vermiculite, perlite, shredded sphagnum moss or sand. It is important to wet the rooting medium thoroughly before inserting the cuttings. If you are using sand, wet, tamp it, then wet it again.

•  Dip the bottom of each cutting into water, then into a powdered rooting stimulant like Rootone . Shake off the excess powder.

•  Using a skewer or pencil, make a 1-inch-deep hole into the rooting material for each cutting. Insert the cutting, firm, and then water thoroughly.

•  Use clear plastic to cover the container. Put in bright light, but not direct sun or they'll cook.

•  Watch carefully and when new leaves appear, open the plastic so the young plants can get accustomed to fresh air. In a few days, carefully remove one of the cuttings from the rooting medium in order to examine the roots. If they are ½” long or longer, the plants are ready to be transplanted into individual pots or directly into the garden.

Great Green Book of Garden Secrets by Jerry Baker

DECIPHERING THE LABEL

Do you know what the numbers on the fertilizer label mean? No, they're not the odds on your lawn living or dying! They indicate the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash in the mix. Ex: If the label says 5-10-5, that means 5 parts nitrogen to 10 parts phosphorus to 5 parts potash.

Each of these nutrients is important to your plants.

Nitrogen promotes vigorous plant growth, helps in formation of chlorophyll, increases leaf yields, and is a building block for protein.

Phosphate promotes cell division, hastens plant maturity, stimulates healthy root formation and is important for other vital plant processes.

Potash is necessary for photosynthesis, strengthens plant tissues, promotes fruit formation and helps provide resistance to disease.

Great Green Book of Garden Secrets by Jerry Baker

SMART SHOPPING – BULBS

Whether you buy bulbs from a garden center, mail- order catalog, or specialist grower, keep these tips in mind:

•  Buy the biggest bulbs you can afford. Look for categories like “exhibitions size,” jumbo,” “top size,” and “double nosed” for the best bloom. Smaller bulbs, often called “landscape size,” are less expensive and good for naturalizing.

•  Inspect bulbs as soon as you get them in the mail or before you buy them at a garden center. Healthy bulbs are sound, solid, and heavy. Lightweight, pithy, soft bulbs won't grow well.

•  Small nicks and loose skins do not affect the development of the bulb. In fact loose skins (tunics) make it easier for the bulb to sprout. Don't buy bulbs (especially tulips) that have no protective tunic.

•  Bulbs should not have mold or show signs of rot. Powdery mildew, a blue-gray fungus, is a sign that the bulbs have become damp. Basal rot is a fungal disease that appears as brown streaks near the base of the bulb.

•  If you receive damaged or diseased bulbs through the mail, call, write, or e-mail the company immediately. A reputable bulb company will replace them or give you a refund.

•  Plant bulbs as soon as they arrive. Store bulbs in a dry place with good ventilation if you can't plant them when they arrive. Get them in the ground as soon as you can.

•  If you buy species bulbs rather than cultivars, make sure they are nursery-propagated, not collected from the wild, a practice that endangers the native populations.

LOW-MAINTENANCE FLOWERS

If your busy schedule doesn't include time for constant dead-heading (pinching off the faded blooms) of your flowering plants, then choose from among the plants listed here. These low-maintenance bloomers have flowers that fall cleanly off the plant.

Ageratum impatiens
Alyssum lobelia
Begonia salvia
coleus vinca
Great Green Book of Garden Secrets by Jerry Baker