Picture Snob

March 31, 2011

Look for Spring Garden Markets in your area


All over the country, spring garden markets are happening on weekends. Take a look in your area. Spring Garden markets are a great place to pick up vegetable, herbs and flowers on sale. Some of these markets also provide information on techniques and varieties of vegetables for growing with talks and demos for gardeners.

The range of tomato and pepper varieties is overwhelming now that heirloom varieties are all the rage. It's good to have some kind of help to sort your way through the seemingly endless choices. Here is a small sample of advice on tomato varieties from Santa Clara Master Gardeners.

There are options and sizes to satisfy virtually every palette and almost all space limitations. According to Mary Collins, our tomato seed queen, great options include:

Early producers (50-60 days): Stupice, Lime Green Salad, Elfin, Sugary and Black Cherry.

Great color: Orange Strawberry, Mary Robinson's German Bi-color, Marvel Striped and Isis Candy.

Sauces and pastes: Speckled Roman, Amish Gold and Jersey Devil.

Prolific producers: Black from Tula, Carbon, Dr. Neal, Ernie's Round, Black Cherry, Chadwick and Principe Borghese.

Latest fruiting (90-110 days): Gold Medal, Marvel Striped, Russian 117 and Big Rainbow.
Great in containers: Lime Green Salad, Kootenai, Orange Blossom and Koralik.

Even if you just picked on out of each catagory, it would give you a chance to taste and try some new varieties and see which you would like to include in your garden every year.

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March 30, 2011

String of Pearls is a great indoor plant


String of Pearls is a flowering plant in the family which includes Dusty Miller and German Ivy. It is native to southwest Africa and is an easy to care for plant. It's lovely in a hanging planter because it grows long, trailing stems of spherical leaves. The flowers are pale and brushlike. . The fleshy leaves are poisonous and should not be consumed.

This family and their delicate, succulent tapestries fill the same horticutual niche. String of Pearls, is a popular and low-maintenance plant to grow in a sunny window. It is a slow-growing variety, but your patience will be rewarded.
Light: Window.

Water: Water when surface is dry. They are forgiving if you forget.

Fertilizer: Use either a balanced or low-nitrogen formula at low levels, but frequently---March through October.

Soil: Should be loose and porous like a cactus soil.

The plant you will receive is growing in a 6" hanging basket and the vines are just beginning to cascade over the edge of the pot. One caveat here. The fleshy leaves are poisonous and should not be consumed.

At String of Pearls

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March 29, 2011

Spring came in unnoticed and the ground cover flourished

We've had constant rain and then snow and then rain again and today for the first time in a couple of weeks the sun came out and suddenly spring was here! Amazing! The change is dramatic and I take time to slog my way out into the garden to see if any of the plants had noticed spring's arrival.


The answer to that question is YES in all caps. Not only are the tiny spouts out with their true leaves, but the grass and the weeds have thrived. It's going to take a liot to get the lawnmower to cut through the grasses, but I'm happy because finally it seems that the warmth of the sun has made it through the clouds. And I'm also happy because the vetch I planted has grown nicely and although the grasses are high, the vetch is still going to help with nitrogen fixation when it is tilled under. I think that I'll have to weedeat the groundcover before trying to till it.

At Poulan Pro PP330 17-inch 33cc 2-Cycle Gas Powered Curved Shaft Attachment Capable String Trimmer

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March 25, 2011

Plum tree in the rain


Of course the plum tree had been trying to bloom for about 2 weeks and I had been hoping it would hold off longer as here in the mountains it warms up like spring and then suddenly starts snowing. That very senario happened this week. We had heavy rains, the river filled up bank to bank and then snow started pelting down with a cold front coming in. It is very typical and no matter how much I try to warn the plum tree about taking it's time and waiting a while, it does what it must and I'll be very surprised if I get any plums this year. The water will wash away the pollen, the bees won't be around to pollenate, and if isn't enough, the cold will freeze the fruit buds.

Still the tree is beautiful in the rain and a reminder that no matter how rainy, snowy or cold it gets this month, that this is the month that spring officially arrives and nothing can stop the warmth and light's return. However, with six fruits on one tree, you might be able to count on at least one or two of them coming through. It has peach, plum, apricot, and nectarine and it comes bare root and should bare fruit in two or three years.

At Fruit Cocktail Tree 6 Fruits On one Tree

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March 24, 2011

Plant your hops in the spring; make beer in the fall


Beersmith Home Brewing Blog has an interesting article on growing hops. Even if you're not interested in growing hops for beer, you can still cultivate them for shade.

Whether you live in the Northwest, Northeast, Midwest, South or California does not matter - hops can be grown in any moderate climate with proper care. Hops grow from small root-like cuttings about a foot long called rhizomes.

Rhizomes can be purchased from a variety of places online and mailed to your home - just do a quick search for "hop rhizomes" on google.

Select an area with plenty of sun. Hops need at least 6-8 hours of sun a day, so the South facing side of your home or an exposed site is a good location. Hop vines (called bines) can grow to over 25 feet and weigh over 20 pounds, so vertical space for a trellis is important as well.

Hops prefer well-aerated soil that is rich in nutrients and has good drainage. If you are going to plant several varieties, keep them well separated in your garden. Hop roots will spread quickly and take over the garden unless you separate them and trim the roots each season.

Hops should be planted in the Spring, late enough to avoid a frost. Fertilize liberally before planting. Plant your hops in a mound and aerate the ground by turning it over several times to aid drainage, enhance growth and prevent disease. Place the rhizomes about 4 inches deep, and make your mound of soil about a foot high to aid drainage. Place the root side of the rhizome down. Cover the mound with some straw or light mulch to inhibit the weeds.

The hop bines grow vertically and require some kind of trellis. Your trellis could some heavy rope or twine going from ground level to your roof, or a few poles securely mounted in the ground. If using rope, select rough twine-like rope so the bines can grab onto it. Keep in mind that the hop bines can be 25+ feet long and weigh 20+ pounds. The trellis should be strong and secure.

Hops also enjoy lots of water and sunlight. In the dry climates or the heat of summer, they may need to be watered daily. Once the hops begins to grow, select the best bines and wrap them around your trellis to train them. You will need to train the hops for a few days, but eventually they will begin growing in a clockwise direction from east to west around your trellis. Train the best shoots and trim the rest off.

At Nugget Beer Hops Vine

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March 23, 2011

Sugar Snap Peas are the sweetest treat in early spring


If you live in a climate where the weather has warmed up and there's a space in the garden that can be dug, now is the time you could plant some snap peas and get an early harvest. I have grandkids coming this summer in June and want to have some garden vegetables for them to try right out of the garden, and snap peas would be perfect.

If, on the other hand, you are one of the ones still snowed in, you can plant these inside and let them get started until the weather warms up. Soil temperature should be 40 degrees for peas, lettuce and endive. And for peas seeds innoculant helps them establish vigor from the start.

At Peas Sugar Snap Certified Organic Seeds 85 Seeds

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March 22, 2011

March is making up for sunny January


It just won't stop snowing and raining here. The little kale and broccoli sprouts that I planted so hopefully in the January's warmth, sprouted and now are shivering in icy rain and snow. In California we're not supposed to complain about this as come summer we will be so grateful for full aquafers, but it's hard to take in March when you're itching to get into the garden and one look outside tells you to forget it.

I watched a small finch, I couldn't see what species, in the bare oak tree, hunched and shivering in the icy rain. Many of the robins have come back and smaller species can be seen flying by the windows every day, but it is not the best weather to welcome them. However this bird book by Rodale, cheered me up with pictures of orioles and grossbeaks and suggestions about how to attract specific species of birds into your yard and garden. So even if I can't get out into the garden, I can plan and dream.

At Bird-By-Bird Gardening

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March 21, 2011

Peltor Over-the-Head Earmuff are light and effective


If you are tuning up the garden rototiller or the lawnmower and getting ready to run the machines that make a gardening life easy, then it's also time to get a pair of earmuffs to block out sound that could damage your hearing.

Peltor earmuffs are top quality. They have a soft ear mold that does't pinch the ear but stays comfortable through a day's work and even if you are wearing glasses. They are adjustable for head size also. If you want to save your hearing and eliminate the annoying noises of neighbors, barking dogs, the shop vac, the power tools, and gunshots, this is the product to get. They provide 29 dB hearing reduction and don't weigh you down.

At Peltor Earmuff

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March 18, 2011

It's time to test your soil before spring planting!


If your garden soil is now thawed and you're itching to get your fingers in the dirt and start planting, I am with you completely. But it might be a good idea to do some soil testing before you start filling up the rows. There are many different levels of soil testing, sometimes even going so far as to send samples to a lab for results.

A soil test measures which elements (phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, sulfur, manganese, copper and zinc) have their nutrients available within the sample. The quantity of available nutrients in the sample determines the amount of fertilizer that is recommended. A soil test also measures soil pH, humic matter and exchangeable acidity. These analyses indicate whether lime is needed and, if so, how much to apply.

Because soil composition changes very quickly it is a good idea to test the soil as soon as possible after taking samples. You also have to be careful about the composition of the water used in the soil test as the ph of the water can affect the outcome of the test. Distilled water might be the best choice rather than faucet water.

At Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Soil Test Kit

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March 17, 2011

Phylox plants make great groundcovers and lovely blooms in spring


Around the new house, where topsoil was scraped off and only subsoil with clay and rocky ground are left, I'm going to try landscaping with phylox. In spring, creeping phlox plants produce small flowers in dense clusters. If massed together as a groundcover, creeping phlox plants make a powerful landscaping statement. The colors available are red, white, blue, pink, rose, lavender, purple or variegated. Creeping phlox plants reach 6" in height and spread out 2'. Some of the needle-like foliage remains green throughout the winter.

After the blooming period, prune back the foliage of creeping phlox plants. This "pinching" will encourage foliage to become denser, thereby making your creeping phlox plants a more attractive groundcover for the summer months. If you wish to propagate creeping phlox plants through division, divide them in spring, immediately after blooming.

I already have a cluster I can divide, but I"m going to need a lot more to make the barren ground bloom with color.

At Emerald Blue Phlox Perennial

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March 16, 2011

Organic beats chemical fertilizers in productivity

This really interesting news from Organic Consumers Association.


UN: Organic Ag Can Double Food Production in 10 Years
"To feed 9 billion people in 2050, we urgently need to adopt the most efficient farming techniques available. Today's scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the hungry live - especially in unfavorable environments.

"To date, agroecological projects have shown an average crop yield increase of 80% in 57 developing countries, with an average increase of 116% for all African projects. Recent projects conducted in 20 African countries demonstrated a doubling of crop yields over a period of 3-10 years."

Many farmers in developing nations can double food production within a decade by shifting to ecological agriculture from use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, a U.N. report showed on Tuesday.

Insect-trapping plants in Kenya and Bangladesh's use of ducks to eat weeds in rice paddies are among examples of steps taken to increase food for a world population that the United Nations says will be 7 billion this year and 9 billion by 2050.

"Agriculture is at a crossroads," according to the study by Olivier de Schutter, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to food, in a drive to depress record food prices and avoid the costly oil-dependent model of industrial farming.

"Agroecology" could also make farms more resilient to the projected impact of climate change including floods, droughts and a rise in sea levels that the report said was already making fresh water near some coasts too salty for use in irrigation.

So far, eco-farming projects in 57 nations had shown average crop yield gains of 80 percent by tapping natural methods for enhancing soil and protecting against pests, it said.

Recent projects in 20 African countries had resulted in a doubling of crop yields within three to 10 years. Those lessons could be widely mimicked elsewhere, it said.

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March 15, 2011

The primroses are blooming!


Primroses are some of the first flowers of spring and so welcome! They have the added benefit of being perinneals and with a little loving care should last for years and years. Primroses love cool weather and lots of rich humus and leaf mold. In spring they will take full sun, but like some protection later on in the summer. Primulas are quite tolerant of being transplanted, even when they are in bloom. Newly purchased plants can be set into the garden in early spring. Older plants can be divided and transplanted right after they are finished blooming.

If you want to plant primroses from seed, you should know that the seeds are very tiny and also need light to germinate. Before planting any primroses in the garden proper the bed should be prepared by mixing the soil so it is at least half peat to a depth of at least eight inches. As with all other planting, fertilizer should be mixed with the soil, preferably one that has 4-12-4 or something similar. Another application can be given in the early fall to stimulate a little fall growth before the ground freezes.

The more common primroses seem to be perfectly hardy and except for a light mulch to prevent heaving they do not require a great deal of winter protection. They certainly brighten any flower garden or window sill with an array of color early in the season.

At Common Primrose Scarlet

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March 14, 2011

Bunching onions continue to grow year after year


Bunching onions are sometimes called shallots. They have hollow stems and do not form a large bulb, but stay small, like green onions and grow in clusters. These onions are cold resistent and can be grown all year. I used to have several clumps growing along the fence line years ago and am inspired to try this again.

Bunching onions have a milder flavor than regular onions and are often used in Asian dishes. There are many different types, some Asian, some Italian. Plant them thickly where you won't be tilling, such as next door to a perennial planting. You might want to thin them a little when they come up, and then let them grow. Harvest some of them when the stems are as big as a pencil, but leave plenty alone. When you harvest you should gently pull older ones up allowing the young onions remain in the soil to grow. They will develop more shoots and continue to grow throughout the year.

At Ferry-Morse 3083 Organic Onion Seeds, Evergreen Bunching

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March 11, 2011

A spring day when planting peas come to mind


Today was one of those soft spring days when there is a mist of rain and then sun and then rainbows and then rain again. And the light rain falling on head and shoulders doesn't stopp the yard work or the digging in the garden. One can just keep going through all the changes because the weather is so mild.

I started thinking about planting some pea seeds in hopes of having some ripe peas as early as May. The problem this time of year is whether to soak the seed or not. I like to soak pea seeds because it 's easy to see which ones are not viable and throw them out and not waste energy planting them. If I wait just long enough to see the first small sprout break out of the casing, then I know I've got what I want. However, I have planted such nicely sprouted seeds and waited for them to break ground until impatient, I dig down to find them rotten or disappeared. That's the down side of sprouting them to get an early start.

Just dropping the dry seed, covered with a little innoculant into the ground avoids this problem, but can also lead to rot if the weather decides to turn cold and wet. So basically we gardeners take out chances. If you have a greenhouse, you can let the plants grow tall and then put them out, feeling fairly certain they will survive and produce. It all depends on the weather and a willingness to experiment. However, I think I'm putting in a small row of soaked seeds right now.

At Sugar Snap Peas

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March 10, 2011

Audubon Workshop has a catalog full of ideas for attracting birds


Audubon Workshop was created in 1930 to provide bird lovers suggestions and items that would attract birds and butterflys. Besides an extended variety of bird houses, bird baths, mason bee houses, and squirrel baffles, the Audubon Workshop catalog has a page after page of plants that would attract birds, hummingbirds and butterflys.

There is a section on red flowers for hummingbirds featuring columbine and honeysuckle. There are evening blooming plants like primroses, lavender, and a Soft Cloud Sedum, which, if you leave the blooms, will feed birds in the spring. What caught my eye was a Coreopsis called Route 66 which is lovely cream and wine colored flowers on a plant that doesn't mind heat, drought, poor soil, and neglect while providing food for butterflies and seeds for songbirds. Sounds perfect!

At Audubon Workshop

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March 9, 2011

A pomegranate tree is good for landscaping and eating


My neighbor bought a pomegranate tree about twenty years ago and it is still growing and still producing in spite of recent years of neglect. You remember how it figures in the Greek myth about Demeter and Persephone? When Zeus lets Persephone return to her mother, the earth, spring comes back to the world. But Persephone had eaten six pomegrante seeds and so had to return to Hades and the Underworld for six months every year bringing winter to the world.

Powerful fruit! And now it's been tested and we know it is full of antioxidants. This great Pomegranate variety in a smaller one gallon sized tree. Pomegranates are useful as landscape plants as well as for great fruit. They can be trimmed to fountain shaped shrub or a tree depending on your needs. The tree is mediterranean and so must have sun for best flowers and fruit production. But it is drought tolerant and grows well in alkaline soil, or will grow in a container on sunny patio or deck.

Pomegranate is surprisingly cold tolerate and will take freezes down to 0 degrees. You could make your own pomegranate juice from the large ripe fruit! The tree will grow to over 12 to 15' tall if not clipped. It is shipped as a potted one gallon plant, not bare root.

At Wonderful Pomegranate Tree

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March 8, 2011

The first sprouts of spring!

Remember the row I dug in the early spring weather in January and I planted kale and some broccoli? Then winter came back with snow and freezing rain and wiped out all hope. I checked this morning on the row, now soggy and trammeled by weather and discovered the sprouts had come up! Well some of them had.


The kale has sprouted, but the broccoli still remains unground or maybe rotted. But nonetheless, it was a joy to see seedlings, however pale and tentative coming up in the garden. I covered the edges where weeds were creeping with straw that has overwintered and thus won't sprout it's seeds and be a weed problem itself.

I'm inspired now and it is the first of the month when spring officially arrives. So I'm going to plant some lettuce in the same row and hope for the best.

At Lettuce Romaine Parris Island Cos Certified Organic Heirloom Seeds 275 Seeds

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March 7, 2011

Hydrofarm grow lights jump start seedlings for an early spring


If you're snowbound and still having hard freezes, then this grow light system may help you start your seedlings early. This product is 2 ft wide and they say it has super efficient T5 lights help you grow faster by providing 15-20% more lumens than traditional grow lights. It features a simple toggle clamp for easy lamp height adjustment, and the fixture has an internal reflective finish that directs more light to plants.

Some of the reviews say the stand which holds the light is not terribly sturdy, but they all agree that the adjustable height works and for the price, it is a good deal.

You can grow African Violets, orchids, flowering bulbs, vegetables, seedlings and cuttings. The assembly is really easty. So you might give it a try and begin the gardening season a couple of months early and have your own seedlings to pop in the ground when the weather warms.

At Hydrofarm JSV2 2-Foot Jump Start T5 Grow Light System

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March 4, 2011

Burgandy plum tree makes ripe fruit in July


Right now we are getting the weather we should have gotten in January when we were getting spring. We've had snow and rain and cold cloudy days that are hopefully reminding the fruit trees, especially the plums and peaches, that it isn't time to open up flowers and expect bees. My plums always rush the season.


In the mountains the weather is so changeable that even if you don't get fruit because of a late freeze, the flowers themselves are a lovely harbinger of spring. The Burgandy plum has medium sized fruit with reddish purple skin. The flesh is deep red and sweet.
When eating your fresh plums, know that the pit is small giving you more fruit to enjoy. The fruit of this plum can be dried, eaten fresh, or made into jams and jellies, and
it is self fertile, so no need for another tree.

This plum variety only needs 250 to 350 chill hours, so a good choice for mild winter areas, yet it will take some cold. Ripens early July, but keeps well on tree till mid August.
Shipped as a potted five gallon tree in its original soil and container which means it doesn't have to go right into the ground.

At Burgundy Plum Tree

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March 3, 2011

The truth behind the Monsanto contract with farmers-- it's all your problem


Sorry to keep harping on this, but this is really important!

This is an article by Cassandra Anderson for Truthout.com

Farmers like genetically modified (GM) crops because they can plant them, spray them with herbicide and then there is very little maintenance until harvest. Farmers who plant Monsanto's GM crops probably don't realize what they bargain for when they sign the Monsanto Technology Stewardship Agreement contract. One farmer reportedly 'went crazy' when he discovered the scope of the contract because it transfers ALL liability to the farmer or grower.

Monsanto's Technology Stewardship Agreement shifts responsibility to growers for any and all losses, injury or damages resulting from the use of Monsanto seeds. There is no expiration date on the contract. The grower may terminate the contract, but: "Grower's responsibilities and the other terms herein shall survive..."

This includes contamination of other farms. Growers are purchasing seed for Spring planting right now. Alfalfa, America's 4th largest crop, is a particular problem because it is a perennial plant and the seeds may lie dormant in the ground for 10-20 years, and WILL contaminate non-GM plants. Contaminated alfalfa cannot be recalled from the environment. The liability burden can follow the grower for decades. Farmers must be made aware of the danger of being sued before they plant GM crops (especially alfalfa because it is used for cattle feed and will affect dairy farmers).

Currently, Australian organic farmer Steve Marsh, who lost his organic certification due to contamination, is suing his GM crop-growing neighbor for the GM contamination.

The Monsanto Technology Stewardship Agreement has another clause that farmers will find disturbing: it appears that the growers agree that in order to sell their farm, the new purchaser must also sign a Monsanto Technology Stewardship Agreement. According to a top real estate broker, the contract places a covenant, condition or restriction (CCR) on the farmer's land.

For more information about the perils of contamination, please go to MorphCity.com to read the interview with alfalfa seed grower Phil Geertson who opposed Monsanto in the GM case heard in the Supreme Court last summer. Geertson said that Monsanto's GM seeds are more expensive and after a few years, weeds can become tolerant to Roundup Ready and other glyphosate herbicides so farmers must return to conventional farming practices anyway. Therefore, there is no benefit to planting GM crops.

You can alert farmers to the hazard of growing GM crops and how growers can be hurt by Monsanto's contract, if you would like to take action in opposing GM crops. Please share this article and video.

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March 2, 2011

Garden's Alive catalog arrives with a $25 gift coupon


This Organic Garden kit includes all you need to grow a productive garden this season, except the wood and the topsoil. The finished bed is approximately 4 ft. by 4 ft. and it is easy to tend as you put a weed barrier down on the location you have chosen before you build the box.

With the soil admendments you get with the dit you will conserve nutrients and water. The topsoil and premium compost equals humus-rich, moisture-balancing soil in which plants thrive. Such beds warm up earlier in the season.

So if you've never gardened organically this kit ensures that you start with organic and recycled materials. The kit includes: four stacking joints, one weed barrier mat, two 16-qt. bags of Gardener's GoldTMPremium Compost, one vine support (folds for easy storage), one pkg. of Green GuardTMPlant Growth Enhancer and one 2-lb. bag of Garden RichTMFertilizer (a terrific vegetable garden fertilizer made of GMO-free plant by-products, minerals and trace elements-available only with this garden!).

You will need to buy four timbers (2" x 6" x 4') and your own topsoil, then plant your own transplants. No need to till up the ground- simply lay down the weed barrier mat. Then start your easy-to install garden in whatever sunny location suits you best.

At Gardens Alive

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March 1, 2011

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