Picture Snob

March 30, 2011

String of Pearls is a great indoor plant

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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

Read More in: Container Gardens & Window Boxes

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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.

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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

Read More in: Garden Thoughts

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March 25, 2011

Plum tree in the rain

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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

Read More in: Plants

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March 24, 2011

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

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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

Read More in: Plants

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March 23, 2011

Sugar Snap Peas are the sweetest treat in early spring

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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

Read More in: Plants

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March 22, 2011

March is making up for sunny January

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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

Read More in: Garden Books

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March 21, 2011

Peltor Over-the-Head Earmuff are light and effective

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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

Read More in: Garden Tools

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March 18, 2011

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

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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

Read More in: Fertilizer | Garden Tools

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March 17, 2011

Phylox plants make great groundcovers and lovely blooms in spring

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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

Read More in: Plants | Remedies

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March 16, 2011

Organic beats chemical fertilizers in productivity

This really interesting news from Organic Consumers Association.

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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.

Read More in: Industry News

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