Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Flowers to Sow Now for Fall/Spring Color

Even though the mercury may be sky high on the thermometer right now, it's the right time to consider starting flowers for fall blooms and to provide pretty bulb covers in the spring.

Pansies and Violas add a fabulous pop of color to fall borders or containers. July to August is the best time to start them. (It takes around 2 ½ to 3 months from the time you plant pansy or viola seed to get the first blooms.) Consider how 'Bewitching' the black and orange 'Bewitched Blend' Pansies would look in October if you start them now!

Burgundy Amaranth will give your garden bright jewel-toned burgundy leaves even if you don't have time left in the season to achieve their full height or plumes. The leaves are also edible and make a colorful addition to salads when picked young.

Coleus Rainbow Blend will add an explosion of bright color to those shady spots that may be looking a little barren or bedraggled by late summer and early fall. It can take the heat as long as it's kept moist and has some shade. Foliage will last until the first fall frost. When frost looms near, you can take cuttings of your favorite colors to root in a vase of water for some indoor color that lasts for a couple of months.

Perennials – If you start perennial flowers now, they will have time to put down roots and survive the winter, giving you lush blooms next spring and summer. Most perennials need to be planted 8-10 weeks before the average first fall frost date.

Bulb Covers
If you are planning to plant bulbs this fall (like tulips, hyacinth, crocus), consider sowing some Pansies, Violas, Candytuft Snowflake, or Alyssum Basket of Gold within the next few weeks to make a pretty bulb cover next spring to complement the blooming bulbs and to mask the foliage as the bulb blooms fade.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Brown Spots on Your Tomatoes?

Tomatoes grown in containers and indeterminate (vining) heirloom tomatoes can be more susceptible to Blossom End Rot (BER) that is caused by an inability to adequately uptake calcium from the soil. This condition is more likely caused by fluctuating moisture levels rather than a deficiency of calcium in the soil. But, it can also be caused by an excess of nitrogen, a pH out of range of 6.5 (ideal for calcium uptake), or water logged roots that don’t have proper drainage.

If your fruit begins to get the telltale tan to brownish spots on the bottom, pick off and discard the affected tomatoes. Then make sure the plants are well mulched with dried grass clippings, straw, black or red plastic, or an extra layer of finished compost to reduce moisture fluctuation. Never let the plants dry out; keep them evenly moist, but not soggy. Then, switch to a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen (compared to phosphorous and potassium). Optional treatments include adding crushed eggshells to the soil, sprinkling some limestone powder around the plant, or spraying calcium nitrate on the leaves. With a little ‘TLC’, your plants will likely recover from this condition and produce healthy fruit.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Help! My bush beans look more like pole beans

If you are wondering ‘why are my bush beans growing tall like pole beans?’ consider this advice…

Bush beans were developed from pole beans for greater ease of harvest. Sometimes, they can revert to some of the traits of their predecessors by stretching and getting a little lanky before settling into more of a compact bush habit. Environmental factors such as too little sunlight and soil that is too high in nitrogen can also create tall plants. Generally, bush beans should stay in range of 12″ to 24″ tall, depending on the variety. Though they are usually self-supporting, they could require staking if they are in a windy area, because of their shallow roots. If you find your bush beans are getting taller than you prefer, you can pinch off the top tip and that will encourage branching. Also, for compact plants, bush beans should always be planted directly in the ground. Seeds that are sown indoors often get leggy (from lack of sufficient light).