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Mid-August meltdown

It’s mid-August. Do you find yourself apologizing for your perennials right about now? Stems that can’t hold their flowers up? Foliage that’s become tattered and sad? Plants that have outgrown their space and are crowding their neighbors?

Third time’s the charm

All of these problems have clear solutions in the new third edition of Tracy DiSabato-Aust’s bestselling book, The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: The Essential Guide to Planting and Pruning Techniques, from Timber Press.

Because I helped out on this book with some editorial work and photos, this will be an unabashedly biased review of it. And because I received an extra copy of the book from Timber in conjunction with that work, I’ll be giving one away at the end of this post!

Snippity snip

Pruning perennials.

Nobody gave the idea much ink (other than in reference to mums) until the first edition of The Well-Tended Perennial Garden in 1998. But Tracy was, and is, a perennial-pruning evangelist. She spelled out the many reasons why pruning shouldn’t be reserved for our woody plants.

In the new edition, she gives 15 functions (fifteen!) that pruning can serve in the perennial garden.

Proper pruning—Tracy shows you exactly how to do it—can prevent problems like those in the opening paragraph: floppy stems, ragged summer foliage, and plants that get a little too big.

For example, here’s a native lupine I grew from seed. It was glorious this spring. I wanted to collect seed, so I let it go to seed, and afterwards it looked horrible. Huge, messy, and horrible. I cut it back to the ground in early summer.

Today, despite no rain in almost two months and practically no love from me, it has a sweet, fresh mound of basal foliage.

This is an agastache I got from Xera Plants called ‘Mandarin Dream’. It usually gets too tall for its pot and looks out of proportion, but this year I pruned it back in the spring, so it wouldn’t get so tall. I also didn’t fertilize it, which is why it’s so pale, but you get the idea.

I have lots of butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Pruning in this case can help to encourage rebloom. I sheared this patch as soon as the blooms faded, and now it has buds again.

Whereas this patch of butterfly weed I left alone, and now it’s covered in seedpods. No flower buds.

Everything you need to know

The new Well-Tended also discusses staking, dividing, watering, and fertilizing perennials. You’ll learn how to control and prevent pests and diseases without harsh chemicals. And Tracy shares her steps in creating beds and borders from start to finish. Good, meaty stuff.

There are many new beautiful photos in the plant encyclopedia, if I do say so myself.

Then there is the updated plant encyclopedia, with more than fifty new entries. Each item has detailed info about its maintenance—the kind of info that you don’t find elsewhere.

Boltonia asteroides ‘Snowbank’ is a lower-maintenance perennial that blooms in late summer and fall.

But wait, there’s more! Lists of perennials according to their maintenance needs: plants that need dividing only every ten years or more, clay busters, lower-maintenance perennials…

Win a copy now

That’s right! I have one free copy of the 2017 edition of The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust to give away to a lucky reader. Just let me know in the comments below that you’d like to enter, and I’ll choose a winner at random on Sunday, August 20, at 5:00 pm Pacific Time. Good luck!

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There are some choice gardens on the Association of Northwest Landscape Designers Garden Tour this Saturday, June 17, on Portland’s west side. How do I know? I got a sneak peek last week! Here’s what I saw, along with 15 great landscaping ideas.

Stick around til the end, and you can enter to win a ticket to the tour yourself.

#1 River rock as an edging.
In Terri’s Garden, designed by Amy Whitworth, I got an idea for what to do with my surplus of river rock—use it as an edging!

#2 Camellia Vestito Rosso.
I also made the acquaintance of Vestito Rosso camellia and its chocolate-brown new foliage. The flowers are near-red, with lots of overlapping petals in wonderful fractal patterns. Yum.

The Letson-Gardner Garden, designed by Lucy Hardiman and Susan LaTourette, was magical. Marcia Peck rests in a comfy chair. We’ll see her incredible garden in a little bit.

#3 Delphinium-Verbascum-Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’ combo.


#4 Ismene festalis.

I believe this was growing in the ground. Do you grow this? Is it hardy in Portland? Do I need it? I think I need it.

#5 This bench.

The Myers Garden, designed by David West, was a nice collaboration between a landscaper and homeowner who had recently caught the gardening bug. I thought this curved bench was pretty cool. Any handy people out there? How difficult would this be to make?

#6 This rusty raised bed.

This is how you do a very small urban veggie bed.

#7 Bolax gummifera.
Happy, happy bolax. I’ve killed this before, but this immense patch made me realize it deserves another chance. If you go to this garden, feel the texture of this plant. It’s weird and plastic-y, so unplantlike.

#8 Repetition of plants.

The nice thing about the designer’s tour is that you get to see how the pros do it. One thing the pros do is repeat plants throughout a bed. It brings cohesiveness to a planting. This is Ann Nickerson’s home garden, Andora Gardens. Note how she repeats the variegated irises, ferns, and spireas and what a calming effect that has on the whole.

#9 Limb up ninebark.

When we saw this ninebark (Physocarpus), my friend Darcy Daniels said, “Why do we hardly ever limb up ninebark when the bark looks like that?” We should really limb up ninebark more often.

#10 DIY mosaics.

The garden of Marcia Peck is filled with mosaics she’s made herself. The process sounds surprisingly simple. She says to dig a hole in the ground and fill it with dry concrete. Then, place your stones, and finally, mist with water until the concrete is saturated.

#11 Arrange stones in containers.

Do you leave plants naked in their containers? Marcia arranges stones like paving in her pots, and it looks pretty sharp.

#12 Barberry as an underplanting.

Another way to add interest to a container planting. I thought this was really striking—an early-blooming Edgeworthia underplanted with barberry! Bonus idea: check out that sweet little stone wall to the left.

#13 Hebe ‘Quicksilver’ with Sedum spurium ‘Voodoo’.

Or one of the red Sedum spuriums. ‘Voodoo’ seems to hold its color better than most. Quicksilver can be a rather spacey grower, and Voodoo fills in the gaps. The Schmitt Garden, designed by Marcia Peck, gave us another delicious taste of Marcia’s sensibilities.

#14 Tidy vegetables.

Growing compact veggies in containers allows the homeowners to keep it neat. On the right, a tomato; near left, a dwarf raspberry. In the corner, a pot of peas.

#15 An arbor adds depth.

I thought this arbor was really great. Just a couple of small panels and some crossbeams overhead and voilà! So simple, but it adds so much depth.

I strongly recommend this tour if you’re in the Portland area on June 17. Tickets are $25, and the proceeds go towards scholarships for local community college horticulture and landscaping students. Find out more here.

Or, win a ticket! I’m giving away one ticket. Tell me in the comments that you’d like to enter. I’ll draw the lucky winner on Tuesday, June 13, at 8:00 pm PDT. Good luck!

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“Nothing you see here is by accident,” said our tour guide, Rolland O’Dell, when I went to the Portland Japanese Garden last month. Japanese gardens are very deliberate. Every element has purpose and meaning.

Taking a guided tour when you go to the Portland Japanese Garden—or any Japanese garden—is the way to go if you don’t already understand this style of gardening. By jumping in on a tour, I got a much richer experience than I would have on my own. Here’s some of the symbolism that would have been otherwise hidden to me.

Circle and Gourd

The moss-covered circle and gourd shapes aren’t random. The circle symbolizes enlightenment, the gourd happiness. The gravel, by the way, is special stone shipped in from near Kyoto. It sparkles in the sunlight like gemstones.

Pine Trees

Pine trees symbolize perseverance in Japanese gardens. They are often “cloud-pruned,” a painstaking task that gives them a layered look and keeps them small and tidy. Here a worker tends to one. Rolland said that each pine in the garden requires 13 man-hours of pruning per year.

Tortoise Stone

In a Japanese water garden, you are bound to see a few large stones sticking out the water. Nothing is by accident! A low, flat stone represents the tortoise, a symbol of longevity. According to Japanese folklore, the tortoise lives 10,000 years.

Crane Stone

An upright stone in the water represents the crane, also a symbol of longevity. The crane is believed to live a mere 1,000 years.


The Moon Bridge has no paint, no varnish. It is allowed to weather and age naturally. Rolland explained that this exemplifies the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi: beauty in aging and imperfection.

Lotus Bud

The post finial on the Moon Bridge is a lotus bud, which is a Buddhist symbol of purity. This one is quite stylized, so I never would have recognized it as a flower bud, but after having it pointed out, I began to see lotus buds everywhere.

Zigzag Bridge

The Zigzag Bridge has multiple reasons behind its shape. First, it forces you to slow down and appreciate the details. You’ll note this bridge is unfinished, too. Wabi-sabi. Second, it makes you appreciate the garden from different angles. And most importantly, evil spirits only travel in a straight line, so after you cross the Zigzag Bridge, you’re safe.

Jizo Statue

In Japanese Buddhism, Jizo is the protector of travelers, and these Jizo statues are found alongside the roads in Japan. I wouldn’t have even noticed this small statue nestled in the moss along a shady path if it hadn’t been pointed out to me, much less have known what it meant.

Hokkaido Map and Asymmetrical Balance

Portland is a sister city to Sapporo, Japan, which is on the island of Hokkaido. Here a map of Hokkaido is represented in stones on the ground.

In the background, an important concept in Japanese gardening is demonstrated: asymmetrical balance. The plants on either side of the pagoda aren’t the same, though they possess roughly the same visual weight. Japanese gardens are very formal, but they don’t have straight lines and matchy-matchy planting schemes like formal European gardens.

Hide and Reveal

At this point, Rolland also pointed out the expert use of the technique he called “hide and reveal.” We could hear a waterfall, but not see it, and we could just get glimpses of other parts of the garden.

The Portland Japanese Garden was designed in the 1960s by Professor Takuma Tono. It is believed by many to be one of the most authentic Japanese gardens not on Japanese soil.

Tea House

When we got to the tea house, our tour guide explained a little about the significance of the tea ceremony. He said that the rules for the tea ceremony were codified in the 15th century, and a proper ceremony could last 4 1/2 to 5 hours. At the time, Japan was a dangerous and lawless place, and people liked going to the tea house for a bit of escapism.


Before entering the tea house, you would purify yourself by washing your hands and rinsing your mouth at the tsukubai. You will also see these at temples.

Natural Garden

The Natural Garden at the Portland Japanese Garden represents birth, life, and death. Rolland said the gardeners find pruning the most difficult in this section. Apparently, making something look as if it hasn’t been pruned at all isn’t as easy as you think.

Especially if you really, really want to prune everything like this!

With very few exceptions (cherries, plums, chysanthemums) flowers are considered a distraction in Japanese gardens. I went during prime azalea season, but you’d hardly know it. Almost all of the blooms were sheared off. Sculpted forms are what is considered beautiful.

Sand and Stone Garden

Rolland said this had become his favorite garden. Though bleak-looking, it contains all of the key elements of a classic Japanese garden: stone, water (simulated), and plants (lichens and moss on the stones).

What Japanese garden symbolism have I missed?

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One of the neat things about having a blog is that sometimes you get free stuff.

However, I was all ready to say no, thank you when someone from Bond Manufacturing emailed me to offer me a free BLACK+DECKER Cordless Pruner to review on my blog.

I assumed by “cordless pruner” she meant cordless hedge trimmers. Since I have no hedge, nor any plants that require shearing that my old-school manual hedge trimmers can’t take care of in a few swipes, I wasn’t interested.

Japanese maple at the Portland Japanese Garden.

Now, hand pruning is something I love. I enjoy shaping plants, guiding them to bring out their natural beauty. A snip here, a lop there. I find it very soothing and gratifying.

Though there have been a few days when I have done so much hand pruning that my forearm has ached afterwards.

Well, before I responded to Bond Mfg., I did a little research and realized that Black & Decker’s new product wasn’t a cordless hedge trimmer at all, but a cordless hand pruner!

“Cordless hand pruner? I’ll file that with my battery-powered hammer and solar nails,” said my funny friend Paul. Har har. It is kind of a funny concept, but I decided to try it out.

The BLACK+DECKER BD1168 Cordless Pruner runs on a rechargeable, 4-volt lithium ion battery (included). You should get about 500 cuts per charge. I haven’t been able to wear down the battery yet; it seems to have good stamina. The battery is said to hold a charge for up to 18 months.

You simply press the trigger (top red button) while holding down the safety (bottom red button) to make your cut. Easy peasy.

The pruner can cut branches up to a half-inch in diameter. And no, you can’t really make it cut anything bigger than that because it is limited by the width of the jaws. But the chromium-coated blades are wicked-sharp, and they cut branches like butter, with very little wrist strain. You could use the pruner with either hand, too.

An LED light helps you see where you’re cutting when you’re working under shady branches or in other dim places.

The motor is rather noisy, but I guess that’s the price you pay for ease.

I can see how this tool would be especially helpful for people with arthritis or people who have an injury but can’t stand to not work in the garden (we’ve all been there!).

The manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $99.99. BLACK+DECKER warranties the product for two years with purchase.

Do you suffer from pruner fatigue? Win your own BLACK+DECKER BD1168 Cordless Pruner now! Bond Manufacturing has been generous enough to supply a free pruner to one lucky reader of this blog (in the U.S.).

Just tell me you want to enter the contest in the comments, and I will pick a winner at random on Sunday, May 28, at 5:00 pm Pacific/8:00 Eastern. Good luck!

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“Our plants won’t croak!”

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you’ve probably seen Little Prince of Oregon plants with their trademarked frog tags at Fred Meyer and at your local garden center.

I recently got the chance to go behind the scenes at this closed-to-the-public wholesale nursery in Aurora (30 minutes south of Portland) along with some of my garden blogger friends. Want to take a peek?

Our host was Mark Leichty, a passionate plantsman who is always on the lookout for something new to add to the catalog. He’s a wonderful ambassador for the company—very friendly and generous with his time and knowledge. Everybody likes Mark.

Here he is telling my friend Tamara from Chickadee Gardens to stay out of the houses they have recently sprayed with DDT.

Just kidding. Little Prince uses the least toxic pesticides they possibly can, and they use NO bee-killing neonicotinoids.

I poked my head into the shipping area.

Besides shipping to Washington, Oregon, and California garden centers, Little Prince also ships liners across the country for other nurseries to grow on. If you garden on the East Coast, you may also encounter some plants that originate here.

The new Little Prince of Oregon office is fabulous. The Prince himself can survey his kingdom quite splendidly from here. Mark explained the origin of the company’s name—apparently The Little Prince was a favorite book of the company’s president, Ketch de Kanter, when he was a little boy. His dad started calling him the “Little Prince,” and the name stuck.

No, I haven’t been sitting on this post since winter. That’s hail. I was fully prepared for the rain in Oregon, but nobody told me how often it hails here. It hails a lot! (Compared to the Midwest, anyway.)

With Mark’s delicious salad, homemade chicken noodle soup, and fresh-baked bread in my belly, I set out to explore the 70 or so hoop houses on the property.

These houses are immaculate. They really run a tight ship. Happy, happy plants and no weeds.

They don’t use an automated watering system here, believing instead that the human touch is more effective. That’s right—they water everything by hand!

Most appealing to me was Little Prince’s “Fit for a King” line. These are extra-special plants that make plant geeks squeal. Lewisia cotyledon Rainbow was looking mighty fine. These rock garden beauties need sharp drainage and perform much better in the West (where they are native) than in the eastern states.

Little Prince of Oregon has a nice selection of epimediums in their FFAK line. I got a few different varieties a couple years ago the first time I got to visit Little Prince. One was Epimedium ×perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’. Here’s what it looks like when it’s established.

I bought Tigridia pavonia on this trip, a summer-blooming Mexican bulb that’s hardy to zone 8. Little Prince has mixed colors in their FFAK line.

There are several heucheras in the Fit for a King collection, but you know my favorite heuchera of all? The modest little ‘Green Spice’. I think the subtle marbling is beautiful, and it’s such a tough and reliable plant.

Little Prince is growing ground orchids now, Bletilla striata, in their FFAK line. If I had some more shade and moisture in the summer, I would definitely give these a try. They’re supposed to be pretty easy to grow. They bloom in late spring.

I also combed through Little Prince’s “Water Misers” line. They have a fantastic collection of sedums and are adding more and more cool sempervivums to the mix all the time. These succulents are in special biodegradable pots made out of rice hulls.

Little Prince is growing some of Terra-Nova’s colorful sedums. This is Touchdown Teak, which holds that deep mahogany-brown color all season.

I was glad to see new crops of butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) coming on. I love this plant for both the East and the West. The Perennial Plant Association agrees and named it the Perennial Plant of the Year for 2017.

This plant makes me smile, too, even though some may think it’s too common. Moss phlox (Phlox subulata). This one with the stripey flowers is called ‘Candy Stripe’.

If you’re in the area on Thursday, June 15, 2017, and you’re a member of HPSO (The Hardy Plant Society of Oregon) or are thinking of becoming a member, you’ll have a chance to visit Little Prince yourself. HPSO and Little Prince are having an “After Hours” event for members to socialize and to get their own private tour. Details to come at hardyplantsociety.org. See you there!

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When I was planning my first vegetable garden, I had a romantic vision of how it would go.

I would sit on the back porch with a bowl full of peas, fresh from the garden. With great pride, I’d look out at neat rows of lettuce, carrots, beets, parsnips, herbs, and potatoes, shelling the tender peas into a clean bowl. A few wouldn’t make it into the bowl—how plump and sweet they’d be!

This scenario did play itself out. But soon the next batch of peas needed to be shelled.

And the next.

And the next.

And the next.

And the next.

Shelling peas became a chore.

Now I only grow snap peas, which I like just as much, but require no shelling.

Over the years, I’ve picked up quite a few tips, tricks, and reality checks for growing vegetables and berries at home. Here are 10 of them.

#1 You don’t have to do raised beds.

Don’t think you must have raised beds just because everybody else is using them. Raised beds have their pros and cons. Personally, I think the cons outweigh the pros.

Raised beds dry out faster than in-ground beds, requiring constant watering; it’s awkward to impossible to get a shovel into one to do any serious work; and the sides provide convenient hiding places for slugs and snails.

In this entertaining post, Noel Kingsbury agrees, and encourages people to not simply “run with the herd” when it comes to using raised beds.

#2 Be safe about heavy metals.

I went to a talk about heavy metals in the vegetable garden by Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, a Washington State University professor, at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle this year, and it was eye-opening.

Some takeaways: Never use old pressure-treated lumber (no longer sold), a.k.a. CCA (Copper, Chromium, Arsenic), for raised beds. This is the lumber with the vertical hash marks imprinted in it.

What kind of toxic waste dump am I gardening on?

Have your soil tested if you have any suspicion that there may be heavy metals in it. That may be the case if there is old, peeling (lead) paint nearby. Or, if you are growing vegetables by the road (usually not a good idea, according to Dr. Chalker-Scott). Or, if you garden in the country on land that was once farmland—it may have been sprayed with chemicals containing heavy metals.

Uncertified organic products may contain heavy metals. I was surprised to learn that kelp-based fertilizer, an expensive and highly lauded fertilizer, frequently contains high levels of cadmium and other heavy metals.

Root crops are most likely to take up heavy metals in the parts of the plant that we eat.

#3 Grow foods that are special.

Let’s face it, growing your own food is work. Make it worth the effort by growing foods that are special.

Special foods are those that taste significantly better fresh from the garden than from the supermarket. They may taste better because of their freshness (you may have heard that the sugar content of sweet corn begins to drop the moment it is picked).

Or, they may taste better because you’re able to grow more delicious varieties at home—varieties that were bred for flavor and not for shipping and storage qualities. For example, your grocery store probably carries only one variety of carrot: the bland Imperator. You can do better.

Alpine strawberries!

Special foods also include those that are expensive to buy, such as raspberries, rhubarb, and fingerling potatoes. (Why are fingerlings so expensive at the store? They actually yield more prolifically than regular potatoes!) There are tons of pricey herbs you can grow on the cheap at home, too.

Some special foods may not even be available at the grocery store at all.

My neighbor has a very small vegetable garden and chooses to grow plain green cabbage. Why? I’m sure it tastes the same as any farty old cabbage you can get at the store for 59 cents a pound. Grow something special.

#4 Don’t grow too much.

Surprise, surprise. When I grew 12 lettuce plants a couple of years ago, I learned the hard way that 12 lettuce plants is WAY too much lettuce for two people.

So I gave lettuce to my neighbors, and I gave lettuce to my friends. And I still had lettuce left over.

But you know what? It’s nearly impossible to throw perfectly good food on the compost pile. It feels so wrong to throw food away—especially freshly picked, delicious, home-grown, organic food!

So learn to calibrate how much you can actually use.

The bottomless lettuce bowl.

Choose varieties that match the amount of food you want to eat over the time period that works for you.

One Table Princess acorn squash plant makes a neat, compact, 3-ft. by 3-ft. mound and gives me the perfect amount of squashes over several weeks so that I can get my fill but don’t get sick of them.

Two dozen Tristar everbearing strawberry plants give me a few fruits for my morning oatmeal almost every day of summer. If I wanted a big batch all at once to make jam, I’d grow a June-bearing variety.

Some vegetables and berries freeze well for use later. This may be an option, but only if you have room in your freezer!

At first it feels good to give produce to your friends, but after a while it becomes a chore to get rid of it all. Your friends may even begin to avoid you, because in fact they may have taken that first 20 pounds of zucchini simply to be polite.

#5 Budget time for harvesting.

When you start a vegetable garden, you don’t realize how time-consuming the harvesting will be.

Maybe like me you imagined yourself setting down your Arnold Palmer and strolling into the garden in a pretty sundress with your handcrafted vintage garden hod on your arm. You do have a garden hod, right? You breeze through the garden, gathering your bounty, the delectable veggies tumbling into the hod in a picture of glorious abundance.

In reality, what usually happens is you realize you’ve forgotten to harvest anything for dinner, so you run out in bare feet in the rain. You pull some carrots, leaving a few lodged in the ground when you break off the tops. Then you root around with bare hands to fish out some potatoes and carry them all in the bottom of your dirty t-shirt to the hose to wash them off.

That’s a lot of peas.

Harvesting is a big part of gardening. I don’t say this to discourage you. In fact, harvesting your own produce is immensely satisfying.

But you should know that potatoes will need to be dug and hosed off, then scrubbed again in the sink (and fingerlings have extra nooks and crannies).

Garden peas need to be picked and shelled.

Green beans picked and de-strung.

Corn picked and shucked.

Lettuce and spinach picked clean of slugs and run through the salad spinner.

Broccoli cut, picked clean of caterpillars, and washed.

Raspberries and blackberries and blueberries picked and picked and picked and picked.

#6 Someone in the household is going to have to know how to cook vegetables.

The good news is that flavorful homegrown vegetables don’t need fancy preparations in order to taste wonderful.

Snap peas I often simply blanch. If I’m feeling indulgent, I may sauté them with shallots and mint.

Carrots and parsnips I sauté with butter, brown sugar, and ginger.

Asparagus and green beans are to die for when drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and roasted.

I roast beets also, chop them, and then coat them with a sweet-and-sour glaze (white sugar and apple cider vinegar) and salt and pepper.

My favorite vegetable cookbook is The Garden-Fresh Vegetable Cookbook by Andrea Chesman. I’d love to know yours in the comments.

#7 Don’t grow foods you think are gross.

This should be an obvious one, but flip through a glossy, full-color seed catalog on a dreary winter day, and show me one vegetable that doesn’t look delectable. “Look at the beautiful beets!” you’ll squeal, even if you think beets taste like dirt.

I’ve had roasted store-bought rutabagas and I’ve also had them mashed with potatoes. Both ways were nasty. Still, I wanted the pleasure of growing them with my own hands, and I thought if I tried them one more time, maybe I’d change my mind. After all, I’m half Norwegian, and rutabagas are in our blood.

I grew a lovely crop one year, but surprise, surprise, they were the same disgusting, hard, cabbagey lumps I remembered. I didn’t even attempt to give them away.

#8 Grow daylilies in your vegetable garden.

Let me be clear: I’m not speaking of lilies, which are toxic, but daylilies. Among daylilies, I can only vouch for the common orange daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) as truly safe and tasty to eat.

I eat the flowers just after they have opened. I break them up and add them as colorful additions to summer salads.

Nothing could be easier to care for, and if I don’t get around to harvesting them, there are no guilty feelings, because then I get to see them in the garden. I posted about them here.

#9 Don’t bother saving seeds of these vegetables.

You’ll probably buy fresh seeds for your garden each year. But you may be curious about saving seed from your own garden to use the next year or to trade with other gardeners. Is this a good idea?

It depends upon the plant and your level of expertise.

In general, tomato-family plants, such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, will come true from seed (resemble the mother plant) and are good for beginning seed-savers. Legumes such as beans and peas are also reliable, as is lettuce.

Cucumber, melon, and squash seed will come true if the plant is isolated from other varieties of its type.

Realize that the plants will take up room in the garden—not producing any food—while they are ripening seed.

Novice seed-savers should NOT bother with saving seed of cole crops such as broccoli or brussels sprouts. Other seeds you are better off buying (NOT saving) include carrots, beets, parsnips, radishes, and corn. Of course, you can try saving any of these—it’s just that you probably won’t get great plants from them.

The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds
by Robert Gough and Cheryl Moore-Gough is an excellent resource if you want to learn more about this subject.

#10 Make a map.

For me, one of the most tedious parts of growing a vegetable garden is the record-keeping. If I grow four varieties of carrots, I need to keep them straight so I can do a proper taste test later.

Labeling the rows with plastic plant tags and a Sharpie doesn’t work. Even the “Extreme Fade Resistant” markers will fade in the elements. Matte plastic tags and pencil work better, but now I forgo tags entirely and simply sketch a map that I keep in the house.

Danvers, Kuroda, George, Red-Cored Chantenay, Scarlet Nantes

I also plant different varieties alphabetically from east to west. My carrots this year went in like this: Danvers, then Kuroda, then Red-Cored Chantenay, then Scarlet Nantes.

Bonus tip!

Read my post on fertilizing your vegetable garden, too, to make sure your veggies are all they can be nutritionally.

What are you growing this year? Let’s talk veggies in the comments!

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