Successfully Growing Carrots in the Home Garden

Carrots can and should be part of a healthy diet and they can be used in many dishes; from salad to stew. This is a vegetable that is also quite easy to grow in a home garden and most varieties grow well in cool climates. If you know how to grow carrots, you will most likely be successful with a minimum of effort. Knowing how to grow them also isn’t very hard to learn. This humble vegetable can be traced back to its origins in Afghanistan, though it has been grown in home gardens throughout Europe and the world starting about 600 years ago. Soil Like many root crops, carrots grow best in loose soil that doesn’t compact easily, but which drains easily. If your dirt is clay, it should be amended by tilling in a large¬†quantity of finished compost and/or well-rotted manure. This gives the carrots plenty of food during growth while also improving the tilth of the ground. Sunlight Carrots are sun-loving plants. However, they struggle when temperatures get high. If you have summers that get extremely hot, it can be helpful to these plants if they are furnished with some shade late in the afternoon and evening, when temperatures tend to be at their highest and the sun is the most intense. This can often be accomplished by planting heat-loving plants that grow taller than carrots, on the west side of the row of carrots. The taller plants function as a sun break against the afternoon and Continue Reading →

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Planting and Growing Lilium

A large number of plants are called lilies, but the true lilies belong to the genus Lilium. This genus is a big one, with over 100 species and literally thousands of different cultivars. They aren’t especially difficult to grow and they are quite beautiful. Many also have a wonderful aroma. These plants attract both honey bees and hummingbirds. They have the added benefit of being plants that usually grow quite well in the north. In most cases, liliums have showy, trumpet-shaped flowers with six petals and six stamens. The blossoms can appear from spring through fall, depending on the species. There is also a huge selection of blossom colors that are available with the various cultivars. Some have flower stalks that are only a foot or two tall, while others may reach over six feet. The taller varieties may need to be staked because the large flowers can make them top-heavy. Liliums grow from scaly bulbs. These should be planted in the spring or fall. These plants will grow from the far north through the subtropics and spring planting is preferable for the species grown in the north, because of the abbreviated growing season. The soil should be well-draining and rich. Lilies benefit from mulching throughout the growing season, and a final deep mulching late in the year to protect the bulbs from the harshest temperatures. These plants also do well in partial shade. Spent flowers should be dead-headed, however the flower stalk shouldn’t be removed until it dies back Continue Reading →

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Growing Anise Sage in Flowerbeds and Gardens

Anise sage (Salvia guaranitica) is a plant that has a profusion of beautiful dark blue flowers that are rather tube shaped and can be over an inch long. The plant tends to be bushy and in good conditions it can grow up to five feet tall, though it can be trimmed to a shorter height. Although it is related to garden sage (Salvia officinalis), which is used to flavor foods, anise sage is normally grown as an ornamental. When the leaves are bruised, they have a mild anise scent. The flowers also carry the anise aroma. This species of salvia is native to tropical South America, including much of Brazil. It is sometimes called hummingbird sage or blue sage. Although the plant is a perennial, in most places in the north it is grown as an annual because it isn’t cold hardy. It is, however, highly attractive to hummingbirds, honey bees and butterflies. This plant like full sunshine, though it will tolerate a small amount of shade. It will grow in most soils that drain well and the plant also grows well in regular potting soil, in pots. It grows in soil that is slightly acidic to slightly alkaline. The plant is quite tolerant of heat as long as it gets enough water; roughly one to two inches of water per week during the heat of summer, so that the soil is moistened well during growing season. If the plants are in pots, they may require more water than this, Continue Reading →

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The Importance of Checking Soil Temperature

A lot of people understand that when there is a hard frost, many of the less hardy plants in the garden are likely to die. What fewer people understand is that soil temperature is just as important as air temperature in keeping the plants alive. This can be confusing because a frost is caused by a combination of air temperature and humidity. With the emphasis that even weather stations put on frost reports and warnings, it would seem that soil temperature is unimportant. This would be an incorrect assumption. For most garden plants to flourish, they require a healthy root system. If the soil temperature is too cold, the roots die or struggle to develop. This is the reason that plants may continue to grow in the fall even after they’ve been ‘singed’; that is, a light frost has occurred and perhaps killed a number of the leaves. If the soil is still warm and the roots are still in good shape, the plant continues to grow. Taken a step further, have you noticed how some plant seeds will lay on or in the ground, not germinating even when the air temperature becomes quite warm? Many seeds in this situation will actually rot, rather than germinating. This is because of the ground or soil temperature. If it isn’t warm enough, the delicate roots of seedlings won’t survive, so the seeds don’t germinate. Some seeds won’t germinate until the soil temperatures get substantially above what we might consider to be warm. Continue Reading →

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The Unreasonably High Cost of Herbs

I grow my own herbs. Part of this is that by doing so, I have a supply of fresh herbs whenever I want it. An even bigger reason is to save money. People don’t often realize how much money they can save by growing their own herbs. As an example, in Oregon, I grew a single sage plant. I purchased the seedling for about $3 and it was in a four-inch pot. By the end of the year, that sage plant covered over four square feet and since sage likes poor soil and bad conditions, nothing else would have grown there except weeds. I gave away roughly half of the sage when I harvested it, and still ended up with two and a half pounds of sage at the end of the year. I air-dried it. Fast forward to now. I recently priced dried sage at the store. An off-brand (cheap brand) sold rubbed sage in three-quarter ounce bottles for $2.89. The name brand was selling it for $5.63. For just the cheap brand, that comes to $61.65 per pound. (For the name brand, it would be $120.11 per pound.) As I said, I had two and a half pounds of it, so at the price of the cheap sage, that represented over $154.00. Commercial companies use heat to dry their herbs and heat destroys most of the flavor and healthy substances in the herb. I air-dried mine, so I only lost a small amount of the flavor and health Continue Reading →

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Making and Using a Tiered Bed Garden

One of the problems that many people have with gardening is in finding the room for the garden. In a traditional garden, a lot of space is needed in order to grow enough plants to provide food enough for a small family. However, a traditional garden is gardening in two dimensions; length and width. A third dimension is being wasted; height. Tiered bed gardening takes advantage of that space that isn’t being used. Tiered bed overview A tiered bed usually amounts to a frame that is filled with dirt. Upon this frame, another smaller frame is built and also filled with dirt. This is repeated as many times as is wanted and the area allows. It might not seem like this would grow more plants than traditional rows would grow. However, a tiered bed will actually allow two or three times as many plants to be grown. This is because you aren’t growing in just an area, you are growing in a volume – three dimensions. This can be most easily seen after explaining how to build a tiered bed. Building the bed Many different sizes of tiered beds are possible and even different shapes can be built. The idea is easy to master, though, so we’ll concentrate on a very basic design that covers a plot of six feet by six feet. The frame can be made of 2×12 lumber or with three 2×4‘s. The first step is to drive 2×2 stakes into the ground, two inches apart and Continue Reading →

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Difficulties when Growing Blueberries

A lot of people love the taste of blueberries, whether used fresh, in pies, jelly, juiced or any number of other ways. It seems to just make sense that quite a few gardeners would want to grow the plants; not just as a way to save money, but also to have the freshest possible berries. The bushes are hardy and not tremendously difficult to grow. However, there are a few problems that can be encountered when growing or even trying to grow them that can lead to failure. Knowing what they are is a first step toward overcoming the problems. Soil acidity Unlike so many fruits and vegetables that prefer soil that is quite close to being neutral, or neither acidic or alkaline, blueberry bushes grow best in quite acidic soil. There can be a bit of variation depending on the species or type of blueberry, but this is a plant that loves the pH to be around 6.0 to 5.0 or even less, on average. If the soil has a pH that is much higher than this, the bushes won’t grow very well, the plants may not form many or any berries and the plant may die. Though the soil pH can usually be lowered, trying to grow blueberries in dirt that is too alkaline is a common problem. The soil should be soured before the bushes are even planted, ideally. What makes this a worse problem is that quite a few people want to avoid chemicals in their Continue Reading →

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A Bit About Cauliflower

All members of the cabbage family, including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kohlrabi, are tremendously healthy additions to a person’s diet, whether eaten raw or cooked. Some studies have even shown that eating a portion of these plants daily might greatly help prevent or treat certain kinds of cancer. Cauliflower is a tremendous source of vitamin C. A cup of cooked cauliflower can exceed the required daily allowance for this vitamin, so it is a good vegetable to eat during cold and flu season. It is also high in vitamin B6, folate, potassium and manganese. Yet a cup only has 25 calories, which makes it great for dieters. When growing cauliflower, plant them in warm, rich, well draining soil and keep them watered well. The soil should be high in nitrogen, with plenty of finished compost or other organic additives dug in. Ground temperature is more important than air temperature for these plants. Once they are established, they tend to be cold hearty if the air temperature drops. As soon as the head begins to form, draw the leaves up around the head and tie them together above the developing head. By doing this and blocking the sunshine, the heads take on a nice white color. This is sometimes called blanching, though it has nothing to do with the sort of blanching that is done during cooking. The heads are usually ready for harvest when they are about 6 inches in diameter, but while the head is still tightly Continue Reading →

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