April 11, 2013

Gardening & Propagation Tips

The information here is my way of gardening, so whether or not it's the right way I can't say. I only know it works for me.

Cut the bottom out of a 5 gallon bucket, place it over the soil. Put enough dirt in bucket to be able to give 3 or 4 tubers room for rooting. Cover them. As the plants get taller cover them with more soil until they flower.

It’s nice to plant them this way because when they’re ready for harvesting in late fall/early winter all you have to do is kick over the bucket. No strenuous digging. If you’re worried about your soil being too hard, buy a few bags of dirt to mix with it (recycle the bags, of course, or a small truck load of dirt would be better-no bags).We  ran out of potatoes around 6 months, which was 15 buckets worth. 

This was only a little experiment I wanted to try over winter. As you can see, one potato, two potato, three potato, four...and not much more. The yield is small from one plant. But then, I knew it would be. I only planted the tubers just to see how big the potatoes would grow indoors.. I also did not have a big enough container, which may have contributed to the size.  Of course, I won't be trying this again. 

 Propagate a pussy willow tree by cutting a branch and slicing through the end of it. This makes it easier for water to be absorbed. Place the branch in water and wait for rooting to take place; this usually takes about 3 weeks or more. You can put the cut branch directly into soil, however you’d have to water it every day, and days you let it dry out  will kill it. Once root's are plentiful, it’s ready to plant. After planting, water it well for several weeks. You can always start them in dirt too and give them away as gifts!

(Flax flowers)

Store-bought seeds can be expensive and, as you know, nearly every seed pack contains very few seeds.

Many grocery stores sell seeds in their food sections that I use for planting. For instance, you can find whole flax in the organic section, like I bought and planted above, for about $3.89 a pound (I repeat, a pound!), and poppies in the baking section for $3.99 for 1/4 cup. Chamomile seeds taken from organic tea bags even work. In the pet section are various seeds for birds, such as sunflower and millet that also make for a nice crop when planted. 

For floral designers, the flax seeds are perfect for planting and then drying once the blue flowers are spent. When dried, flax makes gorgeous pepperberry-pod like wreaths. Of course, the added bonus of flax is the enjoyment of the dainty, blue flowers that bloom before the flax is ready for drying.

An old window or door works nice as a cold frame. Be sure to remove the glass though and replace it with Plexiglas. You don't want to risk having broken glass on your lettuce.....

Several years ago I planted a Trumpet and Wisteria vine next to our shed. I’ve regretted it ever since. I've pulled the Wisteria out last year and will be working on the Trumpet vine this year. Both have twisted and pushed their way through crevices of our little shed. Thankfully, they hadn't gotten so seriously out of control that it would have been a big project to pull them out. 

A few summer's ago we visited family in North Carolina and I saw just how aggressive the Kudzu vine can be. If not controlled it is left to strangle everything. And being that I started my vines from a seed I knew that a bird could do the same. I could have planted the wisteria by itself and away from everything, but I didn't really have an ideal place for it at the time. I thought if I kept it controlled I could keep up with it. I don’t like the idea of non-native plants taking over my Pennsylvania native plants. Perhaps it all starts when a person like me plants something invasive, and after time a new homeowner moves in after I’m gone and doesn't tend to the plants like I did. Before long the plants cover hillsides and farmlands eventually getting to the point an army would be needed to clear them.

 Both plants are extraordinarily beautiful, attract hummingbirds and bees, and their pods are great food for birds in the winter. None of this made me want to keep them though. I decided I’ll get my beauty elsewhere, and the birds can eat wild grapes,, berries, and sunflower seeds that I provide them. I’m sticking to native plants. By that I mean truly native, if I can find them.  I’ve learned a lot over the years on what invasive plants can do to an eco-system in such a short time. They are primarily exotic plants that originated in other parts of the country, or world for that matter, and they can mess up anything from soil chemistry, displacement of native plants, and wildlife habitat.

 Now I have to figure out when I’ll make time to remove my forsythia bushes. It'll be difficult to remove the mountain of yellow flowers that I have come to love over the years. Yellow is also my favorite color. I am finding it very time-consuming to keep the bush tame. If I don't keep it trimmed- it easily begins new bushes that are next to impossible to remove.

I know what some of you might be saying. Who cares, right? The plants are beautiful keep them. For me, it's more than that. From herein, I buy nothing until I've researched about a plant I want to buy. So many times I enter a nursery and fall in love with the color of something without ever giving it a second thought on what a nightmare a beautiful plant can later be. 

Native to Eastern and Central North America, the Red Mulberry tree. Easy to propagate by fresh seeds.

Find a good spot, plant the seeds, water them, cover with fencing for protection. I used wire to hold the fencing down. Later I put fencing around the tree. Last year, about ten years after planting- my 2nd tree is about 11 feet tall. Also, last year was the first year the tree had berries. In the lower right hand corner of the photo the tree was approx 4 years old. Once it made it to 6 years old, it grew quit rapidly every year thereafter.It produces berries that I fine useful in jelly-making, pies, cakes, etc. The berries (rather "collective fruit") are bittersweet. Birds love them, as do rabbits and deer so they need protection until large enough to be exposed without fencing. Easy to propagate. Always know 100% what you are handling, planting, cooking, and eating, and whether or not it is safe or if you are allergic; And it's wise never eat any unripe red mulberry fruits or raw shoots for various reasons that might make you sick. I love learning anything new! Interestingly, you can use this same propagation technique with many other trees or bushes. Some of them may require a cold stratification period first, however. I am not an expert. What I post here is only from my own experiences with planting, etc.

Normally I would not hang my herbs in the sun because they lose flavor and color. But on a 98 degree day I changed my mind. The cilantro dried in less than 24 hours and I was able to crumble it into jars for future use.

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