Archive for the ‘Gardening Knowledge’ Category

Bulbing Tips and Tricks

How Deep Do I Plant Bulbs?

Great question. That depends on the size of the bulb. the rule of thumb for bulbing is to plant every bulb 3 times its height into the ground.

A very large variety of Allium.

Gladiator Alliums are one of the largest varieties.

For example, a large Allium such as a Gladiator is about 2-3 inches tall (a very big bulb!), so you would want to have the base of that Gladiator Allium bulb about 6-9 inches below the surface. This allows for bulbs to root themselves properly and ensures strong upright stalks, it also ensure that your flowers will bloom that the proper time.


Flower Bulb Depth Planting Chart

Plant each bulb about 3 times its height below the surface.

When Can I Plant Fall Bulbs?

Bulbing season is dependent on your region and the local weather, but you can plant bulbs up until the ground freezes. So as long as you can still work the soil without frozen chunks being a problem, its still bulbing season!

The cold period before the first hard frost is eessential for bulbs to root themselves. This allows bulbs to establish the roots they will need for large and strong spring flowers.

What Bulbs Work Well Together?

Floral displays are works of art, every one is different. However there are a couple good tips to follow:

  • Plant Bulbs with shorter varieties in front (so you taller flowers don’t block smaller ones)
  • Plant in large groups, I like to pack my bulbs in tight for a brilliant display
  • Plan the bloom times:
    • Every flower has a general expected week or month that it will bloom
    • Plant early bloomers with late bloomers for constant color
  • Plant Intentional Colors
    • Mix colors evenly or plant massive color patches
Mixing colors of triumph tulips.

Mixing colors, like with these tulips, can have a dramatic effect.

Do Different Flowers Grow Well Together?

YES. When I worked as a landscaper/gardener, one of our favorite techniques was to plant large, late blooming Daffodils (Narscissus) with mid-spring blooming Tulips just above, then Grape Hyacinths (muscari) above the tulips and finally Crocus just below the surface.

This planting technique would create a constant floral display of changing colors and varieties of flower into early summer all in one tight packed spot (sometimes the garden gets so full you need to find tricks to make room ;) .



Posted on September 12th, 2014 by admin  |  No Comments »

Grow Marshmallow Plants from Seed

Grow Marshmallow Plant from Seed

The Marshmallow plant is a unique and ancient plant that is fun and easy to grow!

What IS the Marshmallow plant?

When most people think of marshmallows their mind automatically turns to the soft, spongy candy that is delicious toasted on a campfire, munching on when watching the TV or surfing the Internet! Marshmallow’s distinctive taste is due to the use of the sap from the marshmallow plant, or Althaea officinalis . The ancient Egyptians first used in confectionery by mixing it with honey and nuts. Modern marshmallows owe much to their texture and flavor thanks to the French who had the idea of whipping up the sap and combining it with sugar. Modern marshmallow candy is extruded by machine, which gives it its distinctive cylindrical shape, but the marshmallow plant is not only good for making candy, it has other properties too. Marshmallow sap and mucilage has long been used as a treatment for all sorts of ailments, from coughs and sore throats to constipation; many herbalists still use it to this day. Marshmallow sap, seed, leaves and roots are all edible and make ideal salad items too.

The Marshmallow, a hardy but elegant-looking plant

Grow Marshmallow Plant

The Marshmallow plant is unique plant full of magic and mystery!

History and uses of the Marshmallow plant and it’s parts:

Marshmallow plants get their name from the fact that in the wild, they tend to grow in the swamps and marshlands of the mid-Atlantic. It’s an elegant looking plant with velvety, soft leaves and pale pink flowers that stay on all year round, which makes marshmallow an ideal decorative plant. Marshmallow plants are also fairly hardy and well used to wet and cold weather, which makes them easy to maintain and look after. The seeds from the marshmallow plant are also great ingredients for cooking, helping to add distinctive flavors to all sorts of dishes, both savory and sweet. The seeds can even be eaten raw!

Growing Marshmallow Plants from Seed:

Stratifying seeds:

To grow a marshmallow plant from them, you need to first stratify the seeds to begin the germination process. Stratification involves storing them in the same conditions they experience in the wild and is best done by mixing the seeds with damp sand and placing them in a plastic bag. After letting the bag stand at room temperature for 24 hours to absorb the moisture within the sand, put the bag it in the refrigerator for four to six weeks, giving it an occasional shake. Keep checking for signs of germination, which once begins, indicates the marshmallow seeds needs planting.

Planting the Seeds:

Once the seeds are showing signs of germination (by beginning to sprout), you need to start planting them immediately. They fare best in a normal garden pot, with holes in the bottom for drainage. Simply fill the pot with a good soil or potting mixture and place the seeds and sand from the bag on top. Because marshmallow plants grow in marsh and swampland, they need to be kept as moist as possible. The best way to do this is to cover the pot very loosely with a transparent plastic bag or some wrap, ensuring enough air can get to it (make holes in it if you have to). This will trap any condensation.

You should keep the pot in a sunny but cool area, preferably indoors by a window, until the seedlings begin to sprout and you can see green stems. Keep checking the moisture level, remembering the conditions they grow in the wild; sprinkle with water if necessary if the sand/soil mixture gets too dry.

Time to Transplant!

Once the seedlings are showing signs of sprouting, it’s time to transplant the marshmallow plants outside. Dig holes in the bedding about a foot apart and transfer a seedling into each hole, gently patting soil around it to ensure it is properly secured. Make sure the plants receive plenty of water during the first year, especially during the hot weather, replicating the types of conditions they grow in the wild.

Watch them Grow and Enjoy!

Marshmallow plants grow slowly at first, but after a year, it may be necessary to distance the plants a further foot apart to avoid crowding. Marshmallow plants grow to about four feet in height once matured and are easy plants to take stem cuttings or to propagate seeds. If you want to use the plants for culinary uses, you can sprinkle seeds on salads as a tasty replacement for sunflower seeds, or place in stews and other dishes. The leaves too are good to eat, either raw or as a steamed vegetables.

Marshmallow Seeds

Click imigae above to be directed to high quality Marshmallow Seed!

Posted on January 18th, 2012 by Ms. Sunshine  |  No Comments »

What is Damiana? (and How to Grow it)

What is damiana?

Damiana grows wild in the subtropical regions of the Americas and Africa and is widely used in traditional medicine

What is Damiana?

Damiana is a historically well known herb in North America.  This amazing plant is native to Texas, parts of Southern California and throughout the entire country of Mexico.  Its roots can be traced back to the ancient civilization of the Mayan’s who used it for many of the same reasons it is used today, including use as an aphrodisiac and to stimulate the intestinal tract. There are a few important things to know about damiana, such as the two species of plant, its common forms and uses and the risks associated with it’s use.

Types of Damiana

There are two species of the plant both referred to as Damiana.  The first, Turnera aphrodisiaca, has long been used as an aphrodisiac as the name implies and can be traced back to use in the ancient Mexican culture of the Mayans.  The second species of the plant, Turnera diffusa, is also commonly used in herbal healing to treat symptoms such as anxiety, nervousness, and mild depression.  Because many of these symptoms may be tied to sexual inadequacies both are employed as an aphrodisiac for both men and women.  The small shrub-like plant blooms in late summer and produces small but brilliant yellow flowers that are quite fragrant.  Once the plant blooms, small fruits, which have been compared to figs in flavor, appear on the plant.   The shrub itself has a very aromatic spicy odor that is comparable to chamomile.

Damiana’s Herbal Uses

Although many parts of damiana have been used in herbal remedy throughout history, today’s most common forms come through the use of its leaves.  Damiana leaves are commonly found in pill form and as a tea for consumption.  There are many different effects for damiana so it is important to consult an herbalist in order to best understand what each form is used for, the proper dosage and not to mention possible side effects.  It is also important to note that while the FDA has not approved damiana, there have been many recent studies that have confirmed the medical uses of damiana.

A large number of studies have concluded that there are clear increased sexual drives in both male and female rats (“Stimulating property of Turnera diffusa and Pfaffia paniculata extracts on the sexual behavior of male rats” Arletti, R., Benelli, A., Cavazzuti, E., Scarpetta, G., & Bertolini, A. September 1998).  Pills for use as an aphrodisiac are commonly found today and are said to stimulate the intestinal tract, bringing oxygen to the genital area, which serves to increase the users energy levels thus increasing libido and desire for a partner.  Most pills are made from the leaves of the plant.  The recommended dosage is 2-200mg tablets 3 times daily but it is highly recommended to consult an expert prior to consumption.  It is not recommended to take damiana if you take medicine to treat diabetes or to control blood sugar levels such as insulin, glipizide (Glucotrol), and many others.

Damiana Tea

Damiana is possibly better known in the form of tea brewed from the various parts of the plant.  The tea itself is quite easy to make yourself if you decide to go forward with cultivation of your own plant.  However, one must be responsible and diligent to follow your local laws, as it is illegal to cultivate damiana in the state of Louisiana (Legislature of Louisiana: Regular Session, Act No. 565; House Bill No. 173, 2010). One key to the benefits of damiana tea may come from the variety of different essential oils and minerals, including phosphorus, tannins, and flavonoids.  The combination of these oils and minerals and their effects on the central nervous system is still not completely understood.  What nutritionists and herbalists understand is that damiana tea produces calming effects for those of us who are stressed out or over worked. Drinking damiana tea has been shown to help increase general energy levels, control irritable bowel syndrome, and even improve asthma symptoms. Some of the other benefits include relief from depression and anxiety.  The recommended dosage for the tea or tonic is a 1:5 mixture of 5 mL, 3 times daily.  It is rare but some users have reported allergic reactions to damiana. If you think that damiana is something you would like to try and you enjoy tryingsomething new and exciting in your garden you can cultivate your own damiana plant!

Growing Damiana

Growing your own damiana plant is an easy and enjoyable way to add a little something special to your garden.  The basics for excellent cultivation lay in your ability to provide the plant with a well-drained environment in which to thrive.  Because the plant is indigenous to southern parts of America, Mexico and South America it does require a fair amount of sunlight.  If the temperature of the environment is consistently cooler such as coastal southern California, place your plant in direct sunlight for the majority of the time.  However, the further in-land you go, the hotter and hotter the environment becomes and therefore you will need to base your plants location around a well-balanced mixture of shade and sunshine.

Growing Damiana from a Seedling

There is a very small and simple list of ingredients needed to get you started.

  • Damiana plant
  • Large planting buckets
  • Soil and Gravel mixture

Once you have gathered all your planting materials, mix the soil and gravel into the bottom of the bucket so that the root system will have ample drainage.  Place your damiana plant in the planter and cover it with the remainder of soil and gravel mixed together.  Make sure to cover the plants root system all the way up to the stem and water.  This shrub thrives in regions with high drainage, so the mixture you have made should do the job.  All you need to do now is sit back, make sure you water daily and let the damiana plant bring all its mystery and excitement to you!

Growing Damiana from Seed

Damiana can also be started from seed. The best method for starting damiana from seed is to use a “cold stratifying” technique. Damiana seeds will germinate at about a 60-80% rate and take a lot of attention and extra TLC.

Once you have a well established seedling you can transplant and care for it as explained above.

Damiana is a popular plant for both its medicinal and landscaping qualities – enjoy!

What is damiana?

Posted on November 11th, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  4 Comments »

Growing Tulips in Colorado


Growing Tulips in Colorful Colorado

An Abundance of Tulips Bloom on Boulder Colorado's "Pearl Street Mall"

“I guess he’d rather be in Colorado
He’d rather spend his time out where the sky looks like a pearl after a rain”

John Denver

Growing Tulips in Colorado

Tulips are part of the Tulipa genus which has over 100 species of flowers.  Tulips are perennials (many tulips are planted in late fall as annuals) and are a welcome emergence of color to your garden every spring.  Tulips thrive in climates where there are long cool springs and dry summers, making them an ideal plant for gardens in Colorado.

When and Where to Plant

For tulip growers in Colorado, the best results are typically achieved by planting the bulbs in late September through October and even as late as December depending on when and where you want them to bloom.   Even though tulips grow well in both sun and shade, you will want to avoid planting tulips in a southerly exposure too early in the year, in order to avoid premature blooming.

If you plant your bulbs too early in the year, at a shallow depth, the heat from a south exposure can make the bulbs bloom in the early heat only to be killed off by an inevitable freeze.  Conversely, if you are late to plant your bulbs you can make up the time by planting your bulbs in a southerly exposure and at a more shallow depth thus allowing the bulbs a better chance of warming up and blooming.  An average depth of 4 to 8 inches should do the trick.  The best rule of thumb for the proper depth is to plant the bulb at a depth three times as deep as the height of the bulb.  For example, if the bulb is one and ½ inches tall, dig a hole 4 and ½ inches deep and place the bulb at the bottom with 3 inches of soil on top of the bulb.   You can group the bulbs together according to a similar guideline.  Spacing the bulbs at a width two times the width of the bulb allows for close grouping and spectacular blooming in the spring.  If the bulb is one inch wide space the bulb two inches from the next bulb and proceed accordingly.

For all of the procrastinators out there don’t worry, if you miss the time window of fall you can still plant late in the year.   To achieve the proper blooming schedule, plant the bulbs at a slightly more shallow depth than normal and pick a space in your yard where the sun will assure warmth throughout the proceeding season.

Planting Tulip Bulbs

Spacing and location are important factors to consider when planting your bulbs

Picking the Best Tulip Bulbs

An all important step to great tulips is picking the best Tulip bulbs.  You want to pick the biggest, firmest, fullest bulbs available.  In the case of bulb picking size does matter, and bigger is definitely better.  You do not want bulbs that are soft to the touch as they may contain mold and thus might lead to bulb rot.

Buying Tulip Bulbs

When choosing your bulbs, select bulbs that are firm and blemish free

Preparing the Soil

Once you have picked the biggest and best bulbs it is time to prepare the soil in which you have decided to plant.  The soil should be quick draining and well aerated as this is where tulips will thrive.  Dig your holes and then begin placing your bulbs.  The bulbs need to be planted with the point up and the flat part of the bulb sitting at the bottom of you hole.  You will only need to water if you feel the ground is particularly dry.

If you follow these simple steps to planting Tulips, you can expect an amazing burst of color come spring and you can enjoy your Tulips for many years!

Growing Tulips

Posted on September 9th, 2011 by Dr. Greenthumb  |  3 Comments »

Tulipomania and the History of the Tulip Bulb

Tulipomania- The Story

Tulipomania (n.) A violent passion for the acquisition or cultivation of tulips

The History of Tulips

The Tulip has a long, exciting and unique history that has led to the great variety of myths, folklore and symbolism that have come to be associated with this beautiful flower.


Today, we associate Tulips (and most bulb flowers) with Holland however, Holland is, in fact, no bulb’s ancestral home! Tulips are from Central Asia, Daffodils are from Spain and Portugal, Dahlias come from Mexico, Amaryllis is native to South America, Freesias and Callas come from South Africa, and most of the species of “wild” lilies are from China, Japan, and North America. The wild forms of these bulb flowers have been developed by Dutch flower hybridizers to produce the amazing variety of flowers we are now familiar with and seek for our home gardens. Most of the true “wild” forms of these bulbs are still available, but with all the glamor of the hybrids, the wild ones are more difficult to find.

There are about 150 species of “wild tulips” that originate from the Pamir Alai and Tien-Shan Mountain Ranges (near modern day Russian/Chinese border), and  east into China and West into France and Spain, with the majority coming from Central Asia.

Three famous wild forms of Tulips:

“Lilac Wonder”, Tulipa bakeri

The “Lilac Wonder”, Tulipa bakeri is a 6-8” tall wild tulip, native to the Greek Island of Crete.

Wild "Lilac Wonder", Tulipa bakeri

One of the more difficult to find "wild" forms of tulips

“Peppermint Stick, Tulipa clusiana

The “Peppermint Stick, Tulipa clusiana is a 13” tall wild tulip native to the mountains of Afghanistan and Iran

"Peppermint Sick" Tulipa clusiana

Fun red and white botanical Tulips

“Tarda”, Tulipa tarda

The “Tarda”, Tulipa tarda is a small 5-6” tall wild tulip from Central Asia. This valuable native tulip used extensively in hybridizing

Tulipa Tarda

A valuable native tulip used extensively in hybridizing

Tulips in Turkey

The glorification of the Tulip probably started in Ottoman Empire of Turkey as early as 1,000 AD.  During this time, the Sultans celebrated the Tulip flower and came to believe it could help bring wealth and power.  Today the tulip is still the national flower of Turkey.

Famous Turkish Tulip Legend

One famous Turkish lore tells of a very handsome prince named Farhad who fell deeply in love with a fair maiden named Shirin. One day, news spread to the prince that Shirin had been killed. In his grief, the prince mounted his horse and rode it over a cliff to his death. According to the legend, each droplet of his blood caused a scarlet colored tulip to spring up, making the tulip a historic symbol of “perfect” love.

Red Emperor Tulips

The deep red color of the "Red Emperor" reminds us of the price's blood

Europe is introduced to the Tulip

During the 1500’s European botanists began recording their findings in beautiful drawings. Many of these early tulip renderings began appearing in Europe. The flowers depicted were so beautiful and unique that they gained wide notice. One of the most famous of these early botanic drawings, called “Tulipa bononiesnsis”, become very famous and helped spark a great interest in these flowers.  Paintings depicting these “new flowers” were very exotic to Europeans and helped fuel the fire for what was soon to become the great tulip craze!

Tulipa bononiesnsis

The famous Tulipa bononiensis which looks a lot like our “Red Emperor” tulips today

In the late 16th century a botonist named Carolus Clusius was the head botanist (called the “Hortulanus”) at the University of Leiden. During Clusius’ earlier work in Vienna, he had met a man named DeBusbecq. DeBusbecq was the ambassador to the court of the Sultan in Constantinople, the seat of the Ottoman Empire. As a gift, DeBusbecq gave Clusius some tulip bulbs from Central Asia. Clusias brought these bulbs with him to Holland and began studying the unique flowers, probably in hopes of finding medicinal uses for the bulbs. Since the people of Holland had seen the beautiful botanical drawing circulating throughout Europe, many investors became interested in the flowers as “money-makers” in the developing floral trade market.

Clusias contributed the desirability of the tulip bulbs by being very secretive and protective of the bulbs. The public became so fascinated with the mysterious flowers that some were even stolen from his gardens. This was the beginning of what has come to be known as the famous “Tulipomania”.


During the 17th century, when the tulip bulbs got beyond the protective grasp of Clusias, the great rise and fall of the “great tulip craze” began. The bulbs were considered very precious rarities and their price quickly began to rise. Through the early 1600’s the prices skyrocketed as an actual trading market for Tulip Bulbs developed. As the hybrids became more and more glamorous, the limited supply of certain bulbs became highly prized by the rich who, ultimately, were willing to pay almost any price. By 1624, one tulip type, with only 12 bulbs available, was selling for 3000 guilders per bulb, the equivalent of about $1500 today! This bulb was similar to today’s “Rembrandt Tulips” which sell for about $0.50 a bulb! During the peak of the tulip craze, one famous sale is recorded for a single bulb going for the equivalent of $2250 plus a horse and carriage!

During the 1630s, the frenzy continued as notarized bills of sale were being issued for bulbs, fraud and speculation were rampant, and the incredible tulip bubble was about to burst. The crash came in 1637. Many rich traders became paupers overnight, and the prices finally settled at a much more practical level.

The settling of “Tulipomania” did not reduce the real demand and the love of the sheer beauty of the tulip flowers.  The tulip market has been maintained and the Dutch have built one of the best organized production and export businesses in the world. Today, over nine billion flower bulbs are produced each year in Holland, and about 7 billion of them are exported, for an export value of three quarters of a billion dollars. The USA is the biggest importer of Dutch bulbs importing around $130,000,000 worth of Dutch bulbs (at wholesale) every year!

Tulip Bulbs in Holland

Over nine billion flower bulbs are produced each year in Holland, and about 7 billion of them are exported


Posted on September 8th, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  2 Comments »

Tulip Symbolism by Color

Tulip Flowers and their Symbolism

The Color of Specific Tulips Hold Intimate and Historic Meaning

“The tulip and the butterfly
Appear in gayer coats than I:
Let me be dressed fine as I will,
Flies, worms, and flowers
exceed me still.

~ Isaac Watts

Tulip Symbolism

The name of the “Tulip” flower comes from the headdress, known as the turban or taliban, worn by many people in the Middle East. The Latin translation of the turban is “tulipa”.

The great history of the Tulip, which reaches to the far corners of the world, has given it many strong symbolic associations.  As a group, Tulips represent fame, wealth and perfect love.

Perhaps because they bloom in the spring, following the darkness of the winter months, the Tulip has come to symbolize eternal life.

Tulip Symbolism by Color

The symbolic meaning of the tulip flower changes with the color of the flower.


Red tulips are a declaration of love and mean, “believe me”.

Red Oscar Tulip Bulbs

Red Oscar Tulips


Yellow tulips mean, “there’s sunshine in your smile”.

"Strong Gold" Yellow Tulip Bulbs

"Strong Gold" Yellow Tulips


Cream colored tulips mean , “I will love you forever”.

Maureen Tulip Bulbs

Creamy "Maureen" Tulips


White tulips symbolize heaven, newness and purity.

Inzell Tulip Bulbs

Pure white, "Inzell" Tulips


Purple tulips symbolize royalty and wealth.

Purple Prince Tulip Bulbs

Deep purple, "Purple Prince" Tulips


Pink tulips symbolize affection and caring

Upstar Tulip Bulbs

Pink, "Upstar" Tulips


Orange tulips symbolize energy, enthusiasm, desire and passion

Princess Irene Tulip Bulbs

Ornage colored "Princess Irene" Tulips


Variegated tulips mean, “you have beautiful eyes”

Mickey Mouse Tulip Bulbs

Multi-colored, or variegated, "Mickey Mouse" tulips

Tulips are a long time favorite of the spring garden and the meaning of a garden can be encoded in the color choice of the flowers. For example, a white tulip garden would symbolize “heaven on earth”, while a cream and red tulip garden would be symbolic of a deep and everlasting love. Planting tulips can be a very rewarding way to add symbolic meaning and beauty to your spring gardens.

Tulip Flowers


Posted on August 31st, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  5 Comments »

Seed Germinating Times and Tips

Germinating seed

Germinating seeds can vary from easy to difficult

“Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas.” Elizabeth Murray

The Art of the Garden

As any seasoned gardener will tell you, gardening is an art and a true labor of love. The art of the garden begins with learning about the needs of each seed. Germinating seeds is not a black and white “by the book” process. Each seed type is different and desires different conditions and levels of patience. Some, like the Radish and many Lettuces, only ask for a little water and a few days. Others, like the Hot Peppers and some Perennial flowers, need specific temperature and humidity and MONTHS to germinate!

In this post we will give you some basic tips for successful germination, information of the various seed “types” followed by a chart detailing expected germination times of specific seed varieties.

The “Must Know”s for Successful Seed Germinating

Sowing the seed

Germinating Seeds

All seeds need water and oxygen to germinate. The best soil choice (in almost all situations) is a light, loose soil that will not compact, get soggy, or crust over. Successful germination demand a continuous supply of  water and air. Cover seed with 2 – 4 times their thickness of soil, unless they require light to germinate. Sow shallowly in cold wet spring, more deeply in warm dry summer. Large seeds can be soaked overnight and planted singly. Barely cover small seeds, and sprinkle fine seed on the surface and water by misting. Plant flat seed edgewise and winged seed with wing uppermost or broken off. Sowing too thickly wastes seed and weakens the crowded seedlings, but some kinds of seed sprout best if crowded. Lightly tamp soil to insure good contact with the seed, unless heavy. Keep soil moist, not soggy, and do not allow it to dry out!
Common causes of failure of germination are:

  • Soil too heavy, wet or cold, or allowed to dry out
  • Impatience with slow seeds (some seeds need MONTHS not days to germinate!)- See germination chart below for guidance in germination times
  • Pests eating the seeds or seedlings,
  • Not giving dormant seeds the proper pretreatment

Careful attention to any growing instructions on the internet, in the catalog and on the seed packet will help insure optimal results results. Remember that seed “germination rates” also vary by seed variety. Some varieties bost 90-100% germination rates while some, more difficult varieties will only give a 20% germination rate.


Germinating Seeds

Most seeds germinate best at warm (70°F) temperatures. Plants from temperate regions, the arctic, high mountains and high deserts often germinate best at cool temperatures. Plants from winter-rain areas like California, the Mediterranean, Chile, S. Africa and parts of Australia also like cool temperatures. Warm temperatures will often speed germination of these seeds, but lower vigor, survival and germination rates. Warm desert plants and tropical seeds like warmth. Please refer to the germination chart below for guidance on germination temperatures for specific seed varieties.

Seed Types and General Germination Tips

Germinating Seeds


Grow Foxglove from Seed!

An annual plant is a plant that usually germinates, flowers, and dies in a year or season. “True annuals” will only live longer than a year if they are prevented from setting seed.

Hardy annual seeds can handle being frozen in the soil and are often planted in fall or early spring. Most self-seeding annuals would be considered hardy annual seeds. These seeds can be sown direct to the garden as early as the ground can be worked (generally, March to June). The soil should be prepared until a smooth, fine surface is obtained. An attractive annual border can be had by planting annuals in large, irregular drifts.

Examples of Hardy Annuals include: Alyssum, Dianthus, Calendula, Cornflower, Foxglove, Larkspur, Pansy, many Dianthus cultivars and Viola.


Grow Baby's Breathe from Seed

Half Hardy Annuals are killed by frost and should be sown in late spring after danger of frost. For early bloom, start early indoors & plant out after danger of frost.

Examples of Half Hardy Annuals include: Comsos, Gazania, Baby’s breath, Bells of Ireland, Blue sage, Candytuft, Celome, Forget-me-nots, Love-in-a-mist, Snow-on-the-mountain, Strawflower and Petunias


Grow Flowering Tobacco, a tender annual

Tender Annuals need warmth and shelter and, as their name implies, are the most sensitive of the annual varieties. Tender Annuals are best started in pots or flats and planted out in favored spots after the soil has warmed. Most Tender Annuals can’t handle anything colder than about 55 degrees F

Examples of Tender Annuals include: Ageratum, Balsam, Begonia, Celosia, Coleus, Amaranth, Impatiens, Marigold, Morning glory, Nasturtium, Nicotiana, Petunia, Scarlet sage, Verbena, Vinca,  and Zinnia


Grow Black Hollyhock from Seed

The life cycle of biennial plants is completed over two growing seasons. During the first season they produce only leaves—usually in a rosette. Following a winter cold period, they flower in the second growing season, produce seeds, and then die. Biennials are sown like half hardy annuals or perennials in spring or fall and planted out in September and October. Biennials present the obvious disadvantage of producing only foliage the first year. One solution is to sow biennial seeds in mid-summer so that the plants will develop during the summer and fall. After exposure to the winter cold, they will develop flowers in the spring.

Examples of Biennials include: Foxglove, Hollyhock, Stocks, and Sweet williams.

Winter annuals germinate in autumn or winter, live through the winter, then bloom in winter or spring. Winter annuals such as some Californian and desert plants may be grown in summer, but are at their best sown in fall, even if grown in the greenhouse in cold winter areas. These plants grow and bloom during the cool season when most other plants are dormant or other annuals are in seed form waiting for warmer weather to germinate. Winter annuals die after flowering and setting seed. The seeds germinate in the fall or winter when the soil temperature is cool.

Winter annuals typically grow low to the ground, where they are usually sheltered from the coldest nights by snow cover, and make use of warm periods in winter for growth when the snow melts.

Examples of Winter Annuals include: Henbit, Deadnettle, Chickweed, and Winter cress.


Grow Beautiful Echinacea White Swan from Seed

Generally speaking, Perennial Plants are plants that live for two or more years. Hardy Perennials are perennial plants that are capable of surviving the coldest temperatures of a given area and Herbaceous Perennials are non-woody plants that lives for two or more years; These perennial plants can either be deciduous or evergreen.

Many  Perennials germinate readily at warm temperatures, and can be sown direct to the garden or early in the greenhouse or cold frame. If started early, they often bloom the first year. Other Perennials germinate best at cool or cold temperatures and the seedlings need cool temperatures. Many have various dormancies & need specific pretreatments.

Perennial plants can be short-lived (only a few years) or they can be long-lived, as are some woody plants like trees which can live for over 4,000 years

Examples of Perennial Plants include: Many Herbs (Some Basils, Chives, Dill , Mint etc), Asters, Echinacea, Dianthus, Raspberry, Strawberry, Apple Tree, Globe Artichoke, Hognut, Sorrel and Watercress

Germination Time

Germinating Seeds

For most seed, average germination time is given in a range of weeks.  A seed that takes 2 – 3 weeks will usually come up fairly evenly. On the other hand, one that takes 1 – 12 weeks will tend to straggle in irregularly. Time varies with temperature, so expect considerable variation. Don’t give up too soon—many who have given up and sown another seed in the pot end up with two types of plants in the same pot!

Below you will find a chart of specific germination times for many popular garden seeds:

For detailed information on HOW to germinate Pepper Seeds, click HERE

Set yourself up for success!

Other important factors in seed germination are the Soil mix and pH, Pre-treatment of seeds, optimal hours of light, and various seed germinating techniques. We will be addressing these issues in upcoming posts so stay tuned!

Knowing what to expect from your specific seeds and how to best care for them will help set you up for successful germination and save you the concern of wondering “when will my seeds germinate?!”

“All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.” Swedish Proverb

Germinating seed

Happy Germinating!

Posted on July 6th, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  3 Comments »

Quick Tips on Watering your Garden


“If there is magic on the planet, it is contained in the water.”
-   Loren Eisley

Do you water the garden or the plants?

It sounds like a funny question but to put things into perspective the garden is where plants grow, not the plants themselves. Furthermore, water must reach plant roots which are in specific places in the garden meaning water should be directed towards those points or it can be easily wasted.

To do this there are all kinds of industrialized drip irrigation systems that aid in feeding crops and can be converted for regular use. However, most homeowners don’t need such specialized methods and are left with two options: the hose or the watering can.

The hose

"Just take a garden hose with your back to the sun and spray. You'll make a rainbow."  ~ Doug Kelly

"Just take a garden hose with your back to the sun and spray. You'll make a rainbow." ~ Doug Kelly

The hose is one of those wonder utilities Americans couldn’t live without. It makes life so much easier when distributing water across property without actually having to carry it bucket by bucket and it’s not uncommon for one house to have two hoses.

Nevertheless, when watering the garden the hose can sometimes be a nuisance. For example, most hoses have settings for long stream or gentle spray, both of which have issues.

The long stream is usually too powerful for many plants easily drowning or knocking them over and at its gentlest spray water distribution still covers a wide area. Neither is economical as both usually end up watering the “garden” instead.

The hose also comes with a few other drawbacks like getting stuck when pulled distances and despite  hose holders it may get tangled and twisted often knocking down plants in its path.

The can

"Water is the driver of Nature." -   Leonardo da Vinci

"Water is the driver of Nature." - Leonardo da Vinci

The concept for the outdoor watering can we know today, once known as the “watering pot,” is hundreds of years old. Depending on its size and the type of spout it either provides a long protruding stream or a more gentle spray without the hose’s power. That being the case it has a better delivery despite some dampening of surrounding soil.

The biggest drawback, of course, is refilling it every few gallons. When using the hose water shoots out endlessly but when the can runs dry you need to walk it back to the spigot.

The verdict

So with all that said is the hose or the can better for watering the garden?

In the spirit of not wasting water but making life a little bit easier a combination of the two works great. Use the hose to carry water to the garden and fill the watering can near plants when feeding.

Aside from a descent summer rain or setting up alternative distribution systems it’s a good compromise that is efficient and effective.

Guest contributor Jakob Barry writes for, a growing community of homeowners and contractors sharing and monitoring home improvement projects together. He covers various home improvement topics including green gardening tips and  grounds maintenance

Posted on June 28th, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  No Comments »

The Beginners Guide to Starting a Backyard Compost

A compost system is essential for your sustainable yard-Waste becomes plant food. Plants become people and animal food.

“Earth knows no desolation.
She smells regeneration in the moist breath of decay.”
George Meredith

So you’ve decided be a composter…

Many people find the idea of composting overwhelming. There are a lot of ins and outs involved in the process but the reality is that composting is an easy way to complete or compliment an already outstanding organic garden. Although the process does demand a commitment to patience and an adherence to what to do and what not to do, the process, once started, is virtually hassle free and has innumerable benefits associated with it. The fact is that a well maintained composting bin in your yard is like a well-oiled engine in your garage, once they’re up and running they work perfectly and without oversight.

The magic of the compost heap

The reason that compost bins continue to process material once started is that the “magic” which breaks down organic material is a natural process that occurs without human interference. Worms and microbes that ignite this process seek out the proper conditions provided by your compost bin and therefore begin a cyclical process in which both parties involved benefit.

One of the most necessary components to creating an amazing compost bin is laying the proper foundation on which the compost can thrive. Once you have supplied the essential ingredients you can take a position of “over-seer,” adding and subtracting ingredients as you deem necessary, to cultivate the perfect mixture of compost needed to suit you and your garden.

Step 1:

Selecting the best location

The location of your compost is very important- For aesthetic reasons you may want it behind a shed or bushes.

The location of your compost is very important- For aesthetic reasons you may want it behind a shed or bushes.

The first step toward beginning any compost bin is possibly the toughest step in the entire process…Where to put it? The ONLY requisite for creating a successful composting bin is the location on which the compost is placed. As discussed earlier, the method used in composting is an already occurring process found in nature so the location for the composting bin must be placed directly on the Earth. Placing the compost bin on a patio or cement section or your yard, just won’t cut it. The worms and microbes must be able to access the ingredients you are placing in your composting bin in order to start the process and so placing the bin directly on the ground is necessary. Whether this is dirt or grass is up to you, just make sure the bin is built on some sort of Earth.

Other considerations for the placement of a composting bin must also be kept in mind. Although you need not worry if the bin is placed in the sun or the shade, the next most important factors for location of your bin, include accessibility and size. Size will depend purely on how much raw material and compost you wish to process, but accessibility is going to be the key to maintaining your ongoing compost. Adding, removing and turning the materials in the compost are paramount, so pick a size that will work best with what you have. Ok, lets move on to the actual composting bin construction.

Step 2:

Constructing a compost bin

Deside on a design that fits your needs and budget. Salvaging materials and building the bin can be a family project!

Deside on a design that fits your needs and budget. Salvaging materials and building the bin can be a family project!

Compost bins are a relatively easy thing to construct and do not require that you be an expert carpenter to put together.

One simple method involves four wooden posts, old cardboard boxes and some chicken wire. Remember how much space and how much compost you will be processing and choose the height of your wooden poles based on that criteria. Space the posts out evenly and hammer them into the ground. Then wrap one layer of chicken wire around the outside of the poles, leaving one side open for accessibility. Then wrap another layer of chicken wire around the inside of the poles so that you create a space in between the two layers. Staple or nail the wire in place and then fill the gap with old cardboard boxes.

All composting bins need to be covered, but how they are covered is once again up to you. You can use a heavy tarp, an old piece of carpet, or any other construction you would like to use, as long as it is water resistant and it is heavy enough that it doesn’t blow away.

Other types of bins are easy as well but require slightly more materials to construct. Many compost bin plans and designs are available on the internet- look around and find one that will best suit your budget and needs. Another simple way around construction is to purchase plastic bins that fit together like Lego’s. Simply fit the bin pieces together, place on bare ground and add your ingredients.

Congratulations you now have  a compost bin and all you need now are ingredients!

Step 3:

Creating the compost mixture

Microbes need a balanced diet "green" and "brown" foods

Microbes need a balanced diet "green" and "brown" foods

Now that you have chosen the location for your bin, how big it’s going to be, and what it is going to be made out of, you are ready to start choosing your ingredients. Understanding what you are going to use as fuel for your composting bin determines the type of compost that the bin will yield.

All ingredients used in composting can be classified as either “Green” or “Brown”.

Greens are just what you think they are; grass, yard trimmings, and the most common, fruit and vegetable waste from the kitchen.

Browns can be any fibrous organic material that is slow to rot. This can be tree prunings, dead leaves, old straw and even newspaper, cardboard and egg cartons. Basically any material that was once alive will compost so there are many choices.

Basically, the key is to gather an equal amount of Greens and Browns. Try to gather as much as possible, as it is not a bad idea to have extra of each to balance the type of compost you desire to produce. Fill the bottom of your compost bin with a good mixture of both Green and Browns and tamp it down gently. Spread it equally over the bottom and press it to the edges. Continue to add ingredients as they become available and now you can sit back and play the role of over-seer.

The mixture of greens and browns is found in virtually every composting bin and you will perfect your mixture to fit your needs. If your compost is too slimy and wet, add some dry browns to increase the overall structure of the mix. Conversely, if the mixture is too dry and slow to compost start mixing in some more greens. Pretty simple right?

Speeding up the compost process

The process can take up to 6-months to fully develop but from here on out the steps you need to take to maintain the compost bin are very minimal. Simply continue to add your ingredients in equal amounts and you should be set.

There are a number of tips for an accelerated compost bin, as well as composting with materials other than just Greens and Browns such as animal manure.

To accelerate your composting bin follow these steps:

  • Fill your compost bin with as much material is allowable. If you can, fill the bin to the top or as much as you can while still being able to cover the bin with a lid. This will speed up the process as well as make the mixture’s overall temperature hot enough to kill all weed seeds that may have snuck into your bin.
  • Turn your mixture. You can decide the frequency of turning your ingredients but the process and result is always the same. Take out the entire bin contents and mix it completely. This process of mixing will jump start the entire composting process and will make a bin that has cooled or slowed down, hot and active again. Another added benefit of turning is that you will be able to look at the mixture and determine whether you need more Greens or Browns.
  • Chop up bulky items. This is especially important for Brown material like, shrubs, cardboard and other materials that are already slow to rot. This will integrate them into the compost more thoroughly and decrease the time it will take them to compost.

Composting with animal manure

Composting with animal manure is definitely a more advanced technique and requires more work and attention to detail. There a number of manures that can be used but for now, we will use bird manure as an example. Chicken, and other avian manures, are terrific for composting for seeds, flowers and fruits because they contain a high amount of phosphorus. However, the manure is usually heavy, wet and aromatic, and typically difficult to compost, so extra care must be placed on them before adding to your garden as it may damage or kill your plants.

When you are ready to move on to composting with bird manure follow these instructions.

  • Shovel up the bird manure, including whatever Browns maybe being used as bedding, such as leaves or straw, and add it all to your compost bin.
  • Add a specific ratio of Greens and Browns as we discussed earlier. The most common ratio is 1 part Greens to 1 part Browns, but some people prefer a 2:1 mix of Browns to Greens, including the Browns that may have been included in the manure. This is done to offset the already heavy and wet bird manure.
  • Mix all ingredients together, lightly water the mixture and cover.
  • The mixture will become and stay hot for about 3 days if the mixture is created properly.
  • After 3 days, uncover and rotate the materials in the bin.
  • Repeat this process 3 times, every 3 days adding the ratio of Greens and Browns with the manure as many times as you find necessary to fill your bin
  • Let the compost sit undisturbed for 2-6 months. The time window will vary based on your mixture but should yield a compost that will be crumbly, dark and have a sweet,earthy scent, indicating that it is now ready for your garden.

Serve the Earth and your garden…ready, set compost!

Composting is part of the earth’s biological cycle of growth and decay. Now that you know the basic steps to getting started, you can start reeping the benefits of this biological process in your own backyard garden!

“However small your garden, you must provide for two of the serious gardener’s necessities, a tool shed and a compost heap.”
Anne Scott-James


Posted on June 7th, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  No Comments »

The Top 5 Organic Pesticides to Make in your Kitchen!

The best method of pest control in the garden is to keep your plants healthy so they don’t attract bugs

“The more we pour the big machines, the fuel, the pesticides, the herbicides, the fertilizer and chemicals into farming, the more we knock out the mechanism that made it all work in the first place.” David R. Brower

We pesticide to protect

For every gardener there are a number of benefits to growing your own fruits and vegetables. You don’t have to be a thrift-seeking, penny-pincher to realize that growing your own produce saves you money in the long run, not to mention the immeasurable benefit of healthy eating. However, along with growing your own food comes the responsibility of protecting those plants from unwanted insects and disease. Enter the pesticide…

Pesticides gained their fame in the post World War II era, when farmers were given access to DDT.  This synthetic pesticide was very successful for two decades, but resulted in both environmental and human damages. Ever since, large companies have succeeded in maintaining the myth that the general public needs pesticides to keep them safe from malicious, crop destroying insects. Be that as it may, growing your own fruits and vegetables has been around as long as the earliest humans and way before any artificial pesticides where needed to keep us safe.

The truth is that you can make your own all natural pesticides using simple ingredients that won’t cost you an arm and a leg to make yourself!

There really are large selections of homemade pesticides to choose from, so it is important to take the time to test and choose the right one for each species of plant.  Remember that “pesticide” literally means “a chemical used to kill pests,” which is NOT what we will be making.  The following recipes are designed to repel and discourage insects from destroying your hard earned fruits and vegetables, while sustaining a healthy environment for both you and your plants.

But there are alternatives!

Here are a few of the more common homemade “pesticides” and how they work:

*Remember to test all of the homemade pesticides on a small area before continuing onto the entire plant.

Oil Mixture-

The recipe for this is very quick and painless, and will specifically target pest eggs and immature bugs. You will want to spray the leaves and their undersides in an attempt to coat and cover the insects as they begin development.

You do need to be conscious of the liquid dish-washing soap that you use here (and other recipes) and pick one that you think is best.  Things like scented, anti-bacterial and other specialized soaps may have an adverse effect on your plant so start off by testing your mixture on a small section of plant before engaging the entire plant.

  • 1 cup cooking oil ( i.e. canola or vegetable )
  • 1 tablespoon liquid dish-washing soap
  • Use 2 ½ teaspoons of this mixture in 1 cup of water

Mix all ingredients and pour into a large squirt bottle. Spray the oil mixture anywhere you have problem pests and ESPECIALLY where they lay their eggs!

Soap Mixture-

This has the same basic idea of the Oil mixture but without the oil.  You can also see that the mixture isn’t nearly as concentrated as the Oil mixture so you may want to increase the times you spray your plants to every 2-3 days for the next 2 weeks.  The Soap mixture will cause the pests to become paralyzed and unable to eat forcing them to starve.

Spray the mixture on the leaves and undersides for most effective use.

  • A few teaspoons of liquid dish-washing soap
  • 1 gallon of water

Mix all ingredients and pour into a large squirt bottle. Spray the oil mixture anywhere you have problem pests.

Garlic/Pepper Mixture-

This next mixture takes a little more time to prepare but will keep the bugs you have just gotten rid of, away for the season.

  • 1/2 cup hot peppers of your choice
  • 1/2 cup garlic cloves ( onions will also do )
  • 2 cups water

Take all the ingredients and steep them in a container for 24 hours.  Place the container in a sunny spot if possible.  After 24 hours, strain the mixture into a spray bottle and spray your plants.

Tobacco or Nicotine Spray-

We can’t forget that some types of bugs (known as beneficial insects) are actually good for our gardens so it is helpful to use pesticides that can target specific bugs.   This tobacco mixture is great for caterpillars, aphids and most types of worms.

***PLEASE BE CAREFUL*** DO NOT use this mixture on peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, or any other member of the solanaceous family. Tobacco chemicals can kill these types of plants.

  • 1 cup of tobacco
  • 1 gallon of water
  • 3 tablespoons of liquid dish soap

Similar to the Garlic/Pepper mixture, take the tobacco and mix it with the water and let them sit for 24 hours.  After 24 hours check the color of the mixture; if it is very dark, dilute it with water; if the color is too light to see, let it sit a few more hours.   Ideally the color will be similar to a light tea.  When the color is right add the liquid dish soap and spray your plants.

Orange Peel Spray-

This is another mixture that can target the bad bugs destroying your plants.  It will work great against soft-bodied bugs suck as aphids, fungus gnats, mealy bugs and will also repel ants.

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • Peelings of on orange
  • A few drops castile soap

Take the boiling water and pour it over the orange peels and allow to sit for 24 hours.  Take the mixture and strain it into a container and add the soap.  Spray plants completely.

Tips for working with any home-made pesticide:

  • Apply the pesticide on top of the leaves as well as underneath. Excess spraying can cause damage to plants.
  • Most recipes can be used effectively with just a weekly spray. Excessive spraying may affect the plant as well as kill the good insects you want to encourage in your garden (earthworms, bees, ladybugs, etc.). If you aren’t seeing results with a 7 day spray, you can bump it up to 5 days but watch the plant carefully to make sure it can handle it without being damaged.
  • Avoid spraying during hot sunny weather, spray later in the day to reduce the risk of plants burning.
  • If it looks like rain, delay spraying the plants until the weather is clear since any rain will wash away the new treatment. If it has recently rained, wait till the plants are dry before applying treatment to prevent the recipe being diluted with water.
  • When trying a new pesticide recipe on a plant, test a couple leaves before spraying the whole plant (spray then watch how the test leaves react after two or three days, if no signs of damage proceed with spraying the whole plant).

A home for all

As you learn which pests are harming your garden and which bugs you want more of you can begin to bring a sense of harmony without the use of harmful chemicals.

“Much like a subtle spider which doth sit
In middle of her web, which spreadeth wide;
If aught do touch the utmost thread of it,
She feels it instantly on every side.”
-  Sir John Davies, 1570-1626, The Immortality of the Soul

Posted on May 3rd, 2011 by Dr. Greenthumb  |  2 Comments »

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