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Hi, I'm Charlotte. Our climate is changing; we need new ways to garden. What are you doing in your garden?

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Thursday
Nov202014

Bulb-Planting Tips

One got caught on my sweater as I dashed by, late for my “date” with Friends of Rolla, Missouri's Public Library’s semi-annual book sale. If you also have a bag, or box, of bulbs overdue to be planted outside, now is the time.

Most garden centers also have them, rows of boxes featuring spring-blooming bulbs ranging from little snowdrops to daffodils.  Daffodils make wonderful spring cut flowers as long as you let daffodils sit in water for a few hours, then give them a fresh drink. Daffodils produce a toxin that kills other flowers and discourages wildlife from eating them, which explains why my daffodils flourish in spite of all of the resident deer.

How to Plant Daffodils

Plant daffodils 3 to 5 inches apart, three times the depth of the bulb size, towards the back of a flower bed. That allows later flowering plants to cover daffodils as daffodil finish blooming and store energy in their bulbs through their yellowing leaves.

If you want immediate impact, plant bulbs closer together. The downside is they will get crowded sooner and you will have to dig them up and replant more frequently.

Over the years, my daffodils seem to have expanded around my garden on their own so spring is full of surprises. Or maybe I just forget where I plant them, which is also quite likely.

Be Cautious of Planting Tulips

At the same time that daffodils and crocus bulbs show up in stores, there are also a number of other spring-flowering bulbs, including tulips. Although I love tulips, they don’t survive field mice in my garden who use mole runs to access the edible bulbs.

They also didn’t survive a visit from my sister the year she was on a vegetarian kick and surprised me with sauteed tulips for dinner.

How Deep to Plant Spring Bulbs

To plant spring bulbs, read the directions and make sure they are planted at the appropriate depth.  If you plant bulbs too shallow, bulbs may be killed by cold. The plants will also fall over because they don’t have enough stem support so if you have to choose, go deeper than shallow.

Also plant the pointy end up, although that didn’t stop some of the bulbs our family dog dug up. My brothers replanted them but forgot to turn them in the right direction. They were late coming up but they eventually did on shorter stems because they had to grow around the bulb.

Select the Largest Bulbs

When choosing bulbs, pick the largest ones you can find; they should feel firm, like a good yellow onion. If the bulbs are squishy, in most cases their stored food is decomposing and they won’t grow. It’s okay if they’ve started to grow but that’s even more reason to get them in the ground as soon as you get them home. 

While buying bulbs, also pick up a bag of bone meal to add a tablespoon in the hole bottoms. Bone meal gives the bulbs extra food as they generate roots.

If you are not sure of what blooms when, pick up a flower or local natural events calendar. They will have average blooming dates for favorite flowers and other exciting natural events.

Saturday
Oct252014

Rock On!

Rocks are one of nature's many gifts. In Missouri, we often joke rocks are the main thing we grow in our gardens. At the end of the last ice age, the ice sheet flattened the top part of the state and caused ripples at the bottom as the ice formed the Boston Mountains in Arkansas.

Living in mid-Missouri, that means we have a lot of rock including limestone and quartz. If you do a little planning, you can use your readily available rock supply in a number of ways in your garden:

  • Use rocks in the bottom of pots to help with water drainage and to stabilize planters from moving.
  • Rocks are useful to make borders for walkways and beds.
  • Large rocks make nice garden focal points.
  • Weed prevention, such as small rocks around drain pipes.
  • Rocks in small trenches also become drains for flash flooding.
  • Rocks retain heat, warming surrounding soil and resident lizards.
  • When placed properly, they don't need anything to hold them in place.
  • You can use rocks to form a dry creek bed.
  • Easy to spot in winter, when everything else is dormant, rocks add beauty and interest to a winter garden.

What other ways can you use rocks in a garden?

Sunday
Sep142014

Snow Flowers

These succulent perennials go through an amazing transformation, starting as green-looking roses hugging the ground in spring. In summer, Autumn Joy Sedum grow 2-feet tall with large heads of tiny pink flowers that attract a variety of pollinators. In fall, Autumn Joy Sedum"blooms" with seed heads that dry to a burnt red. Greenery dies back, leaving only the large heads.

The striking stalks add winter interest as they dry and get covered in snow. I call them my "snow flowers." Snow protects seed-heads for late winter food for birds. The one drawback to this succulent is that it is also attractive to deer. Once munched, however, Autumn Joy Sedum will grow back again as long as they haven't been pulled completely out of the ground.

Tuesday
Sep022014

"Hori-Hori" Weeding Knife

I love mine.

I first saw one when I was working in Yokuska, Japan where a gardener was working in a new flower bed near my hotel window. When he wasn't jabbing the ground in small, consistent strokes with what I thought at first was a trowel, the gardener carried it on a leather holster on his waist. I saw one on sale late fall at one of our local garden centers for $5 each so brought it home to try. Fall, by the way, is the best time of year to buy garden tools because you can often find them on sale.

How to Use Weeding Knife
Be careful when you pick it up because the blades on both sides are sharp, as is the bifurcated point. Mine has serrated edges on one side of the blade, and inches marked from the handle down the center of the blade. This one tool has replaced 6 other tools I used to regularly haul in a bucket around the garden. I use mine to easily remove deep-rooted weeds; to make holes for planting; to plant bulbs at the right depth, and to quickly snip tree roots when I don't have any clippers handy. A popular Japanese Bonsai-collecting tool, it is now my favorite go-to gardening tool. Besides my box of Band-Aids.

Wednesday
Aug272014

Autumn Joy Sedum in Summer

One of my all-time, low maintenance and low water-requiring perennials is Autumn Joy Sedum. This succulent plant starts out as low to the ground, green roses. By summer, Autumn Joy Sedum grows to almost two feet tall with tiny pink flowers at the end of stalks resembling broccoli.

Summer of 2012, when Missouri set new high summer temperature records, this plant survived most of the time without requiring extra watering. The pink flowers provide pollen for native bumble bees and carpenter bees, and much-needed nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds.