Tuesday, May 31, 2011

FAQ: What garden tasks should I be doing in June?

Among the most frequently asked questions, "When is the best time to...", is near the top of the list. Here are a few gardening tasks for June organized by region.

Northeast States: Plant bare-root and container-grown perennials, potted roses, cool-season vegetable sets, annuals and strawberries in outdoor beds. Sow warm-season vegetables and herbs outdoors. Summer- and fall-blooming perennials can be divided and transplanted. Divid spring-blooming bulbs. Prune trees, summer- and fall-blooming shrubs. Remove spent flower stalks from spring bulbs, but leave the foliage intact. Trim winter-damaged ground covers to 6 inch height. Lightly fertilize perennials. Continue rose care. Fertilize shrubs, annuals and container gardens every 10 to 14 days. Mulch trees and shrubs to conserve moisture. Mow lawn regularly.

Mid-Atlantic States: Continue planting trees and shrubs and container gardens. Sow vegetable and herb seeds in the garden. Transplant vegetable and herbs outdoors. Finish pruning spring-blooming trees and shrubs. Continue to remove spent flower stalks from spring bulbs, but leave the foliage intact. Lightly fertilize annuals and vegetable seedlings. Fertilize spring bulbs when flowering is complete. Continue spraying fruit trees. Apply mulch to newly planted plants. Continue rose care. Install sod. Mow lawn regularly.

Mid-South States: Continue to plant container-grown trees and shrubs. Continue to divide and transplant perennials. Continue to plant container gardens. Sow warm-season annuals, vegetables and herbs. Transplant warm-season vegetable and herb seedlings. Shear spring-blooming trees and shrubs now that flowering is complete. Shear conifers and evergreen shrubs. Pinch planted mums to delay bloom. Remove spent flower stalks from spring bulbs, but leave the foliage intact. Fertilize camellias, azaleas, annuals, container gardens, summer bulbs, fruit trees. Spray fruit trees with insecticide and fungicide. Continue rose care. Plant warm-season grass seed and install sod if you can irrigate regularly.

Lower South and Gulf States: Continue planting and transplanting outdoors, but make sure you provide adequate irrigation during June. Perennials can be divided. Prune shrubs and trees. Continue rose care and lawn maintenance. Thin vegetables in the garden. Continue composting.

Plains and Rocky Mountain States: Continue planting trees, shrubs, summer bulbs, annuals and vegetable sets. Divide summer- and fall-blooming perennials. Sow vegetable, annual and herb seeds. Shear conifers. Prune spring-flowering trees and shrubs since bloom is complete. Remove spent flower stalks from spring bulbs, but leave the foliage intact. Fertilize azaleas, camellias, summer bulbs, vegetables, fruit trees, annuals, container gardens (including house plants). Continue rose care. Sow grass seed or install sod. Continue lawn care.

Pacific Southwest and Desert States: Sow and plant warm season annuals, vegetables and herbs. Divide early-blooming perennials. Prune diseased and dead wood from trees and shrubs. Deadhead perennials. Fertilize trees, shrubs, container gardens, vegetables and herbs, house plants. Continue rose care. Add debris to compost pile. Continue lawn maintenance.

Pacific Northwest States: Plant container-grown trees and shrubs, perennials, ground covers, annuals, roses. Divide spring bulbs and perennials. Plant or sow warm season herbs and vegetables. Prune dead or diseased branches from trees and shrubs. Fertilize trees, shrubs, container gardens, vegetables and herbs, house plants. Continue rose care. Add debris to compost pile. Continue lawn maintenance.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

FAQ: The bottoms of my tomatoes are rotting. What is the problem?

The bottoms of my tomatoes are rotting what is the problem? What can I do about it?

The disease is called "blossom end rot" and it is caused by calcium deficiency in the fruit. Calcium strengthens the cell structure. When there is insufficient calcium, the cell walls are weakened and are prone to burst. It starts in the blossom end, because that is the weakest point in the fruit. Then it spreads because the surrounding cells are stressed more and burst.

The problem is essentially an environmental one, beginning perhaps with insufficient calcium in the soil. But even if there is enough soil calcium, other factors can prevent enough of it from reaching the fruit. Water transports the calcium, so if there is a lack of water, the calcium is not carried where it is needed. If the soil is dry, there will not be enough water. If air temperature is very hot, there may not be enough water in the plant itself. Dry soil and hot temperatures are usually coincidental, compounding the problem.

To help prevent blossom end rot, test your soil before planting. You can take a sample to your nearby Cooperative Extension Office for analysis. The site should be in full sun. The soil should be high in organic matter and well-drained. Soil pH should be 6.5. If it is lower than that, add lime according to the soil analysis recommendations. Compost is always an appropriate soil amendment.

For good measure, add 1/2 cup of pelletized dolomite lime and 1/4 cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer to each planting hole before planting. Mix well. Do not allow fertilizer to come into direct contact with the plants. Water well after planting. Cover soil with mulch to 3 inches deep in order to preserve soil moisture. Provide 1-1/2 inches to 2 inches of water per week.

For added protection, spray your tomatoes weekly with calcium chloride when the blossoms are forming and fruits are small. This is usually done during late spring and early summer. Calcium chloride is available at garden centers.

Tomato varieties resistant to blossom end rot have been developed recently. Remember that rot resistant doesn't mean rot proof, but every advantage helps.

If you did not add lime to your soil before planting your tomatoes, it is too late to add it when blossom end rot appears. At that point, calcium chloride spray and adequate irrigation are your only remedies.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

FAQ: What is the best way to keep weeds out of my garden?

In a word: MULCH. Mulch suppresses weeds and helps to retain soil moisture. There are many kinds of mulch which can be classified in two groups: synthetic and organic. Synthetic mulches include plastic sheeting, plastic fabrics, carpet remnants and rubber chips recycled from used tires. Organic mulches include pine straw, wheat and similar grain straw, peanut hulls, pecan shells, grass clippings, chopped leaves, old newspapers, sawdust, wood chips and compost. I prefer organic mulches because they decompose and add nutrients to the soil. An effective layer of organic mulch should be about 3 inches deep. If the mulch settles, add more. Mulch can be spread too deeply, smothering desirable plants. Mulch in moderation.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Life Lessons From Silene

Sources that I've researched indicate that the genus, Silene (pronounced sy-LEE-nee), aka Lychnis, was named by Carl Linnaeus in 1753, probably with the mythical and not too unbelievable character Silenus in mind.

Lewd Silenus, tutor of Dionysus, satyr and drunk in bad company with a Cyclops, could not get enough of wine. Yet, he was known for his occasional wisdom, loosened by drink. He was an imaginary embodiment of these sayings:

In vino veritas; En oino álétheia (in wine there is truth).
In goes wine, out comes a secret.
In wine there is truth, in water there is health.

Euripides figured him like this, exchanging with ODYSSEUS:

SILENUS
...Let me have a single cup of that (wine) and I would turn madman,
giving in exchange for it the flocks of every Cyclops
and then throwing myself into the sea from the Leucadian rock,
once I have been well drunk and smoothed out my wrinkled brow.
For if a man rejoice not in his drinking, he is mad;...
(Though I blush to print it, you can read the text here.)
...and there is dancing withal, and oblivion of woe.
Shall not I then purchase so rare a drink,
bidding the senseless Cyclops and his central eye go hang?
Euripides, The Cyclops (420BC)

Apparently, Silenus had had too much of water.

I've often wondered what goes on in the minds of plant taxonomists when they're bestowing names. Unfortunately, few have told. We know, however, that certain plant characteristics are often the bases for botanical names.

Silene is not known for medicinal qualities, nor is it associated with wine and intoxication. Some species have burgundy-colored flowers, but not enough of them to suggest the name. Many species of Silene have sticky parts, so are commonly known as Catchfly. Another common name, shared with other plants, is Bachelor's Button. Perhaps one holds a clue.

Well before the Victorians made much of the language of flowers, plants were steeped in symbolism. Daisies, for example, symbolized innocence. White lilies symbolized virginity. Red roses symbolized love. Ivy symbolized marital fidelity. Catchfly symbolized a snare. Perhaps that thought prompted Linnaeus to bestow the name.

Being the son of a Lutheran minister and amateur botanist, Carl Linnaeus was well-acquainted with Scripture. His father, Nils, probably taught him life lessons drawn from both.

No doubt Nils also warned him from the Bible as he left for University.

Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day come upon you unawares. (Luke 21:34)

Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. (Romans 13:13)

Surfeiting, drunkenness, rioting, chambering, wantonness, strife, envying and cares take their toll. Silenus, entrapped by greedy King Midas and wine, burst out, “Oh, wretched ephemeral race … why do you compel me to tell you what it would be most expedient for you not to hear? What is best of all is utterly beyond your reach: not to be born, not to be, to be nothing. But the second best for you is—to die soon.

Having been well-trained in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, theology, mathematics and botany, it's not much of a stretch to speculate that Linnaeus reflected on Catchfly and named it after tragic Silenus. Perhaps he even had a bit of personal experience from university life to draw upon.

Silene is a genus of about 700 species, distributed throughout the northern hemisphere. Some were formerly included in the Lychnis genus. Fewer than three dozen species are commercially available. Bloom time is generally from late spring to early summer. Most thrive in USDA climate zones 4 through 9. Average garden soil with pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.8 is fine. Drought-tolerance varies by species. Deer do not care to eat Silene.

Perennial borders, butterfly gardens, hummingbird gardens should include Silene. Flowers are good for cutting, too. Theme gardens emphasizing popular Victorian plants, the language of flowers, myth and legend would be perfect for Silene.

If you would like to grow Silene, choose a site in full sun to partial shade. Take a soil sample to your local Cooperative Extension Service office for analysis. You will pay a small fee. If your soil is not friable, cultivate to a depth of 8 inches. Add fertilizer and other amendments as recommended. Remove all traces of weeds.

Water the plants in their pots. Allow them to drain. With a garden trowel, dig holes twice as large as the pots. Space the plants about 12 inches apart. (Larger growing species can be planted farther apart.) Remove the plants from their containers, add water to the planting hole, fill in around (not on top of) the root balls with native soil. Water again. A light top-dressing of mulch may help to retain moisture and discourage weeds until your plants are established.

Silene, especially S. coronaria 'Gardener's World' with it's white foliage and striking red blooms, will certainly captivate your garden visitors. While you have their attention, instruct them in life lessons drawn from plants.

Return to Silene or Lychnis at goGardenNow.com.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Presenting The Philip Simmons Collection by Charleston Artist Shelia Thompson

A couple of years ago we presented the work of renowned Charleston artist Shelia Thompson to you. Shelia is well-known for her wooden replicas of landmark Charleston buildings which have been very popular with collectors for about 30 years. More recently she turned her attention to working in recycled metal, producing functional art works of recycled steel featuring motifs of historic Charleston, South Carolina. Naturally, her interest in metal work and Charleston led her to honor the work of Philip Simmons.

Philip Simmons (June 9, 1912 - June 22, 2009) was an American blacksmith focusing on decorative iron work. He began producing household items and farm implements such as horseshoes. By the time he retired, blacksmithing had become an art form, thanks to his own efforts and those of artisans such as Bea Hensley of Spruce Pine, North Carolina.

Philip Simmons was born on Daniel Island, South Carolina, raised by his grandparents until he was 8 years old, then sent to Charleston in 1920 to live with his mother. Philip became interested in blacksmithing through Peter Simmons (unrelated), a former slave. At 13 years of age, he quit school and apprenticed with Peter for five years, becoming a full blacksmith when he was 18 years old. Philip established his own shop in 1938, working primarily in ornamental ironwork.

In the early 1940s, Simmons began working with Jack Krawcheck, a Charleston businessman, who, over the years, purchased or commissioned about 30 works. His relationship with Krawcheck proved to open up new opportunities for Simmons. Over the course of his career, he created over 500 works. Examples can be seen throughout Charleston and as far away as China. Some are on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC, the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, the Richland County Public Library in Columbia, SC, the Atlanta History Center, Atlanta, and the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia.

Simmons' forge at his home on Blake Street has been designated by The National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the eleven most endangered historic places in America, and is being preserved.

Some of Philip Simmons' motifs honored by Shelia Thompson include various ones from Stoll's Alley, 67 Broad Street, St. Michael's Alley, Simmons' egret, heart and palm.

To learn more about Philip Simmons, visit the web site of The Philip Simmons Foundation.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Results of Community Poll Ending 2 May, 2011

Our Community Poll ending 2 May, asked the question, "Are you concerned about eating Genetically Modified (GM) foods?"

Sixty-four percent of respondents said that they are concerned about eating Genetically Modified (GM) foods. Thirty-six percent indicated that they are not concerned. I didn't follow up this question in another poll, but we would like to know why respondents are or are not concerned, so I invite you to comment to this blog post. I realize that some of the respondents to that poll will not comment. Some will comment who didn't respond to the poll. But I believe that your comments will help to provide insight.

Comments are moderated, but that is simply to exclude unwelcome persons from trying to offer their unwanted advertisements.

Our current community poll asks the question: Do you import and/or cultivate (intentionally provide safe habitat for) beneficial insects in your garden? You'll find the poll in the right-hand side-bar of most pages.


Respond to the current goGardenNow community poll, or return to goGardenNow.com.

FAQ: What garden tasks should I be doing in May?

Gardening is a continuous process of sowing, transplanting, dividing, pruning, fertilizing, irrigating, protecting, mulching, mowing, weeding, composting and fixing things.

Here are a few gardening tasks for May organized by region.

Northeast States: It's still possible to have late frost. Plant bare-root perennials, trees, shrubs. Continue planting and transplanting cold-hardy plants outdoors. Sow or transplant warm-season vegetables and herbs, but be ready to protect them from cold. Summer- and fall-blooming perennials can be divided. Prune shrubs and trees. Remove spent flower stalks from spring bulbs, but leave the foliage intact. Trim winter-damaged ground covers to 6 inch height. Lightly fertilize perennials as they emerge. Continue spring cleanup. Begin watering if the season is dry.

Mid-Atlantic States: It's still possible to have late frost. Plant bare-root and container-grown perennials, potted roses, cool-season vegetable sets, annuals and strawberries in outdoor beds. Sow warm-season vegetables and herbs outdoors. Summer- and fall-blooming perennials can be divided and transplanted. Prune trees, summer- and fall-blooming shrubs. Remove spent flower stalks from spring bulbs, but leave the foliage intact. Trim winter-damaged ground covers to 6 inch height. Lightly fertilize perennials. Continue rose care. Fertilize shrubs, annuals and container gardens every 10 to 14 days. Mulch trees and shrubs to conserve moisture. Mow lawn regularly.

Mid-South States: Frost is still possible. Continue planting trees and shrubs and container gardens. Sow vegetable and herb seeds in the garden. Transplant vegetable and herbs outdoors. Finish pruning spring-blooming trees and shrubs. Continue to remove spent flower stalks from spring bulbs, but leave the foliage intact. Lightly fertilize annuals and vegetable seedlings. Fertilize spring bulbs when flowering is complete. Continue spraying fruit trees. Apply mulch to newly planted plants. Continue rose care. Install sod. Mow lawn regularly.

Lower South and Gulf States: Continue to plant container-grown trees and shrubs. Continue to divide and transplant perennials. Continue to plant container gardens. Sow warm-season annuals, vegetables and herbs. Transplant warm-season vegetable and herb seedlings. Shear spring-blooming trees and shrubs now that flowering is complete. Shear conifers and evergreen shrubs. Pinch planted mums to delay bloom. Remove spent flower stalks from spring bulbs, but leave the foliage intact. Fertilize camellias, azaleas, annuals, container gardens, summer bulbs, fruit trees. Spray fruit trees with insecticide and fungicide. Continue rose care. Plant warm-season grass seed and install sod if you can irrigate regularly.

Plains and Rocky Mountain States: It's still possible to have late frost. If you have flats of growing warm-season annuals and vegetables, transplant them into larger containers. Transplant summer bulbs from containers to the garden. Continue planting and transplanting cold-hardy plants outdoors. Summer- and fall-blooming perennials can be divided. Prune shrubs and trees. Remove spent flower stalks from spring bulbs, but leave the foliage intact. Trim winter-damaged ground covers to 6 inch height. Lightly fertilize perennials as they emerge. Complete spring cleanup, if you haven't already. Continue rose care. Thin vegetables in the garden.

Pacific Southwest and Desert States: Continue planting trees, shrubs, summer bulbs, annuals and vegetable sets. Divide summer- and fall-blooming perennials. Sow vegetable, annual and herb seeds. Shear conifers. Prune spring-flowering trees and shrubs since bloom is complete. Remove spent flower stalks from spring bulbs, but leave the foliage intact. Fertilize azaleas, camellias, summer bulbs, vegetables, fruit trees, annuals, container gardens (including house plants). Continue rose care. Sow grass seed or install sod. Continue lawn care.

Pacific Northwest States: It's still possible to have late frost. Plant shrubs, trees, summer bulbs. Plant annuals, warm-season vegetables and herb sets, and sow warm-season annuals, vegetables and herb seeds, but be prepared to protect if late frost arrives. Divide crowded perennials. Shear evergreen shrubs and conifers. Prune spring-flowering plants when bloom is complete. Remove spent flower stalks from spring bulbs, but leave the foliage intact. Fertilize azaleas, camellias when bloom is complete. Fertilize fruit trees, container gardens, annuals, vegetables and herbs. Continue rose care. Mulch trees, shrubs and vegetables.

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FAQ: Can you tell me what's the problem delivering live plants to Nevada?

Can you tell me what's the problem delivering live plants to Nevada? I've seen other companies on the web doing it.

The live plant descriptions in our online catalog include the following: We can not ship this item to Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. 

We do not ship to Alaska, Hawaii or Puerto Rico due to high transportation costs.

We will not ship bare root and potted plants to Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. The departments of agriculture of those states require that incoming plants be cleaned of all traces of soil before shipment or that each shipment include a phytosanitary certificate from the USDA or the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Removing all traces of soil is cost-prohibitive for us and risky for the plants. Obtaining a phytosanitary certificate for each shipment requires that an inspector check out each shipment. It is time-consuming and costly, adding at least $50 to the cost of each shipment. It's not worth it.

We are able to ship imported plant items in the Bulbs category to all 48 continental states because they enter the U.S. with USDA phytosanitary certification.

I question the rationale behind the regulations imposed by those 5 states. Forty-three others are not so restrictive, but honor the good work done by other states' departments of agriculture. Such regulations seem to be more protectionist than protective.

As the questioner noted, other companies will readily ship live plants to Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. I can't address their particular circumstances. They may be ignoring the regulations. We don't.

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