Saturday, November 21, 2020

Great Garden Ideas For Thanksgiving

Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1925,

What we recognize as the most notable Thanksgiving in North American history was celebrated sometime during the fall of 1621 at Plymouth Plantation, where the Pilgrims held a three-day feast following a successful harvest. (There were other thanksgivings, of course.) They had much to thank God for, including life itself. Half of their number died the previous year from starvation.

It’s fitting, I think, to decorate our gardens and celebrate them as Thanksgiving nears. They’ve worked so hard, they deserve it. Here are a few ideas that come to mind:

Prepare to party

What could be finer than to give thanks in your garden? Share the festivities with others! Set up a rustic dining table, a fire pit and seating. Gather your corn stalks – or sugar cane, if you live in the Deep South – into sheaves. Group bales of straw – or pine straw, if you live in the Deep South – and pumpkins in attractive arrangements. String festive lights from tree to tree to light the scene.

Dress the doorway

Welcome your guests with imaginative wreaths on your doors, walls and garden gates. Grape vine wreaths with ribbons, fruit – or cotton bolls, if you live in the Deep South – and fall leaves will cheer them upon arrival. Small tea lights along the walk would look so charming. 

Freshen container gardens

Fall is a great time to replace those worn, leggy plants in pots, barrels and baskets.  Mums, pansies, petunias, ornamental cabbage and kale along with tall grasses and liriope would look great, and are readily available this time of year. Arrange them on your porch and near the door. Don’t stop there; use some as table decorations for your outdoor table setting.

Outfit your scarecrow

Does your silent garden helper look bedraggled about now? Outfit him with fresh overalls, shirt and hat. Find a suitable outfit at Goodwill Industries. Stuff some fresh straw in his sleeves, and put a new smile on his face. It’ll make you smile, too.

Share the message

Garden flags in bright colors with fall motifs can express what’s in your heart. A few blackboards of various sizes set upon easels may say, “Welcome!” “Give Thanks.” “Thank Y-O-U!” Buy some big chunks of chalk in orange, red, yellow and white to spell it along with pictures out on your walk or driveway.

Display your bounty

Fruits and vegetables fresh from your garden and orchard will look lovely in baskets, bowls and dishes. Apples, pumpkins, squash, Japanese persimmons, dried okra pods – paint them if you like – and colorful pinto beans would be just right.

Paint your wagon...

Or cart, or wheelbarrow, sled or sleigh. Fill it with straw scattered or baled. Load it up with good things from your garden. Put a scarecrow in the driver’s seat for a whimsical touch.

Don’t let them go empty-handed.

When the party is over, give your guests a share of your bounty. Apples, small pumpkins, bags of beans, ears of popcorn or a small bouquet of flowers will be much appreciated. 

Show your friends and loved ones how much they mean to you, and how thankful you are for them. Most of all, thank Providence for all the blessings you enjoy.

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Thursday, November 19, 2020

3 Simple Christmas Tree Tips

 Photo by Irina Iriser from Pexels

Make your cut tree last longer

These three simple Christmas tree tips can help you enjoy it to the end of the season. There are no secrets here; just common sense.

  1. Buy it early. I used to sell Christmas trees. Would-be customers would often say that they’d prefer not to buy that day; they’d wait until later in the season so it would be fresh and last longer in their homes. I’d think, “Lady, they’re not gonna get any fresher!”  But I wouldn’t say it because I’m polite. The fact is, when Christmas trees are cut at the plantation, they start to die. Separated from their roots and the nourishment they provide, those trees’ days are numbered. Furthermore, in most cases, what you see on the lot is all you’re going to see. The vendor isn’t getting any more. So, the longer you wait to buy your tree, the deader it’s gonna be when you buy it. So, buy your cut Christmas trees as soon as they become available.
  2. Prime it to suck. That cut tree is just aching to suck up more water. As soon as the end is cut that end begins to dry out. When the end dries, it’s just like pinching the end of a drinking straw. Not much is going to be drawn up into it. The cut end needs to be re-cut so it’ll start sucking again. Some Christmas tree lots will re-cut the end for you. If they don’t, or if you have a long way to travel, you’ll need to cut it yourself. Cut it flat at a 90 degree angle from the vertical so that your tree will sit flat in the tree stand.
  3. Keep the cut end in water. If you plan to put it in a tree stand, do it immediately. Add water to the bowl as soon as possible. Mix tree preservative to the water, if you can get it. Many Christmas tree lots offer little packets for sale. If you can’t put the tree into its stand immediately, cut the end and stick it in a bucket of water until you do.

These three steps can help you enjoy your cut Christmas tree until the season ends.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Add Epsom Salt To Your Garden


Photo by Castorly Stock from Pexels

It can make a big difference

Epsom salt is one of those little known additives that can make a big difference in your garden. Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, a naturally occurring mineral found on earth, and quite possibly even in space. Its name comes from the source in England - Epsom on Surrey - where it was produced from springs.

Magnesium helps plants produce chlorophyll and fruit, strengthens cell structure, and enhances plant absorption of sulfur, nitrogen and phosphorus.

Sulfur is also important for plant growth. It assists in producing amino acids, enzymes, and vitamins.

Needless to say, without these minerals plants can not flourish. Epsom salt combines both in one easy-to-apply form.

How to determine mineral deficiency

Magnesium deficiency is best determined by taking a soil sample, but you might be able to diagnose a deficiency by plant symptoms. Common symptoms include leaf yellowing, deformed or stunted foliage. Roses, tomatoes and peppers exhibit deficiencies more readily than others.

Soils with high pH levels, high potassium and calcium contents are very likely to be deficient.  To be sure, take a soil sample to your regional Cooperative Extension Service for testing. It's the best way to determine whether your soil needs magnesium. If the test shows severe magnesium deficiency, the addition of dolomite lime to the soil might be recommended. But that might not be enough to correct the problem. Add Epsom salt, too. Epsom salt it is highly soluble, so it is taken up by plants much more quickly than dolomite limestone. 

How to apply Epsom salt

You can sprinkle the crystals around plants, or you can make a solution in water and pour it around your plants. You can even spray it on the leaves. The foliar spray works most rapidly.

How much to apply depends on the size of your plants and how you intend to apply it. For vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers, apply 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt granules at planting time. Sprinkle the granules around the transplants. For larger plants, apply 1/2 cup of granules in spring and fall. For fruit trees, nuts and grape vines, apply 1/2 cup to 1 cup of granules around the drip line. That's where the feeder roots are. The drip line is the outer circumference of the leaf canopy.

For foliar spray, add 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt per gallon of water. Apply generously two or three times during the growing season.

You should see an improvement in plant health in short order. Your fruits and vegetables might even taste better, too. If you have a problem with blossom-end rot on your tomatoes, Epsom salt might just be the cure.

Epsom salt should be available grocery and drug stores. Because Epsom salt is often used for soaking tired muscles, and taken for some other complaints, check the pharmacy department.

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