Tag Archive | Garden Education

Keep your Caladiums

Starr_071024-9740_Caladium_bicolorAre your caladiums so beautiful this year that you can’t face the thought of getting rid of them when the summer is over? Why not try to keep them until next summer?! They can be left in the garden into fall so that the leaves can continue working and the tuber can continue to grow larger. However, once frost is in the forecast, don’t wait — just dig, taking up the whole plants or only the tubers.

To winter over a caladium, put the tuber into storage immediately or pot up the whole plant and place it in a brightly lighted windowsill. By late January, the caladium is going to look tired and will need to rest before the tuber is repotted in the spring or planted in the garden after the soil has warmed up. Chop off the foliage, knock off the soil, and let the tuber dry at room temperature. Any condensation will encourage bacterial rot. Store the tuber in dry vermiculite or in a mesh bag (like an onion bag) in a dry place, ideally at 70º to 75ºF but never below 50º, making sure there is good air circulation. Remember: it needs to be stored dry!!

Caladium is an extraordinary foliage plant. Its leaves can be white with narrow green borders or combinations of white, green, and rosy pinks, in pale to outrageous patterns that approach a third grader’s first attempt at stained glass. Most caladiums are hybrids of Caladium bicolor or C. picturatum, native to the tropics of the Americas and the West Indies. Plants can be costly, but tubers are inexpensive so you can just say goodbye at frost time if you like.

Lilac Woes

Did you plant a lilac bush and have lovely flowers the first year and nothing since then? Or maybe you’re not getting the flowers that you used to get from your established lilacs?

According to Jack Alexander, the chief plant propagator at the lilac-magnificent Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University, newly planted or transplanted lilacs tend to have transplant sulks. Most spring-flowering shrubs, lilacs included, form flower buds the previous year. That initial display you see when you buy new shrubs was set when the lilac was still comfortably at home in the nursery. When it was moved, the disturbance set it back. Give it a bit more time, and whatever you do, don’t move it again!

flower-356176_960_720Common lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) and the French hybrids based on them are especially sensitive in this regard. If you’re the type who likes to move the furniture around, try planting ‘Miss Kim’ (a cultivar of S. patula). She’s a bit less fussy about an occasional relocation.

‘Miss Kim’ is easy to find at nurseries, as are a good number of S. vulgaris varieties and cultivars. But for the widest selection of colors, fragrance, and bloom times, mail order is the way to go.

Pruning

Lilacs have to grow for a few years before they start flowering. After that, they bloom in spring on year-old wood, the stems that grew from the older branches during the previous summer.

Pruning consists mainly of removing elderly trunks and clipping off seed heads within reach. But if you want to cut back young growth, the proper time is right after flowering. It should be done as soon as possible, and no later than three weeks after petal fall.

Still not getting Flowers?

If you are not pruning too late or cutting off all of the new growth, the problem may be too much fertilizer, which could push vegetative growth at the expense of flowers. Or, maybe the problem is a lack of light. Lilacs need plenty of sun to flower well, and shade is the most common culprit when mature bushes fail to bloom.

Remember, too, that if you go through a summer of little or no rain, the plant will be unable to set buds for next year so you can expect little or no flowering the year after a drought.

Too Many Tomatoes?

by OCMGA Master Gardner Mary Learman

This is a fantastic recipe for the glut of tomatoes in the summer. I like to use it for that last crop of the year, when there isn’t enough for a big canning session but too much to eat.

Untitled1Passata is such a useful store cupboard item to use in all sorts of savory dishes. You can use it as is for a quick pasta dish, pizza sauce, add it to premade tomato sauces and soups for an authentic taste. If you are all canned out, simply pour the finished passata into containers and freeze to use in the winter. Add some to risottos, gumbos, soups, stews and polentas for a rich undernote of harvest.

Roasted Tomato Passata.

To make two 16-oz jars, you will need:-

4 ½ lb. ripe tomatoes
7 oz. shallots
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
a few sprigs of herbs of your choice – basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary
1 t. sea salt
½ t. black pepper
1 t. sugar
2 fl. oz olive oil
2 T. commercial lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut the tomatoes in half and place then cut side up in a single layer in a large roasting pan. Scatter the shallots, garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, sugar and oil over the top. Roast for about 50 minutes to one hour, until the tomatoes are well softened. Remove from the oven and puree using a food mill.

Put the tomato puree into a pan, add the lemon juice and bring to the boiling point. Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal. Water bath for 35 minutes.

Use within one year. Once opened, refrigerate and use within a few days.

Always practice safe canning – http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html will answer all your questions.

Garden a little bedraggled?

If summer’s heat and drought conditions (at least at my house) have your garden hanging it’s head, perk things up with some tips for keeping borders beautiful even when stressed.

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Goldenrod, Black-eyed Susans, Joe Pye Weed are all drought tolerant plants

Watering makes a HUGE difference. Keeping plants watered is essential for a good-looking garden, but it can turn into a chore when temperatures are high and it doesn’t rain. Save yourself time and money with these watering tips:

  • Easy irrigation – a simple soaker hose is one of the most basic ways to irrigate. Lay a porous hose down on your garden, and it’ll weep water onto the soil. Because you’re applying moisture right at soil level, there’s less loss due to evaporation. Cover your hose with a couple of inches of mulch to protect it from the sun’s UV rays and help it last longer.
  • Check your irrigation system to make sure all zones are programmed, then turn it on only when it’s needed.
  • Sometimes it’s easier to water with a hose. Avoid dragging it all over the yard by grouping containers together.

Stop weeds and drought stress. Plants that aren’t stressed by aggressive weeds or lack of moisture are healthier and bloom longer with more flowers. Ideally, you’ve mulched in spring, but it’s never too late to put some down.

  • One of the best things you can do to keep plants fresh in summer is to apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of some type of organic mulch. If it’s looking a little thin or matted down in your garden, use a leaf rake to fluff what’s there and top it off, if needed.
  • If drought stress has already affected your annuals or perennials and you notice brown and crispy flowers or foliage, go ahead and cut off what’s damaged. Sometimes the whole plant looks bad. In that case, prune all the dead-looking stuff out. Make sure there’s enough mulch and water so the soil stays evenly moist for the rest of the season. Many perennials will start growing again from the crown in a week or two. Some plants, such as bleeding heart, will go completely dormant, but grow again the following spring.

Get rid of spent blooms. Deadheading often — even daily — will keep your garden looking its best. You’ll get a faster repeat bloom and avoid unsightly spent blossoms hanging around. Deadheading encourages your plant to produce more flowers and store energy for winter instead of forming seed heads. In fact, some people don’t like the look of hosta blooms so they cut them off below the foliage as they emerge.

Heat stress and lack of water can make plants susceptible to pests and disease so keep a close eye on your plants and act quickly if you spot trouble!

Familiar Friend Can Add Drama

by OCMGA Master Gardener Tom Wentzel

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Rudbeckia Herbstonne is a very dramatic background plant. This specimen is 6 – 7’ tall and as you can see has the advantage of flower on the upper 1/3 of its height.   Therefore it does not interfere with foreground plantings.

It is a carefree plant. It does like rich well drained soil and will tolerate some draught once it is established. This plant in my garden was planted as two clumps about 5 years ago. The clumps have since grown together. Although it is does spread by rhizomes it general stays in its clump and is easy to control. Deer and rabbits tend to leave it alone but insects and birds love it.

With a little dead heading it will bloom from late July into fall. I leave the stalks in place for winter interest.