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RE: Ideas for fantastic Clematis Combos wanted!! (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: bonitamariposa on 01.28.2012 at 09:59 am in Clematis Forum

Oooh, I'm excited about this thread...can't wait to see all the combos. My favorite is Huldine & Jackmanii. I also like Venosa Violacea & Comtesse de Bouchaud.
Jackmanii & Huldine
title="Comtesse de Bouchard & Venosa Violacea by cameragirl59, on Flickr">Comtesse de Bouchard & Venosa Violacea

Comtesse & Ruutel?
I've also paired these and can't wait to take a pic:

Etoile Violette & Betty Corning
Huldine & Ville de Lyon
Blue Angel & Viola
Madame Baron & Huldine


clipped on: 05.27.2013 at 01:47 pm    last updated on: 05.27.2013 at 01:47 pm

RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIII (Follow-Up #106)

posted by: greentiger87 on 04.19.2011 at 05:21 am in Container Gardening Forum

Thanks Ohiofem and Al for the the clarification, I think I've got my head wrapped around it now. I wish I could edit that post so that it doesn't confuse other people though :(

I've been making a lot of the gritty mix lately, as I have a lot of houseplants. I've held off on buying new plants this year until I got all the ingredients for it, so I have a lot of shopping to make up for. So far, my transplants are really loving the mix! Little or no transplant shock, which is remarkable considering the leaf drop I usually see. I'm using decomposed granite with the largest pieces screened out and the smallest particles sifted out with insect screening and washed away with water. This makes it a little more water retentive than the proper mix would be - but it's working great for my purposes.

A couple of things that I think might add some more clarity to the original post:

1) explicitly title the "5:1:1 Mix" and the "Gritty Mix" as such and spell out the part ratios with a brief description of their function

Something like:


5:1:1 Mix
For short term plantings of 1- 2 years, cheap and relatively easy to find ingredients

5 parts pine fines
1 part perlite
1 part peat moss
1 tbs dolomitic lime per gallon of mixture

Pine Fines - physical support for roots, relatively large particle size increases aeration and decreases the PWT, still retains some water and makes nutrients available to plants, cheap and light material that makes up the bulk of the soil mixture

Perlite - prevents compaction upon decomposition of peat and bark, increases drainage, retains some air and water internally, large particle size increases aeration and decreases PWT

Peat Moss - retains both moisture and nutrients extremely well, drains well when "fresh", but decomposes fairly quickly

Dolomitic Lime - raises and buffers the acidic pH of pine bark and peat moss to a level appropriate for most plants, provides Mg and Ca that are often absent from average fertilizers


My "functions" are just guesses, but you get the idea

The "batch" information is just confusing, IMHO. When the ratio is clearly stated, the need for the specific recipes is obviated.

2) Be more clear about particle sizes for each material. What "pine fines" are, in terms of what the ideal material. For example, I know in another thread, Al stated that "pine fines" should be anything from dust to 3/8 inch, but I still got turned around because it wasn't in the original post.

Something like: (perhaps combined with the above)
Pine Fines - Ideally, this should be composted pine bark with a particle size from dust to 3/8 inch, with a fairly even distribution. Larger particle sizes will provide even better drainage, but require more frequent watering. Smaller particle sizes will increase water retention, but also promote compaction and a higher PWT. Very large pieces of bark should be screened out, ideally using a 3/8 inch screen, or a 1/2 inch screen if the former is not available.

Perlite: Coarse perlite is best, but some dust is generally unavoidable. Screening out this dust is unnecessary, but you could do so to even further promote drainage.

Peat Moss: Particle size is irrelevant, no screening is necessary.

Again, just guessing from my understanding.

3) Put the just the titles of the soil mixtures and the ratios of ingredients at the top of the post, before the discussion. This both lets people know where things are going, and helps when people come back and just need that information.

Just my humble suggestions... I know the post has lasted a long time and informed a lot of people, so I totally understand if you'd rather leave it alone.


clipped on: 06.04.2011 at 05:03 pm    last updated on: 06.04.2011 at 05:13 pm

Fertilizer Program for Containerized Plants III

posted by: tapla on 05.06.2011 at 10:44 am in Container Gardening Forum

This subject has proven popular on the Container Gardening Forum, having reached the maximum number of posts allowed on two previous occasions, so I'll post it for its third go-round. Nutrient supplementation has been discussed frequently, but usually in piecemeal fashion on this and forum and other forums related. Prompted originally by a question about fertilizers in another thread, I decided to collect a few thoughts & present a personal overview.

Fertilizer Program - Containerized Plants III

Let me begin with a brief and hopefully not too technical explanation of how plants absorb water from the soil and how they obtain the nutrients/solutes that are dissolved in that water. Most of us remember from our biology classes that cells have membranes that are semi-permeable. That is, they allow some things to pass through the walls, like water and select elements in ionic form dissolved in the water, while excluding other materials like large organic molecules. Osmosis is a natural phenomenon that is nature's attempt at creating a balance (isotonicity) in the concentration of solutes in water inside and outside of cells. Water and ionic solutes will pass in and out of cell walls until an equilibrium is reached and the level of solutes in the water surrounding the cell is the same as the level of solutes in the cell.

This process begins when the finest roots absorb water molecule by molecule at the cellular level from colloidal surfaces and water vapor in soil gasses, along with the nutrient load dissolved in that water, and distribute water and nutrients throughout the plant. I want to keep this simple, so I'll just say that the best water absorption occurs when the level of solutes in soil water is lowest, and in the presence of good amounts of oxygen (this is where I get to plug a well-aerated and free-draining soil). Deionized (distilled) water contains no solutes, and is easiest for plants to absorb. Of course, since distilled water contains no nutrients, using it alone practically guarantees deficiencies of multiple nutrients as the plant is shorted the building materials (nutrients) it needs to manufacture food, keep its systems orderly, and keep its metabolism running smoothly.

We already learned that if the dissolved solutes in soil water are low, the plant may be well-hydrated, but starving; however, if they are too high, the plant may have a large store of nutrients in the soil but because of osmotic interference the plant may be unable to absorb the water and could die of thirst in a sea of plenty. When this condition occurs, and is severe enough (high concentrations of solutes in soil water), it causes fertilizer burn (plasmolysis), a condition seen when plasma is torn from cell walls as the water inside the cell exits to maintain solute equilibrium with the water surrounding the cell.

Our job, because we cannot depend on an adequate supply of nutrients being supplied by the organic component of a container soil as it breaks down, is to provide a solution of dissolved nutrients in a concentration high enough that the supply remains in the adequate to luxury range, yet still low enough that it remains easy for the plant to take up enough water to be well-hydrated and free of drought stress. Electrical conductivity (EC) of, and the level of TDS (total dissolved solids) in the soil solution is a reliable way to judge the adequacy of solute concentrations and the plant's ability to take up water. There are meters that measure these concentrations, and for most plants the ideal range of conductivity is from 1.5 - 3.5 mS, with some, like tomatoes, being as high as 4.5 mS. This is more technical than I wanted to be, but I added it in case someone wanted to search 'mS' or 'TDS' or 'EC'. Most of us, including me, will have to be satisfied with simply guessing at concentrations, but understanding how plants take up water and fertilizer, as well as the effects of solute concentrations in soil water is an important piece of the fertilizing puzzle.

Now, some disconcerting news - you have listened to all this talk about nutrient concentrations, but what do we supply, when, and how do we supply them? We have to decide what nutrients are appropriate to add to our supplementation program, but how? Most of us are just hobby growers and cannot do tissue analysis to determine what is lacking. We CAN be observant tough, and learn the symptoms of various nutrient deficiencies - and we CAN make some surprising generalizations.

What if I said that the nutritional needs of all plants is basically the same and that one fertilizer could suit almost all the plants we grow in containers - that by increasing/decreasing the dosage as we water, we could even manipulate plants to bloom and fruit more abundantly? It�s really quite logical, so please let me explain.

Tissue analysis of plants will nearly always show NPK %s to be very close to an average ratio of approximately 10:1.5:7. If we assign N the constant of 100, P and K will range from 13-19 and 45-70 respectively. (I'll try to remember to make a chart showing the relative ratios of all the other essential nutrients plants normally take from the soil at the end of what I write.) All we need to do is supply nutrients in approximately the same ratio as plants use them, and at concentrations sufficient to keep them in the adequate to luxury range at all times.

Remember that we can maximize water uptake by keeping the concentrations of solutes low, so a continual supply of a weak solution is best. Nutrients don't often just suddenly appear in large quantities in nature, so the low and continual dose method most closely mimics the nutritional supply Mother Nature offers. If you decide to adopt a "fertilize every time you water" approach, most liquid fertilizers can be applied at 3/4 to 1 tsp per gallon for best results. If you decide that is too much work, try halving the dose recommended & cutting the interval in half. You can work out the math for granular soluble fertilizers and apply at a similar rate.

The system is rather self regulating if fertilizer is applied in low concentrations each time you water, even with houseplants in winter. As the plant's growth slows, so does its need for both water and nutrients. Larger plants and plants that are growing robustly will need more water and nutrients, so linking nutrient supply to the water supply is a win/win situation all around.

Another advantage to supplying a continual low concentration of fertilizer is, it eliminates the tendency of plants to show symptoms of nutrient deficiencies after they have received high doses of fertilizer and then been allowed to return to a more favorable level of soil solute concentrations. Even at perfectly acceptable concentrations of nutrients in the soil, plants previously exposed to high concentrations of nutrients readily display deficiency symptoms, even at normal nutrient loads.

You will still need to guard against watering in sips, and that habit's accompanying tendency to ensure solute (salt) accumulation in soils. Remember that as salts accumulate, both water and nutrient uptake is made more difficult and finally impaired or made impossible in severe cases. Your soils should always allow you to water so that at least 10-15% of the total volume of water applied passes through the soil and out the drain hole to be discarded. This flushes the soil and carries accumulating solutes out the drain hole.

I use a liquid fertilizer with a full compliment of nutrients and micronutrients in a 3:1:2 ratio. Note that 'RATIO' is different than NPK %s. Also note how closely the 3:1:2 ratio fits the average ratio of NPK content in plant tissues, noted above (10:1.5:7). If the P looks a little high at 4, consider that in container soils, P begins to be more tightly held as pH goes from 6.5 to below 6.0, which is on the high side of most container soil's pH, so the manufacturer probably gave this some careful consideration. Also, P and K percentages shown on fertilizer packages are not the actual amount of P or K in the blend. The percentage of P on the package is the percentage of P2O5 (phosphorous pentoxide) and you need to multiply the percentage shown by .43 to get the actual amount of P in the fertilizer. Similarly, the K level percentage shown is actually the level of K2O ( potassium oxide) and must be multiplied by .83 to arrive at the actual amount of K supplied.

To answer the inevitable questions about specialty fertilizers and "special" plant nutritional requirements, let me repeat that plants need nutrients in roughly the same ratio. 'RATIO' is also an entirely a separate consideration from dosage. You�ll need to adjust the dosage to fit the plant and perhaps strike a happy medium in containers that have a diversity of material.

If nutrient availability is unbalanced - if plants are getting more than they need of certain nutrients, but less than they need of others, the nutrient they need the most will be the one that limits growth. There are 6 factors that affect plant growth, vitality and yield; they are: air, water, light, temperature, soil or media and nutrients. Liebig's Law of Limiting Factors states the most deficient factor limits plant growth, and increasing the supply of non-limiting factors will not increase plant growth. Only by increasing most deficient nutrient will the plant growth increase. There is also an optimum combination/ratio of nutrients, and increasing them, individually or in various combinations can lead to toxicities and be as limiting as deficiencies.

When individual nutrients are available in excess, it not only unnecessarily contributes to the total volume of solutes in the soil solution, which makes it more difficult for the plant to absorb water and nutrients, it can also create an antagonistic deficiency of other nutrients as toxicity levels block a plant's ability to take them up. E.g., too much Fe (iron) can cause a Mn (manganese) deficiency, with the converse also true, Too much Ca (calcium) can cause a Mg (magnesium) deficiency. Too much P (phosphorous) can cause an insoluble precipitate with Fe and make Fe unavailable. It also interferes with the uptake of several other micro-nutrients. You can see why it is advantageous to supply nutrients in as close to the same ratio in which plants use them and at levels not so high that they interfere with water uptake. I know I'm repeating myself here, but this is an important point.

What about the high-P "Bloom Booster" fertilizers you might ask? To induce more prolific flowering, a reduced N supply will have more and better effect than the high P bloom formulas. When N is reduced, it slows vegetative growth without reducing photosynthesis. Since vegetative growth is limited by a lack of N, and the photosynthetic machinery continues to turn out food, it leaves an expendable surplus for the plant to spend on flowers and fruit. Plants use about 6 times more N than P, so fertilizers that supply more P than N are wasteful and more likely to inhibit blooms (remember that too much P inhibits uptake of Fe and many micro-nutrients - it raises pH unnecessarily as well, which could also be problematic). Popular "bloom-booster" fertilizers like 10-52-10 actually supply about 32x more P than your plant could ever use (in relationship to how much N it uses) and has the potential to wreak all kinds of havoc with your plants.

In a recent conversation with the CEO of Dyna-Gro, he confirmed my long held belief that circumstances would have to be very highly unusual for it to be ever beneficial to use a fertilizer in containers that supplies as much or more P than either N or K. This means that even commonly found 1:1:1 ratios like 20-20-20 or 14-14-14 supply more P than is necessary for best results.

The fact that different species of plants grow in different types of soil where they are naturally found, does not mean that one needs more of a certain nutrient than the other. It just means that the plants have developed strategies to adapt to certain conditions, like excesses and deficiencies of particular nutrients.

Plants that "love" acid soils, e.g., have simply developed strategies to cope with those soils. Their calcium needs are still the same as any other plant and no different from the nutrient requirements of plants that thrive in alkaline soils. The problem for acid-loving plants is that they are unable to adequately limit their calcium uptake, and will absorb too much of it when available, resulting in cellular pH-values that are too high. Some acid-loving plants also have difficulties absorbing Fe, Mn, Cu, or Zn, which is more tightly held in alkaline soils, another reason why they thrive in low pH (acid) soils.

So, If you select a fertilizer that is close in ratio to the concentration of major elements in plant tissues, you are going to be in good shape. Whether the fertilizer is furnished in chemical or organic form matters not a whit to the plant. Ions are ions, but there is one major consideration. Chemical fertilizers are available for immediate uptake while organic fertilizers must be acted on by passing through the gut of micro-organisms to break them down into usable elemental form. Since microorganism populations are affected by cultural conditions like moisture/air levels in the soil, soil pH, fertility levels, temperature, etc., they tend to follow a boom/bust cycle that has an impact on the reliability and timing of delivery of nutrients supplied in organic form, in container culture. Nutrients locked in hydrocarbon chains cannot be relied upon to be available when the plant needs them. This is a particular issue with the immobile nutrients that must be present in the nutrient stream at all times for the plant to grow normally.

What is my approach? I have been very happy with Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 liquid fertilizer. It has all the essential elements in a favorable ratio, and even includes Ca and Mg, which is unusual in soluble fertilizers. Miracle-Gro granular all-purpose fertilizer in 24-8-16 or liquid 12-4-8 are both close seconds and completely soluble, though they do lack Ca and Mg, which you can supply by incorporating lime or by including gypsum and Epsom salts in your fertilizer supplementation program. Ask if you need clarification on this point.

I often incorporate a granular micro-nutrient supplement in my soils when I make them (Micromax) or use a soluble micro-nutrient blend (STEM). I would encourage you to make sure your plants are getting all the micro-nutrients. More readily available than the supplements I use is Earth Juice's 'Microblast'.

When plants are growing robustly, I try to fertilize my plants weakly (pun intended) with a half recommended dose of the concentrate at half the suggested intervals. When plants are growing slowly, I fertilize more often with very weak doses. It is important to realize your soil must drain freely and you must water so a fair amount of water drains from your container each time you water to fertilize this way. Last year, my display containers performed better than they ever have in years past & they were still all looking amazingly attractive at the beginning of Oct when I finally decided to dismantle them because of imminent cold weather. I attribute results primarily to a good soil and a healthy nutrient supplementation program.

What would I recommend to someone who asked what to use as an all-purpose fertilizer for nearly all their container plantings? If you can find it, a 3:1:2 ratio soluble liquid fertilizer (24-8-16, 12-4-8, 9-3-6 are all 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers) that contains all the minor elements would great.

How plants use nutrients - the chart I promised:

I gave Nitrogen, because it is the largest nutrient component, the value of 100. Other nutrients are listed as a weight percentage of N.
N 100
P 13-19 (16) 1/6
K 45-80 (62) 3/5
S 6-9 (8) 1/12
Mg 5-15 (10) 1/10
Ca 5-15 (10) 1/10
Fe 0.7
Mn 0.4
B(oron) 0.2
Zn 0.06
Cu 0.03
Cl 0.03
M(olybden) 0.003
To read the chart: P - plants use 13-19 parts of P or an average of about 16 parts for every 100 parts of N, or 6 times more N than P. Plants use about 45-80 parts of K or an average of about 62 parts for every 100 parts of N, or about 3/5 as much K as N, and so on.

If you're still with me - thanks for reading. It makes me feel like the effort was worth it. ;o) Let me know what you think - please.

Here is a link to the second posting of A Fertilizer Program for Containers

Another link to information about Container Soils- Water Movement and Retention.


clipped on: 06.04.2011 at 04:00 pm    last updated on: 06.04.2011 at 04:00 pm

Container Soil Basics: a compilation

posted by: lathyrus_odoratus on 07.14.2009 at 08:36 pm in Container Gardening Forum

I just reviewed all 8 threads in the Container Soil/Retention series started by Tapla aka Al. I realized that many questions kept getting asked over and over. It's hard to wade through all those posts! I thought we might try to make it a bit easier for Al, justaguy, or anyone else answering questions about these mixes. Please, Al and justaguy, correct any mistakes I've made.


clipped on: 05.03.2011 at 11:58 pm    last updated on: 06.04.2011 at 03:55 pm

RE: Endless supply of seed envelopes (Follow-Up #6)

posted by: pitimpinai on 02.06.2006 at 08:01 pm in Winter Sowing Forum

Thank you, lblack, Raney & mmcq. I am glad that you are interested in making these envelopes. Making them relaxes me. I hope youll enjoy making them too. They are adorable, practical and cost nothing. In our small way, well take part in recycling as well.

1. Cut paper into a 3 1/2" square, wider if you need a larger envelope. I might make my next batch with a 4" square for larger seeds:
Image hosting by Photobucket

2. Fold the square into a triangle. I forgot all the geometric terms, so please forgive me if the explanation is unclear:
Image hosting by Photobucket

3. Fold the two flaps almost all the way to the base of the triangle:
Image hosting by Photobucket

4. Fold the two corners of the triangle toward the center:
Image hosting by Photobucket

5. Unfold the flaps. Place a piece of tansparent tape over the two corners as shown in the photo above. The envelope will look like this:
Image hosting by Photobucket
Please note the base of the flaps. If the two corners of the triangle are folded a little deeper so that the flaps are not perfectly triangular, small seeds will not leak out.

6. Seeds go in between the two flaps:
Image hosting by Photobucket

7. Fold down the flaps and tape the tip or insert it into the envelope, like so:
Image hosting by Photobucket

I usually fold the squares up to stage 3 on the train to and from work. I do the rest at home where I have more space. It is not easy balancing all my supplies on my lap during the train ride. :-)

Have fun and please let me know how they turn out.


clipped on: 05.29.2011 at 01:31 pm    last updated on: 05.29.2011 at 01:32 pm

Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention IX

posted by: tapla on 07.20.2009 at 03:43 pm in Container Gardening Forum

I first posted this thread back in March of 05. Eight times, it has reached the maximum number of posts to a single thread (150), which is much more attention than I ever imagined it would garner. I have reposted it, in no small part, because it has been great fun, and a wonderful catalyst in the forging of new friendships and in increasing my list of acquaintances with similar growing interests. The forum and email exchanges that stem so often from the subject are, in themselves, enough to make me hope the subject continues to pique interest and the exchanges provide helpful information. Most of the motivation for posting this thread again comes from the participants reinforcement of the idea that some of the information provided in good-spirited collective exchange will make some degree of difference in the level of satisfaction of many readers growing experience.
I'll provide links to the previous eight threads at the end of what I have written - in case you have interest in reviewing them. Thank you for taking the time to look into this subject - I hope that any/all who read it take at least something interesting and helpful from it. I know it's long, but I hope you find it worth the read.

Container Soils - Water Movement and Retention - A Discussion About Soils

As container gardeners, our first priority should be to insure the soils we use are adequately aerated for the life of the planting, or in the case of perennial material (trees, shrubs, garden perennials), from repot to repot. Soil aeration/drainage is the most important consideration in any container planting. Soils are the foundation that all container plantings are built on, and aeration is the very cornerstone of that foundation. Since aeration and drainage are inversely linked to soil particle size, it makes good sense to try to find and use soils or primary components with particles larger than peat. Durability and stability of soil components so they contribute to the retention of soil structure for extended periods is also extremely important. Pine and some other types of conifer bark fit the bill nicely, but Ill talk more about various components later.

What I will write also hits pretty hard against the futility in using a drainage layer of coarse materials as an attempt to improve drainage. It just doesn't work. All it does is reduce the total volume of soil available for root colonization. A wick can be employed to remove water from the saturated layer of soil at the container bottom, but a drainage layer is not effective. A wick can be made to work in reverse of the self-watering pots widely being discussed on this forum now.

Since there are many questions about soils appropriate for use in containers, I'll post basic mix recipes later, in case any would like to try the soil. It will follow the Water Movement information.
Consider this if you will:
Soil fills only a few needs in container culture. Among them are: Anchorage - A place for roots to extend, securing the plant and preventing it from toppling. Nutrient Retention - It must retain enough nutrients in available form to sustain plant systems. Gas Exchange - It must be sufficiently porous to allow air to move through the root system and by-product gasses to escape. Water - It must retain water enough in liquid and/or vapor form to sustain plants between waterings. Most plants can be grown without soil as long as we can provide air, nutrients, and water, (witness hydroponics). Here, I will concentrate primarily on the movement of water in soil(s).

There are two forces that cause water to move through soil - one is gravity, the other capillary action. Gravity needs little explanation, but for this writing I would like to note: Gravitational flow potential (GFP) is greater for water at the top of the container than it is for water at the bottom. I'll return to that later. Capillarity is a function of the natural forces of adhesion and cohesion. Adhesion is water's tendency to stick to solid objects like soil particles and the sides of the pot. Cohesion is the tendency for water to stick to itself. Cohesion is why we often find water in droplet form - because cohesion is at times stronger than adhesion; in other words, waters bond to itself can be stronger than the bond to the object it might be in contact with; in this condition it forms a drop. Capillary action is in evidence when we dip a paper towel in water. The water will soak into the towel and rise several inches above the surface of the water. It will not drain back into the source, and it will stop rising when the GFP equals the capillary attraction of the fibers in the paper.

There will be a naturally occurring "perched water table" (PWT) in containers when soil particulate size is under about .125 (1/8) inch.. This is water that occupies a layer of soil that is always saturated & will not drain from the portion of the pot it occupies. It can evaporate or be used by the plant, but physical forces will not allow it to drain. It is there because the capillary pull of the soil at some point will surpass the GFP; therefore, the water does not drain, it is perched. The smaller the size of the particles in a soil, the greater the height of the PWT. This water can be tightly held in heavy (comprised of small particles) soils and perch (think of a bird on a perch) just above the container bottom where it will not drain; or, it can perch in a layer of heavy soil on top of a coarse drainage layer, where it will not drain.

Imagine that we have five cylinders of varying heights, shapes, and diameters, each with drain holes, and we fill them all with the same soil mix, then saturate the soil. The PWT will be exactly the same height in each container. This saturated area of the container is where roots initially seldom penetrate & where root problems frequently begin due to a lack of aeration. Water and nutrient uptake are also compromised by lack of air in the root zone. Keeping in mind the fact that the PWT height is dependent on soil particle size and has nothing to do with height or shape of the container, we can draw the conclusion that: Tall growing containers will always have a higher percentage of unsaturated soil than squat containers when using the same soil mix. The reason: The level of the PWT will be the same in each container, with the taller container providing more usable, air holding soil above the PWT. From this, we could make a good case that taller containers are easier to grow in.

A given volume of large soil particles has less overall surface area when compared to the same volume of small particles and therefore less overall adhesive attraction to water. So, in soils with large particles, GFP more readily overcomes capillary attraction. They drain better. We all know this, but the reason, often unclear, is that the height of the PWT is lower in coarse soils than in fine soils. The key to good drainage is size and uniformity of soil particles. Mixing large particles with small is often very ineffective because the smaller particles fit between the large, increasing surface area which increases the capillary attraction and thus the water holding potential. An illustrative question: How much perlite do we need to add to pudding to make it drain well?

We have seen that adding a coarse drainage layer at the container bottom does not improve drainage. It does though, reduce the volume of soil required to fill a container, making the container lighter. When we employ a drainage layer in an attempt to improve drainage, what we are actually doing is moving the level of the PWT higher in the pot. This simply reduces the volume of soil available for roots to colonize. Containers with uniform soil particle size from top of container to bottom will yield better and more uniform drainage and have a lower PWT than containers using the same soil with drainage layers.

The coarser the drainage layer, the more detrimental to drainage it is because water is more (for lack of a better scientific word) reluctant to make the downward transition because the capillary pull of the soil above the drainage layer is stronger than the GFP. The reason for this is there is far more surface area on soil particles for water to be attracted to in the soil above the drainage layer than there is in the drainage layer, so the water perches. I know this goes against what most have thought to be true, but the principle is scientifically sound, and experiments have shown it as so. Many nurserymen employ the pot-in-pot or the pot-in-trench method of growing to capitalize on the science.

If you discover you need to increase drainage, you can simply insert an absorbent wick into a drainage hole & allow it to extend from the saturated soil in the container to a few inches below the bottom of the pot, or allow it to contact soil below the container where the earth acts as a giant wick and will absorb all or most of the perched water in the container, in most cases. Eliminating the PWT has much the same effect as providing your plants much more soil to grow in, as well as allowing more, much needed air in the root zone.

In simple terms: Plants that expire because of drainage problems either die of thirst because the roots have rotted and can no longer take up water, or they starve/"suffocate" because there is insufficient air at the root zone to insure normal water/nutrient uptake and root function.

Bark fines of fir, hemlock or pine, are excellent as the primary component of your soils. The lignin contained in bark keeps it rigid and the rigidity provides air-holding pockets in the root zone far longer than peat or compost mixes that too quickly break down to a soup-like consistency. Conifer bark also contains suberin, a lipid sometimes referred to as natures preservative. Suberin, more scarce as a presence in sapwood products and hardwood bark, dramatically slows the decomposition of conifer bark-based soils. It contains highly varied hydrocarbon chains and the microorganisms that turn peat to soup have great difficulty cleaving these chains.

To confirm the existence of the PWT and how effective a wick is at removing it, try this experiment: Fill a soft drink cup nearly full of garden soil. Add enough water to fill to the top, being sure all soil is saturated. Punch a drain hole in the bottom of the cup and allow the water to drain. When drainage has stopped, insert a wick into the drain hole . Take note of how much additional water drains. Even touching the soil with a toothpick through the drain hole will cause substantial additional water to drain. The water that drains is water that occupied the PWT. A greatly simplified explanation of what occurs is: The wick or toothpick "fools" the water into thinking the pot is deeper than it is, so water begins to move downward seeking the "new" bottom of the pot, pulling the rest of the water in the PWT along with it. If there is interest, there are other simple and interesting experiments you can perform to confirm the existence of a PWT in container soils. I can expand later in the thread.

I always remain cognizant of these physical principles whenever I build a soil. I havent used a commercially prepared soil in many years, preferring to build a soil or amend one of my 2 basic mixes to suit individual plantings. I keep many ingredients at the ready for building soils, but the basic building process usually starts with conifer bark and perlite. Sphagnum peat plays a secondary role in my container soils because it breaks down too quickly to suit me, and when it does, it impedes drainage and reduces aeration. Size matters. Partially composted conifer bark fines (pine is easiest to find and least expensive) works best in the following recipes, followed by uncomposted bark in the <3/8" range.

Note that there is no sand or compost in the soils I use. Sand, as most of you think of it, can improve drainage in some cases, but it reduces aeration by filling valuable macro-pores in soils. Unless sand particle size is fairly uniform and/or larger than about BB size I leave it out of soils. Compost is too unstable for me to consider using in soils. The small amount of micro-nutrients it supplies can easily be delivered by one or more of a number of chemical or organic sources.

My Basic Soils
5 parts pine bark fines
1 part sphagnum peat (not reed or sedge peat please)
1-2 parts perlite
garden lime (or gypsum in some cases)
controlled release fertilizer (if preferred)
micro-nutrient powder, other continued source of micro-nutrients, or fertilizer with all nutrients - including minors

Big batch:
2-3 cu ft pine bark fines
5 gallons peat
5 gallons perlite
2 cups dolomitic (garden) lime (or gypsum in some cases)
2 cups CRF (if preferred)
1/2 cup micro-nutrient powder (or other source of the minors)

Small batch:
3 gallons pine bark
1/2 gallon peat
1/2 gallon perlite
4 tbsp lime (or gypsum in some cases)
1/4 cup CRF (if preferred)
micro-nutrient powder (or other source of the minors)

I have seen advice that some highly organic (practically speaking - almost all container soils are highly organic) container soils are productive for up to 5 years or more. I disagree and will explain why if there is interest. Even if you were to substitute fir bark for pine bark in this recipe (and this recipe will long outlast any peat based soil) you should only expect a maximum of two to three years life before a repot is in order. Usually perennials, including trees (they're perennials too) should be repotted more frequently to insure vigor closer to their genetic potential. If a soil is desired that will retain structure for long periods, we need to look more to inorganic components. Some examples are crushed granite, pea stone, coarse sand (see above - usually no smaller than BB size in containers, please), Haydite, lava rock (pumice), Turface or Schultz soil conditioner, and others.

For long term (especially woody) plantings and houseplants, I use a soil that is extremely durable and structurally sound. The basic mix is equal parts of pine bark, Turface, and crushed granite.

1 part uncomposted pine or fir bark
1 part Turface
1 part crushed granite
1 Tbsp gypsum per gallon of soil
CRF (if desired)
Source of micro-nutrients or use a fertilizer that contains all essentials
I use 1/8 -1/4 tsp Epsom salts per gallon of fertilizer solution when I fertilize (check your fertilizer - if it is soluble, it is probable it does not contain Ca or Mg.

Thank you for your interest.


If there is additional interest, please review previous contributions to this thread here:
Post VII
Post VI
Post V
Post IV
Post III
Post II
Post I

Some readers might also be interested in a discussion about fertilizer strategies for containerized plants at the link below.

Fertilizer Strategies for Containerized Plants

Thanks again, for your interest and for making this fun. ;o)



clipped on: 05.03.2011 at 11:39 pm    last updated on: 05.03.2011 at 11:40 pm

RE: succulent soil mix (Follow-Up #54)

posted by: tapla on 05.29.2008 at 10:21 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Hi, Masanchez. I must be slipping. I missed your post - guessing it's addressed to me.

Yes - the gritty mix will be great for both plants. If I was starting your seeds (this is how I sow pine and other tree seeds), I would use the gritty mix above - with a twist. I would screen the Turface through insect screening & save the fines. The coarse part of the Turface would be used to make the soil. I would sow the seeds directly on top of the soil and then sprinkle/cover with 1/8-1/4 inch of the Turface fines. I would then mist the surface of the fine Turface over-layer whenever it dried out & began to lighten in color.

Jessz - The coarse sand just increases the surface area of the soil particles and temporarily holds on to water that can then diffuse into the bark instead of flowing right through/over the bark w/o actually wetting it. If you're using starter grit, you can easily skip the sand. Don't gnash your teeth over it. ;o)

For about 1 gallon of soil:

1 quart plus a cup of Turface
1 quart plus a cup of starter grit
1 quart plus a cup of uncomposted fine pine bark
1 cup vermiculite
1 tbsp gypsum
1 tbsp CRF
Somehow, you need to be sure your plants are getting all the nutrients they need, so try to select a fertilizer complete with all macro and micronutrients, or use a micronutrient source to supply. You'll need to include some Epsom salts in your fertilizer solution unless it's supplied in the fertilizer you use. If you use a fertilizer like Foliage-Pro 9-3-6, which contains Ca and Mg, you can skip the gypsum in the soil and the Epsom salts in the nutrient solution.



clipped on: 05.03.2011 at 11:36 pm    last updated on: 05.03.2011 at 11:38 pm

My Organics Protocol for Roses (Follow-Up #20)

posted by: herblady49 on 01.27.2010 at 12:29 pm in Cottage Garden Forum


Each spring when I opened my nursery(now retired)I would give a handout of my organics protocol. Growing organically should not be complicated, and healthy soil will grow disease resistant plants and keep your problems to a minimum. I hope the following list will help those of you thinking about growing organically.


MANURE - I use fresh or decomposed. Plant Tone, Rose Tone, and Holly Tone are good commercial organic fertilizers.

MUSHROOM SOIL - Many mulch distributors are selling decomposed leaves and manure as mushroom soil, which is great stuff, but its not mushroom soil. If you cant find mushroom soil, try the leaf/manure mix, which Ive used as a mulch, and I was very pleased with the results. 

FISH EMULSION OR LIQUID SEAWEED EXTRACT. I also use these as a foliar spray.

ALFALFA TEA - 1 cup alfalfa meal in 5 gal bucket of water. Let sit overnight. The result will be a thick tea. Empty generously to the root areas.

SPRING TONIC FOR ROSES -  cup alfalfa meal, cup of Epson salts(Magnesium sulfate). Scratch in soil and water in. This combination promotes great basal growth.

FOLIAR SPRAY ON ROSES - 1 Tbs. Epson salt per gallon of water. Spray monthly if needed on flowering plants. The rose tonic and foliar spray is also wonderful for your vegetable and flower garden.


HORTICULTURAL OIL - Naturl Oil or Safers Sunspray.

HOT PEPPER WAX SPRAY - This is all I ever use in my greenhouse to control aphids or whitefly. I never use anything to kill. I only want to control. Insects will not touch any plant sprayed with this solution. Before this product was offered commercially I would make up my own Garlic/Pepper Tea solution, which Ill share with you if you cant find a pepper wax spray locally. If you buy commercially or make a homemade batch always use latex gloves. If youve ever cut up hot peppers, you know how the oils from the peppers can linger on your fingers for a couple of days, and if you accidentally touch your eyes, it will burn. Also use gloves when your spray it on your plants. Pepper wax spray is also great for outside, but stop spraying 2 weeks before harvest, or your veggies will have a taste of chile peppers. I only continue to spray every 7 days if there is a problem.

1. Always wear latex gloves.
2. In a blender, liquify 2 bulbs of garlic and 2 cayenne or habanera peppers with 2 cups of water.
3. Strain away the solids.
4. Pour the garlic/pepper juice into a 1 gallon container.
5. Fill the remaining volume with water to make 1 gallon of concentrate.
6. Add 2 tablespoons of Horticulture oil to the concentrate (Oil makes it stick).
7. Shake well before using.
8. Add cup of the concentrate to each gallon of water in the sprayer. One gallon of concentrate can go a long way. 

NEEM OIL - The first time I tried this product was during Japanese beetle season. My climbing Hydrangea would always get decimated by the beetles, so I tested the neem oil on half of the Hydrangea. The half that was sprayed with the Neem Oil was untouched, while they devoured the other half. This product is a wonderful insect deterrent.

JAPANESE BEETLE TRAPS - When I have a bad season I put up 6 traps, and this will control the future populations for about 4 years. Place the traps away from your garden.

4 tsp. Of Baking soda, 1 Tbs. of Insecticidal Soap, 1 Tbs. of Horticultural oil. Great for blackspot, powdery mildew, brown patch and other fungal problems. Spray every 7 days.

MULCHING Never Leave Bare Soil!!!!
FEEDING MULCHES - compost, shredded leaves, Shredded leaves/manure mix, mushroom soil, grass clippings, alfalfa hay.

Here is a link that might be useful: Read about the benefits of mushroom soil


clipped on: 03.31.2010 at 03:11 pm    last updated on: 03.31.2010 at 03:11 pm

Sun Dried Tomatoes

posted by: brokenbar on 08.20.2008 at 09:54 pm in Harvest Forum

I raise tomatoes for sun drying. I do about 1000 to 2000 lbs a year which I sell to the upscale restaurants in Cody Wyoming & Billings Montana. I wanted to pass on my favorites for you considering doing some drying. Any tomato can be used for drying but some varieties are better than others.

I grow 15 mainstay varieties that I have kept as I culled others that did not meet my criteria.
I also try at least 5 new varieties of paste types each year and am lucky if one makes it into my herd. I am looking for specific things:

Meaty with a low moisture content
Few seeds
A rich and tangy flavor
Size-Small tomatoes are just more work for me.
Not fussy-Take heat and cold and wind. No primadonnas!
Bloom well and set lots and lots of fruit
Dry to a nice pliable consistency

These are my Top Five
Chinese Giant
Carol Chyko
Cuoro D Toro
San Marzano Redorta

I wanted to add that were I to be stranded on a desert Island with only one tomato it would be Russo Sicilian Togeta. This is my gallstarh that sets fruit first, ripens the earliest, bears heavy crops in any weather and is producing right up until hard frost. It is not a true paste but rather a stuffing tomato. None-the-less, the flavor of these dried is as good as it gets. It is also wonderful for just eating or slicing and the fruit is extra large.

For those wanting to know my Secret Recipe for drying, here you go:

Wash, stem and slice each tomato into 1/4" thick slices. Place in a very large bowl or clean bucket and cover with cheap red wine. I use Merlot but if you prefer something else, knock yourself out. I have a friend that swears by cheap Chianti! Soak tomato slices 24 hours in the wine. Drain well. Lay tomatoes just touching on dehydrator shelves or on screen in your sun-drying apparatus. Sprinkle each slice with a mixture containing equal parts of dried basil-oregano-parsley and then sprinkle each slice with Kosher Salt. You may choose to forego the salt if you wish but tomatoes will take longer to dry. Dry tomatoes until they are firm and leatherlike with no moisture pockets, but NOT brittle. (If you get them too dry, soak them in lemon juice for a few minutes.) To store, place in vacuum bags or ziplock bags and freeze.

IMPORTANT!!! If you will be storing sun-dried tomatoes in Olive oil you !!!MUST!!! dip each slice in vinegar before adding to oil.

To pack in oil:
Dip each tomato into a small dish of white wine vinegar. Shake off theexcess vinegar and pack them in olive oil adding 1/4 cup red wine. For tomatoes in oil I am selling, I put the tomatoes into the oil two weeks ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. Make sure they are completely immersed in the oil. When the jar is full, cap it tightly. I use my vacuum sealer to seal the canning lids on. Store at *cool* room temperature for at least a month before using. They may be stored in the refrigerator, but the oil will solidify at
refrigerator temperatures (it quickly reliquifies at room temperature however). As tomatoes are removed from the jar, add more olive oil as necessary to keep the remaining tomatoes covered. I have stored oil-packed tomatoes in m root cellar for over a year. . I have tried a number of methods to pack the tomatoes in oil, but the vinegar treatment is the difference between a good dried tomato and a great one. It is also important from a food safety standpoint, as it acidifies the oil and discourages growth of bacteria and mold. Soaking in the wine also acidifies them.

****** WARNING ********

Do *NOT* add fresh garlic cloves or fresh herbs of any kind to oil-packed dried tomatoes, UNLESS you store them in the refrigerator and plan on using them within 7 days. Garlic is a low-acid food which, when placed in oil, creates a low-acid anaerobic environment just
perfect growth medium for botulinum bacteria if the mixture is not refrigerated. Be safe and add your garlic to the dried tomatoes as part of the recipe for them *after* they come out of the oil.


clipped on: 09.19.2009 at 08:50 pm    last updated on: 09.19.2009 at 08:50 pm

crock pickels raves

posted by: wiringman on 09.03.2009 at 08:59 pm in Harvest Forum

two weeks into the fermenting and are they ever good.

i did two crocks of boston pickling and one of market more. the boston pickling is head and shoulders above the market more. they retain there crispness far better.

the most common remark is "the best pickle i have ever tasted".

i have 12 gallons of pickles and i don't think it will be enough.

i will bottle this batch next week and start a new batch.

the receipt i used is up to the current standards.

i got it off ot the internet and compared it to the standard.

here it is.

Crock Pickles

It isn't hard to make crock pickles, but not many people make them today. Typically they are too much work, and what do pickles cost in the store? Not that much. But also how would you feel about that microorganism floating on top, that yukky looking stuff floating on top, which will hereafter be referred to as the "scum".
Fermenting causes the pickles to cure. That is why they have a scum. Don't worry either, about that strong odor. That is a part of the plan. They have to be in the crock at least three weeks to complete the process of fermentation. During that time they will change in color from bright green to olive green or yellow green and the white inside will become translucent. Before that they are half cured pickles. When they arrive at your favorite state, you can take them out, or you can allow them to stay in the crock all winter which is what great grandmother use to do, and the way they were stored at the general store in a pickle barrel.
The natural complement to the organic gardener is the organic food preserver. The organic principle involved in making crock pickles is not to overwhelm the capacity of the salt and vinegar to control the microorganisms. The pickle brine doesn't act by killing the way canning does. Instead its effect is to drive the organisms into a nonreproductive state..spores. The more contamination there is in the food at the moment you put it into the pickling solution, the greater the risk.
If you make pickles according to all this advice, be brave when you see the scum arrive on them. Organisms called false yeasts grow on top of the pickle brine. They are eating the organic acid formed during the initial fermentation. Even mold doesn't hurt unless it touches the pickle, so don't let the liquids get too low. Your pickled food must always be kept completely covered by the protective brine, preferably by a safety margin of at least two inches. The water will be slowly evaporated as the winter passes, so you must add more at intervals.
Typically twenty gallons of crock pickles made a year for a family and none would be left come spring. As the year moves on they aren't as tastey as canned pickles. But time and money saved during the frantic harvest season, when you don't know whether to snap, pop, can, or cuss, made the crock pickles seem like a good idea.
Don't even think about making pickles from the grocery stores waxed cucumbers. The brine cannot penetrate the wax. These have to come from your, or a neighbors garden. Too large a cucumber gets pithy in the center. Too yellow a cucumber that is overripe, is one to be passed over, also. Keep watering those cucumbers in your garden patch while they are producing. A severe shortage of water causes cucumbers to become bitter.
If possible get the cucumbers into the brine quite soon after picking in the garden. If you must hold them, keep them cool. Cucumbers deteriorate rapidly. Wash them well to be sure all those small creatures are disposed of. Treat them gently to avoid bruising, as bruised areas, decay readily. Remove any blossoms because they are a source of enzymes that cause unwanted softening during fermentation.
Use pure granulated salt (pickling salt) not table salt. For the best flavor, and after all isn't this why you are doing this, use fresh spices. Grind your own when possible and you can raise your own dill. Don't make the pickles with heavily chlorinated water. For the container, a Crock, is traditional. However, glass jars, gallon or larger, enamel, plastic or wood containers work fine too. You'll need a lid which can fit snugly inside the container such as a plate to cover the pickles and hold them under the brine. Use a weight on the cover, like a scrubbed rock, or a jar filled with water to overcome the urge of those pickles to float up. The jar is easier to manage than the traditional stone which should be sterilized before putting on the brine. Over the top you will need a clean cloth to keep out all insects.
When your cucumbers are ready for pickling, your dill should also have matured its seed heads and be ready for cutting. You use stems, heads seeds and all to make dill crocks.
If you really are disgusted by the scum on top of your fermenting crock, here are some tricks. Take the cloth off once a week and wash it and let it rest in the brine. Some of the scum will stick to the top of the cloth, and can be transported away. You can also skim the brine once a week.
Actually, I don't think you need to resort to such drastic measures because the scum is always just on top and your pickles are fine underneath-- honest they are! Take one out, rinse it off, offer it to your husband. He'll offer to go pick more cucumbers for you immediately to make another crock full of fine pickles.
Crock Dill Pickles
These are similar to Kosher Dills: Start with a five gallon crock and twenty pounds (about half a bushel) of dill cucumbers. Dills are about 3 to 6 inches long. Get ready 3/4 cup of whole mixed pickling spice which you can buy at the grocery store, and a few bunches of dill. Put half the spices and a layer of dill into the bottom of your crock. Add cucumbers to within about five inches of the top. Put in the rest of the dill and spices on top of the cucumbers. Now decide if this crock is to be all eaten up within six weeks, or if should be a long term crock. In the former case, make a brine of 2 1/2 cups vinegar, 1 3/4 cups salt and 2 1/2 gallons water. In the latter case, double the salt and vinegar. Be sure the cucumbers are covered by at least two inches of brine. If need be you can make more brine or take out some cucumbers. Don't jam them down, as it bruises them. Now cover, weight, and put your cloth over the top. Scum will begin forming in a few days.
To can these pickles, just pack in the canning jars when they are done fermeting. Add some new dill to each jar. Cover with boiling brine, adjust jar lid. Place jar in boiling water and keep there for 15 minutes. Remove, tighten the lid, and you are done.
The Anything Dill Crock
Using the same principle as with cucumbers you can pick other vegetables too. Purple cabbage, nasturtium buds, beans, baby onions, cauliflower flowerets, green tomatoes. All go in raw except the beans, which are boiled for two minutes first. Mix in lots of dill. Three beans are a favorite.
Mama Mia ~~
Same crock dill only with red peppers added. Or garlic.
The old family recipe book laid a bag of white mustard seed on top. I think these seeds were gathered from the wild mustard plants growing locally. I don't even know where you could get white mustard seeds today. But I still see the wild mustard growing in the spring.




clipped on: 09.05.2009 at 05:00 pm    last updated on: 09.05.2009 at 05:01 pm

RE: Your success story's with Trellis', cages, ect this year? (Follow-Up #30)

posted by: kompressor on 08.30.2009 at 12:08 pm in Growing Tomatoes Forum

Vining tomato plants don't need any support at all. They got along just fine for who knows how many hundreds of years by sprawling all over the ground, growing fruit and then reproducing the next generation from the seeds that eminated from the unharvested fruit.

However, unsupported plants are difficult to harvest so mankind has found all sorts of ways to make them grow vertically. I began using cages constructed from concrete reinforcing mesh (11 guage 6x6 squares, 6 feet wide rolls) back in the mid 70's and I still use such cages today.

After much experimentation with cage size, I've found that for most OP varieties, a 24" diameter cage works well. I believe it was Amish Paste that probably could have used a 36" diameter cage. I grew that variety one year and was staggered by the size of them.

While I really enjoy growing tomatoes to get the end result, I am essentially a person who prefers to spend as little time as possible in caring for the plants. the springtime, I disregard all the naysayers that are against mechanical devices and I fire up my trusty Honda rear-tine tiller and I run it through the soil just as soon as it's dry enough to do so. More often then not, I till my garden at least three times as deep as the tiller will go.

The garden is then left to settle a bit for a day or two before I use a regular bow rake to level out any high or low spots. At that point, I unroll a five foot wide strip of 4 mil black plastic and hold it down with old bricks along the edges. Using a long metal spike, I secure my 200 foot measuring tape at one end of the roll of plastic and walk to the other end where I place a brick on it to hold it down.

Using a nice sharp utility knife (box cutter), I slit the plastic sheeting in an X pattern in the middle of the five foot width. A 4" X is all that's needed and I begin 2 feet in from the end and put an X every 4 feet after that until I reach the other end of the strip. Planting in 2 foot diameter cages, 4 feet on center, leaves me with 2 foot spacing between the cages. No problems are encountered in looking after the plants. I can pick hornworms off and harvest ripe fruit with ease through the 6 inch square openings.

Once the slits are done, I use my 18 volt drill with a bulb auger to bore the planting holes. I do my own starts and I like leggy plants because I strip off all the leaves except for a few at the top and then drop the plant into a hole deep enough to just allow those leaves to be above the surface. I put nothing in the holes except for the plants and I use a watering can immediately to thoroughly drench the planting hole full depth.

Surrounding soil can quickly rob the plant of any moisture that is in the planting mix around the roots so watering is imperative to prevent the starts from wilting. With the plants all in the ground, the cages are inspected for bent wires or any remnants of last year's vines still clinging to them. Once the cages are ready, I push them through the plastic into the soil below. The cages help hold the plastic to the ground.

From this point on, care of the plants is minimal. A daily inspection (at minimum) is needed to make sure nothing is suffering from drought or any other problems. As the plants grow, I tuck the vines back inside the cages as whenever they try to escape. The objective is to keep all vines growing vertical and inside the cage. I find this process to be much faster than tying, untying, retying but that's a personal choice.

Once the plants are up to about three feet or better seems to co-incide with the annual hornworm attack. Due to the weather this season, I haven't seen a hornworm so far. Once I kill off all the hornworms, I usually encounter no other problems such as disease. This year, I have about 66 plants in the ground and I believe I have 20 varieties.

Just like last year, this year is shaping up to be another disaster thanks to incessant rain. I am just getting ripe tomatoes now. Three years ago, I was swimming in tomatoes to the point of giving many away. No complaints about that. You can never have too many tomatoes.

I like my method because I only have to deal with the odd weed that sprouts next to the tomato plants or forces its way through the plastic next to where a cage spike goes through. I detest weeding and this method solves that problem for me. Having a large property also solves the cage storage issue. I just stack them horizontally on some wood skids between T-bars pounded in the ground and they spend the winter there.

I recognize that not everyone has a large property that can host a garden large enough to allow for 2 foot cages on 4 foot centers. I have never had an air circulation problem using this method and I have always managed to find fruit with BER and discard it. BER has also never been much of a problem. I see a bit of it on the odd plant early in the season and that's it.

Aside from the weed control, I believe that the plastic helps warm the soil a little faster, holds that heat in when the sun goes down and keeps moisture that is in the soil from escaping. The moisture is drawn to the surface, condenses on the plastic and then drips back into the soil. It is my belief that I get a much more even watering of the plants this way.

I don't grow tomatoes to save money. In fact, I try not to think about what I spend each year to grow my tomatoes. To me, that's irrelevant. I grow them because there isn't any other alternative to obtain tomatoes that actually taste the way I believe tomatoes should taste. Even the tomatoes you find at fruit and veggie stands are often hybrids that have been chosen more for visual appeal and other traits then for flavour.

This is not to say that all hybrids are flavourless because I have grown some great tasting hybrids. However, experience has shown me that I've had better tasting fruit from OP varieties than with hybrids.

I can't think of any other plant that one would find in a home garden that is as interesting and sometimes as frustrating to grow as the tomato. And I guess that's one of the reasons that makes me look forward to springtime every year. The fact that I have gone through two bad years is annoying but in no way discouraging to the point of quitting. Farmers....even wannabe farmers like me... are eternal optomists. We shrug off the bad times in the knowledge that the odds are on our side for next year or the year after that.


clipped on: 08.30.2009 at 09:25 pm    last updated on: 08.30.2009 at 09:26 pm

RE: tuberous Begonia help (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: doooglas on 07.09.2009 at 07:26 am in Begonia Forum

You can use a regular regimen of Kilol to keep the fungus and bacteria away.Here at the gardens I spray weekly during the rainy season.It's totally harmless and more effective than Manzate or Benlate.
Also if you are watering by hand ? Use a half cup of peroxide to a quart of water. You'll get better growth due to the extra oxygen. Peroxide is an oxidizer so that may help with bacteria as well.


clipped on: 07.09.2009 at 04:34 pm    last updated on: 07.09.2009 at 04:34 pm

RE: need some ideas for some red perennials (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: carl18 on 07.01.2009 at 11:44 pm in Perennials Forum

These suggestions are all "vibrant reds", not just shadings of red:

- Monarda 'Jacob Cline' (one of my all-time favorites!)
- Here's a second vote for Lobelia cardinalis, with several varieties to chose
from, including one with green/gold leaves ('Golden Touch')
- Phlox paniculata 'Starfire'
- Persicaria amplexicaulis (Firetail). . .a real knock-out and seldom seen!
- Dianthus barbatus 'Heart Attack' (Sweet William)
- Lychnis chalcedonica (Maltese Cross)
- Lychnis coronaria 'Gardener's World'
- Aquilegia 'Ruby Port' (Columbine)
- Primula 'Miller's Crimson'

Then, when you include "shades" of red, there's Knautia macedonica, a dozen or so varieities of Hemerocallis (daylilies), certain hollyhocks, Centranthus ruber, several Chrysanthemums, a few peonies, dozens of shrubs with
red flowers and/or red berries (plus all the "red twig" dogwoods!). . .

And how could I have forgotten the REDDEST of all: Oriental poppies!

Finally, you CAN have red salvia - but in your Zone 5, it will of necessity be a tender perennial (replace it each year like an annual). . .check out the link below and you'll see what I mean. A little tip: Salvia elegans (Pineapple Sage) is readily available almost anywhere, and is almost always located in the herb section, not with the perennials. . .


Here is a link that might be useful: Lazy SS Farm


clipped on: 07.02.2009 at 01:17 pm    last updated on: 07.02.2009 at 01:17 pm

claussen type pickles

posted by: tietie on 06.28.2009 at 06:51 pm in Harvest Forum

hey everyone. It has been a really really long time. We have moved across the country, moved across the state, and had a baby in the last 5 years. So that is why I've been scarce for such a long time. Our son is now old enough that I can 'do a garden', so I here I am.

I have some first timer type questions regarding fermented pickles. Here's the recipe:
Fermented Dill Pickles Refrigerated "Claussen" Type

1 Gallon Jar
Pickling Cucumbers
12 Fresh Dill Flower heads, or
2 Tbsp Dried dill weed and
2 Tbsp. Dried dill seed
10 to 12 Cloves Garlic
6 to 8 Peppercorns
1/4 Cup Vinegar
1/2 Cup Salt
1 1/2 Quarts Water

In 1 gallon jar add pickling cucumbers Rinse but do not wash the cucumbers. Add Dill flower heads or dried dill weed and seed, garlic, peppercorns, and vinegar. Dissolve salt in water and add to jar. Fill jar the remaining way with water. Add weight to keep cucumbers under brine.

Fermentation sequence
1. Clear brine no cloudiness for 1 to 3 days
2. Cloudy brine with gas formation, 2-3 days
3. Cloudy brine no gas formation, 5 to 6 days

Pickles ready to eat after 10-11 days.
Refrigerate pickles if you do not want to process them.

To process the pickles
Fill clean, sterilized quart jars with pickles to within 1/2inch of the top. Wipe, seal, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Remove and place on towel in a draft free area. Label and date. Store in a dark, cool area.

Here's my questions:
1. I dont have a glass gal jar,can I use 2- 1/2 gal jars instead?
2. how do i make the brine to fill the bag for the weight?
3. should I remove blossom & stem end?
4. will there be scum and what do I do with it?
5. to process do I fill with the fermenting liquid?
6. I recall some discussion way back about bwb at a lower temp than boiling. If this is safe, what temp can they be processed at? (I don't have a steam canner so info regarding that is not desired)
7. how soon after picking do I need to start fermenting them

Please share any additional tips/tricks for fermenting pickles. The cuccumbers are sitting on my counter as we speak.


clipped on: 06.29.2009 at 01:49 pm    last updated on: 06.29.2009 at 02:31 pm

RE: Your Greatest Hit Recipes for Leesa (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: SuzyQ2 on 07.28.2005 at 01:58 pm in Harvest Forum

Here are two of my favorites that I haven't seen posted recently.

Shoot, I did not print out the name of the original poster of this recipe. It's not canning, but it is pretty wonderful...

Sour Cream Walnuts

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups walnuts

Cook and stir sugars and sour cream to soft ball stage (240 degress F on candy thermometer). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Add walnuts stirring gently til coated. Spread on pan to cool [no stick wax paper helps later removal]

This next recipe came from KatieC & Annie....

Plum Sauce

4lbs plums
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 tbls mustard seed
2 tbls chopped green chili peppers (I used jalapeno)
1 1/4x1 piece of fresh ginger (I used 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
1 tbls salt
1 clove mined garlic
1 cup cider vinegar

Pit & chop plums [don't peel], Combine remiaining ingredients in a large pot, bring to boil, reduce heat. Add plums, cook until thick and syrupy, about 1 1/2 hrs. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Adjust caps and process 20 minutes in a BWB.

Yeild: about 4 pints.

I adore this on egg rolls and chicken fingers (I don't even like chicken). I also like a bit of it mixed w/ balsamic vinager and over a salad.


clipped on: 06.19.2009 at 11:22 pm    last updated on: 06.19.2009 at 11:22 pm

RE: Canning Class - Local Extension Office (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: digdirt on 06.16.2009 at 11:37 am in Harvest Forum

Good for you! :^) Those basic classes can be a great way to get started. Now that you have done it, consider taking the free online course offered by NCHFP for the next step.


Here is a link that might be useful: NCHFP - Online Canning Course


clipped on: 06.16.2009 at 05:49 pm    last updated on: 06.16.2009 at 05:51 pm

RE: Monet's Gardens -- Oh my! (Follow-Up #5)

posted by: wonbyherwits on 05.13.2009 at 11:55 am in Cottage Garden Forum

I do feel lucky. The upside of this down economy is that airfares were the cheapest we had seen in years ($500 round trip from Raleigh to Paris via JFK and my husband had enough frequent flier miles for a free ticket). We rented a studio apartment with a small kitchen so we had coffee and breakfast there most days to economize. Staying in the center of Paris, we didn't have to rent a car and either took a Batobus (boat on the Siene - hop off and on) or walked. Took the Metro just a few times.

A 5-day unlimited trip pass is only about $25 per person (19 Euro) for the Batobus. The boat is a bit slower than the Metro, but stops all along the river - Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, Saint Germain des Pres, Hotel de Ville, Notre Dame, Jardins des Plantes and Eiffel Tower.

Ginny -- yes, you can get to Giverny without a car.

Go to the Saint Lazare train station in Paris.
Try for 8:00am, but Giverny is closed on Mondays. Our train left around 8:15am and we went on a Wednesday to avoid the weekend crowds.

Take the Rouen-bound train and get off at Vernon. It's about a 45 minute trip. (I think the ticket was 22 Euro per person).

Just outside the front of the Vernon train station is a bus (4 euro r/t) that goes round-trip to Giverny -- it meets each train and goes back for each departing train.

There is an impressionist museum a block away from Monet's gardens where we had a very good lunch in their cafe. During our visit, they had many of Monet's paintings on loan from from the Musee d'Orsay.

More details to come.


clipped on: 05.13.2009 at 06:13 pm    last updated on: 05.13.2009 at 06:13 pm

RE: The Red Bed -- The Rest (Follow-Up #4)

posted by: gottagarden on 02.07.2007 at 07:21 pm in Cottage Garden Forum

Color is so subjective. When does red cross into orangish red? When does red slide into purplish red? Whats the difference between burgundy, maroon, scarlet, crimson, ruby, claret, vermilion? (not to mention smoky red, cherry red, tomato red, etc. those terms at least are a little easier to envision.) And just exactly which shade is the "true red" anyways?

Im sorry but I wont be answering these questions. I just bring it up to help describe my "red bed". My goal was to have it be "true red", more or less, and also have lots of dark or reddish foliage. I have since come to the conclusion that there are lots of orangey-reds and lots of purply reds, but few "true" reds. In order to have more than five specimens, I have relaxed my standards and include many flowers that are "pretty close" to true red. If they stray too far from that section of the spectrum, they have been usually been removed. Not because Im trying to be a purist, but I find that orange red next to pink red really clashes. I have a couple photos of these that show what I mean. But, you could decide to focus instead on burgundy reds altogether, or the orange reds.

Here are my observations on plants and colors in this zone 5 red bed. Your garden may differ.


Amaranthus not sure what kind I have, I got it in a trade. It is the backbone plant of the garden. Looks like amaranthus cruentus Hopi Red Dye.
Castor Bean "carmencita" wow! The new mainstay, a huge success this year. Highly poisonous seeds.
Impatiens edging plant
Petunia edging plant
Salvia coccinea "Lady in Red" must have. Blooms early and all summer long
Salvia splendens "Flare" somewhat orangish, but worth it for the long bloom season.
Icicle Pansies dark burgundy, long bloom when nothing else going on.
Marigold "scarlet starlet" really dark orange. Gone next year
Pennisetum Fountain Grass got buried by faster growers
Iresine so beautiful, but way, way too hot pink
Nicotiana true red
Gerber Daisies true red

Sweet Potato "blackie" great trailer, annual
Cypress vine true red, small stars. Fabulous ferny foliage, worth growing just for foliage.
Rhodochiton burgundy, but exotic and unusual. Delicate and small
Sweet 100 cherries. Grew them in the veggie garden but they are joining the fray next year.
Clematis "Asao" and "Niobe" both too pink. Theyll get moved.


Anemone coronaria true red!! Wonderful, long blooming, very early.
Dahlia "Arabian Night" deep smoky red, reliable
Dahlia "Bishop of Llandaff" deep red AND reddish foliage! Doesnt overwinter in my cellar though L
Dahlia "Akita" red, orange and yellow cactus. Gorgeous
Dahlia "swapper special" dont know the real name of this dahlia I got in a swap, but super hardy, early and long bloomer, nice true red. Cant give them away I have so many of them.
Iris "Samurai Warrior" more burgundy, but stays because very little else is blooming at that time.
Gladiolus Black Jack nice smoky red
Gladiolus - Sensation true red
Gladiolus Trader Horn orangy, removed
Crocosmia "Lucifer" more red than regular crocosmia, but still kind of orangy
Calla Black Beuty deep smoky burgundy red. A keeper
Lilies Monte Negro nice red!
Lilies Fangio too pinkish
Lily "Blackout" a knockout! True red.
Martagon Lilies too orange
Tulips red emperor, red riding hood deer food, sigh . . .


Astrantia Moulin Rouge love it! Cant wait for it to "bulk up". Technically more burgundy, but oh well, too nice, have to keep it.
Primrose cherry red double, beautiful, slow to bulk up, unlike my other primroses
Daylilies "Ruby Throat" and so many wonderful true reds, but I cant find my notes right now.
Burgundy gaillardia despite the name, I consider it true red.
Hollyhock almost black. Next year trying a seed swap red.
Knautia macedonica burgundy, but just the right form airy, bulbous flower heads swaying in the breeze
Geum Mrs. Bradshaw too orange. Removing.
Poppy Allegro too orange
Poppy Brilliant too orange
Lobelia Cardinalis true red! Wonderful
Lobelia Cardinalis "Queen Victoria" true red! AND smoky red foliage. Perfect for the red bed.
Heuchera Ruby Bells true red bells! But leaves burned by too much sun.
Heuchera Palace Purple leaves too burned
Penstemon Husker Red flowers are completely wrong shade of lavender, but stems and leaves have a great smoky cast to them, and flower seedheads stay all year, even through winter.
Phlox Tenor too pink and removed
Potentilla Fire Flames too orange, removed
Fushcia magellanica orangy, but kept anyways because its the only hardy fuschia here
Firecracker flower (dichelostemma) ho hum
Monarda one true red, one burgundy red. Keep them both because theyre so nice.
Sedum Autumn Joy flowers go from light pink to dark dusty pink. Not quite right.
Sedum Matrona red stems! And flowers are better than autumn joy. Will replace AJ when large enough
Sedum Red Emperor nice dark foliage! Susceptible to root rot.
Hibiscus "Luna Red" very short, so I need to move to front of border. Have just bought new taller one, "Lord Baltimore". Ask me next year
Chrysanthemum "Helen" wonderful dark smoky red. Need to propagate more of these.
Sweet Williams "sooty" dark, smoky red, long blooming and early
Poker Plant (Kniphofia) too orange

Foliage Plants

Canna Red King Humbert ( dig tubers annually)
Cordyline Red Star Spike (annual)
Japanese Blood Grass
Bloody Dock
Smoke bush "purple robe" great foliage!
Weigela "wine and roses" ho hum
Weigela "midnight wine" ho hum
Red Barberry gorgeous fall foliage, tough, nice background
Red-leaved euphorbia

Next years list of plants to find and try are:

Red Sunflower
Scarlet runner bean
Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes on my obelisk
Ruby chard
Red clover

Phew!! Thats it for now, rather exhaustive list, dont you think? Sorry it took so long. Let me know what Im missing! Prefer perennials to annuals at this point. If you want seeds of anything email me late next summer and I will start saving.

Here is the location of my new redbed album on picasa, it has a few more photos than the last thread on GW.

Thanks for all your interest!

Here is a link that might be useful: RedBed Album


clipped on: 08.05.2007 at 09:27 pm    last updated on: 08.05.2007 at 09:28 pm

RE: Can I pinch?? (Follow-Up #8)

posted by: pvick on 05.01.2007 at 08:35 pm in Winter Sowing Forum

I found an article some time back about how to prune morning glories - specifically, japanese morning glories, but the method, or some variation of it, ought to work for all kinds.

Unfortunately, I can't find the article anymore, but I did save a pic - hope you can see it:



clipped on: 05.01.2007 at 10:58 pm    last updated on: 05.01.2007 at 10:58 pm

RE: Can I pinch?? (Follow-Up #10)

posted by: vera_eastern_wa on 05.01.2007 at 10:02 pm in Winter Sowing Forum

Great illustration PV!
I'll for sure try that with my Jap. MG 'Sunrise Serenade' as a few will be growing on small teepees :D

Linda...I didn't even read it that way. Good luck on the final :D

If you all try that on your Maxies you might want to try this on Hollyhocks. When the first flowering stalk starts bolting and before any flowers appear, take and cut it back into the foliage. It will bloom later, but will come back multi-branched and compact....they usually stay about 4 to 4.5 feet x 4 wide. Flowers will be a little smaller but there will be many :D



clipped on: 05.01.2007 at 10:57 pm    last updated on: 05.01.2007 at 10:57 pm

A few more new garden beginnings...

posted by: david_5311 on 02.08.2007 at 06:06 pm in Perennials Forum

Well, I decided I should not encumber the other threads with these pics, so for those who are interested they are here, and those who aren't can conveniently ignore them.

The gravel garden path (planted on mainly sand with about 1/4 compost by volume mixed in.....)


July (love that Digitalis ferruginea....)

The pastel bed

The pergola/terrace beds

I'll have a few more on this one when I move pics from one computer to another....


clipped on: 03.21.2007 at 03:00 am    last updated on: 03.21.2007 at 03:00 am

RE: Garden Photos Inspiration Thread- add yours! (Follow-Up #30)

posted by: david_5311 on 01.25.2007 at 08:52 pm in Perennials Forum

OK, I did promise....better late than never.

First, a new yellow and blue border

early May




clipped on: 03.21.2007 at 02:59 am    last updated on: 03.21.2007 at 02:59 am

My Red Bed - Second Year ( *9 photos*)

posted by: gottagarden on 11.01.2006 at 08:01 pm in Cottage Garden Forum

Last year I posted photos of my brand new red bed. I thought you might be interested in an update to see how it is doing in year 2. I have planted several large shrubs and a couple of small trees, but they are still too small to show up yet. One problem with this bed is its lack of height. But I'm working on it!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Here is the overall scene - it's 50 feet long. Unfortunately, when I reduce the resolution for fast uploads it really destroys image quality. It looks much better in real life.

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This year I thought I would try something new - red castor beans. They were wonderful and next year I will do a lot more. The seeds are highly toxic, and my kids have gotten several lectures on them. They are finally old enough to know better, but I still watch them.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
This photo is from early July, but the garden really gets going late in the season. I will be adding more for early season interest next year.

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Here we are in August, things are filling out nicely.

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Isn't that castor bean nice?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Dahlias and red hibiscus.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
See the red stars - that's my new cypress vine on the obelisks.

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Salvias and amaranthus really work well together.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
That's my daughter, I'm brainwashing her with flower love.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Me and my 2 kids :-) Every proud mom has to throw in some of those pictures.

Sorry for so many photos, but it was actually really hard to narrow it down to so few! Hope you enjoyed it. Lots more plans for next year.


clipped on: 03.21.2007 at 02:56 am    last updated on: 03.21.2007 at 02:56 am

RE: Are My Lights Sufficient? (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: rdubow on 03.16.2007 at 12:45 pm in Growing under Lights Forum

I use a 4' Home Depot shop light -the kind that comes with chains and all and just plugs into a three prong outlet ($8.00), then one cool bulb (approx. 60 watts) and one soft bulb (which is equ. to warm...approx. 60 watt). I mount them to a shelf and can lower and raise it as they grow just from the chains! Total cost is like 16.00 per light! I havetwo of them..I started tons of tomatoes, peppers, snapdragons, and many annuals for my baskets this way! I hand them as soon as the seeds show through the soil and turn them on 16 hours per day and taper the light to 10 hours before hardening them to put them outside! If you notice my zone, 4, I start some things a month early to get huge plants outdoors! I generally get tomatoes and peppers a month before everyone else~

Skip the grow light for 50.00 and use just a flourescent light from Home Depot!!!!!


clipped on: 03.19.2007 at 05:06 pm    last updated on: 03.19.2007 at 05:06 pm

Container soils and water in containers (long post)

posted by: tapla on 03.19.2005 at 03:57 pm in Container Gardening Forum

The following is very long & will be too boring for some to wade through. Two years ago, some of my posts got people curious & they started to e-mail me about soil problems. The "Water Movement" article is an answer I gave in an e-mail. I saved it and adapted it for my bonsai club newsletter & it was subsequently picked up & used by a number of other clubs. I now give talks on container soils and the physics of water movement in containers to area clubs.

I think, as container gardeners, our first priority is to insure aeration for the life of the soil. Since aeration and drainage are inversely linked to soil particle size, it makes good sense to try to find a soil component with particles larger than peat and that will retain its structure for extended periods. Pine bark fits the bill nicely.

The following hits pretty hard against the futility of using a drainage layer in an attempt to improve drainage. It just doesn't work. All it does is reduce the soil available for root colonization. A wick will remove the saturated layer of soil. It works in reverse of the self-watering pots widely being discussed on this forum now. I have no experience with these growing containers, but understand the principle well.

There are potential problems with wick watering that can be alleviated with certain steps. Watch for yellowing leaves with these pots. If they begin to occur, you need to flush the soil well. It is the first sign of chloride damage.

One of the reasons I posted this is because of the number of soil questions I'm getting in my mail. It will be a convenient source for me to link to. I will soon be in the middle of repotting season & my time here will be reduced, unfortunately, for me. I really enjoy all the friends I've made on these forums. ;o)

Since there are many questions about soils appropriate for containers, I'll post by basic mix in case any would like to try it. It will follow the Water Movement info.

Water Movement in Soils

Consider this if you will:

Soil need fill only a few needs in plant culture. Anchorage - A place for roots to extend, securing the plant and preventing it from toppling. Nutrient Sink - It must retain sufficient nutrients to sustain plant systems. Gas Exchange - It must be sufficiently porous to allow air to the root system. And finally, Water - It must retain water enough in liquid and/or vapor form to sustain plants between waterings. Most plants could be grown without soil as long as we can provide air, nutrients, and water, (witness hydroponics). Here, I will concentrate primarily on the movement of water in soil(s).

There are two forces that cause water movement through soil - one is gravity, the other capillary action. Gravity needs little explanation, but for this writing I would like to note: Gravitational flow potential (GFP) is greater for water at the top of the pot than it is for water at the bottom of the pot. I'll return to that later. Capillarity is a function of the natural forces of adhesion and cohesion. Adhesion is water's tendency to stick to solid objects like soil particles and the sides of the pot. Cohesion is the tendency for water to stick to itself. Cohesion is why we often find water in droplet form - because cohesion is at times stronger than adhesion, waters bond to itself can be stronger than the bond to the object it might be in contact with; in this condition it forms a drop. Capillary action is in evidence when we dip a paper towel in water. The water will soak into the towel and rise several inches above the surface of the water. It will not drain back into the source. It will stop rising when the GFP equals the capillary attraction of the fibers in the paper.

There is, in every pot, what is called a "perched water table" (PWT). This is water that occupies a layer of soil that is always saturated & will not drain at the bottom of the pot. It can evaporate or be used by the plant, but physical forces will not allow it to drain. It is there because the capillary pull of the soil at some point will equal the GFP; therefore, the water does not drain, it is "perched". If we fill five cylinders of varying heights and diameters with the same soil mix and provide each cylinder with a drainage hole, the PWT will be exactly the same height in each container. This is the area of the pot where roots seldom penetrate & where root problems begin due to a lack of aeration. From this we can draw the conclusion that: Tall growing containers are a superior choice over squat containers when using the same soil mix. The reason: The level of the PWT will be the same in each container, with the taller container providing more usable, air holding soil above the PWT. Physiology dictates that plants must be able to take in air at the roots in order to complete transpiration and photosynthesis.

A given volume of large soil particles have less overall surface area in comparison to the same volume of small particles and therefore less overall adhesive attraction to water. So, in soils with large particles, GFP more readily overcomes capillary attraction. They drain better. We all know this, but the reason, often unclear, is that the PWT is lower in coarse soils than in fine soils. The key to good drainage is size and uniformity of soil particles. Large particles mixed with small particles will not improve drainage because the smaller particles fit between the large, increasing surface area which increases the capillary attraction and thus the water holding potential. Water and air cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Contrary to what some hold to be true, sand does not improve drainage. Pumice (aka lava rock), or one of the hi-fired clay products like Turface are good additives which help promote drainage and porosity because of their irregular shape.

Now to the main point: When we use a coarse drainage layer under our soil, it does not improve drainage. It does conserve on the volume of soil required to fill a pot and it makes the pot lighter. When we employ this exercise in an attempt to improve drainage, what we are actually doing is moving the level of the PWT higher in the pot. This reduces available soil for roots to colonize, reduces total usable pot space, and limits potential for beneficial gas exchange. Containers with uniform soil particle size from top of container to bottom will yield better drainage and have a lower PWT than containers with drainage layers. The coarser the drainage layer, the more detrimental to drainage it is because water is more (for lack of a better scientific word) reluctant to make the downward transition because the capillary pull of the soil above the drainage layer is stronger than the GFP. The reason for this is there is far more surface area in the soil for water to be attracted to than there is in the drainage layer.

I know this goes against what most have thought to be true, but the principle is scientifically sound, and experiments have shown it as so. Many nurserymen are now employing the pot-in-pot or the pot-in-trench method of growing to capitalize on the science.

If you discover you need to increase drainage, insert a wick into the pot & allow it to extend from the PWT to several inches below the bottom of the pot. This will successfully eliminate the PWT & give your plants much more soil to grow in as well as allow more, much needed air to the roots.

Uniform size particles of fir, hemlock or pine bark are excellent as the primary component of your soils. The lignin contained in bark keeps it rigid and the rigidity provides air-holding pockets in the root zone far longer than peat or compost mixes that rapidly break down to a soup-like consistency. Bark also contains suberin, a lipid sometimes referred to as natures preservative. Suberin is what slows the decomposition of bark-based soils. It contains highly varied hydrocarbon chains and the microorganisms that turn peat to soup have great difficulty cleaving these chains.

In simple terms: Plants that expire because of drainage problems either die of thirst because the roots have rotted and can no longer take up water, or they starve to death because they cannot obtain sufficient air at the root zone for the respiratory or photosynthetic processes.

To confirm the existence of the PWT and the effectiveness of using a wick to remove it, try this experiment: Fill a soft drink cup nearly full of garden soil. Add enough water to fill to the top, being sure all soil is saturated. Punch a drain hole in the bottom of the cup & allow to drain. When the drainage stops, insert a wick several inches up into the drain hole . Take note of how much additional water drains. This is water that occupied the PWT before being drained by the wick. A greatly simplified explanation of what occurs is: The wick "fools" the water into thinking the pot is deeper, so water begins to move downward seeking the "new" bottom of the pot, pulling the rest of the PWT along with it.

Having applied these principles in the culture of my containerized plants, both indoors and out, for many years, the methodology I have adopted has shown to be effective and of great benefit to them. I use many amendments when building my soils, but the basic building process starts with screened bark and perlite. Peat usually plays a very minor role in my container soils because it breaks down rapidly and when it does, it impedes drainage.

My Soil

I'll give two recipes. I usually make big batches.

3 parts pine bark fines
1 part sphagnum peat (not reed or sedge peat)
1-2 parts perlite
garden lime
controlled release fertilizer
micro-nutrient powder (substitute: small amount of good, composted manure

Big batch:

3 cu ft pine bark fines (1 big bag)
5 gallons peat
5 gallons perlite
1 cup lime (you can add more to small portion if needed)
2 cups CRF
1/2 cup micro-nutrient powder or 1 gal composted manure

Small batch:

3 gallons pine bark
1/2 gallon peat
1/2 gallon perlite
handful lime (careful)
1/4 cup CRF
1 tsp micro-nutrient powder or a dash of manure ;o)

I have seen advice that some highly organic soils are productive for up to 5 years. I disagree. Even if you were to substitute fir bark for pine bark in this recipe (and this recipe will far outlast any peat based soil) you should only expect a maximum of three years life before a repot is in order. Usually perennials, including trees (they're perennials too, you know ;o)) should be repotted more frequently to insure vigor closer to genetic potential. If a soil is desired that will retain structure for long periods, we need to look to inorganic amendments. Some examples are crushed granite, pea stone, coarse sand (no smaller than BB size in containers, please), Haydite, lava rock, Turface or Schultz soil conditioner.

I hope this starts a good exchange of ideas & opinions so we all can learn.



clipped on: 03.10.2007 at 03:49 pm    last updated on: 03.10.2007 at 03:49 pm

Your Best Clematis

posted by: crazy_gardener on 05.30.2006 at 04:52 am in Far North Gardening Forum

If you could only pick 3 hardy Clematis, what would you recommend for best choice?

I'm thinking of buying 3 more to my already collection, but would like to hear what your favourites are?



clipped on: 10.04.2006 at 03:19 am    last updated on: 10.04.2006 at 03:19 am

RE: Which cranesbill is longest blooming? (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: deeje on 10.03.2006 at 11:44 am in Perennials Forum

Rozanne has been going for me all summer and into the fall with hardly a break. I gave her a haircut in late July, but that's it.


clipped on: 10.03.2006 at 02:04 pm    last updated on: 10.03.2006 at 02:04 pm

RE: Using baggies as containers (Follow-Up #5)

posted by: susanc on 10.01.2006 at 09:31 pm in Winter Sowing Forum

Hi Joanne,

I like to use one gallon ziplocks with newspaper pots inside. -6 paper pots fit perfectly in the bag with plenty of head room. There are no drying out problems, and drainage is taken care of by snipping both bottom corners and another hole in the bottom center. Germination is no different than in any other container, and I didn't notice any issues specific to using baggies.

Re: labeling: I bought bags of 200 craft sticks for a dollar at the dollar store. I write the plant name on a craft stick with a sharpie and stick it inside one of the paper pots in the baggie. The craft sticks are wooden and so will eventually rot under the soil, but I find they hold up fine until planting out time.



clipped on: 10.01.2006 at 10:08 pm    last updated on: 10.01.2006 at 10:09 pm

RE: how do you use the 2l pop & the milk jugs (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: tiffy_z5_6_can on 09.23.2006 at 09:42 am in Canadian Winter Sowing Forum


Don't know about the milk jugs since here in NS they are made of a white plastic and I'm hesitant about using them.

For the pop bottles, this is how I do them.

1. Rinse out with hot water and remove label.
2. Cut the bottle in half with an exacto knife/ box cutter.
3. Place drain holes in the bottom. I do this with a soldering iron, but it can be done by cutting/melting with anything that will produce drain holes.
4. Fill the bottom with at least 3 inches of soil and soak the soil. I fill the sink up a bit, and place the 'bottoms' in the sink to soak while I finish the top of the bottle and get the seeds and tags ready.
5. For the top, throw out the cap.
6. Make 3 slim upside-down V slits in the top section where you cut the bottle in half.
7. Sow the seeds, remember to tag.
8. Slide the top over the bottom.
9. Place the container outside in an area which will get snow and rain.

As the seeds germinate, and the weather warms, you can lift the lids bit by bit. Since you have the upside down V slits in there, the sprouts/plants will be come more and more exposed to the elements and aerated. If you expect a really cold night and are worried, just push the lid back onto the bottom.

Hope this is clearer than mud. LOL!! If you want pictures, I can get some done today and post them later or tomorrow.


clipped on: 09.25.2006 at 08:44 pm    last updated on: 09.25.2006 at 08:44 pm

'Instant beds'

posted by: donn_ on 03.28.2006 at 07:01 pm in Winter Sowing Forum

Need quick bedspace for your new babies? Here's a surefire way to build them quickly, using nothing but lawn and cardboard.

Groundlevel beds: Cut the lawn/sod about 6-8" deep, in sections you can handle easily. In the space you dug the sod from, lay out sheets of cardboard. Soak the cardboard. Flip the sod chunks upside down, so the grass side is on the cardboard. You now have a new bed, which can be planted into immediately, with a little compost added to the back fill.

Elevated beds: Find a part of the yard that could use a new woodchip path (alongside a bed is a good spot, because it doesn't have to be mowed or edged, because there won't be any grass to grow into your bed). Dig out the same sod chunks outlined above. Lay out the cardboard where you want the new bed, and soak it down. Flip the sod chunks same as above. It's ready to plant. Put down some landscape fabric where you dug out the sod, and cover it with 6-8" of woodchips. You now have a weedfree path that will make compost at it's bottom, which you can harvest every year. Just rake back the top, shovel the bottom into adjacent beds, rake the top back into the bottom, and put a new layer on top.

The primary benefits of instant beds are that you don't need layers of greens and browns like with lasagna beds, and they don't shrink down like lasagna beds.


clipped on: 09.20.2006 at 07:59 pm    last updated on: 09.20.2006 at 07:59 pm

Easy Propagation Chamber

posted by: little_dani on 10.05.2005 at 08:34 pm in Plant Propagation Forum

I make a little propagation chamber that is so easy, and so reliable for me that I thought I would share the idea. I have not seen one like it here, and I did look through the FAQ, but didn't find one there either. I hope I did not miss it, and I hope I do not offend anyone by being presumptive in posting this here.

That said....

This is what you will need.
A plastic shoebox, with a lid. They come in various sizes, any will do.

Soil less potting mix, half peat, half perlite, or whatever is your favorite medium.
A little clay pot, with the drain hole plugged with caulking or silicone. If this is a new pot, scrub it with some steel wool to be sure it doesn't have a sealer on it. You want the water to seep through it.
Rooting hormone powder or liquid, or salix solution from the willow tree.
Plant material, snippers. I am going to pot some Plectranthus (a tall swedish ivy) and a Joseph's Coat, 'Red Thread'. I already have some succulents rooted in this box. I will take them out and pot them up later, DH has a new cacti pot he wants to put them in.
You can see here, I hope, that I fill the clay pot to the top with rain water, well water, or distilled water. I just don't use our tap water, too much chlorine and a ph that is out of sight.

I pour a little of the hormone powder out on a paper plate or a piece of paper, so that I don't contaminate the whole package of powder. And these little 'snippers' are the best for taking this kind of cuttings.

This is about right on the amount of hormone to use. I try to get 2 nodes per cutting, if I can. Knock off the excess. It is better to have a little too little than to have too much.
Then, with your finger, or a pencil, or stick, SOMETHING, poke a hole in the potting mix and insert your cutting. Pull the potting mix up around the cutting good and snug.

When your box is full, and I always like to pretty much fill the box, just put the lid on it, and set it in the shade. You don't ever put this box in the sun. You wind up with boiled cuttings. YUK!

Check the cuttings every few days, and refill the reservoire as needed. Don't let it dry out. If you happen to get too wet, just prop the lid open with a pencil for a little while.
This is a very good method of propagation, but I don't do roses in these. The thorns just make it hard for me, with my big fingers, to pack the box full. All kinds of other things can be done in these. Just try it!



clipped on: 09.18.2006 at 09:23 pm    last updated on: 09.18.2006 at 09:24 pm

RE: overwinter without digging up? No basement, either! (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: caroldiane on 08.29.2006 at 04:24 pm in Geranium Forum

Andi....the crawl space might do enough if ....IF that place can be kept cool...not cold...not warm...just cool.
You definitely do not want moisture to touch them....
drier is better.

If this is the case, then you can place your plants into a cardboard box that you place newspapers in to serve as a bed.
Before storage, after you dig them up...remove all the old soil...remove any damaged stems, remove all the old leaves....but DONT cut back at this time.

Into the box (newspaper bed), and cover with a drying medium...peat moss, vermiculite or dry sand.

No light should touch warmth should touch moisture should touch them.

CANT do you have a shed or garage....or
does a neighbor have such a place to keep the plants.

Normally, a garage or shed will be as cold as the outdoors...but you can take steps to insulate a cardboard box against the freezing temperatures. Styrofoam makes a great insualtion....and if you can pack a sizable box with sufficient styrofoam, then pack your plants in it, then cover the box with burlap and anything else you can think of to keep the contents from freezing, the plants can survive such a storage.
But, they must not freeze.

ARound mid February----the sun begins its slow travel up is then sufficient to initiate new growth.
Bring the plants out, cut them back about 4" to 6"...remove any old soil and leaves and broken stems.
New potting soil---put shards into your pot...a 6" or 8" pot will do nicely. The shards in the bottom of the pot to keep the soil away from the drainage holes.
You can, if you like, mix the potting soil with some sharp sand and/or peat moss.

Into the pot, firm it up....and water til it drains.
Then to the best window you have....but north at this time will just not do....east, south or west exposure is best.

Don't water again until new leaves form...and turn the pot 1/4 turn every day...or so.
Don't feed until new leaves form and then at 1/4 rate.
Keep the soil surface damp...but on the dry side between waterings...and when you water, always water til the pot drains.

In about 3---5 weeks, you should see leaves forming....the buds will show first.
In maybe 2 months, new flower buds.

If you use such a place such as a garage....if you can hook up an incandescent bulb to shine down onto the plants in the box...during nighttime cooler temperatures, it might be enough to raise the tmeprature above freezing.

That's can keep your geraniums going for years and years.


clipped on: 09.18.2006 at 12:09 pm    last updated on: 09.18.2006 at 12:09 pm

RE: can gernaiums be kept? (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: caroldiane on 08.29.2006 at 04:05 pm in Geranium Forum

Certainly can, if you can provide them with a cool environment throughout, dark and dry.

My geraniums have reached now their 8th birthday.

There are a number of ways to do it....from taking inside to a good window and keep them going there for as long as possible.
Or, cut them up into cuttings and pot them up.

Or, the preferred way of mine...remove them from their soil BEFORE any hint of frost touches them. A frozen geranium is a lost geranium.

Into the cool, dark and very dry environment, you place the plants --either hanging upside down or leave them in their pots and place them on a shelf to thoroughly dry out.
No water, no light, no heat, should touch them.
They have to be kept dry.

Don't cut them back at this time.

In mid February, bring them out to a place you have put many, many newspapers catch the debris. Remove all the old soil from around the roots. Remove all the dead leaves and remove all the damaged stems.
Cut them back by 1/2....1/3....generally to about 4" to 6".

Inspect the roots for any sign of damage there and remove if necessary.

Gather your potting soil, mix in some peat moss and builder's sand, put some shards into the bottom of a pot that has drainage holes, then add your potting soil mix.
Make a hole in the center and put your plant in; firm it up and give it a good watering....until it drains.

Then into the best window...north will not do...
Do not water again until new leaves begin to form.
Don't fertilize until new leaves form, then feed at about 1/4 rate until the plant produces much foliage...then increase fertilizer as is called for.

In about 4 weeks you should have a good supply of new leaves form....and in about 2 months, flower buds. But don't be disappointed if the flower buds don't form as fast as you'd like.
That can depend on just how much sunlight you give it.

At the window, turn the plants 1/4 turn every day...or so.
This gives all sides of the plant equal amount of sunlight.

This is proceeded with until its time to put them outside again...pot, bed or container.

The key to this method is moisture should touch them while in storage...after all, what is that for?
No light...that could initiate growth...growth to what?
No warmth...that also could initiate growth.

Keep the temperature below 55...above 35.


clipped on: 09.18.2006 at 12:07 pm    last updated on: 09.18.2006 at 12:07 pm

It's August and time for the 'toothpick' technique

posted by: nandina on 08.23.2006 at 01:13 pm in Plant Propagation Forum

I have not posted this propagation method in several years. Time for a repeat. Just a reminder that all cuttings need to callus before they will root. This method allows the callusing to take place on the mother plant before the cutting is removed and is most helpful for those hard to root trees/shrubs. Plan to use the toothpick technique during the last weeks of August up until mid-September. This is a little known process and when I first posted it a number of growers contacted me, pleased to know about it as it requires no misting systems, etc.

A very sharp, small penknife or Exacto knife.
A small block of wood (to prevent cutting fingers!)
Some colored yarns or tape for marking purposes.

1. Select the stem from which you wish to take a cutting. Look along it until you locate a bud ON LAST YEAR'S GROWTH.

2. Place the block of wood behind that point and make a single VERTICAL cut all the way through the stem, just below the bud.

3. Insert a toopick through the cut.

4. Mark each cutting with colored yarn/tape so that you can locate it at a later date.

5. Walk away from your toothpick cuttings until the end of October or November. Leave them alone!

You will note that a callus has formed where you wounded the cutting and inserted a toothpick. With sharp pruning shears remove the cutting just below the toothpick. Trim off the toothpick on either side of the cutting.

7. Dip your cuttings in rooting hormone and set them in a cold frame. Water well and close up the frame for the winter. Water as needed. If you do not have a cold frame, set the cuttings right next to your house foundation on the east or north side. Lean an old window or glass pane up against the foundation to protect them.

8. Rooting should take place by mid-spring. Those with greenhouses can leave the cuttings on the mother plant into December/January before setting them to root. Commercial propagators will find this useful.

This method requires a bit of practice but works well. In August/September select the stem to be used as a cutting. Locate last year's growth on the stem and grasp it between thumb and forefinger. Snap the stem lightly until it breaks in half. Leave it hanging on the plant where it will callus. Then follow instructions above for setting cuttings. Snip the cutting off, when callused, at the wounded part. This is a useful technique for azaleas and many woody shrubs and Japanese maples.

Hopefully I have explained this method so it is understood. Reading it over a few times may be necessary.


clipped on: 09.12.2006 at 02:24 am    last updated on: 09.12.2006 at 02:24 am

RE: Your Best Clematis (Follow-Up #7)

posted by: cailinriley on 05.30.2006 at 11:00 pm in Far North Gardening Forum

There's always room for another clematis, so, thanks to this thread, I'll be adding some names to my wish list. 'Abundance' will be at the top!

Here are my picks, Sharon:

C. integrifolia. This was my first integrifolia, and it must be a selected form. The flowers and leaves are larger and have better form than the regular one. It's been in my garden for many years, but it started declining last year. Only half the plant regrew from the ground. This spring, only a couple of shoots are growing. :-( It has self-seeded, but none of the seedlings have the same leaf form and size. I'll have to try cuttings. I really need to save this plant. I haven't found another one like it, yet.
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'Durandii'--a very striking blue that goes well with 'Adelaide Hoodless' rose.
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Etoile violette. Like 'Abundance', it's a viticella--hardier than the large flower clematis. It's got smaller blooms, but more of them, it seems. This colour is striking with 'William Baffin' rose.
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clipped on: 09.08.2006 at 12:58 pm    last updated on: 09.08.2006 at 12:58 pm

Training Thread: Prepping Containers

posted by: mmqchdygg on 09.03.2006 at 03:12 pm in Winter Sowing Forum

As with the other threads I'm starting today, let's talk about container prep here.

I used lots of containers last year, and will share a few tips on my prep techniques.

MILK JUGS: The "Hinged Jug"

Discard the cover.
Make drain holes in the bottom:

  • I use a ginsu bread-knife for this. Serrated seems to work for me.
  • Slice a 1-2" (up and down, not wide!) thin chunk out of the bottom edge of all four sides of the jug, making sure that your 'slot' that you're creating is cut out of both the side of the container, and the bottom.
    Next, make a starter-hole:
    I use a razor blade for this.
    Using a pair of ordinary scissors, cut around the jug horizontally til you get to the other side of the handle. Leave an inch or so connected. This will serve as your 'hinge.'
    After you sow your seeds (we'll cover that in another thread), put a plant marker inside if you want, then use some duct tape to close the lid. Last year, I made the newbie mistake of sealing the entire cut opening. Do yourself a favor, and just use enough to keep the container shut; it doesn't need to be weather proof! (you don't want it to be, anyway.)
    Next, LABEL THAT CONTAINER! Using a PERMANENT MAGIC MARKER, I put just a number on the container, and I put it in several places, including the shoulder of the jug, in the somewhat protected 'carrying' part of the handle (where your hand goes), and on a couple of the sides. I keep a separate notepad with the jug number and what's in it, then transfer that to an Excel Spreadsheet.

    Here's my finished jug before sowing & taping. Excuse the dirt. You can just barely see the v-shaped slice I make in each bottom edge for drain holes.

    Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

    I'm going to let others discuss other milk jug techniques, as well as how to prepare dairy tubs, soda bottles, etc. I'm off to start a "Labeling" thread.

  • NOTES:

    clipped on: 09.05.2006 at 01:01 am    last updated on: 09.05.2006 at 01:01 am

    RE: Where do you put your containers? (Follow-Up #26)

    posted by: littleonefb on 09.03.2006 at 02:02 am in Winter Sowing Forum

    The containers are mix of anything that is at least 3 inches deep, though in April, I will use some that are only 2 inches deep. I work from home so I can keep up with the watering if they dry out to quickly. I figure that by mid April the seedlings only have a few weeks in the containers and can handle only 2 inches deep. Anything less than that is no good, not enough room for roots even for a short period of time.
    For individual seeds that are fairly large and I want to just plant the one plant I use margarine tubs or yogurt containers.
    I use mostly small containers because I can't lift anything heavier than 10lbs with both arms due to permenent tendon injuries, so milk/water jugs are out of the question. I usually end up with several hundred containers, but many of them are of the same seed.
    I've found that 4 o'clocks do better with transplanting if they are grown in an individual container.

    Containers that I use and have found great success with in 3 years of winter sowing.
    cottage cheese
    sour cream
    styrofoam cups. large ones are perfect for sunflower seeds. I fill the cups about 2/3 full with soil and then put the seeds in. Keep them there till they are about 6-8 inches tall, then out they go to the garden.
    containers that prepared food comes in.
    cottage cheese
    grape tomato containers
    10 oz containers that whole mushrooms come in
    plastic containers that some pre-package salad mix come in
    9x13inch lasagna pans
    9x13 inch cake pans that come with plastic covers and ones that don't come with the covers
    disposable loaf pans
    blueberry containers
    strawberry containers

    the cake and disposable aluminum containers that don't have covers and the plastic covers to cakes purchased in the markets I don't use till April. then I cover those with the glad press and seal plastic. After pressing around the edges of the containers I add clip them on with plastic clothes pins as the plastic doesn't always stay in place.

    Some of my containers are not that tall, others are taller. If I want to keep the seedling in the container for a longer period of time after it germinates to grow for a while, like the sunflower seeds, I use tall container, like a 16 oz styrofoam cup or sour cream container. Otherwise the seeds just go into what ever size will work for the number of seeds of the kind I want to sow.

    Yes, the bags would work with the 3 and 4 inch pots. I use those too, but wait until April, cause in my zone I find that the hard plastic pots will crack in the winter with the freezing and thawing process of the cold, snow and ice.

    I use regular weight bags, they are cheaper and the cheapest ones I can get. Store brand is perfect, I just make sure they are the ziplock bags and don't forget to put the slits in the bottom of the bag as drainage holes in the bottom of the containers and slits in the top of the bags as well. I just use a little xacto type razor to make the slits in the bags. I use storage size and gallon size bags to put the containers in and just stuff in as many containers as I can fit in the bag. I like to try and keep the same kind of seeds in each bag in case the rains start moving seeds around, which sometimes happens. Sometimes I only have 1 container in a bag.

    One problem with the styrofoam cups is keeping them standing
    up if it gets windy or rains hard. I always put them in a tray that I have from purchasing plants in what my hubby calls the BWS, before wintersowing. They are sturdy and plenty of drainage in the bottom. When I am going to use the cups, I make sure that I will fill wone of those all of them are in one and stay standing up.

    Mcellar, As for how many holes to put in the bags, I just take the little razor and put slits in the bag, but make sure that there is a slit over each container in the bag and just put a bunch of them in the bottom for drainage. If I find that the containers are drying out too fast, I change the bag and put in fewer slits, but have only had that happen once.

    I reuse all of my containers from year to year for as long as possible. The mushroom containers are ones that can last a few years or they fall apart by the June. For some reason the cottage cheese containers can last 1 season or 3.
    I have some that will be on their 4th year this year.

    All of my containers go out in full sun, even seeds that need dark to germinate and have had no problem. My seedlings stay in full sun until they are planted out, even the monkey flower. And for some strange reason, they bloomed better in full sun to partial shade than in full sun that the seed co. said they should have.

    I do have to admit that putting the containers directly on the ground has killed a large portion of the lawn in the fenced in yard, but the edges along the fence get planted with all my morning glory, hardy ice plant, some poppies and my hubby has less lawn to mow, but the weeds do well with all the watering the seedlings need.

    The other thing is my hubby snowblows a path from the gate coming into the yard all the way to the other side of the fence so we can walk out the back door and then to the area he snowblowed. 2 years ago we had to shovel levels from where he snowblowed to climb into the snow to keep putting them out, but the location is too perfect to put them anywhere else and is the closest to getting out without shoveling even more.

    Another suggestion with small containers. The cottage cheese and large margarine size tubs are perfect for dianthis, and columbine seeds. Just sow the seeds, about 20-25 at a time directly into the center of the container. When you go to plant the seedlings, just plant the entire clump as one plant. Gives you a perfect size plant to start with and that's how they do it in the nurseries.

    Another suggestion. I never throw out the covers to all these plastic containers. I cut them up to use as labels for the containers. Just cut them to the size you need and use a paint pen to write with. Sharpie fades in the sun but the permenent paint pens are perfect. I have some that will be reused this coming winter and you'd never know that they were outside all winter and summer for 2 full seasons.



    clipped on: 09.03.2006 at 02:47 am    last updated on: 09.03.2006 at 02:47 am

    RE: Coin Envelope question (Follow-Up #13)

    posted by: pitimpinai on 09.02.2006 at 10:47 pm in Winter Sowing Forum

    Thanks, Dee. :-)
    Here goes, Vera:

    Making seed envelopes:
    Cut a 3" square from seed or plant catalogs. (Recycling is my main reason. Saving money and reducing plastic in landfills are other reasons.) You can make the square larger is you prefer a larger envelope:

    Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

    Fold the square in half diagonally:
    Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

    Fold down the triangle a little under halfway:
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    Fold in the two angles at the base of the triangle overlapping the tips a little bit:
    Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

    Place a small piece of sticky tape over the tips of the folded triangle:
    Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

    Seeds go in between the flaps:
    Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
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    Tape down the flaps or insert the flaps into the bottom part of the pocket. Notice the flaps are not quite triangular. This will keep tiny seeds from leaking out:
    Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

    I made a lot of these envelopes on the train to and from work. I can make a lot of these envelopes in one day. It's quite relaxing for me.

    Give it a try. :-)


    clipped on: 09.02.2006 at 11:27 pm    last updated on: 09.02.2006 at 11:28 pm

    RE: What's your trick for separating echinacea seeds? (Follow-Up #13)

    posted by: zswife on 08.27.2006 at 08:12 am in Seed Saving Forum

    I Love (AND USE!!!) this method and this article from this website explains it SO MUCH easier/simpler than I could!! Good Luck Everyone and Enjoy!!...

    Echinacea plants are good about self sowing as long as you leave a few of the last flowers to dry up naturally. When weeding the garden in spring, watch for tiny coneflower seedlings. They can be nurtured where they are, but since Mother Nature doesn't always plant her seeds exactly where we want them, you will probably want to move them to a better location.
    You can also harvest the seeds to use next year. Choose a few fully mature and ripened flower heads, and cut them, leaving a nice long stem. Hang the flowers upside down with the flower heads enclosed in paper bags. This will allow them to release their seeds into the bag when they are ready. Once the seeds have fallen, remove the chaff (plant debris) and spread the seeds out on a newspaper for 10-12 days to finish drying. They will keep in the refrigerator in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid for up to a year.
    This is an easy way to keep a ready supply of seeds for yourself and to exchange with other gardeners. The only trick is to make sure you have a fully mature flower head so that you will harvest mature, viable seeds.


    GREAT HUH?? ;o)


    clipped on: 09.01.2006 at 11:58 pm    last updated on: 09.01.2006 at 11:58 pm

    RE: Himalayan Blue Poppy (Follow-Up #5)

    posted by: tiffy_z5_6_can on 02.12.2006 at 10:01 am in Winter Sowing Forum

    I winter sowed HBPs winter of 2004/2005. They sprouted just fine. I left them in their container for most of the summer, and in September, I transplanted to a garden which receives morning sun and then dappled shade the rest of the day. For that winter, I mulched with shredded leaves. The soil in this area retains it's moisture but drains well.

    Spring of 2005 I did not recognize them as they emerged. The leaves were hairy and of a dark colour. I had to come here to ID them. Did not look like the same plants. LOL!! But Donn posted a pic for me, and voila! that was them.

    They grew well during the summer. Their footings seem to double in size. The leaves were really nothing to write home about - certainly not a plant you grow for foliage. I had been told not to expect them to flower until possibly their third year, and so they are under the snow again for a second winter without having bloomed. I am anxiously anticipating their performance this year.

    I was told time and time again that I would not be successful in growing these. They require cool summers. Hot summers will do them in. This is the reason why I planted in dappled shade/am sun. Our summers are generally cooler for the most part, but we do get some hot spells at times.

    In Quebec, there is a garden of them which was planted in the early-mid 1900s by a woman who became quite the horticulturalist/botanist. In her gardens, they have discovered that if you do not let the plant flower it's first time and let the footing get bigger, the plants have more of a chance of becoming perennial. I will let some flower this year, and others I will not.

    Most folks who have them in their gardens around here buy them at the garden centers and see them perform for one season and then disappear. I think as winter sowers, ours have more of a chance of returning to our gardens year after year. I certainly hope they do!!


    clipped on: 08.29.2006 at 03:43 pm    last updated on: 08.29.2006 at 03:44 pm

    RE: Fall CG Seed Swap: October 31st deadline (Follow-Up #20)

    posted by: faltered on 08.22.2006 at 08:17 am in Cottage Garden Forum

    Edna: Check out the Paper Source's glassine envelopes. They come in tons of different sizes and they're super cute.

    I remember your seed packs from last year- they were so creative. Can't wait to see what you, and everyone else, works up for this year.



    clipped on: 08.28.2006 at 10:58 pm    last updated on: 08.28.2006 at 10:58 pm

    RE: Suggestions for hot purple/orange border? (Follow-Up #53)

    posted by: wendyb on 08.26.2006 at 08:57 pm in Perennials Forum

    here's my purple orange combo... Clematis Jackmanii and Helenium Indiansommer.

    I added Echinacea Sundown this year but I think its more pinkish than orange.

    Caryopteris 'Worcester Gold' goes nice in this bed. I love chartreuse with purple/blue. There's a small piece of it showing in that picture on the right. Its blooming right now and I love it.

    I just got Helenium Coppelia this week. I am sorry to read it starts out yellow. I have plenty of yellow. What makes it turn? heat? sun? age? cool nights?


    clipped on: 08.28.2006 at 10:15 pm    last updated on: 08.28.2006 at 10:15 pm