Sunday, March 24, 2013

Caring For The Easter Lily

 It's not only one of the most beautiful, inspirational flowers there is,  it also represents the traditional passage into spring.  When these classy flowers start popping up on supermarket shelves you know warmer weather is near. Although it's origins can be traced to Japan today the largest portion of Easter Lilie's on the market are grown on the eastern coast of the US.  It is said that the hybrid bulbs of the Lily were brought to the US by American Soldiers station in Japan in the early 1900's.  They quickly became a popular household item.   Lilies can be found in many hybrids and colors.  The most popular is of course the white Easter Lily.

Our first year in our new home my husband bought me a Lily that was tall, beautiful and strong.  I still have that Lily.  Now it glorifies my flower garden and has multiplied to a total of six bulbs.  Each year it produces even more Lilies and continues to shows off it's beautiful blooms.  Transplanting a Easter Lily is easy to do and should provide many spans of eye pleasing endurance.  It's also acceptable to keep your Lily indoors as a house plant.  Either way you'll want to make sure you get the most enjoyment and pleasure out of your dazzling plant year after year.  Pick the right place and provide the proper nutrition and you won't go wrong.
You have two choices, either purchase a full grown plant or a bag of Lily bulbs from you local nursery.  If you purchase a full grown plant select one in various stages of bloom.  Lilies will grow up to three feet tall, some even taller.  It's important to make sure the flower you bring home hasn't already outgrown it's pot.  Keep the plant indoors in a room that has plenty of morning sun.  Water only when the top soil is dry.  Over watering a Lily is the number one reason they will not survive.  Easter Lilies will not handle extremely hot temperatures either.  Once your Lily begins to show signs of wearing down trim back the wilted blossoms.  Take good care of the plant throughout  the year and each season your Lily will bloom elegant new foliage.
If you purchase bulbs simply place them in the ground at least six inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart.  Plant in a well drained area with plenty of morning sun and afternoon shade.  You'll want to make sure you plant in early spring for the best blooms.  Feed and water as needed.  Be sure to read and follow your package directions.
If you prefer to move you plant outside it's a good choice.  The bulbs will reproduce and  provide new perennials every year.  Plan on transplanting the Lily after the last bud has expired and been clipped away. Find a spot outdoors with plenty of morning sun and afternoon shade.  Be sure to find a well drained garden for transplanting.  It's important to dig a hole with plenty of space for the plant to evolve.  Adding a good time released fertilizer is recommended.  I prefer to feed with plenty of coffee grounds on a regular basis. Once the temperatures are warmer than the Lily can tolerate it will wither.  But like any good perennial the Lily will hibernate beneath the ground during the winter months.  Once the grounds thaw and the sun is warmer your Lily will be one of the first to peak from beneath it's hiding place and bid you a Glorious Spring!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

When To Compost

The composter my husband rescued
from the trash for me

It's no secret that I am a big fan of compost.  Any dedicated gardener will tell you it's the best thing you can do for your garden.  I've written about it many times before.  The Benefits of Compost, 10 Dos and Donts for Compost and Keep The Compost Going are all full of  good tips for any composting beginner.

Think of a compost as the means of returning to the earth those nutrients we deplete when we  garden.  It is a cycle of give and take that anyone can benefit from.  We enjoy the nutritious crops we harvest from our garden, than we return the nourishment back to the soil with scraps and discarded yard clippings.  Now our yield of produce will be as beneficial as it is every year.  The earth is supplying our foliage what it needs to provide tasty vegetables.  We are supplying our earth with the supplements necessary to give our vegetables a generous output.
The beginning of a good compost
with yard clippings

If you've read my prior posts on compost I've touched on the benefits of adding compost to your vegetation, as well as the benefits on the environment.  I've touched on how to begin and what is acceptable to add to a compost.  I've also discussed how best to take care of the compost so it will transform from scraps to a decomposed wonder.   But how do you know when it's best to compost?  Is it possible to add too compost to a garden?  How do you know when you've added enough compost?

When you take care of the compost you develop a rich dark soil that is full of  beneficial chemical elements.  The result becomes the most abundant soil conditioner your plot will thrive with.  The earthy aroma of your compost is a very good sign that it is ready to blend with your garden.  It's a fragrance you simply can't miss! Be sure to use only the dark rich soil by turning the compost and using what is on the bottom.  The picture on the right shows what is beneath the fresh leaves at the top of my compost.   A compound that is almost black in color and ready to go to work for me.  Another option is to simply stop adding to the debris so it dissolves completely.

When mature compost will be dark
 and smell rich
I would say the number one rule of gardening is pay attention and listen to you plants.  Before setting out seeds I like to mix in a heap of compost, at least 3 inches deep, with the ground.  Stir it in well and allow it to set for a few day and you've got a good start to a bountiful yield of fresh produce.  Adding water to the mixture is a good way to help distribute the compounds evenly. Many people recommend just layering the top of your ground with compost.  I find that blending increases the available advantages. Once your seedlings begin to sprout your will notice a very healthy appearance.  As they mature you want to continue profiting from healthy plants.  Chances are you may not need to recondition your soil.  If your plants begin to look like they are suffering from more than heat additional compost won't harm them.  This is when it is more beneficial to add a layer about an inch think around the base of your plant and add water to help penetrate the plant.

The more you compost the healthier your soil is.  If you have already been distributing compost for several years your soil is fairly healthy.  Once conditioned it is only necessary to freshen the land in early Spring, or just before planting.  For me it's preferable to compost in late Fall and again just before growing season.  If you have started a new process of composting it won't harm your plants to circulate another layer of compost in late spring or early summer.  It's difficult to "over" compost the plot, but you always want to make sure you've conditioned enough.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Plant I Never Grew

I guess just about every gardener has their own little "nemesis".  Let's just say I hope I'm not the only one.  I'll grow pretty much anything I can get in the ground or in a pot..  I dig up the Crepe seedlings from my neighbors tree.  I place them in a container and nurture them until they are ready to transplant to the ground.  No problem, piece of cake. I plant my garden and relish in the rewards of my efforts.  But I got this one little thorn in my side that always throws me for a loop.
I love the Aloe Vera not just for it's nurturing advantages.  I've long known the benefits of the plants juices and inner gel.  It's a prominent remedy for burns and a very natural form of relief from Eczema.  Aloe Vera Juice is more common on market shelves.  Studies show the juices have even been found to ease peptic ulcers.  Research also shows that it could be beneficial in immune support and digestive disorders. The fact-finding continues as new benefits are explored.  My mom has used this stuff  for as long as I can remember.  Me, well I'm a bigger fan of the plant itself,  but do admit I've torn open a stem or two to rub some jell on a rash or burn.

 I tried over and over again to figure out how to get one of these gorgeous plants to grow.  Some would even last a few years than fizzle quickly.  I'm husband would just shake his head at me knowing I'd rush off to get a new one.  I know I'm being stubborn.  My mother calls it determined, but than she's mom.  I'm no novice when it comes to nurturing plants.  I know Aloe Vera is a cactus.  It requires plenty of direct sun light, warmer temperatures and very little watering.  So what was I doing wrong?

 Was I giving it too much water?  Did it not get enough light?  The stems of the plant turned mushy at the bottom and fell off.  This is a sign that the plant is getting too much water.  My husband and I did not communicate well on our watering routine.  Aloe Vera hold natural moisture and do not need water often.  Sometimes the stems would turn yellow.  Turns out I didn't not condition the plant properly between indoors and outdoors and it suffered shock. Aloe Vera should be filtered slowing into direct sunlight if transferring from shade.

Now that I now the cause I can hopefully proceed with the cure this time.  I will remove the plant from it's current pot and make sure it has more than enough light.  I will also let my husband know when I have watered the plant.  I will feed it a small shot of coffee grounds blended into the soil to add a little fertilizer.  If my efforts don't pan out I know my husband will shake his head and I will be off to the nearest nursery.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Most gardeners will tell you that there are many tools of gardening to guide you along the way.  I've even written about a few I've used (see Know Your Zone).  Most of us who garden will have our own view on the prime efforts to achieve gracious results.  At Home Depot the other day my husband ask the Home and Garden employee if it was too early to plant potatoes.  She replied no.  I strongly disagreed.

I've consulted many websites along the way.  I've partnered with The Farmers Almanac and Southern Living magazine all in an effort to get the best results from my crops.  Truth is, as the old saying goes, experience is the best teacher.  When you think about it every ambition in life is a result of someones experience.  Someone who took the time to pass the experience along hoping that traditions and dreams survive.  That we continue to grow and achieve by taking advantage of others observations. Do you have a favorite guide to consider before planting?

While many are still experiencing the dreads of colder climates the area I live in is much milder.  The days are pleasant, the evenings not too chilly.  Mother Nature has taken her wand and spread a hue of green around.  The ground is full of brilliant green above the stagnant brown.  The trees have come alive again with leaves lightly blowing in the wind.  Although Spring has not officially arrived Mother Nature has offered up her opinion of the turning weather, and it looks promising.

Now that I have praised mother nature let me get back to my garden, and the reason I strongly disagree it isn't too early to plant potatoes.  This picture is from my garden just this morning (2/9/13).  Yes, it's a potato.  Funny thing is I hadn't planted potatoes when this little cutie peeped up out of the ground.  Looks like I missed one from my fall crop and it stayed dormant throughout the colder months.  Now Mother Nature has cast her wand and without hesitation my forgotten potato has arrived with big surprise.  The above picture is a pea from my garden.  A Snap Pea that was planted in late November (they prefer cold temperatures).  Of the seeds that did sow and prosper the one above decided to be a late bloomer.  Another nice gift from Mother Nature.  Mother Nature is always a full of surprises.  Finding my spring garden taking off on it's own is one I welcome with a big grin.

So, for my point.  Years of scientific efforts and documented research can't beat the one tried and true sign that you got a go ahead to plant.  When Mother Nature Calls I do hope you will listen.  And by the way I did plant my spring potato crop despite what I was advised.