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PLANT FALL CONTAINER GARDENS NOW

GARDEN TIPS – Written by Marianne Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Published October 2, 2016

Last weekend I decided it was the end of the season for the two large flower container gardens that sit on each side of my front door. The most recent bout of wind had decimated the large coleus plants and the beautiful petunias were finished flowering. Now the containers are empty because I have yet to decide whether to fill them with fall flowers, plant them with spring flowering bulbs, or simply finish the cleanup process and get them ready for next spring.

I like planting frost tolerant fall flowers in my planters to extend the season, but often wonder if their relatively short display of beauty outweighs the time and expense. While combinations of the typically available choices of mums, flowering kale, and pansies can be attractive, they do not lend much versatility to fall container garden design. However, creative gardeners can utilize perennial herbs and flowers, ornamental grasses, shrubs, and even frost tolerant vegetables in the planters for something a bit different. The perennials that survive the winter cold can then be relocated to the garden next spring.

Better Homes and Gardens suggests using colorful coral bells (Heuchera), Heucherella, asters, grasses and sedges, kale, swiss chard, dead nettle (Lamium), and silver sage (Salvia argentea) in fall planters. Look through a vegetable garden catalog and check out the foliage of kale, Swiss chard, beets, and lettuce. Their leaves can provide interesting color and texture in a fall planter, plus you can eat these fall veggie crops. Also, the blue-gray foliage of garden sage (Salvia officinalis) and rosemary contrast nicely with purple-leaved kale and chard.

If you decide to depart from the ordinary and plant perennial flowers, herbs, or even shrubs in your fall planters, it is important to note that even plants hardy for our region (Zone 6) may succumb to winter cold. This is because the roots of plants in containers are subjected to colder temperatures than if planted in the garden. When planted in the ground, the surrounding soil insulates the roots, providing protection from severely cold temperatures. Roots are the least hardy plant tissues, making plants more susceptible to cold damage when planted in containers.

Several years ago I planted two dwarf globe arborvitae in my front pots and they survived a winter that was not excessively cold. However, the next spring I removed these shrubs from the planters so I could plant colorful annuals for the growing season. Plus, I had found it tiresome to water the containers during the winter. Before planting perennial and woody plants in containers, consider that they will need to be watered regularly during the winter to keep the roots from drying out and dying. Also, these plants may succumb to winter cold, but if they do survive and you want to change your container garden display from year to year, they will need to be replanted in the landscape.

I am still in a quandary about what to do with my planters. There are so many possibilities. What should I do? I am tempted to plant some traditional bright yellow mums along with the less conventional veggie garden kale, chard, and herbs. I also like the beautiful variegated foliage of the many new coral bells and Heucherella cultivars. However, I also want to try planting bulbs. I need to make my decision soon before it’s too late to plant anything!

WHAT IS A QUALITY POTTING MIX?

GARDEN TIPS – Written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Published March 20, 2016

When talking about growing plants in containers I usually emphasize how important it is to use a quality potting mix. Admittedly, this is vague and does not help whey trying to decide what potting mix to buy when you get to the garden store.

Back in the 1950s, the selection of bagged potting mixes was not difficult because there were none. Most gardeners planted their annual flowers in flower beds or regular garden soil was used for planting in pots. However, the problem with using soil straight from the garden was that it typically did not provide adequate drainage and aeration for good plant growth.

In the 1960s universities, like Cornell University, researched what materials worked better for growing plants in pots than plain soil. Their research was prompted by a nursery industry that was finding it difficult to find good topsoil for growing potted plants. They needed a readily available substrate that would enable them grow quality plants, one that was disease and weed seed free, was relatively lightweight, provided good drainage and adequate nutrients, and did not contain residual herbicides.

Cornell’s solution to the problem was a soilless potting mix called the Cornell Peat-lite Mix. Their basic peat-lite mix was 50 per cent, by volume, sphagnum peat moss and 50 per cent horticultural grade vermiculite. Their B Mix was a 50:50 mix of peat moss and horticultural perlite. Fertilizers were added to the mixes to provide nutrients for growth. At about the same time, the University of California developed their basic UC Mix that contained sand and peat moss in equal proportions.

Potting mixes have changed for a variety of reasons since the 60s. One reason is the expense of obtaining sphagnum peat moss and environmental concerns over the destruction of peat bogs in Canada and elsewhere. Compost, softwood conifer bark, composted manure, and coconut coir (made from coconut husks) have all been used to replace some or all of the peat moss in soilless mixes. Horticultural vermiculite has also fallen out of favor because it will compact if not handled gently, losing its ability to provide aeration and drainage. There also have been concerns about using vermiculite because its ore naturally contains 2 to 3 per cent asbestos fibers.

My preference in potting mixes is one as close to Cornell’s B Mix as possible, but this is difficult to find. As already noted, many companies substitute other materials for the peat moss component. This substitution works out well if the substituted material is fairly stable. Coconut coir and composted pine and fir bark all decompose slowly and serve as adequate peat moss substitutes.

Potting mixes that get a thumbs down from me are those that are predominantly plant-based compost or containing inferior components. These mixes are usually the lower priced potting mixes. While they may be dark and crumbly, they often do not drain well or provide adequate aeration. Stay away from mixes that contain sedge peat, soil, stones, and discernable pieces of sticks and twigs and ones lacking perlite or vermiculite for drainage. Do not use products labeled “garden soil.” These are garden soil and are not intended for use in containers.

Finally, remember that adage of “you get what you pay for.” Look for the recommended ingredients on the bags of potting mix and potting soils and invest in “a good quality potting mix” for your container gardens.

TERRARIUMS A RECYCLED GARDEN TREND

GARDEN TIPS – Written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written December 13, 2015

Trends, including gardening trends, have a way of recycling themselves. Creating terrariums, an old trend from the 70s, is popping up again.

Terrariums were first a utilitarian item created by Dr. Nathanial Ward, an English physician and botany enthusiast, for germinating ferns from spores. He created a closed glass case, named the Wardian case, that was pretty much a miniature greenhouse. The case proved very useful to plant collectors wanting to bring plants back to England from far away places and also became popular in home decorating.

The large glass terrarium in my garage is proof that I enthusiastically participated in the terrarium trend of the 70s. Terrarium purists will tell you that a terrarium is planted in a transparent closed container. Not long ago I talked about miniature dish and fairy gardens. A terrarium is similar, but the “garden” is placed inside a clear container, such as a large glass jar, big bottle, fish tank, or giant goblet. Clear plastic containers may also be used.

I recommend a container that is large enough to accommodate the plants you choose to grow and one that has a large enough opening to facilitate planting the terrarium. If the opening or neck of a container is narrow, planting within them is like trying to build a ship in a bottle, possible but difficult.

Start by cleaning the inside of your container and when dry, add “soil” to the container. Use an artificial potting mix, preferably one containing primarily peat moss, perlite, and sand. There is no need to add gravel or other coarse material for drainage as recommended in the 70s, as these materials actually hinder drainage.

Moisten the mix first because it is difficult to moisten once it is in the container. How much mix is needed? There should be enough mix to accommodate plant roots, but generally it does not need to be any deeper than three inches even in large containers.

Finding and selecting suitable plants for your terrarium may be a challenge. Seek out dwarf and miniature plants that will stay small or slow growing ones that will not outgrow the container quickly. Select ones that are similar in their growing requirements, such as humidity, light, and soil moisture. Plants of varying heights, texture, and leaf color will provide the most interest in your design.

When you are ready, remove the plants from their pots and loosen the roots. Plant the largest and tallest plants first and then arrange the smaller plants around them to provide a pleasing “landscape” design. The plants will grow, so take care not to use too many or place them too closely together. Moss or prostrate trailing plants can make attractive ground covers. If desired, add some decorative accents such as small rocks or figurines.

After finishing your planting, rinse any potting mix off the container sides and plant leaves using a spray bottle, taking care not to add too much water. Place the lid on the container or use clear plastic wrap to close it up. Situate the terrarium where it will get lots of light but no direct sunlight.

Your terrarium may exhibit considerable condensation. However, if the condensation is excessive or continues past a week or two, vent the container a little each day until it stops. After that you may need to water occasionally and prune plants when they start to grow too large, but you should be able to enjoy your terrarium without constant attention.

My favorite plants for a terrarium? They are miniature African violets and their relatives, miniature Gernerias.

MORE GARDEN CHORES

GARDEN TIPS – written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written November 8, 2015

Two weeks ago we talked about the fall garden chores that should be done once fall arrives and cool weather starts to prevail. Here are some tasks that are “good-to-do” but are not absolutely necessary.

CLEAN UP VEGETABLE GARDEN: In the fall, it is a good practice for vegetable gardeners to clean up the garden by removing plants that are done producing or killed by frost. Plants without any obvious disease problems may be chopped up and composted. However if the plants were diseased, do not use them in a compost pile. Once you have the plants removed, add organic matter to the soil by tilling in finished compost or chopped up leaves.

PRUNING BACK ROSES? If you originally come from a colder area of the country like I do, you are probably familiar with the process of severely cutting back roses in the fall and covering the bushes with soil or a loose mulch for protection from cold temperatures. Because winter temperatures here are usually not bitterly cold, severe fall pruning is not needed and can actually make the plants more vulnerable to cold temperature damage. However, after several hard frosts it is good to prune tall rose shrubs back to a height of about three feet to keep them from blowing about in gusty fall and winter winds and possibly uprooting the plants.

CLEAN-UP FLOWER PLANTERS: Spring is a busy time of year so the more cleanup you do now, the further you will be ahead of the game next season. Take advantage of mild fall days to tidy your flower container gardens. Remove all the plants, roots and all, by pulling or digging. Use a garden knife or a sharp trowel to dig and break up root masses and clumps of potting mix. (If you grew ornamental sweet potatoes, you may find a sizable tuber or “sweet potato” as part of the roots. These are edible, but are most likely not very tasty.)

GARDEN TOOLS: If you put your tools away clean and in good working condition, they will be ready for you next spring when you are anxious to get out and GARDEN! Use a wire brush to clean the soil off your digging tools and then use a flat mill file to sharpen their blades, if needed. Do this by filing away from you using long strokes. If you have not done this before, you can probably find a “how-to” video on-line. For tools with wooden handles, rub the wood with boiled linseed oil. This helps prevent the wood from drying and cracking. If the handle is rough, sand it before applying the oil.

YARD ART: If you have any pottery or concrete bird baths, take time to clean them off and store them in the garage or storage shed. If you leave them out in the yard, any water in them may freeze, causing cracks and chips. I winterize my bird bath by scrubbing out the bowl, wiping it off, and then placing it under the eaves (no room in the garage) with the basin upside down so it will not collect leaves, snow, or rain. If you have a bird bath or fountain that is too heavy to move, drain it, fill the bowl with burlap or blankets to absorb condensation, and then cover it with heavy plastic sheeting to prevent it from filling with moisture. Secure the plastic well to avoid problems with wind. If removable, take fountain pumps indoors for the winter. Also, clean off other types of garden art, like gazing balls and wind chimes, and store them away in the garage.

REFRESHING YOUR CONTAINER GARDEN POTTING MIX

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published- MAY 9, 2014

REFRESHING YOUR CONTAINER GARDEN POTTING MIX

I grow all my annual flowers in big pots on my back patio. At last count, there were ten of them and replacing the potting mix in them every year would bankrupt me. Instead of buying new potting mix each spring, I “refresh” and reuse the old.

I start by digging out all the dead roots and stems of last year’s plants, if I didn’t remove them in the fall. Potting mixes tends to compact over the course of the growing season, so next I use a trowel and garden knife to break apart residual roots and loosen the mix to a depth of at least eight inches. Along with loosening the mix each spring, I also add some controlled-release fertilizer and work it into those top eight inches.

After refreshing the mix, I add some new potting mix if the level in the pot has declined due to decomposition or from removing the old plant roots intermingled with mix. After several years, I may replace the old mix in the top half of the pot with new because it is not draining well due to the break down of organic matter over time. When I remove old mix, I don’t throw it away. Instead, I mix it into my sandy garden soil.

I recommend investing in a quality potting mix when starting a new container. I prefer a mix that consists of peat moss or coconut coir, perlite or pumice, earthworm castings, and some compost. I also like the ones that contain controlled-release fertilizer that the label indicates will last for several months.

I mentioned earlier adding fertilizer to potting mix that is being reused. This is necessary because last year’s plants probably used up most of the available nutrients and whatever they did not use was likely lost through leaching with the frequent watering necessitated by hot weather. The addition of fertilizer to reused potting mix is important for the good growth of the annuals, flower or vegetables, planted in containers. Just imagine the fertilizer needs of a vigorous growing sweet potato vine, trailing petunia, or tomato vine!

I prefer controlled-release or “time-release” fertilizers for use in my containers. They are more expensive than traditional water soluble granular fertilizers, but I like the convenience of not needing to reapply them frequently during the season. When I select a controlled-release fertilizer, I look for one that is a balanced fertilizer, one that contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). The percentage of these by total weight is indicated somewhere on the product label in that order: N, P, and K. Because the amount of nutrients vary with different types and brands of fertilizer, I follow the recommendation on the label for the amount to apply to a particular size pot.

Product labels also indicate the length of time that the nutrients should last. However, because hot summer and early fall weather in our region dictates frequent watering, it may not last that long. You should consider applying the same fertilizer again in mid-summer. If not, you can use a water soluble liquid or crystallized fertilizer to add some nutrients later in the season if the plants are showing signs of nutrient deficiency, such as yellowing leaves or poor growth.

Anxious to get started, I readied by containers over a month ago. Now I am anxiously waiting for consistently warm and calmer weather before I get started. Maybe this weekend? We’ll see.

Published: 5/9/2014 11:43 AM

BEAUTIFUL NEW LANTANAS FOR CONTAINERS

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published April 4, 2014

BEAUTIFUL NEW LANTANAS FOR CONTAINERS

Every year I have a plethora of annual flower container gardens because I like to try new plants and different color combinations. This year will be no exception.

For the last several years I have been planting a number of lantana. Native to South America, lantana is a shrubby annual in our region but can be grown as a woody perennial in warmer zones (USDA Zone 9+). Lantana blooms all summer long, producing clusters of little flowers that look like bouquets. Many of the newer cultivars offer flowers in two to three different bright colors within the same cluster, with the older individual flowers in the center of the cluster turning to a different color than the younger outer flowers.

What I like about lantana is that it is drought tolerant, blooms well in the heat of summer, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, and has few pests. Plus, it is not a high maintenance plant and does not require deadheading to keep flowering. You pretty much plant it and ignore it, other than admiring the pretty flowers.

Plant breeders have been working on developing a wider selection of lantana cultivars for gardeners. When selecting a lantana for your garden, check the plant tag. Lantana cultivars come in a variety of shapes, sizes and growth habits.

My recent favorites have been in the Bandana series because of their extraordinary flower colors. The cultivars include Bandana Cherry, Cherry Sunrise, Pink, Lemon Zest, Light Yellow, Peach, Red, Rose, White and Trailing Gold. I like Bandana Cherry Sunrise, Peach, and Pink the best because of the spectacular contrast between the center and the outer flowers. Except for Trailing Gold, these Bandana cultivars generally grow about 20 inches tall and 24 inches wide. Trailing Gold is lower and wider in habit.

There are two other new notable lantana series you might encounter. One is the Bandito series, closely related to the Bandana series except these cultivars are more compact and bloom more freely. The series includes Bandito Orange Sunrise, Red, and Rose.

The Lucky series of lantana are heavy bloomers and compact, growing only about a foot tall and wide. This series includes Lucky Lemon Glow, Pot of Gold, Pure Gold, Flame, Rose Sunrise, Peach, Lavender, and White.

Garden Note: An important thing to know about lantana is that the green, unripe berries are toxic. Many of the new lantana that are prolific, continuous bloomers set fewer fruit than older cultivars. Lantana leaves are also toxic to livestock. When brushing the skin, the leaves may also cause a minor skin irritation or rash in some people.

Extraordinary bloom color is one reason that I am gravitating towards lantana, but the other reason is the tobacco budworm. This dastardly little caterpillar feeds voraciously on my petunia and geranium flower petals and buds, destroying many flowers by late summer. The budworm leaves the lantana flowers alone.

One of the pyrethroid insecticides would provide fairly good control, but it would also be harmful to most of the beneficial insects that visit the flowers. A safer options would be one of the organic garden insecticides, containing either Spinosad or Bacillus thuringiensis, but it would require repeated spray applications for satisfactory results.

So because of this nasty green worm, I am trying different “spiller” options in my planters. Lantana is just one of them.

Published: 4/4/2014 11:47 AM

GROWING PERENNIAL FLOWERS IN CONTAINERS

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 3/21/14

Plant marketers are trying to start a new trend in gardening… planting perennials in containers. Advertisements showing both annuals and perennials planted together in pots have been evident in a variety of gardening media. However, I am not sure this is a trend that gardeners in our area will want to try.

Locally, we are usually not concerned about hardy garden perennials surviving the winter, even after the cold temperatures we experienced this past winter. When planted in the garden, the soil provides insulation, keeping their roots at temperatures above the ambient air temperature. When planted in a containers, the perennials roots are subjected to colder temperatures close to the air temperature.

There are several options for overwintering perennials in container gardens. One way to protect their roots from the cold is to dig holes and sink the pots in the ground. That may be okay for a few small pots, but it would be a monumental task for me because I have numerous very large pots.

A less troublesome way to protect potted perennials is by grouping them together and placing them in a protected spot on the ground, such as in an alcove or corner on the east side of your house and mulching them with compost or straw.

Perhaps the best option is to move the potted perennials into an unheated structure where the temperature will stay cool but above freezing all winter. An unheated garage is the most likely place to meet these criteria. (With the number of sizable containers I have, this would this would mean that my car would have to be parked outside all winter.)

Before storing them away in the garage, ground, or a protected spot, you must prepare containerized perennials for winter. This is done by not fertilizing or heavily watering the plants in late summer and fall. You want growth to slow down and stop so the plants can prepare themselves for winter=s cold temperatures. However, you should still water regularly enough to keep the plants from becoming drought stressed.

Before placing the plants and pots in storage, insure the plants are fully dormant by waiting for the temperature to drop below 30 degrees on several successive nights. While stored away in the garage, periodically check the potting mix. If it becomes dry, water the plants sparingly to keep the mixture slightly moist.

If you decide to follow this new trend of planting perennial in containers, select only hardy perennials. Proven Winners, a company who develops and markets annuals, perennials, and flowering shrubs, suggests when planting flowering perennials or shrubs in containers, chose ones that are hardy in our USDA Hardiness Zone or one zone colder if you will be overwintering them in an unheated garage or burying the pots in the ground. Since we live in USDA Hardiness Zones 6a to7b, this would mean selecting perennials hardy in Zones 6a to 7b or Zones 5a to 6b. If you must leave the pots more exposed, they recommend selecting plants that are at least one to two zones colder (Zones 4a to 5b) than your region.

I am sticking with annual flowers in my container gardens. I want to park my car in the garage and I=m not digging big pits in the yard. I also like the option oftrying out different flower and color combinations every year. That=s what makes container gardening fun for me.

Published: 3/21/2014 1:14 PM

GROWING PERENNIAL FLOWERS IN CONTAINERS

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 3/21/14

Plant marketers are trying to start a new trend in gardening… planting perennials in containers. Advertisements showing both annuals and perennials planted together in pots have been evident in a variety of gardening media. However, I am not sure this is a trend that gardeners in our area will want to try.

Locally, we are usually not concerned about hardy garden perennials surviving the winter, even after the cold temperatures we experienced this past winter. When planted in the garden, the soil provides insulation, keeping their roots at temperatures above the ambient air temperature. When planted in a containers, the perennials roots are subjected to colder temperatures close to the air temperature.

There are several options for overwintering perennials in container gardens. One way to protect their roots from the cold is to dig holes and sink the pots in the ground. That may be okay for a few small pots, but it would be a monumental task for me because I have numerous very large pots.

A less troublesome way to protect potted perennials is by grouping them together and placing them in a protected spot on the ground, such as in an alcove or corner on the east side of your house and mulching them with compost or straw.

Perhaps the best option is to move the potted perennials into an unheated structure where the temperature will stay cool but above freezing all winter. An unheated garage is the most likely place to meet these criteria. (With the number of sizable containers I have, this would this would mean that my car would have to be parked outside all winter.)

Before storing them away in the garage, ground, or a protected spot, you must prepare containerized perennials for winter. This is done by not fertilizing or heavily watering the plants in late summer and fall. You want growth to slow down and stop so the plants can prepare themselves for winter=s cold temperatures. However, you should still water regularly enough to keep the plants from becoming drought stressed.

Before placing the plants and pots in storage, insure the plants are fully dormant by waiting for the temperature to drop below 30 degrees on several successive nights. While stored away in the garage, periodically check the potting mix. If it becomes dry, water the plants sparingly to keep the mixture slightly moist.

If you decide to follow this new trend of planting perennial in containers, select only hardy perennials. Proven Winners, a company who develops and markets annuals, perennials, and flowering shrubs, suggests when planting flowering perennials or shrubs in containers, chose ones that are hardy in our USDA Hardiness Zone or one zone colder if you will be overwintering them in an unheated garage or burying the pots in the ground. Since we live in USDA Hardiness Zones 6a to7b, this would mean selecting perennials hardy in Zones 6a to 7b or Zones 5a to 6b. If you must leave the pots more exposed, they recommend selecting plants that are at least one to two zones colder (Zones 4a to 5b) than your region.

I am sticking with annual flowers in my container gardens. I want to park my car in the garage and I=m not digging big pits in the yard. I also like the of option trying out different flower and color combinations every year. That=s what makes container gardening fun for me.

Published: 3/21/2014 1:14 PM

GROWING BLUEBERRIES IN POTS

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 3/28/14

Spring is here! I was worried that the winter cold may have killed the two raspberry plants I planted in wine barrels last spring, but throughout the containers new little sprouts are starting to break the soil surface. Yea!

They are both >Raspberry ShortcakeJ= plants, the first thornless dwarf raspberry marketed to gardeners for growing in containers. They come from Fall Creek Farm & Nursery who is right in step with two new gardening trends, growing berries and growing food in container gardens.

Fall Creek=s mission is to develop Anew berry varieties specifically for home gardeners.@ Their breeders are looking for berries that are easy to grow, have exceptional ornamental value, and produce lots of good tasting fruit. They want to transform berry gardening and have registered the name of BrazelBerries7 for their line of home garden berries.

This year I want to add blueberries to my berry garden. Fall Creek offers three different blueberry cultivars for gardeners. I usually don=t recommend growing blueberries in local gardens because most home garden soils are very alkaline (with a pH of 8 or above) and low in organic matter. Blueberries only do well when grown in acid (with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5) soil that is fairly high in organic matter. This is not a problem if you grow them in pots with a potting mix.

While Fall Creek offers three different blueberry cultivars, my choice is >Jelly BeanJ.= Jelly Bean is the most cold hardy (USDA Zones 4 to 8) of the three and has the largest berries. It is a little Apuffball of a plant@ growing to a height and width of only 1 to 2 feet, perfect for a barrel planting.

Despite being a compact dwarf bush, Jelly Bean reportedly yields plenty of large, tasty sweet berries in the middle of summer. But it is not just about the berries, the spherical mounded plant can be very ornamental with bright green leaves in spring that turn darker green in summer and then red in late summer and fall. How pretty!

I will be placing my blueberry plant in a barrel planter with a number of large holes in the bottom for good drainage. Fall Creek recommends growing their blueberries in sizable pots of 16 inches or more in diameter. When planting berries or veggies in containers I advise using a quality potting mix that drains well. A mix that is predominantly peat moss or coconut coir mixed with compost, pumice, and perlite works well.

Once planted, Fall Creek recommends that your blueberry plants be located in full sun. However, our summer heat and sun is so extreme, a site where they will get some shade late in the day would probably be a good idea. Keep the soil consistently moist because blueberries are not tolerant of drought or excess moisture. Fertilize the plants once a year in early spring with a fertilizer recommended for acid loving plants.

The plants should be pruned in late winter or early spring while still dormant, removing the canes that fruited the year before. That=s because Jelly Bean and the other two blueberries (Peach Sorbet and Blueberry Glaze) produce new canes each year, but will only produce fruit on the canes that grew the previous year.

Iam excited to add to my berry collection and hope to be eating raspberries and blueberries from my patio plants by the middle of summer. It will be berry fun!

Published: 3/28/2014 1:08 PM

NEW YEAR GARDEN RESOLUTIONS

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 1/3/14

Many people make lofty resolutions for the new year typically aimed at improving their health or well being, such as losing weight or exercising more. Resolutions for gardeners are often similarly idealistic and directed at becoming a better gardener, such as starting a garden journal or composting yard waste. Resolutions have a tendency to be broken, but here are a few easy-to-attain pragmatic resolutions for gardeners.

Plant More Food: Seed catalogs have already started arriving in the mail. It=s always exciting to see the newest veggies and flowers the seed companies have to offer. Don=t you wish you could plant all of them? If you have the space, consider planting extra vegetables to take to the local food bank next summer.

Expand Your Vegetable Gardening Skills: Try growing a vegetable that you like, but have never grown before. How about potatoes? While potatoes can be purchased locally at very reasonable prices, you would be surprised how good fresh garden potatoes taste, plus you can order special varieties not available in most markets. I=m partial to the red skinned varieties.

Potatoes are planted from Aseed@ that are either small potatoes or larger ones cut up into pieces containing at least one or more buds or Aeyes.@ You can buy seed potatoes locally or mail-order them from a number of seed companies. Two that I like are Potato Garden (formerly Ronniger Potato Farm) at www.potatogarden.com and Irish Eyes at www.irisheyesgardenseeds.com. Both are located in the West and offer certified-disease-free and certified-organic potato seed. Order your seed potatoes soon because some of the best varieties sell out quickly.

Plant Some Herbs: Last season I planted annual herbs in a wine barrel container garden. It was nice to be able to go out and get some fresh sweet basil, oregano, or chives for that night=s dinner. Plus, I have some perennial herbs (sage, rosemary, and lavender) planted in my perennial flower bed both for their fragrant foliage as well as their ornamental value.

Not only do herbs provide wonderful flavor to a variety of culinary dishes, but researchers are finding that many add antioxidants and essential nutrients to our diet. Fresh herbs from the garden are the tastiest and highest in their healthful benefits. Most herbs are easy to grow, so try planting some this year.

Grow Your Own Tomato Transplants: If you have a warm sunny window where you can start some seeds, consider growing your own tomato transplants. The choice of the varieties available from local garden stores tends to be somewhat limited. When you grow your own tomato transplants you can plant specific special varieties, such as heat and cold tolerant varieties or heirloom tomatoes with uniquely colored or great tasting fruit.

Heat tolerant varieties (such as like Bella Rosa, Solar Fire, Arkansas Traveler, Phoenix Hybrid, Sioux, and Momostaro) will set fruit even during hot summer weather and the cold tolerant ones (like Glacier, Polar Baby, Polar Star, and Stupice) will set fruit during extended cool spring weather. Last year many gardeners were bereft when their tomatoes didn=t set much fruit due to a long cool spring followed by very hot summer weather. Devoted to tomatoes, Tomato Growers Supply Company at www.tomatogrowers.com is where you can find many of these varieties.

Read a Gardening Book: Take advantage of this cold and dreary weather to read that gardening book that you never seem time to read during the gardening season. Waiting for me is AHoneybee Democracy@ by Thomas D. Seeley about honeybee behavior and the bees= collective decision making process. Do you have a book waiting for you?

Published: 1/3/2014 9:45 AM

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