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Children’s Garden

Researchers find activities like gardening can improve mental health and contribute to a healthy weight. The increased physical activity reduces stress, and increases happiness.  You also build better eating habits when grow your own vegetables.  With benefits like this why are we not seeing more adults and children interested in gardening?  For starters it begins with the young.  Cultivating children’s interest in gardening at a very young age shows that as adults they continue to garden.  Children’s gardens should be a place of fun and inhibition so they can be free to explore and learn as they grow.  

Designing and Planting…Designing gardens for kids should be filled with fun plants that are easy to grow from seed. Therefore you want to get them involved in the design process, after all it is their space.  Use plants like Sunflowers, Chinese lanterns, and Celosia, just to name a few.  Bright colors and textures are big attractions that draw in the most curious gardeners of all ages. Be sure to  include native shrubs and perennials.  They attract local birds and wildlife to the garden.  It is important to show children how important natives are and the role they play in our ecosystem.

Stimulate their sense of smell…Fragrance is so important to spark their interest.  Plants like Heliotrope, Primrose, Lilac, Lavender and Peonies are great additions to any garden and easy to grow.

Edible Gardening…Always mix edible plants with flowering plants.  Planting vegetables and flowers together teaches children the importance of attracting pollinators, like bees and beneficial insects to the garden.  Flower and fruit production from pollination are keys to the success of the garden.

Garden Architecture…Add structure to the garden using an arbor or pergola.  Make a garden path for little feet to walk. Have the children create their own stepping stones using found objects, like stones, marbles, seashells in concrete molds. Hand and footprints stepping stones are always popular for the kids to make.

 

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In the Garden: Made in the Shade

Tina talks about the best plants to use for shady ground cover.

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In the Garden: Asters In Their Natural Habitat

Tina talks about how much taller asters grow when they are in your garden as opposed to the ones in the garden center.

Native Asters put on quite a show this time of year.  Seen along roadsides across the northeastern part of the country asters provide a bold pop of color When other plants and perennials begin to fade into the landscape. They are a staple in many perennial gardens and borders, with clusters of star daisy like flowers.  Colors range from white, pink to  hues of lavender purple and are at the forefront of fall gardens right along side mums, cabbage and winter pansies.

Aster novae-angliae also known as New England aster and novae-belgii, New York asters are North American natives hardy to zones 4-8 and commonly found in your local garden center typically beginning in late August through the fall. They are a key food source for pollinators and wildlife alike.   Late blooming flowers, like asters provide a viable food source necessary to supply much needed energy for pollinators like the monarch butterfly and hummingbirds as they migrate southward.  They are also a pollen source for bees as well, especially honey bees.

In their natural habitat they look different than what you see in local garden centers.  When grown commercially they are typically pruned twice during the summer months to encourage branching to maintain a certain height ranging from six to twelve inches to fourteen inches at the most.  Wild asters can grow up to six feet in height without pruning. They flower effortlessly with a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight and are right at home in container gardens as they are growing in garden beds.  Caring for asters are simple and similar to garden mums.   The key is to plant asters in early fall to establish a healthy root system. They prefer full sun to partial shade.  If grown in shady area of the garden plants tend to be leggy and will need to be staked.  Asters are also drought tolerant and do best in well drained soil and can be susceptible to root rot if planted in heavy wet soil. First year plants don’t need to be fertilized heavily, once they are established  begin fertilizing in early spring.  Add organic compost around the base of the plants and use a balanced fertilizer monthly.  Overall plants are relatively maintenance free and are seldom bothered by pests.  Powdery mildew can occur but is no real threat to the plant.  Spraying an organic fungicide early in the season can help prevent it.

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August: Gardening To Do List

August to do list, Here are the top ten things to keep your garden fresh from late summer to fall.

Photo By Gardens On The Go

1. Harvest ripe vegetables daily.
2. Start seeds for cole crops indoors, cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower.
3. Plant leafy greens, lettuce and spinach.
4. Harvest herbs for drying.
5. Keep garden tidy, remove any rotted fruit and dead foliage from plants and surrounding area. This will help keep soil borne fungus, diseases and pests in check.

6. Continue to water newly planted trees and shrubs.
7. Deadhead perennials, annuals.  Remove spent annuals that have gone to seed.

Photo By Gardens On The Go

8. Continue to deadhead and fertilize       container gardens and hanging baskets.

9. Stop fertilizing roses to avoid winter    frost on new growth.

10.Start saving seeds from heirloom annuals and vegetables.

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In The Garden: Camden Children’s Garden

by Tina Sottolano-Cain

It’s summertime in the garden, filled with flowers and vegetables.

Days are spent weeding, deadheading, harvesting and of course relaxing in the garden oasis you’ve created. If this daily routine is becoming a little too boring it may be time to get out and explore some of the display gardens in and around your area.

One of my favorite summer activities, especially late summer is to take a road trip to local gardens. Public gardens are a great resource for education and inspiration. It gives you an opportunity to see a wide range of plants and how they are used in the landscape. With so many great gardens to choose from I thought the Camden Children’s Garden is an ideal choice.

Located in Camden, New Jersey, the gardens are situated on 4 acres of land.

Valerie Frick, the director of education, tells me the gardens were started in June 1999. “It was born out of the Camden City Garden club, which is a community garden that has been in existence since 1985.”

The primary focus of the gardens and the children’s garden movement was to have a place where kids can run and play throughout nature. Frick says there are no rules in the garden, “It is important to have a fun place for children to do things that children like to do, climb, run, jump, play, explore and discover.”

The children’s garden movement wants to ensure that at a young age the children become familiar with horticulture. By encouraging them to walk on the grass and touch the plants they can feel free to explore and learn. Frick also states, “What children learn when they are young gets carried over to when they become adults.”

Some of the display gardens you will see are inspirations from a group of local landscape designers and gardeners. They even included ideas from the children in Camden County. Frick tells me they went into the Camden County school district and asked the children what would they want to see in a perfect garden. One very memorable request from a child was to walk on water, another was to have dinosaurs in the garden. Both are reflected in the interactive water fountain garden and dinosaur garden where they can learn about dinosaur bones found in New Jersey.

Other requests came from teachers wanting to bring story books to life. It was also important that the gardens reflect the important programs in the schools like educating children on how to grow vegetables in an indoor space. Frick says, they wanted to tie in the work they do in the community with the work they do in the gardens. They are a non-profit organization and operate on grants to keep the gardens going.

The Camden Children’s Gardens is an amusement park dedicated to the thrill of growing plants and vegetables. They even have their own garden themed merry-go-round. For more information go to www.camdenchildrensgarden.org.

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In the Garden: Caring for Annuals and Hanging Baskets

by Tina Sottolano-Cain

For many gardeners, keeping their plants looking happy and healthy during the hot summer months can be a challenge, especially container gardens and hanging baskets.

Longer days result in plants like annuals to grow rapidly. Which is ideal since gardeners from the seasoned pro to the novice use them as their go-to flower of the season. Known for their ability to put on the ultimate show of color from May to the first frost of the fall season, proper watering, fertilizer and grooming are key to their overall health and wellness. But if you are not sure when and how much you should water and fertilize, you could be leaving your plants looking leggy, burned-out and out of bloom.

Watering plants outdoors is very different than watering indoors. There are many different environmental factors sun, temperature, the amount of rain and even wind play a roll in how fast plants dry out. Watering containers and hanging baskets are the most common. They need attention almost daily during an extremely hot and dry summer. Water in the morning if possible. Avoid over head watering during the middle of the day. Sun can burn the leaves of certain plants when water droplets sit on leaves. Invest in a watering wand, my go-to tool. Perfect for hand watering it allows you to control where the water goes, especially if you don’t want leaves to wet on certain plants.

Start a fertilizing regime. Scheduling fertilizer applications will make it easy to remember when to apply. For blooming annuals you want to ensure that they keep blooming. I recommend using a blossom booster fertilizer. It is higher in Phosphorous, which is as essential to plants as Nitrogen and Potassium. Promoting bud initiation and increased blooming a concentration of 10-30-20 is ideal. If your go to fertilizer is an all purpose 20-20-20 you may want to consider switching out a few times for a bloom booster.

I recommend choosing a day and sticking to it that way you know when the last application was. Fertilize weekly according to the recommendations on the package. This will help avoid any mistakes, like over fertilizing, which can lead to burned-out plants.

Don’t forget to groom annuals and perennials as well during the summer. Grooming is cleaning and deadheading. Remove any yellow and brown leaves as well as spent blossoms to rejuvenate and encourage new growth. This will keep plants looking as fresh as the day you brought them home from the garden center.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN

Speak the language of flowers this Valentines Day

Thinking of getting the one you love flowers this Valentines day? If red roses just aren’t your thing, consider making a bouquet with flowers and herbs that have as much meaning as red roses, but say a whole lot more.  Roses come in a wide range of colors and we all know that red symbolizes love and passion, but did you know that lavender roses mean love at first sight? Here are a few alternative rose colors and their meaning.

Pink: Admiration, Appreciation, Grace and Gentleness.

Yellow: Joy, Friendship and Falling in love

Orange: Desire and Enthusiasm

Roses are not the only meaningful blossoms. Check out some these popular blooms, potted plants and herbs to add to your Valentines bouquet.

Aloe: Affection and Healing

Basil: Good Wishes

Calla Lily: Beauty

Chrysanthemum: Happiness

Daisy: Hope and Innocence

Delphinium: Saintly

Fern: Sincerity

Hydrangea: Understanding

Lavender: Devotion

Lily: Purity and Beauty

Orchid: Love and Beauty

Queen Ann’s Lace: Protection

Tulip, Red: Declaration of love

Violets: Loyalty and Virtue

Yarrow: Everlasting love

Design tips for the perfect floral arrangement:

When choosing flowers, always select healthy, fresh stems.  Avoid any flowers with browning edges or limp stems.

Once you bring your flowers home, place in water. Recut a 1/4″ to an 1″ to reopen the stems to take up water.   You will cut more depending on your arrangement size and remove any lower leaves on the stems. Use warm water in container and add a floral preservative.

Choose a color palette of no more than three colors in varying shades and tones.  Depending upon the size of the arrangement.  Too many colors can look too busy.

Choose flowers with a variety of shapes  to mix together.  Large round heads, and smaller clusters of flowers, mixed with tall spiked blooms will give your design good depth and dimension.    

Select container, whether it is a vase or a bowl shape you want to design the arrangement no larger than one and a half sizes taller than the container.

Add filler for extra dimension.  Having an arrangement filled with luscious blooms is just not enough.  Add a little greenery, like Baker fern, Pittosporum foliage, and even Eucalyptus seed heads in between flowers.  Add some drape around the base of the  arrangement.

Change water daily and keep arrangement out of the direct sunlight in a cool environment.  This will keep your bouquet fresher longer.

 

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Top 10 Easy To Grow Low Light Plants

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Aglaonema, ‘Chinese Evergreen’

Some of the most colorful and interesting plants grow in low light.  Here are 10 easy and beautiful low light plants:

1. ZZ plant 12- 18” tall

2.  Pothos -trailing habit with long runners, yellow/green leave

3. Spathiphylum, ‘Peace Lily’ 18-36” tall, white flower spike, keep plant evenly moist

4. Dracaena has variegated foliage

5. Maranta, Prayer Plant, 6-8” tall

6. Aglaonema, ‘Chinese Evergreen’, 18″ tall grown in varied colors with variegated leaves.

7. Pepperomia 4-10” tall

8. Arrowhead Vine was a bush like habit in pale green to white foliage

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Phalaenopsis, ‘Moth Orchid’

9. Phalaenopsis, ‘Moth Orchid’  12” and 18-24” tall

10. Rex Begonia  4-8” tall

If you think your house is too dark, give one of these plants a try!  I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Tina Sottolano-Cain is a horticulturalist with 17 years experience in the gardening industry and owner of Gardens on the Go, a gardening and consultation firm.
She is host of Garden Minute for Calkins Media.