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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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Butterfly gardens needed to bring back declining insect population

For many people, gardeners and nature lovers alike butterflies have been an important part of the outdoor environment we live in.

These mystical creatures fluttering through our gardens have captured the attention of collectors for centuries, spending endless hours studying the growth cycles, flight patterns as well as the patterns on their wings.

In many cultures butterflies have a great deal of symbolism of hope and love as well as rebirth. In recent years the numbers of native butterflies have been decreasing, especially the Monarch butterflies. I wanted to know how home gardeners can help increase the population in our gardens.

I recently caught up with John Dailey of SkyRiver Butterflies at his traveling butterfly exhibit to talk butterfly cultivation. I even had the opportunity to help release a few for the exhibit.

Sky River Butterflies it the largest traveling butterfly exhibit in the world, with about 1,500 to 2,000 butterflies in the exhibit. The main objective is to educate people on their life cycle and how to cultivate more butterflies in our won gardens.

“People have to understand that butterflies are very short-lived creatures. It takes 40 to 60 days from egg to adulthood. Typically they will live from 2-3 days to 2-3 weeks.” They are dependent on their life cycle to reproduce. The opportunities for butterflies to reproduce are decreasing due to the amount of toxins being used in the agriculture industry. The host plants where they need to lay their eggs are not as available as they once were.

The key to bringing back butterflies like the Monarch is the right host plants, according to Dailey. The host plant is the plant to attract the larvae or caterpillars to the garden. For Monarch butterflies it is Asclepias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed.

Asclepias incarnata is a herbaceous perennial native to North America found in wet swampy areas. It can survive in a backyard garden as long as the soil doesn’t dry out. The Swallowtail butterflies have a long list of host plants depending upon the species. The Swallowtail caterpillars need pipevine plants.

“Each butterfly has a specific host plant. You want to surround those plants with high nectar plants,” he said. High nectar plants produce sugars that adult butterflies feed from. Studies have been done on to what exactly butterflies are attracted in terms of types of plants and colors. One plant in particular is Gomphrena, commonly known as Globe Amaranth. It is a wild flower that produces lots of nectar that attracts all butterflies. Plants like Dahlias are another great nectar plant. You want to look for plants with flowers that have a short neck, making feeding easier for the butterfly.

“Monarch populations used to be measured in billions, now it is measured in millions,” stressed Dailey. By adding a few simple native plants to our gardens we can help restore those numbers.

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Easy Tips For Repotting Houseplants

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Easy step by step tips on how to repot your houseplants

There are many benefits to transplanting your indoor plants. One very important benefit is, all plants need adequate room for their roots to spread and grow.  The roots become constricted leaving no of room for new growth.  Roots begin to wrap around the ball of the plant and eventually inhibit new and lush green foliage. Healthy roots on the bottom mean a healthy plant on the top.

If you are not sure if your plants need to be repotted pot bound they dry out extremely quickly.  Here is a simple checklist.

  1. Plant has inability to hold water. Are you frequently watering everyday and does the water run through the pot in a single stream?
  2. Yellowing Foliage.
  3. Soil looking old, dry or moldy.
  4. Root system is tightly wrapping around the ball of the plant.
  5. Roots are starting to grow out of the drainage hole of pot.

Now is the perfect time to assess the overall health of your houseplants. Transplant any plant that has been in the same pot for more than one year. I Always recommend upgrading pot approximately two sizes larger than the size it is currently in.

Don’t forget to keep turning plants three quarters each week to ensure even growth. Begin fertilizer schedule, once a week.

 

Here are a few quick tips for transplanting houseplants:

1.) Choose a pot two sizes larger than the size the plant is in. Make sure to choose a pot with a drainage whole.

2.) Select a potting soil with good drainage suitable for indoor plants.  #3 chinese evergreen

 

 

 

 

 

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3.)Remove plant from pot and loosen the roots.  Make sure the roots are not wound tight in a ball.

 

 

 

 

4.) Place plant into new container and fill with soil. Be sure to leave a 1/4″ at the top to allow for watering. If pot is to full water will overflow out of pot.

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5.) Finally, water plant in. Wait 10 to 14 days before you begin fertilizing with a 15-15-15 water-soluble fertilizer.

For more Information on houseplants and indoor gardening go to:  http://gardensonthego.com/top-5-flowering-houseplants

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Hardening Off Seeds

Cabbage starters Once you have successfully grown your seeds indoors you need to move them outdoors for the growing season.

Seedlings are very tender and delicate in the early stages of growth.  They need to be moved outside gradually to become adjusted to a brighter light source and fluctuating temperatures, this is called ’hardening off.’

Hardening off is not as scary as it may sound. Transitioning your seedlings can be done in a few easy steps.

1.Take your seedlings outside to a protected location. Once the temperatures reach the mid 60’s to 70 degrees move seedling trays to a covered patio or any sheltered location for one hour. Increase the time one hour per day.

2.Be sure to keep them away from any direct light and harsh winds in the beginning.  I usually like to do this on a cloudy or overcast warm spring day.  By the end of the week they will have been exposed to 7 hours of light.  Continue moving them out to a more direct light source gradually.

3. Don’t let seedlings dry out.  Make sure you keep your trays evenly moist.  The gradual introduction to light and air, from ambient wind or breeze, will dry plants out faster than if they we’re in a controlled environment.

Your seedlings are like your little babies.  After all you did cultivate them from seed.  Treat them tenderly and give them a fighting chance once you send them out to the big world called your garden.

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Propagating Succulents

succulentsSucculents are the hottest trend In gardening but can be expensive.  It takes very little time to grow plants from your existing plants by propagation.  Here are some tips when propagating succulents.

In a pot or tray filled with cacti/succulent soil, be sure to pre-moisten soil, cut a leaf from the main plant and lay in the soil.  Be sure to cover the ends of cutting.  I like to lay them In pattern to maximize the space…plus they look pretty too.

Place pot or tray in a south facing window and water only when dry, check every 10 days or so.

In a few weeks you’ll see roots growing and rosettes forming.
It’s that easy!

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Forcing Bulbs Indoors

DSC_9471Spring can’t come fast enough for myself and my friends who love to garden. Forcing bulbs indoors during the winter is the perfect excuse to get our hands dirty and do some gardening. Here are a few things to remember if you are planning to force flowering bulbs.

Fooling mother nature is not as hard as you think. To force spring bulbs in January and February you have to plan in the autumn. If you have purchased already bulbs you may notice that the package is labeled “prechilled”. if they are not chill bulbs for approximately 10-15 weeks at 35-45 degrees depending on the type of bulbs. Place bulbs in a cold dry place, like an unheated basement or even a refrigerator. Once they are planted blooming occurs in 10-12 weeks. Amaryllis and paperwhites don’t need to be prechilled, they prefer cooler temps to set roots and flower in 6-8 weeks.

1. Plan ahead. Purchase bulbs in fall from a local nursery or garden center. Look for bulbs that are “prechilled” to save yourself some time.

2. Planting. When bulbs are ready to plant use an all-purpose potting mix and a pot that is twice as wide as it is deep with drainage hole. Fill pot half way with soil. Place bulbs in pot. The number of bulbs you plant is determined by the width of the pot. Leave space between each bulb to allow room for growth. Lightly cover top of bulbs with potting soil leaving the tips of the bulbs above the soil. Water in bulbs.

3. Re-locate once bulbs have been chilled and begin to show green tips place in a warm sunny location.

4. Check watering occasionally keeping in mind that bulbs do not like heavy wet soil. Make sure soil dries between waterings.

DSC_9455Growing bulbs in water.

If you are planting in water add stones to help stabilize the bulbs when they set roots. If you are using a bulb forcing jar you don’t need stones. Leave the neck of the bulb above water,.

Remember when forcing bulbs to schedule the time you want the bulbs to bloom. For January bloom time be sure to chill bulbs in September. For February and March bloom time chill bulbs in October and early November.

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Spring Into Gardening with Containers

Container gardening is one of the quickest ways to jump start the growing season.  Once the snow has melted and the northerly winds of winter shift slightly to the south, spring is not far behind.  Ahead is the rebirth of all that is green and glorious in the garden.  Bulbs are bursting with color and Pansies and Primrose are filling the air with their sweet scent of the season.

Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinths and Pansies are not exclusive to the garden flower bed anymore, nor are they the only cool weather annuals either.  This spring try combining flowering bulbs together in pots for instant color.  Wow your friends with some unique design know-how by grouping different cool weather annuals and perennials in individual pots know as mono cultured pots.

A mono – cultured pot is a single plant in a single pot.  These pots can be grouped together on the patio or entry way of the home to create layers of color and texture much like your garden beds.  Start with three pots in small, medium and large, you can add more if your space allows.  I always design in threes or odd numbers to create layers of texture and color to add visual interest.  When planting any type of container garden begin with a centerpiece or tallest plant in the arrangement.  Consider perennial Columbine with its delicate flowers and soft color palette.  Another alternative is the little known annual bulb Ranunculus,  the flower has looks like a cabbage rose and continues to bloom throughout the spring.  The colors range from bright orange, to the softest yellow and the hottest red.  If you are looking for architectural interest consider adding an obelisk or trellis to the large pot, or bunches of cut curly willow or pussy willow branches, these can add new dimension to your display.

Continue next with the medium sized container planted with bright colored Osteospermum, commonly known as African Daisy.  The watercolored flowers last through the summer since certain varieties have been bred to withstand the heat of the summer.  The ‘Symphony’ series is a great example. The ‘Lemon Symphony’ variety is a soft pale yellow that is the perfect compliment to any color palette you choose.  If you want to add a little fragrance to the garden add Stock, an annual with medium size flower stalks and a delicious spicy fragrance.  Nemesia, another fragrant spring annual, adds delicate texture to any container combination.

Complete the arrangement with the third, small container filled with low growing annuals or perennials.  Pansies are the perennial favorites with there wide range of colors and faces. Primroses are great for early spring planting,  they tolerate the coolest of temps and can be planted later in the garden. For a softer texture try a pot of Alyssum, an annual that blooms throughout the early summer.  Alyssum adds brightness with its white color  and sweet fragrance flowing over the container.  Even Petunias, Million Bells and lush green English Ivy can make their seasonal debut in the month of April and possibly late March if we are lucky!

Once you have your pots planted begin arranging them according to size.  Place the largest and tallest pot towards the back, then place the medium size pot off to one side toward the front and the smallest place on the opposite side toward the front as well.  Think of a triangular pattern, or whatever is visually pleasing to your eye.

Remember spring containers should not remain empty waiting to be filled with summer annuals.  Try some of these new ideas to bring your containers to life this spring season.