- Author: Lowell Cooper
I read recently an article published by the American Rose Society entitled “Beetlemania”. I am a member of the ARS but this article came unsolicited about a couple of rose bugs. I have been trying to develop a way of thinking about the bug challenge in general because it is clear that at times the bugs have to be taken head-on or they win the battle and the flower, if not the whole plant. Beetles and thrips, the foci of the ARS article, are examples of bugs that take advantage of good opportunities for a good meal. Bugs, in general, are opportunists: they take advantage of weak plants and thus make them weaker – but there is little resistance. It seems to me these bugs go for new growth or can tell when there is no natural deterrent from the plant itself. Also, if the plant is exploding with growth and is very full, the bug senses a good meal. So it is not surprising to go out into my garden and find spider webs all over the place this time of year, making the plant look like a colorful Halloween mask.
I find that being out in my garden is the only way I can tell whether the plant needs my help to survive. Sometimes just leaving it alone with some beneficial (read, natural enemy) can be the best solution – as with aphids and ladybugs. It relieves me to believe that there is a middle ground of care when the plant is just doing ok – most of the time. The extremes deserve attention and can most often be encouraged back to the middle range; new growth is a sign of the bugs relenting.
So, what I have concluded is that watchful plant care helps me know when I need to intervene, it most often doesn't take much to get it back on track, and it is a wonderful reason to be outdoors. My limitations as a gardener are that I don't remember whether a particular bug is good or bad, and I feel humbled by the notion of the perfect plant. I am perhaps too cavalier about my roses, but I think that good care is good enough – I don't want to forget to smell the roses and take an afternoon nap.
- Author: Paula Pashby
When we moved into our home in Vacaville quite a few years ago, we discovered that the previous owner had done some amazing things with the landscaping. There were beautiful mature fruit trees, a gorgeous palm tree, and some lovely areas of the yard that had their own separate gardening areas.
One area that has always been a pleasure to see is a circular garden. It is located outside the kitchen area and is the first place you see when you enter the backyard. It isn't a huge space, approximately 8' in diameter, however, it does catch the eye at first glance.
Originally, there were plants in this garden that would provide blooms throughout most of the year. One beauty, in particular, is the light pink colored Peruvian Lily Alstroemeria aurantiaca, which resembles a small lily.
Throughout the years, we spent a lot of time focusing on different areas of the yard and did not touch the circular garden, which was okay because this little garden seemed to just take care of itself - just a little splash of water here and there, and it seemed to do just fine. We did, however, make one nice enhancement by adding a birdbath with a running water fountain.
We were still focusing on many other landscaping needs when I noticed that one of the plants, the Peruvian Lily, was slowly taking over the garden. The Peruvian Lily is not invasive by nature but was it happily expanding around the garden because the soil conditions had completely changed. Due to the light water splashing from the fountain, the soil became very moist in some areas and very soggy in others, forcing many of the original plants out. Even though the Peruvian Lily flowers are very pretty and seem to have a very long blooming season, we missed having a variety of blooms over the seasons.
So, I began researching the types of new plants I could put in this moist garden. There were so many things to consider when choosing the plants. Should they be perennials or annuals? What type of plants can tolerate very soggy soil? What is their bloom time? Could they be invasive? How tall could they grow? I really didn't want plants taking over the garden or growing so tall that they would block the view of the fountain.
I have come up with a game plan. The plants listed below are compatible with USDA Zone 9 requirements. Some of these plants should only be planted in spring or fall, so I may have to wait a while to begin. However, that works out fine because I will use annuals in pots to fill in where and when necessary.
The Peruvian Lily will stay around the outer edge of the garden. The next area toward the middle of the garden will be filled with perennials:
- Elephant Ears, Colocasia for beautiful foliage shape and color
- Horsetail, Equisetum for light, tall stalks – just make sure to keep in a container or sink barrier at least 12” into the ground so the rhizomes don't spread underground.
- Iris, Iris for a beautiful splash of purple color
- Leopard Lily, Lilium for a splash of orange color
- Crocus sativus for a splash of yellow color
The inside area of the garden will be filled in with annuals. To add more excitement and change to the garden, annuals can be placed in the garden in pots – no need to plant and pull them out when they are done blooming. There are so many eye-catching flowers to choose from – Pansies, Violets, Marigolds, Cosmos, Zinnias, Impatiens, Heather. The sky is the limit (or bloom time), just use the annual that is blooming at that time!
I am looking forward to watching the progress of the little circular garden and will share all that I have learned. Keep tuned in, there may be a perennial begging to leave the circular garden and looking for a new home!
- Author: Erin Mahaney
Cinderella has quite a selection of pumpkin coaches in my yard right now. The pumpkin, ‘Rouge vif d'Etampes,' is also known as the ‘Cinderella' pumpkin because it is believed that artists used the pumpkin as the model for Cinderella's fairy tale coach. This heirloom pumpkin with beautiful deep orange-red skin, relatively deep lobes, and a flattened top. It was the most popular pumpkin in Parisian markets in the 1880s and was introduced by Burpee to U.S. gardeners in 1883. The fruit can reach up to 12-18 inches tall and 15-20 pounds, but matures at smaller sizes, too. It can be grown as an ornamental pumpkin or used for cooking, such as pies, baking, and soups. It stores well.
For some reason, the ‘Cinderella' pumpkin is the one pumpkin I can grow consistently. My yard is small so I've mostly tried to grow the mini or baby pumpkins, without much success. Each year, however, I've managed to harvest at least one ‘Cinderella' pumpkin. One pumpkin may not sound like much, but it is always a gorgeous pumpkin, so it makes me happy!
This year was different. I don't plant in rows or mounds, but I did make an effort to amend the soil more when we planted. We are using an irrigation system that adjusts the watering based on weather conditions so the pumpkins may be getting more water, or water at more appropriate times, than in the past. Maybe they liked the weather better. Something changed.
I carefully planted the seeds in the prepared planting sites but had a few seeds left over. “I'll just sprinkle them around the yard and see what happens,” I thought. “They probably won't grow.”
A full quarter of my yard now is covered in pumpkin vines. At their peak, they grew a foot a day! The vines have rampaged across my bedding plants, smothering salvia, yarrow, and kangaroo paw, (but I drew the line at letting them take over my dahlias). Apparently inspired by my neighbor's vigorous wisteria, the vines attempted to climb up our 6-foot fence, making it nearly 4 feet high before the fruit made it too heavy to climb anymore. They have surrounded my apple espalier, climbed it, and tried to hide within it (until a bright orange pumpkin gave it away). They busted out of the raised vegetable beds, snuck between the bed and fence (which makes for a slightly rectangular pumpkin), and fraternized amongst the cherry tomatoes. I've had to create pumpkin supports (usually large pots) for the vines that climbed and then set fruit so that the pumpkins don't tear off the vine. Each day, we walk cautiously around the yard, jumping over vines, looking for stray pumpkins, all while with the unsettling feeling that a vine could grab an ankle at any moment. Even the big dog is wary. We talked about trying to control the vines or removing some, but honestly, it has been entertaining to see what will happen next!
The mini and baby pumpkins planted in the same conditions? I didn't get a single one.
You can easily find Rouge Vif d'Etampes or ‘Cinderella' pumpkin seeds from a number of seed companies. The pumpkins should be planted in rich, well-drained soil in full sun (ideally at least 6 hours a day) when temperatures are warm. Night temperatures should stay above 50°F. The pumpkins mature approximately 95-120 days from planting.
Follow the planting instructions on the seed packet, but in general, sow the seeds 1 inch deep. For better drainage, sow the seeds in groups of 3-6 in mounds or hills with each group 3-6 feet apart. Thin the seedlings to 2-3 in each group when they are 2 inches high so that the vines will have room to grow. Keep the plants well-watered and don't over-fertilize or you may end up with vine and not pumpkins. Despite the many flowers, I typically only see 1-2 fruits per vine.
How do you know when a pumpkin is ripe for harvest? Pick the pumpkin when it is the desired color (in ‘Cinderella's' case, a deep reddish-orange) and the rind is hard. You can test the rind by pressing your fingernail against it; if it pierces the rind or leaves an indentation, then the pumpkin isn't yet ready for harvest yet. When the pumpkin is ripe, cut it from the vine, leaving stem “handles” of at least 2-6 inches. Let the pumpkin cure in the sun for 10 days and then store it in a cool dry place where it will keep for months.
I may decorate one pumpkin as a coach for Halloween. I think Cinderella would be thrilled!
- Author: Martha White
Earlier this summer, I was fortunate to be able to take a family vacation to Canada. One of our visits was to Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.), Canada's smallest province.
Prince Edward Island depends on its own water table for all of its water needs. No canal pumping system or pipes supplement their need for freshwater. Several years ago, the residents decided to proactively protect the fragile water table. They passed laws prohibiting the sale and use of lawn chemicals and fertilizers.
With the recent news of contamination in the California Central Valley water table, the planning and forethought of Prince Edward Island residents really impressed me. I took two pictures of landscaping outside of a P.E.I. office building. The bright yellow face of the dandelion, holding up its balloon of wishes, has become a symbol for me: a symbol of what can be accomplished when a group of concerned people who work together for the common good.
- Author: Maureen Clark
The Black Sesame Plant
It's time! I just went out to the garden and harvested my Black Sesame Seeds. I'm excited that the plant did great in my vegetable garden this year. It was super easy to grow. The seeds are pretty expensive so, the money I'll save is wonderful.
The botanical name is Sesamum indicum. This plant has been cultivated for over 3,000 years. They grow to 1.5 feet - 3 feet. (mine grew to about 2.5 feet) tall). They are a drought-tolerant, annual plant. The flowers are a pretty, tubular, purple -lavender flower with a white throat. The seed pods are dehiscent and should stay on the plant for several months. Remember the old saying “Open Sesame”. Well, that's what you want them to do. They need to dry out and then burst open. Don't take them off the plant too early or they will not be dry and will go rancid quickly. There are couple ideas I thought of 1) Let the pods get nice and big, then wrap a small piece of frost cover over the pods and stem. This will help them stay warm and capture the seeds. 2) Remove the pods after 2 months, put them in a paper bag and keep them in the sun for several days. These methods will encourage the pods to shatter naturally (aka dehiscent).
The seeds are rich in Omega 6, Vitamin B, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron and Phosphorus. Polyunsaturated Fats, Fiber and Zinc are other helpful benefits.
The Sesamin in the seeds helps protect the liver. The seeds are good for digestion, anti-aging properties, strong bones, constipation, reduce anxiety, healthy skin, respiratory and vascular health.
The seeds have a rich nutty flavor. Grind them or soak them overnight (better health benefits) to make them easier to digest. Fun to use in a variety of ways, such as Tahini, smoothies, yogurt, rice, vegetables, noodles, popcorn, coatings for sushi rolls, bread, meat, and fish, mixed with honey and roasted into candy, or sesame cookies. Yum! Ok, are you hungry now? Because I am. Time to get a cookin'!