- Author: Sharon L. Rico
October is the month to plant sweet pea seeds and I can hardly wait to get mine in the ground! In 1817, poet John Keats wrote “Here are sweet peas, on tip toe for a flight; With wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white, And taper fingers catching at all things, To bind them all about with tiny rings.”
Sweet peas, which have the descriptive Latin name Lathyrus odoratus, are incredibly gorgeous and powerfully perfumed. Often we smell them before we see the blossoms and the perfume invites us to find them, lifting our spirits and making us smile. Having a passion for sweet peas, I’ve been growing them annually for nearly 50 years.
It’s ideal to plant the seeds in an area where they can climb and be supported. Cement wire against a fence or wire between two poles in an open area will work well. The soil needs to be amended with compost and manure.
These tiny, round, hard seeds need to be soaked in water overnight. Soaking them softens the hard seed shell and encourages them to sprout. My grandmother placed her seeds on wet paper napkins on a tray in the basement and left them for several days until they were swollen and ready to “pop.” I use the same technique, using paper towels and an old cookie sheet. I carry that into the garden and place each seed individually 3 inches apart and ½ inch deep, thinning to 6 inches apart as they grow.
As soon as the plants emerge, grab some snail bait, as slugs and snails will feast on these seedlings! As the vines grow, they may need to be wound between the wire support until the tendrils grab hold. At this point, there’s not much to do until mid-April when the vines will vigorously grow and the incredible flowers appear. Sweet peas need to be picked daily for continuous blooming. The flowers will scent your home and are welcome gifts for friends and neighbors. As the vines turn brown and dry in June, there will be pods you can collect seeds for the following October. I’ve found that everyone loves sweet peas! Now, I’ve got to get busy!
- Author: Trisha Rose
A couple years later and now we are both retired. We decide to pull out another mow strip in front and put in some nice perennials and herbs. We are now cooking alot more and fresh herbs are always a good idea. The dogs play in the backyard so the herbs were much safer in the front. Also, we were beginning to think it would be nice to have some plants that aren't as attractive to insects and disease as our roses have proven to be. I was spending a lot of time with my Sunset New Western Garden Book looking up rose disease and pest solutions by now and had begun to notice that many perennials had some pretty nice features.
So the middle strip of lawn between the walkway up to the front door and the driveway eventually got dug out. Since our two dogs love their daily walks around the neighborhood and I am the designated dog walker, I am noticing more what is going on with the neighbor's gardens and appreciate what is blooming and doing well or not. Have I mentioned that it is very windy in the front yard as our street faces the Carquinez Strait. There is virtually nothing to slow down the wind so the plants have to be sturdy enough to withstand both the long exposure to sun and frequent day long winds. These same winds, I suspect, have also played a role in spreading some of our most prevelent rose diseases and pests amongst our neighbors, namely rust, black spot, mildew and the most invasive of all, the aphids. Thank you perennials for entering our lives.
As we planted our newly dug out mow strip, just by luck did we choose a Lantana montevidensis 'Confetti' to anchor this garden area. I can't claim to have studied a book or website to make this decision. The Lantana was just sitting very prettily near the entrance to Mid-City Nursery the day I had chosen to make some plant purchases. This plant has proven to be one of the hardiest and most prolific bloomers in the garden. It has stood up to my trimming and shaping with a vengence. It has become a real stunner as it is now shaped as a small bushy tree with branches that bend gracefully with many blooms. Besides the many people that like this plant, it has attracted Monarch butterflies each year along with bees and many different birds that are attracted by the berries in late summer. We have added many herbs including Origanium vulgare, Salvia officianalis, and Thymus vulgaris. Besides the herbs, we have added Aloe attenuata and arborescens, Coreopsis, and many, many different succulents. This old mow strip has really turned into a joyful garden.
So with success brings confidence. As we shape our gardens we continue to learn what grows well, and looks good. and when it is time to shovel prune an intruder or poor student as in the case of many of those early rose choices. Truthfully we haven't had to shovel prune much, we have grateful neighbors with more patience and know how who have been happy to give new homes to our cast-offs.
- Author: Edward Walbolt
I am occasionally inclined to take a cutting off of the more unique plants I come across when I am out and about. Recently as I walked on the Linear Park bike trail, I came across some foliage which happened to be on the other side of a private fence in someone’s backyard. I just wanted a cutting, but I found myself asking a question about garden etiquette. Is it socially acceptable to conduct guerilla propagation of someone else’s garden foliage, even if it is only cutting a few nodes of someone else’s Salvia officinalis when no one is looking? Guerilla propagation at first glance seems perfectly fine; I don’t think that I would much mind someone stopping by my yard for a snip here or a cut there as long as the people acted in a respectful manner. My initial suspicions only allowed me more thought about the topic. Not everyone is so outwardly nice, and some people might take exception if they caught an intruder in their garden snipping a branch off their favorite Salix herbacea or Hedera helix. It occurred to me that most guerilla propagators are probably a lot like me and figure that fellow gardeners are nice, and would be flattered that someone would like their selection enough to take and propagate with it. Almost as certain as I am of that, I am also assured in today’s divisive society that the other half of the gardening population would be a little offended, almost intruded upon if their garden was attacked by a stranger with sharp objects. As any credible amateur gardener/scientist would do, I put my theory to the test to see if indeed gardeners are a mirror of regular American society or something different. I asked 10 different gardeners their opinion about guerilla propagation and how it would make them feel if a stranger was taking cuttings of their handiwork. It appears that gardeners are a more generous and giving bunch. Eight out of the ten responses indicated that gardeners feel a sense of pride when other people wanted the fruits of their labor. The scientific moral of this blog is that gardeners are not at all like the general population, we are much kinder, gentler, and more giving. Happy Gardening!
- Author: Karen Norton
Recently I escaped the summer heat and ventured to the Succulent Extravaganza hosted by Succulent Garden’s owner Robin Stockwell. This working nursery is in rural Castroville and gardeners flocked there September 30 and October 1 to hear presentations by landscape architects, garden curators, authors and succulent growers. They also enjoyed great hospitality, free treats, habitat walks, and extensive shopping through three green houses.
I planned my trip to hear Debra Lee Baldwin, author of Designing Container Gardens with Succulents. She gave tips for eye-catching containers and showed numerous slides that accentuated her main design principle of repetition. She stressed repeating shapes or colors found in the containers with color and shapes of the succulents. She also said that a new trend is to put semi-precious stones into containers with the succulents. She recommended mounding the soil in the center when planting a pot to create height and depth.
Debra’s “not so secret” succulent planting mix contains potting soil and pumice (crushed volcanic rock). She said that pumice is easily attained at local livestock supply stores under the brand name, Dry Stalls. She adds this to her mix to promote drainage.
Another attraction for me at the nursery was the outside gazebo that was wall papered with panels of hanging succulents. The succulents were planted in plastic hanging forms that allowed the creators to use plant shapes and colors to develop designs. On another building, I looked up to find a beautiful succulent mural or what Robin calls a “living wall”.
On a much smaller scale, I made my own vertical garden by using wooden wine box for the container. It is easy to remove the wooden lid, cut a piece of ½ inch fencing the same size and slide it in. Next I filled the box with a cactus mix blend of soil (before I heard Debra speak) and poked succulent cuttings in the squares. Then you keep the box in a shady spot, lying flat until the succulent grow roots and they don’t come out when you tug on them. After about six weeks, I hung up my box to enjoy.
Now I have a whole new appreciation for succulent design, versatility, and variety of plants. With the new plants I picked out during the succulent event, I am looking for containers and areas in the garden to create eye-catching designs.
- Author: Betty Victor
Another good day working at the New Foundations Garden located at the Solano County Juvenile Hall Detention Facility, in Fairfield.
This garden was started last year with the cooperation of the Solano County Grounds Supervisor Jim Simon, the counselors at the facility and the Master Gardeners. The idea is to turn a huge empty field into several types of gardens and paths, along with a teaching area.
Over the last few months planting beds were constructed, filled with compost, and made ready to plant. The young men at the detention facility did the work under the supervision of the Master Gardeners. Summer vegetables were planted as well as red and golden raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. A citrus orchard has also been started with the trees off to a good start. So far the young people have learned how to plants seeds and trees, how to install drip irrigation, and how to compost by starting a compost bin. The Master Gardeners have taught the young men how to keep the garden tools clean and ready for use, as well as plant propagation.
Over the summer months, zucchini, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, corn on the cob, watermelon, and pole beans were harvested. Some of the bounty has been donated to the food bank. The blackberries, raspberries and strawberries were eaten right of the vine by these hard-working young people.
This last week the beds were cleaned of the summer vegetables, except for a tomato plant, pumpkin, watermelon, and the zucchini as they were still producing. The cleaned beds were then planted with butter lettuce, ‘Pixie’ cabbage, tricolored carrots, broccoli, and green onions as the winter crops to be planted so far.
For color, one of the beds was planted with iris and cannas and another bed has been planted with sweet peas.
Also on their waiting list the giant pumpkins that were planted early in the year. All are wondering how large they will get and if any will be ready by Halloween.
More projects are planned for the coming months, watch for updates.