- Author: Patricia Brantley
As if gardening isn’t enough fun there are actually people out there that have made computer games for us to play too! I’ve been playing a couple that I thought you might be interested in trying yourself. You can download them to your desktop or laptop, I have them on my iPad, and they have Smartphone versions too. These review are my own opinion and do not reflect the views or policies of the UC System or Master Gardeners (even if I am an Aggie).
The first one and my personal favorite is called Gardenscapes. It’s put out by a company called Playrix. It is a no pressure game (unless you set it to timed mode). The story goes that you’ve inherited a mansion from your late uncle and want to rejuvenate the gardens to their once former glory. In order to do so, you must find things within the house to sell and earn enough money to upgrade the garden. You are given choices of what to buy, and there is pressure from the garden club to update it in order to become a member. The musical score in the garden is peaceful and relaxing and the butler that comes with the property keeps you on track. I opted to upgrade to the paid version for this one.
The second one is called GardenDash. Made by the same folks, Playfirst, that makes the now infamous DinerDash. This one is a lot of fun, but make sure you’ve had your dose of caffeine for the day! In this one, you play “Barbara” who has been told she needs to take a vacation and de-stress. To make a long story short, Barb begins a business and you have to plant the plants, water, prune, harvest and fill the customer’s orders. You earn money selling your produce and can buy things to fix up your garden or things to help Barbara get things done more effectively. I’ve only been playing the free version, but I have plans to shell out the 1.99 for the full version.
The last one I’ve been working at conquering is Garden Panic! This one you are in charge of a patch of strawberries and Sgt. Strawberry walks you through how to defend it by planting cornstalks that shoot kernels and tomatoes that through grenades. There are various attackers. Grubs, ants and caterpillars come at a regular rate and the more you shoot the more sun ray energy you get to power you up. The graphics on this one are really nice, but the print that you have to read to get the instructions is small and I wasn’t able to enlarge it on my iPad. It’s also a bit difficult to figure out, and even though you get more lives at the push of a button it’s probably not one I’ll be upgrading to the paid version.
So gardeners, treat yourself. Try one or try them all. It’s just fun to find out that gardening has hit the gaming world. Just look out for those bugs and worms.
- Author: Cheryl A Potts
I absolutely love having a winter vegetable garden--wonderfully easy to grow greens such a great variety of lettuces, kale, cabbage, and broccoli. I and my new puppy, Katie, go out early each morning and pick fresh veggies for my husband's green smoothie, as well as clipped leaves for his take-to-work salad. I greet the day, she attacks the borecole (kale) with delightful vigor, and my husband eats very well.
I start my plants from seed inside the garage in the fall under a grow light using small pots. These same seeds could be started indoors under a window that gets bright sun most of the day. When the plants are 4-5 inches tall, I begin to harden them off (leaving them outside for several hours each day for about a week, enabling them to adjust to the outdoors). Then out into my raised beds they go. As the plants are young and fresh, I make sure I use snail bait*, as I am not willing to share.
One of the primary benefits I have always touted is the absents of needing to water a winter garden. We can actually go away in our RV and not worry about the soil drying out and the garden dying--UNTIL THIS YEAR! Oh my, where is winter? I just does not seem fair. Mother Nature does not play by the rules. She makes them up as she goes along. Therefore, Katie and I now need to spend time watering instead of chasing balls and we have had to postpone her first RV trip. Additionally I must remember to cover the raised beds at night when temperatures are predicted to drop below freezing. Old sheets work well for this task.
The weather report seems to never change, and I have found myself cringing when I hear someone talk about what a beautiful day it is today-- again. Winter! Please get here before spring.
*note: use the snail bait with Iron Phosphate as the active ingredient as it is safe around pets and children. Baits with Metaldehyde are very poisonous and should be avoided!
- Author: Betty Victor
My Camellia sinensis, the tea camellia, is the only camellia I have blooming now. Camellia sinensis is used for drinking tea and is the plant that all commercial tea, except herbal tea, comes from. This year because of our strange weather it did not have as many blossoms as it has in the previous years and bloomed earlier than usual.
My plant is about 6 years old and is a slow grower. You have to look for the flowers among the leaves because the flowers are only less than one inch in diameter, but they do have an fragrance to them. The other day I was picking off the spent blossoms and I found four seed pods on it. Unfortunately, it looks like the frost might have gotten to them. I have decided to try and see if I can get the seed pods to grow, but from the information I found on doing this the process for germination, which involves a clear jar, sphagnum moss, and a warm dark place. If they are going to sprout it can take up to two weeks, but because my seeds are not fresh the information says it can take longer. There is an even longer process once they sprout before they are ready to be planted outside in the soil. But I'll let you know if I am successful at having them sprout!
- Author: Patricia Brantley
I love technology. It’s amazing what you can learn! I thought I’d give you a review of a couple of websites I’ve been perusing during the “indoor” months. I’m sure there are hundreds out there but it’s easy to get caught up playing with the tools on one site and hardly ever move on to another, but there is just SO much out there. I tried to include a couple “big” companies and a couple smaller local ones. It should be noted though, just because I review it doesn’t mean the UC Master Gardeners endorse or support the business in anyway.
Many seed companies have sites. Burpee (http://www.burpee.com) is one I enjoy because of the sheer variety of plants available and the information. You can see the most up-to-date hybrids and beautiful photos of ripe, mouth-watering veggies. You can type in your zip code for your planting zone and a planting calendar. You can also view their entire catalog online.
Annie’s Annuals (http://www.anniesannuals.com) is always a favorite with her unusual plant varieties and great descriptions given in a fun and familiar way. You can even make a wish list for those you want to purchase or just put in your imaginary perfect garden. She has an email sign up, as do all the rest, and she’ll keep you informed of new varieties and any specials she might have. The artwork itself is enough reason to visit her site.
Home Depot actually has a pretty nice Garden Club. Whether or not you choose to support the “big orange box” or not, they do have a couple nifty features and will send you coupons to your email (as will all the others). They have the plant identifier, while I found it a bit limited, it is great for the home gardener or when one of us “master’s” just can’t remember. They also have a feature where you can save your “plant tags”, like the ones that come in your six-packs of annuals, in your own file. Even if you have some plants in your yard that are growing from previous years, you can still look up the plant and enter it your file. They also have a nifty place where you can store your own photo album, or publish a picture for all in the “garden club” to see, or ask a question such as “what in the world is this plant?”.
Territorial Seed Company (http://www.territorialseed.com/), has their full catalog available online in pdf version. That is short for Portable Document Format, although I think it to mean Pretty Darn Fast when you compare it to regular mail. So it does give you something to peruse while your waiting for your hard copy (that’s computer speak for the old paper and print version;)
They also have a few videos about planting. They also have an Garden Planner, you’re supposed to be able to plot your garden and track it and arrange it and so on, but at $25, even thought they promise a 30-day free trial, my pocketbook found a buck-fifty and a good ol’ piece of paper the best way to plan for now.
- Author: Jennifer Baumbach
My birthday was at the beginning of January, but it seems I have been celebrating it all month. Just last week, several friends (who happen to be master gardeners) got together and surprised me for a lunch. At the lunch, I received wonderful gifts-two of which really stood out. I had been thinking about creating a terrarium for some time, but when I actually received 2 in one day, I knew it was kismet. One is in a large decorative jar and the other is this unique vessel. It’s in an ornament, yes, like a Christmas tree ornament.
I know terrariums aren’t something new; they have been around for hundreds of years. I won’t go in to that; you can do a Google search and find that information.
It is surprising how much information is out there about terrariums. I had a look at YouTube and found a bunch of great how-to type videos on creating terrariums. They also help explain the different plants you are able to use. I especially like the Fittonia spp. (Nerve Plant) and the Pilea spp. (Friendship plant). I have a container at home I’d like to try to use Adiantum spp. (Maidenhair fern) or Davallia spp. (Rabbit’s foot fern) in. For me, ferns are always a difficult plant to grow, but in a terrarium, they might work. The humidity of a closed or open top terrarium suits their needs well.
You can also find on the Internet; little, fun decorations you can add to your terrarium. On one site, I found had miniature metal garden furniture, watering cans, and bird baths! In my large terrarium stands a figurine from England. My friend,Karen, placed it in there with care. You can see in the picture below how sweet that little addition is to the terrarium. Rocks, driftwood, colored glass are just a few suggestions of what you might add to the container to give it extra interest.
I am going to try and put together a terrarium on my own and I’ll have to update you all on how that went. For now, enjoy these few pictures I have of the gifts I received from my friends.