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Garden Articles

The Beauty of Aged Terra Cotta Clay Pots 

by Carolee James

Interesting terra cotta pots have an aged patina from years of use. You can achieve the same look in a matter of months using a few ingredients found in your kitchen and garden. With the holiday gift giving season approaching, consider “aging” a few terra cotta pots and filling them with cuttings from your garden or store-bought plants to give to family and friends. Here are four unique ways to “age” terra cotta pots.  

The first simple process may take the longest time to achieve the desired results. Place the pot in a tub of water in full sun. Algae will eventually grow on the pot’s surface. Keep in full sun and replenish water as needed. The pot is “done” when you decide the surface has the aged look you desire.

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Graveyard Plants

By Francie McGowan

All Hallow's Eve is almost upon us. As we face the dark, scary night ahead, our thoughts turn to  vampires, ghosts and goblins rising up from graveyards to snatch our souls. In centuries past, superstitions grew up around these creatures and, on Halloween, the veil between the living and the dead was thought to be at its weakest. Souls of the dead could walk the earth on this night and bedevil the living.


Some plants, like fennel and St. John's wort (when tied with a black ribbon), were specifically used to ward off evil. Yew trees were traditionally planted in graveyards because it was thought that the roots would grow down into the mouths of the dead to keep them from talking. The mountain ash, or rowan tree, was planted to keep evil spirits from bothering the dead. Mandrake roots in a graveyard were infused with the soul of the person buried beneath.

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How to Improve Your Soil in Fall and Winter 

By Rachel Oppedahl

“Remember soil is not dirt. Soil is live organic matter teeming with microbial life!” 
— Farmer’s Almanac

How’s this for a quick and dirty (pun intended) way to check the health of your garden soil: “Use a shovel to dig up about 1 cubic foot of soil. Put the soil on a piece of cardboard, break it apart, and look for earthworms. If your soil is healthy, you should find at least 10 earthworms!” (again, the Farmer’s Almanac).

If you want a thriving garden, the place to start is with the soil itself.

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Continuing the Petunia Love Affair

By Diane Miller

In keeping with our recent master gardener articles about garden planning that takes place in the fall, I would like to relate my experience with petunias-as-more-than-annuals.

In May and June petunias have a period of vigorous growth and my love affair begins. Each year I struggle with deciding which color of beautiful trailing petunias in their hanging baskets to take home. This year I found the most beautiful basket of creamy lavender flowers.

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10-7 Nancy Bliss, picture, Squash Ladder
Garden Art
by Nancy Bliss

Gardens are works of art. You start with a few small plants or seeds, put them in decent soil, add water and sunshine and the results are a little miracle. There’s nothing lovelier than homegrown tomatoes, squash blossoms or peas blooming. When you cannot keep up with all the squashes or homegrown tomatoes, it’s a joy to go out and see what needs harvesting.

In addition to all that growth, there’s nothing wrong with adding a little color, whimsy, or silliness to put a smile on your face. Here are a few ideas that might appeal to you, add a spark to your gardens next year and perhaps add some colorful practicality.  

This year I constructed a squash ladder for my vining squashes (like acorn squash or Tromboncini—a zucchini-like squash shaped like a trumpet). I used two 2x2 stakes about four feet long per side, made into a ladder shape with horizontal bars about 16 inches apart.

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My Seasonal Lawn


My Seasonal Lawn

By Jim Bliss

Living in the mountains creates some interesting problems. Two of the biggest are fire and frost. If you combine these two with the limited water we have available in California, it paints a pretty grim picture. The question for me as a gardener and home owner is what steps I can take to help make life more sustainable for all of us who have grown to love the life we have here in our mountain communities. We have all seen articles on clearing around our property to protect ourselves from the wildfires that have become so prevalent in the last few years. And the government is constantly passing new water restrictions. But what can I do personally to make a difference?

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