Friday, November 28, 2014

Fall and Winter Garden

Have fun growing vegetables during Autumn and Winter months. Try different varieties either planting directly in the ground or even in planters grown inside. 

What Vegetables To Plant and Where To Plant Them

Vegetables can be pretty much grown all year long in the southern states as well as the west and southwest. The United States Department of Agriculture separates agriculture zones by calling them “hardiness zones” and labeling the by numbers.

There  are 11 plant hardiness zones as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in the U.S. They are also known as growing or climate zones. In reality there is no hard and fast rule that says that one species of plant will absolutely flourish or fail outside of its hardiness zone. It’s always worth experiment with seeds or live plants particularly with seasonal climate changes, or geographical hurdles as like elevation, salty air, pollution etc.  For instance, even though you’re in zone 8 in Alabama, you may get a better plant than zone 8 in southern California in and around Los Angeles metropolitan where pollution or evening trade winds may affect the plants livelihood.


Information over the years have been collected from different regions throughout the US by farmers and agriculturalist to help understand growing seasons and how plant life is effected when grown in different regions. www.usda.gov 

The USDA determined or categorized hardiness zones as a simple guideline and not a true or foolproof means of planting seeds or live plants. There’s no warranty or guarantee but, an educated guess that your plants will grow according to the hardiness zone method.

For more information regarding hardiness zones and which particular plants that may have a better chance at growing in your area, visit:  www.ams.usda.gov then type in your zip code to find out which hardiness zone you live in.

Don’t be afraid to plant just about anything. You’ll be surprised as to what will grow in your area whether it’s a tropical or desert plant.

Southwestern U.S. Hardiness Zone Map 

Use other hardiness zone plants to your advantage. For instance, I grow cold climate zoned plants during my winter season. I grow tomatoes  starting from seeds that are from Russia and Oregon. Since they do so well in the mild summers of Russia or Oregon, they absolutely flourish during the winter months here in southern California.

   

Plant hardiness zone seven
Zone seven, often referred to the, "middle ground of gardening", weaves its way through Alaska's inland passage, Washington, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Delaware, New Jersey, Long Island, and Cape Cod.
Minimum temperatures, the ones to worry about, are typically in a range from 0 to 10º F with the first fall frosts usually expected towards the end of October. You should be getting your ground ready for planting in August/September for October planting of:

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Peas
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
Aside from winter vegetables, consider planting or splitting your rhubarb crowns in October.

Plant hardiness zone eight
Zone eight ranges from the rainforests of Washington eastwards along the western and southern borders of the U.S. and across to the coast of North Carolina. Winters are mild and the growing season is prolonged; minimum temperatures range from 10 - 20º F with the first fall frosts around the middle of November. Prepare your ground in August/September for October planting of:
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Spinach
Plant hardiness zone nine
Zone nine is comparatively small and includes central Florida, the Gulf coast of Louisiana and Texas, a good deal of California, and the southern Oregon coast. The growing season is long and the winters are mild; minimum temperatures range from 20 - 30º F with the first fall frosts occurring towards the end of November. Prepare your ground in late August/ early September for October planting of:
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Peas
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
Plant hardiness zone 10
Zone ten includes parts of California, Florida and Hawaii and is essentially, sub-tropical; minimum temperatures range from 30 - 40º F. Frosts are rare in zone ten but could occur from mid December onwards. Prepare your ground in late August and during September for October planting of:
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Winter Squash
Plant hardiness zone 11
Zone 11 includes parts of Hawaii and the Florida Keys and is a tropical zone with a year round growing season; the minimum temperature is usually 40º F and above and the zone is described as, "free of frost". Vegetables can be grown very successfully in zone 11 and with a year round growing season the October planting deadline is not as vital.

Useful Links

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wishing you and yours a healthy, happy and bountiful Thanksgiving holiday!

Emma :O)

Late Summer Garden


Grow Vegetables All Year Long!


It's still not too late to get your second season or late Summer garden in. We're very luck here in the Southwestern states to be able to have summer vegetables all they way up to Thanksgiving. I've even grown zucchini, spaghetti squash, tomatoes and bell peppers up until January. 

Some conditions to think about for late Summer is that our temperature sometimes get hotter than July. Here in southern California, October November can still be in the 90's. 

Don't be afraid to start growing Summer vegetables in August. The heat makes the seeds germinate quicker. Be sure to keep he soil moist. The dirt should always look brown up until the plants have grown a few inches. 

If you're worried about your plants not producing fast enough there are plenty of early producing vegetable varieties available. For instance, Bantan corn produces in about 80 days, an early corn variety called Early on Deck produces cobs in 60 - 65 days. 

There's still time to grow the three sisters. I like a variety of squash, 
corn varieties: Ambrosia, Bantam and  Early on Deck. I usually grow more  paste tomatoes like 
Roma tomatoes instead of large beefsteak. Smaller tomatoes just taste better to me. 

If you want a bumper crop of corn, look for early varieties that produce within 50 - 90 days. I choose hybrid only because, heirloom doesn't do too well for me. The cobs always seem stunted or under grown. Burpee has some lovely sweet corn that produces within 60 days.

Burpee has a corn variety called Early and Often. You can have a harvest within 60 days. Be sure to purchase a few packs and continue to plant every week or other week for a continuous crop. 

Burpee also has a corn variety that's specifically for container gardens. It's called 'Early on Deck'. It's an early harvest 60 - 65 days.

I usually start four or five rows and ever two weeks, I'll plant another row up until Halloween. I've been pretty lucky with growing corn up until November. I also stage corn in different places on my property. That way if one patch is effected by disease or bugs, chances are the other corn patches will survive. 

Remember to keep varieties separate by space or time so that they don't cross pollinate. 

Be sure to keep your corn stalks for Autumn and Halloween decorations. Your neighbors will be envious. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Colorful Winter Plants - Grow Evergreens Called Hebes


Grow Evergreen's For Color All Year Long 
Hebes The Colorful Winter Plants

If you want to extend the pretty colors of late summer into Fall and early Winter, consider planting evergreen shrubs called Hebes. No I didn’t misspell the word herbs. Hebes a wonderful evergreen (pronounced Hee-bees) that produce lovely flowers and foliage during summer and Fall.

Hebes will change colors according to seasons. They proved interesting change from usual asters and maple trees that we usually rely on for autumn color.  


Hebes are native to New Zealand, Australia, Polynesia, South America and southeast Florida. They all do extremely well in southern California and zones 8-11 in the southwestern USA. They are affected by temperatures below 25F.

Hebes are great show plants for the American southwest. They add that punch of color that makes you appreciate your yard even more. They produce a pretty purple flower in during the summer around the month of June but, will profusely bloom again in October and November.

There are red blooming Hebes called Hobby, Amy and Alicia Amherst. that will bloom color throughout November and December in the southwest and West.

Bowles Hybrid is a Hebe that blooms a solid lavender flower in the summer and all the way to January. I should mention that Bowles Hybrid is exactly as it’s named. It’s a hybrid and unfortunately, they are more susceptible to cold temperatures. If you happen to live in an elevation where the temperature falls below 20F, you most likely will be just wasting your money unless, you plant them in containers  and shelter them.

Quicksilver is a silver small leaved Hebe that’s a wonderful hardy plant for drought conditions.

Boughton Dome is more of a gray foliage which produces color well past the fall and works as a wonderful backdrop in any garden.

James Stirling resembles a small conifer. It produces little white flowers in December. It keeps a pretty form that’s sturdy enough to decorate during the holidays.

Hebes are a wonderful evergreen plant. They’re the perfect alternative plants for those gardeners who don’t like to keep buying and replanting plants to suite the seasonal temperatures and conditions.


Hebes 


Hebes are evergreens that will give you wonderful color all year long. Hebes are a wonderful way to add a pop of color to your fall and winter landscape. See below for full list of Hebes.


Hebes like Caledonia (purple) Sapphire (red tips during winter) Speciosa Variegata and Andersonii (tricolor) are well worth the money spent. They’re fascinating to see change in color as the seasons change. It’s like getting new plants every season without having to replant.

The benefits to planting Hebes as being an evergreen plant, they provide protection from wind and erosion, a wall of them will help reduce noise, they don't need much pruning and are usually drought tolerant. Most Hebes do need well drained soil and a bit of shade during the heat of the summer months particularly in the southern California and Arizona.

If you enjoy color all year long on your property, plant evergreens like Hebes to compliment your landscape.  They’re usually a few dollars more than other shrubs and plants but, they’re well worth it.

Evergreen Shrubs


List of Hebes (Wikipedia.org)
About 90-100 species, including:




   

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Winter Farmers' Markets Increase Year to Year


There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting in me. 
-Thomas Jefferson, third U.S. President


It's no secret that southern California and the rest of the U.S. sunbelt have long growing seasons. Almost all produce is grown in the West and the Southwestern U.S. It's a site to be seen when the rest of the country is covered in snow and you have fields of fresh produce as like lettuce and berries growing just down the road. 

According to USDA, farmers' markets are no longer exclusively a Summer community event. Winter farmers markets are on the rise. In 2012 farmers markets increased by 38 percent and 17 percent each year since.

Farmers nationwide are extending their sale dates at Farmers' markets well into November and December. The variety of vegetables being offered are seasonal. In lieu of Summer tomatoes or or melons, you can find a wonderful variety of Winter squash or root vegetables. 


1941 Produce Market San Diego, CA


Farmers markets in southern California are quite common. I've often wondered why farmers didn't have Fall markets in Boston or Chicago. Now I see that has changed. Both Boston and Chicago are running farmers' markets well into October. 

Many metropolitan like New York City are moving their farmers' markets indoors. There are many year-round farmer's markets all around NYC. kudos 
to the big apple!

Explore your area for local farmers' markets that may be extending their sale dates. You'll be glad you did because, you will be supporting your local farmers and you're going to walk away with some fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables. 


















   
 Canada Farmers' Market

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Water Quality and Plants - Is Your Tap Water Killing Your Houseplant?


Keep One Eye On Your Plant 
and The Other On Your Tap Water!

It May Be Time To Use PUR Filtered Water


Have you been having troubles lately with your house or outdoor plants either not looking right or they all of a sudden are dying and you don’t have a house cat?

Well, your tap water may be to blame. There are particular plants that are sensitive to tap water. It’s the chemicals in the water that the plants aren’t used to or can all of a sudden become allergic or sensitive to. Overall, tap water is ok for your plants but, if you happen to see a change in your plants leaves, it may be due to tap water.

Chlorine and fluoride are just two of the common chemicals found in tap water that may stun a plant. This can affect the plants appearance or livelihood. Well water can also affect houseplants. Your well water may have too much iron or too much calcium. 

Though, most of us use tap water. Chemicals found in tap water tend to collect in your plants roots and one day, your plant just can’t handle the abundance of toxins.

Like all living things, plants rely on water for life. That quality of water in which you feed your plants can physically change your plant overnight. Most houseplants are sensitive to water quality because, their life is sustained in a container. They’re more sensitive to change unlike outdoor plants.

A simple change in the water from either your municipal water company or your own well water can damage plants. Municipal water companies are always having to balance the chemical make-up of tap water so that  flourish. If you have a water well, you should also have your well water tested to be sure that it is save from mercury, lead or even chemicals that have made their way into your ground water.

Your water company is on your side. I'm sure they try their best to keep you, your family, pets and plants healthy. Every now and again your local water company has to flush the lines and that usually accounts for the sudden change in too many chemicals in tap water. This may not be harmful to humans but, plants are sensitive to a lot of things even a simple bug bite.


Almost all dracaenas are sensitive to fluoride which include: 
Compacta, Lisa, Massangeana, Aborea, Colorama, Marginata Stump,
Warneckii, and Limelight.

Palms, spider plants and dracaenas are quite sensitive to fluoride.

Cold water shouldn't be used on tropical plants like African violets but, too much fluoride and salt will kill the plant completely.

 Over time, salt buildup can affect orchids and bromeliads.

Bougainvillea will drop all of it's flowers if it has too much chlorine. 

Oleander doesn't like either floride or chlorinated water. The entire plant           will wither and the leaves become crispy.




Take into consideration that temperature changes, pets urinating on plants or the use of pesticides can all affect plant foliage or their root system. If you've eliminated all those aspects then it may be that your tap water has too many chemicals, gasses or minerals. 

There are some simple symptoms to look for if you think your household tap water may be harming your plants.

The leafs turn completely brown within a few days and die off.

The plants stop flowering even though it has sufficient fertilizer or plant food.

Root rot is most common. Even though the soil isn’t overly wet, the roots may turn slimy.
    A White powdery residue left on the soil's surface.

The plant dies within a few days. One day you were talking to your spider plant and the next day it was dead as a door knob.

  You notice that your plants seem to always have brown edges.


Besides your plants, fruit, vegetable or flower seeds may not germinate because, they’re being burned or harmed by the ordinary water that comes out of your garden hose.

Seed germination is a delicate matter. Many factors may affect or hinder a seed germination but if you have good soil, a moderate temperature, pesticides in soil, the right amount of sun and water and you still notice that your seeds aren't germinating. It's probably your tap water. Some delicate seeds as like tomato or cucumber seeds won’t germinate if there are particular chemicals as like pesticides in your tap water.

Use Filtered water on  your house plants for a few weeks to see if your tap water is hurting your plants.

The best solution to curing what ails your house plants or outdoor plants is to filter the water; of course filtered water pitchers kept in the refrigerator are great for an instant cold cup of water for yourself or your family but, they’re also most useful when used for watering your houseplants.

Pur Water Filter Home Test By Arthur Tweedie



I do recommend NEW PUR Ultimate 11 Cup Pitcher with MAXION™ Technology. It’s a large pitcher so, you’ll be able to water a lot of plants. There's even an 18 cup PUR pitcher available if you have enough room in your refrigerator

PUR pitchers and faucet filters are easy to use. All you do is drop a water filter into the pitchers reservoir and it’s good for a few months. PUR also makes a handy faucet filter. They’re easy attach to your kitchen or garden sink. It simply screws on and you’re ready to go. I’ve even attached it to a garden hose at times.

With the faucet filter, you just turn on your tap and water runs through a filter. When you need to do dishes, you simply push the water filter system up and out of the way for unfiltered water.



The PUR filter with MAXION™ Technology immediately cleans water by filtering out chlorine, fluoride and other contaminants that either makes your water taste bad or be harmful to digest. It’s good for you and your house plants. PUR’s faucet water filter is just as easy as the water pitcher. There’s a filter cartridge that you would easily drop into a chamber and it’s ready to go.

Remember, houseplants are precious because, they not only brighten up a room but, because they more importantly clean our household air. Sometimes your household air is dirtier than the outside air that you breathe.

By using filtered water, rainwater, melted snow or water collected from a dehumidifier, you’ll help your houseplants by preventing foliage or root damage which can lead to plant disease and so, you’re lengthening your plant’s life span. The reward is a pretty plant and clean air. Using filtered water is a win-win. I’m also big on water barrels. By filling a water barrel and letting the water aerate for a few days also eliminates or evaporates some of harmful chemical gases like chlorine.   


If your tap water is effecting your houseplants, repot them and use filtered water.


The best thing to do when you think that your plant has been effected by over chlorinated water, mercury, salt or just too many chemicals in tap water is to simply rescue your plant by transplanting them into a different container and use filtered water.


If your outdoor plants are being affected by tap water, start using filtered water on your outdoor plants as well. Do this for a few waterrings and they'll most likely will bounce back. If your plants respond, then there is something happening to your tap water. It’s probably a good idea to get an outdoor water filter like Sawyer's Outdoor Hose Water filter or for a few dollars  you can even use potable water tablets in your water barrel or water can.




It’s just easier for me to use a faucet attachment on my garden hose and either fill a water barrel or directly water plants with the PUR water filter attached. All hoses are different and so, you may need to run down to your local hardware store and pick-up an attachment to add to the end of your hose, but the PUR faucet filter usually fits on most hoses. It may look like you’re watering with a Star Trek laser gun but, it’s doing you and your plants a favor.

There’s nothing like a cold glass of water right out of the fridge. The next time you pour yourself a glass of water from your filtered water pitcher, think about your houseplants and how beneficial it may be to give filtered water on them too.

I’m a member of influencer. I test products before they hit the market or when companies have made a change to their products. Sometimes I’ll give online reviews. I own three PUR faucet water filters and have had two PUR water pitchers over the years. PUR's pitcher designs and technology get better and better each year and the method of simply dropping a water filter into a container or faucet gadget is still the same and downright cool. You can’t get any easier than that.  

Give PUR water filtration systems a try. They’re sold just about at any retail store. Take the test by tasting your tap water, a bottle of water and PUR’s filtered water. You won’t believe how easy and how much money you’ll save by using PUR filters that use MAXION™ Technology instead of using bottle water. Your houseplants are going to thank you too.