Written on January 26, 2012 at 10:20 am , by Denny Schrock
The Tropical Plant Industry Expo is the place to go to see what’s hot in indoor gardening. The fact that it’s held in southern Florida in mid-January, is another incentive to attend! Trends that I saw this year include a resurgence in the popularity of terrariums and dish gardens. But these aren’t simply a return to mass-produced fad gardens from the 1970s. Modern mini-landscapes have more style and individuality. Often they’re displayed in unique containers or feature sculptural plants. The emphasis is on tough, easy-care plants such as succulents and bromeliads. Here are some examples that I saw at this year’s Expo.
Written on December 14, 2011 at 2:08 pm , by Denny Schrock
Just in time for holiday gift giving, four new gardening books have been released by Better Homes and Gardens. And even though the season for digging in the dirt may be months away, you (and your gardening friends) won’t have time to read once the weather breaks, so now is the ideal time to study up on gardening techniques and dream about plants to add to your collection next year. (By means of full disclosure, I have a vested interest in these books. I managed the editorial teams that put these titles together.) All are available through John Wiley & Sons, Publishers. Just follow the individual book links below to see more details or place an order.
Gardening Made Simple is a new cornerstone book, designed to help anyone get started in gardening. Rather than fretting that it might be too difficult, follow the step-by-step instructions and photographs to success in your garden, whether you’re growing edibles or ornamentals. No more excuses about not having a green thumb! This book includes more than 1,200 photographs and hundreds of Test Garden Tips and answers to common questions from the Better Homes and Gardens Garden Doctor. Its 400 pages include plant profiles of the easiest and most popular plants to grow. $24.99.
Better Homes and Gardens Herb Gardening will demystify the art of growing herbs. Learn how to add zing to your diet with healthful herbs. The book includes recipes from the Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen for herbal teas, spreads, sauces, dressings, and seasonings. The encyclopedia section describes 145 herbs and includes dozens of how-to growing tips. $19.99.
Better Homes and Gardens Orchid Gardening simplifies growing techniques for this gorgeous group of flowers. Choose your favorites from a gallery containing more than 200 varieties of easy-to-grow beauties. This 192-page book includes lots of step-by-step instructions to ensure success with orchids. $19.99.
Better Homes and Gardens Water Gardening shows you how you can create a restful water garden retreat in your own landscape. Whether you have space only for a container water garden or a large water feature with cascades and pools, this book will guide you through the process. Seasonal care charts serve as reminders of what to do when with your water garden. It even includes 15 plant-by-number water garden plans. $19.99.
Written on November 17, 2011 at 10:48 am , by Denny Schrock
My favorite tool for fall garden clean up is apparently no longer made by Fiskars. It’s a long-handled power lever swivel shears. They do make a long-handled swivel-head grass shears, but it doesn’t have the same leverage or cutting power as this tool. They also manufacture power lever hedge shears that make cuts just as easily as my favorite, but you have to bend down to ground level to cut off old stems with it.
I recently made short work of cutting back amsonia, miscanthus, catmint, ornamental oregano, and just about any other non-woody perennial that needed it by using the power lever swivel trimmer. It’s a good thing that Fiskar tools are well made. I’m hoping that this tool lasts a lifetime, because I may not be able to get a replacement.
Written on November 3, 2011 at 10:48 am , by Denny Schrock
The fall color display in central Iowa has been spectacular this year. Just the right combination of warm, sunny days and cool, but above-freezing temperatures at night, along with a little stress from the driest September and October in six decades led to glorious golds, outstanding oranges, and rich reds. Yesterday’s rain and wind brought down quite a few leaves, but some trees will hold their color for a few more days, or even weeks in the case of many oaks and callery pears.
It’s odd to say that the new 950-page tome is downsized from the previous book, which is nearly 1,200 pages in length. It certainly doesn’t feel less hefty! With the inclusion of so many photos, Dirr had to leave out some of the nerdy horticultural details found in his previous work. For example, the number of red maples and hybrids discussed in the new book is 17 compared to 58 in the previous book. Similarly ginkgo dropped from 40 to 5 varieties, and dawn redwood decreased from 9 to 6 varieties. However, the book is still replete with Dirr’s personal anecdotes and observations. He has updated the book with more recent introductions and dropped some of the more obscure ones. The pictorial displays more than make up for the abbreviated text. And most gardeners will appreciate not having to sift through obscure varieties that they’re not likely to find at the local nursery anyway.
Written on September 8, 2011 at 10:44 am , by Denny Schrock
Late summer to early fall may not be the showiest time for dandelions, but it’s the best time to eliminate them from your lawn. I usually avoid using toxic lawn chemicals, so I was curious to try the new Ortho Elementals Lawn Weed Killer sample that I received at the recent Garden Writers Association Symposium in Indianapolis. This broadleaf weed killer is made with naturally occurring iron. The active ingredient is iron HEDTA–or hydroxyethylenediaminetriacetic acid, for those of you studying organic chemistry!
The product works by creating iron toxicity at the cellular level. Because the mechanism of iron uptake is different in broadleaf plants such as dandelion from that in monocots such as lawn grass, the weeds die while the grass is unaffected. This naturally occurring chemical is reported to be safe for humans and other animals. Sprayed areas are safe to reenter as soon as the product dries. And further background research shows that iron HEDTA is not persistent, so it is quite friendly to the environment. Additionally, rather than spraying the entire yard, you’re supposed to spray only the dandelions (or other broadleaf weeds you want to eliminate), so much less chemical is used than with conventional weed killers.
The initial results are impressive. I spot sprayed dandelions in my yard this last weekend. In just 72 hours, they looked like the dandelion in the “after” photo below. The true test will be how much regrowth happens. The label indicates that for best results, two applications three to four weeks apart may be necessary. So I expect that the dandelions will regrow from the roots and need another shot of weed killer to wipe them out entirely.
Written on August 18, 2011 at 11:21 am , by Denny Schrock
Late August is prime time for crabgrass. The yellow green foliage and forked seed heads are especially evident in lawns browned out from hot, dry summer weather conditions.
However, late summer is not the time to control crabgrass. It’s an annual, and will die with the first frosts of fall. But prior to that, it will spread thousands of seeds ready to germinate next spring.
Last year the crabgrass got out of control in my yard, so I vowed to do something about it this year, despite the fact that my lawn is the poor stepchild of my garden. I admit that the perennial beds and shrub borders receive a lot more attention than my lawn. It’s hard not to play favorites! The lawn usually survives with periodic mowing, no fertilization, no watering, and spotty weed control. (I use a dandelion puller, and often hand weed the black medic and oxalis that pop up in the grass.)
This spring I agreed to try GreenView’s Crabgrass Control Plus Lawn Food. This slow-release fertilizer and crabgrass control combination is supposed to prevent crabgrass and many other annual weeds all season long, and has the benefit of slow-release fertilizer to promote sustained growth of grass. The time to apply the crabgrass preventer is in early spring before the soil warms to 50 degrees F, which is usually about the time that forsythias bloom.
I was pleased with the results. The grass in the lawn was thicker and greener than in the past, with no sudden flush of growth. And crabgrass has remained mostly under control. (In some of the worst sections, I saw some seedlings sprouting in mid-July, so I applied some corn gluten meal to those areas to prevent further sprouting of the crabgrass.) Since then, I’ve been easily able to keep up with hand weeding the occasional crabgrass seedling that pops up in the lawn.
This fall, I’ll apply the GreenView Fall Lawn Food to give the lawn a boost going into winter. And next year, I’m looking forward to a much-reduced crabgrass crop because I’ve been able to stop it dead in its tracks this year.