Written on June 23, 2010 at 7:58 am , by Justin W. Hancock
That’s why I tend to use a lot of plants with fun foliage when I do garden designs. Here, for example, is a variegated beautyberry (Callicarpa) — it’s a knockout now and I can’t wait for fall when the stems are adorned with its stunning purple fruits.
So next time you go shopping for plants at your local garden center, pay more attention to the leaves. You can create some amazing plant combinations by playing off foliage.
For example, try mixing a pool of white-edged hostas with some with white centers. The effect is subtle, but smashing. Or make a shrub like this beautyberry stand out by pairing it with the rich purple foliage of a dwarf ninebark or dark green rose of Sharon.
Or mix some plants with chartreuse foliage in with those that are more silvery-blue in nature. They’ll look good spring to autumn.
Written on June 9, 2010 at 7:20 am , by Justin W. Hancock
This applies to vegetables, too: In my experience, tomatoes don’t get as diseased in pots than in the ground (maybe because they’re up higher where air flows better or because a good potting mix is free of disease spores), eggplants become even more ornamental, and carrots are easier to harvest.
Yes, you read that right: carrots. If you have a deep enough container, you can grow really lovely carrots in a pot. They’ll typically grow straighter, especially if you have rocky ground, and are a cinch to pull from loose potting mix as compared to the ground. And the ferny foliage looks great, too — either in a mass by itself or as an accent to your favorite flowers or herbs.
Want to give it a try? There’s still time this year to plant a batch of carrot seeds!
Written on December 18, 2009 at 9:38 am , by Everyday Gardeners
The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s window blind recall announcement earlier this week reminded me that I’m just about out of plant labels. How are the two connected? My homemade seed starting labels are made from recycled mini blinds. Although the current recall primarily involves roman shades and roll up blinds, old-fashioned mini blinds also have had similar problems with exposed cord loops that pose danger of strangulation to children.
If you have mini blinds that you’d like to replace (for safety or aesthetic reasons), why not recycle them as plant tags rather than just throwing them away? I stumbled upon this idea years ago when installing new mini blinds. To make them the right length to fit our windows, some of the slats had to be removed. My frugal nature wouldn’t allow me to toss the extra slats. That’s when I hit on the idea of cutting them into 6- to 8-inch lengths to use as plant labels.
The vinyl slats were just the right width for marking in pencil the date I planted the seeds and the name of the plant. White or cream colored slats offer the best contrast between the pencil lead and the background color, but other pastel shades should work, too.
Because I no longer have mini blinds in my home, I search discount or close out stores for mini blinds on sale. Because I’m just going to cut the blinds apart anyway, they don’t have to be in perfect condition. And one large shade makes enough plant labels to last a long time, even for someone like me, who starts thousands of seedlings every year in my greenhouse.
I find that these low-cost labels last at least a season or two in the garden–perfect for veggies and annual flowers. I use a different system for perennial flowers, trees, and shrubs, but that’s the subject for another blog post.
What do you use to label your seedlings? Do you have other ideas on how to save money by recycling unwanted items, such as recycled planters? We’d love to hear from you.
Written on December 2, 2009 at 8:02 am , by Justin W. Hancock
If you’re feeling like me and you long for fresh herbs but the weather’s gone cold, don’t despair — try growing herbs indoors. It’s actually pretty easy, as long as you have a bright spot (such as an unobstructed west- or south-facing window) to grow them in.
The key is realizing that most herbs don’t love growing inside — so you really need to consider them short-term plants (especially annual varieties such as basil). You may get a month, maybe two, from most of your plants before they fade away. Don’t feel bad about losing them by spring — herbs are not meant to be long-lived houseplants. And as long as you use them in cooking or baking, or even just to rub the leaves a few times and enjoy that fresh scent as a way of getting over cabin fever, you’ll probably find they’re worth the investment.
Here are some tips if you’d like to try growing herbs in your home this winter.
> They need bright light. If you don’t have a large sunny window, get an inexpensive shop light from your local hardware store and hang it about 8 inches above your plants. They’ll do just as well — if not better — in artificial light.
> Don’t love them too much. Most herbs prefer well-drained soil and would rather be a bit too dry than a bit too wet. Be sure to let the top inch or so of the potting mix dry out before you water them again.
> Give them drainage. It’s important that the roots don’t stand in water, so grow your herbs in a container that has drainage holes so excess moisture can escape.
> Protect them from drafts. Blasts of cold or hot air (from doors, windows, or heating vents) can quickly sap the life from your plants.
Written on November 18, 2009 at 8:13 am , by Justin W. Hancock
While there’s still a bit blooming in my garden (for example, ‘Rozanne’ geranium, ‘Luscious Citrus Blend‘ lantana, and ‘Little Mischief’ shrub rose), my attention has pretty much turned to my indoor garden.
I have some of the usual suspects (ficus and moth orchids, for example), but I also grow some less traditional choices, including a white double impatiens (shown here), a few fun plectranthus, and of course my favorite passionflowers.
Why bother with so many houseplants? Besides the fact that I’m a gardening fanatic, I know they also help my health. A number of scientific studies have revealed that simply having plants around can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and help improve concentration.
Plants are good for my physical health in other ways, too. NASA experiments have shown that plants are able to remove nasty pollutants such as formaldehyde and benzene from the air.
And my indoor plants release moisture into the air as a part of their breathing process — this increases the relative humidity in the rooms where I keep my plants. Spending time in these rooms is like a mini vacation from the desert-dry air coming out of my home’s furnace.
Really when it all comes down to it, though, I’m a plant lover. Do you have houseplants? If so, share your reasons with me by commenting below!
Written on October 28, 2009 at 7:18 am , by Justin W. Hancock
One of my friends is getting more and more excited about gardening. She bought her first batch of spring-blooming bulbs this year and was really excited to start 2010 with a show of tulips, daffodils, anemones, and crocus.
All was well until I got a worried call from her. She said she wasn’t sure how to plant the bulbs and how deep to plant them.
If you’ve run into this question, there’s happily a pretty easy answer. Plant most spring bulbs about three times deeper than the bulb is tall. So if you have a 3-inch-tall tulip, you’ll want to plant it about 9 inches deep.
And as far as which way to plant, the pointy side is generally up. For types that don’t have a point, plant them on their side — they’ll send their roots down and their shoots up.