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Planting and Growing Paperwhite Narcissus

There is nothing more fun & rewarding than having plants bloom in your house during the cold months when everything in your garden is asleep for the winter. Paperwhites are a variety of daffodil that are easy to grow and force into bloom. They are great to start now in Mid-November and have them ready for the holidays. They also have a beautiful fragrance.

Planting Your Paperwhites
Paperwhites can be grown in potting soil or gravel. You can grow them in any type of planter. When you grow them in gravel make sure your container is water tight so water does not drain out. Use gravel that is small enough for you to settle the bulbs in so they are supported. Bury ¾ of the bulbs into the pebbles with the pointed tip exposed. Plant them close to each other, just barley touching, using enough bulbs to fill most of the container.

Growing them in potting soil has the advantage of a better root system for sturdy plants. You will plant them in soil the same as in the pebbles by burying the bulb with the pointed tip exposed just above the soil. Make sure your container has a drainage hole and saucer. Since the planter will most likely be out for all to see, top dress the soil with Spanish moss or small pebbles for an attractive look.

Growing Paperwhites
Paperwhites require bright light but do not need full direct sun. Putting them near a bright window in a kitchen would be ideal. The perfect temperature would be 60-65 degrees. Warmer temperatures tend to make them grow too fast which results in tall weak plants.

If you have to, place them in a cool area of your house at night like an enclosed front porch or garage and that will help cool them down. On average it takes about 4 weeks to get them into perfect bloom.

Watering Paperwhites
When growing the bulbs in pebbles it is important to keep the water level just below the bottom of the bulbs. Having them too deep into the water can cause the bulbs to rot. When growing in soil keep the soil evenly moist and not sopping wet.

Extra Paperwhite Narcissus Growing Tips

  • Sprinkle a small layer of activated charcoal at the bottom of the container to keep the water or soil fresh. This is especially beneficial when growing the bulbs in pebbles.
  • For a better root system, place the container in a cool dark place for one week just after planting. This will get the roots growing quicker and stronger. After the one week place them in a cool bright area of your home.
  • Feed with water soluble fertilizer like Miracle Gro every 3 weeks. It may sometimes be necessary to support the plants with a flower stake kit.
  • Ask Dees’ for suggestions anytime!

When the bulbs finish flowering, prune off the spent flowers but not the leaves. Let the plant grow until the leaves brown naturally. After the leaves brown, cut them back to the tip of the bulb. Pull the bulbs out of the soil or pebbles and store them in a cool dry place. Stick them in a small bag of dry peat moss or vermiculite and place them in a cold garage.

The following spring plant them in your garden when the ground is not frozen. The bulbs can possibly make a comeback and grow like your regular daffodils.

Paperwhite Narcissus Supplies List:

  • Paperwhite bulbs
  • Containers
  • Dees’ Potting Soil
  • Pebbles
  • Activated Charcoal

One of the great ways to fill your winter season with flowering color and fragrance is to grow paperwhite narcissus. This would also be a great project to do with the kids on Thanksgiving weekend. They can watch them grow and have them ready by Christmas. Have fun!

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Composting Made Easy

Composting will benefit both the environment and your wallet!  When you make compost, you create a source of high quality nutrition for your garden.

Did you know that composting can be not only easy but a great way to provide your soil with beneficial nutrients to help plant life thrive?  Composting is a process of taking everyday waste from your kitchen, or leaves and other natural matter and decomposing it to provide a rich fertilizer that you can use throughout the year, in your garden, on your lawn, and even for potted plants.

  • Compost systems range in size from small bins used to recycle a household’s scrap all the way to industrial sized bins for farmers.
  • Composting will benefit both the environment and your wallet!  When you make compost, you create a source of high quality nutrition for your garden and eliminate the need to constantly purchase a fertilizer.
  • Composting will improve the soil structure and moisture retention which can actually protect plants from certain diseases.

A good compost starts a home!  Begin your search for ingredients for your compost in your own backyard, kitchen and even your neighborhood.  What waste could you divert from the trash into your compost pile? Most of us can find a wealth of nutrient rich materials such as grass clippings, pine needles, cones, hay, manure, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds and dried leaves to turn into a soil nourishing compost.

Your goal to build a compost pile is to provide the best possible conditions for the proliferation of a hardworking micro-herd of organisms.  Begin your compost pile or bin with a compost starter.  This is done to introduce organisms to your pile. Composting piles or bins are quite simple actually, they need only a balanced diet, water, air and warmth.

Remember anything living can be composted, but the quality and quantity of the materials you use affects the process and determines the nutrient value of the finished compost.

The ideal Carbon/Nitrogen level ratio is 25-30 to 1.  You can achieve this by layering your compost.  Build your compost into alternating layers of high carbon materials like saw dust and high nitrogen materials like fresh grass clippings.

As with anything all living organisms need water, however; too much water will drive out air and will drown the pile.  Good, rich compost is about as damp as a moist sponge.  Make sure your compost pile is in a place that is well drained, you can achieve this by building the compost pile on a layer of sand.

Finished compost is one of the most versatile fertilizers you will ever use.  You can apply it freely at any time of the year without fear of buring plants or polluting water.  Compost can be used on vegetables, annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs and even in potting mixes for your house plants.  Composting is easy, beneficial to the environment and most importantly beneficial to your garden, lawn and all living plants!

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Victory Gardens

Victory gardens, also called war gardens or food gardens for defense, were vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens planted at private residences and public parks in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Germany during World War I and World War II. They were used along with Rationing Stamps and Cards to reduce pressure on the public food supply. Besides indirectly aiding the war effort, these gardens were also considered a civil “morale booster” in that gardeners could feel empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by the produce grown. This made victory gardens a part of daily life on the home front.

In March 1917, Charles Lathrop Pack organized the US National War Garden Commission and launched the war garden campaign. Food production had fallen dramatically during World War I, especially in Europe, where agricultural labor had been recruited into military service and remaining farms devastated by the conflict. Pack and others conceived the idea that the supply of food could be greatly increased without the use of land and manpower already engaged in agriculture, and without the significant use of transportation facilities needed for the war effort. The campaign promoted the cultivation of available private and public lands, resulting in over five million gardens in the USA[2] and foodstuff production exceeding $1.2 billion by the end of the war.

President Woodrow Wilson said that “Food will win the war.” To support the home garden effort, a United States School Garden Army was launched through the Bureau of Education, and funded by the War Department at Wilson’s direction.

In 1946, with the war over, many British residents did not plant victory gardens, in expectation of greater availability of food. However, shortages remained in the United Kingdom, and rationing remained in place for at least some food items until 1954.

Land at the centre of the Sutton Garden Suburb in Sutton, London was first put to use as a victory garden during World War II; before then it had been used as a recreation ground with tennis courts. The land continued to be used as allotments by local residents for more than 50 years until they were evicted by the then landowner in 1997. The land has since fallen into disuse.[13]

The Fenway Victory Gardens in the Back Bay Fens of Boston, Massachusetts and the Dowling Community Garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota remain active as the last surviving public examples from World War II. Most plots in the Fenway Victory Gardens now feature flowers instead of vegetables while the Dowling Community Garden retains its focus on vegetables.

Since the turn of the 21st century, interest in victory gardens has grown. A campaign promoting such gardens has sprung up in the form of new victory gardens in public spaces, victory garden websites and blogs, as well as petitions to renew a national campaign for the victory garden and to encourage the re-establishment of a victory garden on the White House lawn. In March 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama planted an 1,100-square-foot (100 m2) “Kitchen Garden” on the White House lawn, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt’s, to raise awareness about healthy food

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The American Flag and Memorial Day Fun Facts

Americans will be kicking off summer this weekend by celebrating Memorial Day.  Many people will celebrate with parades and barbecues.  Memorial Day is a federal holiday that marks the remembrance of the men and woman who died while serving their country in the Military.  It is also celebrated by proudly displaying the American Flag.

For more than 200 years, The American Flag has been the symbol of our Nation’s strength and unity.  In May of 1776 Betsy Ross of Philadelphia sewed the first American Flag.  There have been many versions of the American Flag.  Today the flag consists of thirteen horizontal stripes, seven red and 6 white stripe which represent the Thirteen Colonies.  There are 50 stars to represent the Fifty States.  The colors are also symbolic, Red symbolizes Valor and Hardiness. White symbolizes purity and Blue represents Vigilance, Perseverance and Justice.

There is a federal Law which determines the United States Flag Code.  Here are some of the general guidelines for the use of The American Flag.

The Flag should be lighted at all times by sunlight during the day and a light at night.

  • The American Flag should never be used as a decoration, red white and blue bunting should be used instead.
  •  When raising the American Flag it must be raised briskly.
  • When the flag is lowered it should never touch the ground and it should be lowered slowly and ceremoniously.
  • The Flag should never be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform.
  • When the flag is worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.
  • When displayed with other flags the United States Flag must be in the center and flown at the highest point of the group.
  • To store an American flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.
  • The Flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary.
  • Flag Day is June 14th and many American Legion posts conduct a flag burning ceremony on that day.

So display your American Flag proudly and take time to remember all the men and women who have given their lives to protect our freedoms.

Have a safe and fun Memorial Day.

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How To Change Your Pink Hydrangeas To Blue

How to Change Your Pink Hydrangeas to Blue

Longing for Blue hydrangeas? Your wait is over, follow these simple steps for beautiful blue blooms.

How can you turn your hydrangeas blue? The magic is in the soil. Most hydrangeas, except white ones, change color based on the pH or acidity levels of their soil. The soil pH can be altered until you get the perfect shade of blue.

Changing your hydrangeas to an amazing shade of blue does take some time. For larger hydrangeas, changing the color can take a season or two. Don’t worry, it will be worth it. So if Beautiful Blue hydrangeas are what you desire, just amend your soil with Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier. It’s that easy!

Soil for Blue Hydrangeas
Many soil acidifiers contain Aluminum Sulfate, which can be harsh and even toxic to some plants, such as Rhododendrons. For an organic garden, safe for people, pets and the environment lower your soil pH levels with Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier.

Before amending your soil and going blue, look at your garden. If there are plants growing near your hydrangeas make sure they also like acidic soil. If your hydrangeas are planted near concrete this may inhibit the process since concrete contains lime.

Now you are ready to change your pink hydrangeas blue!

Proper Acidity in Soil for Blue Hydrangeas
First perform a soil test to determine your soils exact pH level. For new hydrangeas plants, use 1º cups of Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier. To change mature hydrangeas blue, apply 2 cups of Organic Soil Acidifier. Apply evenly around the plants and water well.

Reapply every 60 days until the flowers are the perfect blue for you. To grow deep blue blooms, amend your soil pH to 4.5. For a lighter blue, amend your soil pH to be 5. For violet-blue hydrangea blossoms, your soil pH should be 5.5.

For beautiful blooms all season long use Holly-tone fertilizer for acid loving plants. Your beautiful hydrangeas will be the envy of all your neighbors.

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Berry Good Advice for Gardeners

Berry Good Advice for Gardeners

Let’s run through a berry quick overview to help you decide which berry to grow.

Strawberries

Strawberries are perennials (they come up every year). With so many varieties, there’s sure to be a strawberry that thrives in your garden. Plant in early spring. You can also grow them in a container.

Space plants about 18″ apart. Bury the roots, but not the center crown – it needs lots of light and fresh air and add mulch to retain moisture and discourage weeds. Expect ripe berries about 30 days after the blossoms are pollinated by bees. Strawberries multiply by sending out “runners” or long vine-like shoots.

 

Raspberries and Blackberries

Again, plant in early spring, spaced about 3 feet apart. Because raspberries send long canes upward as they grow, they will need support. Plant them next to a fence or create a simple support alongside the row with some stakes and wire.

Feed raspberries and blackberries in the spring and fall with a high-quality, organic plant food like Holly-tone. Water at a rate of about an inch per week and spread organic mulch three to four inches deep around plants. Raspberries ripen summer through fall and once they get going, raspberries can produce fruit for years – maybe even indefinitely.

Blueberries

Besides being delicious, blueberries are just what the doctor ordered – they’re loaded with healthy antioxidants. Blueberries require soil that is very acidic. You can easily increase the acidity of your soil with safe, non-toxic Espoma Holly-Tone. Blueberry plants come in high bush, low bush or rabbit eye varieties. Space them 6, 2 and 15 feet apart respectively. Plant in early spring. Set each plant slightly deeper than it was in its pot. Incorporate into the soil Bumper Crop Compost. Right after planting, spread a three-inch layer of organic mulch over the ground. Apply two inches of water weekly. Blueberries ripen mid to late summer.

Berry Care Tips

No matter which berry is your favorite, all of them like rich, well-drained, acidic soil (very acidic for blueberries), full sun, organic mulch and about 2″ of water per week. Even if you haven’t decided which berry to grow yet, getting started is as easy as one-two-three. Four and five, too.

Select a growing area with full sun.

  1.  Work the soil 8 to 10 inches deep and add peat moss. If planting in containers use Espoma Organic Potting Soil.
  2.  Mix in lots of rich organic Bumper Crop compost – especially if you have sandy or clay soil.
  3.  Feed with a high-quality organic plant food in the area around the root zone, such as Espoma Holly-tone®.
  4.  Pick when ripe and bursting with flavor and enjoy.

That covers the basics, but there is one more thing. Remember, you’re not the only one who likes berries. You can keep birds away by hanging shiny objects like foil strips or use Bird-X netting around your plants. When it comes to neighbors and family, you’re on your own.