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Blog Calendar - Nature / Outdoor / Green

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Gardening Blogs

20 February 2020

Gardening Blogs
  • What Makes A Plant An Heirloom: Are Heirlooms Better Than Hybrids
    20 February 2020

    Interest in heirloom plants has blossomed in recent years, and you may be interested in trying your hand at growing heirlooms in your own garden. But first, exactly what is an heirloom plant and what makes a plant an heirloom? The answer isn’t as simple as you may think, but the following information should help.

    What Makes a Plant an Heirloom?

    All heirloom plants are open-pollinated, which means the seeds that produce the same characteristics as the parent plant from one year to the next. Hybrids don’t “grow true to type” when planted by seed. Generally, open-pollinated plants are pollinated not by people, but by insects or wind.

    The term “open-pollinated” can be confusing, however, because potatoes, garlic, and certain other plants are typically propagated vegetatively and not by seed, but they can still be heirlooms.

    There are other characteristics that make a plant an heirloom, and these characteristics are up for debate. Some experts claim that heirloom plants must be at least 50 years old, or that they originated before World War II. Others say the cut-off is 1951 – the year plant breeders introduced the first hybrid cultivar. Still, others say heirloom varieties date back to 1920 or l930.

    Either way, the seeds of heirloom plants are passed down from generation to generation. Some may be descendants of plants grown by early Native Americans.

    Are Heirlooms Better Than Hybrids?

    Are heirlooms better? Maybe, or maybe not. Both heirlooms and hybrids have distinct benefits. The best choice depends on several factors, including your preferences and your gardening style.

    Many people prefer heirlooms because they usually have a much better flavor and a more vivid color. Heirlooms may even be more nutritious. However, heirlooms aren’t as smooth and perfect as hybrids, and you may notice quirks and imperfections.

    If you’re concerned about aesthetics and you prefer a more uniform appearance, you may like hybrids better. Also, germination of heirloom seeds may be slow or staggered, which may be a benefit if you prefer that your crop doesn’t ripen all at once.

    If you’re new to gardening, or if you don’t like the idea of spending a lot of time tending vegetable plants, you may prefer hybrid varieties, which are more dependable, tend to produce larger crops, and are bred to be pest- and disease-resistant. On the flip side, heirlooms grown in your region may be “locally adapted,” making them hardier and better able to withstand pests and disease that plague plants in your area.

    Choose heirlooms if you want to save the seeds for replanting. By growing heirlooms, you are preserving the genetic diversity of the plants, as some heirloom plants are threatened by extinction. Of course, heirlooms aren’t genetically modified, so if you’re growing an heirloom plant in the garden, you just may be growing a little piece of history too, especially those that are fairly rare and difficult to come by.

    The post What Makes A Plant An Heirloom: Are Heirlooms Better Than Hybrids appeared first on Gardening Know How's Blog.

  • A Trip to Sanderson, Texas
    20 February 2020

    Sanderson, West Texas—a beauty and a danger all its own.  Let’s take a walk through a dry stream bed on a large ranch located in the Trans-Pecos region of Texas.

    It’s dry now but with heavy rains there are flash floods that race through the stream bed causing the water to quickly rise.   My nephew, Daniel, witnessed one such flash flood and cautioned, “Aunt Ann, if you had to get across you would be killed.”

    Ranch property in Sanderson, Texas

    In spite of the rugged conditions, unusual desert plants courageously endure. The wildflower, Apache Plume, provides a bit of softness. To see Apache Plume in bloom, click here.

    Apache Plume

    Texas Sotol finds it’s niche in solid rock.

    Green Sotol

    And even honey bees find a place to start a hive.

    Bee hive in rock above a stream bed

    Creosote bush, one of the most drought tolerant plants in North America, survives and even thrives in the region’s adversity. To cope with lack of water, the leaves drop off and the bush can live for two years without a drop of rain.  Creosote leaves have a pungent, oily smell. The oil has been used for centuries to create hand salve. And of course, dry hands and West Texas go hand in hand!

    Cresosote Bush

    Sanderson was designated the “Cactus Capital of Texas” by the state legislature in 1999 for its abundance and variety of desert dwelling plants such as the claret cup, horse crippler, fish hook, barrel and prickly pear cactus.

    Prickly Pear Cactus

    Goodbye for now to a land of diverse plants and topography. This Sanderson sunset punctuated by faded Sotol spikes ushers in the night.

    Sanderson at sunset


    Ann Lamb

  • Cooking From Scratch: 3 Ways to Dry Food at Home
    20 February 2020

    Preparing food from scratch means steering clear of pre-made sauces, canned goods, store-bought pasta, or other ready-made ingredients. Put simply, you’ll be pretty much making almost your own food and necessary ingredients. You’re the one who’s going to produce raisins, beef jerky, and other dry food, too. It’s not that hard to dry your own…

    The post Cooking From Scratch: 3 Ways to Dry Food at Home appeared first on FarmFoodFamily.

  • 7 Simple Techniques to Improve Garden Soil
    20 February 2020

    Healthy soil is important for growing strong, vigorous plants that resist pests and diseases and produce abundantly. Whether you are starting with fresh, quality soil or gardening in your native topsoil, improving your soil is a continuing process.

    Soil is alive and made up of many parts, including mineral particles, water, organic matter, air, and microorganisms. The balance between these parts is what needs to be sustained for a healthy garden.

  • Win Passes to the Maryland Home & Garden Show in the February 2020 Washington Gardener Reader Contest
    20 February 2020

    For our February 2020 Washington Gardener Reader Contest, Washington Gardener is giving away five pairs of passes to the Maryland Home & Garden Show (including Craft Show) at the Maryland State Fairgrounds (prize value: $24).
      The Maryland Home and Garden Show ( is back at the Maryland State Fairgrounds for two weekends (Saturday, February 29–Sunday, March 1, and Friday, March 6–Sunday, March 8) with 400 contractors and experts to make it all possible. This year’s theme will showcase gardens with beautiful outdoor entertaining spaces. In today’s busy world, we all need an inviting outdoor place to enjoy with family and friends. The Maryland Orchid Society will present a stunning flower show and sale with thousands of orchids on display on the second weekend. Visitors will be amazed at the many varieties of these spectacular flowers! Several Maryland wineries at the show will offer free tastings with bottles available for purchase.
       To enter to win a pair of passes to the Maryland Home & Garden Show, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 5:00pm on Wednesday, February 26, with “Maryland Home & Garden Show” in the subject line and in the body of the email. Tell us what your favorite article was in the February 2020 issue and why. Include your full name and address. Winners will be announced by March 1.
  • Looking Back at Last Spring
    20 February 2020
    Remembering flowers past
  • 5 Easy Garden Crafts Anyone Can Do
    20 February 2020

    Summer is a busy time! Here are five easy garden crafts that can be completed in under an hour. They are super simple–suitable for any age and don’t require any special tools. Best of all, you can proudly put them out in the garden right away to enjoy!

    These are very in-expensive crafts. All the materials are common things you may already have round the house, garage or garden shed. If not, you can find everything you need at your local thrift store, or places like Lowes or Michaels crafts.

    5 easy garden crafts: 1) Plant flowers in a boot

    Find a pair of boots. They can be rain boots, but cowboy boots or Xtratufs are just as whimsical. Drill drainage holes in the bottom. Fill with potting soil to just under 3/4 full. Add your flower, then water!

    2) Whimsical flower stake

    Aluminum pans are light-weight and virtually unbreakable. They are easy to stick in the garden or a planter on the back deck. Pans like these are almost always on the shelf at a thrift store.

    Spray paint a cake pan. Use a battery drill and skinny drill bit to drill a hole thru the center of the pan. Use a screwdriver tip to screw the pan to a wooden garden stake. (Make sure the screw is short enough not to poke out the backside of the stake.)

    Use a strong weather-proof glue (E-6000 or Silicone) to affix the centerpiece of the “flower”. If you wish, you can also spray paint a plastic spoon ‘green’ and make a leaf.

    3) Honey bee & butterfly bar

    The honey bees get thirsty after a busy morning of pollinating your flowers. Sadly, they will easily drown in a birdbath just trying to get a drink of water. So here’s one of my favorite easy garden crafts.

    Make a bee bar that will be greatly appreciated by butterflies and other pollinating insects, too!

    Use a shallow glass or ceramic baking dish or the tray under a clay pot. Gather small stones or use glass beads to 3/4 full. Fill with water. The bees can safely land on the stones or beads to quench their thirst. Drinks on the house!

    4) Paint on rocks

    A traditional favorite and fun for any age. Painting rocks is a terrific way to enhance concentration and focus. It helps to gain a sense of imagination and creativity all at the same time. Rinse the rock (s) and allow to dry before painting. Any ordinary craft paint will work. Get the basic colors and learn how to mix them to get any other color. A great rainy day project.

    Here’s some ideas:

    • Find rocks shaped like veggies and paint them up to mark rows in your vegetable garden.
    • A round rock can be a ‘smiley face’
    • An oval rock, a lady-bug
    • Personalize the rock by putting a name on it, like: ‘Mary’s garden’, or ‘Granny’s garden, then give it as a gift

    Join our community! If you love garden and art, you’ll love our monthly newsletter that’s friendly and full of good ideas to make your garden a special place. SCROLL DOWN just a bit to sign up. You’ll also receive my FREE Top 10 Garden Decor tips, too!

    5) Simple flower pot people

    2 clay pots of the same size. If you don’t have any at home, they are easily found in the garden centers of places like Lowes or Home Depot.

    One pot (right-side up) is the face. The other pot (up-side-down) is the dress. Use regular craft paint. When done with both, use a strong glue or silicone to glue the top to the bottom. Fill the head with your favorite flower or houseplant.

    While the one I made is simple, you can always add buttons or ribbon, use plastic ‘googly eyes’ or whatever you’d like to bring extra charm to your flower pot guy or gal.

    More garden topics we hope you’ll enjoy

    Trash to Treasure: goodies you can use in the garden

    How to create a simple “Secret Garden”

    How to get the most out of your garden decor

    The post 5 Easy Garden Crafts Anyone Can Do appeared first on Make it a Garden.

  • Plant of the Week: Ribes roezlii
    20 February 2020
    This week's beauty is Ribes roezlii or Sierra Gooseberry, a west coast native shrub. I fell in love with it because of the winter-blooming tiny fuchsia-like flowers and bought me a one gallon plant at Seven Oaks Nursery in 2018. 

    My plant is in full bloom right now. 

    Ribes roezlii gleaming in the sun

    Notice the bright red sepals when the sun is shining on them, contrasted with the dark red when it's not, below.

    What was surprising to me is how tiny the flowers are. Check out my daughter's hand holding the penny for scale.

    The evergreen leaves are also tiny and slightly glossy. And then there are the thorns!



    This is not an easy plant to photograph. 

    There are red berries that ripen later in the summer but I haven't seen them yet on my plant. 

    This Ribes seems to be a slow grower and mine is still in a pot. Eventually I'll find a semi-shady spot for it and let it take off. If I don't kill it first. So far, so good. 

    Native plants are all the rage right now. This is good news because it means more of them will be for sale at nurseries! 
    Do you grow any native plants?
  • The Wife, The Flu, and the Ecstacy of Entering a Gardening Dream State
    20 February 2020

    Cincinnati, Ohio

    January 23, 2020

    Dear Marianne,

    What a treat it was to receive your letter dated January 22nd. And so publicly too! What fun.

    Despite myself, I somehow got caught up in flights of fantasy borne from your descriptions of your bucolic existence in the benevolent hills far enough west of D.C. to be out of the gridlock and yet still within the outer rings of its wealth. You have a good life there by the fireside with your Jack Russell, your garden (which I imagine to be picture perfect), and your former marine (whom I imagine is likewise).

    Here’s our dog. He’s a spastic, old, not so smart and mostly blind mutt at the end of a long line of people handing him off to other people, but he has a heart of gold.

    I couldn’t help but be reminded of how different things are here in the bitter, gritty, gloomy, and surly Midwest. The temperature has been oscillating here so violently that it has cracked buildings. Even our six-story skyscrapers! Yet, it’s always gray. Gray, leaden, heavy, oppressive, American gray, English grey, depressing as hell, and a daily kick in the gut gray. And the rivers are all flooding. There’s worry the levy might break and wipe out the trailer park. Currently I’m cut off from my nearest source of a Big Gulp by high water. Oh, and everyone I know, including me, is sick.

    This weekend, Michele, who is never sick, got the flu. Started Saturday while she helped me move brush and branches from around the yard to the driveway. She’s usually such a good sport, but she was kind of lagging and losing focus. I was getting irritated, because I’d been pruning like a maniac and the yard was starting to look like a log jam. Eventually, we had gotten it all into a big pile by my old, rusty truck that won’t start, being sure to make it is as unsightly as we could and plainly visible to any county official that happens to drive by. Next thing I know, she’s practically passing out. And I had hoped she would cook that night.

    As you mentioned, Michele has a sweet smile, an amazing smile. And she was so innocent when we got married that I had to instruct her on how to use it with police officers, bouncers, and the occasional asshole boss. But, when we both finally got in bed Saturday night, it was like that mouth had never smiled before ever. All it knew how to do was cough on me like I was in the first wave of liberators trying to come ashore and it was a germ machine gun.

    A glimpse at that sweet smile. Taken last year during better times.

    To my amazement, I awoke Sunday still feeling okay, but had to make an escape. It’s been a winter of working nights and weekends putting together PowerPoints, articles, and forever trying to get caught up at work. Michele’s mom died after a quick illness in December. My mom has pinged and ponged from home to hospital and now to a rehab center, and I too have been bouncing around between home and a dentist for a fourth try at a new crown and between various doctors trying to figure out why my left ear has been ringing off the hook. This included a horrible outpatient MRI, which required that I be totally still in an absolutely claustrophobic situation for what seemed like hours, even, as I’m quite sure, the staff were making fun of my crotch. Fortunately, the MRI didn’t find any of the tumors they were looking for in my noggin, so, yes, they examined my head and found nothing. Just chronic sinus infections. Two rounds of heavy antibiotics later, and my digestive system is so out of whack that I’m willing to promise anyone anything if it means I no longer have to live with myself. And now Michele had the flu and I was probably going to get it.

    The garden beckoned, and I followed the call.

    My mossy path brings me joy all through winter.As does Epimedium stellatum’s spectacular winter foliage. (BTW, I could have moved that stick and some of the leaves, but in the interest of journalistic integrity, I left them there.

    So Sunday there I was, gardening again like a lunatic. Finished cutting down a Japanese Raisin Tree that was causing three of my own seed-grown Katsura to lean right and starting to shade out the Arborvitae that are screening my neighbor’s shed. A bit of a bitter pill, because I had also grown the Raisin Tree from seed. In fact, I had germinated this species, planted it out, and lost it over winter three times until a friend I won’t mention had—under potentially dubious circumstances—gotten me seed that was supposedly from a cold hardy provenance from somewhere out there in the world that best remains unnamed. Well, bingo, this seedling survived every winter, grew like a son of a bitch, started shading out other stuff, and, at best, could be described as boring. It was probably too big for me to take down myself, and I wound up actually proving that when it fell just off target and stripped about half the branches of my Halesia diptera ‘Magniflora.’ This was a favorite tree of mine. Such is the lot of the impulsive gardener with a chainsaw and not a lot of money.

    A pile of brush ready to go to the County composting lot. This includes an entire Japanese Raisin Tree, and parts of various Katsura, Gingko, Yellowwood, Poliothysis, Chinese Lilac, several Viburnum, Halesia diptera ‘Magniflora,’ three or four Japanese Maples, Cucumber Magnolia, Bigleaf Magnolia, ‘Yellow Bird’ Magnolia, Dawn Redwood, Parrotia, various Hornbeams, and more. It’s like a freakin’ arboretum blew up.Aftermath of a massacre.

    After bucking the Raisin Tree, I patched up the Halesia as best I could. The branching structure was about as squirrelly as they come without any help by me; now I feel I just sculpted in a way to empower it to show off its true self. Well, anyway, that’s what I’ll tell people.

    But as the afternoon progressed, I reached that magical state where my entire existence became about the task at hand. No extraneous thoughts. Just focus. So insanely rare. The ringing in my ear was forgotten. My mother’s care plan, put aside. Michele suffering in the house somewhere, only strayed into my thoughts, when, on occasion, I would look up to see yellow wisps of coronavirus fog leaking out of small cracks in the siding of our house. Achieving this state of oblivion, this full immersion in my work, it was like an injection of jet fuel into my heart and soul!

    By the time I had finished, I had greatly added to the pile in the driveway, I’d dug up a stump, and transplanted into that hole a tall, skinny, and surprisingly heavy Chamaecyparis of some species and selection I’ve long forgotten, lugging it clumsily but quickly across the yard like it was an 80 pound, 3’ x 12’ human organ that needed to go immediately into a patient.

    The Chamaecyparis in its new home.

    Then I replanted a couple patches of Epimedium and Corydalis which happened to get “outed” when the stump got grubbed out and the Chamaecyparis got moved. Eventually, I even found a little time to admire some blooms of hellebores, snowdrops, Iris reticulata, and a witchhazel.

    Spring is just waiting to be unleashed! Sure sign of this is Iris reticulata coming into bloom.

    Sedum and a Thyme chomping at the bit.

    Monday, Michele’s doctor said she had the flu and by that evening I had a bad cough. Yesterday I got worse and woke up this morning with every nerve ending signaling that every cell in my body was at Defcon Five Crisis Mode and each of my many coughs felt like a demon carpenter was going at my throat with a rasp. An appointment with my doctor this afternoon put me on two new meds, including a new round of antibiotics. Great.

    When I got home, it was almost sunny and relatively warm, so I visited the hellebores, snowdrops, Iris, and witchhazel. Sure, they are in a sea of mud with errant plastic plant tags, fresh stumps, a winter’s worth of dog poop, a pool cover full of dirty water and leaves, a plastic bucket or two, a rusty pickup, and a mile high pile of brush all trying to photo bomb every picture I take, but despite that frustration they sure are a much needed tonic. As much or more so than Tamiflu.

    So anyway, thanks for the letter. I’ll pick up on some of your other themes next time. In particular, I want to go after those sourpuss types you mentioned that throw shade on all the new gardeners who are not “pure” enough. But, for now, some chicken soup and bed.









    The Wife, The Flu, and the Ecstacy of Entering a Gardening Dream State originally appeared on GardenRant on February 19, 2020.

    The post The Wife, The Flu, and the Ecstacy of Entering a Gardening Dream State appeared first on GardenRant.

  • Springing up in the veg patch
    20 February 2020

    There hasn't been a lot to crow about in the winter veg patch but with the sun shining this morning, I found myself muttering 'This is a lovely day' (despite a 'fresh breeze' as the Met Office like to call it).  A little bit of sunshine makes everything look more promising. Making my way towards home, I diverted my steps for a quick look at the veg garden; every day makes a difference especially after the two recent storms. Plants were noticeably doing their planty growing thing and, with a spring in my step, I resolved to spend an hour in the garden before lunch.

    Somewhere between the veg patch and home (only a few minutes walk), I switched to thinking about doing a bit more work on the hedge in the car park garden. (I really must think up another name for that space, Car Park Garden doesn't quite do it justice.) The Euonymus hedge needs some very severe restorative pruning to encourage it to bush up from the base and I need to tidy up the space to see if there's room for a mini greenhouse.

    What started as a sunny but breezy moment of pruning soon turned into a battle against a gale force wind. And then it rained. Time for lunch, I told myself, and packed my tools away. I had managed a couple of hours but, admitting defeat for the day, I headed back indoors and turned my thoughts back to the veg garden - surely spring can't be far off, if only the weather would make up its mind.  I'm wondering if I should sow some chilli seeds.

    Despite the changeable weather, the UK winter has been kind to us namby-pamby Southerners. On my earlier walk round the veg patch I'd snapped a few photos:

    I was surprised to see wild garlic already well under way...  Wild garlic has such a reputation for spreading that some might think me foolhardy for deliberately growing it. Not to worry, so far it's been remarkably self-restrained and seems happy to occupy just a few feet of soil under the cherry tree. Possibly the lack of regular watering (no nearby hosepipe) makes things inhospitable for new seedlings.

    And so to broad beans. A bit of an experiment this as it's the first time I've tried over wintering beans. I set them out next to support sticks last December; tying them in now that they've grown is on the to-do list, although not being secured to stakes might have saved them from being ripped in half during the strong winds of Storms Ciara and Dennis. What I did notice (with not a little excitement) was that flower buds are starting to form on the plants and not a aphid in sight. Hopefully I'm not jinxing things with that last observation.

    Kale is one of my winter veg patch staples, a vegetable I add to stir fries, soups, smoothies and, when the mood takes me, an omelette. It keeps going even in the harshest winter and it looks pretty. Even if it's covered with an ugly trellis to keep foxes off.  The Cavolo Nero plant that has kept going for so long has started to form flower buds - these are still edible but this is the second time the plant has run to seed; it has served me well. It feels very fitting that new plants will be raised from last summer's saved seed.

    Looking ahead, the weather forecast is looking predictably gloomy (possibility of hail tomorrow!). So any gardening will be in short bursts while I go back to planning my seed sowing calendar indoors.

    So let me leave you with this thought - aren't spring flowers just awesome?

    Self seeded and so pretty. 

    Tulips that I thought I'd dug up last year. Can't remember how many years these have been in.

    First forget-me-nots are starting to flower. Some blue, some pink. And in profusion.

    Ever reliable cowslips. 
    Now I'm thinking I should move some of these to the Car Park Garden

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