Drip Irrigation

This short infographic on installing drip irrigation is a good place to start if you’re thinking of conserving water in your garden.

If you live with hard water, like I do, I do not recommend “weeping” type hoses because they soon become encrusted inside by the minerals in the hard water. Using a system with emitters, as in the information, below, is much more satisfactory.

Don’t cut corners by leaving out the filter in the line. You’d be amazed how much debris is in water systems. The filter keeps the small particles of debris from clogging up your emitters.

Enjoy!



Source: Fix.com Blog

Sunflowers

The following article is from Dave’s Garden, a fabulous website full of great horticulture information and more!

The History and Uses of Sunflowers

By Melody Rose
January 28, 2017
The humble sunflower has been a part of mankind’s existence for thousands of years.


The Incas and Aztecs worshiped sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) and believed that spirits of the dead were attracted to them because they reminded those spirits of the sun.

Sunflowers are native to the Americas and have not only been a part of legends and lore, they have nourished us and healed us for centuries. Evidence shows that they have been cultivated by man for about 5,000 years, making them a rival for corn as one of the earliest crops that ancient hunter-gatherers decided to settle down and grow. In fact, there should actually be a ‘fourth sister’ counted with the sacred Three Sisters of corn, beans and squash since sunflowers contributed so much to early man’s survival. They ate the young, unopened flower buds as a vegetable and the seeds were pressed for their rich oil.
The Spanish carried them back across the Atlantic and improved upon their qualities with selective breeding to create hybrids with larger heads and better harvests.

However, it was the Russians that embraced the humble sunflower and made it what it is today. Peter the Great was so enraptured by the sunflower during a visit to western Europe in the 1700’s that he brought seeds back with him and proceeded to instruct farmers to grow them. They really didn’t catch on until it was discovered that the edible oil the seeds produced was not on the list of fats and oils that the Orthodox Church banned for Lent. That discovery was a game changer and the Russians embraced the sunflower with enthusiasm. Even today, some of the largest and most productive sunflowers are Russian bred with the most popular variety, ‘Mammoth Russian’ known by millions around the world.

Sunflowers have some other interesting properties other than an oil source. The stems, leaves and roots produce a lovely, light green to yellow natural dye while the dark colored seed hulls give us reds, purples, grays and blacks. Mordant sunflowers with vinegar.

Folk medicine utilized sunflowers as a treatment for ailments from snakebites to rheumatism.
These plants also have a unique characteristic of being able to clear toxic elements from the soil. Sunflowers planted near industrial areas draw arsenic and lead from the ground and they were even planted around the Chernobyl disaster to help remove radioactive compounds from the fields. They are also used to reclaim boggy or marshy areas because of their ability to take up great amounts of water.
Today, sunflowers are an important agricultural crop with millions of acres devoted to seed and oil production. Sunflower oil is low in polyunsaturated fats making it a heart-healthy choice for people on restricted diets. The seeds are a wholesome snack consumed by millions and of course anyone who has ever filled a bird feeder knows what wildlife thinks about them. They also make up commercial feeds for poultry and livestock, providing much needed fats and nutrients to maintain healthy flocks and herds.

Mammoth Russian Sunflower. Find seeds in The Herb Cottage seed section.

Gardeners love sunflowers for their cheerful blooms that make excellent cut flowers and there are varieties that range from knee-high midgets to back of the border monsters. Plant sunflower seeds after all chances of frost are over, in full sun. They do best in well-drained soil rich in organic matter with regular water. Some of the tallest varieties (and they can reach well over 12 feet) might need protection or staking to keep them upright when high winds threaten, but they are mostly care-free. If you want to try sunflowers as a vegetable, pick the young buds before they open and steam much like artichokes. Let the spent heads dry on the stalks to save them for winter wildlife treats.
Sunflowers are easy to grow and seeds are quite inexpensive for gardeners on a budget. Even small children and the disabled can be successful sunflower gardeners. (a sunflower was the very first plant I ever grew from seed before I ever started school) They make a great garden plant for both school kids and nursing homes. The sunflower has a rich and colorful history and from the looks of things they should be popular for another 5,000 years.
About Melody Rose


I come from a long line of Kentuckians who love the Good Earth. I love to learn about every living thing, and love to share what I’ve learned. Photography is one of my passions, and all of the images in my articles are my own, except where credited.

Here is the original article on Dave’s Garden.

What’s Eating My Plants

Have you ever gone out to water your garden in the morning only to find holes in your plants’ leaves that weren’t there the day before?

As many of you know, I garden organically, using only safe products to combat pests and disease on my plants. I like to make my own products, but sometimes there are remedies that I cannot make that work so well. Safer brand makes some of the products I use. The following infographic and information was sent to me. I think it’s very useful and concise.

(I am not being compensated for posting this info.)


Most pest problems can be solved with four naturally-derived pest controls: neem oil, diatomaceous earth for bugs with an exoskeleton, B.T. for caterpillars, and insecticidal soap used on soft-bodied insects.

While the culprit in your garden may be pesky bugs, don’t rule out four-legged pests that can do large scale damage. If big chunks of leaves have been eaten, the vandal is most likely a deer. Keeping deer from eating your garden before you get a chance to is easily solved with a tall fence, six feet or higher, that puts some distance between them and your crops.  Damage on a smaller scale, and closer to the ground, can be caused by rabbits.

Rabbits can operate covertly, digging a crawlspace under any fencing or squeezing through gaps. Keeping them at bay may be done by knowing what their nose knows.  A rabbit’s sense of smell is what attracts them to your garden in the first place, so use it against them by planting onions on the edge of your garden, or sprinkle powdered red pepper. You can also consider making a hot cocktail to spray on your plants out of hot peppers, onions, and garlic.

Being proactive against a deer or rabbit invasion in your garden, however, may be the best method for keeping them out.  Plant deer-resistant plants along the inside and outside edges of your garden fences, or choose flowering perennials and annuals that will make your garden look beautiful and smell wonderful while still keeping rabbits away.

Some leaf-eating insects can cause so much damage in just a few days that your plants might be dead within the week!

Use this quick guide to identify the pest eating your plant and what solution would be best to keep that bug away from destroying your garden.

There are also a few additional insects, below the infographic, to keep an eye out for that could hurt your plant’s leaves.

what-eating-my-plants

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License. If you like our infographic, feel free to share it on your site as long as you include a link back to this post to credit Safer® Brand as the original creator of the graphic.

12 Bugs That Eat Leaves

Since you rarely see the pest that is eating your plants, you often have to decide upon a treatment by observing the damage done. Here are the most common culprits who are eating your leaves and what you can do about it.

1. Leafminers are larvae of flies, sawflies, and beetles that feed on leaves and causes discolored blotches or wiggly lines. Leafminers particular like columbine, mums, citrus trees and tomatoes. The damage is usually relatively harmless to the plant but if it does get out of control spray neem oil on the top and bottom of leaves to protect them.

2. Box suckers are wingless nymphs of the box psyllids often found inside ball shaped shoot tips in spring. To control the damage, cut off the shoot tips you find suckers and discard. The damage caused by box suckers looks like tiny holes poked into leaves. Aphids, squash bugs and spider mites are all sucking insects that cause this type of damage. Red spider mite damage will show yellow mottling on leaves. Gall mites will often cause raised pimples or clumps of matted hairs on leaves. Sucking insects are mostly harmless but you can keep them away by using insecticidal soap.

3. Scale insects cause tiny blister or shell-like bumps on leaf backs, sticky excretions, and sooty mold on plant leaves. The damage caused by scale insects could stunt growth so be sure to wash leaves off and spray with horticultural oil or neem oil.

4. Thrips are tiny black flies that suck sap from leaves, which causes white patches to appear on leaves and petals of mostly indoor plants. Get rid of thrips with diatomaceous earth (DE) or insecticidal soap.

5. Vine weevil larvae are cream-colored grubs with brown heads that feed on plant roots which causes plants to suddenly collapse. Adult vine weevils are flightless nocturnal black beetles that can make notches in leaves. To kill the larvae, use nematodes and, to kill adult vine weevils, use diatomaceous earth.

6. Caterpillars are probably what comes to mind for most people when you first see holes in your plant’s leaves. For the majority of caterpillars, you can take the time to rub off the eggs you find on the plant and pick off caterpillars. It’s best to go inspect your plants early in the morning, which is when you will most likely find them chewing away. You can also apply sticky traps to capture adult moths before they can lay their eggs on your trees and plants. There are several different kinds of caterpillars that might be causing the damage. Cabbage white caterpillars love to eat brassicas and nasturtiums. Tomato hornworms are the caterpillars who often damage fruits. To get rid of caterpillars, dust your plants with B.T. Caterpillars will leave black excrement dots called “frass” on leaves. Since earwigs can cause similar looking bite patterns in leaves as caterpillars, finding frass is a good way to tell if it is caterpillars that are damaging your plants.

7. Earwigs are usually more beneficial than harmful since they eat insect eggs and adult aphids. However, they do like their fair share of soft fruits and new plant growth. Sometimes, older leaves tend to be chewed around the edges and look ragged when earwigs are involved. Use a pot filled with hay to attract earwigs and then release elsewhere. If you’re determined to kill the earwigs invading your home, sprinkle diatomaceous earth around and on plants with bite marks.

8. Sawfly larvae are caterpillar-like white larvae that eat leaves on plants like roses, gooseberries and Solomon’s seal. Leaf rolling is a sign of sawflies. They lay their eggs on plants and their larvae eat the leaves, they make holes that still have some plant tissue intact so the damage looks transparent. It may eventually break down and leave holes. Use insecticidal soap or horticultural oil to protect your plants from sawfly larvae. You can also pick caterpillars off plants or spray with pyrethrum.

9.Viburnum beetles, both the adult and larvae, eat leaves, which can slow your plant’s growth and looks ugly. To get rid of viburnum beetles and larvae, throw out twigs in late summer that have viburnum beetles’ eggs on them or release lady bugs in the spring to capture the larvae.

10. Japanese beetles feed on flowers and the tissue between leaf veins. Their larvae often causes brown patches in grass. To get rid of Japanese beetles, spray your plants and grass area with neem oil and set up these Japanese beetle traps to capture the adults.

11. Slugs and snails like areas that are moist and shady and eat irregular-shaped holes in the leaf (but not along the edges). To see of snails and slugs are your plant-eating culprits, come out at night with a flashlight and look under leaves. Pour beer in a used, open tuna tin or plate to attract slugs and snails away from plants and into the beer. Slugs and snails often leave shiny trail on leaves and the holes are larger than a pencil eraser but smaller than a quarter. Slugs will also eat ripening fruit touching the ground. If you have a bad infestation, use Dr. T’s Slug and Snail Killer for quick results that won’t harm other beneficial insects.

12. Cucumber beetles can destroy an ornamental overnight. Cucumber beetles will leave tiny transparent circles on plant leaves. Take immediate action to control these plant bugs with diatomaceous earth or use row covers to protect plants before cucumber beetles become a problem.

Don’t think your plants are being eaten by any of these bugs? Animals can often eat your plants too so watch out for possums, rats, deer and rabbits around your garden.

The information in this post is from the Safer blog: 

For over 25 years, Safer® Brand has been a resource for organic gardeners and growers. We proudly offer the broadest and most successful line of OMRI Listed® organic gardening, organic fungicide and organic pest control products.

It’s Organic*, It’s Effective, It’s Safer® Brand.

*For use in organic gardening.

Tips for Germinating Seed

Growing your own plants from seed is so rewarding.

Bachelor Buttons
Bachelor Buttons- easy to grow spring annuals. Plant in the fall!

Planting seeds and watching for them to germinate is one of my favorite aspects of having a plant business. I grow most of my own plants from seed or cuttings. I buy a few small starts in from other growers, but mostly I start all my own stock.

I sell seeds from Botanical Interests for several reasons. One is their seed packs have beautiful artwork depicting the mature plant. Two is their prices are very reasonable. And, three, is they have fabulous Customer Service. Also, they are into seeds and gardening!! They clearly love their business and the seeds they sell to us.

There is lots of support for us sellers on their website, so I’m sharing the information about successful seed germination, below.

Many people I talk to at markets tell me they don’t grow from seed because they’ve never been successful or it takes too long. Well, I can’t argue with the time factor. Growing plants from seed is not for those who thrive on instant gratification. BUT, growing from seed has many rewards.

Personal satisfaction has got to be on the top of the list. Self sufficiency is a close second, especially if you’ve saved the seeds yourself from a previous crop or gotten seeds from another gardener. I have trees in my yard I started from seed! I am more connected to those trees because I started them myself from a small seed.

So! Gather up a few seed packs and try your hand at seed starting. It’s not really that difficult. Yes, there are some particular requirements, but many seeds germinate easily. One thing to remember, though, fresh seed germinates best. So, if you have seed packets hanging around that are over 3 years old, your rate of germination will be very low… and disappointing. Spend a little $$ and get some new seed to assure you have good results.

Most of the varieties in The Herb Cottage seed collection are easy to grow, whether you are looking for herbs, vegetables or flowers. I only charge $2.00 for postage no matter what size or order. So! Let’s get growing this Fall!

 Getting the Best Germination 

Botanical Interests assures that you are getting the highest quality seed in every packet. We buy from reputable suppliers, pre-test all of our seed by an independent laboratory before packing, and only accept seeds that exceed USDA standards. Some seeds are easier to grow than others. It is important to follow all planting recommendations on the back and inside of the packet. Below are some tips to ensure you get the best germination of your Botanical Interests seeds.

Keep moisture consistent – Keep soil damp, and cover with clear plastic or a clear tray until seedlings appear. After the seeds are sown and begin to absorb water, even a short dry period can be detrimental.

Sow at the correct depth – The seed depth measurement listed on the back of the packet is really important! Some seeds need a generous 1″ of soil covering them in order to germinate. Others shouldn’t be covered at all and should only be lightly pressed into the soil. For these, light must reach them to spark germination. It’s also possible to plant too shallow. Some seeds germinate best when they are well covered and in darkness. Generally, the smaller the seed, the more shallow it must be planted.

Prevent pathogens – Every gardener will eventually be hit with ‘damping-off’ fungus. Seeds will rot in the soil and not germinate, or they will sprout thin, spindly stems, then simply fall over and die. This disease can spread rapidly and wipe out an entire flat in a short time. The first step in preventing this unfortunate situation is to use clean pots and trays for planting. If you are re-using containers, be sure to wash them well, then sanitize with a 10% bleach solution (9 parts water, 1 part bleach). Never use garden soil from your yard to start seeds indoors. It will likely contain fungal spores. The best option is sterile seed starting mix from your local garden center.

If you mix your own, some gardeners like to sterilize their soil in the oven at 180-200 degrees F for 30 minutes to kill off any of the fungus. If you try this, be sure to put soil in a shallow flat or pot, no deeper than 4″ and keep covered tightly with aluminum foil while baking. Use a baking thermometer to gauge when soil reaches 180 degrees F, and do not over-bake. NOTE: I have never done this! But, I use new potting medium to start my seeds. 

After sowing seeds, be careful to keep your soil moist but not soggy. If possible, water from below by pouring water into the liner tray or use a flat with a wicking mat. 

Indoors, air circulation is also an important tool in preventing fungus. Place a small fan near your flat and keep it blowing on “low” during the day. Point it near the flat, but not blowing directly on it where it could dry out the soil quickly. Finally, if you have sown a lot of seeds in a small amount of space, be “brutal” and thin out the seedlings when too many germinate. Closely-packed, tiny stems provide the perfect environment for fungal growth.

Light Requirements – Indoors, be sure to keep your fluorescent grow lights on for at least 16 hours a day. This is important as artificial light is not as strong as sunlight, and some seeds need good light exposure to germinate. Conversely, some seeds will only sprout in darkness (as noted on packet). Be sure to cover them to the recommended depth, and turn your grow light on as soon as you see seedlings.

Temperature – Indoors, if your trays are close to a window, be sure to monitor them so they don’t bake in the heat and dry out, or get too cool. Some seeds require a specific temperature range for germination to occur. For example, pepper and tomatoes, although easy to grow in most settings, will do better with a heat mat underneath until they sprout. Conversely, sweet peas will germinate better in a cooler room that is only 55-65 degrees F.

Hard Seed Coat – Some seeds have hard seed coats and require “scarification” for germination to occur(i.e. sweet peas and morning glories). In nature, their hard seed coat helps to keep them viable longer. The fluctuating weather conditions of winter and early spring help to break down this coat naturally. There are two easy methods of playing Mother Nature and “scarifying” them yourself. You can soak them for 24 hours or nick them with a file before sowing to weaken the seed coat. See packet instructions for varieties requiring this extra step.

Stratification for Perennials – Some perennial seeds specifically require the fluctuating winter conditions of cold and moisture to germinate. You can often “trick” them into believing that they have gone through a winter by sowing them in pots with moist soil and placing them in the refrigerator for a few weeks. You may also have good luck by sowing them directly in the ground in the fall, so they can go through natural winter conditions outside. To do this, scatter them on the ground in the place you want them to grow. Follow recommended planting depth and then tamp them in firmly. An occasional watering in that area throughout the winter may be beneficial in dry climates. You may also try sowing them in containers outdoors. Even in cold climates, this can be quite effective. Try using large plastic pots filled with potting soil. Sow your seeds as noted on the packet, then cover with plastic and put them in a protected location. About once a month or more frequently during warmer periods of winter, give them a sprinkle with a watering can. Come spring, you may have a head start on your garden containers!

Edible Flowers- Beyond Nasturtiums, Calendula and Violets

Did you know Red Bud Tree flowers are edible… or Carnations… or the flowers on your Bean Vines?

Redbud Tree

Picture courtesy of Horticulture Update, Texas AgriLife Extension Service
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
January-February, 2008

Dressing up green salads with edible flowers is popular in restaurants and home-cooked gourmet meals with ingredients right from the garden.

What’s prettier than home-grown salad greens brightened up with orange Nasturtiums or purple and gold Violas? These edible flowers not only brighten up the visual aspect of a green salad, they add a spicy flavor, as well. Nasturtiums are peppery, while the flavors of Violas and Pansies have been compared to Wintergreen.

Nasturtiums

Photo from The Herb Cottage

Before using any flowers as edible additions to your plate, be sure you know how and where they were grown.

For instance, I would not use flowers bought in a floral department or a florist unless they were certified organic. Many ornamental flower growers use various chemicals to combat pests so the flowers look perfect. Flowers grown in other countries can be sprayed with chemicals that are banned here in the U.S. The best practice is to only use flowers you grow- without pesticides, of course, or from friends or a farmers’ market, after you’ve assured yourself they are free of chemicals.

There are myriad edible flowers beyond the common ones to add to salads, pancakes, drinks or canapes. I mentioned the Red Bud Tree. This tree is in the Fabaceae or family of legumes, like the acacia tree or Erythrina, the Coral Bean as well as some well-known vegetables such as beans, peanuts, peas and the like. The flowers from the trees in the Fabaceae family, IN MOST CASES, are edible, although the seeds are toxic.

But, I digress…. Redbud flowers are perfectly safe to eat and can be eaten raw or sauteed. Redbuds among the first to bloom in the spring, before they leaf out. They also produce large numbers of multi-seeded pods, from spring to late summer depending where it is.

Redbud Tree
Redbud Tree at The Herb Cottage. You can see it’s blooming the same time as the Bluebonnets. This pic taken 3/24/10.

Native Americans ate redbud flowers and the young pods and seeds raw or cooked. The flowers can be pickled. They have a slightly sour taste and are high in Vitamin C . They’re a pleasant addition to salads and can also be used as a condiment. The unopened buds can be pickled or used as a caper substitute. Add them to pancake batter for a fritter or freeze them in ice cubes and serve them in drinks.The flowers on the bean and pea plants you’re growing for vegetables are edible, too. Just don’t eat too many, or you won’t have any vegetables!

Many flowers growing on your herb plants are edible as well, with flavor similar to the leaf.

  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Basil
  • Arugula
  • Borage
  • Calendula
  • Chamomile
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Rosemary
  • and … don’t forget the Rose- It is, after all, considered an herb!

Above are just a few of the herbal flowers that are edible. The flavor ranges from milder than the leaf- as in Chives- or actually stronger and more tangy as in the Rosemary.

Garlic Chive Flowers
Garlic Chive Flowers

Clilantro Flowers
Cilantro in bloom
Other blooms you might not think of to eat include Carnations and Dianthus, Tulip Petals- with flavors ranging from fresh, baby peas to cucumber- NOTE: DO NOT EVER, EVER EAT TULIP BULBS!!!, Apple Blossoms, Pineapple Guava- sweet, tropical flavor, Yucca, Squash Blossoms- traditionally stuffed and fried, Hibiscus, including Okra flowers, Dandelions- of course, and Banana Blossoms.

Why not try some of these more unusual edible flowers in your next salad, punch bowl, pancakes or as a sauté over rice, quinoa or pasta? You might be surprised at discovering new flavors and uses for those herbs and garden flowers.

Here is more extensive information about Edible Flowers.

REFERENCES:

green line

QUOTE FOR THE MONTH

You’ve got to have something to eat and a little love in your life before you can hold still for any damn body’s sermon on how to behave.
-Billie Holiday, jazz singer and songwriter (1915-1959)

Fall Gardening- a Joyous Time to be in the Garden

vegmedleySeptember 2015

Gardening magazines and blogs this time of year, the Fall, are telling us how to put the garden to bed, preserve our harvest and settle in for the winter. I admit there’s something very cozy about cleaning up the vegetable, herb and perennial beds, covering them with a nice layer of leaves or mulch and letting them rest until next spring.

However, nothing could be farther from the minds of gardeners in the mild winter regions of the U.S. and elsewhere. This is the time for our lovely cool season herbs and vegetables to flourish. Instead of cleaning up the garden and putting it to bed, for us it’s time to clean up the garden and get it ready for another growing season.

vege_medley

I love the fall planting and growing season. The days are cooler so it’s much less stressful to be in the garden and the types of herbs and vegetables that grow so beautifully are healthy and flavorful, too. Think of broccoli, kale, cabbage, carrots with herbs such as dill, cilantro, fennel, chervil and celery leaf to add flavor and depth to recipes.

Even here in Texas, with our mostly mild winters, I love to do soups and pots of beans during the winter. Our non-air-conditioned kitchen is so much more pleasant than during the summer. And, on cold days, a pot simmering on the stove helps keep our old farmhouse warm.

Planting a fall garden can be done with transplants or by direct seeding. Direct seeding, of course, is more economical, but lots of people like to start with transplants. Finding specific varieties in transplants may be difficult, and starting your own from seed isn’t difficult. But, of course, it’s up to you how you want to start your garden. Root crops- beets, carrots, radishes… are best direct seeded and you’ll almost never see transplants for those.

If you’re planting in an area that was used for a spring and summer garden, you’ll want to add some fertilizer in the form of compost or a dry fertilizer that can be mixed with the soil. It would be helpful to have mulch available to spread around any transplants you use. Direct seeded crops should be allowed to come up a bit before mulching.

Fall crops such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale may attract little green worms that will devour the new leaves.

Cabbage Looper
These little guys can devour a small seedling overnight! Keep a vigilant watch out for them!

These are known as cabbage loopers and are the larva of various moths.

A handy, completely non-toxic way to deal with them is to cover your crops with a spun row cover material. This is a lightweight fabric that lets in light and water, but keeps the moths away from the plants so they cannot lay their eggs on your crops. There are several brands on the market and it’s getting easier to find at many retailers or on-line.

Another way to combat the little buggers is with a product that contains the ingredient Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). Bt is certified for use in organic production and only targets the worms. It destroys the worm as it chews on the leaf. Bt is found in quite a few garden products now in ready-to-use spray, a concentrate that you mix with water or in a powder form. Be sure to follow all directions on the package.

Go ahead and jump into the Fall gardening season with joy! The weather is cooling off, many of the bugs are gone and the crops you can grow now are so nutritious and varied, you’ll never get bored with your harvest.

Continue reading “Fall Gardening- a Joyous Time to be in the Garden”

Growing Perennial Flowers From Seed

Perennials are those plants that last year after year without needing to be reseeded or purchasing new plants. Generally, perennials are divided into 2 groups: evergreen and true perennials.

Echinacea or Cone Flower
Echinacea or Cone Flower

Evergreen varieties are those that don’t freeze down every Winter. These are mostly found in milder Winter areas, although many shrubs and a few flowers will be evergreen in colder climates. And, of course, “Evergreens” like pines, fir, cedars, etc. are called that because they are Ever Green!

In mild Winter areas, there are many evergreen types of flowers and shrubs. They don’t bloom all year, but the plant remains green even when dormant. Some of these bloom in the winter and are dormant in the summer and some are the opposite.

True perennials are flowers that grow and bloom in a particular season, usually the warm weather- spring or summer- and then the growing parts freeze down with the first frost. The frozen parts can be cut down to near the ground to neaten the garden.

If there are seed heads, however, like on some of the smaller sunflower types or Echinacea, aka Cone Flower, those should be left for the birds to feed on in the Winter. They can be cut down in early Spring when the seed heads are empty and new growth is peeking up. These perennials then start new growth in the Spring- early for some, late for others- and grow and flourish for another season.

Perennials can be the backbone of a flower bed because even after the flowers have faded, the plant still sports foliage that fills in during the rest of the season. Perennials are generally slower to grow from seed and may need up to 3 years to create a full size, mature plant.

Here’s an old gardening adage about perennials planted from seed: The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap!

If you’d like to grow perennials from seed, it takes patience. If you plant them in the garden when they’re small you can fill in around them with annuals until they attain their mature size.

Spanish Lavender Plant
Spanish Lavender is a short lived evergreen perennial for me

Four Tips for Perennial Success from Botanical Interests Seeds

  • Sow perennials that do not need *stratification 8 to 10 weeks before your average first fall frost. This allows time for the seed to germinate, and plants to establish a root system large enough to survive the winter.
  • Sow perennials that need stratification after a hard, killing fall frost. This ensures that they will not sprout until the following spring.
  • Mark the spot. Label the area of sown seeds.
  • In a dry winter be sure to water late summer and fall-sown perennial seeds and seedlings just as you do your trees.

Check your Botanical Interests seed packet for specific instructions on stratification! Don’t forget to look inside the seed packet for more information!

*Stratification is the process of helping to break the seed coat of a perennial seed. In nature it is done by the cycles of cold and rain. We can recreate that process ourselves by placing seed in a moist growing medium and placing the seed in the fridge for a few weeks. Then, removing the seed and allowing it to germinate at a warmer temperature. Here’s more than you ever wanted to know about seed stratification!

Here at The Herb Cottage, I don’t sell too many perennial flower varieties. Echinacea or Cone Flower is one I do sell. I sell mostly annuals because they’re so easy from seed. Here’s an article on Fall Seeding of Annuals.

There are some herb varieties that fall under the perennial or evergreen category in mild Winter regions such as rosemary, oregano, parsley- technically a biennial- stevia, Mexican Oregano and a few others that are very slow to germinate.

Rosemary and Oregano Plants
Rosemary and Oregano at The Herb Cottage

They can be successfully planted in the Fall to come up in the early Spring and grow out as the weather warms.

I find it very rewarding to grow perennials from seed because of the time it takes. I feel my patience is greatly rewarded when I have a mature perennial successfully growing that I started from seed!

Sowing Annual Flower Seeds in the Fall

Cosmos, Bright Lights
Cosmos, Bright Lights

Fall is a great time to sow seeds directly in the garden or even a large container. These seeds will be ready to germinate when the temperature and moisture level of the soil is right for each type of seed. Both annuals- those one-season, brightly colored flowers that I love because they then reseed, and perennials- those flowers that grow all season and flower for several weeks at a time- can be planted in the Fall.

Texas Bluebonnets
Texas Bluebonnets

Timing is the key to successful Fall seed sowing. That and remembering that you planted seeds in a spot and don’t go digging around planting something else there!

Follow the directions on the seed packet for how deep to sow. I always sow thickly in the fall so I have a nice full garden later on!

 

Here are some tips from my seed supplier, Botanical Interests, to help you get started:

Start planning next season now!

Fall-sown annuals will emerge as soon as Mother Nature cooperates, allowing plants to grow larger more quickly and bloom earlier than spring-sown annuals.

If you live in an area with frost and snow, sow the seeds after a killing freeze but before snow (late October, early November in most areas) or you can also sow in late winter between snows. The snow helps bury seeds and insulates them, helping to retain the seeds’ moisture.

Sweet Peas
Sweet Peas

In southern states and other mild winter areas, you can sow in late September for winter bloom. Adding a little sand to the seeds not only helps space seeds more evenly, but also gives you a better visual aid of where you sowed in case you need to water over a dry winter. Don’t forget to mark what and where you sowed with stakes so you don’t accidentally weed out emerging flowers!

And, remember, Botanical Interests seed packets have pictures of the seedlings along with lots of other information on the inside of the package!

So… what can you sow now? Here’s a short list:

Calendula
Calendula
  • Bachelor Buttons
  • Cosmos
  • Flax
  • Hyacinth Bean
  • Morning Glory
  • Nasturtium
  • Poppies
  • Sweet Peas
  • Texas Bluebonnets
  • Zinnias

You can find the seeds above at the seed pages here on The Herb Cottage Website. 

Do yourself a big favor and make some time this fall to sow some flower seeds. It’ll save you time, money and work next spring. Growing annuals from seeds is so easy and rewarding. 

And, for successive years… many of the varieties I’ve mentioned will reseed. Just don’t deadhead them until the flower heads have dried. Then, deadhead the spent blooms and distribute the seeds where you want the flowers to grow. OR, put the seeds in an envelope, label them and save then until the fall. Keep the seeds dry and cool. A frost-free refrigerator is perfect!

 

Midsummer Bloomers

It’s full-on Summer now, and here in my part of Texas, the heat is a killer… of plants, I mean. Many, many summer annuals grown in other parts of the country just don’t survive our July-October heat and intense sun. There are a few, though!

happy_summer-5173[1]

Here’s a nice, concise article by Neil Sperry, longtime Texas Garden Guru, on some colorful annuals that take our summer heat. Some grow in more shade then others, but all grow in the high heat and humidity of Texas.

Plant some in your southern, Gulf Coast gardens now and enjoy them until the first frost.

 

Re-evaluate Your Garden

Is your garden taking up more and more of your time and giving you fewer rewards? Do you feel like all you do is deadhead annuals, water and water again without being able to enjoy your yard? Well… here’s an article addressing just that issue.

I hope you find it useful. I did. It caused me to look at the plantings in my rural property differently and hopefully, make some changes.