All posts by sunrise-saltbox

Plant a Bee-autiful Garden!

More and more gardeners are anxious to plant a bee garden. By planting a bee garden, you too can do your part to help the bees by adding to the shrinking inventory of flower-rich habitat in your area.  In return, the bees will pollinate your flowers, providing a bountiful harvest of fruits, seeds and vegetables as well as the joy of watching them up close. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind as you grow your bee garden:

RETHINK YOUR LAWN

Replace part or all of your front lawn grass with flowering plants, which provides food and habitat for honey bees, bumble bees, solitary bees, butterflies and other pollinators. 

SELECT SINGLE FLOWER TOPS FOR YOUR BEE GARDEN

…such as daisies and marigolds, rather than double flower tops such as double impatiens. Double headed flowers look showy but produce much less nectar and make it much more difficult for bees to access pollen.

SKIP THE HIGHLY HYBRIDIZED PLANTS

…which have been bred not to seed and thus produce very little pollen for bees.

PLAN FOR BLOOMS SEASON-ROUND

Plant at least three different types of flowers in your bee garden to ensure blooms through as many seasons as possible. This will provide bees and other pollinators with a constant source of food.  For example:

  • Crocus, hyacinth, borage, calendula, and wild lilac provide enticing spring blooms in a bee garden.
  • Bees feast on bee balm, cosmos, echinacea, snapdragons foxglove, and hosta in the summer.
  • For fall, zinnias, sedum, asters, witch hazel and goldenrod are late bloomers that will tempt foragers.

BUILD HOMES FOR NATIVE BEES

Leave a patch of the garden in a sunny spot uncultivated for native bees that burrow. Some native bees also need access to soil surface for nesting. For wood- and stem-nesting bees, this means piles of branches, bamboo sections, hollow reeds, or nesting blocks made out of untreated wood. Mason bees need a source of water and mud, and many kinds of bees are attracted to weedy, untended hedgerows.  You can also support our Sponsor-a-Hive program, which places solitary bee homes (and honey bee hives) in school and community gardens across the U.S.

ONLY USE NATURAL PESTICIDES AND FERTILIZERS

Avoid using herbicides or pesticides in the bee garden. They not only can be toxic to bees but also are best not introduced to children or adults that visit your garden. Ladybugs, spiders, and praying mantises will naturally keep pest populations in check.

CREATE A “BEE BATH”

Bees need a place to get fresh, clean water. Fill a shallow container of water with pebbles or twigs for the bees to land on while drinking.  Make sure to maintain the container full of fresh water to ensure that they know they can return to the same spot every day in your bee garden.

LIVE IN A HOME WITHOUT A GARDEN?

You need only a small plot of land for a bee garden—it can even be a window container or rooftop—to create an inviting oasis for bees. Every little bit can help to nurture bees and other pollinators.

https://thehoneybeeconservancy.org/plant-a-bee-garden/

Got Milkweed? Butterflies love this plant and you should too!

MILKWEED BASICS

Milkweeds (Asclepias) get their name from the sticky white sap that oozes from the leaves when they are damaged. More than 100 species of this herbaceous perennial are native to the U.S. and Canada. Many have adapted to different regions of the country and a wide range of climates and terrains, from deserts and rocky areas to marshes and open prairies. Some species grow exclusively in specific regions while others will thrive in just about any habitat.

Types:

Three species of milkweed are good all-around choices for gardens in most regions of the country: common milkweed (A. syriaca), swamp milkweed (A. incarnata), and butterfly weed (A. tuberosa). The last two are highly ornamental and available in a variety of cultivars. To help sustain monarchs and other butterflies, you should plant at least a few milkweed species that are native to your area. Download this milkweed information sheet from Monarch Joint Venture for regional recommendations.

Flower characteristics:

The petite, star-shaped flowers of milkweed are exquisitely designed for pollination. They grow in clusters of five nectar cups, each with incurved horns above the petals. When an insect lands on a flower, its feet slip between the cups and the pollen sacs attach themselves to the legs. When the insect moves to the next flower, the horns collect the pollen. Equally well designed are the large, fluff-filled seed pods that develop from the fertilized flowers. In the fall, these proficient self-sowers split open to release hundreds of seeds borne on silken parachutes.

Height:

2 to 5 feet, depending on the species

Zones:

3-9

Why it’s a must for monarchs:

Milkweed is both a food source and a host plant on which the monarch lays its eggs, depositing them on the underside of the leaves. The larvae then feed on the leaves after hatching, but cause no permanent damage to the plant. In turn, the toxic chemicals contained in the sap of milkweed plants make both the caterpillars and adult butterflies unappetizing to predators. “[During monarch migration] flight is fueled by nectaring on the flowers and is punctuated by laying eggs on milkweeds. To grow and sustain each generation, milkweed is the only food needed,” says Agrawal.

Milkweed’s highly fragrant and nectar-rich flowers are an enticement for other pollinators as well. Frequent visitors include native bees, honey bees, many other types of butterflies, and hummingbirds. Read more about the best perennials for pollinators.

GROWING MILKWEED

Where to plant:

Most milkweeds require full sun (at least 6 to 8 hours a day). Because they self-seed readily, locate your plants in a part of the garden where you can better control their rampant spread, such as at the back of the border or in a corner. A spot that’s protected from the wind will also help prevent the spread of seeds while providing a more hospitable environment for butterflies.

When to plant:

If you’re planting milkweed from seed, sow the seeds outdoors in the fall, which will give them the period of stratification (exposure to cold, moist conditions) they need to encourage spring germination and ensure a good display of flowers the following summer. If you purchase starter plants, plant them in the spring after the danger of frost has passed.

Soil:

The best soil type for milkweed often depends on its native habitat. Most varieties are extremely forgiving and will grow well in average garden soil. Swamp milkweed is an exception and requires moist, humus-rich soil.

How to plant:

To ensure successful germination of milkweed seeds, plant them in a smooth, clump-free soil bed worked to a fine consistency using a rake or rototiller. After you’ve sown the seeds, compact them into the soil (but don’t cover them) to provide good soil-to-seed contact. Keep the planting bed moist until the seedlings become established. As your plants begin to take off, thin out any plants that are spaced too closely together so they don’t compete for sun and soil nutrients.

Spacing:

To attract multitudes of monarchs to your garden, plant milkweed in groups of six or more, spacing plants or thinning seedlings to about 6 to 24 inches apart, depending on the species. Monarchs are very good at finding a milkweed plant, but the more you have in your yard, the more likely they will find it and lay their little eggs all over it. Plant as many plants as you have room for.

Propagating:

Many milkweed species can readily be grown from root or rhizome cuttings as well as by seed. Take the cuttings during the late fall or early spring when the plant is dormant and has more energy reserves. New sprouts will form from the cuttings when the weather warms and will often produce flowers the first year.

MILKWEED CARE

Like most wildflowers, milkweed is easy to grow and requires very little pampering. Most species are not seriously bothered by heat, drought, deer or other pests. And because milkweed is a native plant that tolerates poor soils, fertilization isn’t necessary.

Mulching:

You can mulch milkweed if you want to control weeds or retain moisture, but not all varieties will benefit. Swamp milkweed will appreciate your water-retention efforts, but milkweeds that prefer dry soil, such as common milkweed and butterfly weed, are usually better off with no mulch.

Pruning:

As with many flowering perennials, pruning the flowers soon after they have withered will result in new buds and may extend the blooming period for several weeks. Clipping spent flowers to stimulate new growth will also prolong the availability of nectar for monarchs and other pollinators.

Pest control:

Some plant pests such as aphids, whiteflies and milkweed bugs are immune to the toxic effects of milkweed and may feed on the leaves and seed pods, but they rarely cause significant damage. Also remove leaf litter and spent stalks in the fall to eliminate overwintering sites.

How to control spreading:

If you don’t want milkweed to take charge of your garden, remove the seed pods in the fall before they split open and release their contents or tie them closed with string. For plants with rhizomes, thin them out by hand by pulling the entire plant, including the roots, removing as much of the rhizome as possible. This will be easier to do when the plants are young and before the roots are well established.

Handling precautions:

Be aware that the toxic alkaloids in the sap of milkweed that help protect the monarchs from predators can cause eye and skin irritation and are poisonous to pets and other animals when ingested. Take the appropriate precautions and wear gloves, long sleeves, and long pants when working with these plants.

https://www.gardendesign.com/plants/milkweed.html

Houseplant of the Month: Peperomia

If you live in a small-efficiency apartment, you probably don’t have the space for a showy, sprawling monstera or a towering ficus. You need something petite that can comfortably sit on an end table or windowsill. And unless you’ve been fortunate enough to find an apartment with an abundance of natural light, you probably need something that can survive in a sliver of sun. You need a peperomia.

Peperomia Varieties

Peperomia is a compact little plant that does well with a moderate amount of light. The low-growing, bushy foliage comes in a wide range of colors and shapes. Peperomia argyreia (watermelon peperomia), for instance, has fairly large leaves and a pattern resembling watermelon rinds while Peperomia clusifolia‘s leaves have pink edges. Peperomia griseoargentea’s leaves are dark green with deep veins that create interesting texture.

How to Grow Peperomia

Plant peperomia using a houseplant potting mix in a pot with drainage holes in the bottom. This plant’s roots require a lot of oxygen, so it’s a good idea to mix perlite, sand, or even gravel in with the soil to keep it from becoming too compact over time.

Watering Schedule

Peperomias hold water in their thick succulent-like leaves and stems, so they’ll be perfectly happy if you abandon them for a few weeks of vacation. In fact, they prefer the soil to dry out in between waterings, so as a general rule you can expect to water them only every other week.

Light Requirements

Peperomias do well in moderate light to partial shade. They can tolerate low light as well, though the plant won’t be as hardy and the beautiful look of the foliage may suffer.

Got Spring Fever? Visit the flower gardens at Keukenhof in Holland!

Have a bad case of Spring fever? Let’s go to Holland! Ok, maybe we all can’t hop on a plane, but we can take a video visit to Keukenhof where you will experience the gorgeous views of blooming Dutch tulips and other flowers for which Holland is famous. Keukenhof is the most famous and largest flower park in the world and lies not far from Amsterdam.

7 million flower bulbs

 


 

Tulips from Holland are world famous. If you want to see the Dutch tulip fields in bloom, you should visit Holland in April and May. This is the same period in which the biggest flower park in the world, Keukenhof, opens its doors.

Keukenhof is a park where more than 7 million flower bulbs are planted every year. Gardens and four pavilions show a fantastic collection of: tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, orchids, roses, carnations, irises, lilies and many other flowers. You will be overwhelmed by a spectacle of colors and perfumes.

March Houseplant of the Month – Pothos

Whether you are new to houseplants, or have a tendency towards killing anything you bring home, have we got a plant for you. Pothos, or Epipremnum aureum, is a lovely plant that is probably the easiest houseplant to grow. You have probably seen them in dorm rooms, offices, or even tropical locations like steamy bathrooms. Speaking of tropical, you might have even seen a few whose trailing vines have grown to 10, 20 or even 30 feet long. They are not a terribly finicky plant as they tolerate low light and lax watering habits. They are perfect for those of us who are too busy, or consider ourselves non-plant people.  It is a great plant for those looking to find fulfillment caring for houseplants.

Pothos plants do well in ordinary, well-draining potting soil. They tolerate low natural light (even growing under fluorescent lights), or shady spots in a warm-weather garden. Ideal is bright, indirect light. You should let the plant dry out between waterings as too much water will rot the roots.

Due to their trailing habits, Pothos are a great way to get trendy by growing yours in a cool macrame hanger. Want another reason to pick up this popular plant? They are an air purifier removing harmful chemicals. So if you are looking for a starter plant, or just a plant that’s as easy to care for as it is easy on the eyes, bring one or two home today!

An Easier Approach To Roses

Maybe it’s time to break up with your roses.

Every year it’s the same… the snow melts and the rose bush in your garden that has been lying dormant all winter springs to life with the hope and promise of summer. You gently lie your soaker hose under it, and comment how lovely it is looking this year. It flirts with the unfurling of tender, green leaves, and soon colorful little buds are sprouting. You give it a sidelong glance…you think this time it will be different.

However, by mid-summer it’s the same story. You’ve mulched, you’ve watered – taking special care not to dampen the leaves, but one day you see it: the dreaded spot. And by mid-summer the rose bush that you were certain would be a blushing beauty, looks more look more like a sad, spindly bundle of sticks with a few dried out buds and some black-spotted leaves hanging on for dear life. Where did you go wrong?

Don’t blame yourself…

Anyone who has devoted their time and attention to cultivating roses knows they have the reputation of being a bit touchy. Typically, if you see a rose plant with full, lush foliage and heaps of blooms all summer, it has probably had a fair share of coddling to get that way, and even then, they are susceptible to a number of maladies.

The main thing to remember is you shouldn’t blame yourself. Sure, it would be great to be one of those people who can grow magnificent roses. Fact is, you probably are one of those people. That’s right, it’s time to confidently declare that you, yes you, can grow a great rose. It’s easy – when you start with the right plant.

It’s Oso Easy

All of the plants that carry the Proven Winners® ColorChoice® name go through rigorous trials before they reach your favorite garden center. Roses, especially, are subjected to a gauntlet of challenges to make sure they merit inclusion in your garden. The process starts by growing the roses in containers in a greenhouse. They are never sprayed with fungicides. They are overhead watered each day, and kept in the same container for 2-3 years until they’re so stressed that most of them succumb to disease. Survival of the fittest. Only if they’ve made it through the first 3-4 years of the trial with clean, disease-free foliage, vigorous growth, and abundant flowers do they make it to the next phase. On average, the process takes ten years. Though hundreds upon hundreds of rose selections have gone on the trash heap in these trials, fifteen have been deemed worthy of introduction and have been honored with 32 prestigious awards.

One such success story is At Last® rose. Available in garden centers this year, At Last rose was one of the few that proved itself in these rigorous trials. It was chosen for its superb disease resistance and ability to continuously bloom all season long, combined with a rich spicy fragrance that, until now, has never been found in a disease resistant rose. At Last roses never fail to impress with a season-long display of large, sweetly perfumed, sunset-orange blossoms complimented by handsome, glossy foliage. Blooming from late spring through frost with a vigorous, rounded habit, this no-nonsense beauty is ideal in any landscape or flower garden.

Rigorously trialing plants is hard work and time consuming, but it is also rewarding to be able to introduce beautiful, easy care varieties like Oso Easy® roses. With the broadest color range of any landscape rose, all 12 varieties are dressed for success with an impressive display of non-stop color. Oso Easy roses also boast surprising hardiness (some varieties thrive down to USDA zone 3) and are strong rebloomers with dark green, glossy foliage and exceptional disease resistance – plus their tidy habits make them ideally suited to all your gardening and landscaping needs.

Still not sure you have time to take care of rose plants? Low maintenance is the hallmark of Oso Easy and At Last roses – they are self-cleaning, meaning their petals fall off when the flowers fade, instead of turning brown and withering on the plant. That’s right, they require no deadheading or pruning, just give these roses at least 6 hours of sun a day and regular watering, and they’ll give you year-after-year of natural, easy-care beauty all season long. Sounds like a match made in heaven.

What Are the Effects of Rock Salt on Lawn Grass?

Rock salt is commonly used as a deicing agent, helping prevent winter accidents on roads, driveways and sidewalks. Road crews often add rock salt as a preventative measure when wintry weather is predicted. The same qualities that help the salt break through the ice make it deadly for your lawn. In addition to harming your existing lawn, rock salt can keep grass from growing for years.

Moisture

Salt removes the moisture from the soil, keeping it from getting to your lawn’s roots. The plants become dehydrated and die. If the salt touches a growing grass blade, it takes the moisture out of the blade as well, leaving it brown and withered. Touching dormant grass blades doesn’t do much damage, but the damage to the soil can keep dormant grass from getting the water it needs to grow in warmer weather.

Toxicity

Salt tends to separate into its basic ions when dissolved in water. The sodium ions block grass roots from getting necessary nutrients such as calcium, potassium and magnesium. The chloride ions are absorbed by the roots instead, growing to toxic levels. When the grass contains too much chloride, it can’t produce chlorophyll effectively and will starve when it can’t turn the sun’s light into energy.

Duration

Soil naturally contains small levels of salt, especially if it’s fertilized regularly. A few wayward chunks of rock salt won’t harm your lawn. Large amounts can stay in the soil for years, though, accumulating every year until the salt creates an environment toxic to your grass. Salt stays there until it’s leached away by rainwater, which means you won’t be able to plant new grass until the salt is gone. You can speed this process by watering the damaged area thoroughly. Give it deep soakings daily as soon as the weather is warm enough to help drain the salt below the lawn’s root level.

Options

You can’t control what your local government uses to keep roads ice-free on those occasions when icy conditions are expected, but you can help protect the areas of your lawn near the road by installing temporary snow or silt fencing. It blocks much of the salt, keeping it off your lawn. You can also cover your grass with plastic sheeting, held down with rocks or landscape staples. For your driveway or sidewalks, try an alternative ice-melt product. Garden centers often carry some that are labeled as safe for landscape use, or you can try sand or kitty litter to give you traction over small, slippery areas.

Most Birds Say “We Love Sunflower Seeds”

The seed that attracts the widest variety of birds, and so the mainstay for most backyard bird feeders, is sunflower. Other varieties of seed can help attract different types of birds to round out your backyard visitors. In general, mixtures that contain red millet, oats, and other “fillers” are not attractive to most birds and can lead to a lot of waste as the birds sort through the mix.

Sunflower

There are two kinds of sunflower—black oil and striped. The black oil seeds (“oilers”) have very thin shells, easy for virtually all seed-eating birds to crack open, and the kernels within have a high fat content, extremely valuable for most winter birds. Striped sunflower seeds have a thicker shell, much harder for House Sparrows and blackbirds to crack open. So if you’re inundated with species you’d rather not subsidize at your black oil sunflower, before you do anything else, try switching to striped sunflower.

People living in apartments or who have trouble raking up seed shells under their feeders often offer shelled sunflower. Many birds love this, as of course do squirrels, and it’s expensive. Without the protection of the shell, sunflower hearts and chips quickly spoil, and can harbor dangerous bacteria, so it’s important to offer no more than can be eaten in a day or two.

Sunflower is very attractive to squirrels, a problem for people who don’t wish to subsidize them. Some kinds of squirrel baffles, and some specialized feeders, are fairly good at excluding them. Sunflower in the shell can be offered in a wide variety of feeders, including trays, tube feeders, hoppers, and acrylic window feeders. Sunflower hearts and chips shouldn’t be offered in tube feeders where moisture can collect.

For more information – https://www.allaboutbirds.org/types-of-bird-seed-a-quick-guide/

February Featured Houseplant: Aloe Vera

Aloe (Aloe spp.), an easy-care succulent, has distinctive elongated leaves that fan out in a vase shape from a central base. Try smaller varieties such as Aloe vera on a sunny kitchen window. Aloes work nicely in dish gardens and in rooms with Southwestern decor. Keep the spiky leaves away from high-traffic areas. The aloe vera plant is an easy, attractive succulent that makes for a great indoor companion. Aloe vera plants are useful, too, as the juice from their leaves can be used to relieve pain from scrapes and burns when applied topically.
 
HOW TO CARE FOR AN ALOE VERA PLANT
 
•Place in bright, indirect sunlight or artificial light. A western or southern window is ideal. Aloe that are kept in low light often grow leggy.
•Aloe vera do best in temperatures between 55 and 80°F (13 and 27°C). 
•Water aloe vera plants deeply, but infrequently. To discourage rot, allow the soil to dry at least 1 to 2 inches deep between waterings. Don’t let your plant sit in water.
•Water about every 3 weeks and even more sparingly during the winter. Use your finger to test dryness before watering. If the potting mix stays wet, the plants’ roots can begin to rot.
•Fertilize sparingly (no more than once a month), and only in the spring and summer with a balanced houseplant formula mixed at ½ strength.

ALOE VERA GEL

To make use of the aloe vera plant’s soothing properties, remove a mature leaf from the plant and cut it lengthwise. Squeeze the gel out of the leaf and apply it to your burn, or simply lay the opened leaf gel-side–down on top of the affected area. 

Do not ingest the gel, as it can cause nausea and other unpleasant symptoms.

It’s Time To Plan Your Spring Veggie Garden

What should I plant? How much should I plant? And where should I plant it? If you’re new to gardening—and even if you’re not—starting your garden can, at times, feel overwhelming. The good news? You don’t have to be a master gardener to create a garden plan that yields a healthy harvest. Here are a few tips to help you kick-start your home garden.

Give It Some Thought

As it does with most endeavors, it pays to think through your garden project before you order your seeds or shop for plants in the Spring. Which vegetable varieties really pique your interest? How much land can you commit to a garden? (Be sure to allow adequate space between rows!) How much time do you have to devote to weeding, mulching, watering, and other garden maintenance? Which plant hardiness zone do you call home, and which plants thrive in that region over the course of the year? Answering these questions will help you develop a garden plan that suits your land and lifestyle.

Whether or not you are new to gardening, prioritize the crops that excite (or perhaps intrigue) you. And if you had a garden last year, make sure to rotate your crops this year, moving the location of each plant family to increase soil fertility and crop yield. Consider saving seeds from your garden, too. With just a few extra considerations, you can also plan to save seeds from your garden.

Choose A Good Location

Most vegetables grow best when they get at least six hours of sun a day, so be sure to plant your garden in a sunlight-rich location. If that sunny spot is close to a convenient water source for irrigation, that’s even better. Sowing your seeds or planting your transplants near a water source will make it easier to keep your soil at the optimal moisture level..

Start Small

Bigger doesn’t always mean better when it comes to basic garden planning. If you’re new to gardening, or if you have limited time to devote to your garden, commit to a plot size that won’t overwhelm you and concentrate on a selection of vegetables you like to eat that are also easy to grow. Radishes, lettuce, spinach, and carrots are just a few of the crops that don’t take a lot of time or experience to produce a harvest.

Pay Attention To Your Soil

There’s no way to overemphasize the importance of good soil: your garden will grow best in nutrient-rich, well-drained, weeded, and loosened (non-compacted) soil. Before you plant each spring, take the time to enrich your soil with quality compost or other organic matter if you want to boost your soil’s fertility and your garden’s production. Mulch (like leaves, straw, and hay) also adds valuable nutrients to the soil and will cut down significantly on your need to weed.

Grow What You Love

What’s the point of growing vegetables you don’t like to eat? Let your palate dictate your choices when choosing your crops, but try to stay open to planting at least a couple new vegetables each year to keep your home garden a bit more exciting. The last thing you want is to have your garden feel like a chore rather than a source of inspiration and relaxation.

Keep Your Tools Simple

Truth is, you don’t need to invest a lot in tools for weeding and breaking up soil or otherwise preparing your soil for seeds or transplants.

How to Care for Garden Tools

Properly caring for your tools will ensure that you enjoy gardening with them for many seasons to come.

5 can-do tool-care tips

  1. Easiest of all, maybe: Simply rinse soil off digging tools after each use, by making a pit stop at the garden hose. Dry thoroughly. A stiff brush hanging by the tap would make for even more thorough cleaning.
  2. It’s often recommended to place a bucket of sand moistened with linseed oil inside the garage, and quickly dip tools into the abrasive, lubricating mix a few times after using them.
  3. Linseed oil is likewise good for wood handles. Hang a rag near the sand bucket to give a quick wipe to wooden tool handles, too. Allow the rag to dry in the open between uses, and when disposing, dry thoroughly first or soak with water before placing in a closed metal can.
  4. Most important of all: Get the tools indoors, and hang them up! Don’t lean them against the garage wall, touching the floor—even if it’s paved. Again, moisture is the enemy here.
  5. Good-quality pruning shears should last a long time—unless you let sap and other residues build up on the blades. As if they were the silverware after supper, wash them. Yes! A quick stop at the sink, with soap and a nail brush or scrubby pad, is ideal. Dry well, and replenish lubrication on the pivot point only. A drop or two of a penetrating product such as 3-in-One oil is better than a lightweight spray lube, which evaporates quicker. Use mineral spirits to remove residues, but preferably prevent them in the future with the quick-wash routine. Invest in a sharpening device meant for shears–a whetstone, or a carbide sharpener, such as you might use for knives or scissors–to complete the care regimen, giving the blades an occasional pass.