Category: Garden

February Giveaway – Jobe’s Organics Fertilizer

What’s the secret to a bountiful vegetable garden? Healthy soil. Good soil, combined with ample sunshine and consistent moisture will produce a garden that’s easy to maintain and very productive.

Out at the farm we give the soil a leg up with Jobe’s Organics Fertilizer. Their products contain three essential microorganisms – bacteria, mycorrhizal fungi and a unique species of Archaea. Archaea sets Jobe’s apart from other microbial fertilizers because it is so aggressive, quickly breaking down material into nutrients for plants. Our tests of Jobe’s resulted in better looking plants, with increased resistance to weather extremes.

Do you want to try Jobe’s Organics out in your own garden? Leave a comment below for a chance to win an 8 pound bag of their Heirloom Tomato and Vegetable Food.

I’ll pick a winner on March 6th at 9:30 a.m. CST.

 

 Congratulations to Jim Allen! He’s the randomly selected winner of the giveaway. Get ready for a a bountiful vegetable garden this summer Jim!

Essential Tools for the Vegetable Garden

Walk into any garden center or flip through a garden supply catalog and you are bound to see an overwhelming number of garden tools. From hedge shears to hukari knives there is a tool for every task. When it comes to vegetable gardening there are seven essential tools you want to have on hand – a trowel, sharp shooter, garden fork, watering wand, hand pruners, staking materials, and twine.

Trowel – A trowel makes actions like digging, mixing and planting easier on you because it’s basically used as an extension of your hand.

Sharp Shooter – To create deeper, more precise holes, you’ll need a sharp shooter. This is a specific type of shovel with a long, narrow blade. It provides you with more leverage than a trowel and more control than a large garden shovel.

Garden Fork – Another great tool for working with the soil is a garden fork. Its primary function is to loosen or turn over soil, but it can also be used to rake out weeds or large rocks.

Watering Wand – Once your plants are in place, you will really appreciate the value of a watering wand. This tool allows you to be more precise in the amount of water applied to a particular area, which means more consistent watering with less waste. It also prevents some of the achy muscles associated with bending and stretching to water those hard-to-reach areas.

Hand Pruners – There’s nothing better than a great pair of pruners to manage the size and shape of individual plants. This is especially true when it comes to the lanky varieties that can easily over grow their bed companions. They are also handy for harvesting fruits and veggies with tough stems like tomatoes and peppers.

Staking and Twine – The last two things that every gardener needs to have on hand are staking materials and twine. These two work together to keep your vegetable garden in order. First, they provide an area for climbing plants to grow. And secondly, they create an aesthetic design element as a focal point in the garden.

Having the right tool for the job simplifies things and will ultimately give you more time to enjoy your garden.

Growing Edibles in Small Spaces

This is an excerpt from my column in AY Magazine. Read the entire article here.

You don’t need a lot of space to grow vegetables and herbs. In fact, in a 4 x 4 raised bed you can grow enough food to feed a family of four. You can supplement your groceries with edibles grown in containers, hanging baskets, pallet gardens and window boxes.

Need inspiration? Check out these photos.

You can grow many ebibles in a window box. Here I've planted cool season herbs, lettuce and strawberries. Geraniums are in the mix to take over when the weather warms.

Drill a few holes in the bottom and a galvanized pale turns into a chic planter.

GrowBoxes are ideal for limited space and time. The water tank and slow release fertilizer strip take the guess work out.

A pot of annuals or colorful vegetables creates a focal point in a raised bed.

Edibles and flowers make beautiful companions. Here I've planted dwarf cherry tomatoes, purple basil and red geraniums.

These 3 containers will yield plenty of strawberries, chard and English peas for me to eat.

Tomatoes are happy in pots. Choose a determinate (grows to a determined size) variety and stake as soon as you plant.

 

February Bloom: Camellia Japonica

One of the showiest blooms in a Southern garden makes its appearance in late February when everything else is still asleep. It’s the Camellia japonica, cousin to the autumn flowering Camellia sasanqua. While sasanquas tend to be delicate, Camellia japonica is a bold, fleshy flower that screams, “Look at me!”

With their dark, evergreen leaves Camellias make beautiful hedges and the blooms create a seasonal focal point.

January Giveaway – Self-watering Seedling Greenhouse

Congratulations to Anita Spence! She’s the randomly selected winner of the Self-watering Greenhouse. Check your email Anita for confirmation!

When it comes to sowing seeds I love English peas, sweet peas, hyacinth bean vine, gourds, yard long green beans and of course, sunflowers.

What’s your favorite plant to grow from seeds? Tell me for a chance to win a Jiffy self-watering seedling greenhouse. This handy seed starting tray comes with starter pellets, a no-mess self-watering mat and a lid to keep in moisture.

Enter your response in the comments section below and I’ll pick a random winner on Wednesday February 6, 2013 at 10:30 a.m. CST. Click here for the official rules.

Apple Seeds Teaches Kids Healthy Nutrition through Gardening

I want to get on my “seed box” for a minute about a topic that shouldn’t be a topic in one of the richest countries in the world – childhood hunger. Arkansas has the highest rate of childhood hunger in the nation. At the same time, approximately 38 percent of Arkansas students have been found to be overweight or at risk of being overweight each school year. My recent visit to Northwest Arkansas and the Apple Seeds afterschool program introduced me to those baffling statistics, but also made me wonder “how do we fix it?”

According to Beth Ashbaugh, executive director of Apple Seeds, it’s all about community buy-in.

Apple Seeds is an after-school program based in three Fayetteville schools that focuses on creating healthy lifestyles for students and their families. School gardens, cooking, field trips, and farm-to-fork initiatives are what make healthy living come alive for these students. Their hands-on activities help teach them to make lifelong nutritious food choices and to create a sustainable food system.

“Gardening is just the catalyst to get the kids interested in something they wouldn’t be likely to care about otherwise,” said Lucy Kagan, an AmeriCorp VISTA volunteer and the Plant to Plate coordinator for Apple Seeds.

At Owl Creek Elementary, one of the afterschool gardening programs, there are six adult volunteers that make the program a success. They have students work in the gardens, write about what they’re seeing, cook with the ingredients that they’ve grown, and eat these healthy snacks.
“The organization has been growing and empowering healthy children for seven years, but we saw a huge jump in the impact of the program once we started getting more community participation,” Ashbaugh said.

While Ashbaugh organizes the gardens and shows kids how to plant, she says that it’s the knowledge of the other program leaders that truly brings that information to life. A local chef teaches the students’ parents how to cook simple, healthy meals, the 5th grade science teacher uses the gardens as a lab for the students, and the school nurse instructs the kids on fitness and healthy living choices.

“Our mission can go so much farther when other people, especially experts, offer their skills,” Ashbaugh said. “One of our goals is to find community partners that we can set up with the resources that they need and support them. They, in turn, support these kids.”

Kagan’s goal is for every child to know where his or her food comes from, and she thinks the program is making that a reality.

“The change in attitudes that you see from kids after three weeks of working in a garden is amazing,” she said. “There’s an attitude of positive peer pressure with ‘who can eat the weirdest thing’ and the students see a connection with their bodies and what they eat. You never know what will lead kids to make better eating choices in the future, but it’s happening here every day.”

Just witnessing the program in action was an inspiration, but like Kagan and Ashbaugh pointed out, “there’s something like this in every community- it’s going mainstream now.”

“People are looking for alternatives. The economy is weak, we have more access to information about good foods versus bad foods, and people want to know about and cook their own food. They just need a little guidance and advice, and we can do that.”

I encourage you to reach out to these types of programs in your own community. You never know how your skills might help create healthier lives.

Win a Pair of Dramm Hand Pruners

I can’t believe what an awesome response we received on this contest. I wish I had more pruners to give away. Today’s winner by random draw is Tammy Hathaway. Congratulations Tammy and thanks to everyone for participating. I’m blown away.

People often ask me about which plants to cut back in autumn and when to cut them back. I advise to wait until a killing freeze to cut back perennials and pull out summer annuals. If a plant had problems during the summer always through the foliage in the trash rather than the compost bin to prevent carrying fungus and disease over into next year.

I like to leave some of my perennials and ornamental grasses uncut for winter interest and bird habitat. How about you? Do you prefer a tidy winter garden or is a little frowzy more your style?

Tell me in the comments section below for a chance to win a cool pair of Dramm ColorPoint™ Bypass Pruners. They are bright yellow, which makes it easy to find them in the garden. I’ll announce the winner on Friday November 02, 2012 at 9:30 a.m. CST. Click here for the official rules.

Dig In!

Congratulations to Cathy Bradford! She’s the winner of the “Clouds of Pink Garden.” Thank you to everyone who entered. Everyone in the office loves reading your comments.

It takes a lot of faith to plant a bulb in fall and trust it will grow and bloom the following spring. Patience too! Fortunately I have plenty of both because tulips are one of my favorite flowers. How about you? Tell me about the spring flowering bulbs you love the most for a chance to win my Clouds of Pink Bulb Garden.

I’ll select a winner at random on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 9:00 a.m. CST.

Use the comment form below to answer. Click here for the official rules.

There are 3 other bulb garden designs in my collection. All are available at independent garden centers. Check them out.

Super Star Shrubs Come in All Sizes

Shrubs have traditionally been cast in supporting roles with the occasional star billing for seasonal blooms or color. However, hybridizers are continuously introducing varieties with attributes that push these workhorses to center stage.

Size is one characteristic that has seen an increase in possibilities. Whether you need a shrub to create an enclosure or brighten the corner of a patio garden, there’s something for you.

From tall to small my friends at Proven Winners® have some fabulous shrubs to choose from. Here are 10 worth considering for setting a dramatic scene in your garden.

‘American Pillar’ Thuja (Arborvitae)
20 – 30 feet tall
3 – 4 feet wide
Evergreen
Full sun to partial shade
Hardy in zones 3a – 7b
This tall, columnar arborvitae is known for its dense branching and rapid growth. It’s an excellent choice for screening and creating enclosures. Learn more about ‘American Pillar’ arborvitae onProvenWinners.com.

Berry Nice® Ilex verticillata (Winterberry)
6 – 8 feet tall
6 – 8 feet wide
Deciduous
Full sun to partial shade
Hardy in zones 3a – 9b
I. verticillata is a deciduous holly with brilliant red berries in winter. It is very dramatic when planted in groupings. Learn more about Berry Nice® Ilex verticillata onProvenWinners.com.

Bloomerang® Purple Syringa (Lilac)
4 – 5 feet tall
4 – 5 feet wide
Deciduous
Full sun
Hardy in zones 3a – 7b
Unlike other lilacs Bloomerang® flowers in spring, then again midsummer and continues through the fall. A compact, mounding shrub that’s suitable for mixed borders, it has the same delightful fragrance you expect from lilacs. Learn more about Bloomerang® Purple lilac on ProvenWinners.com.

Incrediball® Hydrangea arborescens (Smooth Hydrangea)
4 – 5 feet tall
4 – 5 feet wide
Deciduous
Full sun to partial shade
Hardy in zones 3a – 9b
This North American native shrub produces impressive flowers (up to 12 inches across). I love it so much that I selected it for my Platinum Collection. Learn more about Incrediball® Hydrangea arborescens on ProvenWinnners.com.

Snow Storm™ Spiraea x media (Spiraea)
3 – 4 feet tall
3 – 4 feet wide
Deciduous
Full sun
Hardy in zones 4a – 8b
Snow Storm™ produces hefty white blooms in spring. Foliage turns a striking orange-red in fall. This is a good choice for mass plantings or as a seasonal focal point in a mixed border. Learn more about Snow Storm™ spiraea on ProvenWinners.com.

Little Henry® Itea virginica (Sweetspire)
2 – 3 feet tall
2 – 3 feet wide
Deciduous
Sun to part shade
Hardy in zones 5a – 9b
Little Henry® is the compact version of one of my favorite North American native shrubs. It will grow in sun or light shade and tolerates moist soil. Little Henry® produces showy white blooms in early summer and the foliage is fantastic in fall. It’s part of my Platinum Collection. Learn more about Little Henry® Itea on ProvenWinners.com.

Lo & Behold® Blue Chip Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)
24 – 30 inches tall
24-30 inches wide
Deciduous
Full sun
Hardy in zones 5a – 9b
Now everyone can grow a butterfly bush in their garden. This little shrub produces fragrant blooms from mid-summer through fall. It stays under 3 feet tall. It’s a great bedfellow for perennials and annuals or grow it in a container.  Lo & Behold® Blue Chip Buddleia is part of my Platinum Collection. You can learn more about it on ProvenWinners.com.

Show Off™ Sugar Baby Forsythia
18 – 30 inches tall
18 – 30 inches wide
Deciduous
Full sun
Hardy in zones 4a – 8b
Show Off™ Sugar Baby produces the same amount of bloom as larger Forsythia varieties but on a compact plant. Mass plant in larger gardens or use as a spring focal point in small spaces. I love it in a container, surrounded by daffodils and grape hyacinths. Learn more about Show Off™ Sugar Baby Forsythia on ProvenWinners.com.

Sunjoy® Mini Saffron Berberis thungergii  (Barberry)
18 – 24 inches tall
24 – 30 inches wide
Deciduous
Full sun
Hardy in zones 4a – 8b
Sunjoy® Mini Saffron sets itself apart with its compact form and dazzling foliage. The sunny yellow leaves tinged with orange turn a sunset orange-red in fall. Learn more about Sunjoy® Mini Saffron barberry on ProvenWinners.com.

My Monet® Weigela
12 – 18 inches tall
12 – 18 inches wide
Deciduous
Full sun to partial shade
Hardy in zones 4a – 6b
My Monet® boasts variegated foliage and pink flowers but in a petite form. Mix it with perennials and annuals in a flower bed or group several together for impact. It also grows well in containers. Learn more about My Monet® Wiegela on ProvenWinners.com.

Fertilizer Test

Whew. What a summer. It’s like Mother Nature has a magnifying glass pointed right at the central U.S. Here in Arkansas the growing season started about a month early this year. We were planting tomatoes in March and by the end of May it was as hot as July.

When the forecast is hot and dry for the foreseeable future the best thing for the vegetable garden is consistent, even moisture and an organic, water soluble or slow release fertilizer that won’t over stimulate heat and drought stressed plants.

My fertilizer of choice for edibles is Jobe’s Organics Vegetables and Tomatoes. It’s organic, but produces quick results. The granular and stakes are slow release and there is a new water soluble version too that’s perfect for our current weather.

The reason Jobe’s is my choice is it’s organic and it works. I can see the difference in the health of my plants and the flavor of the vegetables they produce.

This year I decided to put Jobe’s to the test to see how vegetables fed with Jobe’s matched up to those that went without. In early May I set up an experiment by planting two 6’x6’ raised beds with tomatoes and peppers. I added Jobe’s Organics Vegetables and Tomatoes granular fertilizer to the experimental bed and left the control bed unfertilized.

Over the summer, I’ve continued feeding with Jobe’s Organics water soluble. It’s easy to do with a hose end feeder, but you can also mix it up in a watering can.

In spite of the horrendous heat (11 days of near 100 and above 100 degree temperatures), both beds have continued producing a harvest, but the Jobe’s tomatoes and peppers are more robust and flavorful.

Are you curious how your vegetable garden would perform with Jobe’s Organics Vegetables and Tomatoes? Tell me how your garden is growing in the comments below for a chance to win a bag! Congratulations to Christine! She’s the winner of the Jobe’s Organics Fertilizer. Thank you to everyone for entering. Sounds like the heat and drought aren’t keeping you guys out of the garden!

Click here to find a store in your area that sells Jobe’s Organics.