Lettuce be careful out there

I remember as a kid on hot summer days drinking from the garden hose. The water always tasted funny. No doubt as the hose baked in the hot summer sun it gave a distinctive flavor to our refreshment. Today we are warned and studies confirm that water from a garden hose can contain in addition to bacteria some toxic chemicals. I am told lead levels, bromine, phthalates, BPA and other ugly stuff I can’t pronounce can be in your garden hose. I just wet my plants. Better be safe than sorry, don’t let your kids drink from the garden hose. It does explain a lot about me. I’ve considered bottling water with the garden hose taste to sell. There may be other baby bloomers out there like me who might buy it just for nostalgia sake.

I just wet my plants

In addition I was intrigued when I saw a British study about garden injuries and what lands people in the hospital. Garden hoses were on the list and in the top ten. I’m sure as a tripping hazard when left laying around. “Water” you waiting for? Roll up that hose. Of course the top issue was the lawn mower with everything from injuries while servicing to foot injuries while mowing to flying projectiles! It is without surprise the lawn mower tops the list in both the UK and the US. The number 2 item on the British list is quite surprising however. Flower pots were the second listed item causing gardening injuries. I would suspect hand cuts and dropped pots as well as lifting causing back injuries. Don’t let your day “go to pot” with a trip to the ER. Get your neighbor to help.
Pruners, spades, Electric hedge trimmers, shears, and garden forks all obviously made the top ten list. Interestingly the innocent hose and sprinkler made the list of dangerous accident causing objects. I suppose if you set the sprinkler and run it could result in a mishap. A significant amount of injuries however occur when an unintended “trip” is the result of an errant garden hose. It’s far better to take a trip to the beach and put your toes in the water than to end up at the doctor. I would think weed whackers would be on the list. Your “whipper snipper” is prone to kick up some dust and debris so make sure always to be wearing protective eye wear when using them.

Falling in Love

How often do I hear people say “I just love the fall season.” There is so much to love about October in the garden. From pumpkins and gourds to fall foliage color and crisp refreshing air we fall in love with time outdoors. Aside from being a beautiful time of the year, it is also the perfect time of the year to rejuvenate or establish your landscape. Let me count the ways oh October how I love you. In the words of Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…..10 to be exact why October is a kick in the plants out in the garden.

When Chlorophyll production breaks down in the leaves the other pigments get their chance to shine!
When Chlorophyll production breaks down in the leaves the other pigments get their chance to shine!

1) Plants put in the ground in October focus on establishment; the soil is warm for roots while the air temperature cools reducing stress.
2) Bulbs! Plant Tulips, Daffodils, Alliums, Hyacinths, Crocus and more now for spring color.
3) Mum’s the word. Chrysanthemums provide vibrant color and come back year after year. Give Asters a try too; today’s new varieties are reliable bloomers!
4) Weed control is effective in fall. Weeds just like the trees are moving food reserves into their root systems for winter so herbicide sprays are more effective when applied in fall. Weed control will also knock out winter annual weeds now so they don’t appear in spring.
5) Fall annuals like Pansies or Ornamental Kale are frost tolerant and provide color well into November.
6) Lawns like plants focus on root establishment in fall because of the warm soil and cool air temperatures. Feed your lawn and overseed and it will reward you next spring with thick lush healthy growth. Consider core aeration in fall especially if your soil is clay-like in nature.
7) Shrubs and Trees establish well in fall, again the roots will establish in the soil without energy put into top growth. Fall planted landscape plants establish quicker the following year than spring planted material.
8) Exercise your green thumb as in dollar savings! Deals are generally available in fall to save you money.
9) Money grows on trees. Leaves have natural nutrients and organic structure to improve the tilth of your soil….and they’re free!
10) Maintain your “composture”. Start a compost pile for your garden next year, no time like the present and October is a great time to start!

Avant Garden

If Avant-garde is the act of new and unusual or experimental ideas, then the months of winter are “Avant-garden” or “Avant-yard” as we all anxiously dream and await the arrival of spring.

There is always "bloom" for improvement in our landscapes
There is always “bloom” for improvement in our landscapes

After the cold of winter we look forward to getting active outdoors again and getting our hands in the dirt. Home and Garden shows whet our appetite for what is new and interesting for our outdoor living space this year. A season of promise and renewal awaits our foray into the landscape of great potential.
As we dream you may find you can relate to some of the garden trends for 2016. Among these trends are “Dogscaping”. That’s right you’ll be barking up the right tree with this trend because it is estimated 65% of households have some kind of pet! Toxin free spaces for pets to roam and explore are in demand as pet owners invest in their pets.

Dog days of summer
Dog days of summer….Friendly landscapes for your pet is a gardening trend.

The wellness connection and health benefits of a landscape and vegetation is well noted and a continuing trend. Within the trend is a group of people called “Makers”. This group of “entremanures” goes beyond the fresh air and exercise benefits and harvests everything from hops to tomatoes to berries. They are interested in plants that go beyond aesthetic benefits and provide healing benefits.

Preserving and rebuilding healthy soils is a continuing trend with real interest tied into healthy eating. Not only does good soil have anti-depressant qualities, it is understood that soil is the “skin” of the earth. I read someone say that depletion of that “skin” has led to the collapse of civilizations! Well that is dramatic however you can make a difference in your own backyard. A healthy soil produces healthy plants and healthy produce.

Healthy soils, healthy plants and healthy you
Healthy soils, healthy plants and healthy you

Succulent mania continues where even outside the parched landscapes of California, people have cultivated an appreciation for the diverse and interesting collage of succulent plants.

Succulent mania
Succulent mania

Easy to grow and arrange, if you don’t over water them your green thumb will flourish.

Community planting of trees is also a continuing trend. Neighbors not waiting on municipalities to fund or plant trees, but rather taking it on themselves to plant trees in the community.
LED lights, outdoor sound systems, furniture and cooking areas are creating multi sensory opportunities in the landscape beyond what the typical yard has encompassed.
There is also a trend to go back….a trend for nostalgia to invoke pleasant childhood memories. Maybe a plant Grandma had in the garden, Mom’s vegetable garden or summer holiday memories of lounge chairs and grilling. I believe that as a child, if you take a deep breath of an aroma, it is locked in your memory for life. Maybe it was the bouquet of lilac blooms in a glass of water on your Grandma’s kitchen table that take you back.

An aroma from your childhood is locked in your brain's memory for life....like the blooming lilacs in Grandma's garden
An aroma from your childhood is locked in your brain’s memory for life….like the blooming lilacs in Grandma’s garden

Hardy gardens are a definite trend, especially in areas of the country where water is scarce. Also known as “legacy” gardens the plant material is intended not just for our benefit, but also for future generations. Small space or container gardens continue as a trend for both aesthetic as well as edible plants. Small space gardens can brighten our little corner of the world and yet are easy to control or maintain within our busy lifestyles.
Dare to dream during the winter months and plan for something simply “Avant-garden” this year.

What’s “Growing” On?

Purp tulips
Could it be….spring is arriving?

(Garden Trends 2015)
The activity of gardening is synonymous with a healthy lifestyle. People see their outdoor space and activities as an extension and reflection of themselves. Not only is the outdoor area a living space, it is also a reflection of our personalities and a healthy lifestyle.
The Millennial generation (18-35) is leading the charge for change including front yard gardens and goats in cities and suburbs. In some cases this includes movements to change neighborhood ordinances. Recently we posed the subject of the return of the clothesline to the yard on my radio show. The phone lines lit up with wide and varied opinions. As a kid I remember the clotheslines in the neighborhood and the sometimes embarrassing public displays of garments flapping in the breeze. Many Baby Boomers like me have these memories including the smell of line dried sheets on the bed at night. For others they couldn’t imagine having to hang laundry in the yard and dealing with weather, bird droppings or airborne pollen.
Young men today are a demographic that has inspired the backyard to be an entertaining area with food to grow, grill, and a place to play games with their young children. They are a group with tremendous influence and buying power customizing their outdoor area to suit their needs including what is being called “Garden-tainment”.

If you're lookin you ain't cookin...let's get grilling!
If you’re lookin you ain’t cookin…let’s get grilling!

Interest in soil health is well “grounded” as we continue to grow “local food” and understand the need for healthy soils. Planting trees is making a comeback including community trees to enhance urban living. Trees experienced a downturn in planting during the economic struggles the past 8 years but as the housing market improves so does the interest in the benefit of healthy trees to the value of a property and a community.
Edible plants, berries, herbs, vegetable plants and “farming” your deck or patio with containers to grow in “bite-sized pieces” has great appeal to time pressed but health conscious gardeners. The concept of the garden no matter how small is aligned with the sense of living a healthy lifestyle. An “urban farmer” so to speak that cultivates and works the small piece of land they own. Along the lines of “bite size pieces”, reckless gardening is out. In other words if you have the money to put in a high maintenance garden and landscape then you probably have the money to have someone take care of it for you. Few people do, and what’s the fun in that? Workhorse plants that are easy to grow and give 3 seasons of interest are in great demand.

Viburnum is a workhorse in the landscape providing 3 to 4 seasons of interest....easy to grow and attracts wildlife!
Viburnum is a workhorse in the landscape providing 3 to 4 seasons of interest….easy to grow and attracts wildlife!

Demand for new varieties that bloom longer or are attractive with little care continue to drive the trends in the landscape. The resurgence in interest in succulents or air plants like tillandsia for example is a result of water conservation awareness and low maintenance trending. Everything including your phone and car are “smarter” today….why not your garden?
Finally color in the garden to express your personality. There is less concern about what the current trending color palettes are, and more about inspirations that allow you to express your personality.

Early season “dirty” thoughts on gardening

I had a friend of mine tell me it’s OK to have “dirty thoughts” if you’re a gardener. This made me laugh because I love the smell of soil. When we reach March and the frozen tundra begins to thaw our thoughts turn to the smell of good clean dirt. When we’ve been cooped up inside all winter in dry forced air and a confined space, we discover how much the rich healing texture and smell of soil and sunshine influences how we feel. I’m convinced that soil, fresh air and foliage are significant contributors to how we feel and our overall health. Don’t take my word for it, I’m not a doctor, just an “entre-manure”. A bag of potting soil this time of year can have big remedial effects for the winter blues. Remember as we move into the spring season we do know that there is a direct correlation between the health of your soil and the healthy produce, flowers and herbs you are able to grow in your garden.

Our Backyard Oasis awaits
Our Backyard Oasis awaits

I enjoy reading the Garden Media Group’s report on gardening trends at this time of year. There is a real and “growing” interest in backyard gardening as the yard today performs double duty. Your yard is your oasis for relaxation while also being the hub for social activity and entertaining. Among the numerous trends they point out you may find these to be interesting:
-A trend of “Glamping” which is a great way to describe pitching a tent with some at home glamor. Think throw pillows and a sofa in the tent and you get the general drift.
Pitch a tent in the backyard and bring the bed and sofa out there? You may be a candidate for "Glamping"
Pitch a tent in the backyard and bring the bed and sofa out there? You may be a candidate for “Glamping”

-Interest in staying grounded. Recycling food scraps (11.7% of U.S. waste is food scraps) and making landscapes not landfills starting with your own personal compost pile.
-Edible gardening including “drinking your garden” with the interest in hops, berries and vegetable and herb foliage to create smoothies.
-A “tree”-mendous reversal with a renewed interest in planting trees. With housing starts on the rise after a long slump and the awareness of the loss of millions of trees nationwide in the last 10 years….people are thinking tree planting again.
-Men in the 18-34 age demographic are a big and growing group interested in backyard living. From grilling to taking the youngsters out to play in the yard these young Dads have a real interest in outdoor living.
-“Bee”-neficials is what they call the interest in planting blooming native plants that are pollen rich to support a declining bee population vital to pollination.

Your houseplants have had a long winter. They have cabin fever, are tired of the dry air and whether in the office or the home have probably collected a little dust on their foliage. Lack of light is already a problem throughout winter so don’t compound the problem with dusty dirty foliage. Using some warm water and a pair of soft cotton gloves, dip your hands gloves and all in the warm water and gently using your fingers wipe (don’t pull or tug) the foliage. This is a quick gentle easy way to clean the foliage and improve photosynthesis.
Are you tired of winter about now and want to force the issue? You can force landscape branches into bloom indoors in March to deal with your cabin fever. Spring flowering trees and shrubs need a period of cold dormancy in order to bloom. By February and early March they’ve experienced sufficient dormancy to bloom. A close look in the landscape reveals swelling buds of lilac or forsythia. Look for swollen plump buds on healthy young branches. Cut the branches at an angle with a good clean by-pass pruning shear. Cut the branches long enough to display in a vase, usually 12 to 18 inches is a good length. Plunge the freshly cut branches immediately into water. We don’t want the branches to dry out. You will see best results if you do not place them in a direct sunny window. The warm indoor temperatures will stimulate the buds to wake up without “blasting” them in a window with direct sunlight. Bright indirect light will work best. Contingent on the species you’ve pruned you can expect the buds to swell and open within 1 to 3 weeks. When the buds begin to open you can display them in the vase or use the branches as supplements to a floral arrangement. Forsythia, Pussy Willow, Witchhazel, Honeysuckle, Cornelian Dogwood, Cherry, Juneberry, Crabapple and Bridal Wreath Spirea are all relatively easy spring bloomers to force into bloom indoors. If you’re feeling creative some Quince, Deutzia, Lilac, Red Twig Dogwood, Wisteria, Magnolia, Peach, Pear or Rhododendron might be fun to try.