Monday, August 22, 2011

Mommy, What Kind of Flower is That?

What kind of flower is that, Mommy?" I whispered as Mom and I knelt in the grass. I was four years old and we were out on one of our nature walks.
That's a Dandelion," she told me.
"Oh!" I gasped, in awe. I was easily impressed at that age. "I thought Dandelions were yellow. This is all white and fuzzy."
"That's because it has gone to seed. if you blow on it, the little white seeds will blow away."
I had done this before and it was one of my favorite things to do, but I hadn't realized that the white feathery things were Dandelions or seeds. I blew on the head of the flower and watched as the white seeds danced away on the breeze.
"In a little while," Mom explained, "those seeds will land somewhere else and grow into brand new Dandelions."
After a few minutes I asked her, "Mommy, why do you pull Dandelions out of your garden if they're flowers?"
"Because they're weeds," she replied.
"But how can a flower be a weed?"
Mom smiled. "Anything that grows somewhere you don't want it to is a weed. Technically a rose can be a weed if it grows in the wrong place."
"Does anybody have a Dandelion garden?"
"I don't think so," she said.
I didn't think this was fair. I decided that one day I would grow up and have my very own Dandelion garden...
Many parents miss the opportunity to spend time with their children in nature, teaching them about things as simple as weeds in the back yard. What a lot of people don't realize is that this stuff, while simple and frivolous to many adults, can be exciting and fun for kids. Family fun, lasting memories can be made without money, great effort, or skill. All it takes is time, patience, and the willingness to listen and answer questions like, "Mommy, what kind of flower is that?"

Monday, August 8, 2011

Save the Tomatoes Now: Stop Blossom End Rot!

Growers often are distressed to notice that a dry, sunken decay has developed on the blossom end (opposite the stem) of many fruit, especially the first fruit of the season. This can be very damaging, with losses of 50% or more in some years.

On Tomato and eggplant blossom-end rot usually begins as a small water-soaked area at the blossom end of the fruit. This may appear while the fruit is green or during ripening. As the lesion develops, it enlarges, becomes sunken, and turns black and leathery. on peppers, the affected area appears tan, and is sometimes mistaken for sun scald, which is white. Ultimately mold grows in the lesion and the fruit is lost.

Blossom-end rot is associated with a low concentration of calcium in the fruit. The problem is induced when demand for calcium exceeds supply. This may result from low calcium levels, drought stress, or excessive soil moisture fluctuations which reduce uptake and movement of calcium into the plant, or rapid, vegetative growth due to excessive nitrogen fertilization.

To improve the calcium content of the soil, try Shake 'N Feed by Miracle Grow. To stop and prevent Blossom End Rot over the next several weeks, spray your tomatoes, peppers and more with Yield Booster by Fertilome.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fairy Gardening 101

Fairy Gardens are adorable. There is no way around it...There's something about a miniature paradise accompanied by tiny accessories arranged in a little garden box that is irresistible. The really cool thing about these gardens is that although there are plants that have been developed to use in them and there are trimmings recommended by the manufacturer, a Fairy Gardener does not have to be limited to these options. Fairy gardens are limitless opportunities for creativity and fun.

Some of you may be wondering, "What IS a Fairy Garden." A Fairy Garden is a tiny garden meant for imaginary fairies (or simply invisible or shy ones if you're a believer). These gardens are small -- small enough to fit in a gardening box and fit on a coffee table. You can put them outside in warm weather, but for people who live in an apartment or who have no yard and outdoor gardening space, these tiny planters are ideal. Fairy-Gardeners plant tiny plants and arrange furniture and landscaping items (paths, wheelbarrows, etc.) in the garden to make their "Fairy-Guests" as comfortable as possible. (for more information on Fairy Garden products, please visit

Sometimes, however, garden centers might be out of the accessories and plants which are originally made for the Fairy Gardens, or a customer might not like the little elements available to decorate the planters. In either case, Fairy Gardeners can still be happy, creative, and enjoy working with their tiny planters...Here are a few suggestions:

(1) Plants: Plants for your Fairy Garden only have to meet a few simple critera:
(a) They must be small (they have to fit into the tiny plant box)
(b) They must grow slowly (we can't have them outgrowing their planter, can we?)
(c) They must be cute (sorry, uglier plants like skunk cabbage need not apply for residency in a Fairy Garden)...

Here are some suggestions for Fairy Garden Plants:
Coffee Plants
Palm (Mini-ones of course)
Cactus Garden
Hens and Chickens (Note: Cacti and Hens and Chickens need a LOT of direct sunlight to stay healthy)...

Once you've planted your fairy garden, you have to think about accessorizing it. Sometimes more creative people can feel limited by decorative items offered in stores, so here are some ideas for thinking outside the box:

  • Toy stores (You could find everything from well-made miniature doll furnature for your garden to little trains and tracks ... maybe your fairies like to travel...)

  • Craft Stores (You might find some unfinished mini-accessories here that you could decorate in your own way...if your favorite store has a doll-house section, be sure to check out the miniatures they have on sale there)

  • Other departments of your garden center (if you want to make a rocky path for your fairies, most garden centers have pebbles and other small rocks for sale -- also be sure to look for things like wood chips and sand.)
In conclusion, Fairy Gardens are an enjoyable way to garden inside your house, while using the whimsical side of your imagination. Although the size of the gardens may seem limiting to some people, they really are a lot of fun. And who knows? Maybe a real fairy will come to live in your Fairy Garden.