Corpse Flower Viewing is Botanical Craziness

Corpse FlowerI’ve done a lot of kooky things in my day, but waiting in a long line of other early-rising plant nerds to get a glimpse (and whiff) of a flower could top the list.

The alert went out last night on the 10 o’clock news: The Corpse Flower at the Denver Botanic Gardens has started to bloom!

DBG members would get the first crack at seeing the monster plant starting at 6:00 a.m. When I arrived at 6:30, the parking garage was full and there was already a line that snaked its way around Marnie’s Pavilion. It was a little like standing in line for Space Mountain at Disney World.

It certainly paid to get there early. I waited just over an hour and was lucky enough to grab one of 1000 commemorative Corpse Flower barf bags — a clever play on the fact the plant emits a distinct fragrance to attract pollinators when it’s in full bloom.


 

 

Vegetable gardeners have more control when planting in container gardens

2015 vegetable container garden The 2015 vegetable growing season had a cool, rainy and slow start, but plants are finally responding to the warm dry days.

After the first 95-degree day, I noticed every squash plant had blossomed overnight. Each plant had several large squash blossoms, with plenty of buzzing bees, because they were so happy to get the kind of overnight heat they like.

Vegetable gardeners who have trouble growing in conventional in-ground vegetable beds, may want to give container gardening a try.

From my experience, vegetable gardeners have more control when gardening in containers — in spite of the weather.

This year’s container vegetable garden is about two weeks behind last year’s garden. In 2014 cherry tomatoes were ripe enough to eat in mid-July; this year, it was August First.

There were just two ripe-red tomatoes, but they were worth the wait.


 

 

Writing a vegetable gardening book is like growing a biennial plant

Blue Ribbon Vegetable Gardening bookIt’s taken two years to see what my Blue Ribbon Vegetable Gardening book will look like. It’ll be another five months before I can hold it in my hands.

But pre-ordering has already begun.

Just like a biennial plant, this gardening book has taken its time to put down roots and start to grow. Biennial plants typically take two years from seed to flower.

It’s like planting hollyhocks one year, seeing the rosette of green leaves the next season, and then having to wait another year to see the colors of the flowers in bloom.

The idea for Blue Ribbon Vegetable Gardening sprouted with me about four years ago. After doing the research, I found the most current books about growing perfect produce for exhibiting in vegetable contests were written about 100 years ago.

As the idea took shape, I decided I needed to grow and show some of my own garden-grown produce. That meant planting in spring and waiting to see what would be ready in late summer to take to the fair.


 

 

Win Big with Ugly Fruits and Vegetables

weird tomatoWhat’s the oddest fruit or vegetable you’ve found in your garden?

I’ve found many crazy-looking edibles in my garden, but the tomato I named “Casper the Friendly Cyclops” is the most memorable.

This misshapen, but smiling, tomato could be a winner in the WesternGardeners.com annual Weird Veggie and Funny Fruit photo contest.

Every year gardeners send in images of the kookiest produce they pull from their gardens.

The vegetables are certainly entertaining and it’s always fun to guess what went wrong to cause those weird-looking shapes. Some environmental problem is the most common reason behind these oddballs.

In the case of Casper, the weather was exceptionally cold when the tomato plant was starting to set fruit. That’s what caused all those odd shapes on the blossom end of the tomato.

When carrots grow in rocky soil, their roots can form into strange configurations.


 

 

Fairy gardens need these Fairy Flowers

fairy garden flower fairyEvery fairy garden needs a few fairies flitting around to make sure all is growing well.

The best fairy garden fairies — the ones who make a gardener’s wishes come true — are those made from the garden’s own flowers, like hollyhocks.

It takes just a few minutes to transform an ordinary hollyhock blossom and bud into a fairy flower all dressed up in a ballgown and ready to dance around the garden.

Fairies made from hollyhocks are a bit elusive because of the plant’s biennial nature; they have a two-year growth cycle. The first year they develop deep roots and a rosette of leaves and the next year they send up a flower stalk. That’s the perfect time to get your hands on one of these flower fairies.

 

hollyhock flower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

How to plant peppers in your vegetable garden

pepper assortmentI’ve never met a pepper I didn’t like. Hot, sweet, fried or dried, I’m crazy about them all. That’s why I plant at least a dozen different pepper varieties in my garden every season.

There will always be several jalapeno plants, but each year I enjoy adding new-to-me varieties. I’ve been known to pick a pepper plant just so I could grow enough chiles to prepare a single recipe. ‘Holy Mole’!

I’m drawn to peppers because they’re versatile in the kitchen and grow in so many different sizes, shapes and colors. There are baby bell peppers, slender green Thai chiles, long red paprika peppers and even black edible ornamentals.

Then, of course, there’s the thrill of the unknown when taking that first tantalizing bite.

Has a pepper ever made you cry or cause steam to vent from your ears? That painful burning sensation is nature’s way of letting you know you’ve had too much capsaicin. Capsaicin is the flavorless, tasteless alkaloid compound that stimulates the pain receptors in your mouth.


 

 

How to make aerated compost tea for your garden

compost for teaIf you’re a gardener who’s been conscientiously composting your kitchen waste and using the rich, crumbly material as a soil conditioner in your garden, it’s time to take your composting to the next level.

By mixing that earthy concoction with water and allowing it to steep, you can create a beneficial tea loaded with the nutrients that plants love.

Digging compost into flower and vegetable beds is an important part of any gardening program, but why stop at adding millions of beneficial bacteria to the soil when you add billions of bacteria instead?

The process of brewing compost into tea not only makes the organic matter more effective, but it improves its usefulness, too.

Compost tea can be used as both a foliar spray and a soil drench.

  • As a foliar spray, the tea’s soluble nutrients give the plant a healthy boost and help control plant diseases like black spot and early blight.

 

 

Improve your Small-Space Vegetable Gardening with this Special Summer Discount

tomato basketAt my house, summer gardening dreams are all about growing a bountiful vegetable garden — one filled with a variety of ripe and juicy heirloom tomatoes.

All of these tomatoes, from the smoky Black Krims to the small yellow pear tomatoes, grew in my small-space vegetable garden.

Some grew in the postage-stamp sized 6 x 8 vegetable bed, but most were harvested from my patio container garden.

After years of experimenting with growing vegetables in containers, I’ve learned what works best.

I’ve also learned that gardeners can grow just about any fruit, vegetable and herb in a small-space garden.

All of those tips and tricks for growing vegetables in small spaces are packed into my Craftsy online gardening class. In seven video sessions, I share all of my gardening secrets.

To celebrate summer, I’m offering my class at a special discount. Just follow this link to sign up now and you’ll save $20 on Vegetable Gardening: Innovative Small Space Solutions!


 

 

Plant Spinach in July for a Fall Harvest

spinach in containerHere’s a little known gardening fact: If not for a misplaced decimal point, Popeye the Sailor Man might have gained his incredible strength from eating kale instead of spinach.

The comic book hero helped build spinach’s reputation as a power-house vegetable because of a chemist’s simple mistake.

Instead of recording spinach with 3.5 milligrams of iron per 100-gram serving, he wrote 35 milligrams. With that much iron, it’s no wonder Popeye sprouted instant biceps whenever he squeezed opened a can of spinach.

Even with the decimal in the right spot, spinach is still considered one of the healthiest superfoods around. These good-for-you greens are rich in vitamins A and C, as well as minerals like calcium, magnesium and, of course, iron.

Spinach is an easy-to-grow cool-season vegetable that belongs to the Goosefoot family with beets and chard.

One of the other great things about spinach is that it grows as well in fall as it does in spring. So get ready to plant your spinach in mid-July.


 

 

Companion Gardening Expands Options for Small-Space Vegetable Gardens

companion plantingThere are just some things in life that make ideal combinations.

It’s peanut butter and jelly for lunch; cookies and milk for dessert.

When it comes to the garden, there’s tomatoes and basil; radishes and spinach.

These combinations of vegetables and herbs make perfect partners when grown together in the garden, especially if you’re gardening in a small space.

Basil makes the tomatoes tastier and radishes attract destructive leafminers away from the spinach. These botanical buddies are two examples of how plants team together to help each other.

Companion planting is the art and science of arranging combinations of two or more plants to benefit one another. Planting certain crops together saves garden space, controls pests and encourages healthy gardens.

Native Americans practiced companion planting for centuries by growing corn, beans and squash together. These vegetables are called the Three Sisters because they complement each other when planted in the same hill.


 

 
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