Promoting Longer Bloom Period

Do you know how to promote a longer bloom period? If you have a flower garden that includes black-eyed Susans, bachelor’s buttons, and tall phlox, do you know how to treat them to promote long-term bloomng? Does trimming the plant help, and how soon and how severely can I trim after the blooms fade?

Annual bachelor’s buttons will rebloom freely if trimmed back to remove the spent flowers. Cut the flowers as for a bouquet, just above a branch or leaf so as not to leave bare wiry stems sticking up. Black-eyed Susans will bloom naturally over a long period, but if you deadhead the plants by cutting them back by about half once the main flush begins to fade, you may stimulate another (smaller) flush of bloom in the fall.

Some gardeners simply allow the seedheads to remain and consider them an attractive fall and winter feature in and of themselves, and the birds will enjoy the seeds. The plants would then be trimmed back very short in the spring.

Tall phlox will bloom over a longer period if spent flowers are removed one by one. In general, phlox (except creeping phlox) should be trimmed off very short in the fall once frost has browned the tops. All of these plants will give their best display in full sun with rich soil that is kept evenly moist (but not soggy).

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Happy Gardening from the Master Gardener Girl!!


Digging and Storing Bulbs

Bulbs provide a good investment for money spent and supply years of spring color in your yard. Fall is the prime time for planting of hardy spring flowering bulbs. Most bulbs can be planted until the ground is frozen. I however, have planted tons of them in the Spring and have always been successful. I have been able to keep a few of my bulbs in the ground year round, but some have to be brought in. Since it is almost time for spring bulb preservation, I am giving you information on digging up and storing your spring and summer bulbs.

Digging and Storing Spring Bulbs

Once the foliage dies back or matures in the late spring or early summer, the bulb is dormant. Summer is the dormant period for spring bulbs. As the foliage dies back, the roots that nourish the bulbs also die back. With fall rains, the bulb comes out of summer dormancy and roots begin to grow again to provide the bulb nutrients and moisture.

Once the spring bulbs enter dormancy, the time is right to dig the bulbs if needed. Some bulbs benefit from digging to divide the bulbs and spread them out over the bed.

If the choice is to dig bulbs, they should be stored in a well ventilated place and replanted in the fall. Every five years daffodils and crocus should be dug and replanted to prevent overcrowding. The first sign of overcrowding will be a decrease in the flower size, uneven bloom and uneven plant height. When this occurs, dig, spread bulbs out and replant immediately.

Digging and Storing Summer Bulbs

Most summer flowering bulbs should be dug and stored when the leaves on the plants turn yellow. Use a spading fork to lift the bulbs from the ground. Wash off any soil that clings to the bulbs, except for bulbs that are stored in pots or with the soil around them.

Leave the soil on achimenes, begonia, canna, caladium, dahlia and ismene bulbs. Store these bulbs in clumps on a slightly moistened layer of peat moss or sawdust in a cool place. Wash and separate them just before planting.

Spread the washed bulbs in a shaded place to dry. When dry, store them away from sunlight in a cool, dry basement, cellar, garage or shed at 60° to 65°F. Avoid tempertures below 50° or above 70°F unless different instructions are given for a particular bulbs.

Inspect your bulbs for signs of disease. Keep only large, healthy bulbs that are firm and free of spots. Discard undersized bulbs.

If you have only a few bulbs, you can keep them in paper bags hung by strings from the ceiling or wall. Store large numbers of bulbs on trays with screen bottoms. Separate your bulbs by species or variety before storing them.

Be sure that air can circulate around your stored bulbs. Never store bulbs more than two or three layers deep. Deep piles of bulbs generate heat and decay.

Most flowering bulbs are best stored over a long period at temperatures between 60°F and 68°F. Try to keep the humidity in the storage area as low as possible. Never store bulbs in an area where ethylene gas produced by fruit is present. Bulbs can be stored in a container with peat moss, sand, perlite or vermiculite. Another common storage method is to place the bulbs in a very loose knit sack and hang in a sheltered, cool area. Do not divide or separate bulbs before storing them.

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Starting a Garden

Growing vegetables and flowers can be one of the most rewarding hobbies you can pursue. Gardening can satisfy your need for beauty, accomplishment and nourishment. Plus, it keeps me from snacking allowing me to shed a few pounds, from the winter weight gain if you know what I mean.

It’s important to plant your garden seeds at the right time, and the key is knowing when your area will see its last spring frost. You’ll sure be sorry if you put your long-awaited, warm season crops in the ground too soon, but it’s easy to determine when the danger of frost has passed. You just need to learn your location’s average last spring frost date.

To get started, find a good sunny location. Determine the size of the garden you would like to have. First thing I did was to get a soil sample, which you can do through your local Extension center. They have soil sample boxes available for use at no charge. One box (1.5 to 2 cups) is all the University lab needs for analyses. I just use a brown paper sack. Using a small shovel or soil probe, sample to a 6 inch depth. Take 12 or more random cores from each area of the lawn to be tested and remove the thatch and live plant material before breaking up the cores and mixing thoroughly in a dry plastic bucket. (Metal buckets contaminate the sample with micronutrients.) Take random samples from the lawn as a whole unless there is a need to sample problem areas separately. Air dry the sample overnight before sending. When you receive your results in the mail, they will send you a guide on how to read your results as well as how you can amend your soil accordingly to the results. If you don’t have time for this, I would recommend tilling the soil and then adding compost. This would be a great start.

Compost is one of the ways to garden organically. You definitely will appreciate the fertilizing and weed controlling benefits of compost. You could ask your city parks department if they sell compost, go to your local nursery, or make your own. It will take compost several months to decompose so you will have to wait to use your pile until then. I started mine last October and after removing the top several inches, most of the pile is ready for use. If you don’t have access to compost you could add some sphagnum moss to your soil. This will allow air to get to your roots.

Americans generate about 210 million tons (231 million short tons) of trash, or solid waste, each year. Most of this trash (57 percent) gets placed in municipal landfills. About 56 million tons (27 percent) is recovered through either recycling, in the case of glass, paper products, plastic or metals, or through composting, in the case of yard waste. Composting is a method for treating solid waste in which organic material is broken down by microorganisms in the presence of oxygen to a point where it can be safely stored, handled and applied to the environment. Composting is an essential part of reducing household wastes. It can be done inexpensively by every household and produces a product — finished compost or humus — that can benefit the environment as a natural fertilizer for gardening and farming.

Next, I remove any large size rocks that would impede my vegetables from growing out of the soil by simply picking them out. Then, I remove some of the smaller rocks with a rock rake. With some type of post, mark out your rows per your seeds, making sure to keep your rows at their given distance apart. Read the back of the packet or tag for specific instructions for how and when to plant.