Monthly Archives: August 2014

  • Growing (Up) in the Garden: Gardening is Great for Kids

    I believe that gardens grow better with a child's magical touch. Kids seem to have a natural affinity for the garden, and that comes as no surprise; every walk in the garden presents something new and interesting to grab a child's curiosity, whether it is a mud puddle or an unfurling flower. I would hazard to say that most people who are gardeners have fond memories of growing up in the garden; I know I do. Growing up in the garden is both fun and a great learning experience! Gardening is a fun activity for kids, and it has a wide variety of benefits - here are just a few.

    Watering Plants Watering Plants

    [Photo by pizzawhale (Flickr)]

    Playing in the Dirt is Fun!

    This is probably the first and most obvious benefit of gardening for little ones. Most children are perfectly content to play in the soil, and it is easy to sneak in a lesson about digging an appropriate hole for a plant or seed as part of this play. Perhaps while digging, you will be fortunate enough to find some slimy earthworms to play with - or have your little shadow assist with watering plants and then let them play in the mud puddles! Show your gardening buddy how to make a hollyhock doll, how to make a snap dragon "eat" a piece of grass, and how to twist the flowers of an obedient plant into a fun pattern. In such a beautiful and stimulating environment, a child's imagination knows no bounds. Try planting fun theme gardens, like fairy gardens full of mini plants and fairy accessories or sensory gardens made up of plants like mint and lamb's ear.

    Enormous Cucumber Enormous Cucumber

    [Photo by woodleywonderworks (Flickr)]

    Gardening is Healthy

    If you want to inspire a lifetime love of healthy eating, then let kids plant and care for fruits and vegetables of their own. Children take great pride in growing their own food, and even Brussels sprouts stand a chance of being relished. Some great fruits and vegetables for young gardeners to grow are strawberries, green beans, sunflowers, pumpkins, and potatoes, just to name a few; herbs are also easy to care for, and kids will love smelling their different scents. Gardening is also great exercise for the whole family and is therapeutic mentally as well. Much research has shown that gardening helps reduce stress, which makes it a wonderful hobby for kids to keep up when they grow older.

    Orion in the Garden

    [Photo by Dylan Parker (Flickr)]

    It's a Fun Way to Teach Life Lessons

    Teaching a child how to be patient is generally not a fun task, but gardening can take some of the pain out of it. Plant some bean or sunflower seeds and wait for them to emerge, and then wait some more for them to put out leaves and produce healthy snacks. Kids learn responsibility through the natural consequences of how good care of the garden produces beautiful, healthy plants and how poor care results in sickly and dying plants that produce nothing. Teach your child that different flowers and vegetables need different kinds of care, much like different people. Share the abundance of fruits, flowers, and vegetables that you grow with the neighbors and let your child experience the joy of giving to others.

    Lady Bug

    [Photo by Lauren Hammond (Flickr)]

    Growing Plants Teaches Kids About Science

    Growing a garden teaches so many science lessons that it is impossible to name them all, and it is likely to inspire conversations between you and your little one about anything under the sun. The most obvious lesson for kids to learn is about plant and insect life cycles; sure, kids can learn this in a book, but actually experiencing it through all of the senses really makes the information sink in, especially for kinesthetic learners and those with special needs. Teach your child to appreciate pollinators and earthworms for the work that they do in the garden, and teach them about responsible gardening practices that are earth-friendly like composting and companion planting. Explain why weeding is important as you pull the weeds and how deadheading and pinching back are good for flowers; every action in gardening is a teachable moment.

    Camden Children's Garden

    [Photo by Dyogi (Flickr)]

    You Are Building Good Memories

    When you garden with a child, you build memories that will last a lifetime. To this day, some of my favorite and most vivid memories are of gardening with my grandparents, and I hope to give my own children and grandchildren the same sweet gardening memories someday. Little ones will remember the time you spent showing them how to care for plants, but most of all, they will remember the time and attention you spent caring for them. When you garden with a child, you are sowing and nurturing seeds of responsibility, respect, knowledge, and love along with the seeds of flowers and vegetables.

  • Summer Gardening Goals

    Watering the Flowers

    Photo by Chris Parfitt (Flickr)]

    Now that August is here, chances are good that it is becoming hot and possibly dry in your area. Most plants will need more frequent watering to deal with the excessive heat unless it is raining regularly in your region. Some of your plants will be struggling, while those that love the heat will be thriving. If you are like me, you may be struggling with the heat, too, and may dread the idea of getting out in the garden! Unfortunately, there is still work to be done. Watering and Fertilizing. Watering becomes especially crucial in the hot months of summer. Use a rain gauge to measure how much rain you are getting and water your plants as needed; if plants are starting to droop, you need to water. Container plants especially need frequent watering - the smaller the container, the more frequently the plants will need to be watered. At this time of year, I check my containers every day and my gardens every three days if it hasn't rained. Plants like tomatoes and peppers also need plenty of water to produce their delicious fruits. Even lawns and newly planted trees and shrubs will need water in the absence of rain - and don't forget your bird baths. Wildlife will welcome the water in this heat. Remember to water plants deeply at the roots and to water in the early morning if possible; this lessens the amount of water lost to evaporation and prevents fungal and bacterial diseases in plants. If you haven't already mulched your gardens yet, you may want to so that you don't have to water as frequently. Remember to stay on schedule for fertilizing plants.

    Harvest Time

    Photo by Pete (Flickr)

    Harvest and Plant More By now, you should be harvesting vegetables from your garden daily; picking mature fruits daily allows plants to direct energy toward producing more fruits. You can start digging up garlic, onions, and potatoes as well. You should be planting successive rows of plants like beans, squash, cucumbers, sunflowers, and herbs. Pull old cool-weather plants like lettuce and spinach if you haven't already, and you will make more room in your garden. Later this month, sew seed for fall crops like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale or start seeds indoors. In zones 6 and higher, you can wait until August to start fall seeds. If you have a cut flower garden, plant successive rows of annuals like zinnias and cosmos. You may want to consider planting a cover crop in bare areas of your garden - cover crops are turned back into the garden and enrich the soil.

    Petunias in Need of Cutting Back


    Photo by daryl_mitchell (Flickr)]

    Cut Back, Deadhead, Pinch, and Prune

    This week, you will want to pinch back chrysanthemums and asters for the last time. Continue to remove dead flowers from plants; coneflowers and black-eyed Susans are two flowers in bloom now that greatly benefit from deadheading. Use your fingers or pruners to pinch off old flowers so that the plant's energy can focus on making new blooms. Also, It is time to cut back annuals that are getting leggy, like petunias and impatiens - shear back one third of the plant for renewed vigor and growth. Prune summer flowering trees and shrubs right after blooming. Of course, you should keep weeding for optimum plant growth and health.

    Seeds for Sale

    Photo by Everyday Growing (Flickr)]

    Go Shopping In the August heat, this is my favorite gardening task for the month! Now is the time you will find great deals on plants, since the gardening season is winding down. Buy some heat-resistant and drought-tolerant plants like coleus, pentas, and portulaca to perk up your August garden. Hanging baskets, perennials, and annuals will likely be marked down, and you may also find deals on seeds. It's a good time to consider what you want to grow for fall and order seeds or plants in time if needed. In fact, it is a good time to consider what you want to grow next year to take advantage of deals now. I encourage you to consider growing something new and unusual!

  • The 13 Best Flowers for a Butterfly Garden

    Do you love butterflies? Well, it is time to show your love by helping them to survive. You and I may be attracted to exotic, high-priced plants, but butterflies require nothing so fancy; in fact, butterflies are attracted to many native plants that are considered weeds by many and eradicated with herbicides. If you want to attract butterflies to your garden, here are a few tips. First of all, do not use any pesticides or herbicides near your garden, as they are toxic for the butterflies and other pollinators. Second, plant a garden with a wide variety of plants that will provide flowers throughout the season. Third, plant nectar-rich flowers that are colorful and flat-topped or clustered with short flower tubes. Here are 13 such flowers that butterflies find irresistible:

    5860091172_8c86f647bd_o Butterfly Weed

    Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa [Photo by Wayne National Forest (Flickr)]

    Butterfly weed is a member of the milkweed family and thus is a host for monarch larvae, which only eat milkweed. It serves as a host to grey hairstreak and queen butterfly larvae as well, in addition to being a favorite nectar source for monarchs and many other types of butterflies. Butterfly weed is a low-maintenance, drought-tolerant perennial with bright orange flowers that are great for cutting. It starts blooming in late spring and continues blooming all summer, providing a long-lasting buffet for butterflies as well as hummingbirds.

    3828830534_9975467dbc_o Butterfly Bush

    Butterfly Bush, Buddleia davidii [Photo by Jim, the Photographer (Flickr)]

    This summer- and fall-blooming shrub is a butterfly magnet as well as a sweet-scented beauty. Choose from shades of purple, white, and pink flowers, which attract bees and hummingbirds as well as butterflies. Butterfly bush is hardy in USDA zones 5-10 and may die back to the ground in the north, or you can take the initiative and cut it down to the ground in winter or spring if you prefer; it is a fast grower. Some varieties can reach ten feet tall, but there are now miniature cultivars available.

    Bee Balm Bee Balm

    Bee balm, Monarda species [Photo by raymondgobis (Flickr)]

    Scarlet bee balm is very popular as an ornamental plant, but purple-, pink-, and white-flowered varieties are also available. The leaves of this perennial are highly fragrant and edible to both humans and all types of butterflies. It is susceptible to powdery mildew, so consider a resistant variety.

    Milkweed Milkweed

    Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca [Photo by Dave Bonta (Flickr)]

    Common milkweed used to be seen all over fields, roadsides, and ditches but has been largely eradicated by herbicides. This is very unfortunate, as plants from the milkweed family are the only food source for monarch caterpillars, and they are a primary food source for other insects as well. Milkweed may be considered a weed, but I find its pink clustered flowers and seed pods to be beautiful.

    Phlox Phlox

    Phlox, Phlox paniculata [Photo by Patrick Standish (Flickr)]

    Tall phlox are an old-fashioned favorite, and it is no wonder; they are hardy, beautiful, sweet-scented, and have a long bloom time. Heights and colors vary greatly, but butterflies love them all! American painted lady, sulfur, cloudywing, and swallowtail butterflies all enjoy feasting on phlox.

    Anise Hyssop Anise Hyssop

    Anise Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum [Photo by chipmunk_1 (Flickr)]

    Anise hyssop, which is also considered an herb, is a food source for butterflies, birds, and people; the white checkered butterfly especially enjoys the tiny tubular purple flowers of anise hyssop. The fragrant leaves and flowers taste and smell of anise, but the plant is actually a member of the mint family. Anise hyssop is heat-resistant and drought-tolerant, and rabbits and deer don't like it - wow, what more could you ask for? The flowers last from the middle of summer until frost, and the perennial is hardy in zones 4-10.

    Blazing Star Blazing Star

    Blazing star, Liatris spicata [Photo by Drew Avery (Flickr)]

    The unique vertical shape and the fluffy flower texture of blazing star will give your garden added interest and extra butterflies. Blazing star is a tall, moisture-loving, heat-tolerant perennial that blooms in July and August. Aphrodite fritillary, tiger swallowtail, orange sulphur, and wood nymph butterflies are just a few that enjoy feeding on blazing star; it is also host to Glorious Flower Moth caterpillars, and goldfinches enjoy the seeds.

    Asters Asters

    Asters, Aster species [Photo by Maja Dumat (Flickr)]

    Asters are a valuable addition to the garden because they are one of the plants that bloom in fall when most other flowers are dying. This is great news for any remaining butterflies, especially migrating monarchs. Pearl crescent larvae use the aster as a host plant, which makes the aster especially valuable in the butterfly garden. The small star-shaped blooms come in pink, purple, blue, white, and yellow, although the yellow ones suffer from an untreatable virus. Some asters can reach up to eight feet tall, so be sure you pick one that is the right size for your garden.

    Goldenrod Goldenrod

    Goldenrod, Solidago species [Photo by Dendroica cerulea (Flickr)]

    When I hear the word "goldenrod," I can't help but think of the vivid yellow crayon named after this plant. Yes, goldenrod is famous for its sunny yellow flower stalks, but it should be famous for its service to insects as well. Goldenrod can be invasive in the garden, so you may want to plant it in pots before putting it into the ground to keep it from spreading. This plant attracts monarch, clouded sulfur, American small copper, and gray hairstreak butterflies.

    Autumn Joy Autumn Joy

    Autumn Joy Sedum, Sedum x "Autumn Joy" [Photo by Leonora Enking (Flickr)]

    "Autumn Joy" stonecrop is one of the most popular perennials in my area; I see them everywhere, and it is not hard to guess why. The deep coppery-pink flower heads seem to last forever, and the plants bloom from August to November; even the dead flower heads provide interest in winter. The flowers are flat-topped and brightly colored, which is perfect for attracting butterflies, especially the variegated fritillary. The plant is extremely hardy and easy to care for.

    Joe-Pye Weed Joe-Pye Weed

    Joe-Pye Weed, Eupatorum purpureaum [Photo by InAweofGod'sCreation (Flickr)]

    Joe-Pye weed is another valuable plant that blooms in later summer and autumn when other plants have stopped for the season. It is naturally a very tall plant for the back of the garden, reaching up to seven feet in some cases, but smaller types are available. It does require moist soil, especially when planted in full sun. It is quite hardy and deer-resistant; in addition to this, Joe-Pye weed attracts butterflies such as tiger swallowtails and black swallowtails.

    Zinnia Zinnia

    Zinnia, Zinnia species [Photo by liz west (Flickr)]

    Zinnias are colorful, old-fashioned annuals that are very easy to grow from seed. They remind me of jewels with their bright colors and varying shapes. However, not all zinnias attract butterflies equally; the taller ones with the bigger blooms seem to attract butterflies the best. Tall "State Fair Mix," "Cut and Come Again," and "Zowie! Yellow Flame" are some types that butterflies like to frequent. Monarchs, swallowtails, and painted ladies are some of the butterflies seen sipping nectar from these beauties.

    Lantana Lantana

    Lantana, Lantana species [Photo by Jason (Flickr)]

    Let's just say that there aren't many butterflies that don't enjoy drinking nectar from lantanas. With their flat-topped, brightly colored flower clusters, lantana practically screams "drink me!" to butterflies. Lantana has the added benefit of being fragrant, beautiful, and versatile, working well in a flower bed or in a container. Although we usually treat lantana as an annual flower, it is in truth a tender perennial.

  • Why You Should Be Growing a Summer Salsa Garden

    Salsa Ingredients Salsa Ingredients

    Photo by: OakleyOriginals (Flickr)

    If you love salsa, then you should be growing a salsa garden! Sure, canned salsa tastes okay, but there is nothing like the taste of fresh salsa - and it doesn't get any fresher than straight from your garden. You don't need to have a lot of space to grow a salsa garden; in fact, I have seen them grown in containers and in plots no larger than two feet by two feet. Most of the vegetables and herbs used to make salsa are easy to grow as long as you can provide full sun, water, and fertilizer. Now is a great time to grow some of the plants for a salsa garden since most of them love heat. Here are some of the essential herbs and vegetables to grow for a salsa garden.

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Flowers to get you out of the doghouse

Dried Flower Wreaths

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