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Archive for the ‘watering plants’ Category

Last week the Garden Committee here at Horizon House had a “field trip” to IMG_6235Swanson’s Nursery to fulfill our GEM Grant.  The gardeners were awarded a bit of “flower candy” as I call it, for the inconvenience they suffered during the renovations to our West Wing.  IMG_6230Not everyone was able to go, but those who did had a good time browsing, buying, eating and

learning.

The Horizon House bus was packed to the gills with plant material.

Not all of it was able to be in the back, so was to be found all over the bus, along with some happy gardeners!

Once we got home, the staff helped us by putting plant materials on the proper decks IMG_6246for the gardeners to plant.

What followed was the planting itself.  Talk about busy bees…  The gardens are now getting full and attractive.  IMG_6249Here’s one I planted.  Now I’ll stand back and watch the magic!

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1Schlumbergera bridgessii,  Crab Cactus, Christmas Cactus, Easter Cactus, or Thanksgiving Cactus whatever you call it will (probably) have to do with when it blooms.  They are ALL Schlumbergera bridgessii which is MUCH too hard to pronounce, to say nothing about spelling!  So any title you choose to give it will work!
They come in many flower colors, sizes, and leaf shapes, but they are popular enough that even the greenest (pun intended) of gardeners can identify them!
I bought a white one last year, in full and massive bud for a little plant. IMG_4454 It was dirt cheap (no pun here!) since it was past the season (whatever season that might have been, knowing this plant).  I picked it up at the local grocery store for about $7.00!  I couldn’t resist, especially since I’ve never owned a white one.  Actually, when it blooms it has a blush of pink.  So much for white!  But it was very pretty, and still is.  However, this year instead of about 30 flowers it only has 5. Thanksgiving Cactus I’m sure it’s because it was raised (before I got it) in a greenhouse, where on my shelf it doesn’t get much sun at all.
My purpose for this post today is to help all of you who have one of these Schlumbergera bridgessii treat them so they give you as much pleasure as possible.
  • Sun exposure should be moderate.
  • Temperatures should be 60*-70* which is perfect for a home environment.  Note: most bud drop is caused by temperatures being too high, or light being too low.
  • Humidity should also be moderate.
  • Fertilizing should be done when it’s in a growth period, which is commonly between April and October.  A complete indoor plant fertilizer will be fine.  Less is more as far as strength!
  • Watering-it should be moist when in a growth period, but NEVER allow the soil to be WET!  When it’s “resting”, cut back on the water, only watering when it’s dry.
  • Propagation-can be easily accomplished by cutting a section (at a joint) of more than 2 or 3 segmented stems, after letting them dry out for a few days, root them either in water, or damp sand.  Once they are rooted they can be planted in a peat based compost, or potting soil.
  • Resting Period is after they bloom.  At that point they need to have less water; cooler temperatures; darker location and perhaps a summer vacation outside in a sheltered spot, img_0044hopefully safe from snails.  This can be difficult to offer a plant for many people, meaning that blooms may not be as prolific.  I’m sure that is what happened to mine!  Window sillWe live in a small apartment with limited exposure to sun on the window space.   It did NOT get outside this summer-next summer it will!!!  I’d check the soil every two weeks or so in our Pacific Northwest climate to be sure it doesn’t get TOO dry.  They can stay outside until temperatures drop below 50*.
  • Blooming Period-as soon as buds appear, cut back on the water, and don’t allow the temperature to drop below 55*.

So, there you have it.  I hope all these tips help you deal with Grandma’s Christmas (or whatever) Cactus.  It shouldn’t die on YOUR watch if you pay attention to all the advice I’ve given you here.

Maybe this is the year to make cuttings for next Christmas and give each family member their own piece of that family “heirloom”!  Enjoy!

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What requirements does a plant have to have in order to be considered “drought tolerant”?

It’s interesting because sometimes you can tell a drought tolerant plant by just looking at it.  Maybe the leaves are almost nonexistent, as in an evergreen with it’s oh, so narrow leaves (needles).  Some evergreens also have a pine-359845__180waxy substance that helps keep the moisture from being lost.

You’ll notice that there are plants, like silver sage, whose leaves are covered with tiny little hairs.  Those hairs grasp moisture and hold onto it.  sageOr how about plants with very deep root systems?  They dig deep to  find moisture well below the surface of the soil.  Or on the opposite side of the spectrum, those plants with roots very close to the surface to grab all the barest of rain drops.

Generally, plants that are native to dryer climates like the Mediterranean, the American West, central Asia, and southern Africa will do quite well.  A number of our herbs, used in Italian cooking are from that area and hence do well in drought condition gardens.  Think about Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano and Sage.

But, there are other things to remember about drought tolerance. 37350208-old-garden-scoop-on-root-and-soil-of-flowers-top-view Even a drought tolerant plant needs to have plenty of water as it is planted and trying to establish itself.  Do not ignore any newly placed plant.  Those little rootlets will dry out very quickly, and stunt, or kill your plant.  Keep any new plant well hydrated until it’s well established.  Also, we have to remember that although the plants are drought TOLERANT, that doesn’t say they are able to live through extended periods of severe drought.  If that happens, even the most drought tolerant of plants will need a little drink.  Here is a site that will help you deal with an extended period of drought.

These plants should have well drained, and organic rich soil.  img_5553This is a wonderful advantage we have here at Horizon House.  We have raised beds, with wonderful, rich soil and good drainage (especially after our new drainage systems have been installed).

One of the most important things you can do to support your plants is to provide as much mulch as possible.  It will keep the ground cool and hold that moisture in.  It will also reduce the number of weeds that will compete for water.  In our garden beds, weeds are not a huge problem, but it is worth thinking about.

Our drip irrigation system is wonderful.  It provides water to the roots, rather than to the air where it dries out too quickly.  It also is activated in the early morning, which is the very best time, as the heat of the day(which might dry it out) has not been reached as yet.

Here’s a connection to my old blog (North Country Maturing Gardener) from New Hampshire that talks about Xeriscaping or the use of drought tolerant landscaping.  It talks about many of the ideas we are dealing with here today.

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Most of us are familiar with the Version 2geranium, which is formally named “Pelargonium”.   These geraniums are considered a hardy perennial, biennial or sometimes an annual, medicinal herb.  The herb is often used for aromatic oil.  (I have a hard time believing that, as I find their odor slightly offensive.)  But, that is not my purpose here today.

Today, I want to talk about the geranium with which most of us are familiar.  It is a very popular potted plant, usually associated with bright red, white or pink flowers.

In northern climes, they are considered to be an annual, although they can easily be overwintered, out of the ground.  Here in Seattle, our climate is temperate enough that they survive quite nicely in the garden. At Horizon House we can see them flowering happily, not just in garden beds, but on our balconies.

Audrey was having a few issues with yellowing leaves on her geraniums.  The plants seemed healthy otherwise, and she just removed the leaves.  That’s exactly what she should do.  Remember however, that this is a very drought tolerant plant.  It likes to be a bit dry, so over-watering can overwhelm it pretty quickly.  If the leaves on your geranium are yellowing, hold off on the water a bit.

Also, it could be that it is needing a little fertilizer.  Remember in your home-owner days when you fed your grass fertilizer high in nitrogen???  (The first number on the fertilizer bag.)  That fertilizer (nitrogen) is what kept the grass GREEN!  So, look for a fertilizer that has more nitrogen than other nutrients.  Maybe 10-5-5 or something like that.  The first number should be the highest.  Do not get too rambunctious with that fertilizer.  Less is probably better!  Here’s a link from Clemson University that tells you more than you’d probably ever want to know about fertilizers.  But you might find it interesting!  And it might just help your geranium!

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We are very lucky here at Horizon House.  We have 37 raised beds for ourIMG_2327 residents to garden.  There are other gardening beds around the facility that are cared for by our Garden Committee, including in Supported Living, where residents that are wheelchair bound, or hindered by dementia,  can go to relax and enjoy the benefits of a garden.  Bees, butterflies,  and hummingbirds flourish right here in the middle of Seattle drawn by the lure of our gardens!

WhaIMG_2314t is special about a Raised Bed for gardening?  There are mostly benefits, and very few downsides.  The only one I can really think of is that sometimes they dry out a bit more rapidly than a normal,  ground garden, but we have drip irrigation in most of our gardens, so that is not an issue for us.

The benefits however are MANY!

  • They are reachable, with little bending…maybe a bit of leaning occasionally, but it’s easier to lean than bend!
  • There are fewer weeds!  And when they appear, they are easy to manage.
  • All the wonderful odors of the garden are at nose level, or closer anyway!
  • And how about those who are visually impaired?  The flowers are easier to see!
  • Because they are of reasonable size, all care is easier.
  • You NEVER have to get on your knees!  Or get up!
  • They are wheelchair, and walker accessible.
  • Almost all  of our beds here at Horizon House have drip irrigation installed.
  • Our decks are clutter free, and orderly making it easier to work and enjoy.

Our gardeners are a cooperative group and love sharing their gardens wimg_2444ith other residents and visitors.  During the  Summer months we have “Sunny Mondays” when all residents are invited to bring their favorite beverage and a snack to share and enjoy the gardens and each others company.

Gardening is good for the body and the soul.  Our raised beds make that a real part of life here.  You ought to try it!

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Almost all our problems here at the Horizon House gardens involve water…in one way or another.IMG_0371

There’s a leak creating a flood; the hose has popped rendering water unavailable; the hose nozzle is broken; a spray emits from the sprayer going in the wrong direction, creating a very wet gardener; there’s water leaking across the deck under the planters creating a slippery spot, which is NOT good in a retirement community where some folks are challenged with walking; we need more folks to water pots and planters that are not individually cared for by an assigned gardener; there is the usual vacationer who either forgets, or neglects to get their garden cared for in their absence.  The list goes on and on.  All the gardeners know JUST what I’m talking about.

So, we can’t do without it, and yet sometimes we just get too much…or we get it in the wrong place.  WATER   We can’t live without it, and sometimes we can’t live with it.  Our plants?  Well, they need it, but administered correctly!

Why do they need it?  If they don’t have it, the little rootlets will dry up, no sustenance will get to the leaves, stems and trunk, and then?  A dead plant.

Here is a wonderful site that explains all the why’s and hows of water and your plants.  It comes from the University of Arizona Extension Service.

It tells about mulch.  It tells about over, and under watering, and the effects those will have on your plants.  It explains WHERE to water, and how much.  It’s worth a visit.

WATER is SO CRITICAL to every growing thing.  Without it, our gardens would be very sad places.  There certainly are plants that don’t require very much hydration.  Those are the ones we should try to get into our gardens.  Water is something we seem to be squandering.    It is important that our families have enough drinking water…but it is also important that we have food.  Every thing we consume is loaded with water.  So, almost everything in and  on our planet needs it.  It behooves us to use it sparingly, yet in such a way that it supports life-ours AND that of our plants.

I address water in my book as well.  It appears in the calendar section as well as in numerous stories.  It’s a very important aspect of gardening.  The book also addresses snow and ice and it’s affects on your garden.  Of course, in Seattle, we are not troubled too much with ice and snow, but it’s all part of the big picture.

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It happens everywhere.  NO WATER!  This time it’s not a drought, it’s broken, or leaking pipes; it’s the construction work interfering on our gardening levels; it’s hoses malfunctioning; and even vacations happening for a few weeks at a time during the growing season.  It’s frustrating as a gardener, to see our gardens wilting and not being able to help.  But, isn’t that part of what it means to be a gardener?  We have to learn to deal with all kinds of adversity.  Lack of hydration, OR too much water; bugs; disease; inconsiderate people; the list continues.  We know it all, but what can we do?

This week the big issue is the water being turned off due to a leak that must be repaired in a pipe leading to our gardens.  AAARRRGGGHHH!  It doesn’t help that the weather has turned hot and dry.  For Seattle, that’s also a bit frustrating.

So, what do we do?  We wait patiently for the pipe to be repaired.  In the meantime, our plants are drooping.  Perhaps it’s time for drastic actions:

  • carry water from the closest, functioning tap.
  • MULCH-lay mulch around the plants.  It will keep the soil cool, and keep the moisture from evaporating out of the soil so quickly.  (If you click the link, it will take you to a grand definition of Mulch!)
  • You could even try laying wet newspaper around the plants.  It may not look very pretty, but it may also help.  It is a form of mulch.
  • (I removed the idea of crystal polymer beads, due to the many drawbacks.)

So, there are some suggestions that might help.  Other than getting the pipe functioning again…just using these techniques might help your garden “in general” anyway!

Good luck, and happy gardening!

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