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Tales from a Plant Addict

Fun (& a few serious) facts, tips and tricks for every gardener, new and old.
Gardening Guidelines

Edible Container Gardens

Growing vegetables in containers is nothing new; there are entire books dedicated to this topic. I have a lot of experience in growing vegetables in traditional in-ground gardens or raised beds, and have grown a few different vegetables in various containers. Successfully growing vegetables in containers largely hinges on having sufficient amounts of soil to support the plants, and bein...

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Strawberries-- Fragaria spp.

Along with other early spring crops like broccoli, cabbage and lettuce, it is a great time of year to plant some strawberries in your home garden. They are an especially kid-friendly crop to grow at home. Once my niece and later my son found the strawberries in our garden, none have made it into the house. They all get consumed on site! The strawberry plant was considered valuable for i...

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Passion Flower

My first encounter with a passion flower plant was back in high school when I succumbed to a display at my local garden center. The display promised beautiful passion flower plants easily grown from seed, and prominently featured was a gorgeous picture of a passion flower. I remember the seeds were packaged in yellow plastic eggs, and the package showed a cartoon of a very happy gardener and a...

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Plants and the Weather

I've lost track of how many times people have remarked to me about having had basically all four seasons in the past weeks. From nearly 70 degrees and sunny to blizzard conditions that closed down the interstate for a time, this sure has been a wild week! You may wonder how this weather will affect the garden. As of this writing I think our swings in temperature and conditions have been quick e...

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Growing Phalaenopsis Orchids at Home

It doesn't take a genius to observe that orchids, particularly Phalaenopsis orchids, are extremely popular houseplants. They seem to be just about everywhere and anywhere these days. At one time, buying an orchid plant to grow at home meant finding a specialty nursery and either making a special trip there or taking a chance and having one shipped to you. Today, I've seen P...

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American Bittersweet

A plant to consider for a colorful fall display is American Bittersweet. But like a lot of plants, there are pluses and minuses to its use in the landscape. American Bittersweet, Celastrus scandens , is native to North America. It is a vigorously growing woody vine that may reach a height and width of twenty feet or more. All parts of this plant are considered poisonous, but it...

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Planting Trees

Though the growing season is winding down, there is still time to plant trees. In fact, planting trees in fall is probably a little better than planting them in the spring, and certainly a lot better than planting in the heat of summer. The big advantage to fall planting of trees is that the soil is already warm. This warmth will promote root growth and recovery from any stress associat...

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Seed Saving

One of the first "gardening lessons" I remember as a young girl was saving seed from marigolds. I remember my mom showing me how to pick the flowers that were dead and dried on the plant and put them in a brown lunch sack. I also remember that brown lunch sack sat in a cabinet in our basement, and if you wanted to plant marigolds in the spring, you took some of the dried flowers from th...

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Common Tomato Problems

It is a bit early in the season to be discussing tomato problems, but some of the common problems can be minimized or even eliminated if caught early. It helps to know what you might see in your garden this summer. Tomato problems can be divided into the broad categories of fungal, bacterial, viral, or cultural causes. Fungal Diseases: Very common during periods of wet...

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Container Gardening Tips and Tricks

In theory at least, most people have planted their annual flowers for the summer by the time June rolls around. I'm someone that tends to have a "just one more" mentality when it comes to container gardening and plants in general. So it's not unusual to find me adding another pot to my patio at any point during the growing season. Choosing plants for a container can be intimidating. You...

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Strawberries-- Fragaria spp.

Few would argue that a sure sign of summer approaching is the first strawberries of the season. You may think "First strawberries? But aren't they in the store all the time?" That's where as modern people we forget that every fruit and vegetable at one time was only available fresh for a limited time each year. The strawberry we consume today is actually a hybrid of two wild types, one...

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Planting Trees

Last week's column discussed choosing trees suited for particular parts of your landscape. In Extension, we like to say "Choose the right plant for the right place". Once you've chosen the right site and the right kind of tree for that site, now just buy one and plant it, right? Not quite. When looking at trees for sale, buy the best quality you can. This may mean buying a smaller tree,...

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Choosing Trees for the Landscape

One of my favorite sayings about trees is: "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now." While I understood the truth of this statement when I originally heard it, it didn't really have personal significance to me until I became a homeowner ten years ago this month. Adding to this new meaning was the fact that we were new homeowners of a new house with n...

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Bletilla striata-- Chinese Ground Orchid

Every gardener I know, including myself, seems to want what they don't have. In my garden, shade is in short supply. Even though it's been ten years since we moved into an absolutely empty landscape, my trees are a long way from providing significant shade to my gardens. I now have two gardens where there is partial shade for at least a portion of the day, and whatever direct sun they get is in...

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Recycling & Repurposing in the Garden

In his book The $64 Tomato, William Alexander chronicles his quest for the perfect garden at the expense of his sanity and much of his money. Garden centers and catalogs all want to sell you the latest and greatest garden gadgets that promise you the perfect garden. But if one of your reasons to garden, particularly to vegetable garden, is to save money on food costs, buying special garden gadg...

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Creeping Charlie

Creeping Charlie holds a special place in my heart, as it is one of the first plants besides a dandelion that I learned was a "weed". For my dad, I think this plant is more than a weed, it is instead an evil enemy he has waged war with for more than my 40 years on earth. For as long as I can remember, my dad has fought a relentless battle against this green enemy. I spent many an hour a...

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Spring Houseplant Care

One way to satisfy the urge to garden this time of year is to do some spring cleaning of your houseplants. This is the perfect time of year to trim, repot, and divide houseplants. It's also a great time to evaluate any special garden plants overwintered in the house or garage. Many of my houseplants become somewhat leggy indoors, even those that I keep under supplemental lighting. I res...

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Creating Serenity in the Garden

Serenity is not the word that comes to mind when I'm out in my garden lately. After a long day at work, which can be incredibly busy this time of year, I look around my garden and see nothing but spring chores. I wonder how I will get it all done with my almost 2 year old son in tow. But then I catch a glimpse of spring bulbs beginning to emerge, and a sense of serenity or peace sneaks in, remi...

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Starting Seeds Indoors

By this time each winter I am chomping at the bit to get my hands dirty. The seed catalogs fill my mailbox, each one taunting me with another new and improved variety of vegetable or flower. Seeds are one way to plant unusual varieties of flowers and vegetables for generally less cost than purchasing plants. But using seeds does cost in terms of time invested in growing the transplants....

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Managing Houseplant Pests

After all the Holiday decorations have been put away, our homes might look a little bare. It is the perfect time to brighten the space with a houseplant or two. Most indoor gardeners encounter unwelcome pests at one time or another. Typically problems begin to escalate during the winter months. In general, during winter our houses tend to be warm and low in humidity and light, whereas h...

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Sprouts

This time of year, many of us are resolving to eat healthier. For one reason or another, many people will think of sprouts when people talk about "eating healthy". Sometimes this association is positive, sometimes negative, I think primarily because many people still think of them as unusual or exotic. Sprouts are really nothing new in the world of food. Growing sprouts of seeds as a fo...

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Christmas Cactus

Christmas cactus is a lesser known holiday plant compared to the poinsettia, but no less spectacular in my opinion. Their flowers are truly unique, and unlike poinsettia, it is relatively easy to coax a Christmas cactus into re-blooming each year. Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter cacti, commonly called 'holiday cacti' are named all in reference to the time of year they typically bloom...

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Think Spring! (It’s Not too Early)

Though the 2014 gardening season is winding down, it's not too early to think ahead to Spring. A little advance planning and work now will pay off in a few short months. Preparing your vegetable garden for winter can involve more than removing summer's spent plants. Planting a cover crop, also called "green manure" is a simple process that will reduce soil loss by erosion, reduce weeds,...

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Blueberries

Blueberries might seem like a topic more suited to the spring or summer, since that's when the tasty berries are in season. Their white flowers in the spring and blazing red fall color make an excellent addition to your landscape, whether you plan on harvesting their fruit or not. Blueberries are also a very appropriate topic with Thanksgiving right around the corner. According to the U...

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Rhubarb

There are certain fruits and vegetables that seem to elicit a very strong positive or negative response depending on the person. Rhubarb appears to me to be one of those vegetables. Any mention of rhubarb within earshot of my husband is answered with a resounding "YUCK!" As for me, no one in my immediate or extended family cared for rhubarb, so I grew up never eating it. When I actually had an...

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