How to Make Your Own Christmas Wreath

Rustic-Collection-Wreath.jpgNow that Thanksgiving is properly over, we can start thinking about Christmas without everybody groaning. This is especially good news to me, since I love whistling Christmas carols year-round. Finally! The one month of the year I can whistle my rousing rendition of Jingle Bells without causing raised eyebrows. There is so much that I love about this time of year – baking Christmas cookies and doing top-secret present-related things among them. But one of my favorite traditions is making my own Christmas wreath. They’re pretty, they smell fresh, and every time you walk up to the door it gives you a bit of a smile. [Read more...]

Prune Your Hellebores: A Public Service Announcement

how-to-deadhead-hellebore.jpgLenten roses, Helleborus orientalis, are gorgeous in winter. They’re gorgeous in spring, too. But if you don’t deadhead them once they’re done blooming, they stop being gorgeous and start looking ratty. Then, they turn into spawning hellcats, dropping masses of seeds that sprout into masses of tiny, slow-growing, hard-to-remove seedlings that, yes, could theoretically turn into fresh new hellebores if you wait ten years, transplant them into better locations, and coddle them, but practically speaking, will look like weeds and use up the water and nutrients meant for your parent plant without giving anything substantial in return. Deadhead them. It’s simple: if a stalk has a bloom on it, cut the whole stalk down to the ground. You’ll be left with a lovely mass of foliage. Then, in winter, when the blooms come up, you do the opposite: cut out any stalks that are obviously last year’s leaves (there may be a few brand-new leaves coming from the base, but those are easy to spot and leave be). Your Hellebore will then look like this: helleborus orientalis pruned Easy, right? If you’re a Humboldt County local and you need help getting to all of this, give me a call. My pruning and fine perennial maintenance crew is happy to take care of all of these things at the right times of the year, so that all you have to do is relax and enjoy your space. More about Hellebores here.

How To Gopher-Proof an Existing Raised Bed (Photo Tutorial)

SF-Botanical-Garden-Jan-2010-Copy.jpgAh, gophers. So cute, with their cheeks stuffed with grass and their little burrowing ways. Yet so destructive to our vegetable beds. A client finally got tired of having her beets, lettuces, and other delicious veggies cruelly snatched away by Mr Gopher juuust when they were looking ready to harvest. So we were called in to line the bottom of her bed with gopher wire. Please, people, learn from these fine people’s mistake, and line your vegetable bed with 1/2 inch hardware cloth before you put the soil in. Because digging up your entire veggie bed to line it afterwards is really kind of lame to have to do. [Read more...]

Homemade Christmas Gifts For You Procrastinators Out There

photo-by-D-Sharon-Pruitt.jpgWow, so here it is, almost Christmas, and you don’t have presents for anyone. Whoops! I guess that plan to learn to knit and make everyone personalized sweaters will have to wait till next year. But you don’t want to be a sell-out to materialism and just get a gift card for all your loved ones, do you? (If you answered, “why yes actually, I would like to get everyone gift cards”, then I’d like one from Lush, please! Just sayin’.) If you’re like me though and doing a more homemade style of Christmas, here are some last-minute gift ideas that will make people happy they know you, and possibly entertain any stray four-year olds you have around.

Herb ornaments

Botanical Interests, yes the seed company, has a lovely tutorial on making herbal Christmas ornaments from your garden. They even have some beautiful downloadable gift tags and labels you can use. I printed mine out on some sticker paper to label a few other homemade gifts I’d made. [Read more...]

Professional Tips for Using Landscape Fabric Right

Howtouselandscapefabric.jpgI’m no fan of landscape fabric, but I accept that it can be a useful tool in the garden in a few select circumstances. I go into how to decide whether landscape fabric is a good choice for you in this article, but if you’ve decided to use it, I wanted to provide you with some professional tips and pointers on how to install it professionally. [Read more...]

Worm Compost: A Fictional FAQ for Vermicomposting

compostbumpersticker.jpgI’ve gotten a few questions lately about vermicomposting -composting in a small bin using worms. Folks seem to know that worm castings rock, and they are really expensive to buy. Other folks want worms for fishing. And still others just want a simple way of keeping their veggie scraps out of the landfill. So I made up a “Frequently Asked Questions” list here. No, nobody’s asked me these exact questions. But they should! So I went ahead and answered them for you. You are very welcome. (the photo above is of a bumper sticker I found online. So cool!)

Why vermicompost?

My answer to this has three components.
  • I like worms.
  • I like compost.
  • I think it’s cool to have an effective way of composting kitchen scraps that doesn’t take up much room. Most small-scale home composters don’t seem to work that well. (I do like some of the tumbler-style ones, but the Darth Vader heads – you can’t really get in there with your shovel to mix it up, so the stuff doesn’t break down.) Worms work.
worm compost bin [Read more...]

The Stab Wiggle and Drop Technique for Planting Annuals Fast

HoriHoriKnife.jpgYou all know how I feel about my Stainless Steel Hori-Hori – if I’ve got that, my Bahcos, and gloves – I’m ready to tackle the world! Or, um, the world of gardening at least. Anyway, I want to show you a technique for planting six-packs of annuals or veggies FAST – the Stab, Wiggle and Drop. My friend-in-the-dirt Karl Katzke coined the term in this review. It’s a time-saver if you’re like me and have lots of annuals and veggies to plant – but even if you’re just planting a few, it’s fun and all that stabbing at the soil makes you feel like a badass. Anybody who sees you planting annuals is not going to want to meet you in a dark alley. Here’s my review:

Read More:

Read my earlier review of the hori-hori soil knife and see it compared to the Fiskars Soil Knife Buy the hori-hori from my gardening shop Check out my other tool reviews

For All You Pros: How to Lift a Wheelbarrow Into Your Truck Even if You’re a Wimpy Girl Like Me (An Article in Pictures)

Since we’ve been discussing mulching, I thought this tip might be helpful for those of you who are mulching for other people, like me! I don’t know about ya’ll, but for a long time there, I was risking life and limb getting my dratted wheelbarrow up into my truck to take to clients’ homes on days when we were mulching.  Wheelbarrows are heavy! Maybe you are a pro like me, or maybe you just want to store your wheelbarrow on a table or shelf. Here’s how to lift your wheelbarrow safely, without using any real strength. [Read more...]

Gardening Basics: How to Apply Mulch

We’ve talked about why a thick layer of mulch, composty soil, and good watering habits are important if you want to garden more organically; it’s all about giving your plants a foundation of good health so that pest problems will be few and far between. Today we’ll talk specifically about mulch: what it is, what type to use, how to apply it, and why mulching is the single most important thing you can do to improve the health of your plants and reduce maintenance time:
Mini fir bark chips used in the garden
Mini fir bark chips used as mulch
Mulching is when you add a layer of wood chips, chipped bark, shredded leaves, or other material to the top of your soil without mixing it in, so that it will hold down weeds, hold moisture in the soil, and contribute positively to your soil over time.

Why mulching is so over-the-top awesome for your garden:

  • A 3” thick layer of mulch will reduce the weeds that come up by 75% or more overnight – it is the single best organic weed control out there. Clients who don’t have mulch are shocked at the difference after we put down a good layer of wood mulch – it smothers the weed seeds that try to sprout from the soil below.
  • It helps your soil hold onto moisture so that you needn’t water so often.
  • It also keeps your soil from getting so compacted when you step on it to maintain your garden, and keeps hard rains and hot sun from forming a crust on your soil’s surface.
  • It keeps plants’ roots cool in summer and warm in winter.
  • It helps support the beneficial micro-organisms and worm populations that keep your soil aerated and help change the existing nutrients in your soil into a form your plants can use.
  • It can help keep some soil-borne bacterial diseases from harming delicate, over-bred plants like many roses.
  • In some cases, mulch can help with erosion control.
For all these reasons, if you want a low-maintenance garden with happy, healthy plants, mulching is the number-one thing you can do to have an immediate, dramatic impact on the time you spend weeding, and the overall happiness of your plants. [Read more...]

The Winter-Interest Secret Most Gardeners Forget: or How to Attract Birds

Winter interest is the Holy Grail for us gardeners, and we spend an inordinate amount of time planning out which cool foliage plant or winter bloomer we’ll tuck in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for that year-round interest too – but there is another source of excitement during the darker months – birds! During the growing season, much of the birds’ liveliness is obscured by leaves – we hear rustles and chirrups but can’t quite see what they’re up to. Winter’s bare branches and dormant perennials give us a fantastic view of them scratching at the soil for bugs and seeds, and playing in the shrubbery. Female Goldfinch photo by KevinCole on Flickr

So how do we attract birds in the winter?

Bird feeders:

The winter cold makes the birds need more calories, just at the time of year when there’s less food available. You can set a feeder under the eaves, or get a weather dome so the seeds don’t mold in the rain. Try to match your feed to the birds you see in the neighborhood, because bags of mixed seed usually come with filler seed like red millet, oats, milo, or wheat, which nobody really likes (except the raccoons!). Specialty stores have premium mixes with just the good stuff in. [Read more...]

Backyard Chickens – Five Reasons You MUST Try Them, and Two Reasons Why Not

1. They make charming pets! I love their happy little chortles when they see us, and if you want them to love you forever, a bit of leftover rice or lettuce goes down a treat. They’re great gardening companions, too. Esther, above, likes to stay close when I’m digging so she can have first crack at any worms. It’s a bit hard to dig when she keeps sticking her head in the hole, but then, gardening isn’t supposed to be a race to the finish, is it? 2. I’m growin’ all the snail-attracting plants – Hostas, Dahlias, Lettuce, you name it; not a hole in the leaves. Our girls think snails are the tastiest treat ever, and they crunch them up with great relish. And the ladies help with the weeds by scratching up the weed seedlings! Of course, they also scratch up my re-seeding annuals like love-in-a-mist, but if I don’t have to weed so much I can handle putting a little framework over my baby plants. [Read more...]