March 20, 2011

Spring Forward to the Garden Party!

The Maine House has pulled out all the gardening books we could find amongst the still packed library! It is the first day of Spring so why not be inspired by the sunshine and melting snow!! We have some plants on order from our favorite Cottage Farms so once the month of May arrives, we are ready to begin our designs. We not only are including these SunPatiens, but the most durable seeds plantings also! We discovered that this area has a high cost of plants and shrubs so it is more cost effective for us to order from a few trusted garden companies that we followed back in Texas. 

Ever since I was a little girl, I've loved being in the garden. I loved the classic storybook, "A Secret Garden" and how the little girl brought the sleeping garden back to life behind those walls. My grandmother had a beautiful terraced garden on the hillside in her backyard and it still inspires my ideas. My inspirational gardens are definitely Nantucket cottages, the Cotswolds in the English countryside, the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, NC,  and Mackinac Island, Michigan.  I would have to say, the peony is my favorite flower as it was Mother's favorite and I also love roses, lilacs, and hydrangeas.

A Maine House Mosaic

We found a  vibrant and lively collection of SunPatiens include three each of variegated white, compact variegated salmon, non-variegated compact deep rose, and compact magenta blooms. They will be the perfect addition to our summer garden which we learned will be gorgeous plants in flower pots that decorate the deck or porch.

•Type: annual
•Uses: ideal as container-grown plant or border
•Zone(s): grows in all USDA zones
•Spacing: plant 2' to 3' apart
•Sun Exposure: full to part-day
•Water: at least 1" per week
•Fertilize: sparingly once a month; discontinue feeding after September 1
•Blooms: all summer through first frost
•Mature Height and Spread: 2'H to 2-1/2'H with 1'W to 2'W spread
•Winterizing: replant each year
•Attracts: butterflies and hummingbirds
•Drought Tolerant: no
•Fragrant: no
•Edible: no
•Deer Resistant: yes
•Rabbit Resistant: yes

"Seeds are wealth. They are beauty.
They are a symbol--a symbol of beginnings.
They are carriers of aid, of friendship, of good will." 
Victor Boswell's in the 1961Yearbook of Agriculture.

It's a bad idea to hurry spring by putting seeds to bed too early. As temperatures warm outside, the urge to go out and plant is strong. While the air may feel warm and comfortable, the soil still thinks it's winter. Although the surface may not feel that cold, go down just an inch deeper and the temperatures plummet.
When you assess your spring soil, check a little deeper down to see if it's still stone-cold or not. What's down there influences temperatures in the shallow seedbed.

The year of my worst garden failure, I had simply jumped the gun. Then two things happened. First and most obvious was that seeds that like warm soil to germinate--didn't. Secondly, those that did germinate sent their roots deeper and found super-chilly conditions. They stalled out and immediately became fodder for every slug and bug in the area. In warm soil the seedlings quickly grow beyond the range of most bugs.

Have I planted at the right depth? Each seed grows at an optimal depth in the soil. Fortunately, seed packets state this clearly on the label. This isn't a suggestion; it's law. Plant too deeply, and the seedling won't find enough grow power to break the surface. On the other hand, a seed that requires depth for anchorage and protection from moisture evaporation will fail if not planted deeply enough. Shallow seedlings will either dry out or fall over without soil for support.

The rule of thumb is, plant a seed at a depth roughly twice its diameter. If you are growing seed saved from last year or gathered elsewhere, you won't have a packet to guide you. Try the old-time farmer's rule of thumb: Plant a seed at roughly twice its diameter. While this isn't hard and fast, it helps you find success with most seeds, except those with special needs.

It's best to buy a nozzle for your hose with a "mist" setting to water these little fellows at the start. Then transition to stronger "rain" setting as they become established.

Know how many days until germination. This is a failure barometer. If it's a week, you'll know you're in trouble if seedlings are not up after 10 days.

Press soil over seeds gently. You want them firmly in place, but not too heavily packed. In clay soils it's very easy to over-compact the cover, making it hard for seedlings to pop through.

Avoid sowing too densely. Thinning your garden takes time, and it disturbs seedlings that are left in the ground. Overly dense planting results in spindly plants that don't bear well and are more subject to pests and diseases.

In many states, seed packets are not subject to sales tax because they are considered food, like produce at the grocery store. A system based on agrarian roots does not differentiate between seeds and the end product--edible herbs and vegetables.

Try these annual seeds which are nearly guaranteed to provide you with a garden full of bright, summer flowers.

Pot marigold
20 inches tall, 18 inches wide. Ideal growing conditions: full sun, partial sun, well-drained soil.

Cosmos 'Sonata White'
5 feet tall, 18 inches wide. Ideal growing conditions: full sun, well-drained soil, moist soil.

California poppy
12 inches tall, 6 inches wide. Ideal growing conditions: full sun, well-drained soil.

20 inches tall, 6 inches wide. Ideal growing conditions: full sun, well-drained soil.

Zinnia 'Peppermint Stick'
24 inches tall, 16 inches wide. Ideal growing conditions: full sun, well-drained soil.

Corn poppy
36 inches tall, 12 inches wide. Ideal growing conditions: full sun, well-drained soil.

Love-in-a mist
16 inches tall, 8 inches wide. Ideal growing conditions: full sun, well-drained soil.

4 feet tall, 24 inches wide. Ideal growing conditions: full sun, moist soil.

China aster 'Pompon'
24 inches tall, 18 inches wide. Ideal growing conditions: full sun, well-drained soil, moist soil.

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