Garden Facts (cont.)

Full sun gardens require at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. Too much shade may make them bloom less, become leggy and may make them subject to mildew.


Shady gardens include filtered sun and partial full shading either morning or evening.


Bees Protect Plants from Caterpillars: As bees flit from flower to flower they serve as garden watchdogs as well as pollinators. Researchers from the University of Wurzburg, Germany found that peppers confined in a tent with both bees and leaf-eating caterpillars had up to 70% less leaf damage than peppers in a tent with just caterpillars. Many caterpillars detect air vibrations with fine sensory hairs on their bodies. However, they can't distinguish hunting wasps from harmless bees. If they feel a buzz, they will stop munching or even drop to the ground. So, attract bees to your garden by planting bee-friendly plants and interplant flowers that attract bees among your vegetable crops. Suggestions include sunflowers, cosmos, cilantro, zinnias, borage and clovers.


Compost: The white, powdery material present in nearly finished compost is usually not a plant pathogen, but rather filaments produced by fungi and actinomycetes. Both of these organizms work on breaking down debris that is tough, dry and low in nitrogen during the cool, final stages of the compost process. Seeing evidence of fungi and actinomycetes indicates that the compost is not yet finished. Help speed things along by turning the pile over once a week.


Flowers with messages: Did you know that some commonly received flowers have messages attached?

  • Crocus"cheerfulness, mirth, youthful gladness".
  • Daffodil(the early flower of spring) "deceitful hope".
  • Daisies "innocence".
  • Lemon leaf scented geranium "tranquility of mind".
  • Rose scented geranium "preference".
  • Red rose "love, desire, I love you".
  • White rose "regard, I am worthy of you".
  • Lavender "loyalty".
  • Lemon verbena "You have bewitched me".

Shrubs for birds: If you want your yard to draw songbirds like a magnet, plant shrubs that produce berries, such as pyracantha, bayberry and cotoneaster. Besides giving them food, shrubs provide birds with shelter and nesting sites. You benefit, too, because most of the birds who flock to your shrubs will also devour insects that might otherwise feast on your plants or even you! The berries don't have to be ones that humans like to eat; birds don't share our sweet tooth!


Match Bulbs to Desired Goal: Many bulbs come back year after year; others diminish in strength over time. To get more bang for your buck and to lessen your planting chores, look for bulbs labeled "Good for Naturalizing" or "Good for Perennializing". Naturalizing means that the bulbs will multiply and their flowers become permanent seasonal features in your garden. this type includes daffodils and other narcissi, crocuses and grape hyacinths. Perennializing means the bulbs (such as many tulips and Dutch hyacinths) will come back strong for 3 years or so, then will taper off. So, plant the type of bulb that will make you the happiest!


Composting: Compost is very beneficial for soil improvement. It offers many of the same features as manure and may be used at the same rates. It can be used in potting soil, in the preparation of flower beds and gardens, and as a mulch for trees and shrubs. Chopped straw, leaves, grass clippings, weeds and other plant refuse may be composted.

To start the compost heap, place a 6- to 8-inch layer of plant materials in a well-ventilated bin. Moisten these materials, but do not soak them. Use a mix of dried and fresh plant refuse to achieve a good carbon-to-nitrogen ratio. If green (high nitrogen) plant materials are unavailable, use manure or commercial fertilizer as a nitrogen source. Sprinkle 1 cup of a garden fertilizer such as 6-10-4 or 12-12-12 for each 25 square feet. The layer should then be covered with 1/2 to 1 inch of soil.

Use several layers to complete the heap. Keep the heap moist but not soaking wet. Make the top of the heap flat or slightly depressed in the center so that rainfall can soak in. During warm weather the pile should be turned approximately every month, but during the winter months turning will not be necessary. It will take 4 to 12 months for the materials to decompose thoroughly, depending on the frequency with which the compost heap is turned. (from University of Missouri Extension)


Butterfly Gardening: To attract butterflies, ample sunshine is the foremost consideration. Butterflies avoid shady areas. Ideally, your garden should have a southern exposure. Butterflies use early morning sunlight for basking on sun-warmed rocks, bricks or gravel paths. As morning temperatures rise, they begin visiting their favorite nectar flowers, but always in sunlit areas of the garden. They also prefer gardens that are sheltered from prevailing winds. If yours is not, consider planting a windscreen of lilac, mock orange, butterfly bush or viburnum-all shrubs whose flowers are rich in nectar, another necessity to attract butterflies. The garden should offer nectar flowers throughout the growing season. Also, butterflies seem attracted to generous patches of the various types of plants you plan to offer. So try growing at least 3-4 of each type of plant. Then the butterflies will be seen drifting from clump to clump. Be willing to experiment with differing types of nectar plants, because a given flower that attracts butterflies in one area may not necessarily prove a favorite with differing species of butterflies in another. To avoid this problem, watch butterflies in nearby areas before planting, seeing to which flowers they are attracted. Also, avoid using pesticides in or near the butterfly area. Finally, provide yourself with a sitting area to enjoy the view!


Pruning Roses in Arizona: Prune after the 15th of September and only take off about 1/4 of the bush. Your cuts should be at a slight angle about 1/4" above an outward facing leafset (bud eye) and removal of any dead canes. Usually you would be removing any crossing canes, also, but you might want to wait until the hard pruning time in January before taking very much off...breaking you in, so to speak.

All debris needs to be raked up and disposed of and a light application of rose food and chelated iron added to the top 2" of soil, watered well before and after application. It's a good idea to remove the dead leaves in September but not ALL the leaves. In January, prune off as much as 1/2 to 3/4 of your bush height, leaving 3-5 good, strong canes. In September, we prune lighter....about 1/4 of the height. This is specifically for hybrid teas older than 2 years. For newer plantings, take off less.


Herbs-Uses in Cooking: Figuring out how to use fresh herbs is as easy as a trip to your pantry or spice rack.  I'll bet you're already using oregano, basil, thyme, sage, rosemary, parsley, marjoram, dill, chives, bay leaf or a combination/blend of the above in dry form.  Try them fresh.  Generally, if a recipe calls for one teaspoon dried, crumbled herb, use 2-3 tsps fresh chopped herb.  Plants in my garden which I consider indispensable in cooking include the following: Basil - Over 200 varieties with sweet basil being the most common; wonderful with fresh tomatoes and a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese; a must for tomato sauce; the main ingredient for the wonderfully green and garlicky sauce - pesto (heaven on earth!).  Chives - mild flavored member of the onion family' sprinkle chopped leaves over salad or vegetables; mix with sour cream or butter for potatoes, toss into soups.  Dill an outstanding addition to cucumbers, potato salads, seafood (especially salmon) eggs and cream cheese.  Oregano instills a spicy flavor to Italian dishes such as spaghetti, pizza and lasagna.  Rosemary the perfect seasoning for chicken, veal and lamb; wonderful with roasted new potatoes with coarse salt seasoning.  Salad Burnet a wonderfully delicate cucumber flavor in a very attractive hearty plant.  Toss into salads; a real find for those who love the taste of cucumber, but find it somewhat difficult to digest.  Thyme - a nearly universal seasoning, great with red meat, fish and poultry.  Try with vegetables including eggplant, carrots, tomatoes; those who enjoy added zing to their beverages would enjoy it in tomato juice.  Mint - many varieties to add depth to teas, punches and sauces.  Lemon Balm - mild lemon flavor perfect for cool drinks, fruit salads and custards.  Pineapple sage - imparts a wonderfully fragrant pineapple scent and flavor to drinks, fruit salads and cream cheese sandwiches. Culinary uses don't stop at inclusion in your favorite recipes.  They also provide for an endless supply of combinations for herb butters, herbal vinegars, teas and jellies.


Salvia: The name Salvia means “health,” or “salvation” and it was believed that drinking a strong sage tea improved health and prolonged life.


Shrubs for Slopes: Shrubs for slopes should have deep roots and spreading form, so they can cover and hold back the soil from erosion once they get established. Check plant tags to see how wide a certain cultivar grows before deciding how many plants you'll need to buy, because many grow three times as wide as their mature height.


Soil Type: The easiest way to determine your soil type is to squeeze a ball of damp dirt in your hand. If it's so loose and unsticky that it won't form a ball, you've got sand. Clay soil will form a ball right away and you can even flatten it into a pancake before it falls apart. Loam will form a ball, but the ball will shatter easily if you tap it with a finger.


Tomatoes: The tomato originated in the Andean Mountains of South America. The Inca people living in the area did not cultivate the tomato. The tomato traveled over 2,000 miles north of its center of origin to Central America where the pre-Mayan people first domesticated tomato plants. The Aztecs were the first people to cultivate, eat and name the tomato - tomatl or xtomatl. It was the wild, cherry size tomato Lycopersicon esculentum var cerasiforme, from which modern tomatoes are descended. The species is still found growing wild throughout the New World Tropics.

Cortez and his explorers are credited with finding the tomato in an Aztec market around 1520 and transporting the seed to Spain. In 1522 Italy was under Spanish rule and they introduced the tomato to Naples, Italy where it was cultivated.

The earliest written records of the tomato are in herbal books. Botanists placed the tomato in the nightshade family, which includes many poisonous plants. People thought tomatoes were poisonous also and the Herbal books said " this plant is more pleasant to the sight than either to the taste or smell because the fruit being eaten provoketh loathing and vomiting." Tomatoes were not eaten in England during the 1500 and 1600's because of the belief that they were poisonous.

Colonialists brought many plants from Europe back to the New World and the tomato was one of them. Thomas Jefferson raised them as an ornamental plant at Monticello in 1781. They were not being eaten.

It wasn't until the1830's that people in North America began to relish tomatoes as food. Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson is credited for an event that changed opinions about tomatoes. In Salem, New Jersey in 1820 Colonel Johnson staged an event to eat a basketful of tomatoes at the local courthouse. An audience gathered to watch the colonel die. Colonel Johnson's physician warned that he would, "Foam and froth at the mouth...double over with appendicitis....if wolf peach is too ripe and warmed by the sun....exposing himself to brain fever." Colonel Johnson survived and slowly people began to accept the tomato as food.


Why trees change color: The green color of leaves comes from chlorophyll, the substance that helps trees to convert light, water and carbon dioxide into food. As trees prepare for winter dormancy, they stop producing chlorophyll, which lets other leaf colors come through. In other words, the bright golds, oranges and reds of fall were there in the leavs all the time! They were just masked by the green.


Holly Trees: Only female holly trees bear the colorful berries. There must be a male tree growing nearby for pollination if fruits are desired.