Overwintering Geraniums: Geranium plants can be overwintered in several ways. Before frost, whole plants can be taken from the garden, tied in bundles, and hung upside down in a cool moist area such as a basement for the winter. The humidity should be at least 80% and the temperature should be between 35 and 45° F. The plants can be cut back to about 1/3 of their height and planted outdoors in May, or potted indoors in late winter. You can also dig the plants and overwinter them indoors in a sunny window. Take as much of the root system as possible. Place the plant in a pot large enough to accommodate the root system, cut the plant back to 6 inches in height. Geraniums also can be overwintered from cuttings taken in late summer or early fall.
When to Start Seeds Indoors: To determine the best time to start seeds indoors, first find the date that you expect to experience the last spring frost in your area. In our High desert elevations, from 3500-6000, this can range from late March to mid-May. To get more specific information contact the Cochise County Extension Office. Then count backward from that date to the number of weeks indicated below to determine when to start your seeds indoors:
12-14 weeks: onions, leeks, chives, pansies, impatiens, and coleus. 8-12 weeks: peppers, lettuce, cole crops (brassicas), petunias, snapdragons, alyssum and other hardy annuals. 6-8 weeks: eggplant and tomatoes. 5-6 weeks: zinnias, cockscombs, marigolds and other tender annuals. 2-4 weeks: cucumbers, melons, okra, pumpkins, squash. You may plan to grow your onions from purchased sets or plants, but if you’d like more options in the varieties you grow, consider starting them from seed.
Hints for starting seedlings: For seedlings, sow thinly. A good way to do this is to take a piece of paper towel and put spots of Elmers Glue at the proper distance, lengthwise and sideways. Put the seeds on the glue spots. Carefully place the paper towel on the soil and cover it with the right amount of soil, usually two or three times the thickness of the seed itself. The glue will hold the seeds in place in case you water too vigorously. The paper will melt away in a few days.
Newly emerging seedlings are delicate so its important to be gentle with your watering. The worst way is to open up the faucet to full strength and then use your thumb at the end of the hose to give a sort of spray. New gardeners often direct this jet directly at the young seedlings, knocking them over and even dislodging them into a heap. A better way is to imitate gentle rainfall using a hose-end sprayer at the end of the hose. The best hose-end sprayeris one that gives widespread delivery, not a concentrated one that you get from a circular hose that delivers a lot of water quickly. These are best used for container plants or established shrubs.
If the cost of grow mats is too high, consider stringing Christmas rope lights on the shelf or table under the seedling pots. The non-LED lights add just a bit of warmth to get seedlings going.
Screening to keep off birds: When birds are snipping off the tips of you small seedlings, stop at the local hardware store and see if they have any old screening from doors that were rescreened. Drape them over supports like pvc hoops or chcken wire. Hold the edges down with bricks or rocks. The peas get light and the birds can't get to them.
Support for flowers: The flowers on some plants are heavy and flop over. To avoid this problem, take a wire coat hanger and wrap it around the plant about 2/3 of the way up the foliage. With the hooked ends adjusted to the right length, the wire holds the plant upright without the use of a stake. The wire is also invisible. In the fall, simply unhook the wire and clean up the foliage.
Tomato Tip : Seed crimson clover under tomato plants when they are about 2 feet tall. The clover serves as a weed-smothering "living mulch" while fixing nitrogen into its root nodules
Other Tomato Problems and Solutions: Early blight. Caused by a fungus that survives the winter on old vines. Remove and destroy diseased foliage. Avoid crowding and prune for good air circulation. Rotate crops.
Ripening Green Tomatoes: If a hard freeze threatens, pick your green tomatoes and ripen them indoors. Rinse them clean, then dip in a solution of one part bleach and 9 parts water. Allow them to air dry, then wrap individually in clean newspaper. Store at a cool room temperature and check periodically for ripening.
Houseplants improve Your Health: Plants make people happy! Their colors add cheer and their foliage softens rooms and makes them more inviting. Research shows that having plants indoors or working with and handling plants makes people feel better.
Use Sand to Deter Slugs in the Garden: Sand, especially coarse sand, to deter slugs in the garden. Sprinkle the sand around around the plants you want to protect.
Increasing Roundup Potency: Mix 2 tsp. of ammonium sulfate (notrogen type fertilizer) to each gallon of water before adding the required amount of Roundup. The ammonium sulfate binds some of the minerals in the water, allowing more of the Roundup to be available to kill plants. Also: Spray off your plants with water to get the dirt off before applying Roundup. Otherwise, some of the Roundup will be absorbed by the dirt and won't be in direct contact with the plant where it needs to be to get absorbed and kill it.
Squash those bad bugs (works on melons too) : If you are having problems raising squash because bugs are interfering, plant 2-3 onion bulbs by each hill of squash or melon. As an extra precaution, take a handful of onion tops, cut them into small pieces and drop them around the plants. This should prevent any squash bug damage.
Cure Pumpkins, Winter Squash and Ornamental Gourds indoors in a well- ventilated and dry place. These cucurbits actually become sweeter after harvest, so allow at least a month before canning and processing. Seed viability increases too, so if you're interested in saving the seeds, wait a little while. Treat pumpkins and squash to a sponge bath with a 10% bleach solution (90% water) to help prevent spoilage.
Christmas Cactus Cure: Christmas cacti (Schlumbergera sppl) are tropical plants that prefer bright, indirect light, a relative humidity of 50-60% and daytime temperatures around 70 degrees Farenheit falling to between 60-65 degrees at night. Homeowners often see bud drop when they move a Christmas cactus from an ideal greenhouse environment to a home environment. Most homes have a relative humidity of only 10-20% in the winter. To help a Christmas cactus acclimate, keep it away from drafty doors and place it near a south-facing window. Also, setting a shallow tray of water near the cactus helps increase the air's relative humidity as the water evaporates.
Growing Plants that Invite Beneficial Bugs: One of the things you can do to cut down on pest maintenance chores and/or pesticides is to grow plants that either invite beneficial insects or repel harmful ones. Beneficial insects prey on pests that cause damage in the garden. Ladybugs and praying mantis are good examples of beneficial bugs.
1. Artemesia: produces a strong antiseptic aroma that repels most insects. Planted in drifts it can also deter small animals. Use in flower borders not in a vegetable garden. 2. Basil: the oil repels thrips, flies and mosquitoes. 3. Borage: repels tomato hornworms & cabbage worms and attracts beneficial bees. 4.Catnip: repels just about everything, except for cats! Keeps away flea beetles, aphids, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, ants, and weevils. Use sachets of dried catnip to deter the ants in your kitchen 5. Chives: repels Japanese beetles and carrot rust flies. It has also been said that chives will help prevent scab when planted among apple trees. 6. Chrysanthemums: contain pyrethrum, an all-natural pesticide that controls roaches, ticks, silverfish, lice, fleas, bedbugs, and ants in the garden. White flowering chrysanthemums are said to drive away Japanese beetles and Painted Daisy, kills root nematodes. 7. Dahlias: repel nematodes. 8. Dill: attracts hoverflies and predatory wasps, and its foliage is used as food by swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. Tomato hornworms are also attracted to dill, so if you plant it at a distance, you can draw these destructive insects away from your tomatoes. Dill repels aphids and spider mites. Sprinkle dill leaves on squash plants to repel squash bugs. 9. Four O’Clocks: a favorite food for Japanese beetles because of its poisonous foliage. It is also poisonous to people and animals, so avoid planting if you have small children or pets. 10. Garlic: planted near roses it repels aphids. It also deters codling moths, Japanese beetles, root maggots, snails, and carrot root fly. Hyssop - attracts honeybees to the garden. 11. Hyssop: attracta honeybees to the garden. 12. Lavender: a favorite among many beneficial insects but also repels fleas and moths. 13.Marigolds: French marigolds repel whiteflies and kill bad nematodes. Mexican marigolds offend a host of destructive insects and wild rabbits as well. If you choose marigolds for your garden they must be scented to work as a repellant. And while they drive away many bad bugs, they also attract spider mites and snails. 14. Nasturtiums: fights off wooly aphids, whiteflies, squash bugs, and cucumber beetles. The flowers, especially the yellow blooming varieties, act as a trap for aphids. 15. Petunias: repel asparagus beetles, leafhoppers, a range of aphids, tomato worms, and a good many other pests. 16. Sunflowers: draw aphids away from other plants. Ants also move their colonies onto sunflowers but sunflowers are unaffected.
Putting up a windbreak fence: A good windbreak fence should slow airflow down without blocking it completely. Solid fences can produce a downdraft, where the airflow is drawn up and thendrawn down into a vacuum at the base of the other side of the fence. Downdrafts can damage plants at the base of the fence as much as the original wind. Instead, use a picket fence or other type with openings. These fences will slow the wind down, but not cause a downdraft. Shrubs or pines can also be used, but may take years to get to the point where they slow the wind.
Mulching plants: The main functions of mulches are the conservation of soil moisture and the moderation of soil temperature. They moderate internal soil temperatures by retaining heat from the day and radiating it to the soil at night during spring and fall; in the winter mulches moderate soil warming during the day, limiting the stress plants undergo during soil freezing and thawing cycles. They also are used to prevent frost heaving of unestablished plants in winter. During summer, they keep soil cool by blocking direct sunlight exposure of the soil surface. Mulches are used to block evaporation of water from the soil, slowing down soil drying. They also help control the growth of weeds, blocking sunlight and/or smothering weed seedlings under layers of material. Mulch will reflect sunlight back from the ground to the leaves of plants. They also provide a clean and dry surface for ground-lying fruits. They prevent soil erosion from heavy rains, prevent surface run-off of water, and prevent the direct impact of hard rains on the soil surface. Some mulches improve soil texture, adding humus. Organic mulches may add nutrients to the soil as they breakdown. Biodegradable mulches, as they decay, are incorporated into the soil where they provide air spaces and surfaces for fungi and root growth.Good mulches are things like hay & straw, forest mulch & bark, gravel, several layers of shredded newspaper or cardboard, grass clippings, leaves and sawdust.
Harvesting cool weather Greens: Whether you are gathering lettuce, chard, spinach, kale, chicory, or other greens, you can get the most out of these leafy plants by picking only as many outer leaves as you will use for the next meal. As long as the temperatures stay at least ten to fifteen degrees above freezing during the day, the plants will continue to produce new leaves at the center of the plant. Instead of cutting and bringing in the entire plant, harvesting a few leaves at a time can extend the harvest through winter right into early spring—if the weather cooperates (or you have a cold frame.)
Dividing Roots: After hardy border plants have finished flowering. It is often necessary to divide the rootstock into several pieces in order to increase the plant. The rough and ready method of doing this is to chop the rootstock into pieces with the spade. This clumsy method damages the plant considerably, and a far better way is to press two forks into the center of the rootstock as shown. If the handles are now brought together the clump of roots is divided without injury.
Ideas for ridding your garden of unwanted rodents:
Bounce: You can deter mice and rats by placing sheets of Bounce Classic around the bags of seed, attached to stakes in the garden, or around stored equipment. The oleander fragrance in Bounce Classic repels rodents.
Castor Oil: To repel mice and rats, mix 1/2 cup castor oil and two gallons water; use the solution to water your vegetable garden. The castor oil enriches the soil while simultaneously repulsing rodents.
L'eggs Sheer Energy or similar Panty Hose and Mint Waxed Floss: To prevent rodents from destroying young vegetable plants, cut off the feet from a clean, used pair of Panty Hose, slip a foot over a tomato, eggplant, bunch of grapes, or head of broccoli or cabbage, and seal the open end closed with a piece of Mint Waxed Floss. The synthetic fibers keep rodents away, and the flexible hose expands as the vegetable grows. You can also cut a section from a leg of the panty hose, tie one end closed with dental floss, cover the vegetable, and then secure the open end shut. Black Pepper: Before you add layers of kitchen waste to your compost bin, sprinkle the foods with Black Pepper. The pungent aroma and taste of the pepper helps repel rodents from your compost pile.
Ground (Cayenne) Red Pepper: Deter rodents from digging up bulbs by sprinkling Ground Red Pepper around bulb plantings.
Tabasco Pepper Sauce, Garlic Powder, and Corn Oil: Mix four tablespoons Tabasco Pepper Sauce, four tablespoons Garlic Powder, and 1/2 teaspoon Corn Oil in one quart water. Fill a trigger-spray bottle with the solution, and apply to plants to repel rodents. (Be sure to wash all vegetables thoroughly before preparing or eating--unless, of course, you enjoy spicy vegetables.)
Tabasco Pepper Sauce, Chili Powder, and Ivory or similar Dishwashing Liquid: Mix three teaspoons Tabasco Pepper Sauce, one teaspoon Chili Powder, 1/2 teaspoon Dishwashing Liquid, and two cups water in a 16-ounce trigger-spray bottle. Spray the solution into the soil around freshly planted bulbs, tulip beds, and young trees to repel squirrels, chipmunks, and mice.
Tidy Cats or similar cat litter: Pour used Tidy Cats into mole, gopher, or groundhog tunnels. The creatures smell the scent of their natural enemy and quickly tunnel elsewhere.
Pruning Evergreens: The best time to prune evergreens is from December to March during the winter dormant season. It is recommended to not prune heavily in the spring because cuts made during the growing season will result in very dense growth on top. The dense upper growth can shade the lower foliage so much that it will die.
Controlling Iris Borers: To control iris borers (Macronoctua anusta), destroy their eggs by cleaning away leaf litter in the fall. In spring, pinch down the tell-tale brown streaks on leaves until you crush the larvae. If the streaking reaches the rhizome, dig up the rhizomes and look for exit holes. Cut away the damage and soak the rest in a 10% bleach solution for a few minutes to prevent soft rot and to drown the remaining larvae. Rinse the rhizomes and allow them to dry for a few days before replanting. Two beneficial nematodes, Steinernema carpocapsae and Heterorhabditis bacteriospora are just as good at controlling iris borers as chemical pesticides. Stir them into water and spray them onto plants. The Beneficial Insect Company (336-973-8490) and Territorial Seed Company (541-942-9547) both carry the nematodes.
Cleaner birdbaths: To keep birdbaths from growing slimy during hotter months, bind 6-8 stems of lavender flowers with a daylily leaf and lay the bundle in the water. One bundle will keep the water algae-free for around 2 weeks.
Disinfect pruners without drips: Sterilizing pruners between cuts is a way to keep plants healthy and disease free. Rather than using a jar of bleach and water, use the new Clorox disinfecting wipes to prevent dripping onto clothes.
Plant tags: A thrifty way to make plant labels is to use disposable plastic knives. Use permanent magic marker to write on the handle. The serrated blades make it easy to insert in the soil.
Pinching to get more branching: Pinching is the removal of tips or growing shoots to make your plant branch. Plants that respond well to this are asters, phlox, chrysanthemums, salvia, obedient plant, beard tongue, butterfly bush, starwort, twinspur, ageratum, bee balm and catmint.
Cut Flowers: If you are a person who enjoys bringing the beauty of your garden indoors here are a few tips that will help your cut flowers last longer. 1) Cut flowers in the morning or evening 2) Use sharp scissors or a knife to make the cut cleanest as possible. 3) Place freshly cut stems immediately in a pail of warm water. 4) When arranging flowers remove foilage from the base of the stem. 5) For longest life, cut stems underwater, at an angle.
Borders: Consider this rule of thumb when planning a new border....The width of the garden should be about twice that of the height of the tallest plant growing in it.
Potting Plants: Choose the right size pot for your plants. Too large a pot will produce foliage but no blooms. Over-potted plants do not have the energy to produce blossoms.
Dividing Perennials: Most perennials can be divided as soon as they are through blooming for the year. Perennials need to be divided when: the flowers are smaller than normal, the stems fall over easily, there are a large number of underdeveloped shoots, the center of the clump is hollow and dead and/or the bottom foliage is sparse and poor.
Most perennials need to be divided every three or four years, although some resent being disturbed and should only be divided when necessary. A few species, such as chrysanthemum, Monarda and Anthemis, do best when divided every spring. All spring blooming plants as well as peonies, irises and oriental poppies can be divided as soon as the blooms fade or in the fall. All others should be divided in very early spring in zones 2-5 and in fall in warmer zones.
If the weather has been very dry, water the plant thoroughly the day before you divide. If possible, work on a cool, cloudy day or late in the evening to reduce moisture loss. To divide a perennial, first dig around and under the entire plant and lifting it carefully to avoid root damage. Gently shake the soil from the roots or rinse the soil off with a gentle stream of water from a hose. Prune the top of the plant to about six inches and remove damaged or diseased sections. Divisions should be taken from the outer edges of the plant since this younger growth will produce more vigorous plants. Some plants can be broken apart by hand, but if necessary, use a sharp knife. Make sure each division has at least three vigorous shoots. Small shoots will take longer to flower. Small divisions taken from a number of perennials can be planted together in an "nursery bed" where they can be nurtured to flowering size, then moved to the main flowerbed. Replant the divisions as quickly as possible, setting them at the same depth as the parent plant. Water thoroughly and provide mulch to prevent the soil from drying out. A layer of mulch will also protect the developing roots from frost.
Keeping squirrels away from bulbs: After planting new areas of bulbs, lay old window screens in frames on the ground and cover them with newly worked soil. The screen weighs just enough to foil the squirrel, but allows for air circulation and rainfall. Once the ground has settled, remove the screens and store for future use.
Plant bulbs at the right depth-Think Three: A bulb should be planted at a depth that's three times its size. That means that tulip bulbs, which are usually about 2 inches in diameter, go 6 inches into the soil. Daffodils, on the other hand, are small 1 inch bulb which go 3 inches into the soil.
Plant herb companions to deter pests and improve growth and flavor: Many herbs can be planted in your flower or vegetable gardens as companion plants. For instance, planting basil by your tomatoes improves their growth and flavor and repels flys and mosquitos. Dill improves the growth and health of cabbage. Mint can also be a companion to both tomatoes and cabbage. It improves health and flavor and deters the white cabbage moth. However, watch out for mints invasiveness. You might want to grow it in a nearby pot! Rosemary is also a companion to cabbage as well as beans, carrots and sage. It deters the cabbage moth, bean beetles and carrot flies. Sage also deters the cabbage moth and carrot fly. Chives are a companion to carrots, improving flavor and growth. Plant garlic near roses and raspberries. It deters the Japanese beetle and improves growth and flavor. Marigolds are the workhorse of the pest deterrents. Planted throughout the garden, it discourages Mexican bean beetles, nematodes, and other insects. Plant tansy under fruit trees, near roses and raspberries and in with vegetables. It deters flying insects, Japanese beetles, striped cucumber beetles, squash bugs and ants.
Water houseplants with tepid water. Cold tap water may shock plants.
Getting rid of yellowed dog spots in lawn: Yellowed doggie spots in the lawn are caused by excess nitrogen and salts in canine urine, both of which burn grass plants. To repair a dog-spotted lawn, first lightly sprinkle gypsum over and around each spot (it dissolves accumulated salts like magic). then overspray your lawn with 1 cup of baby shampoo or liquid dish soap per 20 gallons of water. One week later, overspray the turf with this mixture: 1/2 can beer (you get the other half!), 1/2 can regular cola (ditto), 1/2 can ammonia. combine the 3 ingredients in your 20 gallon hose-end sprayer. Then spray your turf to the point of runoff.
Keeping cats from digging in your pots: To keep cats from digging in container plants, indoors or out, dribble this elixer lightly over the top of the soil surface: 5TBSP. flour, 4TBSP. powdered mustard, 3TBSP. cayenne pepper, 2 quarts water. Mix all the ingredients together and sprinkle the solution around the perimeter of the areas you want to protect.
Hairspray works well to keep seed heads and dried flowers intact on wreaths and arrangements.
If your houseplants need calcium, crush 2 Tums (calcium carbonate) per plant and sprinkle around the plant every few weeks. Can be used on tomatoes with blossom end rot too.
Save those clear plastic cups with lids. Use them to start seeds. They act like mini greenhouses. You can also use clear salad containers.
Common Garden Pests and Top Organic Control Products: There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all organic remedy for destructive insects. Instead, you should tailor your plan of attack to the pest itself, while also considering potential risks to beneficial insects and other wildlife. Or, you can choose to do nothing at all. In the vegetable garden, light insect feeding causes little or no loss of productivity. and having a few pest species present helps to support populations of beneficial insects. The pests below are grouped according to control measures that are known to work well.
Aphids (except green peach aphid), mealybugs Best Organic Treatment: Insecticidal soap, such as Safer Insect Killing Soap, which breaks down the pests’ protective cuticles so they quickly become dehydrated. Repeat applications may be needed, and leaf tissues of some plants may be damaged, especially in very hot weather.
Squash bugs, leafhoppers, cabbage root maggots, onion root maggots Best Organic Treatment: Products based on extracts from neem trees, such as Safer 3 in 1 Garden Spray and Green Light Neem Concentrate. Neem extract interferes with molting, reduces feeding and causes some insects to stop laying eggs. Apply when pest insects are young and repeat applications every few days.
Flea beetles, tarnished plant bugs, green peach aphids, potato aphids Best Organic Treatment: Products based on all-natural pyrethrum (not synthetic pyrethroids), such as Safer Yard and Garden Insect Killer and PyGanic. Pyrethrum causes immediate paralysis in many pest insects, and it will do the same to beneficial insects. It also is toxic to fish and some birds, so it should be used with care and only as a last resort.
Cabbageworms, mosquito larvae, army worms, tomato hornworms and other leaf-eating caterpillars Best Organic Treatment: Products made from naturally occurring Bacillus thuringiensis, often abbreviated as Bt, such as Dipel Dust and Gnatrol. After the insects eat the bacteria, their guts rupture and they die. It's important to note that sunlight degrades Bt after a few hours. Some Bt products include genetically modified strains; products listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI; www.omri.org) include only naturally occurring forms.
Mites, scale Best Organic Treatment: Light horticultural oils, such as Concern Pesticide Spray Oil (plant-based) or SeaCide (fish-based). When applied directly to pests, these oils interfere with respiration, causing insects to suffocate and die. These oils also can kill beneficial mites and cause leaf injury to some plants.
Colorado potato beetles, Mexican bean beetles, thrips, fire ants Best Organic Treatment: Products based on spinosad, such as Monterey Garden Insect Spray and Conserve, are made from naturally occurring bacteria found in some Caribbean soils. Spinosad causes susceptible insects to have convulsions until they die of exhaustion. This substance is toxic to honeybees and other beneficial insects, so treated plants should be covered to exclude accidental casualties. Fire ant baits containing spinosad (such as Fire Ant Control with Conserve and Safer Fire Ant Granular Bait) are effective when used according to directions.
Roaches, ants, silverfish Best Organic Treatment: Products made from boric acid, a naturally occurring mineral, or those made from diatomaceous earth (DE), a powder made from fossilized prehistoric crustaceans called diatoms. Boric acid is a stomach poison, and you can buy ready-to-use boric acid baits, such as Safer Roach and Ant Killing Powder. The sharp edges of DE cut into insects' bodies, causing them to die of dehydration. In the first few days after their habitat is treated, cockroaches may become more visible as they desperately search for water, but will die within two weeks. DE becomes less effective when wet, and prolonged exposure can cause lung irritation in people and pets. The best way to use diatomaceous earth indoors is to put it in cabinets and wall crevices.