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September is the best time to plant spring blooming bulbs.  All of the tulips, crocuses, and alliums are best planted once the weather cools, and allows for roots to grow before the ground freezes.

In the spring time, anyone viewing the garden will know that I love alliums. Each year I can’t help but add a few more alliums here and there.

[How to plant alliums:] Dig a small hole seven inches deep and place anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon of bone meal in the bottom; using the same hand shovel, incorporate the meal into the soil. Place the allium bulb point end up and fill half way with soil. At this point I will add a teaspoon more bone meal. Water in the bulb and fill the remaining hole. Come next spring these horticultural ufos will bloom, adding to the already countless numbers.

Since I liked the previous panna cotta recipe, I thought I would make another version of this dairy-free dessert. While at the market the tangerines caught my eye while I was shopping for blackberries. Their vivid orange color alone gave me this idea for a panna cotta. And I think this flavor combination to be dreamy.


Tangerine Panna Cotta Recipe


1-15 ounce can coconut milk

6 Tablespoons granular sugar

1 inch piece of vanilla bean, scraped

Zest of 1 tangerine


1 ¾ teaspoons powdered gelatin

2 Tablespoons cold water


Segments from 2 tangerines

Coconut Flakes [garnish]


1. In a small bowl sprinkle gelatin over the water and stir. Set aside to bloom.

2. In a small sauce pan heat the coconut milk, sugar and vanilla bean to a boil.

3. Remove vanilla bean.

4. Whisk in as much as a quarter cup of the coconut milk into the gelatin to melt.

5. Pour gelatin mixture into the remaining coconut milk.

6. Place 2-3 tangerine segments into dishes.

6. Fill desired jars, compotes or bowls and place in refrigerator for 4 hours.

7. Serve with extra tangerine segments and coconut flakes.

Serves 4.

Mid-season and the gardens are growing well. No pest problems, no disease to speak of. I guess this is a good year for a garden and with ample amounts of rain, watering has been kept to a minimum.  This is the time to feed the garden one last time before the cold season arrives.

If you have read the post on spring fertilizing, I have an all-purpose fertilizer recipe I use twice a year for the job. This year the garden is so large and full that I am going to feed with poultry pellets. This can easily be broadcast around the garden and not burn the plants.

As a general rule, stop fertilizing the garden no later than mid-August, as new growth will not survive the winter months ahead. Amongst the benefits of keeping plants healthy, mid-season fertilizing will help your garden to look its best through the dog days of summer.

In addition to my mid-season fertilizing routine, if there are plants that need an extra boost or need some quick food or perhaps looking a little tired, worn out, I give them a good watering with sea kelp and fish emulsion. This treatment usually is for those plants that are heavy feeders.

Alyssum planted annually fills in this two inch gap between the stone edging which will eventually cover the stone below.

Every year a few alyssum seeds fall between the cracks and grow.

Moneywort creeping over the edge. Another two inch gap is utilized for more plants.

Something unusual about this year is the rate at which the flowers are blooming. It’s not such a bad thing to see a garden filled with colorful flowers, however, many of the fall bloomers are ready to go.

Looking through past years blooming charts, these fall bloomers typically start at the end of August. I started keeping track of plants at their peak of bloom, because for me it is easier to plan on what changes I want to undertake or new plants to accentuate the garden. This works very well when annuals are selected to enhance a perennial garden. Here is a sample of the charts I keep for quick reference for garden planning.

‘Regale’ Lilies just before bloom.

This lily stalk holds almost twenty trumpet blooms!

Balustrade Garden Update

Photo [LEFT] is the current growth | Photo [RIGHT] after planting.

To read more about planting of the balustrade garden click here.


A sneak peak into the stone tarrace garden. Here I am experimenting with large planters. In this one and many others, elephant ears add height and drama to liven this space.

Each year the planting of annuals on the porch is an exciting activity that helps create a more pleasant atmosphere. Typically I choose fast growing annuals that quickly grow into a lush and vibrant balustrade garden. I tend to choose annuals for their foliar interest because the sun light doesn’t hit this spot until late afternoon and flower production would be minimal.

This year I wanted to change things up a bit. I am experimenting with lower growing annuals and various spillers for added texture. Also, I have under planted the boxes with impatients as the sun is too intense for them, but with a bit of cover they will be a bit happier spending the summer in this spot.

The chosen plants for the balustrade are heliotrope ‘fragrant delight,’ gomphrena ‘buddy purple,’ sweet potato vine ‘sweet caroline purple,’ lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea,’ bacopa, and impatients.


Heliotrope ‘Fragrant Delight’

Heliotrope is a highly fragrant annual that can grow up to thirty inches tall and heavily perfume its surroundings. For me the scent of this plant reminds me of lily of the valley and a gourmet pastry shop.


Gomphrena ‘Buddy Purple’

This particular annual is vibrant and a great filler.


Diamond Frost

One of the three trailers I have planted this year. This will grow all season long and provide a nice contract to the other larger leaved plants.


Sweet Potato Vine ‘Sweet Caroline Purple.’

As common as potato vines are, they are by far the best of the trailing plants. This variety of potato vine has a more interesting leaf shape and seems to get bushy and full, but not so big it takes over other plants.


Standard White Bacopa

I haven’t tried this annual, but I wanted a spilling flower show for some added interest. Petit petunias would have been a better choice, but they need all day sun to show their true potential.


Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’

One of my favorite perennial used here will create a dramatic effect and is most superb. This variety is the golden form of lysimachia and another way to add foliar interest. If you plan on planting lysimachia in planters and pots, you can dig them out and over winter them in the ground to reuse them the following season. As the root system grows mature, you will have a more vigorous plant that quickly fills out and it’s free.


Here are the newly planted flower boxes on the balustrade. The combination is still quiet and serene, but with a bit more personality than my typical plant choices.


Now that the plants are settled in for the summer, it’s a good idea to keep them watered and fed for the best show they can provide. Check out my potting plants glossary for instructions on filling and planting container gardens. I do want to add a bit more information on what I do to keep potted gardens growing well all season.

Choose larger starts for your pots as they will fill in sooner so they can be enjoyed earlier in our short growing season. Feed them initially with a good fertilizer that I have explained in the potting glossary and also a gentle liquid feed once a week. Only the potted plants get an additional feed because I try to fill pots with as many plants I can fit into them leaving very little room for the roots to expand. By feeding them with a good liquid feed such as fish emulsion or a mineral based one you are able to keep their growth constant.

Watering potted plants deeply will ensure good growth and overall happy plants. Just to say how much water my balustrade garden needs depends on the plants used. If I planted my typical coleus and potato vines the boxes would require nearly a gallon of water per box a day once the boxes explode with fullness. So remember to keep containers deeply watered especially in hot weather and enjoy the show.


Peonies are undemanding, asking little in return. Planted in the right spot will ensure a lifetime of enjoyment. As peonies mature, more and more flower buds appear.  With the relatively short bloom period let’s make the most of it. The topic for today is enhancing the size of the blooms with a quick prune.


The photo above shows the secondary buds that can be removed just below the main bud. 

The buds of herbaceous peonies will form almost immediately once the plant has filled out. Then there is an incubation period as the buds develops. The moment the flower stalk starts to elongate, remove the side buds. You can see this happen, by keeping an eye on the flower stalk tips. The buds are tightly together, as they elongate, you see the stalk expand and the buds are easily accessible. This elongation starts later in the spring when any danger of hard frost passes and safe to remove the side buds. Removal of side buds directs more energy into the main flower for a larger show that is sure to impress.


This photo shows the flower bud cluster before elongation.

Sorry to disappoint, I have no pictures of the blooms last year, but just be patient and I will post this year’s big and beautiful blooms once the show starts.

Remember to feed your peonies with bone meal after bloom. This is the time herbaceous peonies make new eyes for next year’s flowers.

There are very few perennials in the garden that I neglect due to their hardiness, hostas being one of them. Since all of my hostas are located in shady areas of the garden, I don’t usually bother to feed them with the exception of annual applications of composted manure. Not too long after the full growth of my hostas do I get envious of neighbors who seemingly are able to grow the fullest and largest plants. It seems my hostas could use a little more attention from me concerning their diet.

I am particular on how I feed my garden, keeping in mind that organic fertilizers are easier on the environment. So I have created a ‘hosta’ fertilizer for good strong foliar growth and overall health of these plants.


Hosta Nutrient Mix

4 parts all-purpose organic granular fertilizer 4-3-3

1 part blood meal 12-0-0

1 part bone meal 0-10-0

¼ part Epsom salts [for magnesium]

Added to the basic fertilizer is more nitrogen for good foliar growth and phosphorous for added root development. The last ingredient is Epsom salts which contains magnesium to give hosta foliage more radiant color and a nutrient they like. Ever see hosta leaves turning yellow? They require magnesium. If you experience this sprinkle some Epsom salts around the plants and watch them turn back to a their healthy color.


I apply around two tablespoons of this mix around smaller hostas and up to a cup for larger ones. With the added annual supply of composted manure, hostas should grow with vigor and look splendid all season that is if they are planted in a good location, dappled shade.


A little tip I learned a few years back about hostas, if you don’t care so much for the flower stalks, then snip them off as they rise above the leaves. This will re-direct the energy towards root growth. To date, the only hosta I ever did this with, was a large cultivar called ‘elegans.’ I didn’t want the flowers to interfere with the silhouette of the garden I was going for. As it turns out, the time came to move this hosta and to my amazement the root system was extensive. I have transplanted many hostas and this was the only one that had a root system that large.


Hostas should be fertilized once new growth has started in the spring and again mid-season, usually around July. The only exception, I think, is for the hosta ‘Empress Wu.’ This cultivar should be fertilized three times a season and kept moist, but not soggy.



I am always finding ways to expand the gardens at my home. With each year the area of open ground is getting smaller. What is left and a little neglected are the massive expanses of stone terraces and wood decking. There is no better way to add more gardening excitement than potted plants.

One special area on the property is a lightly shaded stone terrace. It was here long before the thought of a garden was considered. In this area there isn’t much to plant in the ground and with large stately trees taking in most of the nutrients, I figure why not garden in pots. I have yet to over-winter perennials for this area, but for now I am experimenting with anything that will thrive, making this secluded place more special.

When considering what to write about and fulfill the mission for what this blog is about, I think that creating a beautiful and restful garden space to be necessary. Once the stone terrace garden is planted and well looked after, a relaxing moment here would be perfect.

Of all the hard work that will go into this potted garden, I wanted to take the time to discuss the importance of proper planting of such a garden. Potting plants are a quick fix for any trouble areas a garden may have and moving them around to accommodate a garden cocktail party will be a breeze.

1-plants | 2- pots | 3- potting mix | 4- granular fertilizer

5- slow-release fertilizer | 6- pea gravel | 7- screen material


The photo above illustrates all of the supplies used to pot plants, with the exception of landscaping fabric.

Items are listed clockwise from top-left.


Potting Plants:

1: Thoroughly clean pots of any dirt and root bits. Soak for one hour before filling if using terra-cotta.

2: Place a piece of screen material over the drainage hole.

3: Add a two inch layer of pea gravel.

4: Place a circle piece of landscaping fabric over the gravel.

Cut a piece larger than what would cover the gravel so the fabric can form a bowl that catches the potting mix. I think a few inches of rise will be enough.

4: Fill 2/3 full of prepared potting soil mix. [Potting Mix Recipe Below]

5: Nestle in plants and fill in with extra potting mix.

6: Water well and make sure water streams out the bottom of each pot.

7: [Optional] Cover the surface of the soil with pea gravel. This helps prevent soil from splashing onto the plants during heavy rains and gives a neater appearance.

The photo above is a cross-section of what a medium to large prepared pot should look like. The pea gravel in the base of the pot will facilitate better drainage. Also, the pea gravel will weigh down a pot that may become top heavy as plants mature. If your pots require a lighter treatment, try using packing peanuts in place of the pea gravel. This is great for surfaces that do not need any more weight pushing down on them, such as a rooftop garden.

I use a basic quality type potting mix with no fertilizers in it. Choosing to add nutrients are a personal preference, one that I love to experiment with and its nice knowing how your plants are to be fed. For the potting mix formula I add two tablespoons slow-release fertilizer and two tablespoons organic granular fertilizer for every gallon of potting mix. If you have any homemade compost on hand, add a cup full for a good dose of microbial activity.

In a few weeks the night time temperatures will stay well above the freezing point and planting can begin.

Today starts off my seed sowing schedule. With fresh seeds and interesting new varieties to try, everything seems to be in order in the “greenhouse.” After rigorous potting and listening to a good dose of classical music, the “greenhouse” is clean and the service lights are off. I am ready to turn in the day. Of, course I leave the music on. I think that the seedlings to be really enjoy such pleasant music.

Below is a guide I put together of how I start plants from seed. It is only a guide and should be adjusted to suit one’s need. Just click…


A few additional tips I have learned:

– Be prepared, have all of your supplies ready.

 [see my seed starting glossary]

– Some seedlings like to be buried up to their first set of leaves. Tomatoes are one such plant.

– Give your plants as much light as possible, they like that!

– Don’t go seed crazy, trying to grow everything from seed. Growing a smaller number of healthy plants over growing large quantities of weak, spindly plants is more rewarding and your plants will thanks you.

– Take good care and enjoy the process.

In early spring as the plants begin to emerge, it is a good time to apply some good food for your plants. This will not only help out the many plants in your garden and give them a superb boost, but the garden will look full, lush and beautiful.

The perennial gardens are on a regular feeding program which I have simplified over the years. I still like to mix up fertilizers by hand. Finding the right balance is not at all complex, but if you choose to buy ready-to-apply mixes that do so.



All-Purpose Fertilizer Recipe        

1 part blood meal [12-0-0]    1 cup

2 parts bone meal [ 0-10-0]    2 cups

1 part potash [ 0-0-30]    ½ cup

Measure out the fertilizer ingredients and mix them in a closed jar. Since I use palm ash as my potassium source, the material is processed in little spheres. Once measured out I like to grind it up a bit so that it mixes better with the other fertilizer components.

The rate of application varies depending on what and when you are applying the mix. I figure on a tablespoon of this mix for small starts and work my way up to a quarter cup for larger, established plants. Sprinkling the mixture a few inches away from the plants and scratching in the mix is all that is required for feeding and then water in.

If you prefer not to mix up your own fertilizers, than I recommend using an organic fertilizer which is better for the soil and the environment. A product I like to use is poultry pellets with an NPK of 4-3-3. It’s rather easy to apply, just broadcast the pellets around the garden. A fifty pound bag will last me a few seasons when applied at the beginning of the growing season and then again mid-season. The rate for my garden is five pounds per one hundred square feet.

As we all know the benefits of high quality compost can make to our gardens, spring is a good time to apply a layer to the garden. Not only adding small amounts of nutrients, compost boosts the soil of microbial activity. This microbial activity is what energizes the soil and helps plants absorb more nutrients.

Does applying compost seem like a messy job? I find that blending the store-bought compost with last year’s shredded fall leaves lightens the compost and better to spread the mix as you would mulch.

So go ahead and give you plants the nutrients they need and you will be happy with the results, and remember you can give your plants too much food. If you study the back of the fertilizer package you will know how much to apply. Happy Gardening Everyone!

With all of the varieties of plant specimens available you are sure to find something for every spot or style that fits your garden. Now finding the right plant can be a challenge. Most nurseries carry a variety of commonly known types and a few unique selections that entice gardeners to try. I find that if you scour the gardening catalogs you will find many unusual plants and ones that fit your needs.

Considering to start your plants and vegetables from seed may seem like a frustrating task or just feels like a big job you can do without. I have felt this way for many years back when I gave seed starting a try. Giving in to not so great results, I started reading and experimenting to see how this could work because I wanted to grow plants unavailable in the nurseries and stock up on plants that would be more costly if purchased.

Deciding to start perennials from seed is a great way to add volume to a garden, but in doing so; perennials can take a few years to mature. I choose to stick with annuals, vegetables and perennials that give the greatest impact sooner. Plants that require several years to start bearing flowers I go ahead and purchase them for some instant gratification.

Something I am always finding myself doing this time of years is deciding on how to go about starting seeds. Should I try something new? Perhaps over complicate something that is just seemingly simple. So this year I will be sticking to my favorite way to cultivate plants and forget about all those elaborate seed starting contraptions.

1-seed Pots | 2- soilless seed starting mix | 3- pearlite | 4- seeds

5- starter fertilizer | 6- plant markers


The photo above illustrates all of the supplies I use to start seeds indoors, with the exception of heating mats and grow lamps.

Based on a last frost date of May 15th this is what my seed starting schedule looks like. Everything will be in order for the first seeds to be started. Typically a month is sufficient in my “greenhouse” to raise plants ready for the outdoors. Plants quickly outgrow the little space I have for them and out they go into the cold frame.

Don’t be discouraged that a detailed how-to list is not included in this post. Once seeds are ready for planting there will be a step by step guide in a separate post. If you are planning wonderful things this spring for your garden, get ready, planting soon will begin.

Yes you read the title correctly. It’s about time to starting planning the gardens, but today I am discussing the importance of getting the vegetable garden planned out. Not only will hard work pay off, but the process of planting and maintaining a potager more enjoyable.

I like getting an early start, purchasing seeds and deciding what will be cultivated each year. Making selections early will guarantee the varieties you wish to grow are available. Already the piles of seed catalogs clutter the desk, eager to be flipped through. Doesn’t your mouth just water when you starting glancing through those catalogs?


Each year I map out where all of the vegetables will grow. I rely on previous years of drawings and notes to rotate crops and adjust; trying vegetables better suited for the garden.  A few years back I had a small kitchen garden off the side of my home, which was a real joy to have, but the voluminous amount of fresh vegetables I wanted to grow just didn’t happen. The problem was insufficient sunlight. So I looked into finding a proper location. I found a community garden site near my home and with much excitement dug in.

Here was my kitchen garden in the spring of 2007 outside my home. Spring cleaning was underway just in time for the pebble-stone path to be put in. Today this garden is pure flowers, better suited for this site.

Vegetable gardens require two major factors for optimal productivity, adequate sunlight; around eight hours and the other water. Soil does contribute to a gardens success, as long as it is friable and naturally fertile. Adding sufficient nutrients get things off to a good start. I rely on organic fertilizers for the best quality vegetables. A well-tended garden with regular applications of compost requires little additional fertilizer.


Let me just talk about how sunlight really makes a difference. Growing cutting greens at home I was able to cook up about five or six meals for two in one growing season, and in my community garden spot that gets sunlight all day, I was able to feed ten people each week for the entire season. That was huge in comparison to what I was accustomed too, but you are never short on friends and neighbors who are willing to take vegetables off your hands.

With all seed orders sent, I will be getting ready to clean up the garden and start seeds indoors. Remember, maintaining a garden whether for flowers or vegetables is a joyous thing and certainly worth all your efforts.

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