Welcome to the June issue of Garden Ramblings. This month there are again three articles by guest authors with hints and tips on various aspects of gardening.
Our first guest is Liz Anderson and the full title of her article is "Green Gardening Tips - The Ten Best Companion Plants". Companion planting is one of those techniques that always sounds like a good idea, but ends up being too complicated to put into practice. However Liz Anderson just gives us the essentials with practical suggestions that are easy to follow.
If you recognize the words thrillers, fillers, accents and splillers in relation to container gardening then this article by Marion Stewart will be more of a reminder of the essentials of the way to group your plants in containers to produce the most striking effects. You will discover plenty of helpful hints on how to make the best of your containers.
Our third contributor is Ellen Bell whose subject is "Growing Your Best Beans". "A wonderful vegetable that's easy to grow and highly productive" is how she describes these members of the legume family. And if her article inspires you to give them a try, you're still not too late for this year provided you plant this month.
As usual there is a Special Offers section with all the bargains that I've managed to find this month.
June is the month when roses are in full bloom so the video features this flower in all its glory.
Green Gardening Tips - The Ten Best Companion Plants
by Liz Anderson
Wouldn't it be nice to be able to grow your own vegetables & fruit without having to worry about pests? If you have ever taken a morning stroll through your vegetable patch, only to find it decimated by slugs, snails, caterpillars or the like, you will undoubtedly agree. For some, the answer lies in pesticides and chemicals but for greener gardeners, this is not an option. Chemicals kill good insects as well as bad ones and sometimes the birds or animals that feed on them. So what is the answer for those trying to be more environmentally friendly? One method worth trying is companion planting.
Strictly speaking, companion planting is about more than just pest control. The idea is to set up communities of plants that help each other either by adding nutrients to the soil, providing support or shade, or attracting or repelling pests & insects. This last effect is the one that is most important for our purposes.
Companion plants can save the day by:
* masking the scent of other plants to which pests are attracted
* camouflaging plants that pests search for by sight
* attracting predatory insects to prey on pests
* acting as sacrificial plants to be eaten by pests in preference to the main crops
* providing support or shelter to other plants
For the best chance of success, your companions need to be planted at the same time as your crops. That way they can be effective from day one. So here are 10 of the top plant combinations for healthy, pest free produce:
1. MARIGOLDS: probably the most generally useful of all the plant deterrents. African marigolds produce a substance called thiopene which repels nematodes. This is particularly good for protecting root crops & aubergines. Plant French marigolds liberally around your plot & amongst your vegetables, to repel aphids, white fly, carrot root fly & tomato worms. They are also considered delicious by slugs which will eat them in preference to your crops. Marigolds also attract predatory insects such as hoverflies which will eat aphids & other pests.
2. NASTURTIUMS: great for attracting black fly away from beans & caterpillars away from brassicas. They are not just sacrificial plants though & can repel aphids. Grow them for their looks & their flowers (delicious in salads!) too.
3. ALLIUMS: these are plants such as garlic, onion, leek, shallots, chives etc. It has been suggested that these plants can help to deter slugs as well as aphids & weevils (garlic). Certainly worth a try, although be careful about planting them near to beans & peas (legumes) as the antibacterial action of allium roots can adversely affect the bacteria in the root nodules of leguminous plants. Alliums inter planted with carrots can be very effective in deterring carrot fly & onion fly as both pests are put off by the scent of the other plant.
4. MINT: like the alliums, mint can help to repel slugs. It is also a deterrent to ants, rodents, fleas & aphids and attracts hoverflies & predatory wasps.
5. BORAGE: attracts beneficial insects like bees & wasps and repels tomato & cabbage worms, so good for your tomatoes & brassicas. It is believed to improve the health of many other plants and their resistance to disease. Apparently improves the flavour & yield of strawberries when the two are grown together.
6. LOVAGE: attracts predatory wasps & beneficial ground beetles. Like borage, it is also thought to improve the health of almost all other plants around it, although it should not be planted near to rhubarb.
7. GERANIUMS: can be used as sacrificial plants to lure pests away from other crops. They are particularly effective for keeping leafhoppers away from tomatoes, peppers, & aubergines. They can also be beneficial in keeping pests away from roses & grapes.
8. SAGE: good for repelling bean pests and cabbage flies while attracting honey bees. Plant with cabbage beans & carrots for best effect.
9. YARROW: is supposed to increase the essential oil production of some herbs, a trait it shares with chamomile & anise. It can also be used in compost or as a mulch to improve soil quality.
10.OREGANO: repels aphids & provides good ground cover to protect other seedlings. Like marjoram and basil, it also helps to raise humidity levels for plants such as peppers.
These are just a few of the many beneficial plant partnerships available to green gardeners to help combat pests and build healthy plant communities.
About the Author
If you would like to find out more about companion planting & other green gardening issues please CLICK HERE
Elegant garden planters overflowing with flowers create a summer oasis on your deck, patio or balcony. They can even be seen in your landscape garden as well. There are step by step instructions for exact combinations to copy; however, it is more fun to do your own. Just experiment, it is easy to move the plants to the garden or start over next year with a different combination.
You can plant one plant per container and keep things very simple and then arrange three planters together for a great combination. Just remember to group plants that need the same amount of sunshine each day. Great combinations can be found when you use three plants per container, however; again they should all need the same amount of light, soil and water conditions to thrive together.
To be more daring, here are a few suggestions to create focus, balance, interest and proportion in your container garden. Roughly divide your planter, pot or container into four equal parts. We don't know who named the categories but they work - "thrillers", "fillers", "accents" and "spillers". Choose one plant from each category for each planter, the exact number of each depends upon the size of your container. For the largest container, you may wish to consider one or two thrillers, two or three fillers, one or two accents and two or three trailers. For a small garden pot, just plant one of each category.
Wander about your garden center and see which plants fit into each category. Thrillers are usually the tallest and are often the most exciting element in your container. The thrillers are usually upright and add height to your plant combinations. They also add flair and can be either foliage or flowers. Start with the thrillers and then choose the rest of your plants. Here are some suggestions for the thriller - Salvia, Variegated Grasses, Dwarf cannas, Rose mallow, Snapdragons, Coleus, Smoke bush or Butterfly iris.
The best plants to use as fillers are those with fine texture foliage or small flowers. They fill in the combination but more importantly set off the foliage and flowers of your bolder thriller in the arrangement. Some examples of fillers are: Dusty miller, Blue daisy, Scented geraniums, Pansy, Flowering Tobacco, Ageratum and Verbena.
The contrast or accent plant adds the element of "wow" to your combinations and often feature very bold foliage. Look for leaves that are variegated or an unusually color such as your bright greens and burgundy. They may also have large flowers that are the feature plant in the container. Some accents may be: Petunias, Marigolds, Cosmos, or Heliotrope.
The spillers are easy to find and soften the edges of the planters. The give the feeling of overabundance or fullness to your container and may "spill over" onto your adjacent pot. There are so many spillers, such as Bacopas, Licorice plant, Ornament sweet potato, Greater periwinkle, Fan flower, Ivy or Dianthus.
The best container combinations include a very carefully chosen selection. Include a variety of leaf and flower shapes and colors together with different plant forms. The old standby is of course your wonderful geranium as your thriller and accent plant, edging with sweet alyssum and lobelia trailing over the sides of your planter. Be creative and come up with your own combinations.
About the Author
Marion Stewart is an avid gardener. She loves sitting on her deck surrounded by so many varied flower-packed and herb planted containers. In her continued research she has found some spectacular fine quality resin planters and garden containers and now offers them in numerous colors, sizes and styles. Find your best planter at the GardenPlanterStore.com
For those gardeners who have never tried growing beans, you're missing out on a wonderful vegetable that's easy to grow and highly productive. They come in about as many colors, shapes and sizes as you can imagine, and no matter how big or small your garden is, chances are, there's a bean that will meet your needs. Even for gardeners who are a little behind on this year's planting, never fear. Beans can still be planted as late as June for a decent late-summer harvest. With a few easy steps, you'll be well on your way to growing your best bean plants ever.
Beans are a member of the legume family, a group of nitrogen fixing plants. This means that they have the unique ability to pull nitrogen from the air and put it into the soil. For this reason, nitrogen-loving plants like tomatoes will usually thrive in spots where bean plants resided the year prior. For extra healthy, vigorous plants, dampen the seeds and coat with nitrogen inoculant before planting. Nitrogen inoculant is a black, grainy substance that aids the plants in their early growth stages. It's very inexpensive and can be found at most specialty gardening stores. If you have leftover nitrogen inoculant at the end of the season, throw it away. You won't want to use it the next year, because most of the bacteria will have died by then. Nitrogen inoculant is only good for one planting season.
Bean plants generally fall into one of two categories: bush and pole. Bush beans are low, bushy plants that usually grow to about knee high. They are known to be highly productive, usually providing several pickings over a two to three week period. Successive plantings of bush beans will provide a continuous harvest throughout the summer. Pick pods daily to keep the plants as productive as possible. Once the plants are done producing, it's usually best to go ahead and remove them from the garden all together. Be sure to avoid handling the plants or picking pods in wet weather, as this will spread disease.
Pole beans come in as many sizes and varieties as bush beans; however, they are a climbing plant that grows on a trellis or other structure. Pole bean plants are known to be vigorous growers and heavy producers. When planting, it's a good idea to go ahead and install your trellis or other support structure at the same time, because the plants will grow so rapidly. Pole beans will generally produce for a longer period than bush bean plants, provided that the pods are picked while they're very young.
Aside from the two primary categories of bush and pole, bean plants can also be broken down into two other categories: snap and shell. Snap beans are those whose pods are edible. When harvesting them, you'll usually want to use the produce as quickly as possible, while they are still fresh. Use them the same day they're picked, if possible. Snap beans are wonderful steamed, baked, stir fried, or even eaten raw, and are also a good choice if you want to can some of your fresh vegetables.
Shell beans, on the other hand, are surrounded by tough, inedible pods that must be removed prior to consumption. Pinto, black, red, and kidney beans are all examples of shell beans. Harvesting these plants is a somewhat different process. Shell beans should be allowed to ripen and dry while still on the plant before harvesting. Wait until the pods turn brown and the plant begins to die. Then pull the entire plant up from the ground and put it in a hot place so it can dry out for about a week or so. At that point, you can open the pods and remove the individual beans. Spread them out on cookie sheets and place in a 175 degree oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. This will kill off any potential pests. Finally, the dried beans can be stored in airtight containers. When you're ready to use, reconstitute in water overnight and cook as usual.
Beans make a wonderful addition to any home vegetable garden. If you've never grown them before, give them a try! A packet of seed will cost you only a few dollars at most, and you'll yield pounds of fresh produce for eating, canning, or drying. Anyone who has ever tasted homegrown beans knows that the result is definitely worth the effort.
Yet another month when I have little to report. It's hardly surprising really when all keen gardeners are raring to go and need little inducement to go out and buy plants and garden supplies. Bargains are few and far between and it is back to the basic offers of free shipping and $$$ off when you spend $$$.
As you see from the banner all that Gardener's Supply Company are offering at present is free shipping, although there are a few reductions in the Outlet Section at the bottom of the menu on the lefthand side of the page.
Dutch Gardens are the one bright spot. Their Spring Clearance Sale is still on and you can save up to 66% on select spring-planted bulbs and perennials. Click this link for the sale - the banner is just for free shipping.
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