Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Feature - Mulch

If you've ever attended my workshops, you know I'm a big on mulch. But does mulch have to be so bland and barky?

I found this great blog featuring some great ideas for mulch:

Why is mulch so important?

It keeps the soil from drying out too fast, reducing the need to water so often. Frequent watering leaches away nutrients from the potting soil.

Mulch helps preserves moisture (not water) in the soil. This allows the container to dry out evenly, so that the soil at the top isn't dry (where you check it), while the soil in the bottom of the pot isn't soggy wet.

It also functions as erosion control to keep soil from washing away when you water.

The great thing about using unconventional materials like marbles, pebbles, or seashells is that they don't degrade like the traditional bark mulch.

Most important to me? It has to look good. So try something different and add a little permanent flair to your containers.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wednesday What To Do

Like most, I enjoy container gardening. But often, we think of use containers to fill bare spaces like patios and entry ways. You know, hardscapes. Here in Phoenix (and other parts of the southwest) where it's over 100* degrees or more (much much more), these hardscape areas can be 10-20 degrees hotter. Certainly, not a place for plants we love, right?

(chard, oregano, and thyme enjoying summer amongst friends)

So, try container gardening . . . in the garden. This beautiful large red pot functions as a raised bed for some sun loving edibles. It also adds a nice pop of color amidst a mass of green. The soil is a well draining mix of rich organic compost, topped with a deep layer of bark mulch to reduce dry out. I also hooked it all up on drip emitters (1/2gal per hour) so it gets watered with my other landscape edibles 3days per week.
Even if you use a smaller container, a good layer of mulch will keep the soil moist enough to avoid daily watering.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Friday Feature

It's Friday and thought I'd feature an awesome plant for you:

Come again, you say? Yes, I do love my botanical names, and for good reason. From Florida, to Tennessee, to Texas, this lovely garden superstar goes by many different names; orange justicia, orange plume flower, mexican firecracker bush, and most recently, mexican honeysuckle. (eeee gads)

So, using the good ol' botanical name I know I can talk to any nursery specialist and find the exact plant I'm looking for. Here in Phoenix, I shop at Baker Nursery, a local haven for the most proven native adapted plants.

Our daytime high temperatures have been over 110* degrees (as high as 116*) for the past three weeks, and my orange justicia hasn't stopped blooming. In fact, I'm seeing a resergence of new bloom heads all over the plant. So if you don't have this beauty in your garden yet, maybe you should should give it a try. Your hummingbirds will thank you.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Wednesday - What To Do?

Welcome to my new segment I'm calling "What to do Wednesday", which will focus on a project you can plan for your weekend gardening. Why Wednesday, you ask? Well, if I gave out great garden project assignment on Friday, you would like have to spend your Saturday morning racing around to the nurseries, preparing soil, and digging holes. Then, your Sunday up to your dirty knees working on the project. I believe Saturdays are for gardening and Sundays are garden viewing. So, Wednesday gives you two days to get ready for the weekend fun.

This Wednesday to start, I thought of a simple project we all can do. Here in Phoenix, where it's been over 110* degrees for the past two weeks, it's about all we can do in the garden right now. I want you to spend some time thinking back.

("The Yard" - 1998 Spring)

I know it will do me some good to take a moment think back - back to the incredible spring we had this year. To think back to this time last year. I'm even thinking back to the early days when we had a 'yard'.

("The Garden" - 2008 Summer)

Thinking back will help you plan your next move for this fall. Perhaps, reminding you of what not to do (that you've maybe tried season after season still to no avail). Thinking back will give you some pride in what you truly have accomplished from year to year. So browse the old garden journals, flip through the Post-it riddled pages of your garden magazines, print of some old and new photos. Take note of how your garden has grown.

(2009 Summer - "Xericopia")

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Where are the monsoon rains?!?!?!?

I have been anxiously desperately waiting for the summer rain to come.
But that doesn't mean I can stop watering. Rain is very important to gardens in the southwest mainly because it is the primary source for good tree watering. Most homeowners rely on inappropriate watering methods such as sprinklers, or just don't water enough.
Regardless of whether or not there appears to be rain in the forecast, it's still a good practice to water your trees.

For me, I've found that using a water hose works best. I once had my trees on a drip system, but the growth rate required me to make adjustments every 3-4 years, which was (surprisingly) more than I wanted to keep up with.
So I disconnected the drip line and set out the hose.
With the hose on a very low flow rate (about 1/2gal per minute on ground and 1gal per minute in lawn), I just let it run all weekend moving about every 6-12 hours around each tree (north,south,east,west). This allows for good deep watering, and then when the rains do come, the soil is primed to soak it up.

Check out more on watering at the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association.

If you're in the Phoenix area, you can sign-up for my Permaculture Guild workshop this coming Wednesday 08/05/2009 on watering in the garden.

I'll share great tips not only on what, how, and when to water, but also some fun demos on building and using watering systems.