Saturday, March 29, 2014

News Flash

 Congratulations.. . I'm inviting you to Bing Rewards!


*Join Bing Rewards! You receive credits for joining and I receive credits for you signing up. By using my referral link we both receive credits to purchase gift cards. Gift cards are available for Fandango movie tickets, Starbucks, XBox, Game Stop, Applebees, Sephora, Skype, Nokia, Amazon and much more.

I often use my credits for Amazon.com gift cards to purchase vegetable and flower seeds from growers all around the world. Every now and again I'll splurge on jewelry or make-up but, I mainly use my Amazon gift cards for garden supplies. Points accumulate very quickly by just doing what you normally when using a search engine as like Google.

We all love, love Google search engine and Google is the top gun among search engines but if Bing is offering free money, why not take advantage of it? 

Get free garden flower and vegetable seeds by turning in your points to redeem Amazon.com gift certificates or luxury items! My luxury is purchasing goji berry plants, garden seeds, garden books and supplies and even sweet treats. I love trying chocolate from around the world and I'm doing it for free! Life is meant to be enjoyed.. why not enjoy freebie? Enjoy

Thank you for your consideration. Cheers ~Emma

Monday, March 17, 2014

Garden Spiders - Can They Kill You?


Get To Know Your Garden Spiders
Before They Get To Know You First!

Did you know that there are over 3000 species of spiders in North America alone? Scientist predict that there is usually a spider somewhere within 3 ft of us at all times. Yikes!

Most backyard gardeners are fearless but, we all have one thing in common. We don't like venomous bugs particularly spiders. If you've ever been stung by a bee or bit by a spider.. . you never forget it and you always have a bit of fear in the back of your mind. That's a good thing. 

Fear means that you practice caution before you stick your hand in the dark spot under a board or before you decide to stick your head where it doesn't belong. Spiders live everywhere. Some like dark places, some spiders like wet cool places, some live out in the open and some live up above and like to pounce. 

If you've ever seen the movie Arachnophobia, you'll understand the fear of spiders (arachnophobia). We all don't have John Goodman around to debug our gardens and so, you must educate yourself on what spiders can really hurt you or what spiders are just as much afraid of you as you are of them. 

We all know of the Black Widow spider but, did you know of a spider that's called Brown Recluse? They're considered hunters. They go out looking for their pray instead of waiting for their victim to land in a spiderweb. Their bite can range from being irritating as like a mosquito bit to damaging skin tissue as to where the skin is actually rotting away. 



Get to know your local spiders. If you know what you're dealing with, your less apt to get bit and you'll know how to deal with the bite if you do get bit. 

While surfing the web in search of bad spiders vs good spiders, I came across a lot of good information. I didn't know that Orkin the pest control exterminator has a great dictionary on their website of common pests particularly spiders. 

Orkin even writes about a spider's diet, habbits and behavior. http://www.orkin.com/other/spiders/

Be proactive in knowing what spiders are dangerous. We've all had a spider or two cross our paths and we just didn't know what to think of it. I'll admit to squashing a few scaring looking spiders only to find out that they were beneficial in the garden. 

Most spiders eat insects that are troublesome to humans and don't intend to go out of their way to hurt us. Most spiders are creepy because they like to live in dark places or hide underneath things. They move quicker than you think they would which tends to scare the shit out of us. The worst about spiders is that you never know where they'll be or when they'll appear. 

Most spiders don't have mouth parts that are capable of breaking a human's skin but, it's always a good idea to leave a spider alone.. . even if it is deemed harmless.

Besides the really bad spiders that can cause skin damage or harmful effects like any dangerous allergy (Black Widow, Brown Recluse, Brown Widow), staph infections or permanent damage, there are a lot of good spiders out there that eat those bad bugs which damage your plants. The good in spiders out weighs the bad in spiders. 

Even so, know how to identify spiders, treat spider bites and dangerous symptoms to look out for. In most cases that need serious attention, a physician will more than likely properly clean the wound and administer a cortisone shot. 


There are spider kits to keep on hand. I have a similar kit for mosquito bites. I don't have very many mosquito in my area and so, I'm not used to mosquito bites. When I do get bit, boy does my skin swell up. I have a bug kit that helps extract the poison/venom. I purchase Sawyer "The Extactor" and use Benadryl for the itch from Walmart. Besides Sawyer making a snake bite kit and mosquito bite and sting extractor, there's a similar kit marketed for spider bites. It's always sold out. So that must say something about supply and demand. 


Kit is good to immediately remove the venom or agent that causes major skin irritation and pain. 

Most people people don't like spiders and unfortunately we need them. Spiders are just as important to any ecosystem as frogs or turtles are. Spiders will kill those bad bugs like aphids, wasps and mosquito that will either lay eggs on your plants, completely eat the leaves of your precious flower and ornamental plants or sting you. Killing spiders will actually reduce your vegetable yield and throw off the ecosystem balance.

Remember that song, "I Know an old lady who swallowed a fly...?" Well, birds also depend on spiders and we depend upon birds. 

Spiders are predators and are out to find other bugs for dinner. Most spiders stand clear of humans. It's hard to understand that we actually need spiders in our flower and vegetable gardens to keep the damaging bugs away. Some good spiders to keep in mind which are just as ugly as a black widow are crab spiders, jumping spiders and wolf spiders. 


Scientists say that backyard gardeners should welcome spiders to benefit their vegetable and flower gardens productivity. By laying mulch like grass clippings and giving a spider a few minutes to scamper away will be most beneficial to the ecosystem.  

Other bugs to protect: lady bugs, bees and praying mantis. Spider species differ around North America. There are scary as shit looking spiders that are harmless in Mexico and cute as a button looking spiders in Vermont that are venomous. 



I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly 1964

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Save Money by Growing Annual Flowers from Seed


Show me the money.. . and a beautiful flower
Growing annual flowers from seed is money in your pocket!

Annual flowers are great to grow but, can be costly when purchasing at a nursery or garden center. Face it, we usually only buy a pack or two at a time when we actually need six or twelve. The cost for flower packs can be quite expensive. When you're an avid gardener, we don't like to pay much for garden supplies because, we have so much to buy each season. 

Annuals grow continuously from early spring to late Autumn and completely die by November. If you were smart, you would have saved seeds for next year’s planting and most of us are a bit lazy or forgetful when it comes to saving those marigold or bachelor button seeds, right?

Buying flower packs at a garden center takes a lot of time out of growing them yourself. There's purchasing seed, buying or finding the potting supplies, planting the seed, tending to the seeds daily and then finally the day comes when you can actually transplant your beloved home grown flowers.. . that's if they survived! It takes a minutes compared to weeks to buy a pack of flowers then go home and put the in the ground. So there's definitely a convenience factor in buying annual flowers rather than growing them yourself from seed.


Because annual flowers only grow from Spring to Autumn, this gives you another chance to have an entirely new garden every year. You can change annuals out in a garden to play up color, size, texture, aroma or just because you can!

Most gardeners like to use annuals to accent their gardens that already have perennials or biennials planted. Annuals can be easily be changed out or rotated. Most annuals don’t mind being transplanted as long as the root system isn’t harmed.

Starting plants from seed is less expensive than purchasing from a nursery, there are more varieties to choose from than most garden centers even offer, you can grow expensive higher quality plants and you will absolutely enjoy the satisfaction of growing your flowers from start to finish. Added bonus: seed saving!

*Popular annual flowers include cosmos, aster, black eyed Susan, bachelor button, daisy, marigold, poppies, zinnia and more. A compiled list of annuals is listed below. 

If you live in cold weather climates it’s probably a good idea to start your seeds indoors. You can use any container you want as long as it’s sturdy and has good drainage. I like to reuse containers from items purchased at grocery stores. Foods that come in a bowl with a lid are usually sturdy. Cottage cheese, yogurt, tin cans, Starbucks coffee cups can all be repurposed for growing flowers from seed.     
Note: There are annuals that don't do well grown indoors or some that are soft or delicate that can be grown indoors but, don't like to be transplanted.

A packet of flower seed can cost pennies to a few dollars. I’ve purchased American Seed Company for 10¢ from Walgreens to Burpee for $3.48 From Walmart. If you choose an heirloom variety, you can save seeds for next season. Just think of the savings! It's always wonderful to share seed or use them for seed swapping too! 
When buying seed, always check the packing date on the back. Most seeds will last three to five years if stored in a dry dark place. I've actually found seeds that I've stored away that were over 10 years old and some of the snap dragon and marigold actually germinated. It was about a 35% germination ratio. Seeds are like canned food.. they always need to be rotated every few years. 

I recommend that you follow the seed packet’s planting instructions. Planting a seed too deep will often stop germination. A seed will begin to germinate but, it has to struggle to rise to the top of the soil.
If a flower is meant for shade, plant it in a shady place. Don't expect a pansy to grow in full southwestern sun. You'll have baked pansy chips within a few hours. Unless you like baked pansy chips.. then go ahead and plant shade flowers in full sun. Wink :O)
You should never over water soil when planting seeds. Too much water can actually make seeds rot. Soil should be kept damp but, not wet.
Seed planting depth differs from seed to seed. I’ve always been taught that the general rule of seed planting is to sow at a depth twice the size of the seed. A squash seed is planted deeper than a poppy seed, right?
Hard seeds as like morning glories should be soaked overnight to soften the outer shell of the seed. Some seeds as like apple seed should be frozen for a few months before planting. There are even seeds that should be scored so germination can take place. It’s always a good idea to research your flower seed variety before jumping into planting them. The back of a seed packet is the first place to reference. Most seed packing companies (Burpee.com, EdenBrothers.com, ParkSeed.com) have great online planting information or seed catalogs that are like a dictionary for growing seeds.
With time and patience, a packet of seed will give you far more flowers than a four or six pack of flowers from Lowe’s. I completely recommend growing flowers from seed because, it’s far cheaper than purchasing flower packs from your local garden center, seeds grown in your own soil will be hardier and will adapt to your soil’s ph condition and lastly, there’s far more variety of seed packets available than actual plants grown at any nursery. Most nurseries have the usual annuals as like marigold, petuna, zinnia etc.
If you live in warm climate as like southern California, go ahead and sow your seeds directly in the ground or grow in containers outside. Tossing your seeds where you want them to grow is called direct sowing in garden terms. This is good when you want to plant a patch of a particular flower as like marigold, cosmos, bachelor button or allysum.
I’ll sow flower seed when I want a block of flowers usually of one or two variety.  I like to have more control over where I plant my flowers. I’ve also been known to change my mind about where I want particular flowers to grow. I like to change things up each year.
Starting and growing seeds in containers makes it easier to mix match plants and transferring plants to the soil is easy breezy.
Sowing seed directly can be a risky if you reside in a windy area, have roaming animals that walk through garden beds or even pecking birds like pigeons, crows or chickens.
By planting seed in containers, planning a flower garden’s color scheme is a whole lot easier and it’s simple to transfer plants from a cell pack or container. There’s nothing more discouraging after sowing seed, waiting and nothing comes up. Sometimes seeds erode or are blown away so, starting seeds in containers makes creating borders and planned flower beds easier.
Note: There are tender annuals that don’t do well started from seed indoors. Alyssum, poppies, larkspur, or even sweet peas are examples of tender annuals. It’s best to direct sow these types of flowers after the danger of the last frost or in containers outdoors. For some reason they just don’t like a control environment and like to start their little lives outside.
Purple fountain grass, Zinnia (Profusion Orange), Pelargonium (Tango Violet) and English ivy

Remember, if your container doesn't have good drainage, it will be bad for the seed and rooting system. Just take a hammer and a nail to the bottom of the container or an electric drill to make holes.
Seed sells for starters can be purchased at any garden center. Jiffy pots are a good brand that can be used over and over. I've even seen them sold at pharmacies. The biodegradable paper flower pots are great but, I’d rather save money by using something made of hard durable plastic or tin that can be cleaned with vinegar then reused.
Note: Sometimes tin cans in the summer can be too hot for growing tender plants in. We all know how hot it gets in the southwest. Painting tin cans yellow, light blue or orange can keep the cans cool. Your best bet in not baking your plants when using tin cans is to keep them in indirect sun.

Soft Annuals That Are Best Started Outdoors – Less Successful Growing Indoors

Most flowers will germinate fine indoors because they need a warm soil temperature but, for some reason flowers that are considered 'soft annuals' like to actually grow outdoors once leaves begin to divelop.

Amaranth
American Annual baby's-breath (Gypsophila elegans)
Ammi Majus – Bishop Flower, Queen Anne’s Lace
Asters
Bachelor Button
Begonia
Calendula
California and Shirley poppies (Papaver)
Caster Bean
Celosia
Cosmos
Forget-me-nots (Myosotis)
Hyacinth Bean
Larkspur
Lavatera
Linaria
Love-in-a-mist (Nigella)
Marigold
Mexican Sunflower
Morning Glory
Nasturtium
Pansies - Viola
Pincushion
Dianthus - Pinks
Salvia
Snapdragons
Spider flower - Cleome
Sunflower
Sweet peas
Zinnia Bachelor buttons
  

Hardy Annuals That Grow Just Fine Indoors and transfer with no problem.

These plants need a ground temperature of at least 60F to germinate. So if you keep your house at a moderate temperature, there should be no problem with germinating seeds. It’s best to start these seeds about six weeks before you plan on transplanting them outdoors. You can scatter the seeds in large containers and once your plants have their first true leaves, you’re ready to transplant into separate cells or flower pots. 
Use a pencil or pen to separate the plant from the soil. This is called teasing your plant. Be careful not to damage the root system when pulling the flower out of the growing container.
Ageratum
Amaranth
Balloon vine
Bloodflower
Browallia
Cape Primrose
Coleus
Cleome
Coleus
Geranium
Goldfish Plant
Impatiens
Lavatera – Rose Mallow
Miniature Roses
Petunia
Petunia
Sage
Sweet William





Friday, March 14, 2014

Spring 2014 Flower & Vegetable Garden Show - Southern California

video

South Coast Plaza located in Costa Mesa, California presents The 25th Annual Southern California Spring Garden Show! It's a large event held on April 24-April 27, 2014. You'll need a few days to view over 75 specialty garden vendors, lectures, exhibits, give-a-ways, celebrity guests and more..

There'll be children's gardens, landscape designs, live tangible gardens, flower displays, DIY projects, seminars on trees, food, shrubs, planting guides, eco friendly vegetable gardens, samples, give-a-ways, lecture all about African Violets and Orchids, Sunset Magazine garden lecturers and tutorials and much, much more.

Flower shows are really great events particularly if you're a florist, caterer, photographer, wedding planner, retailer or better yet.. a backyard gardener. Not only will you find inspiration in design, learn about flower and vegetable varieties and planting techniques but, these shows provide networking possibilities. There's will be lots of freebies and great opportunities to get to know other folks who thrive in the garden business and related services.

This event will be held at South Coast Plaza Crate and Barrel / Macy’s Home Store Wing

Free Admission and Parking 




800.782.8888 southcoastplaza.com

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

NEW GARDEN BOOKS – 2014 GOOD READS





There are a lot of new gardening books to help you get ready for Spring planting. Gardening books make great gifts or inspire you to improve your own backyard garden no matter your age or physical ability.


I always like to visit books.google.com to find out of print gardening books. There are so many wonderful books there.

The Age-Proof Garden: 101 practical ideas and projects for stress-free, low-maintenance senior gardening, shown step by step in more than 500 photographs by Patty Cassidy

This book shows how older gardeners can enjoy gardening even with mobility problems. Author Patty Cassidy gives plenty of good and simple ideas and techniques on how to create and maintain gardens according to your lifestyle, how to choose plants that will awake all of your senses, and how to easily use every day containers, raised garden beds and boxes. Even if you’re not elderly or have mobility problems, this book is full of great garden landscape ideas too.

All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space by Mel Bartholomew

This is author Mel Bartholomew’s newest edition of his popular book series. He gives you step-by-step instructions for becoming a successful gardener. He’s “weeded” through what works and doesn’t for the typical backyard gardener. He’s totally improved and refined techniques for vertical gardening, pest control, herb and vegetable gardening. It’s a good and easy read for any age.

Balcony Gardening: Growing Herbs and Vegetables in a Small Urban Space by Jeff Haase

This is a good book and is specifically written for urban gardeners who can only use patios, balconies and small garden spaces to grow delicious vegetables and herbs. Author Jeff Haase shows you how to make a small urban space into an impressive garden that will make your neighbors envious of you.

Cooking with Flowers: Sweet and Savory Recipes with Rose Petals, Lilacs, Lavender, and Other Edible Flowers by Miche Bacher

This book is full of recipes using vegetables and herbs that most backyard gardeners grow. Most of the recipes are simple and foods that we all commonly eat. What makes Miche Bacher different than most garden authors is that he shows you how to use flowers in your recipes too. I didn’t know that you can make violet jam, lavender lemonade or pansy petal pancakes. I’m going to try the carrot sunflower cake recipe.

The Edible Landscape: Creating a Beautiful and Bountiful Garden with Vegetables, Fruits and Flowers by Emily Tepe

This book has everything you need to know about plant combinations, interesting garden structures and easy to make planting beds. Author Emily Tepe shows you how you to grow tomatoes directly into your landscape beds. It’s a fun way to incorporate the edible landscape techniques. I like how she incorporates color schemes of flowers and includes companion planting into her garden beds.

Gifts from the Garden: 100 Gorgeous Homegrown Presents by Debora Robertson

This experienced author will show you how to turn your vegetable and flower gardens into easy and pretty edible gifts for family and friends. You can even use her ideas for selling at farmers markets. Her ideas are definitely show stoppers. The book is an easy read and will give you great ideas on how to group herbs, flowers and vegetables into a garden and gift basket. She’ll show you how to grow flower bulbs like tulips in pretty teacups, how to personalize your own seed packets as give-a-ways, how to make your own bubble baths using your home grown chamomile, lavender, roses and other flowers and herbs. You’ll be very excited to find her recipe for fruit lip balm or how to make your own Italian pizza window box. Look for this on Amazon or Google Books.

The Layered Garden: Design Lessons for Year-Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage by David Culp and Adam Levine

Authors Culp and Levine always give great garden, landscape and plant care ideas. He writes books for folks who often struggle at choosing plants for their particular landscape. He always enjoys creating easy to care for colorful plants. He’s an expert at companion planting flowers and vegetables. For instance, marigolds pretty much are the bug repellent for any vegetable plant. His idea is to use pretty flowers that are useful but create a mood or inspiration amongst boring vegetable gardens.  

Lawn Gone! Low Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard by Pam Penick

This is an absolutely great read. You’ll learn how to save money and time when it comes to buying plants and maintaining your gardens and lawns. It’s the perfect book for beginning gardeners too. You’ll learn about drought tolerant plants, no mo grasses, lawn alternatives, the best ground cover plants for your hardiness zones, artificial turf, the perfect mulch for particular plants and the difference between landscaping and hardscaping.  

Touch a Butterfly: Wildlife Gardening with Kid Simple Ways to Attract Birds, Butterflies, Toads, and More to Your Garden by April Pulley Sayre

I love this book. The author shows you how to create flower gardens that will invite birds, bees and will completely transform your idea on how your own backyard can be part of and benefit your local ecosystem. You’ll learn how to transform trees into bird and animal habitats too. She has so many great ideas on how to create a haven for birds, bees and butterflies. I often wonder where butterflies go to rest.