Growing From Seed

Seed Tray Collage

I currently have 3 greenhouses in my backyard: the long house, the square house and the hoop house.  Now that the long house is built and planted, it’s time for the square house to be taken down.  Unfortunately (for my flower garden), Fred has discovered a super easy way to grown from seed.  We’ve collected a few of those black basket-like flats you can get from nurseries and Big-Box stores to carry your new 6-pack annuals home in.  Fred lined these with weed barrier, filled them with coconut fiber, scattered the seed, and put the flats in the hydroponics beds. The system is set to water twice a day and the greenhouse keeps the temperature fairly stable. Five days later and the seeds have sprouted and couldn’t be happier.

It’s important to point out that the coco fiber could gunk up a hydroponix/aquaponix system, which is why Fred used the weed barrier.

Share your method for growing from seed – even if it didn’t work out, it could plant an idea that others can try.

Happy gardening!


An Hour to Garden


Landscape Design: Seven Tips for Beginners

I ran across a great article about landscape design for beginners.  It’s a quick read and has some important tips about things to consider while planning your garden:

An Hour to Garden
The completed backyard garden of An Hour to Garden – and then we removed the aviary…

Adding my 2 cents:

“Make a list of needs and wants.”

Get the whole family’s opinion. Look at your garden from the point of view of a guest. Remember to make things easily accessible, like the place you store chair cushions or gardening tools.  If you have to carry them back and forth to the garage on the other side of the house, you aren’t going to use them.

“Study the sun and wind patterns.”

This is especially important if you get the Santa Ana winds trying to blow your house down every autumn thru spring.  Also, know how much sun and shade your flower beds will receive.  It isn’t unusual for some areas to have all day sun on the edges, but deep shade in the middle – or visa versa.  Both the wind and the amount of sun/shade make a huge impact on your choice of plants.

“Live with it for a while.”

Essentially, don’t jump in and finish building and planting in a weekend or two. Think on it awhile because there will be things you missed, like making a seating area for the fire table away from the house.

“Start small.”

Instead of starting small, I would say to relax and work slow.  It goes hand-in-hand with “Live with it for a while.”  Once you start putting in hardscape and a few structural plants, you’ll start thinking of things you want to include or change, which is great.  If you finish everything right away, you’ll sit back to admire your new garden and think “Dang, I wish we would have…!”

“Work around a focal point.”

You’ll want a place for the eye to settle, or destination to walk to.  There’s a tree tucked into the corner of my yard that people tend to migrate to. It’s not far from the seating area on the patio, but it would be nice to put a bench and small table under the tree, or maybe a swing. Instead, we fenced it off and created a veggie garden – something we had no plans to do just a couple years ago.

“Focus on scale and pacing.”

Keep the size of your space in mind.  If you have a small area, you will probably want to stay with one or two colors (other than green) and repeat most of the plants you’ve chosen in order to keep the space feeling clean.  The larger your space, the larger your plants can be and the more variety you can have. An English garden on an apartment balcony will be busy and messy, not the romantic stroll through a private park it was intended to be.

“Be open to change.”

A garden is an ever changing project.  You as a person will change, your family’s needs will change, the plants will change. Expect to make changes. It might be something relatively simple, like moving a bush 8″ to the right or relocating a bird bath. Or it could be something big, like removing a 10′ aviary, which throws off the balance of the structural plants and requires a whole new planting scheme for the garden.

Relax and enjoy the process. It can take a few years to get your garden just right… and then you’ll remove the aviary.

Happy Gardening!


An Hour to Garden


Weeds – Purslane

Every spring I spend hours and hours planting annuals while pulling up the grasses and weeds that have encroached on the flower beds. Our budget doesn’t allow for annuals this year, so I’ve been rather lax in pulling the weeds.  We ultimately decided to let the chickens free-range in the back yard and focus on planting shrubs the hens and tortoise (read: miniature elephant) won’t destroy. They’ve done a wonderful job keeping the ground of the flowerbeds under control, but there are a few plants they don’t care for – purslane is one.

2014.06.12 AHTG - photo of purslane Portulaca_oleracea

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a prostrate, broad-leafed weed with fleshy leaves and small yellow flowers.  The leaves are often tinged in red, with a darker line of red along the back, top edge of the older leaves.  It reminds me of a succulent ground cover, though it doesn’t grow as thick as succulents usually do.  It thrives in damp or dry conditions and grows in warm weather.  Purslane pops up everywhere in the garden, but pulls easily from the ground so it isn’t difficult to control.

This year I had the chance to see purslane in flower and it’s very pretty.  I’ve battled with trying to grow a nice, lush ground cover in my flower beds for years.  Cinquefoil is beautiful and low growing, but it’s picky and doesn’t like the heat of my yard.  Thyme didn’t really take of last year and the chickens and/or tortoise have taken care of most of what did manage to grow.  And here pops up purslane – low growing, pretty flowers in the color I want, it’s low maintenance and loves the soil, water, and heat of my back yard. I’ve found my ground cover in a weed.

Happy Gardening!


An Hour to Garden


Waiting for Second Spring (Southern California)

It’s September and my garden is definitely looking worn out.  I would love to rip out every scraggly annual and perennial I planted just a few months ago, but I must be patient because second spring is coming.  While I wait for the heat wave to pass (what is with the sun the last couple weeks??) I’m continuing to deadhead, keep the vines under control and pruning back the blackberry vines.  It’s too hot to deal with the grass encroaching in my flower beds and it’s the wrong time to prune fruit trees, and I don’t like to plant when it’s this hot.  The risk of losing the plants due to stress combined with high temps isn’t worth it, in my opinion, never mind that I don’t want to work under this angry sun.

apparently the water is better up there (1)

Keep watering deep, giving extra attention to the plants that need it.  Snip back spent flowers and remove dead branches or plants.  Continue caring for veggies and harvesting as they ripen.  Be careful to not over water your tomatoes will split.

Happy Gardening!


An Hour to Garden

Southern California Gardening