Gardening Daily Tips 119

Learn how to propagate plants with cuttings. It’s a good way to shape up overgrown plants, start new ones,or share with your friends. With frost tender plants, take a few cuttings in late autumn to overwinter in the house for new .

Central Texas gardener John Dromgoole, for Backyard Basics, teaches all he knows about propagating cuttings and dividing plants in this 5 minute video. John is a man with a dark past! He used to “steal and borrer” cuttings when he could not afford to go out and buy all the plants he wanted. That’s how he learned the tricks of the trade.

Watch how he takes cuttings from the various plants and places them carefully in a 50/50 potting soil and perlite mix. He identifies plants such as geraniums, coleus, wandering jew, impatiens, strobilanthes and begonias as good candidates for cuttings. But the message John sends out is that taking cuttings from any plant and trying to propagate them is worth a shot. That’s why he keeps that dinky little knife in his pocket when he goes to the garden center… (see more

Coneflower, Purple (Echinacea purpurea)

Plant type: Herb, Perennial

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3a to 10a

Height: 24″ to 48″

Spread: 18″ to 24″

Exposure: full sun

Bloom Color: Pink, Purple, Red, White

Bloom Time: Early summer, Early fall, Late summer, Mid summer

Leaf Color: Green

Growth Rate: average

Moisture: moist to wet

Soil Condition: Adaptable, Alkaline, Loamy, Neutral, Sandy, Well drained

Form: Upright or erect

Landscape Uses:

Border, Container, Massing, Seashore, Specimen

Special Features:

Attracts birds, North American native, Edible, Naturalizing, Attracts butterflies, Suitable for cut flowers, Suitable for dried flowers, Attractive flowers or blooms

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Q&A: Starting to Compost

Question: I want to start a compost pile. I plan to build compost bins, how do I go about doing this and do I need to biuld a bin with holes in it. how do I start the process and how long before I can use the compost?

Answer: You can compost in any manner of ways; simply make a pile without rigid sides; build an enclosure out of wood, or use a plastic bin. If you make your own, use cedar or redwood (they last longest) and use chicken wire or hardware cloth for the bottom 8-12″ of the structure to allow air to enter the bin. There are many bins available at garden centers if you decide to go the plastic route. All compost bins work best with air holes (although there are some on the market without – this is called anerobic decomposition. You’ll find a wet, smelly mess if there are not air holes in your compost bin!) You’ll need both green and brown material – green for nitrogen and brown for carbon. Grass clippings, dead annuals, and anything else that’s green will supply nitrogen. Dried leaves are excellent, but failing a supply of leaves, you could use newspaper for the carbon portion of your compost pile. Tear the sheets into 2-3″ strips and they’ll decompose faster. I’d start by tossing green material into a pile, adding brown material and topping it off with a few shovelfuls of soil (or compressed compost) to add micro-organisms which will speed the decomposition process. Water it down well. Wait a few days to a week and turn everything to mix it together. Water again if necessary. (You want the material to be damp but not soggy wet). Remember to turn the contents of your compost pile every week to 10 days, moving the warm center to the sides and the cold sides to the center so everything breaks down completely. Compost takes anywhere from a few months to a full year, depending upon the size of organic materials you put into the bin. You can screen the compost prior to use, tossing the larger pieces back into the pile and using the well decomposed parts in your garden. Best wishes with your compost bin!

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Q&A: Thinning Seedlings

Question: What does the term “thinning” on the back of seed packets mean? Does it imply that I have to discard some of the plants once they have emerged?

Answer: Thinning seedlings is an important part of growing plants from seeds. If they’re overcrowded, seedlings will compete for light and moisture, making them spindly and weak. Thinning gives them enough elbow room to grow stout and sturdy. Seedlings started indoors in “6-packs” should be thinned to one plant per cell. Seedlings in flats should be thinned to at least an inch apart. You can thin by cutting the stems of overcrowded seedlings right at the soil line, saving the healthiest looking ones and snipping off adjacent plants. Or, you can prick them out of the soil and transplant to another tray or pot–but you run the risk of damaging the roots. If you transplant your thinnings, handle the seedlings by the leaves rather than by the stems. If you bruise the stem the plant will die. If you bruise the leaves, it will just encourage development of additional leaves. Outdoors, seedlings should be thinned according the the directions on the seed packet. (Remember, you can eat the thinnings of spinach, beets, and carrots — consider them gourmet baby vegetables!)

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Q&A: Soil for Raised Beds

Question: I just finished building raised beds for flowers and veggies. What type of soil mix should I use to fill them?

Answer: A mix of about half topsoil and half compost should be fine. First, loosen the native soil and then combine it with the soil and compost add to create a transition between the different soil types.

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Tip: Divide Overcrowded Perennials

Now, just as new growth is emerging, is a good time to divide many perennials in our region. Divide plants that have become overcrowded. You’ll know it’s time when the center of the clump starts to die out or when flowers become fewer or smaller. You can also divide plants as a way of propagating new plants. I now have a eighty foot long row of ‘Stella d’Oro’ daylilies that all came from three plants purchased twenty years ago! Some perennials, such as asters, chrysanthemums and bee balm, need frequent division (every 1-3 years) to keep them in bounds and growing vigorously. Many others can go 4-6 years or longer before needing renewal. And some, like peonies, balloon flower, baptisia and gas plant, resent disturbance and are best left alone.

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Tip: Patch Lawn

Patch dead spots in lawn before the summer’s heat arrives by loosening the soil, mixing in some compost, sowing grass seed, and keeping the area watered.

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