Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

NEVER prune in the fall!

A great explanation of why you should never prune trees and shrub in the fall.  Put those pruners away until winter!
http://www.rodalenews.com/fall-pruning?cid=social_20141013_33468537

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Gardening with Nature

Even though I feel I have been gardening thoughtfully, with the environment in mind, I have been re-thinking aspects of my yard and garden.  Here are a few examples.  I had wanted to remove what I thought was a "scrubby" tree from my backyard, until I learned it was a native wild cherry that was a host for many native insects (they can't eat or nest in most imported, exotic plants). I learned about the severe decline of the monarch butterfly, so I started its native host plant, the common milkweed, to plant in a new flower bed I am constructing.  I had already gotten rid of most of a half acre of grass, which requires too many inputs of chemical and water to justify growing. and, of course, I use no artificial fertilizers, pesticides, etc.

Would you like to go to a more natural style of gardening?  Here are 15 ideas for an "Ecobenefical Landscape:"
http://www.ecobeneficial.com/2014/09/fall-checklist-ecobeneficial-landscape/

[this is an endorsement of these  ideas, not necessarily this consulting company].

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hudson Valley Seed Library

This past weekend I went to Accord, NY, to the Hudson Valley Seed Library, 
a farm that specializes in growing organic and open-pollinated heirloom seeds 
( http://www.seedlibrary.org/about-us-hvsl/ ) that was started at the site of old 
camp resort in 2004.  This is the time of year when plants are harvested for seed
or have already been harvested.  It was odd, from a gardener's perspective to see
so many of these plants gone to seed! It is always an embarrassment to me to see
lettuce, for example, gone to seed in my garden!  And, of course, I try to pick 
my veggies at the best point for eating, which is usually far earlier than the seed
production stage!
In the photo collage above: red zinnias going to seed, center top (counter clock-
wise): red lettuce seed heads, de-seeded squash in the compost pile, onions drying and
eggplants being allowed to mature to form seeds.
This company also sponsors a yearly contest for artists to design some of their seed
packs: 

This might inspire me to use more open-pollinated plants and save my own seed!
Happy gardening!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Commercial Potting Soil

I know, a very exciting photo, of dirt!  This is a nationally-available brand of potting soil with fertilizer and I have finally gotten fed up with it.  I am now starting to make my own.  Why?  Mushrooms.  Huh?  I have been using this and similar soils for outdoor container plants and house plants.  Lately, my house plants have been sprouting various fungi!  Which I think is not so good for indoor air quality, especially for those with allergies.  Why is this happening?
Well, turn over the bag and read the ingredients.  Many of these potting mixes list "forestry by products" " forestry products" or "wood chips."  You can even see some in the photo.  Wood chips take awhile to decompose and often sprout mushrooms and fungi in order to break down.  They provide zip in regard to plant nutrients, except, perhaps, over the very long haul.  They are there so the forestry industry can get rid of excess, undesirable wood waste.
Another reason to dislike these products is the harsh, chemical salt fertilizers they contain.  These are like feeding your kids on white sugar, not healthy at all.
I am now making my own potting soil, a mix of worm compost (other well-aged compost will do), peat or coir fibers and perlite.  I think my house plants and I will be the better for it!
Happy gardening!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Carnivory in Action


A wasp stuck in a pitcher plant.
I sometimes see small insects stuck in the pitchers of these carnivorous plants, but seldom ones as large as this wasp.  I watched him for awhile, and he (she?) just cannot get back up, the feet keep sliding down, towards the pool of digestive enzymes at the bottom.  However, bees and wasps are often able to chew right through the side of the pitcher and effect an escape that way.
It's a plant eats insect world out there!
Happy gardening!  Though the heat and drought are pretty bad here in my part of central Virginia...

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Keyhole Gardens: Link

Now this is a very cool idea, keyhole gardens!  From : http://www.inspirationgreen.com/keyhole-gardens.html


The basic idea is to have a center well for composting, and water also goes into this well.  The cut allows for easy access to the center well.  A great idea especially in dry areas and to conserve water in general. Thanks, VS, for sending me the link!
Happy gardening!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Oh no! BASIL BLIGHT!

     I wrote a brief note about basil blight last year, secure in the knowledge that it had not spread to Virginia.
But is has. To my house.
     Basil blight is a fungal disease that will kill your basil plants and spread to other basil plants through fungal spores released into the air.  I like to sow basil seeds several times a season to keep a good supply of fresh, young leaves on hand.  I ran out of seed and recently purchased new seed from a large, commercial seed house.  The plants looked great at first, then more and more sickly: pasty yellow and brown leaves.

I wondered if it could be blight. When I turned over the leaves, this is what I saw:
     See the gray patches on the backs of the leaves?  This is the grayish fungus called basil blight.  The remedy? Bag up and throw out the plants, soil and pots.  I feel lucky I don't have this in the garden (I hope I caught it early enough before it spread).
     If your basil gets puny looking, checks carefully for a gray, sooty fungal growth on the backs of the leaves and toss it out ASAP!  I wrote to the seed house, we'll see what response I get,
Happy gardening!  May your basil stay healthy!