Archive for March, 2010


April Garden Tasks

March 31, 2010

Please note:  What I write in this space are lessons learned through trial and error, research, and from other gardeners and professionals. I garden in zone 9, but share garden experiences that I believe are relevant to most zones within a reasonable time frame and planting conditions. Registered & Protected

April | If possible before you plant, have the soil tested, then fertilize and amend accordingly. Fertilizer will feed the plants nutrients. Compost will help retain moisture and provide oxygen to roots. The soil needs to be damp, and not soggy when feeding, amending, or planting.

Whether you direct sow seeds or seedlings, take care to protect them from unexpected harsh forecasts.

In the vegetable garden:  There’s still time to transplant cool-season vegetable seedlings outdoors. These include lettuce, carrots, chives, mint, oregano, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, beets, parsley, cilantro, cabbage, onions, radishes, kale, peas, spinach, celery (which can grow all year), mustard.

Plant seed potatoes purchased from a nursery, not supermarket potatoes treated to prevent sprouting. Turnips should go in ground in late April.

Sow as seeds indoors or in beds, or transplant summer-vegetable seedlings (tomatoes, melons, peppers, eggplant, beans, chard, and cucumbers, zucchini, squash).

If you planted garlic last fall, pinch off the flowers. Harvest them when foliage falls over or turns brown.

Cut off strawberry runners.

Feed citrus trees . . . everything (shrubs, vines, flowers, etc.) so they receive the nutrients needed to support spring growth.

In the landscape:  Apply pre-emergent weed-and-feed to lawns. This simple step is what will make turf green and weed-less instead of brownish-yellow and weedy. Even if you don’t live in town under regulated water mandates, do your part by watering deeply and less often. To save water, aerate your lawn for good drainage and deep saturation.

Pinch back mums, geraniums, and fuchsias for a bushier plant and more flowers. Also, pinch back faded sweet pea blooms.

After your azalea and camellia flowers fad, pinch back the branch tips. This will keep them dense, and promote more flowers next year. Feed through October with an azalea-camellia food, once monthly after the last blossom drops.

April is a great month to plant just about anything . . . shade trees, shrubs, vines, annuals, perennials, groundcover, and lawn.

Watch for aphids, as they love new growth. There are organic products on the market.

Prune lavender plants by cutting off 1/3 of the new growth. This will keep the plant from getting too woody.

Spray or hand-pull weeds while the soil is moist, before they get too large and out of control.

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


Give and Take Continues

March 27, 2010

Yippee . . . Betty’s generosity has spread. Yesterday, a delivery of free topsoil came . . . a surprise that I knew nothing about. This afternoon, free irises were offered to me. I hope–and I truly mean this–that you all receive just as many or more blessings.


Give and Take

March 26, 2010

Thanks to one of my faithful readers, Betty Lee, I was able to enjoy my favorite garden task . . . planting, which is probably why I slept so well last night.

Like many people, the broken economy has entered my household. I’ve made major cutbacks, including the indulgence of a few annuals. Plans to replace the perennials removed west of the oak tree are on hold. (Read Acorn Blues about this change.) Here’s the miserable thing about doing away with planting . . . I love to plant. I don’t “have” to place anything into the ground or pots. It’s not a necessity, but it is something that gives me a great deal of joy.

Occasionally, I hear about someone who wants to cut back on their yard work and ends up throwing out plants or pots because they can’t find a taker. Therefore, I decided to find a giver. Many of the subscribers, who received In and Around the Garden when it was an e-newsletter, live nearby. Without explanation, I emailed them asking if they had x-large pots (one of mine broke), topsoil, single-trunk dwarf plants, or Japanese Maple trees that they wanted to get rid of, and if so to please contact me.

Betty’s reply gave me hope.

Betty has lived in the same house for 40 years, and tends the lawns, and trees and shrubs all by herself, potting up every little shoot that reseeds from other plants or carried in by birds or wind. The front and back yards are neat and tidy with seasonal color spots. Betty led me through the side yard, and instructed me to grab the upright wheelbarrow leaning against the fence. Following behind her, I pushed it to a southeast corner. I expected a seedling (the wheelbarrow should have been a clue), so imagine my surprise when Betty pointed to a five-foot Japanese Maple tree! The tree was mine—all mine—to take home and plant! It nearly took my breath away. A tree this size would cost $50 to $70! How blessed am I?

Pushing the full wheelbarrow to the car, Betty asked me to stop. She reached down, picked up some pansies, and said these are for you. I was beaming . . . squealing inside . . . grateful to have met up with such a generous lady. Thank you, Betty Lee!

Maybe planting had nothing to do with a good night’s sleep.

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


Slick-Page Garden Jaunts

March 24, 2010 Registered & Protected

This month, in the post office box, was a copy of the March/April issue of Victoria magazine. Inside the slick pages, an article on Old Florida holds beautiful pictures of their Central Park. In the days when my husband, Joe, and I had vacation benefits, once in awhile we would take a trip. On these occasions, garden tours and beautifully landscaped accommodations were my favorite sights. Joe gravitated toward architecture and studying framework (he’s a framer) behind amazing structures.

Whenever possible, during weekend getaways we stayed at a bed and breakfast. They are quaint and homey and provide delicious breakfasts (for Joe), with simple yet elegant gardens (for me). Looking at the pictures and reading the articles in Victoria magazine remind me of those trips. Turning the page of the Old Florida article, I now dream of visiting Thuya Garden in Maine. No speck of soil appears as layer upon layers of lilies, salvia, phlox, dahlias, Malva, astilbe, and much more rise above the earth. Numerous flower shapes in shades of purples, reds, whites, yellows, pinks, and fuchsias drizzle on the pages from edge to edge. I want to be there!

While in Maine, I would go to Blackrock Farm (featured on the following pages) where one couple live off the land by sharing their abundance. Guests are free to roam among annuals and perennials, vegetable plots, and greenhouses. I would take one of the workshops offered, fill my camera with landscape ideas, and bring home a plant or two. Joe would eat!

There was a time when I wanted to be a travel writer. The road, however, took me in another direction. I’m content with the route. Still, if the opportunity came along, I would steer a bit to the right and head for a few travel assignments each year. Until then, I am happy to travel through magazines like Victoria where I can experience treasured gardens and flowers galore. Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

Is there anyone out there who’s been fortunate enough to have visited these places?


Healthy, Delecious Lasagna Every Time

March 22, 2010

Written by Judy Crosby

The beautiful spring day had turned gloomy, with dark gray skies hanging on the horizon. I had just unsaddled my horse, putting her back in the pasture. I was going to miss this spring storm by minutes. It seems to be getting harder and harder to miss the storms, because we have had nothing but rain this year. I know we need it, but I am ready for a change.

I board my horse 30 minutes from Lodi, so on the drive home I have time to think about what I will be having for dinner that evening. Today I vacillated between picking up hamburgers at a fast food place or cooking a real dinner.  My husband and I usually try to eat healthy, but every couple of weeks we splurge and eat the dreaded fast food.

Rain pelted down on my car as I drove and my desire for comfort food emerged and I remembered the wonderful lasagna recipe my daughter had given me a few weeks earlier.

My daughter had invited my husband and me for dinner and when I ate the lasagna she served I exclaimed, “This is delicious.”

I am not crazy about all lasagna, I don’t like those made with cottage cheese and the ones made with ricotta cheese are only a little better, for me. When I buy frozen lasagna’s I don’t care for the sauce on them.

My daughter replied, “Really, it is a recipe I concocted myself and it is vegetarian.”

My daughter is not vegetarian and neither are my husband or myself, but a couple times a week I do try to fix meatless dishes, it makes it easier on the pocketbook and I also feel it is healthy for us. With this said, I immediately made her write out the recipe for me.

Tonight was the night I would be fixing this recipe and I hoped it would be as good as I remembered.

I followed the recipe to the letter, which I don’t always do and even though it was vegetarian; I didn’t save any money by it being meatless, because my daughter used Smart Meat. This is a soy-based product that resembles ground meat. (Safeway and Raley’s carry this product.)

 The lasagna was just as I remembered, DELECIOUS, try it.

Vegetarian Lasagna

1-2 pkg. of Smart Meat (I used 1 pkg.)

½ chopped onion

1 clove garlic

2 zucchini’s chopped     

1 cup chopped olive      

9 lasagna noodles                                        

1 jar marinara sauce      

1 small can tomato sauce

1 small can of tomato paste

½ ball of mozzarella cheese

1-cup cheddar cheese

Sauté Smart Meat, onion, garlic and zucchini until vegetables are soft. Add marinara sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste and olives, let simmer. Cook noodles as directed on the box. Put three lasagna noodles in pan, cover with some sauce and cheese. Layer again two more times, noodles, sauce and cheese, ending with sauce and cheese on top. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Serve with a salad, French bread and you have dinner.


Acorn Blues

March 15, 2010

As sure as nuts fall from trees, inflecting elements push landscapes, and gardeners, to visit new possibilities. To read Acorn Blues, click on Country Buzz.


Crafting an Art for Garden Decor

March 8, 2010 Registered & Protected

Turlock, CA | Jeff and Michele Jaggers refer to themselves as “upcyclers,” and for good reason. For many years, they attended Country Folk Art Craft Shows to admire the work of talented artists, and to bring home a few crafts. When the Jaggers bought a bench from a vendor who assembled purchases on the spot, an unplanned commerce to up cycle antiques and collectables into garden décor soon emerged.

“By the time we got home,” Michele said, “all the pieces were lying in the back of our pickup. Jeff said, ‘“You know, I think I can do better than that.”’

Michele had already been collecting salvage items to which she added a little whimsy with paint and flowers, and then sold them at the floor-covering business she and Jeff own. When Jeff took an interest in re-crafting antiques and collectables into charming, well-built garden décor, Michele began filling the garage and side yard with treasures.

Late at night, while most people are sleeping, Jeff’s creative gene awakens him with ideas to convert Michele’s finds into flowerpots, benches, window boxes, vintage carts, wagons, birdfeeders, and much more. “Sometimes Jeff’s ideas turn into something different than what he started out doing,” Michele says. “It’s like planning a garden. You lay out the plants and you think, Yuk. Then you do something totally different.”

Jeff and Michele’s Goldendoodle, rightly named Mr. Doodles, checks on Jeff while he works in the garage.


No item is complete without Michele’s special touch. Oftentimes she shocks Jeff with “out-of-the-box” colors, such as pink with black polka-dots. However, Michele knows what people want. Her arty style makes them an easy sell as they are first to go. Regardless of how Jeff and Michele’s creativity flows (by trail and error, day or night), each finished product is one-of-a-kind.

Most homeowners, whether he or she is a gardener, has at least one outdoor spot where nothing grows due to poor lighting, heavy pet traffic, or water problems. Structures, such as Jeff and Michele’s vintage garden décor, bring life to dead spaces. More importantly, they are functional. Seasonal annuals and vegetables easily thrive in the Jaggers’ potting benches, wheelbarrows made from old fruit boxes, or galvanized tubs. “A lot of people like the fact that these have wheels and can be moved all around the garden,” Michele says.

Using an antique bike wheel makes this wheelbarrow moveable for carting items. Michele painted it red to add color to dull spaces or to showcase flowers planted in the tub. 


It’s no surprise that these “upcyclers” soon attracted a large following for their colorful, yet useful antiques and collectable garden décor. When it was time to expand, Jeff and Michele decided to take their work where inspiration first began, at the Country Folk Art Craft Shows. Although, the Jaggers book engagements at other shows, selling where they were first attracted to incredible crafters and antiques is like going home.

For show dates and ideas for displaying the Jaggers’ antique garden décor in your yard, contact Michele by email at or by phone at 209-668-8861.


Above:  Michele and Jeff with one of their potting benches inspired by an antique bathroom window on top and an antique freezer basket on the bottom shelve.  Below left:  Old enamelware is converted into a planter.  Right:  Jeff and Michele turned an antique radio flyer wagon into an attractive planter.








Copyright 2010 © Dianne Marie Andre


Here Comes the Sun

March 5, 2010 Registered & Protected

On rainless winter days when the sun shines, Ralphie and I head outdoors for a walk. (It’s too wet to garden.) The sunlight is exhilarating. I feel like skipping and nearly do as Ralphie’s little feet quickly march ahead, the leash taut. It’s still winter, but not for long. Signs are everywhere. Nightfall pulls in noticeably later. Stringy willow twigs dangle from branches dotted with pinhead-size buds. Green field grasses practically kiss my knees.

During one of our recent walks—between showers—the flowering plum tree (Prunus x blireiana) pictured below was beautifully dressed in pink blooms. Sure looks like spring to me!

Even this mushroom took on a pinkish hue as it curled upward to catch the sunlight. 


The sun’s magic spell renewed hope that day—God knows I needed it—with fresh beginnings and a big fat boost of vitamin D. At the end of our walk, the sky suddenly turned grey. Nonetheless, buoyancy remained in my veins. This flock of birds perched on the Locust tree near the house wasn’t disheartened either. They continued to sing here comes the sun.


Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre





March Garden Tasks

March 1, 2010 Registered & Protected

Please note:  What I write in this space are lessons learned through trial and error, research, and from other gardeners and professionals. I garden in zone 9, but share garden experiences that I believe are relevant to most zones within a reasonable time frame and planting conditions.

March . . . the bridge between late winter and early spring. This is the time frame when gardeners itch to get his or her hands dirty, and can’t wait to spend spare hours in the garden. For many of us, though, it’s still too early to plant summer annuals and veggies outdoors, but there are plenty of garden tasks and spring plantings to keep us satisfied. Here are a few.

In the vegetable gardenIndoors sow seeds of eggplant, lettuce, peppers, Swiss chard, tomatoes. Outdoors direct-seed beets, carrots, lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach. Transplant your seedlings of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, parsley, and onions. Feed fruit trees, berries, and grapes; check with your local nursery professional for organic fertilizers.

In the landscape:  Use a slow-release fertilizer around shrubs and perennials. Feed rhododendrons when buds emerge and for fuchsias when signs of new leaves appear. Remember to use fertilizer designed especially for these and for azaleas and camellias. Gardenias should receive one feeding starting mid-March, and again in April and May. Apply preventive spray to roses for mildew, rust, and blockspot. Before leafing-out begins transplant shrubs and roses.

Outdoors, sow seeds of columbine, foxglove, poppy, stock, delphinium, violet. Plant gladiolus bulbs every two weeks. Other bulbs are dahlias, cannas, lycoris eucomis, kniphofia, and tuberous begonias. Feed bulbs that have bloomed recently. If your region is free of frost danger, direct-plant pansies, snapdragons, Lobella, and violas. Indoors, sow annuals such as morning glories, Zinnias, asters, marigolds, coleus, vinca, petunia, and impatiens.

If you didn’t cover the soil last fall with mulch, to prevent weeds, you can do this now in areas where you’re not going to plant. Place a thick layer (3-6 inches) so the weeds don’t receive light, which is required for seeds to germinate. Keep mulch 3-6 inches away from base of plants. If too close (or placed against trunks), rot and disease can occur. It’s also an invitation for insects to attack your plants. Organic mulches to consider are non-chemically treated grass clippings, straw, wood chips, shredded leaves.

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

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