Archive for October, 2010


Garden with Grace

October 29, 2010

Last weekend my phone lines were down. Now I am down. For several days, I’ve been in and out of bed with a bad bug and a sore back. Who knows where I caught the bad bug. The sore back was of my own doing. I had unknowingly arched my back while planting irises on a steep hillside. As gardeners, oftentimes we tend to focus on the task, unmindful of our posture. How we push and pull, dig and hoe. How we haul, reach and lift, and breathe. There is a right and a wrong way to carry out each of these movements. A way that is favorable to our bodies.

Tools that “fit” our body type, hand size, and strength ability are just as important. If you have to put most of your energy into hoisting a heavy shovel, the job becomes harder. Keeping tools fine-tuned will also make gardening easier. Proper attire and sun guard is important too.

As we approach holiday preparations, there will be a rush to do too many things outdoors and indoors. To pluck the weeds, rake leaves, pop in a few color spots near the front walkway, and hang the wreath before company arrives.

As you garden toward the end of the year, do so with grace and friendliness toward your body.

PS:  Hopefully, I’ll be well by Monday.


November Calendar of Events

October 28, 2010

November Events is now posted for family recreation and learning opportunities.


How to Propagate Coleus

October 27, 2010

One of my favorite plants is coleus. As annuals, coleus die after one season, usually from the first frost. However, coleus are easy to propagate. With a few simple steps and little care, you can have a whole flat of coleus to plant outdoors next spring. Here are two methods to propagate coleus, and most any type of cutting.

Material for First Method:

  • Pony packs or 1” pots
  • Sharp snips or razor blade
  • Rooting hormone
  • Starter soil
  • Drip trays 

Note:  If you are reusing nursery pots, be sure to sterilize them inside, and out with a stiff brush dipped in one-part bleach to nine-parts water, rinse thoroughly with water. Always sterilize cutting tools before trimming. This will help eliminate any possibility of transferring diseases. 

  1. Fill pots with starter soil, wet thoroughly. You may have to stir the soil like cake batter to ensure that all of it gets wet.
  2. Select only healthy stems and cut them just above the soil.
  3. Cut stems into sections making sure each has two leaf nodes. Leave 2 inches of stem below the lower node.
  4. Remove all leaves except the top two. Do not leave any flower shoots.
  5. Dip the cuttings in rooting hormone just above the bottom node.
  6. Place the cuttings in pots filled with wet starter soil. You can plant 2-3 cuttings per pot about half-an-inch apart.
  7. Lightly push soil around cuttings just enough to secure it.
  8. Water well.
  9. Place indoors near a window with filtered sunlight.
  10. Keep cuttings moist, not soggy.


 Material for Second Method:

  • Sharp snips or razor blade
  • Room-temperature water
  • 3-inch pots
  • Jars  
  1. Fill each jar with water.
  2. Follow steps 2-4 in the first propagation method above.
  3. Place in jars by a window with filtered sunlight. Change the water daily.
  4. Once the cuttings have 3-inch roots (this takes about two weeks), transplant to 3-inch pots.
  5. Keep moist, and place in a sunny window.

After the Storm

October 26, 2010

For those of you who may have missed my note in the comment box on Monday, that was the only way I could access WordPress.  Sunday’s storm put a twist of some sort in my land and cell phones. Neither worked. I even tried to log onto WordPress this morning through the public library computer, but no luck. The day wasn’t a complete loss, though.

After giving the technical world a rest (no sense trying to compel a dead force), and AAA unlocked my car to retrieve the keys dangling in the ignition, I decided to drive to Lockhart Seeds in Stockton for the shallot sets I’ve been waiting to purchase. A good spirit up-lifter.

As far as I’m concerned, shallots are the best tasting onion one can put into his or her mouth. Shallots are so sweet and yummy you can’t help wanting more. Supermarket shallots are pricy and never find their way into my grocery cart. The sets weren’t cheap either, $30 for 5lbs. Nevertheless, I’ll have enough to last a year.

This will be my first time growing shallots, and I hope Monday’s weird happenings haven’t jinxed these tiny brown orbs. I don’t have to be asleep to dream big about the harvest. The vision is there on the palm of my hand, on my tip of my tongue, and in dishes dressed with tasty shallots.


Budding Garden Thoughts

October 22, 2010 Registered & Protected


“Into autumn we travel,

looking to reds and golds.”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


Summer Sentiments

October 21, 2010


Dirt Gardener 

Simple Success


Field Trip: To a Sea of Trees

October 20, 2010

This month the local garden club, of which I am a member, visited Boething Treeland Farms, a huge wholesale company about five miles south of my house on a remote, rollercoaster road that most people would refer to as the boonies.

Past the security gate, a small office sits above 360 acres of mostly trees, plus shrubs, ground covers, vines, and annuals. Although 100 greenhouses are on site, they aren’t visible among the surrounding vastness of vegetation. Looking out over the land in every direction, you immediately suck in a deep breath of ahh, hold it, and then let out an air of disbelief. Miles of rolling hills dotted with green vegetation appear to be an endless ocean of vertical waves from low surfs to colossal tides.

The company started in 1952 by John and Susan Boething on 32 rural acres in San Fernando Valley. Boething’s mission was to “enhance the quality of life through trees by supplying them to landscapers, architects, developers and other industry professionals” such as Disney World, Florida.

Eventually, Boething added shrubs, ground covers, vines, and annuals, and ultimately seven other farms throughout California. The Clements’ farm where we were visiting is the largest.

First stop was the propagation house. Although the economy has brought business down about 30 percent, Boething employees propagate 20,000 trees and plants per day. November through February, California natives are propagated. Early spring through summer, they propagate annuals and roses. Ninety percent of Boething’s products are grown from their own seeds.

Next, we piled into three vehicles and rode around the farm past waves of trees and shrubs as dusty dirt roads opened to our caravan. (I felt like a child of Moses in the parting of the Red Sea). The farm is divided into labeled sections each managed by a supervisor. One section contained enormous piles of different types of soil (large enough to quality as pyramids) used for planting.

For a small, home gardener like me it’s hard to image using so much soil. Planting thousands of cuttings and transplants, watering hundreds-of-thousands of vegetation (paying the water bill), checking all those drippers, and the brainpower behind organizing every aspect of building and maintaining a 58-year-old business is unimaginable.

Garden-hats off to John and Susan Boething, now deceased, whose passion for trees and commerce allowed them to grow, and then pass the business onto their four daughters now running the Boething Treeland Farms.

Who says you can’t make it big in the boonies.  

The area in the photo above was to the right as you enter Boething Treeland Farms. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a photo of the vast areas of trees that I rode through.



Ten Gardening To-Do Tips After a Storm

October 19, 2010

Usually, the first thing I do the day after a storm is to walk the front and back yards, and the perennial and vegetable gardens.

Here are some of the things to look for after a storm:

  1. Check for broken tree and shrub limbs. Remove with proper pruning tools. One size, one type/style does not fit all.
  2. Remove leaves that have major damage.
  3. Check stakes and ties. Replace or secure where needed.
  4. Check for erosion and exposed roots. Immediately cover roots with top soil and/or compost. Letting the roots dry out could damage or kill plants.
  5. To avoid breeding grounds for mosquitoes, empty, turn over or put away pot saucers, buckets, birdbaths, wheelbarrows—anything holding water.
  6. Check for areas with standing water. Try to avoid walking in wet beds. This will compact the soil and could damage roots. Plants need loose soil for air circulation.
  7. Check for snails and slugs, and treat organically. Remove old wood lying on the ground where snails, slugs, and earwigs can breed.
  8. Check plants for powdery mildew and treat before it spreads.
  9. Watch for weeds after it rains. Hand pull making sure to get the roots. Mulching will help prevent weeds but keep mulch at least three inches away from trunks.
  10. Check timers. Turn them off or adjust accordingly.

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre



Autumn Rain

October 18, 2010

My heart has never carried a fondness for cold, dreary seasons, but the first autumnal rainfall is always sweet. It arrived midday, yesterday in the central valley where I live. A rush to bring in patio pillows, garden tools, and shoes forced me outdoors. Ralphie stayed back, protected under the eaves, and watched me gather summer’s paraphernalia.

I should have believed the weather report and prepared beforehand, but then I’d miss the amusement of dashing about in the rain. I would have missed the smell of wet dirt rising to gray light where birds sang from treetops and utility wires, the splash of water beneath my shoes, sky-fallen droplets on my tongue, slanted showers against my face, and wiggly earthworms on hardscape.

A couple of potted plants were dry so I placed a bucket under the downspout and then used the water to wet the plants’ roots. I turned off the timers, sighed at the soggy hammock, covered the outdoor furniture, and thought about hauling firewood from the barn to the house. Clogged with debris, water pinged against gutters as I passed by them hurrying to go indoors.

The amusement wound down as my jeans got wet, my skin chilled, and the work was less fun. The sweetness of the first autumnal rainfall had worn off. Then, later at day’s end when the rain ceased and a small cloud parted, the season’s charm had returned with a beautiful sunset. Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre



2010 Fall Reader’s Contest

October 16, 2010

It seems I created a flawed “2010 Fall Reader’s Contest,” posted October 14. My tired brain can’t think to amend it, so I’ve decided to go back to the old game and rules. The prize is still the same, a Michaels $10 gift card.


Here’s the rules and game plan: 

  1. You must be a subscriber to play. It’s FREE!
  2. Simply post a comment. No restrictions on length. The person with the most comments, starting today through October 31 midnight, is the winner.
  4. The winner will be notified by email. The winner’s first name and last initial will be announced on


Note: and/or the author have the right to remove comment(s) unsuitable and/or to exclude them in the above contest. and/or the author also have the right to decide what is unsuitable. By playing the “2010 Reader’s Fall Contest” you agree to these terms.  

Best of luck!  

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