Archive for November, 2010


Where the Heck have I Been?

November 29, 2010

In a house that refuses to communicate with the world.

In case you’re wondering why I haven’t posted any material lately, my landline has been out-of-order since November 20, which means I can’t go online to post articles, do research, or email friends and family. Communication with the outside world has been at the lowest degree during these past nine days. I have a cheap, emergency cellphone that I rarely turn on, so rare that I never gave out the number after purchasing it, so inexpensive it’s slow to turn on and to find the satellite, so cheap it doesn’t work inside the house.

During this time, I also experienced  power failure, an empty propane tank (yes, my bill was paid), and a broken-down car. This has been a costly November. Well over $2,000. Ouch!

And get this, I am still coughing. I’ve been through two prescriptions, and I am still coughing.

Although a rebellious house, inefficient equipment, and a neglectful propane company is frustrating, things eventually work out. The power is restored, the propane tank filled and the house and water are now warm, and the car’s immediate repairs are complete. The engine does need pulling  fix a less-urgent problem, but that will have to wait.  Employment has ceased and funds have shrunk.

The phone company comes this week. I’ll be watching the driveway for a Verizon vehicle to come into sight, and crossing my fingers that the problem is on the outside of the house. Otherwise, the repair fee is on me. Meanwhile, I’m typing this at the library on a public computer with a one-hour limitation use. As soon as my house opens its pores and allows me to communicate with the world, you’ll hear from me. Meanwhile, happy belated Thanksgiving Day, and just in case . . . Merry Christmas.


Chickens don’t like Brussels Sprouts

November 19, 2010

The first of September, I planted a dozen or more Brussels sprout seedlings. Although it would be 90 days before harvest, I made room in the freezer for a sizable yield that would compliment many meals, hopefully for a few months. Every week the stocks grew a little taller and the foliage grew bigger and wider. But as it sometimes happens with farmers, this week I had to take a loss and pull every plant out of the earth.

Unable to check on the vegetable garden during the three weeks that I was sick, hundreds of aphids attacked my beautiful Brussels sprout plants. The Brussels had just started to develop, but the number of aphids was so severe it would have taken a chemical pesticide to get rid of them. The idea of growing my own vegetables is to avoid harmful chemicals. If caught early, I could have washed the aphids off with the water hose, pruned off the infected parts, or used an insecticidal soap.

Thinking my hens would love the Brussels sprout foliage and the aphids I filled up the wheelbarrow and dumped the half-grown plants in the chicken pasture. Little did I know that chickens don’t like aphids or Brussels sprout plants, at least my hens don’t.

Usually, when I take raw vegetable scraps to the chickens, they attack the greens as if they haven’t eaten for days. But this time, they just looked at the foliage, the aphids, the turned-up wheelbarrow, and at me. Some of the hens didn’t even stick around to try a tiny bite.

“What?” I shouted at the chickens, throwing my arms in the air. “You don’t like Brussels sprout plants? Don’t you know they’re good for you?”

Yes, I know, there’s something wrong with a person who scolds chickens for not eating their greens.

When I returned that evening to put the chickens to bed, the pile of Brussels sprout plants, even the aphids, remained untouched. At that moment, as I looked down disgusted at the leafy greens, I decided to stick with winter vegetables that aren’t susceptible to aphids, to grow crops that the hens will eat if I ever have to take another loss. Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


Budding Garden Thoughts

November 18, 2010 Registered & Protected



“Be mindful

of the underground.

It cares for your plants’ well-being.”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre 


Day 8 of forcing Narcissus Paperwhites Indoors

November 17, 2010

What a blast, watching the daily changes of eight little bulbs. As the stalks push toward the grand finale, my imagination shifts into high gear with visions of the world’s prettiest paperwhites. This is what every gardener wants on her kitchen windowsill, flourishing plants and pretty blossoms to cheer her along as she washes dirty dishes.

A pot of gold would be nice too.


How to Eliminate Lawn Mushrooms

November 16, 2010

It’s that time of year, when cute little mushrooms start popping up in the lawn. However, if left alone, they won’t stay little or cute, and they will spread.

Mushrooms are the fruit of a fungi growing on dead or decaying matter in the soil. Lawn mushrooms feed off rotting mulch or thatch, animal waste, tree stumps and dead or dying roots. If your lawn mushrooms are large, it’s because they are receiving a good amount of food. Although chemicals may get rid of any present mushrooms, the soil will remain infected with the fungus. In most cases, it would be impossible to replace the soil, which means the mushrooms will probably return. If you don’t want to use (or keep reapplying) chemicals, here are some organic methods to help eliminate or decrease lawn mushrooms:

  • De-thatch the lawn
  • Clean up pet waste
  • Remove rotting mulch
  • Remove old tree stumps and roots
  • Hand pick, rake, or mow over the mushrooms to reduce spores from spreading.

 Note:  Never consume wild mushrooms. Many are deadly to children and adults.


Ridge Road Garden Center

November 15, 2010


The sky was gray and light sprinkles appeared off-and-on most of the morning. Regardless, I wanted to check out Ridge Road Garden Center mentioned at many of the workshops sponsored by the Amador County Master Gardeners.

I drove on Highway 88 through the Sierra Nevada scenic route toward the nursery in Pine Grove. After I arrived, I parked my car, opened the door, and immediately felt the chilly mountain air. My breath was visible like steam from a cup of hot chocolate. Nevertheless, the cheery flowers on either side of the nursery’s sign told me this was going to be worth any discomfort I felt.

Sure enough, as I walked past winter vegetables, colorful annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees, a beautiful raised bed caught my attention. I checked it out for a few minutes, and then decided it was getting too cold and headed home. Impressed, though, with the raised bed, I returned a few days later to meet Salye LaBelle who manages the nursery for her parents, Bob and Libby Jones.

Salye eagerly shared that it was one of her employees, Stephanie Thomas, who came up with the idea of turning an existing 4 x 75-foot bare-root bin into a children’s garden. They started adding an organic blend of topsoil and compost over six-to-eight inches of sand. Next, a children’s tunnel was installed by using a row of hooped conduits for vegetables to grow on. At the west end of the bed, a teepee made of tall bamboo stakes provides a hiding place beneath trailing vegetables like peas, beans, or cucumbers.

To demonstrate how to sow winter seeds outdoors, and to protect seedlings from harsh weather, Salye and her crew decided to place a cold frame on top of the bed. Cold frames give plants a good start because the frame is bottomless and the roots have plenty of depth to grow before transplanting. Once the large items were in place, cedar steps were weaved throughout the bed. Then Stephanie and Salye launched a class to teach children how to plant winter vegetables.

“We tried to make it fun.” Salye said, “So they could check on the garden and it would be like a little play area and vegetable garden that they had a part in.”

Around twenty children (pre-school age to ten year-olds) arrived with their parents and little hand shovels. The children learned how to plant cabbage, Brussels sprouts, onions, garlic, flowers, and a variety of lettuces.

“Many of the children enjoyed the experience, and their parents bought vegetables to take home to start their own little garden, “Salye said. “We’re going to do another children’s planting day next spring. We’ll keep changing it with the seasons.”

Rain or sunshine, Salye also provides a variety of demonstration classes for grown ups. For information on these and other services, call Salye at 209-296-7210, or go to the Center’s website at

Salye’s Tips for Creating a Children’s Garden:

  • Make it fun; add interesting elements.
  • Use soil with good drainage; explain the importance of soil
  • Hoops are nice for playing under, frost protection, and for vines.
  • Teach children to get winter vegetables in early (before it’s to cold).
  • Use a cold frame to teach children about germination and protecting tender plants.

Budding Garden Thoughts

November 12, 2010 Registered & Protected


“Lay a path

 for which

your heart

has always



Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


100 Gift Ideas for Gardeners

November 11, 2010

For some of us just the idea of holiday shopping can be overwhelming. Our days are already jammed full of things-to-do. To help you make shopping easier, I’ve put together some ideas for the gardeners in your family, or for someone in a new location and is in need of garden items.

Since most of us are short on cash, consider printing attractive certificates offering your services to: 

  1. Plant
  2. Weed
  3. Stake
  4. Rake and bag
  5. Spread mulch
  6. Prune and clean
  7. Clean greenhouse
  8. Repair raised bed
  9. Clean garden tools
  10. Sharpen garden tools
  11. Lay garden pathway
  12. Clean out the garage
  13. Paint the garden shed
  14. Scrub and sterilize pots
  15. Repair the compost bin
  16. Install a tool-hanging kit
  17. Repair sprinkler system
  18. One workday in the yard
  19. Build a new compost bin
  20. Reorganize the garden shed
  21. Pressure wash concrete walks
  22. Clean gutters and downspouts
  23. Take the debris pile to the landfill
  24. Properly dispose of old chemicals
  25. Winterize garden shed windows and door
  26. Make a garden apron out of fabric remnants
  27. Clean up the junk piled in a corner of the yard
  28. Build a garden bench out of repurposed wood
  29. Build a potting bench out of repurposed wood
  30. Repair or replace handles on rakes, shovels, etc.
  31. Finish a garden project he or she hasn’t had time to do
  32. If you have photos of the gardener’s yard, put a small memory album together or turn the photos into greeting cards

Tip:  Your time and services is especially helpful to older adults and working parents. Doing a service is a fun and rewarding project for the whole family. Children and teenagers, especially, will learn the value of giving of themselves by helping others. If you’re a young couple, this is a great way to say thanks to your parents for their many contributions (like babysitting) throughout the year. When wording the certificate, be respectful so your offer won’t insult the receivers. Humor is always good. Keep your promise to do the service, within 30 days.

Garden Attire:

  1. Sunglasses
  2. Back brace
  3. Rubber boots
  4. Garden apron
  5. Garden tool belt
  6. Large-rimmed straw hat
  7. Rubber clogs (Closed-toe)
  8.  Gardening gloves (Select good ones that you know will fit.) 

 Hand tool gifts to give:

  1. Hoe
  2. Rake
  3. Shovel
  4. Pitch fork
  5. Weed eater
  6. Hedge clippers
  7. Pruning shears
  8. Set of gardening tools

Tip:  When buying for women, remember that most prefer lightweight, small-scale tools.

 Large items:

  1. Tiller
  2. Shredder
  3. Chainsaw
  4. Composter
  5. Wheelbarrow
  6. Outdoor sink
  7. Green house
  8. Storage shed
  9. Pressure washer
  10. Outdoor drinking fountain


Items to put in a garden gift basket:

  1. Tool belt
  2. Plant ties
  3. Leaf bags
  4. Bulb planter
  5. Rooting vase
  6. Hand cleaner
  7. Garden twine
  8. Garden apron
  9. Garden journal
  10. Insect repellant
  11. Watering wand
  12. Germinating mix
  13. Nursery gift card
  14. Bath soaking salts
  15. Outdoor thermometer
  16. Gardener’s hand soap
  17. Windowsill herb garden
  18. Canvas gardening tote bag
  19. 2011 Old Farmer’s Almanac
  20. Hand cream made for gardeners
  21. Gardening magazine subscription
  22. Bag of potting soil (All gardeners can use this.)
  23. Kneeling pad (Give a thick one that will actually keep the knees padded.)
  24. Seasonal vegetable planting guide (available at local Master Gardeners’ office or website)
  25. Book on plants suited to the gardener’s zone (Check with your local Master Gardeners’ office)

Tip:  Before making a purchase, think about the gardener. What type of tools does he or she use? What type of plants? What kind of gardening, i.e. vegetable, perennial, cut flowers, houseplants? Too often gardeners get “cute” items of poor quality that create clutter or don’t last. Select something that you know he or she will use and enjoy. Unless you know of a specific plant or tree that the person wants, it’s best to give a gift card.

Miscellaneous Items:

  1. Plant caddy
  2. Plant stand
  3. Solar lights
  4. Tool caddy
  5. Flower frog
  6. Soaker hose
  7. Trail camera
  8. Garden hose
  9. Outdoor shower
  10. Citronella candles
  11. Stackable storage containers
  12. Automatic plant watering device
  13. Folding garden kneeler and seat
  14. Memorial stake or sign for loved one
  15. Pet memorial garden stake or stone
  16. Tomato cage (The collapsible type are great space savers)
  17. Ticket to holiday home tour (These are held before Christmas so you’ll have to give this in advance.)

 Online shopping links:  (This company has some unique items that you won’t see anywhere else.)  (This company has eco-friendly products)

Happy shopping!

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


Indoor Bulb Forcing: Part II

November 9, 2010

The advantages to forcing bulbs from scratch is using your own container or pot to match your holiday table setting or home décor.  Most importantly, you can select high quality bulbs through catalogs or at your local nursery. To force bulbs from scratch, you will need:

  • Water
  • 4-5 Bulbs (odd numbers look best)
  • 2-3 sheets of newspaper
  • One clean 6-8” pot with drainage holes and saucer. (Earl May Seed & Nursery says, “Paperwhites can be planted in 1 to 2 inches of pea gravel if the container does not have a drainage hole.”) I would use a shallow pot for this method.
  • Equal parts potting soil, sand, perlite, and peat moss (or pea gravel).


  • Cut three layers of newspaper to fit over drainage hole. This will keep the soil from running out.
  • Blend potting soil, sand, perlite, and peat moss and fill the pot half full. (If using pea gravel, fill pot 1 – 2 inches full.)
  • Place bulbs point ends up without touching one another. Cover with soil mixture keeping the tips exposed.  (Do no cover if planting in pea gravel.)
  • Water well. (If planting in pea gravel, add enough water to bring the level to the base of the bulb.)
  • Place in a well-lite area. Keep moist, not soggy. Do not let the soil (or pea gravel) dry out.

 The Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service recommend the following varieties for forcing:

Tulips (Apricot Beauty, Bing Crosby, Edith Eddy, Mirjorma, Yokohama, Jingle Bells, Attila, White Dream, Princess Victoria, White Swallow, Estella Rijnveld)

Crocus (Pickwick, Rembrance, Flower Record, Peter Pan, Purpurea Grandiflora)

Hyacinths (Amethyst, Blue Jacket, Jan Bros, L’Innocence, Pink Pearl, Delft Blue, Hollyhock, Anna Marie, Violet Pearl, Gypsy Queen, Carnegie)

Muscari (Blue Spike, Early Giant) 

Daffodils and Narcissus (Barrett Browning, Bridal Crown, Dutch Master, Ice Follies, Paperwhites, Golden Harvest, Spell Binder, Salome, Pink Charm, Flower Record, Louis Armstrong, Unsurpassable, Tete-a-Tete, Jenny, Barrett Browning, Cheerfulness)

Misc. (Snowdrops, Dutch Irises, Blue Squill, and Glory-of-the-snow)


Indoor Bulb Forcing: Part I

November 8, 2010

This is my first bulb-forcing kit. For five dollars, I thought it was worth buying. The idea of bulb forcing is to brighten the indoors of an otherwise dull winter season with bright blooms and fragrant scents.

The term “forcing” means to cause a plant to sprout, grow, and flower out of its natural environment and season. I didn’t have to buy a kit to do this but it sure seemed handy to have everything ready. However, as I looked through the contents (four Narcissus Paperwhite bulbs, one coir disk, and one pot), I noticed three problems:  No saucer, no drainage holes in the pot and the bulbs have sprouted.

All plants, even bulbs, need good drainage. The instructions don’t mention this which could saturate the bulbs and kill them. When buying bulbs, they should be firm and without sprouts. Curious about the results of sprouted and non-sprouted bulbs, I purchased four single Narcissus Paperwhite bulbs. Then, I decided to use one of my clay pots with drainage holes, and planted the non-sprouted bulbs in the center.

The kit instructions said to place the coir disk in the pot and add 3.5 cups of warm water. Once the water is completely absorbed by the coir disk, loosen the soil. Then press the bulbs nose up into the soil until just the tops stick out. Walter well and keep moist but not wet. Keep in a well-lit area out of direct sunlight. It should bloom in six weeks.

Keep your fingers crossed, and I’ll keep you posted on the results.

Note:  Some bulb-forcing kits come with decorative pots (no drainage holes, though), for about ten dollars.

Tomorrow, look for Indoor Bulb Forcing:  Part II, for instructions on how to do this from scratch.

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