Archive for April, 2011


Soulful Plotting

April 29, 2011


A slender creeping or, trailing stem which produces small plants along the length wherever its leaf and bud parts come in contact with the soil. These nodes and root tips are called stolons. The new plant can be severed from the parent after it has developed sufficient roots. A strawberry plant is an example of a plant that develops runners.


May Events

April 27, 2011

May is the month for gathering information, ideas, and inspiration for your yard and vegetable patch. Check out the many tours, workshops, tea for Moms, classes, and more.


Science in the Garden

April 25, 2011

New Citrus Variety is Very Sweet, Juicy and Low-Seeded

A new mandarin variety, ‘KinnowLS’ (the LS is short for low seeded), has been developed. It’s very sweet, juicy, and low-seeded. “People who like very sweet fruit are going to find ‘KinnowLS’ to be very appealing,” said Mikeal Roose, a professor of genetics in, and chair of, the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, who developed ‘KinnowLS’ along with staff scientist Timothy Williams.

‘KinnowLS’ can be grown in California’s desert regions because the fruit, which matures during February through April, does well in hot climates.

Currently, plans are to distribute ‘KinnowLS’ budwood, starting June 2011, to only licensed nurseries in California. For three years, only California nurseries will be permitted to propagate ‘KinnowLS.’ Licenses for ‘KinnowLS’ propagation outside the United States will be issued thereafter. KinnowLS will not arrive in U.S. produce aisles for at least five years. —  University of California – Riverside 2011, April 11.

Europe’s Wildlife under Threat from Nitrogen, Study Warns

A new international study warns that nitrogen pollution, resulting from industry and agriculture, is putting wildlife in Europe’s at risk. More than 60 per cent of the EU’s most important wildlife sites receive aerial nitrogen pollution inputs above sustainable levels.

Dr Kevin Hicks, of the SEI at the University of York, said, “While the nitrogen impacts on plant species are relatively well understood its effects on other wildlife, such as butterflies, and the consequent implications for biodiversity are not so clear.”

A team of scientists, conservation and environmental managers and policy makers from across Europe, co-ordinated by the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York, reviewed evidence from across Europe. The study confirmed nitrogen deposition as a major threat to biodiversity in the Natura 2000 network established under the Community’s Habitats Directive to safeguard important habitats and species. —  University of York 2011, April 14.


Soulful Plotting

April 22, 2011


The washing away or removal of soil created by wind, water or man.

Mulching or planting cover crops after the last harvest helps to prevent wintertime erosion.


Old-Time Ritual: A Real Egg Hunt

April 20, 2011

A long, dense hedge of potato vines encloses two sides of my perennial garden. The vines are a thick mass of woven stems concealing a four-foot pasture fence. In the pasture, a small flock of ten hens roams freely. Eight of them are young, in their first season of egg production. Recently, when daylight stretched further into evening they started lying regularly. Then without notice, the number of eggs decreased from five – seven to two or three per day.

Since the weather had been inconsistent and hens need 14 hours of daylight to keep producing, I hadn’t given the matter another thought.

A few days later, when I was in the garden, I noticed a hen walking on top of the potato vines. Immediately, I told her the rules—NO HENS ALLOWED IN THE GARDEN—then shooed her over where she belonged. Hens are grub connoisseurs. They can’t resist enriched soil with wiggly worms and insects. But hens don’t give a hoot about plant care. They love to nibble away new shoots and carelessly rip up small plants as they forage for food.

Everyday, I kept a lookout for hens on top of the vines or in the garden. One Saturday morning, when I was cooking breakfast, I looked out the window and spotted a hen walking—head bobbing—on the vines. Joe went out to shoo her away. Just as I flipped a pancake, I heard him holler for me. I turned off the burner and hurried outside.

“They’re laying eggs in the vines!” Joe said, excited. “There are at least a dozen eggs.”

I grabbed the egg basket and together we searched for nests. When I spotted one, I carefully spread apart a thick weave of stems and leaves. Inside was a cozy cave filled with brown and green eggs. I felt like ten-year-old Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden when she opened the hidden door to a world of wonder.

That morning we found 5 nests and 20 eggs (one was broken). I didn’t expect to participate in an Easter egg hunt this year. The egg hunt wasn’t a traditional hide-and-seek quest for Easter baskets, chocolate bunnies, and hand-dyed hard-boiled eggs. But the incident certainly felt like an old-time ritual. Copyright © 2011 Dianne Marie Andre

Happy Easter to Everybody!


A Weekend of Celebrations, Pullets, and Gardening

April 18, 2011

It was a busy weekend filled with outdoor activities and a couple of celebrations. Ralphie turned two years old last Friday, on the day of my wedding anniversary. He enjoyed a new doggie treat, and my husband, Joe, and I had a good meal out, a gift from a high school friend. Thanks Irene.

Saturday, I volunteered at the Amador Master Gardeners’ first spring workshop. Several MGs (master gardeners) shared tips on a variety of topics from how to make different tomato cages to growing “not your ordinary vegetables,” to eatable lilies and recipes for an impending bounty. Afterwards, I joined fellow MG’s Barbara Dahlberg, Kathy Freeman, and Glen Johnson at the demo garden. This year’s major projects are building a tool shed and deer fence. Saturday, we focused on the fence. Glen used some sort of hydraulic post driver and within an hour, he completed the job. A few dozen T-posts stood vertical without the aid of human hands.

Sunday, I planted cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, and melons, painted vegetable signs, mulched a flowerbed, and worked in the perennial garden. Joe finished grouting the tile in my garden house,  then got busy with outdoor chores with Ralphie by his side. Mid-day, Joe and I decided to buy a few pullets (chicks). Usually, we get new pullets every other year. But we’ve learned in order to keep a steady flow of eggs, we need to add to the flock each spring. After a short drive to Lees’ Lockeford Hay Station, we made our selections. We now have two Silkie Bantams (these are for fun as they are a petite breed and produce tiny eggs), two Black Australorp, and three Buttercups in a small cow trough here in the garage. They are safe and warm under a heat lamp with feed and fresh water to nourish them along. When they’re old enough, I’ll house them in the coop (separate from the layers) and later in the running pen. The goal is to eventually let them free range, when they’re bigger and have common sense to return to the coop at night.

As Sunday wound down, the power went out. Forced to stop activities, Joe and I had to find our way in a dark house for flashlights, matches, and candles. We brought the pullets inside where warm logs were burning in the fireplace. Once the pullets were calm, we snacked by candlelight on sandwiches, applesauce, and chips. Our home was filled with the sounds of little chirps, crackling logs, and a barking dog. The weekend was active, even into the twilight. I was tired, after working at a gardening workshop, fence building, tucking seeds and seedlings into the earth, sign painting, tending to perennial plants, adopting pullets and celebrations honored. But it was a tired that felt good. That’s how productive, long sunny days are in and around the garden. Copyright © 2011 Dianne Marie Andre


Soulful Plotting

April 15, 2011


A chemical used to

protect against,

inhibit, or kill

plant diseases caused by fungi.


Floral Photography – Create Art with Your Camera this Spring

April 13, 2011 Registered & Protected

Guest Post by Dianne Poinski

Painters have been inspired by the graceful beauty of flowers for centuries. I find them to be one of the most satisfying subjects to photograph as well. The colors and designs that only nature can create invite me to slow down and focus intently on capturing their essence.

Spring is the perfect time to set out and look for simple but stunning compositions. While it’s not difficult to use your camera to record the splendor that is before you, here are a few tips you can use to increase your chances for the best shot:

  • Get close and create simple compositions.
  • If you have a DSLR camera and are familiar with manual settings, set your aperture at F5.6 or F4 if you have it. This will throw your background out of focus and keep your main subject sharp.
  • If you don’t have a camera with manual settings, look for flowers against simple backgrounds such as wood fences or buildings. Experiment shooting from different angles.
  • Shoot with a fast shutter speed. This will help prevent blur if the wind is blowing.
  • If you have a point and shoot camera, use the “Sports” setting if you have one. This setting is designed to stop action which will keep your flowers sharp and in focus.
  • Lighting: When shooting flowers in an outdoor setting, try to avoid direct sunlight. Harsh light will cast shadows and create too much contrast. Early morning, late afternoon and cloudy days provide the best lighting conditions. If strong sunlight is a problem, try to find flowers in the shade to photograph. If you have a helper, you can create a diffuser by using a sheer piece of fabric and positioning it between the sun and the subject.

Floral photography is a great way to express your creativity. Bring your camera everywhere and start paying attention to your surroundings. “Kodak” moments will be everywhere this spring. Copyright © 2011 Dianne Poinski

Dianne Poinski has been photographing flowers for over 15 years. Her free e-book “Introduction to Hand Coloring Black and White Photographs” is available on her website – or on her blog:

In addition to the live workshops, she offers in the Sacramento area, she has just launched “Photo Artistry Workshop” an online site with video instruction and tutorials. More details can be found at

All photographs were taken in the Butchart Gardens, Victoria BC. ©2011 All rights Reserved

Thank you Dianne, for sharing these tips. They’re certainly going to help me!


Ten Don’ts for Better Gardening

April 11, 2011

Gardening mistakes happen just as they do with any endeavor. I’ve made plenty of blunders in both the perennial and vegetable gardens. Still, I never give up and it’s my hope that you won’t either. To help you avoid the same gardening errors, here are the most common mistakes made by just about every gardener.

  1. Over watering:  Potted plant roots can drown when over watered. Giving too much water to ground plantings encourages shallow roots stressing the plants. A dry surface doesn’t mean the soil is dry below. Use a water meter or work your finger or a trowel into the soil about six inches to determine if the soil is dry.
  2. Lack of Soil Awareness:  Understanding what type of soil you have and what nutrients it may need is the first step to maintaining healthy plants. Start with a soil test then amend accordingly with organic matter. Enriching the soil with compost before planting, and once or twice a year thereafter will give your plants a healthy start and keep them happy.
  3. Unfamiliar with exposure:  While one planting area may receive eight hours of full sun, another spot only three feet away could get much less. Know each area’s microclimate before choosing suitable plants or trees.
  4. Poor reading habit:  Plant tags tell you if the plant is an annual or perennial, zone, drought tolerate, where to plant, when to plant, maturity size (height and width), proper spacing, light, and water needs.
  5. Wrong placement:  Don’t place shrubs or trees that will grow 30-feet wide only 5-feet from a building or other plantings. Always look up. Are there any utility wires? Check with your local utility company for recommendations and for any underground lines.
  6. Improper Planting:  Placing the base of plants below ground level creates a pool where water can sit around the trunk, rot, and drown roots. To high above the surface and roots are exposed. Holes should be twice as wide with the sides roughed up. The depth should be six inches deeper than the container with a garden soil mixture and organic matter six inches at the bottom.
  7. Improper Mulching:  Mulch helps retain moisture, improves soil structure, and controls weeds but placing mulch too close to trunks is an invitation to root rot, rodents, insects, and disease. Mulch should be at least three inches from the base.
  8. Plants that don’t fit your lifestyle:  If you don’t have the time or simply don’t enjoy pruning, trimming, or deadheading but want an attractive, neat and tidy yard take the time to select low-maintenance plants. Don’t like to rake leaves, avoid deciduous plants and trees. Stay away from shrubs and vines that require weekly pruning or daily watering. Dodge plants that are disease prone.
  9. Container gardening:  Like all vegetation, potted plants need air circulation. Sit pots on risers, available at nurseries or make your own out of 2x4s cut a tad shorter than the pot’s diameter so nobody trips. If your pots are sitting in a saucer, add an inch or two of pebbles.
  10. Impulsive buying:  Avoid it!

Copyright © 2011 Dianne Marie Andre


Soulful Plotting

April 8, 2011


A primitive form of plant life known to houseplant growers as the most

common cause of infectious disease

such as powdery mildew and sooty mold.

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