Thursday, December 11, 2008

Y u l e

Yule, is when the dark half of the year relinquishes to the light half. Starting the next morning at sunrise, the sun climbs just a little higher and stays a little longer in the sky each day. Known as Solstice Night, or the longest night of the year, much celebration was to be had as the ancestors awaited the rebirth of the Oak King, the Sun King, the Giver of Life that warmed the frozen Earth and made her to bear forth from seeds protected through the fall and winter in her womb. Bonfires were lit in the fields, and crops and trees were "wassailed" with toasts of spiced cider."
Yule Lore

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Decorate Outdoors with Delicious Ornaments

... It's for the birds!

Decorating your landscape with healthy snacks is a fun and easy way to share seasonal cheer with neighborhood birds.

As temperatures drop, it becomes more difficult for birds to find enough food to fuel their bodies. Help them out by choosing a live tree or shrub that is strong enough to support the weight of your feast and your feathered friends. Evergreens are preferred, but not necessary.

We've compiled some simply fun ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

If your departed perennial flowers (such as black-eyed susans, purple coneflowers, daisies, seedum, etc.) are still available, hang the seed heads with a pretty ribbon. Goldfinches love their seeds, and may even use the string or ribbon hanger in their nests.

A bagel or mini-bagel sliced in half and spread with peanut butter, lard, or honey, and coated with bird seed makes a nice, edible ornament. Of course, you can do the same with pine cones, thick apple slices, and many other edibles.

Dried Corn Cobs tied with a red bow also make festive, nutritious decorations.

Do you juice? Make a citrus birdseed feeder from the halves of oranges or grapefruit. Start by poking holes near the top, then let them dry out to harden. String leftover Christmas ribbons through the holes and fill them with bird seed before hanging.

Garland may take more time to make, but how festive is a traditional garland of cranberries, popcorn and/or cereal (with a hole in the middle). Use strong string, such as cotton quilting thread or floss. For a more striking look that makes dining easier for the birds, group several strands together. It is easier if you use a long needle (1 ½” or so) and strong thread (such as for hand quilting or floss). Tie a loop at the end for hanging and to keep your treats from sliding off the end.

This wintry Christmas season treat our feathered friends by decorating with delicious decorations. Be sure to place this feast where you can enjoy it from the warmth of your home.
"From December to March,

there are, for many of us, three gardens -

the garden outdoors,

the garden of pots and bowls in the house,

and the garden of the mind's eye."

- Katherine S. White

Treat Wintry Walkways

While Protecting your Precious Plants:

Most of us are quite familiar with the damage that road salt and spray inflict upon vehicles. Plants, trees and shrubs on roadsides feel the burn of salt on their foliage and roots. Sensitive plants near your driveway and walkways may feel the burn from the slush that melts off your car and ice melt you use. Just like on your car, the damage may not be apparent for some time as the salt works its way into the soil to the roots.

Along your driveway and walkways:

  • Avoid shoveling salty snow onto garden beds, the base of trees and shrubs or your lawn or your near your water well - if you have one. (I know, just where DO you put it?).
  • If traction is all you need, use sand or granular kitty litter (clay).
  • Avoid Sodium Chloride and table salt which are too harsh for landscapes.
  • Use Calcium, Potassium or Magnesium Chloride (white pellets) which release slower and are less toxic to plants. Use cautiously, though, because they are corrosive to concrete and metals.
  • Use a combination of ice melt and sand, so you use less caustic materials.
  • Liquid solutions are more effective than dry, so dissolve a small amount of ice melt in enough hot water to melt the solids (approximately two parts water to one part salt). Keep in mind that this will corrode metal. Use a plastic hand sprayer for small areas such as a deck, walkway and steps. It’s easiest to spray before the wintry weather begins.
  • If possible, wait until the precipitation (sleet, snow, etc.) and your shoveling are done, before applying deicing materials.

To reduce roadside damage:

  • Set up something to block the sand, salt and snow such as a burlap screen, snowfence, hay bales, etc. near sensitive hedges.
  • Wrap salt-sensitive plantings with burlap.
  • Hose off heavy salt applications and direct the spray of water towards the street (on a sunny, warm day to avoid creating black ice).
A combination of these tips will greatly reduce damage to your plants this winter,
...Oh, and remember to bend your knees while lifting each shovelful of snow.

Christmas Cactus Blossoms

Setting the Stage for this....
Once you find the right setting for a Christmas Cactus in your home, sometime between October and April your home will be graced by some of the loveliest flowers.

Christmas cacti aren’t particularly fussy, but they do know what they like:

· A brightly lit area.

· Temperatures between 50 and 85 degrees for best growth and bloom.

· Water when soil is dry to the touch. Don’t let it sit in extra water.

· Share with family and friends (or rescue broken joints) by simply place the bottom of a joint in sandy soil. Keep it moist and out of direct sunlight. It will take root within three weeks.

· When the flowers are done, feed with an all-purpose, water-soluble houseplant fertilizer once a monthly until you see new flower buds starting.

…and they don’t like cold drafts or rapid changes in temperatures. This will cause the loss of flowers and flower buds until next year.

To encourage your cactus to rebloom, try to induce a mini cold-snap right in your home. Here’s how:

· Give it nighttime (only) temperatures of 50 to 60 degrees (brrr);

· Or if temps are between 60 and 70 degrees, then twelve hours of nighttime darkness (even a dark corner or lightly covering with a dark cloth for those hours will do);

· Or fifteen hours of nighttime darkness if temps are above 70 degrees.

Enjoy a Merry Christmas ...and a more colorful winter... with your Christmas Cactus!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Things Gardeners are Thankful for:

  • The physical strength and agility necessary to garden with gusto.
  • Every plant that survives transplant, a cold winter, and slugs.
  • Each friendly face at the Greenhouse that shares a bit of their garden wisdom.
  • A successful garden.
  • The lessons learned from our struggles in the garden.
  • The life lessons gained through garden.
  • All the farmers who produce good crops every year to supplement our own gardens.
  • The miracle of growth which gardeners experience regularly.
These were inspired by a list I stumbled upon here.