The Gardening Diva
Never be too busy to stop and smell the beautiful flowers.

Gardening Tip of the Week

Rainy Days
A Gardener’s best friend
By LMG Calla Victoria

     I love the rain! Have you noticed how great your garden looks after a good rain, as opposed to after a good watering? That is because rain water is full of all the nutrients that plants need to thrive, nutrients that are removed from our drinking water.  Also a good rain fills our rainwater harvesting containers for future use, and it softens the soil so that after the rain weeding is a breeze. No more fighting trying to extract those stubborn weeds, because those tough weeds just slide out of the ground with no problem! Always schedule a weeding date after a good rain.

Weatherizing Your Plants
By LMG Calla Victoria 


     If you live in zone 9 or lower, it is time to protect your tender vegetation. One of the best ways to do that is with row cloth. If you have any  strawberry patches near you, this is the time of year that you start to see fields of white as farmers have covered their berries with row cloth. This cloth is made of interfacing material, if you are familiar with sewing, you will know what I am talking about. It is very lightweight, and the sun and moisture can penetrate through this fabric, therefore once you place it over your plants, it can stay that way for the entire season; unlike plastic which has to be removed during the day so as not to burn the foliage.

Preventing Weeds from Growing through Your Pathways
By LMG Calla Victoria

       Weeds are relentless we all know that, but battle can be successful. Of course the first line of    defense is to lay down weed cloth down prior to laying pavers, however in many cases the pavers  were already there before you got there, so then what to do? Well during my volunteer time at the  New Orleans Botanical Garden, they would spray Roundup on all of the walkways twice each month, and there were no weeds. So schedule a by-monthly spraying  of  your pathways with Roundup, Killz All, or a  homemade, non-toxic, weed-killer and that will do the trick.

Keep A Gardening Diary
By LMG Calla Victoria

       By all means keep a record of your gardening successes and failures, as well as when certain plants bloom, etc. You will find this is a great way can gauge your garden's progress on a long term basis.  

      You can go old school with an actual hard bound journal or you can keep an online journal in your email as I do. This way you never run out of pages,  you never have to look for it, and you can make notes from anywhere in the world.

      President Thomas Jefferson, who was an avid gardener, kept a journal of all of his plantings including garden layouts. Those notes are still used today at Monticello, Jefferson's historic home in Charlottesville.  

Weeding Can Produce More Plant Material
By LMG Calla Victoria

Hyacinth bean vine

   Weeds are just plants out of place, as we were taught in our Mastr Gardeners class.  Also some weeds are not bad. I love the Hyacinth bean vine, it is lovely, a prolific climber, and has beautiful deep purple waxy seed pods. As the season ended last year I tried to harvest most of the seeds, but because there are so many seed pods and many are way up on the top of a tree, those seeds did get away from me. But I had no fear because I knew they would be  popping up each spring. So I just plucked those seedlings out of the ground, and as they are already very well rooted, I drop them in a starter pot. Now I can sell them or place them where I want them to grow, not where they were trying to grow.  I have several vines in my yard and they are great to create a privacy hedge along a wire fence. 

        This is a Hyacinth Bean Vine seedling growing out of a crack in the             This is that same seedling, along with others I found popping up in my yard.
           concrete.                                                                                                          all potted and ready for the plant sale.




               My Cassia Senna alata (Empress candelebra tree) grew so tall and wide that it was all I could do to contain the thing, so I was expecting some seedlings to pop up from that monster. Below you will see one of those seedling growing out of a crack in the ground. And in the other image you can see that the seedling is well rooted. That seedling, along with a few other cassias that I found, have already been potted and are happily growing.

                     This is a seedling of the Empress Candle Plant,                        You can see that the seedling is very well rooted and ready for potting.
                     Cassia Senna alata, growing out of the crack

Pruning and Propagating Go Hand in Hand
By LMG Calla Victoria

     Know that every pruning project is a propagating opportunity.  Whenever you are going to cutback your shrubs, by all means have some pots and potting soil at the ready to propagate those cuttings rather than discarding them.  And when you are pruning, that is the perfect time to take cuttings because usually  you end up with LOTS of cutting.  This is a very good thing because every cutting will not root, so the more cuttings that you plant the more you increase your odds for success. 

     As avid gardeners we know that our hobby can become quite costly, always buying new plant material.  However if you try propagating the plants that you already have, then you are saving money and perhaps even making money if you chose to sell the seedlings that you have grown from the cuttings.  I love my Angel's trumpets because the branches are brittle and you can just break them off with your hand, and just stick them in the ground and they grow.  I also propagated the Persian shields and the gardenia tree cuttings from my last pruning project.  Also a couple of weeks ago when trimming my confederate jasmine hedge, I potted several of those cuttings. Pruning can be a propagation bonanza!

Cuttings from my Gardenia tree will make new trees


Being Comfortable While Gardening
By LMG Calla Victoria

     Our daily relaxing gardening therapy, in many cases, is interrupted by greedy little bloodsuckers. Yes mosguitos, those annoying little pests that plague us in the garden. Most people are out in their gardens  early in the morning or late in the evening, which are the feeding times for those little critters.  I have tried everything from planting citronella (mosquito) plants, and slathering myself with Skin So Soft.  I have watched as mosquitoes buz up and down my arm looking for a spot that I missed with the Skin So Soft; and it that does no work they just go all kamikze and sting me right through my clothing. 

      I saw those bracelets on television that are suppose to repel mosquitoes, and I was not impressed. On a recent visit to Home Depot, I noticed the bracelets at the checkout counter and decided to try one. It was only $2 and supposed to be good for 250 hours, so why not try it? Well I love this product! It really works!  I put the bracelet  on before going out to my garden and no more being a  buffet for mosquitoes. I wore it as I volunteered at the Fall Garden Show and the other Master Gardener with me was getting eaten alive. She said, "Calla why are they not biting you?" I raised up my hand and showed her my bracelet.

Picking the Right Plant for the Right Spot
By MG Calla Victoria

Cat Whiskers plant  

         It is imperative that you know the mature size (both width and height) and growth habit of plants before you drop them in the ground. This will save you a lot of time later from having to dig up and replant in another location. Also sometimes we have to ignore the rule of buying the same plants in increments of three or more in order to make a statement in your garden.

       Case in point, I purchased  a Cat Whiskers (Orthosiphon Aristatus) a couple of years ago and planted it in a small space in my garden. By the end of the first year, that plant had spread to four times the original size, in fact it was so large that I had to dig it up and plant it in another area of my garden. Just imagine had I purchased three plants I would have been digging up and replanting three plants instead of one plant. One Cat Whiskers plant is definitely more than enough to make a statement. I purchased  the plant from the Botanical Garden and although the plant was labeled with the name, it had no other information. It was not until later that I found out that Cat Whiskers are members of the mint family, therefore they are aggressive growers and can become invasive. It is a wonderful plant, drought tolerant, lots of blooms most of the time, and  maintenance free.



Marking your New Seedling in an Established Garden
By MG Calla Victoria

      It is quite easy to see and remember your new plantings if you are just starting out and have lots of small plants in a relatively clean space. However having a mature garden, like my friend Paul Chase, who's beautiful Shade Garden is eleven years old, it is not so easy to see small new seedlings amisdt large towerig plant material. On a recent visit to Paul's garden I noticed a few white plastic forks sticking up in the ground through the thicket of tall plant materials. I asked Paul what was the significance of the forks and his response was, "They mark my new plants so that I can see and remember them."  How ingenious! 



Being Water-wise in your Garden 
By MG Calla Victoria

Lush Iris garden of  LMG Eileen Hollander 

     I visited the most amazing iris garden today. It was a sea of flowers in waves of color.  This was a tour of the private garden of the Greater New Orleans Iris Society's president Eileen Hollander. Aside from giving excellent tips on growing irises, she also uses a simple and unique way of gauging when to water her garden. No sophisticated digital water meters and contraptions that really are not so attractive in the garden for Eileen. She places small decorative bowls of water inconspicuously throughout her garden. Each bowl is about an inch deep, and I am sure that you have all heard that gardens need about an inch of water each week to strive. Well Eileen watches the water levels in those cute little bowls, so when or if the water evaporates before the next rain she knows it is time to water her garden.

    The water in those bowls is the very same water that fell on the rest of the garden, only we can see the water in the bowls but we cannot see what is in the soil to know when it is depleted. This is an excellent way to make sure that you are giving your garden what it needs and not over-watering your plants. If you are concerned about the bowls of water becoming a haven for mosquitoes just put a pinch of Epsom salt in each bowl.



Cleaning the Leaves of House plants
By MG Calla Victoria


     The easiest way to clean the foliage of house plants is with a daily spritsing of  water with a few drops of Dawn detergent mixed in. The water hydrates the plant while the detergent cleans away any dust that has settled on the leaves.  Also the Dawn will keep your plants free from disease as well as any pests that might have hitch-hiked in on your plants.



Filling Pots with large Drain Holes
By MG Calla Victoria


     Drainage holes are a must in flower pot so that the water passes through the soil and drains out thus allowing the roots to receive moisture, while not rotting the roots. The problem becomes filling the pot with soil without loosing a lot of your mix through said drain holes. Some people use pebbles in the bottom of the pot or cover the holes with broken up terracotta pieces. I prefer using newspaper in the bottom of the pot.  As I am lucky enough to have a bird, I use the newspaper that lined Peppa's cage to place in pots before planting, as that paper has bird dropping on it that makes great fertilizer.  The newspaper plugs the holes thus trapping the potting mix, the bird droppings fertilize the roots of the plants, and because it is paper it will allow the water to flow through. Over time the newspaper will decompose and become mulch. 



 Helping out Thirsty Trees
    By MG Calla Victoria 

      If you under-plant near your trees you may notice that some of the foliage is suffering. The plants are not quite as full as the ones further away from the tree. This is because trees have large roots and can leach the moisture from smaller plant material. A great little trick is to dig a shallow hole near the tree, then cover the hole with the groundcover or whatever you have under-planted with. As the dew, rain, or your watering falls; extra amounts will collect in the hole thus providing an additional drink  for the thirsty tree and the nearby foliage so that everything gets what it needs.



Amending the Soil
    By MG Calla Victoria 


     Consider using something that most people have around the house to sweeten the soil. Charcoal is organic, made from plant material, and a mainstay in most households. Charcoal is a fine-grained, porous black carbon. The pores allow air to diffuse into the soil and hold nutrients and water that later feed the roots of plants. Once applied to soil charcoal will not decompose so it is in the soil forever.  Just take a hammer and pulverize the charcoal briquettes into tiny particles and mix them in with the soil. DO NOT use the charcoal that has the fuel added to it.



    By MG Calla Victoria 

         Cow manure is a great fertilizer but the very best manure is chicken manure, and chickens are fowls and fowls are birds. In the wild  where there are no chickens, cows, or people to fertilize the vegetation; bird poop does the trick, that is just how God planned it. So if you just happened to have a pet bird like I do, use the bedding to fertilize your flower garden. I use newspaper to line the bird cage, and after I clean the cage I use that paper under the mulch, and in the soil of new seedlings. The newspaper is biodegradable and the bird poop does wonders for the soil. Oh, by the way that is my pet bird Peppa in the picture, he is a green cheek conure. And now that I use his betting to fertilize my garden, at least one of my critters is paying for room and board! 




By MG Calla Victoria


     Mulching finishes off your garden, it is that final accessory that gives your garden that well-manicured look.  Aside for the obvious aesthetic value, mulching keeps your garden weed free; it retains moisture, and controls the soil's temperature. When considering mulch always go for organic mulch products that will break down and feed the soil. Grass clipping make great mulch and pine straw is my personal favorite, as it seems to be the most effective in suppressing weeds.  Now you can put down mulch the old fashioned way of wheel barrow-ing it or you can commission a landscaping company to come out and blow the mulch into your garden with the new fangle "mulch blowing" machine.

                                                 Chartreuse  Sweet Potato vine                          Wandering Jew 


     Garden centers offer quite a selection of weed barriers that you are supposed to place on the ground under the mulch. However Native-Americans used newspaper, and many large parks use cardboard under the mulch. I have used both the cardboard and newspaper, they both are quite effective. But so far as mulching goes, I prefer natural mulching which can be achieved with aggressive groundcovers. It beats dealing with wheel barrows of mulch or the expense of mulch blowing, and it looks wonderful. I use wandering Jew and sweet potato vines to serve as natural mulch. They are both aggressive growers, drought-tolerant, and as both are perennial in my area, they come back every year. 



                                                  Pulling Weeds
                                                                                  By MG Calla Victoria


        The best time to pull weeds is after a good long rain.  That way the ground is not  hard, the soil is soft, and those those otherwise tough weeds will just slide right out of the ground.



Full Moon Planting
By MG Calla Victoria


    The very best time to plant is during a full moon. My father, who was a
Mississippi farmer and who taught me to garden, would not allow me to plant anything until there was a full moon. Many say that this idea is just old folklore but science backs up this concept. You see j
ust as the moon pulls the tides in the oceans, it also pulls upon the bodies of water causing moisture to rise in the earth which encourages growth. Therefore the highest amount of moisture is in the soil during the full moon and tests have proven that seeds will absorb the most water at that time. So give your seeds and seedlings a jump-start by planting them during the full moon.

Full Moon Calendar 2019

March 20          
9:43 P.M.         Full Worm Moon
April 19            7:12 A.M.        Full Pink Moon
May 18              5:11 P.M.        Full Flower Moon
June 17             4:31 A.M.        Full Strawberry Moon
July 16              5:39 P.M.         Full Buck Moon
August 15         8:31 A.M.        Full Sturgeon Moon
September 14   12:35 A.M.      Full Harvest Moon
October             13 5:10 P.M.    Full Hunter’s Moon
November         12 8:37 A.M.   Full Beaver Moon
December 12    12:14 A.M.       Full Cold Moon




Tip for Working with Cacti
By MG Calla Victoria


  When transplanting cacti, aways wear  heavy canvas gloves to protect your fingers and arms from those prickly spines. I also have re-purposed a pair of plastic slicing prongs that I got with a tomato slicer. I can grab my cactus with the prongs, re-pot them and they don't bite back. 




Tip for Transplanting to large Pots
By MG Calla Victoria

     If  you are transplanting a specimen into a very large over-sized pot, after placing the plant in the large container by all means move the pot to where you plan on keeping it before watering it. That way the pot will not be too heavy and therefore easy to maneuver. 




Tip for Extending your Blooms and Harvests
By MG Calla Victoria

    Plant your flowering plants in two week intervals. In this way you will extend the bloom times of your flowing plants allowing more cut Flowers for an extended period of time. Also if you employ this technique with your vegetable plantings you will extend your harvest time by 100 percent!



Tips for Planting Veggies
By MG Calla Victoria

When planting tomatoes :

    Always remember to wrap the stalk of  your tomato seedling with aluminum foil at planting time. Horned worms wrap around the tender stalks of tomato seedlings and munch through them. The foil will protect the tender stalk of your seedling from those veracious worms and save you from the heartbreak  of coming outside to find just a  little twig standing where your seedling used to be.


When planting sweet potatoes:

     Some people, like myself, use the sweet potato plant as a wonderful ground cover, but if you actually do want potatoes to develop, instead of digging a hole and planting the seedling dig a trench, lay the sweet potato seedling in the trench and cover it with soil accept for a few leaves at the top of the plant. When you dig that sweet potato plant up you will have a full-sized sweet potato.  If you plant the sweet potato as you plant other seedlings, when you dig it up you will have some small little twisted mutant sweet potatoes.




 The Joy of Growing Plants from seeds
By MG Calla Victoria


        I buy lots of mature seedlings (baby plants) for my garden, however I find the most gratification when growing plants from seeds. You take that tiny little seed, some are so small they are almost microscopic, sow in directly into the ground or in a small pot, water it daily and just wait. The process gets to be sort of robotic as we can see absolutely nothing going on. Then one day when you go out to your garden you will see one or two little round leaves standing tall. These leaves are called monocots (the one-leafed variety) or dicots (the two-leafed variety). Lets talk about the dicot which is short for dicotyledon, a flowering plant with two embryonic seed leaves or cotyledons that usually appear at germination (when a sprout grows).

       The very first time that I planted cucumbers it was from seedlings, then someone gave me some free seeds and I decided to try planting from seeds. When those two little rounded leaves stuck their little heads up out of the ground I thought to myself, " Hum this must be a different variety of cucumber because the ones I had before had pointy, jagged-edged leaves."


                                                                              Dicot of a cucumber plant

         Above is the photo of a young cucumber seedling I purchased a couple of weeks ago. You can clearly see the oval dicots. Now this is where the real magic begins, if you have ever seen cucumbers growing on a vine then you know the cucumber vine has leaves that have pointy, jagged edges. So where are the pointy jagged leaves huh? Well every plant that starts out as a dicot will start out with just those two smooth oval leaves, but the third leaf to form will be the identifying leaf of the plant. Did you know that we identify plants based on the shape of the leaves not on the bloom? If a plant is not in bloom we still should be able to identify it and we do that by the shape of the leaves. You can look at a magnolia tree with not a single bloom on it and know that it is a magnolia by those wide, glossy, dark green leaves that are brown on the underside, right!



Third leaf formed on seedling

     The photo above is the very same cucumber seedling two weeks later, as you notice the third leaf has formed and yes it is pointy and jagged. That is what is so fascinating about growing plants from seeds, you get to observe every amazing stage of growth in a plant.  


     In the fourth week several of the permanent leaves have formed and now it is easy to see the leaf structure of the plant.

     There are several gardening groups that give out free seeds so just google "free seeds" in your area and I am sure you will find lots of seeds. Or you can save seeds from some of the fruits you buy like avocado, tomato, or mango and propagate them. So get planting from seeds!

Note: Fruits are seed-bearing plants so if it has a seed in its flesh it is not a vegetable. Therefore peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant which we traditionally think of as vegetables are really fruit because they have seeds within their flesh.


























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