Friday, August 29, 2008


It's that time of year to start thinking about wrapping up our summer gardens and preparing for winter. One of the things that should be done in September is to split spring flowering perennials if needed. We've compiled a 'how to' list to help you.


  1. If it blooms in the spring, divide it in the fall.
  2. If it blooms in the summer or fall, wait to divide it in the spring as soon as frost is out of the ground.
  3. It’s best to divide perennials when it is cool and cloudy.


  1. One method is to put a sharp shovel onto the root between two growing points and step on the shovel. The shovel should point straight down. Ensure you have enough roots and a decent size chunk of the main rhizome or root structure (at least six inches) so the plant contains growing points to send up shoots.
  2. Another method is to dig the entire perennial out of the ground. You can then cut it up replanting both parts. This works best if the mother plant is small and you need to be careful with the division.
  3. Shake or hose off loose soil and remove dead leaves and stems. This will help loosen tangled root balls. You can use two garden forks back to back and pry apart the roots to get a good division if needed.


  1. Never allow divisions to dry out. If planting immediately, keep a pail of water nearby to moisten divisions until they are planted. Otherwise, you can wrap them in damp newspaper to keep them moist for a short period of time.
  2. Trim all broken roots with a sharp knife or pruners before replanting.
  3. Plant the divided sections as soon as possible in the garden or in containers at the same depth they were originally.
  4. Firm soil around the roots to eliminate air pockets.
  5. Water well after planting.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Does Weeding Really Make A Difference?

One of the questions we get most often is “Does weeding really make that much difference?'' The chart below is from the Washington/Oregon Master Gardener Handbook. It relates specifically to vegetables but the comparisons in production are significant. Plot sizes were not specified, but weeded and unweeded plots were of equal size. With the exception of weed management, both plots were treated the same.

So, what’s the issue with weeds? Weeds compete for the nutrients and moisture intended for the desired plants in our gardens. Plants cannot flourish in an environment where they are struggling for food and water. Some weeds put out toxins to control their territory thereby inhibiting the growth of other plants. There is also the unsightly appearance of this unwanted vegetation in our landscape.

So we urge you to WEED EARLY, WEED OFTEN and WEED SHALLOW when close to your desired plants. For those of you who already have a circlehoe, you know how much easier it makes the job.

Just bought one of your circlehoe's. WOW! I am so glad I did. We spend the winter in AZ and once we get home to Wilderville, OR, it usually takes me 3 weeks of bending or sitting on a bucket to pull all the weeds. I used the hoe for an hour today and I'm more than 1/2 done with this detested chore. THANK YOU for a wonderful product! Karen S, OR

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Poisonous Plants in the Garden

I was talking to a friend the other day about making a Strawberry/Rhubarb pie. We were discussing whether the stalks of my rhubarb plants were big enough yet since I’ve only had them a couple of years. What really caught my attention was when she said “just be sure you don’t eat the leaves because they are poisonous”. I did not know that. It made me wonder what other plants in my yard are toxic so I did some research. I discovered that several of my beautiful perennials fall into the ‘poisonous’ category. Most of these plants are toxic only if ingested but some of them can also cause skin irritation. It is good information to know in case you have children or animals around. Six of the most common plants I found are:

* Rhubarb - The toxin concentrated in rhubarb leaves and roots is a form of oxalic acid (a skin irritant) that, when ingested in large quantities, is poisonous to humans. Toxic part: Leaf blade Symptoms: Large amounts of raw or cooked leaves can cause convulsions, coma, followed rapidly by death.

* Chrysanthemum, Garden Mum - Garden chrysanthemums can be a severe skin irritant. It’s possible to develop contact dermatitis after extended exposure to mums. So even if you haven’t had a reaction before, it’s good to be aware of the potential for a problem beforehand. Toxic part: Leaves, stalks, flowers. Symptoms: skin reddening, scaling, blisters.

* Hydrangea - Poisoning from eating the flower buds has occurred. Sensitive individuals may develop contact dermatitis from handling the plants. Toxic part: Leaves, flowers, bark. Symptoms: stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and sweating.

* Oleander -These plants are highly toxic. To avoid possible poisoning when working with Oleanders, wash hands and arms thoroughly when finished working with the plant. The toxin is mostly contained in the sap which is clear to slightly milky colored, and sticky. Toxic part: Leaves, branches. Symptoms: Extremely poisonous. Affects the heart, produces severe digestive upset and has caused death.

* Rhododendron & Azalea -All parts of Rhododendron and Azalea plants are extremely toxic if ingested. Seek medical help immediately. Toxic part: All parts. Symptoms: Produces nausea and vomiting, depression, difficult breathing, prostration and coma. Can be fatal.

* Wisteria - The entire plant, also known as a kidney bean tree, is toxic, though some say the flowers are not. Toxic part: Seeds, pods Symptoms: Mild to severe digestive upset. Many children are poisoned by this plant.

For more information, there is a good reference Chart reprinted from materials provided by the Texas State Department of Health and the National Safety Council available at

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Catching Up


I've learned some interesting lessons this past month about being patient and tempering my perspective. At the end of April, I came down with the flu that turned into pneumonia. For the past four weeks at the height of spring garden preparation, I have been virtually incapacitated both in gardening, blogging and working. For some reason my mind did not work very well when I could not breath. It has been frustrating at times but mostly it's taught me a good lesson in patience and acceptance. All things will happen in good time (or not).

We've had some perfect garden WOOs (Window of Opportunity) as Carol of May Dreams Gardens addressed in her Garden WOO blog last Sunday. But I've just had to ignore them. Although my whole yard should look great by now with little or no weeds and the vegetable garden planted, I am thrilled that I got one half of one flower bed done! I admit this is a project I started before I got sick but I was finally able to finish it up in little bits and pieces over the Memorial Day weekend.

Can you tell there's Heather and Ornamental Grasses in there somewhere?

I appreciate having help from Ralph along the way. He's a great compost spreader! Reading gardening blogs has helped me feel 'in the loop'. I'm looking forward to catching up but will do it slowly. Fortunately, we live in the country so if it doesn't all get done, we can just say we've decided to go back to nature this year!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Get Rid of Weeds With Boiling Hot Water

Did you know that one of the best organic ways to get rid of grass or weeds in the crevices of your sidewalk or in your drive is to treat them with boiling hot water? It's fast, it's easy and doesn't require any herbicides. As with any weeding, you need to be careful that you don't harm surrounding vegetation so be careful where you are pouring the hot water. It takes a few days to see results.

This a difficult area to dig out.

Boil water in a pan.

Pour boiling water on vegetation.

After a few days, scrape off dead vegetation.

Friday, May 2, 2008


I am so excited to be a part of the first GARDEN BLOGGERS HOE DOWN. I was hoping to do a really blow out job with all my hoes (wherever I could find them) but instead I came down with the flu and was out of commission all week. The good news is I got well just in time to snap a few pictures.

The star of our show is the circlehoe since my husband is the inventor. This design actually evolved during a period of about 8 to 10 years. As a gardener since the age of 7, Ralph spent a lifetime hoeing and says "During each growing season the frustration of having whacked too many of my plants became more and more intolerable. So, every year I would modify some off-the-shelf product trying to whip up some kind of a high performance weeder/cultivator. Ultimately, I built a forge and started to beat the steel into a blade shape that would provide the desired affect in areas of my maturing gardens where plants were close together."

Some of those modified hoes are pictured above and are still used in certain situations. As Carol said in her most recent post on Gardening Lessons From The Hoes, "Not every hoe can do every kind of hoeing; some are good for breaking ground, others for weeding in tight spaces." I think of it like knives in the kitchen. You don't use the same knife for everything you do.

One of my favorites is an old hoe that was on the property when we bought it. It's made out of an old cultivator tine. I use it a lot for making furrows in the vegetable garden.

This is one of Ralph's designs. He calls it The Terminator!

This was fun. I wish I had more time but we're off to do another garden show today. Hope you all have a great time. See you next year!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Home Vegetable Gardening

Here’s something to think about as you're planning what to do with your planting areas this year. How about setting aside an area for vegetables or even consider planting some vegetables in among your flowers? Growing vegetables in containers is easier than ever with the new self-watering containers and specially mixed potting soil.

Vegetable gardening is gaining momentum with the rise in the cost of food and concerns about safety and quality. Growing your own vegetables can take some work but the benefits are great. There’s nothing that tastes quite as good as vegetables fresh picked from your own garden!

If you haven’t tried vegetable gardening before, Horticulturist Charlie Nardozzi from the National Gardening Association recommends some simple guidelines to get you started:

* Start small with a 3 ft x 5 ft bed that's in full sun in an area that you'll pass by frequently.

* Start with easier to grow vegetables like bush beans, summer squashes, tomatoes, any greens, Swiss chard, peppers, carrots and radishes.

* Keep the garden low maintenance. Apply mulch around beds and plants.

* Visit the garden every other day and spend a few minutes weeding instead of once a week. The circlehoe is especially handy for keeping the weeds under control around your vegetables. Our motto is ''WEED EARLY, WEED OFTEN''.

* Get the children involved with fun stuff like planting seeds and harvesting carrots and radishes. Once they are invested in the garden, there's a good chance they'll learn to appreciate the great taste of fresh veggies.

Important factors to consider in selecting a garden site include:

SUNLIGHT at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day, 8-10 hours is ideal

NEARNESS TO THE HOUSE for convenience of harvesting, watering, weeding, insect and disease control

SOIL should have good texture, be fertile and well-drained. If you don’t have loose well-drained soil to start with, clay and sandy soils can be improved by adding organic matter.

WATER the garden as often as needed to maintain a uniform moisture supply. Water early in the morning at least one inch per week.

The Vegetable Gardeners Bible by Ed Smith is a great reference book for those of you who get involved in vegetable gardening. If you are not ready to tackle your own vegetable garden, consider checking out your local farmer's market. Next to growing your own, there's nothing better than local, fresh picked fruits and vegetables.