Friday Free For All: Memories

 

Today’s post is a difficult one for me. My grandma passed away today. She was a delightful lady who made an impression on everyone she met. She had a dynamic personality that very few people ever forgot. She was 90 years old and the last survivor of her immediate family. And she was the one that first ignited the spark of gardening in me.

Perhaps there is a house in your neighborhood or town where the yard is awash with flowers. Everyone knows the house that you’re speaking of when you mention it: “you know, the one on the corner with all of the flowers”. That was grandma’s house. She took such pride in her yard when she was able to keep up with it. She loved pansies but never liked white flowers. She said that they looked dead when they were spent. Her and I would spend time in her borders weeding and deadheading. When her body wouldn’t let her deadhead her daffodils any more, the men in the family spent time clipping the spent flowers after her birthday celebration one year. She thought that was so comical. She looked forward to going to Maybelle’s in the spring and picking out flowers for her garden. In fact, that was my first “job” in horticulture. I would cut the tops off of paper bags for the customers to carry their plants home in while my grandma and Maybelle would talk. I was paid a quarter for my efforts.

My grandma has a strict rule when it came to gardening too: you could never thank someone for a plant that they gave you (a “slip” she called them)…that was bad luck. And you could never throw a plant away, even if it wasn’t particularly healthy. She took great pride in showing off the arborvitae that she purchased for a quarter because it wasn’t looking too good at the nursery…she nursed it back to health and was quite proud of it.

Besides giving my grandma the honor and respect that she deserves, I want to encourage you to make gardening memories with your loved ones. Perhaps you have children or nieces and nephews; I encourage you to spend time with them in the garden and teach them how fun it can be to dig in the dirt. Or perhaps you have an elderly parent or grandparent that loves to garden. I encourage you to spend time with them in the garden helping them with the chores that perhaps they can’t accomplish any more. My grandma used to say that she never felt closer to the Lord than when she was digging in the dirt. It was a time when she could reflect and be quiet with Him. Well Grandma, you are with Him now. And now it’s time for me to say “thank you”. Thank you for all of the memories that you created with me and the rest of the family. Thank you for loving your family more than we could ever know. One of grandma’s favorite expressions was “I am what I am”. Thank you for being you.

I love you.

No Post for Wednesday, March 14

 

I apologize that there wasn’t an article on Wednesday. My grandmother is suffering from some very serious medical issues and was taken to the hospital on Wednesday. I spent the night with her and was unable to post. Please accept my apologies. I am hopeful that I will be able to post this evening.

Thank you for your understanding and continued support.

Did You Know? Gardening Can Reduce Stress

 

Gardening is often viewed as a leisurely activity and it’s with good reason…study after study has proven that gardening is a great stress reliever. There’s just something about digging in the soil that is good for the soul. Whether it’s tending a vegetable garden, pruning trees or dividing perennials, gardening re-connects us with nature on many levels. It feels great to look at what you’ve accomplished in the garden and know that you’ll be able to enjoy it for the season. Sure the weeds may come back and the insects may invade, but at the moment when you finish for the day, you can envision the garden in all of its splendor.

You are able to watch nature unfold in the little ecosystem that is your garden. You can watch the birds devour insects and the bees drink in the sweet nectar of your flowers. You can see the little cucumber flower that was just pollinated turn into a delicious vegetable that you can proudly serve your family. You are able to notice that certain weeds like the shady moist area of your garden while others enjoy that really hot, dry spot by the driveway. You can marvel at how closely weeds can mimic desirable plants, all in their desire to survive. You can observe ladybugs hunting down aphids and praying mantises hunting for anything that moves. By allowing ourselves to decompress enough from the daily stresses of life, we are able to observe nature and realize that life goes on for the rest of the world even when we’ve had a bad day at work or were stuck in traffic for an hour on the way home. Gardening also has physiological effects on the body.

I believe that there is no better exercise than the exercise of working. Our bodies were designed so that we can tend the fields and the garden, not so that we can get on a hampster wheel, otherwise known as a treadmill. Instead of spending an hour walking on a conveyor belt, spend that hour working in your garden. If you believe that you can achieve a better cardiovascular workout on a treadmill, I have some unbroken ground that needs working. And to boot, you’ll be able to watch nature unfold in front of you instead of keeping up with the Kardashians. I’d love to hear how Mid-Atlantic Gardening readers feel about this…leave me a comment below or e-mail me at stacey@midatlanticgardening.com. Happy gardening! (get it? :))

March 5, 2012Permalink 1 Comment

Seed Starting 101: Part 1

 

I know that Tuesday posts are supposed to be about Pests and Diseases but this week we are going to focus on starting seeds. Today is Part 1 of Seed Starting 101. Pull up a chair and imagine you’re back in school…we are going to take this back to the elementary level and also show lots of how-tos. The rest of the week will be about starting seeds and we’ll follow the progress of the ones I’ve planted.

WHAT DO SEEDS NEED TO GERMINATE?

Let’s think about how seeds germinate in nature; in the wild, many seeds are dropped in the fall and then they lay there dormant, waiting for the right conditions to come along. What those conditions are vary greatly from plant to plant but suffice it to say that they need the proper temperature, proper amount of moisture and the proper amount of light. When all of those conditions are met, the seed germinates. If the light is right and the water is right but the temperature is wrong, the seeds won’t germinate. And so it goes with any of the combinations…you must have all three conditions be met for a seed to germinate. So what does that mean for you and the seedlings you are trying to grow indoors in anything but a natural environment? It means that the temperature needs to be approximately 70-75 degrees, water has to be available to the seeds and in most cases, light needs to be available. I say most cases because there are a few seeds that prefer darkness to germinate. We’ll discuss those later in the week; I’d like to do a post about seeds that are difficult to germinate as they deserve further attention.

If you are starting your seeds in your house, the temperature requirements shouldn’t be a problem. If you are starting them in a cooler environment like your basement, you may want to invest in some bottom heating pads. There are special ones designed for seed starting that are made to tolerate a bit of moisture and I would recommend using them instead of a heating pad that you would use for your arthritic shoulder.

The next issue for seeds is water. If you are using a conventional soilless seed starting medium like peat moss or a peat moss blend, the soil needs to be wet all the way through. It is very easy to think that the media is wet when it really has dry pockets throughout. I recommend wetting the soil, stirring it thoroughly and then wetting it some more. If you are using peat pellets, wet them from the bottom and allow the pellets to absorb the water for 20 minutes or so. Then be sure to pour out the extra moisture before starting your seeds.

Lastly, and perhaps the most difficult part of starting seeds, is light. It is virtually impossible to replicate the big glowing orb in the sky inside your house. Sure, it’s possible but for the average gardener, the amount of money required to purchase and operate the lights would be prohibitive. I use standard fluorescent shop lights with a warm bulb and a cool bulb. Using the two different bulbs provides a broad spectrum of lightwaves that the plants need. Your seedlings will need 16 hours of light per day so it’s a wise idea to invest in a timer…you don’t want to feel that sense of panic rise in you while you’re at work and you realize that you forgot to turn the lights on before you left your house this morning.

Before you start sowing your seeds, figure out a way to identify what seeds you are growing once they are in the seed flats. A tomato is a tomato is a tomato after it germinates and it will be July before you can figure out whether you’ve planted a Green Zebra or an Amish Paste. I made that mistake last year and I wanted to kick myself all last summer. I could tell who was who when they were in the controlled setting of my house but once they went to the garden, I lost track of their names and I wasn’t able to figure out which ones they were, except for the most obvious ones. I grew about 15 types of tomatoes last year and I’m going to be doing the same this year and it’s my goal to be able to report back to you the characteristics of each. If Mid-Atlantic Gardening readers have any bright ideas for avoiding this confusion, I’m taking suggestions!

Tomorrow, I am going to be doing a picture tutorial of starting seeds. If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment below or e-mail me at stacey@midatlanticgardening.com. Happy gardening!

February 28, 2012Permalink 3 Comments

Did You Know? Virginia Gardener Magazine

 

Happy Monday to everyone! For me, it’s a very tired Monday. The Richmond, VA area received around 4″ of snow overnight (and I know that’s not a lot to my more northern readers) and I was involved in the snow removal operation at my job. I’m running on about 3.5 hours of sleep and I’m exhausted so today’s post will be short and sweet.

Virginia GardenerI wanted to let all of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening readers that I am now the Q&A writer for Virginia Gardener Magazine and I am very excited about the opportunity. It allows me to answer 6-8 questions from readers of the magazine each month. Virginia Gardener Magazine is a publication for the residents of Virginia and many of the articles are written by folks that garden here. They also have a sister publication, Pennsylvania Gardener Magazine, for folks that garden in the Keystone State. If you call the Commonwealth home, consider picking up a copy of Virginia Gardener Magazine. Here is a link to their website another link to their Facebook page. Thanks again for all of your continuing support!

February 20, 2012Permalink Leave a comment

Seed Give Away Winner!

 

 

Congratulations to Elizabeth! (you didn’t enter your last name) You are the winner of the seed give away! I’ve e-mailed all of the participants so if you are the right Elizabeth, there should be an e-mail in your inbox! Thanks to everyone who entered the give away! I’m going to be doing another seed give away in the next couple of weeks so stay tuned here and on the Facebook page for updates. Thanks again to everyone who participated and for supporting Mid-Atlantic Gardening. Happy gardening!

Seed Give Away!

 

OK folks…tomorrow is the seed give away drawing! Make sure that you’ve entered your e-mail address in the form to the right to be eligible for the drawing. I’m going to be giving away packets of veggie seeds to one lucky winner! Good Luck!

Seed Giveaway!

 

I’m going to be giving away veggie seeds to one of my lucky readers this Friday! To enter, all you have to do is fill out the e-mail sign up list in the column to your right. Yep, that’s it…all I need is your e-mail address. And of course, I will never sell your e-mail or anything of the sort. Tell your gardening friends too…unless you want to increase your chances of winning! 🙂 Good luck!

Starting From the Ground Up…Mid-Atlantic Gardening

November 11, 2011

Welcome to the Mid-Atlantic Gardening blog. This is my first post so I thought it would be appropriate to title it “Starting From the Ground Up” since that’s also what we’ll be talking about…growing great plants from the ground up.

My goal for this blog is that it will be an educational resource for Mid-Atlantic gardeners that you can refer to over and over to solve problems in your landscape or to inspire new ideas for your landscape. Many of the gardening books and magazines focus on general topics or plants that don’t do well in the Mid-Atlantic. I am trying to fill that void and let you know the “right plant for the right place” based on our growing conditions and also keep you abreast of disease and pest issues that threaten the very landscapes that we devote so much time to.

I’m Stacey Arnold and I’d like to let you know a little about me even though it’s not my nature to talk about myself. But near as I can figure, if I’m going to be giving you advice and helping you to solve your problems, you should at least know a little about me. I attended Virginia Tech and graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture and a minor in Environmental Science in 1997. After graduation, I was fortunate enough to obtain the Assistant Horticulturist position at the Maymont Foundation in Richmond, VA. For those who don’t know, Maymont is a wonderful 100-acre estate in the heart of Richmond. It has evolved from the personal estate of the Dooleys to a park-like setting that boasts beautiful gardens, an animal farm and a gorgeous Victorian-era mansion. I worked under the great Peggy Singlemann until the spring of 1998.

At that time I moved on to work in the nursery industry. I was employed by a perennial wholesale grower and we grew over 2200 different types of perennials and a few annuals. The nursery industry is awesome in that you get to see all of the new plants before they hit the market! And you get to witness all that goes into producing the plants that you see in the garden center.

I worked in the perennial nursery industry until the fall of 2006 when I decided to branch out on my own and start my own landscape design, installation and maintenance business. I met a lot of great people and had tons of fun working in other people’s landscapes but the hours were extremely long and grueling…did I mention that I had a bubbly one-and-a-half year old son then too?

In the late summer of 2007 I accepted a position with a local government’s Department of General Services as their Grounds Supervisor. I have been their ever since and have learned so much that I think can help you with issues in your own landscape.

My hope is to publish new posts several times per week and eventually develop this to a weekly podcast. I am here to help you so if there is a particular problem that you are dealing with that we haven’t discussed, please e-mail me at stacey@midatlanticgardening.com so that I can help you.

November 12, 2011Permalink 1 Comment