Monday, April 30, 2012

Foxglove -- Good for the Heart!

A couple of weeks ago, I was elated to see this foxglove (planted last spring) blooming in a shady flower bed in my back yard. Of course I always knew foxgloves were great for my heart but I thought it was for their beauty. Little did I know, they actually have medicinal qualities used in the production of digitalis, a heart rate regulator and diuretic.

However, prior to researching information on foxgloves, I found a great supply at a local garden outlet and bought two to add to my shady bed. They will grow from two to five feet and make a perfect plant to put at the back of a shady garden spot.

Included in this spot is an old (but beautiful) terracotta pot that once was hung on my breezeway wall but broke where it anchored and now it is used as an ornament in this flower bed, as Deberah mention in one of her "Everyday Finesse" blogs

In this shady corner at the back of my house, I also have a gardenia bush, balloon flowers and hostas. Around the gardenia, I added eight Lilly of the Valley tubers that love shade too.

Next, I added new soil, as seen above. I used a garden soil that will feed for three months since no fruit would be grown. Dumped it, spread it and worked the new soil into the existing soil.

As you can see above, the spot needed the boost from the new garden soil, as underneath there is red clay even though new soil has been added for years. I always dig the holes two to three size of the new plant, depending on how pot bound the roots appear in the new plants.

The history of the foxglove is ancient. It dates back prior to King Edward III when the myth was told that fairies or little people slipped the flowers over foxes feet making sure they could quietly raid poultry roosts. Then the name "foxes glafa" was given to the plant. Foxgloves grew wild on hills in front of foxes dens which gave more credence to the myth.

The scientific name "Digitalis Purpurea" is still connected to the myth and the word digitalis means "finger-like." In 1785, William Witherling, an Englishman published "Account of the Foxglove" describing the medicinal properties used to treat heart conditions and other physical illnesses.

Foxgloves grow well in part to full shade. They like moist and humus soil (leaf loam) and depending on the climate and location will re-seed, even though the first year will not produce flowers. They are one of the honey bees' favorite flowers and attract hummingbirds, as well. And hopefully even though I don't need their medicinal properties now, they certainly help make my heart happy with their beauty.

as always....

Happy Gardening 2012!

posted by Wilma Smith

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

No Tilling - No Kidding

Imagine growing vegetables and flowers without tilling or hoeing every year. Well that is exactly how Mike and Judy Cunningham grow their plants at Country Gardens Farm located at 2050 Hwy 154 in Newnan. Mike was the speaker, Monday evening at the April 23rd meeting of the Crossroads Garden Club. His presentation explained the basics of "No Till Gardening."

This gardening technique begins with preparing permanent raised beds, approximately four feet wide and six to ten inches in height. This is accomplished by shoveling the dirt onto the row from the walkway in between the rows. Next, Mike and Judy lay Kraft paper on top which they buy from a local seed store (These are bought in rolls and spread end to end to cover the row like wrapping a present). Then they lay a thick layer of mulch on top to keep out the weeds. They use regular wheat straw for their mulching material.

Above is a picture of carrots and daikon radishes grown using this gardening method. Wow!

Drip irrigation is used to water their rows on top or in ground depending on how previous rows were made. I bought 200 feet of drip hose earlier this year at the local dollar store that we plan to use in our garden. Drip irrigation saves water and applies moisture to the roots not the fruit eliminating fungus to develop on both.

Pictured above is a young bok choy plant in Mike and Judy's garden. Another trick they use to keep weeds out is to lay landscape fabric in the walkways between the rows. Other materials to substitute is cardboard (cheap and effective).

You may ask what are the benefits to such a way to garden? Mike explained it so perfectly. Tilling disrupts the microorganisms in the soil. Also, it disrupts one of gardening's best friends, the earthworm. We don't see everything going on underground even though there is a lot going on that effects our above ground efforts to grow plants.

As seen above, "It's All About the Soil." Mike and Judy, don't waste discarded plants or fruit, but compost to add back the nutrients to their garden. This includes not pulling up spent plants in their permanent rows, but cutting them off at the crown and letting the old roots compost in the row. I know the worms love it! Even their animal manure goes back to the garden.

Look at all the vegetables they grew for the market. Double Wow!

"Cock-a doodle-doo," if you use the "No Tilling Gardening" method you'll be able to sleep longer and work less. This prize rooster lives at Country Garden Farms. If you would like to visit or need more information about the farm, go to

As always....

Happy Gardening 2012!

--posted by Wilma Smith

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Crossroads Garden Club meets tonight

The Crossroads Garden Club will meet tonight at 3072 Hwy 154, Newnan at our regular meeting place in a restored barn.

Our speaker is Mike Cunningham from Country Garden Farms and his topic is "No Till Gardening." I am really looking forward to his presentation because he is a very talented and knowledgeable gardener. When he speaks, his love of gardening shows through.

Our planning committee recently met and have a few upcoming events to present at our club including a May trip to Hills & Dales in LaGrange. More will be presented at the meeting tonight.

It is such a pleasure to meet with fellow gardeners and we would love to invite anyone who shares that same love to join us at 7:00 pm for our meeting.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Give a Hoot -- a Garden update

The weather this year has been pretty strange planting a spring garden, wet and hot, enough to make apple trees bloom in February. You really have to care (give a hoot) and be persistent to grow the vegetables you love and although some of our earlier crops like carrots, beets and potatoes didn't propagate so well, it gave us an opportunity to plant some of the favorite crops we each love best. Above is our garden owl that watches over the garden spot everyday.

Green beans are one of our favorite. In years past, we always planted "Kentucky Wonder" but this year we tried "Rattlesnake" green beans." They look good just hope the name doesn't attract snakes.

This is the first year we've planted sweet potatoes. Bake'em, mash'em, fry'em, make some pies and casseroles what a treat and better for you than regular potatoes.

We all agree garlic is a must in the garden. These look good and healthy and we add in most dishes for added flavor and health value.

One of my "give a hoot" plants in the garden this year is strawberries named "Sequoia."  Produces   spring through fall.

Another is sugar snap peas, however this year they haven't grown up the fence like last spring, probably a product of our crazy spring.

Jerry likes hot peppers. This year he bought and planted "Mammoth Jalapenos."  Also, he finished his row with cayenne, regular jalapenos and hot bananas.

Watermelon is Jerry's give a hoot plant this year. This variety will yield dark red fruit.

Deberah loves eggplant. This is one of her favorite plants to care about in the garden this year.

And of course above is another of Deberah's favorite vegetable, kale. She sautes it, uses it in salads but likes to add it to a healthy shake of fruit, nuts and other tasty ingredients.

Above is our row of sweet peppers.

And this is a sweet cherry tomato variety. We haven't planted the majority of our tomatoes, as they are not big enough yet. Deberah planted heirloom tomatoes this year from seed and we are hoping to save plenty of seed for next year.

Above is an overview of the garden. I will keep you posted with updates as everything grows. We still have more to plant and even more mulching to finish.

Really, Tia and Todd don't give a hoot about the garden. They just like to play and watch us work.

So, until the next update.....

Happy Gardening 2012!

posted by Wilma  Smith

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Early Mother's Day Tribute

Mother's Day is May 13th this year, so although, this tribute to my mom seems a little early, today it was cool and breezy in the yard and I decided it was a good time to work in the house. After, vacuuming, mopping, dusting and cleaning toilets, I kept going back to enjoy my mom's art and the picture above of mother, Woodrow (French Partisan Basset hound) and me. And then the light bulb went off in my head, share your mom's art and remind everyone that Mother's Day is May 13th.

My mom has always been an artist and crafty in any endeavor. Her father was a baptist preacher, her mother a seamstress. She was always a great cook, sewed our clothes (three girls) and was there to take us to piano, guitar, dance, basketball or any lessons, thanks mom! Seen above are some of the first pictures she ever painted. These are rustic oil paintings and the frames were made by my father.

After my dad passed away, mother began to take water color lessons, joined the Coweta Art Association, and began a new journey. She took lessons and began to paint....and paint and learned new techniques....and painted some more. Above is one of her first, "Sunflowers."

In my dining room, I hung "Daffodils" above and others below. My mom not only painted these but learned to mat and frame her "masterpieces." Sorry, I know these pictures don't do justice to the art.

"Dogwoods and Poppies", also in my dinning room, (great frame).

I gave mom this pot, she gave it a beautiful addition with the blue window in the background and the goblet and jugs on the side.

"Lilacs", mother loves lilacs, and I do too, I love all her paintings, but this is one of my favorite.

Not only can mother depict flowers, landscapes and buildings beautifully in her paintings, she has a gift to capture animals. Above you see mom's painting of my dog Woodrow. Woodrow was sixteen years when I lost him. She did the greatest job for me!

The "Donkeys" picture hangs under the yoke my dad gave me in my living room. I treasure all my mom's art work but I treasure her the most.

Hope this early tribute to my mother reminds you to do something special on May 13th to do something special for yours...and until later.....

Happy Gardening 2012!

Posted by Wilma Smith.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Blackberry Winter Makes for a Bigger Piece of the Pie

As long as, I can remember growing up in a southern rural setting, there has always been a blackberry winter prior, during, or right after the Easter Holiday, depending on when the Easter weekend falls each year. This year we had warm weather, so early, but I think you will agree the last six or seven days that the nights have been cooler, and I think this is the warmest blackberry winter, I have ever felt, usually the temperature will fall to thirty-five or below. Above is a stand of wild blackberries in my yard. The best part about wild blackberries is that they are sustainable with zero maintenance, except to cut them out of your way when they get in your way.

For the last three or four years, I've let the blackberry bushes grow up and down my driveway or anywhere in my yard until they produce. Then I'll cut them back and dispose of the foliage.

In 2009, the yield was good and Deberah (the true chef in my family) made the most delicious cobbler that only my mother could have topped when I was younger. But for the last couple of years (2010, 2011) due to a drier spring and hungrier birds, we didn't bake a pie.

But due to the blooms seen above and the moisture we received this spring, I'm looking forward to a bigger piece of the pie than 2009, maybe two or three pies and pieces, 2012. I'm not  sure what the blackberry winter adds to the blackberry crop, maybe it's just a coincidence, maybe not, but I do know it happens every year around the Easter Holiday weekend.

For me, the plus to regular old wild blackberries compared to varieties you buy are definitely awesome, no planting, zero maintenance, except for trimming, but you must do that with varieties you plant, they are native, birds and insects are drawn to the blooms and fruit, the seeds are smaller, the fruit is more tart for making pies and jellies.

Happy Gardening 2012!

posted by Wilma Smith

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Little Help for a Friend and Gardener

One of the biggest things I love about gardeners (regardless of knowledge or experience) is that we love to share and help one another. After a discussion with my friend and fellow gardener, Dianne, about a barren spot in her front yard, she expressed the need for some color that would last longer than just one short season. We put our heads together, looked at the spot, and slept on the plan to transform this spot into a colorful flower bed that everyone will enjoy throughout the spring and fall seasons, whether it be Dianne, Mike (her husband), friends and family or just someone driving by on the street.

Our quest began shopping at the local garden center to select plants that would add color and blooms, spring through fall. There were hundreds of options, but seen above, Dianne selected a trio of Knock Out Roses, "Radrazz," cherry red/hot pink blooms, disease resistant, drought tolerant, with little to no maintenance, black-spot resistant and blooms from spring to early frost for the back-drop of her garden. Great choice Dianne!

Next, the real work began. We placed the plants where they needed to be planted insuring the spacing and grouping worked with the space. These roses were bought in one gallon containers and as seen above hole diggers and a sharp edge shovel were the right tools to complete this job and make the work easier.

Dianne bought 30 pounds of garden soil to mix with the original soil in her garden spot for added moisture and nutrients.

We dug the holes, three times the size of the one gallon pots and used approximately, ten pounds of garden soil combined with the original soil to guarantee the success of each plants' growth.

Water was added to each hole prior to planting and as seen above, we checked each plant to insure that the dirt did not cover the crown of the plants where the roots and stems meet. This just required adding soil to the hole until the plant was in position.

I think these knock out roses are a good start to fill this space for my friend's need for color. Often, just like decorating a room, too much, too soon, won't give you the ambiance or feel you want for the space. So, let's see what Dianne adds to grow her space later.

Like the classic song, "A Little Help From My Friends", I'm glad to help a friend and fellow gardener because I know that sooner than later, "I'll get a little help from a friend."  As Dianne put it so eloquently, "This makes it fun and easier when we help one another!" So, if you get a someone in their yard or hey, at any chore.......and as always

Happy Gardening 2012

posted by Wilma Smith