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Tips for Growing Sow (Hog) Fennel

Written by Mindy on March 28th, 2017

Sow or hog fennel is one that until recent times has not been seen growing wild in North America. But today, you can find it growing in New England. It has limited USDA Plant Hardiness Zones of 6a through 8b. While it is noted to be a perennial, in fact it is what is referred to as a monocarpic. What this term means is that a plant will continue to grow but once it flowers, the plant dies.

sow.fennelThis plant produces beautiful blue green leaves during its vegetative stage, which can last several years. Next, the plant produces a tall flower stalk that is topped with an umbrella of yellow flowers. At this point, the flower head looks like dill. Once the yellow flowers are spent and the seeds are ripe, the plant dies with the seeds falling to the ground. This form of seed dispersal is another reason why some gardeners mistaken the plant as a perennial. Without control, the patch of hog fennel will grow in diameter.

When it comes to plant the sow fennel seed, this should be done in the fall. The environmental conditions that this plant require include a moist but well draining soil that is fertile but can really grow in any soil that drains well. The light requirement is easily met by full sun or partial shade.

Planting the seed of the sow fennel is simple and only requires one to sprinkle the seed on the soil’s surface. Do not cover the seed. Water in the seed but be careful when doing this task. The seed of this plant is small and can easily be push too deep into the soil, which will result in reduced seed germination.

While the discussion is on sow fennel, there is also giant hog’s fennel and sea hog’s fennel. Depending on the type of sow fennel you are planting will determine the seedling spacing, which can range from 9 to 24 inches.

As simple as this plant is to grow, it does have a few problems. One plant disease that is commonly found in this plant is powdery mildew. The easiest way of preventing powdery mildew is to spray the plant off in the morning. This creates an environment that powdery mildew does not like but make sure that you only do this in morning. The reason is, it give the foliage time to dry before evening.

The pests that like sow fennel include slugs, aphids, and snails. The best approach to deal with these pests is to use Mother Nature and attract beneficial insects that feed on these organisms.

 

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Starting and Caring for Eyebright

Written by Mindy on March 24th, 2017

While a grassy area can be beautiful, nothing beats a surprising flush of color in this environment. This is where eyebright comes into play but before you run to your local garden store to buy your seed, learn a little bit about this annual.

eyebrightEyebright is an annual that is classified as a semi-parasitic. The reason for this semi approach is the fact that the vegetation does not really warrant itself to a true parasite. This plant produces beautiful green leaves and tiny flowers that are either white or lilac. The height of this plant is two to eight inches, which makes it a great companion for a grass plant. But in this example, the companionship goes beyond decoration and extends to necessity.

This plant has a unique relationship with grass. Being a semi-parasitic plant, the eyebright seeks nutrition from grass plants without harming them. When a freeze comes through the area, the eyebright dies completely.

Propagating eyebright is through seed but keep in mind that this plant does not transplant well. In doing so, you will need to plant your seed outside. If your area has cold winters then you can simply plant your seed in a prepared grassy area. On the other hand, if you live in an area that the cold winds do not blow, you will need to mimic this environmental condition.

This is easy to do and only requires you to add a few cups of moistened soil to a plastic bag. Next, sprinkle your seed inside the bag and mix. Seal up the bag and store in the refrigerator for three months.

While you are waiting to plant your seeds, prepare your grassy location. Beyond being grassy, eyebright requires a sunny location that drains well. Once the proper location has been discovered, prepare the ground by pulling up 40 to 50 percent of the grass. After that is done, work the soil up to one inch deep. Smooth the surface over and sprinkle your treated seeds over the bare area. Mist the soil and keep it evenly moist. Do not use a hard spray when it comes to watering the seeds, which are small. Doing this will reduce the germinate rate of your seeds due to the fact that they will be forced down into the soil.

In 7 to 14 days, your eyebright seeds will have germinated but continue to monitor the soil moisture until the seedlings are established. Your eyebright will produce blooms in July through September. After the flowers are spent, you can collect the seeds or just let the plant reseed itself.

 

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Propagating Stoneroot

Written by Mindy on March 20th, 2017

While common names of plants many times describe some characteristic of the plant, stoneroot is no exception. As the name implies, the root or rhizome is very hard as a matter of fact it is as hard as stone. Other common names, which include ox balm or horse balm, describe the size of the root. Regardless of what you call it, this can be found growing in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 through 8.

stonerootWhen it comes to propagating this herb, it is best to start with seed. To begin this process, plant your stoneroot seed in a cold frame or covered flat. Once you have sprinkled the seeds on top of the soil, lightly cover with 1/8 inch of planting medium just to hold the seed down. While you can do this in the fall or spring, to get the best results make sure to plant in the fall.

After the seeds have been planted, you will begin to see evidence of seed germination in eight to ten weeks. As soon as the seedling are large enough to handle without breaking, remove them from the cold frame and plant in individual pots that have been filled with all-purpose potting soil. Place your transplanted stoneroot in a shady location, and water. Continue to take care of the seedlings until they are two years old.

Once your seedlings are two years old, it is time to move them to their permanent location. What is this location? Well, think about a bog or along a stream. Really any place will do where the soil is moist and the sunlight is dappling through the trees.

Another great location is to plant it among shallow rooted trees, such as maples.

When the stoneroot is three years old, you can harvest and/or divide the root.

After the seedlings have been transplanted, they are pretty much self caring. But there are a few things that you need to consider when utilizing this plant. First, it has a big, hard root and may be difficult to move all the plant if you no longer want the stoneroot at that location. Second, the mature height of this plant is four feet, which can make landscape selection a little challenging. The third reason to think about before you grow this plant comes from the aroma. Some individuals find the strong, lemony smell of this plant overwhelming. If you think this will be an issue, make sure to place it in a location that has reduced human interaction.

 

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How to Grow Tansy

Written by Mindy on March 16th, 2017

If you are looking for a colorful herb that looks wonderful in the herb and vegetable garden along with your landscaping, then tansy is for you. While this plant can mature to be two to four feet in height and one foot in width, this herbaceous perennial creates unique texture and color that will surprise you. The leaves are fern like while the flowers look like bright yellow buttons. As beautiful as this plant is, the other unique feature that if posses is the smell. Tansy produces a strong aroma that keeps pests away from the garden space, which makes it a must in any organic garden. But do not worry; those kept away are ones that do not consume nectar. This means that the pollinator will still visit your garden.

tansyWhen it comes to growing tansy, you have two choices. Tansy can be started by seed or you can simply get a start from a friend through division. For information though, seed propagation will be described.

Tansy is a perennial in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 through 8. While it is hardy in these areas, you still need to wait until after your local frost free date has passed before direct seeding. If you want to get a jump on the season, start your seeds indoors six to eight weeks prior to your local frost free date. Once you have the date, clean and sterilize your pot.

Fill the container with soil and water in until moisture comes out the bottom. Next, sprinkle seeds on top and cover with ¼ inch of soil. Place your planted pot in a clear bag and seal. Put your pot in a location by which it can receive indirect sunlight. In 7 to 10 days, your seeds will germinate.

Once you see signs of seed germination, remove the container from the bag and place on a sunny windowsill. Monitor the soil moisture and add water when needed. When the tansy seedlings have several leaves, transplant them into individual pots. Go through the hardening off process two weeks prior to your local frost free date. Once that is done, plant your tansy in the garden making sure that you space them six inches apart in a sunny location.

While tansy is not very picky about the soil, the more average to poor it is the better.

Divide tansy in the early spring.

As wonderful as this plant is there is one issue. Tansy can become an unwanted “weed.” This is due to its self-seeding nature and the spreading through rhizomes. To reduce the self-seeding, make sure to deadhead often.

 

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Tips for Growing Wormwood

Written by Mindy on March 11th, 2017

Wormwood is an herbaceous perennial that should be planted as a companion plant in every herb garden.  Why you may ask?   Well, the answer is simple. Wormwood is a natural pest repellant.  Black flea beetles, slugs and even cabbageworm butterflies will not think about entering the garden space where wormwood is growing.

While wormwood is easily found growing along the roadside in Europe, it has also found a comfortable home in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through 9.

growing.wormwood

When it comes to propagating wormwood, you have three choices. Semi-hardwood cuttings can be taken in the spring and fall with root cuttings taken in the fall. The last propagation technique is the one that we will be covering and that is seed.

Planting wormwood seed starts off with cleaning and sterilizing a flat along with digging a hole by which the flat will fit into outside. When starting wormwood seeds, the best approach is to grow them outside.

When is the best time to start wormwood seed? Since this plant is a perennial the optimum time is in the autumn.

Now that you know the time by which to start your wormwood seeds, the next step is the planting process.  Fill the cleaned and sterilized flat with an all-purpose potting soil.  Next water the soil until you see moisture come out the bottom of the flat. At this point, you are ready to plant your seeds.  Wormwood seeds are small and require exposure to sunlight to germinate.  In doing so, simply sprinkle the seeds on the soil surface.  Once that is done, cover with a clear pane of glass and place the flat in its hole outside.

While the ideal temperature for this seed germination is 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, it can take between two and nine weeks before green dots of growth begin to appear.

Transplant your seedling into the garden space after your local frost-free date.

Where do you place wormwood?  This herbaceous perennial loves to be in full sun but can tolerate partial shade.  The soil also needs to be well draining.

When it comes to room, wormwood needs at least 12 inches between plants up to 24 inches.

To keep wormwood looking its best, fertilize the plant in the spring and only mulch in the fall.  Cut back the plant to encourage new growth either in the spring or autumn and divide every four years.

The silvery foliage of this plant makes it a showstopper but the true magic of this perennial is its repelling nature to garden pest.  This characteristic is why this old world favorite is having a comeback in organic gardens.

 

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