My gift to readers: notes from my gardening diary

Dec. 18, 2012 @ 12:43 PM

Can you imagine the variety of Christmas gifts that Santa has to deliver? He has to please everyone from babies to senior adults. Most everyone I know is unique and different from everyone else. That probably means they each get something different for Christmas.

I keep something similar to Santa’s gift bag on my shelf. It is a notebook I’ve kept for years. It’s actually the only permanent one I keep. I’ve always had the habit of carrying around disposable notebooks. In the back of those I’ve recorded facts or thoughts about the different aspects of gardening. I used the main sections to write out my columns. When the notebooks were used up, I threw them away. The facts or thoughts in the back were transferred to the permanent notebook. Just like Santa’s gifts they are different and varied. This will be my last chance to share them with you. They may have no rhyme or reason, but I think a serious gardener may find some of them useful. These are the Cliff Notes (condensed version).


Spinach can be difficult to start. That’s because it germinates in 40-60 degrees only. Cover seeds lightly with soil and keep them moist for 7-10 days.

Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus is the enemy of tomato growers. Some resistant varieties are Health Kick, Kewalo and Bttn 444 hybrid. There are others.

If you want a good looking as well as good tasting okra, try Little Lucy, Burgundy or Red Velvet. They have both red leaves and red pods.

Black heads on broccoli indicate a boron deficiency in the soil. One teaspoon of 20 Team Borax mixed with water will be a short term fix. Spray the plants several times as they grow. For long term help, purchase a fertilizer with boron (a micronutrient).

Bolting happens much too quickly when you grow lettuce in the spring. The ‘Summertime’ variety is slow to bolt and more heat tolerant.


Pecan scab is a terror to pecan trees grown by home gardeners. Some resistant varieties are “Cape Fear,” “Mohawk” and “Soshone.” Don’t plant a seed grown pecan tree.

Peach trees will produce more edible fruit if you spray with Daconil in the fall after the leaves drop. Spray again in the spring before leaves emerge.

“Moonglow” is a better variety of pear.

If you love pumpkin pies, “Jaradell” is a great cooking variety. It is available through Park Seed.

Trees and Shrubs

Oleander is a beautiful flowering shrub. Unfortunately, it is not usually cold hardy in our area. ‘Hardy Red’ is an exception.

Lorapetalum is a shrub that will bloom three times annually in good conditions. Be careful though choosing one because some will grow very tall.

The white variety is also very large, but the difference is that it is fragrant.

If you’re looking for a butterfly bush, consider “Pink Delight” or “Royal Red.” Both have superior nectar which means more butterflies.

It can be very difficult to grow any shrub under heavy shade trees like oaks. Dwarf Sweetbox is one that will not only live, but thrive. Underground stolons help it to fill in quickly.

Want a great blooming shrub for winter? ‘Lady Clair’ Camellia is the longest blooming cultivar creating buds and blooms November through April.

Most palm trees just can’t survive a cold spell during our Union County winters. Three exceptions are needle palm, dwarf palmetto and windmill palm.


Zoysia “Cavaliar” is shade tolerant. It can be planted under large oaks using plugs. By planting it 12 inches on center, it can fill in by about one year.

Ornamec “Over the Top” herbicide will kill Bermuda grass in fescue. For best results, apply it during spring green up or in the fall before dormancy.

Atrazine herbicide can control annual bluegrass while it’s still small.

Fiber optic grass is a standout choice for bogs or water gardens.


Air layering will produce new plants when other methods fail. You can use orchid moss which is easy to find.

If the success rate for your new plant cuttings isn’t what you want, try using chunks of white potatoes as the medium. Place your cutting in a hole punched in the potato piece. Put both in a small container and cover the potato with potting mix. The potato will provide constant moisture so your success rate will probably be better.


Most homeowners know the benefits from placing houseplants outside during warm months of the year. Unfortunately, pests can ride back in and greatly increase in numbers in your home during the winter. Two weeks before their trip inside, treat your plants with a houseplant insecticide containing disulfoton (Brand name Di-syston). This is a systemic which means future hatching pests will also be killed.

Fruit flies are a nuisance in the house especially around fresh produce. To help control them pour half apple cider vinegar and half water into a wide, shallow dish along with three to four drops of dishwashing detergent. Stir the mixture and wait.


One inch of rainfall on one acre of ground equals 27,000 gallons of water.

If you want greater success with lilacs, plant Korean lilacs, like “Miss Kim.” They will live through the heat and humidity, as well as require fewer chill hours to bloom.

Plant one akebia vine and you will have purple flowers. Plant two and you will have small edible fruit. There is a white flowered variety as well as a variegated one.

Write on smooth river rock for a natural, long lasting label for plants. Xylene paint markers are best for labeling outside plants. They are found in the craft department.

Use Dipel (powder) or Thuricide (liquid) to stop canna leaf rollers or cabbage worms. Multiple, small holes in foliage means treatment is needed right away.

Cut mums back by 50 percent around July 4 for a fuller plant and more flowers in the fall.

Pansies can prohibit good growth in some plants when the succeeding plants are placed in the same soil. Also, pansies or violas with purple leaves need more phosphorus.

If you’re tired of leggy nandinas, choose ‘Harbor Bell’. It’s a great dwarf selection.

There are more than 60 cultivars and five main types of basil. Some will help repel nasty pests when they are numerous and planted close to vegetable crops.

I’m out of space, but I’ll leave you with something to ponder. “What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others, lives on, sometimes forever.”   

Reach Tom Walden at