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“Plant carrots in January and you'll never have to eat carrots.”
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The Sad State of My Balcony Garden

Hi everyone!  I think I am finally ready to start gardening again.  Today is April 15 and that date typically signifies the last frost here in Northern New Jersey.  I figure that this would be a good day to get started with my 2010 balcony container garden as I can plant just about anything outside without out fear of it being compromised by the frost. 

One thing I realized today and that you can see by this picture is that I have a lot of work to do.  Unfortunately during the winter months our balcony it pretty much forgotten about.  We continue to water the containers that have perennial plants in them but not much maintenance goes on during those cold winter months.  This has led to the sad state that my balcony garden is in.  I know that my garden is in bad shape but with a little effort I also know that I can get things blooming out there again.  I love this time a year.  Everything is in bloom and it is the time when my creativity is at its best.

There are some some signs of life out on my balcony as the hostas, bugleweed and a few other plants are starting to come up.  It is really exciting.  I did not really do a garden plan this year as I did last year during the winter months but I feel like I am in a better place this year.  Everything was new to the garden last year so I had to find a home for everything.  This year we have some old friends returning and just need a few exciting annuals to pair with them and I think that we will be okay.  I am looking forward to getting started and posting on the happenings of my small space garden. 

Happy Container Gardening!

Happy Valentines Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day Out there!  I hope that everyone has exciting plans to enjoy the holiday with the special people in your lives. 

So I picked a cactus as a present for my oldest daughter for Valentine’s Day and I am not sure what this subconsciously means about the way I feel about love and Valentine’s Day.  Have I become so cynical about love that I think if I dare to get close to someone I will surely get hurt, or shall I say pricked in the case of our cactus?  I have been single for quite a while.  Have I given up on love?  I am not sure what it means but the traditional roses just did not seem fitting and I could not bring myself to buy them for her. After growing concerned that I may be passing my cynicism about love and particularly this holiday down to my daughter I decided to explore what the cactus symbolizes. Maybe this would help me understand why I wanted to give her this prickly present for Valentine’s Day. 

I found a few different explanations for the symbolism of the cactus.   According to Wiki Symbolism the cactus symbolizes endurance and warmth.  Wiki Answers added maternal love, courage and stoicism.  These don’t seem like such bad things to pass along.  I am happy I found the reference to maternal love seems as it makes my gift seem very appropriate now. 

Again, Happy Valentines Day!

Sensational Succulents – Gardening in Small Spaces Container Garden Recipe

It has been a long time since I have gotten my hands dirty so creating this container after a blizzard in New Jersey, inside of course was a lot of fun.  I love succulents but I have to admit that I have been rather intimidated by them.  They need special soil, they are easy to over water and I am just not sure how to combine them to make a great container.  I changed my mind when I stumbled across a Rihpsalis prismatica in Home Depot.  This was a beautiful trailing succulent and it was one that I could not leave in the store.  So what would I pair it with I thought to myself.  It would most certainly have to be another succulent as pairing plants with similar light and water requirements is one of the most important rules of container gardening.  Then I noticed a huge Aloe vera plant and it reminded me of those bromeliads that I like so much.  The Aloe Vera would turn out to be multifunctional as I been meaning to start growing this as I use it a homemade hair product.  Aloe Vera is sold in many forms and is best known for its ability to soothe irritated skin and burns.  This would surely make a great attraction piece of “thriller” and then I can have the rihpsalis trail over the front of the container.  I purchased a new container and bought some decorative rocks to cover the exposed soil.  Well the result was the following creation. 

Sensational Succulents Recipe
Thriller: Aloe Vera 1 Plant
Spiller: Rhipsalis prismatica 1 Plant
Container Size and Type: 12″ Plastic Purple Container (Had to Drill Holes)
Soil Type: Scotts® Miracle Gro® Cactus, Palm & Citrus Potting Mix
Light: Low Light 

Plants Purchased: Home Depot (February 2009)
Container Purchased: Home Depot (January 2009)
Decorative Rocks Purchased: Home Depot (January 2009)
Soil Purchased: Home Depot (January 2009)

Mild Weather in NJ Makes Me Anxious to Start My 2010 Containers

It is at this time of year that I get most excited for the upcoming gardening season.  We have experienced rather mild weather here in Northern, NJ and it is playing with my emotions a bit.  I wish that it would stay like this so I can get some containers going on my balcony but it is certainty that the 20 degree weather will return.  I actually think that there is a cold front coming in tonight.  I just keep telling myself that spring is right around the corner. 

It is hard for a gardener not to get anxious about the upcoming gardening season.  It is when things are the most dreary outside that I find it most beneficial to think about those beautiful containers that I will soon be able to create.  These thoughts keep me warm an fuzzy on a cold winter day.   So what is a container gardener to do in the meantime.  Plan for the upcoming season.  Start seeds indoors if you are able to.  They are light fixtures and seed starting kits to help you do this.  This might be a good challenge if you are new to gardening.  My kids love to help me start seeds and watch them sprout.  It gives them and me such sense of accomplishment.  You can look for new ideas in gardening magazines and books.  I just check a few out at a time from my local library.    The possibilities with what you can do while waiting to garden are many and you will find that you are ahead of the game when you are able to garden outside.  Remember spring is right around  the corner.



My Container Garden Refuge

It has been quite a while since my last post and I did not want July to end without sharing at least something about what is happening in my small space garden.   My plants are actually doing quite well.  Hostas, Impatiens, Astilbe, Ageratum are all in full bloom and my Coleus (started from seeds) are doing very well.  My spillers,  English Ivy and Ajuga Bugleweed are overflowing  and giving my containers a remarkable finish.   It is splendid display.  We have enjoyed a few barbecues in the space and my 6 year old daughter has even created her own little beach on the balcony where the Polly Pocket people are enjoying sun bathing.  We are fully enjoying our small space garden.

The greatest benefit of the garden for me  has been my ability to feel relaxed and reflective when tending to flowers or just sitting out on my balcony reading a book.  It is an instant calm that has really helped me over the last few months.  The recession has finally hit home and it has not been easy.  More and more of my time has been channeled into my day job.  I am an Executive Recruiter by day and the sales cycle has grown increasingly long.  That coupled with the downturn in jobs makes for very interesting/frustrating days.  The first thing I do when I get home is step on my balcony, take a glimpse at all of the beauty around me and take a deep breath.  It really helps put it all into perspective.  I can’t help but feel better.

I know that so many people are struggling at this time.  I hope that they to can step into a garden for a little relief.

Happy Container Gardening!


Useful Links
Gardening is Good Therapy

Get Back to Nature with Garden Therapy

Container Gardening with Kids

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Mother’s Day.  I spent my special day with my two lovely daughters, six and 20 months.  My six year old helped plan a barbecue lunch celebration for me and picked out the cutest card.  The celebration was wonderful, the weather was perfect and I was reminded of how blessed I am to have these two little girls in my life.

This mother’s day did mark a bit of a milestone in my six year old’s life.  It was her first time participating in a mother’s day plant sale at school.  I can remember these fondly.  I more often than not I would choose Marigolds for my mother.  I remember getting them for around $.50 cents a piece.  I would choose a few different colors for her.  My daughters excitement had been building for tow weeks prior to the sale and she just couldn’t wait to choose the perfect Mother’s Day plant for me.  So on Friday armed with a check for $12 made out to cash she set out her mission.  So how did she do?  An overflowing hanging basket full of pink impatiens.  A splendid choice I may add.  I realize that I am biased, but it really was an excellent choice.  Absolutely perfect for a North facing shade balcony.

My first thought was of complete gratitude and joy, for the lovely gift and her effort to choose this plant for me.  This is probably more or less the typical reaction of a person that gets a gift from their child.  Shortly after my initial excitement I began to really ponder why she chose this plant for me?  I hadn’t bought any other impatiens for the balcony yet.  Why this type, and why this wonderful color, that just happens to mesh nicely with my other container plants.   Did she have a discussing with the plant sale lady about what type of plants would thrive on our shady balcony?  This could all be a coincidence, or maybe this container gardening stuff is rubbing off on her.

My daughter has become an avid container gardening.  She helps me plant, design, choose plants and containers and take pictures.  She is enthusiastic about each and every container gardening task and seems to be soaking it all up.  Her sister at only 20 months and hands covered with backyardigans gardening gloves is not far behind her.  I am so thrilled to be fostering a love for gardening in my children.  Gardening is such a good platform for teaching addressing topics such as science, agriculture, self-sufficiency and responsibility, just to name a few.  Your lack of a yard needn’t stop you from enjoying gardening with your children.   The next time you start a container have you children get involved.  This is sure to be an enjoyable and rewarding activity.

Happy Container Gardening!


Helpful Links

Deadheading for Fabulous Container Gardens the Entire Season

There is no better reward in gardening then seeing you plants thrive.  I am overjoyed when my plants begin to bloom, it gives me such a feeling of accomplishment and I marvel in the uniqueness of each plant.   This same feeling however has caused me to be a little lax in trying to extend my container gardens bloom season.  It causes me a great deal of anxiety to cut off any blooms even as they begin to wither.  If I could get past my anxiety and realize that deadheading, removing the spent (dead) blooms, would produce more flowering growth, perhaps even another entire burst of blooms later in the season my containers would look healthier and vibrant much longer.

Deadheading is done for three reasons:

1) To keep gardens looking neat and healthy.  Spent flowers do not look good while in contrast to other flowers on the same plant that are in their prime or just beginning to bloom.  It is especially important in containers where there are often a variety of plants close together and blooms are constantly complimenting each other.

2) Plants continue to channel energy into the blooms, even the spent ones.  By keeping them on the plant we are allowing the plant to waste its energy on these blooms.

3) Plants aim to produce seeds and use a great deal of their enegy to do so.  They will put their energy into producing  seeds and less energy into continue to produce blooms.  By deadheading we trick the plant into thinking it has not finished its job of producing seeds and their energy will then be channeled into producing new blooms.

So the question now is when should we deadhead?  We should deadhead when blooms are past their prime.  An indications of this is when their color begins to fade and petals shrivel. Deadheading is pretty simple but may seem a little awkward at first.  You can deadhead many of your plants using  two fingers to pinch off the spent blooms.  Alternatively a pair of gardening shears may be your preference.

Deadheading is essential to the longevity of your containers.  Not all plants will produce a second set of blooms but at minimum your containers will look neat and healthy again.   Check out the article Deadheading Flowers by Jessica Carson for more information.  She does a terrific job explaining many plants that benefit from deadheading and ways to deadhead these different types of plants.

Happy Container Gardening!


Pest Control in Container Gardening

Last year I managed to grow both cucumbers and tomatoes in containers and was extremely proud of my efforts. Everything was on the up and up, on my way to a good crop but initially as the fruit began to mature I noticed little white bugs where destroying them. I didn’t really know what to do about it so I bought some herbacide from home depot in he hopes that I could get this under control. This did little to deter the critters and the majority of my crop was destroyed.

Before you begin to treat a pest problem you must understand the type of pest that you are dealing with. It is necessary to identify the pest before choosing a product to help you eliminate them. The following are descriptions of 5 garden pests.

Description: Perhaps the most descructive pest for plants. These small, soft bodied insects deplete plants of juices producing leaves that are rolled and leaving the honeydew they produce behind.

Spider Mites
Tiny creatures seen only with a magnifying glass. They cause the leaves to slowly yellow and wither by depleting plants juices. If there is severe infestation there may be a covering of fine webs.

Scaly, Mealybugs
Description: Roundish yellow/brown insects that produce cotton like deposits and sticky leaves. This insects will not move if leaf is touched.

Description: White insects that live on the undersides of leaves depleting plants juices which causes leaves to be yellow and withered. These insects will fly off the leaves when touched.

Snout Weevils
Description: A type of beetil that lives in potting soil and feeds on the plants roots.

Once you identified what type of pest you have, you will be able to treat accordingly. There are many natural household remedies that you can try to get rid of pests first before purchasing chemical products.

Happy Container Gardening!

Pot Full of Pansies: Gardening in Small Spaces Container Recipe

Pot Full of Pansies

1 Flat of Mixed Color Pansies
Container Size and Type: 14″ Terracotta
Soil Type: Miracle Grow Potting Mix
Light: Sun to Part Sun

Plants Purchased: Home Depot (April 2009)
Container Purchased: Home Depot (August 2008)

Balcony North: Understanding the Different types Shade to Create Beautiful Shade Container Gardens

My balcony faces North, so I do not get enough direct sunlight to plant anything that would require a substantial amount of sun to thrive.  That eliminates both full and part sun plants.  I thought that I had come to terms with this fact, but I find my self often getting a bit jealous during this time of year as I am taunted by an abundance of sun loving plants everywhere that I go.  At first glance there may seem to be a greater variety of sun loving plants readily available, but there are also an many shade loving plants which make it possible to create a beautiful container garden with diverse offerings in the shade.  There are however different types of shade and it is necessary to know what type of shade that you are dealing with before you begin.  There are three types, Dappled Shade, Part Shade and Deep Shade.

Partial Shade/Dappled Shade
This shade is often produced by trees with sparse leaves or high branches.  There is a lot of light present without the intense heat of the sun.  The area receives 3-6 hours of direct sun a day.  There are a wide array of choices for Partial Shade/Dappled Shade conditions.  Many Part Sun plant will work in this area too but it will be mostly trial and error to see if they will thrive. 

Medium Shade
This type of shade is often produced by tall trees.  There is some direct sun here but not during the peak hours of the day.  If you have this type of shade you are venturing in the world of full shade lovers. 

Full Shade
This type of shade is produced by tall trees with dense foliage and smaller trees with branches close to the ground.  A neighboring tall building can also create this condition.  The area receives less that 3 hours of direct sun a day. 

The following are a few plant choices for shade:

Monkey Flower
Tuberous Rooted Begonia


Happy Container Gardening!