Gardening: Watering tips and beating the heat

Summer-Remix4By Tiffany Selvey, Master Gardener and mama of 1

When the heat of summer hits, it’s easy to lose track of the garden. Weeds take over because it’s simply too hot to get out there and work! Not only do we feel the stress of the heat on our bodies, plants feel it, too. Here are some tips to beat the heat in the garden this summer:

heatWater containers frequently:

Water evaporates out of containers much more quickly than it does in the ground, so while you could probably get away with watering the garden twice a week, containers should be watered at least once a day in the summer. To see how frequently you need to water, stick your finger into the top inch of soil. If it’s dry down to an inch, go ahead and water. If it’s still moist below the top layer, hold off. Too much water can cause root rot.

Water in-ground plants infrequently:

To encourage deep, healthy growth of plant roots, water in-ground plants infrequently. These plants will do better with infrequent, deep watering rather than frequent, shallow watering. Check your soil daily using the 1 inch method above.

Combine work and play:

Remember the joy of playing in the sprinkler? There’s no rule that says you still can’t! Turn on that overhead sprinkler at any time of day and take care of your garden business. It’s fun and refreshing, and you might even be able to lure the kids out to play. Just don’t forget the sunscreen.

Do garden work right after breakfast or after dinner:

The coolest part of the day is early morning, but if you can’t (or won’t) get outside early, wait to do garden chores until after dinner when the sun has gone down. I’ve been known to pull weeds until it’s too dark to see them.

Sweat, but drink plenty of water:

A lot of us don’t like to sweat, but it’s good for you so I would encourage you to embrace the sweat. It’s a great way to rid the body of toxins. Just be sure to drink plenty of water before and after working.

It’s easy to feel restricted by the weather. I certainly miss working outside in the middle of the afternoon like I did in spring, but there is also something pretty neat about working in the garden after dinner when the fireflies begin their show. Once the work is done, it’s nice to sit back with a big glass of lemon water and watch the night creep in.

Tiffany Selvey, Master GardenerTiffany Selvey is a Master Gardener who writes about her passion for growing, cooking, and living naturally atwww.Songbird-Gardens.com. When she’s not elbow deep in soil, she enjoys raising a very active son, laughing with her husband, and wrangling their pets. Follow Tiffany’s gardening adventures on facebook and on twitter.

Four things your garden needs in July

By Tiffany Selvey, Master Gardener and mama of 1

The heat has arrived in Northwest Arkansas — bad news for hair-dos, good news for gardens. With heat comes humidity and with these conditions in place, our flower and vegetable gardens require some maintenance. To keep your gardens beautiful through the hot days of summer and into fall, stay on top of these basic maintenance tasks.

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Keep gardens mulched to retain moisture and prevent weeds.

1.     Watering- Thankfully we have had plenty of rain this spring and summer, so our water bills have stayed pleasantly low. This could change any time, so have a watering plan in place before the long, hot, dry days hit. Water thoroughly any time the soil is dry 1 inch below the surface.

2.     Deadheading- If dry blooms are left on the plant then it has produced its seed, so it has done its reproductive responsibility for the year. By removing spent blooms from summer flowers the plants continue blooming to produce seed. Keep plants deadheaded by removing spent blooms every couple of days. Use a sharp pair of pruning shears or scissors to remove flowers. Don’t forget to clip a couple bright, fresh flowers to bring indoors to enjoy!

3.     Deal with Pests- It is much easier to manage pests when you can identify them before they have a chance to become an infestation. Deal with pests when they arrive, using natural remedies when possible. Once you have an infestation, it is much more difficult to avoid using chemicals.

4.     Weeding- Yes, it’s the dreaded “W” word. Removing weeds not only keeps your gardens looking beautiful, but it also keeps your plants from having to compete for water and nutrients when they are in the highest demand. Keeping gardens heavily mulched will help cut down on weeding and watering. Because the soil is covered, water doesn’t evaporate as quickly and since weed seeds are blocked from the sun, fewer of them germinate.

Don’t let the heat keep you from taking care of your garden. Take advantage of cool air by working in mornings or evenings when the sun isn’t directly overhead and be sure to reward yourself with a cold treat after working in the garden.

Tiffany Selvey, Master GardenerTiffany Selvey is a Master Gardener who writes about her passion for growing, cooking, and living naturally at www.Songbird-Gardens.com. When she’s not elbow deep in soil, she enjoys raising a very active son, laughing with her husband, and wrangling their pets. Follow Tiffany’s gardening adventures on Facebook , Instagram and on Twitter.

Click HERE to read more how-to articles by Tiffany.

Gardening: Low-maintenance flowers

By Tiffany Selvey, Master Gardener and mama of 1

The dog days of summer are just around the corner and I know you’re looking for more ways to spend your time out in the hot, steamy sun of Northwest Arkansas. Am I right? No? If you’re one of those ladies who would prefer to spend a warm day with the kids by the pool versus a sweaty day maintaining a salviaflower garden, here’s your solution: Replace those annuals with low-maintenance perennial blooms.

To be considered low-maintenance, the flowers in this list had to meet a few requirements. First, who has time to remember to fertilize? The lovely blooms on this list are not fussy about soil. In fact, they prefer “lean” soils. Just work about about a half-inch layer of compost into the soil when you plant and don’t worry about fertilizing unless they start looking bad.

As for weeding, I specifically chose these flowers because, after a few years, they will spread to fill in the flowerbed, leaving no room for weeds or requiring mulch.

About the only maintenance these flowers need is “deadheading” and some water when it’s really dry. Deadheading means you should snip off the dried up blooms when you think of it, and water the flowers deeply any time the soil is dry one inch below the surface.

These flowers are good for attracting bees, and everything on this list blooms from summer through fall.

  • Salvia- Available in whites, pinks, blues and yellows, salvia is drought-tolerant and deer-resistant, making it a good option for challenging areas. Red salvia is particularly striking in the garden and is a favorite of hummingbirds.

    low maintenance flowers

    Photo of pink yarrow in the garden

  • Yarrow- This is my favorite all-purpose plant and I struggle not to add it to every list of flowers I make. Yarrow comes in red, pink, white and yellow so there’s a option for every color scheme. The feathery foliage comes up in early spring and the blooms appear around mid-March. This plant is so full and dense that it chokes out weeds. Ladybugs love it.
  • Mondarda- Also known as bee balm, this mint relative grows and spreads quickly so it’s a good option for areas that need to be filled fast. As the common name implies, this plant is well-loved by bees, but it also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Available in purples, pinks and reds, monarda is a showy summer bloom that will have your flower garden teeming with life.

Having an attractive flower garden doesn’t have to be a ton of work. By selecting perennial flowers that bloom all summer, not only will you save time and energy, you’ll also have a flower garden full of beauty and life.

Note from the mamas: Getting hungry for summer tomatoes? Check out these two articles by our Master Gardener, Tiffany Selvey:

Tiffany Selvey, Master GardenerTiffany Selvey is a Master Gardener who writes about her passion for growing, cooking, and living naturally at www.Songbird-Gardens.com. When she’s not elbow deep in soil, she enjoys raising a very active son, laughing with her husband, and wrangling their pets. Follow Tiffany’s gardening adventures on Facebook , Instagram and on Twitter.

Click HERE to read more how-to articles by Tiffany.

Gardening: How to grow edible flowers!

By Tiffany Selvey, Master Gardener and mama of 1

Have you ever been to one of those fancy restaurants that serve you a plate of food too pretty to eat? Usually it includes a grain that’s shaped into a miracle of physics, topped with a piece of meat only found in one square mile in a small province of France, finished off with a vegetable floating on top and garnished with flowers. Flowers! On a plate! How impossibly elegant.

I can’t help you secure rare meat, nor do I understand the physics of food stacking, but I can help you grow edible flowers for food garnishes and cocktails. Like most herbs, these flowers actually prefer less fertile soils, so simply remove all weeds from existing soil and plant. Skip the fertilization.

  • Borage- This flower is on nearly every list of flowers I write. Want to attract bees? Plant borage. Desire a wildflower garden? Again, borage. Edible flowers? Borage! This lovely plant grows to be about 2 ½ feet tall and makes a really pretty addition to a flower bed or vegetable garden. The leaves are also edible, and are often cooked like spinach, kale, turnip tops or any other greens. The delicate blooms can be frozen into ice cubes or used fresh to top salads or drinks. Growing borage is as simple as sprinkling seeds on the surface of prepared soil where all grass and weeds have been removed, then water gently. Borage reseeds itself freely, so if you plant it once, it will return for as long as you allow it to grow and bloom.
  • Nasturtium- This is one of my favorite flowers, not only because it’s so functional but simply because it’s so pretty. Like borage, all the parts of of this plant are edible. The leaves are often added to fresh salads and the peppery blooms are often used as stunning garnishes on a plate. Even the seeds are pickled and eaten like capers. In the garden, nasturtiums planted beside squash deters squash bugs, making it useful on so many levels. Available in orange, red, white, pink and yellow, this flower works well as a potted plant for an edible addition to a patio. In prepared soil, plant seeds about an inch deep and water well.

    edible flowers

    Nasturtium blooms make an elegant addition to family dinner.

  • Calendula- This bright orange bloom can be infused in oil to impart color, used whole as a plate garnish, or the petals can be scattered on top of soups or salads. At about 12 inches tall, calendula can be added to nearly any garden space to add a pop of color. Like borage, calendula will reseed itself freely, returning year after year. To plant calendula, space seeds about 6 inches apart, cover lightly with soil and water well.

Edible blooms are not just for fancy meals. Add them to lunch, lemonade or tea anytime you need a pick-me-up. Since you’re growing your own, it won’t cost you a thing to add these lovelies to your meal, but they will absolutely brighten your day.

Happy gardening!

Note from the mamas: If you’d like to have your edible flowers on top of some amazing home-grown tomatoes this summer, check out these two articles by our Master Gardener, Tiffany Selvey:

Tiffany Selvey, Master GardenerTiffany Selvey is a Master Gardener who writes about her passion for growing, cooking, and living naturally atwww.Songbird-Gardens.com. When she’s not elbow deep in soil, she enjoys raising a very active son, laughing with her husband, and wrangling their pets. Follow Tiffany’s gardening adventures on facebook , instagram and on twitter.

For more advice on growing your own vegetables this summer, click HERE to read more how-to articles by Tiffany.

Time to plant flowers in Northwest Arkansas

Flower garden how toApril showers bring May flowers…but first they must be planted. This is the perfect time of year to plant flowers in Northwest Arkansas, so let’s get started.

flower-vase-393423_640 (2)If you’ve ever received a surprise bouquet of flowers (and if you haven’t, go out and buy yourself one because you deserve it!) then you know the effect a vase of fresh cut flowers has on a space. Some of the most beautiful cut flowers are easy to grow right in your own back yard, and they’re a great benefit to the bees and butterflies.

With your own cutting garden, you won’t have to wait for someone to buy you flowers. You can cut your own, slip them into a vase and instantly brighten up any room in the house.

The downside of growing your own cutting flowers is that someone has to do the maintenance, right? All the bouquets in the world won’t make up for sweating while pulling weeds in July humidity. (And don’t even get me started on the mosquitoes.)

The key to avoiding the drudgery is selecting the right plants and planting them closely enough that there is no room for weeds.

Here are a few low-maintenance flowers I recommend for your cutting garden:

  • Echinacea – Also known as purple coneflower, this plant is one of the easiest to grow, blooms throughout summer and fall, and grows closely enough that there is little room for weeds. After the last chance of frost has passed (approximately April 15), lightly rake the surface of the soil in a prepared bed, where all grass and weeds have been removed. Sprinkle seeds about 6-inches apart and water well.
  • Zinnias – This popular cutting flower also blooms throughout summer and fall and comes in many colors. In prepared soil after the last chance of frost, plant a few zinnia seeds 6 to 12-inches apart and cover with ¼-inch of soil. Water well.

    TiffanySelveyWAZinnia

    Red zinnias look great in the garden and gorgeous in a vase on the kitchen table, too.

  • Milkweed – There has been a lot of talk lately about severely declining Monarch butterfly populations. Milkweed is the host plant for Monarchs, which means this is the only one which they will lay eggs on because it is the only plant the larvae can eat. There are many different types of milkweed, including many varieties that are native to Northwest Arkansas. A popular variety is tropical milkweed. While not native to our area, this variety grows well in our climate and blooms through summer and fall. It’s a stunning orange and red cut flower. Just be sure to add plenty of plants and leave some blooms for the butterflies.
  • Daisies – This simple yet beautiful flower is a staple in any cutting garden. It’s a perennial that also re-seeds, making it a low-maintenance flower year after year. While the white Shasta is the most widely known variety, there are plenty of daisies in different colors. Sow a few daisy seeds in a prepared bed 12-inches apart, ¼-inch deep in March or early April. Water well.

Consider planting several different flowers in one bed to create interest in the space. Combine colors, sizes and textures for a beautiful environment that will attract bees and butterflies.

Consider adding easy herbs like dill or basil to your flower gardens to attract even more pollinators.

What is your favorite cut flower? Post your suggestions in the space below!

Tiffany Selvey, Master GardenerTiffany Selvey is a Master Gardener who writes about her passion for growing, cooking, and living naturally atwww.Songbird-Gardens.com. When she’s not elbow deep in soil, she enjoys raising a very active son, laughing with her husband, and wrangling their pets. Follow Tiffany’s gardening adventures on facebook , instagram and on twitter.

For more advice on growing your own vegetables this summer, click HERE to read more how-to articles by Tiffany.