Gardening Blogs

Welcome to the Almanac’s blog on gardening and gardens! Whether you’re a beginning gardener or a green-thumb, we’ve got lots of advice and inspiration to help you in your backyard. Look through this page for a variety of topics, including gardening with vegetables, herbs, fruit, flowers, containers, houseplants, and more!

December 7, 2017

Our Christmas cactus is blooming its heart out right now. Did you know: A Christmas cactus is one of three popular holiday cacti: Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. You can probably guess by their names when these plants usually bloom. So if your “Christmas cactus” is not blooming during the winter holidays, it may be a Thanksgiving cactus or Easter cactus. What’s the difference? Three Types of Holiday Cacti The Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri) blooms in the spring and sometimes... more

December 4, 2017

While most of us think about Christmas trees only in December, for growers of cut-your-own trees, it is a year-round commitment. Growing quality Christmas trees is a serious business requiring lots of hard work. Trees are fertilized in the early spring and late summer. Grass in the rows and between trees needs to be mowed. Pests such as balsam twig aphids and red spider mites need to monitored and dealt with. Many growers hand-shear their trees with a sharp machete-like knife and use clippers... more

November 30, 2017

Ruby-red poinsettias signaled Christmas to me as a child, especially growing up in balmy southern California. But why is it a classic Christmas flower in North America? And are the plants poisonous? A week or two before Christmas, my Dad always gave my Mom a potted poinsettia wrapped in shiny foil. And my Aunt Dodo had a nine-foot-tall one growing next to her front door. Bracts on it started turning pinkish around Halloween, then red, and remained ablaze until after Valentine’s Day. After... more

November 29, 2017

What is hugelkultur, anyway? When I first heard the word, I thought it must be a new kind of yogurt, but no—it is a raised garden bed. What Are Hugelkultur Beds? A centuries-old, traditional way of building a garden bed from rotten wood and plant debris, hugelkultur (pronounced “hoo-gull culture”) means “hill culture” in German. If you have downed trees that are too punky to make good firewood and fallen branches headed for the brush pile consider using them to make a new garden bed. How to... more

November 25, 2017

Amaryllises are beautiful Christmas bulbs that are easy to care for. Find out how to buy the best amaryllis bulbs, how to plant the them, how to care for amaryllis, and how to make sure they bloom again next winter! No one gets more excited about amaryllis than a first-time grower. These big bulbs are easy to bring into bloom, and even a novice can expect success. Buying Amaryllis: Types of Bulbs When shopping for amaryllis bulbs, you can buy the boxed kits which contain not only a fat bulb... more

November 17, 2017

Colorful squash and gourds are signs of Thanksgiving to me—harking back to the Pilgrims—and the Thanksgiving table would not be complete without them. I especially love discovering the unusual varieties—warts and all! Unusual Pumpkin and Gourd Varieties Have you seen those warty pumpkins and gourds at farmers markets, orchards and garden centers? The ones with growths that look like big zits or peanuts?  I first saw ‘Knuckle Head’, a slightly warty orange pumpkin, last year at a local orchard... more

November 16, 2017

Most of the garden has been stripped down to bare bones but I am in no hurry to cut down any plants that have interesting seed heads. The birds fully appreciate having a smorgasbord of seeds to choose from and we love watching them.  While bird feeders are always nice, wild birds like to forage for their own bird food. Plants with seed heads not only provide nourishment but also and nesting material. Leave them until spring. Flower arrangers and florists also know the value of dried seed... more

November 10, 2017

Few flavors rival garlic’s. It’s pungent, exotic, powerful, and scrumptious. Garlic has also been thought to ward off of vampires and used as a cure-all for what ails you. Historically, many serfs were forced to grow it, as the king demanded it for taxes. Garlic has been a mainstay of most households for a long, long time. Garlic is actually a highly unusual garden vegetable. Most of the things that we plant have a “season.” We plant them in the spring and we harvest them in the summer or fall... more

November 10, 2017

Prepare your perennials for winter! Most perennials can be cut down after the first killing frost; others can add interest or help birds and beneficial insects during the winter months. See our tips. CutTING BACK Perennials After several hard frosts, most perennials can be cut back. To cut back your perennials, use bypass pruners and make clean cuts through the stems of the plant. I usually leave 6-inch stubs so I can find the plants next spring.  Plants need to be cut back after frosts to... more

November 9, 2017

Several years ago, I was given a potted agapanthus or African lily. After waiting all summer for my agapanthus to bloom, I had to finally admit that maybe it was time to repot it. What is an Agapanthus? Also called the Lily of the Nile, the agapanthus is actually native to South Africa—nowhere near the Nile. There are seven species of agapanthus, which are in the same family as the amaryllis—another South African native. Most have similar strap-like leaves and the flowers consist of a large... more

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