Category Archives: Home & Garden

Planting Hyacinth

The fragrant and colorful Hyacinth, important early spring flower, often arrives before the daffodils are under way.

Hyacinths have several shades of purple, blue, yellow, and salmon, and there are single and double-flowered forms.

Many gardeners are under the impression that hyacinths must be planted in formal beds, are equally attractive when planted throughout perennial beds, along fence or by a stone wall. They can be in a single line or massed in groups. You may even wish them for indoor flowers during the months.

Hyacinths prefer light, sandy soils which warm quickly in the spring. They root deeply; the soil should be and fertilized at least eight inches. Thoroughly incorporate a generous amount of compost, very well-rotted manure meal or dried sludge.

The bulbs should be planted four to six deep and six to eight inches apart. Plant the bulbs at a uniform depth so that they bloom at the same time. This actually depends on soil conditions.

After blooming is over, let the foliage growing until it turns yellow and of its own accord. Good leaf growth for the development of the bulbs next spring’s performance. Begin as soon as the hyacinths stop blooming, and by the time their foliage becomes unsightly the annuals will take their place. The leaves of the hyacinth may be bunched together and tied loosely to allow more room between the bulbs for planting annuals.

Hyacinths tend to “run out” and have to be replaced more often than other spring bulbs, but they will bloom several years if fertilized each season and divided and reset every two to three years as foliage withers.

For blue and purple shades try planting Ostara, King of the Blues or Grand Maitre. For pinks and reds try Pink Pearl, Marconi, Amsterdam, or Princess Irene. Among the desirable white varieties are Edelweiss and Innocence. Orange Boven or Salmonetta is a soft salmon orange.

Preparing Garden Soil

The key to any successful gardening is good soil preparation. Inadequate attention to preparation at the outset is difficult to remedy once the plant has put down its roots and become established.

First of all, it is extremely important to clear the soil of perennial weeds. If only one piece of many of these remains, it will soon re-grow and, if the roots become entwined in those of the climber, could become impossible to eradicate. Once the planting area is completely cleared, however, it is not such a difficult task to remove weed seedlings and keep the bed and the plants clear from then on.

Digging is important, too, as it breaks up the soil, allowing moisture and air to enter, both being vital to the well-being of the plant. The process also allows the gardener to keep an eye out for any soil pests. Dig the soil some time before you intend to plant thebe; digging in autumn and planting in early spring, after checking for any emerging weeds, is ideal.

As you dig the soil, incorporate well-rotted organic material. Not only does it provide food for the plants but it also helps to improve the structure of the soil. The fibrous material helps to breakdown the soil to a crumbly consistency, which allows free drainage of excess water and, at the same time, acts as a reservoir to hold sufficient water for the plants without water-logging them.

The final breaking down of the soil with a rake is more for aesthetic appeal than usefulness; the planting area will look more attractive if it has a smooth finish than if it is left rough.

If possible, prepare an area of at least1-1.2 m/3-4 ft in diameter, so that the roots can spread out into good soil as they grow.

Soil conditioners

Most gardens have patches where, for whatever reason, there is less moisture than elsewhere. If you improve the soil and select plants that are able to thrive in dry conditions, however, this need not be a problem.

Chipped or composted bark has little nutritional value, but makes a good mulch when spread on the surface, by reducing water evaporation and discouraging weeds. It will break down in time. Farmyard manure is rich in nutrients but often contains weed seed; it is a good conditioner. Garden compost (soil mix) is also very good as a conditioner and has good nutrient value. Leaf mould, made from composted leaves, also has good nutritional value and is an excellent conditioner and mulch. Peat is not very suitable as it breaks down too quickly and has little nutritional value.

Tending The Soil

1. Using a chemical spray is the only way to be sure of completely eradicating perennial weeds. Use a non-persistent herbicide, which breaks down when it comes into contact with the soil. It is vital always to follow the instructions on the pack exactly, not only for the obvious safety reasons but also to ensure you use the correct dose to kill all the weeds in the area first time.

2. If the turf to be removed does not include perennial weeds, or the soil is friable enough for the weed’s roots to be removed by hand, it is safer to remove the turf by slicing it off with a spade. Stack the turf in a heap, grass-side down, and use them as compost (soil mix)when they have broken down.

3. Dig over the soil ‘and, as you dig, remove any weed roots and large stones. Double dig, if the subsoil needs to be broken up. Add as much well-rotted organic material as you can to the soil before it is planted, in order to improve its condition.

4. Add the compost (Soil mix) or manure to the soil as you dig, or spread it over the top after all weed roots have been removed, and fork it in.

5. If you dig in the autumn, leave the soil for the winter weather to break down; at any other time, break the soil down by hand into a reasonably fine tilth. Use a rake or hoe to break down the larger lumps of soil, until the bed has an even appearance

Stenciling Equipment

Materials

A variety of materials can he used for stencilling, from special stencilling paints and sticks to acrylics and latex. Each has its own properties and will create different effects.

Acrylic stencil paint: acrylic stencil paint is quick-drying, reducing the possibility of the paint running and seeping behind the stencil. Acrylic stencil paints are available in a wide range of colours, and can be mixed for more subtle shades.

Acrylic varnish: this is useful for sealing finished projects.

Emulsion (latex) paint: ordinary household vinyl emulsion can also be used for stencilling. It is best to avoid the cheaper varieties, as these contain a lot of water and will seep through the stencil.

Fabric paint: this is used in the same way as acrylic stencil paint, and comes in an equally wide range of colours. Set with an iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions, it will withstand washing and everyday use. As with ordinary stencil paint, do not overload the brush with colour, as it will seep into the fabric. Always back the fabric you are stencilling with scrap paper or newspaper to prevent the paint from marking the work surface. Gold leaf and gold size: these can be used to great effect. The actual design is stencilled with gold size. The size is then left to become tacky, and the gold leaf is rubbed over the design.

Metallic creams: these are available in many different metallic finishes, from gold to copper, bronze and silver. Apply as highlights on a painted base, or use for the entire design. Creams can be applied with cloths or your fingertip.

Oil-based stencil sticks and creams: the sticks can be used in the same ways a wax crayon, while the creams can be applied with a brush or your fingertip. With either one, there is no danger of overloading the colour, and they won’t run. The disadvantage is their long drying time (overnight in some cases); also, the colours can become muddy when mixed. Sticks and creams are also available for fabrics.

Equipment

Stencilling does not require a great deal of special equipment; many of the items used are commonly found in most households. A few tools, however, will make the job easier.

Brushes: it is worth investing in a set of good stencil brushes. The ends of the brushes should be flat and the bristles firm, to let you control the application of paint. A medium-size brush (4 cm/11/2 in diameter) is a useful, all-purpose size, but you may want to buy one size smaller and one size larger as well. You will need a selection of household paintbrushes for applying large areas of background colour, and small artist’s paintbrushes for adding fine details. Craft knife: use for cutting out stencils from cardboard.

Cutting mat: this provides a firm surface to cut into and will help prevent the craft knife from slipping. Masking tape: as the stencil may need to be repositioned, it is advisable to hold it in place with masking tape, which can be removed fairly easily from most surfaces.

Paint-mixing container: this may be necessary for mixing paints and washes. Pencils: keep a selection of soft and hard artist’s pencils to transfer the stencil design on to cardboard. Use an ordinary pencil to mark on your object the positions of the stencils before applying.

Stencil card (cardboard): the material used to make the stencil is a matter of preference. Speciality stencil card is available waxed from specialist art stores, which means that it will last longer, but ordinary cardboard or heavy paper can also be used. It is worth purchasing a sheet of clear acetate if you wish to keep your stencil design, to reuse time and again.

Tape measure and rulers: some patterns may require accuracy. Measuring and planning the positions of your stencils before you begin will aid the result.

Tracing paper: use to trace and transfer your stencil design on to stencil card

Planting Yuccas

Yucca is usually thought of as a desert or semidesert plant, confined to dry areas of the South and the southwestern desert, but several yuccas are surprisingly hardy in the cool, moist regions of the North.

Yuccas are very handsome plants. Nearly all of the 40-odd species have stiff, swordlike silver green leaves, growing in a clump at ground level. From this clump arises a single leafless stalk bearing a magnificent spike of highly fragrant, waxy flowers.

Yuccas blend handsomely in borders, contrast beautifully with the shapes of both evergreen and deciduous shrubs, and can be planted to stand as majestic sentinels on either side of an entrance gate or door. They also serve well lining a driveway, fence or terrace wall, or as a dramatic living sculpture against low, craggy rocks. Finally, yuccas can be grown in tubs and moved around for special effects.

Yuccas Planting and Culture

All yuccas require a sunny and fairly dry location with a light, sandy or gritty well-drained soil. Digging a deep hole and filling it with a sand-humus mixture will take care of this. Apply compost, bone meal and dried manure to the plants once each year. Watering should rarely, if ever, be necessary. Drought produces a lovely foliage and stem patina on desert-type plants. Yuccas generally flower only in alternate years, but the flowers last four to six weeks.

Yuccas are easy to propagate. They can be increased by seed, rhizome or stem cuttings, or by digging offsets from the side of an established plant.

In nature, the yucca is pollinated by a small white moth, the pronuba. This night-flying insect deposits her eggs in the seed vessel of a blooming yucca, and then fertilizes the plant with pollen from another yucca. When the pronuba grubs hatch out, they find a goodly supply of seeds to eat, but leave plenty to produce more yuccas. Scientists call the yucca-pronuba relationship a perfect example of symbiosis, the mutual interdependence of two things in nature.

Yuccas Types

Two species have trunks. The Joshua tree (Y. brevifolia) grows up to 40 feet high, its branches twisting into grotesque shapes. The Spanish bayonet (Y. aloifolia) is about 20 feet tall, and has very sharp-pointed, long leaves and spectacular white or purple-tinged flowers. Neither of these will stand wet winters, and they grow only in the South.

Blooming yucca then fertilizes the plant with pollen from another yucca. When the pronuba grubs hatch out, they find a goodly supply of seeds to eat, but leave plenty to produce more yuccas. Scientists call the yucca-pronuba relationship a perfect example of symbiosis, the mutual interdependence of two things in nature.

Our-Lord’s-candle (Y. Whipplei) has short basal leaves but sends up great creamy spikes, bearing many blooms. It will not stand frost or wet soil.

Northern gardeners who have never grown the hardy yuccas are missing plants that add great beauty and accent to gardens. One of the best yuccas for northern gardens is the Adam needle (Y. filamentosa), sometimes calm needle palm. It is a deep-rooted, tough-fiberish and some plant that has no trouble in New England winters. Its flower may rise 12 feet or higher. Y. flaccida is a similar species.

Other yuccas for the North are soapweed, and Y. data, both good as far north as southern Minnesota, good drainage and shelter against harsh wind are provided. Y. gloriosa is reportedly able to withstand city smog.

Stem Cutting

Many plants, for the garden and indoors, can be raised from stem and leaf cuttings. The techniques are easy, and you will gain even more pleasure from your plants by seeing them grow from the start.

Taking stem cuttings

Most houseplants can be propagated of from softwood cuttings taken in spring, and many of the shrubby plants root from semi-ripe cuttings taken later in the year. The method of taking softwood cuttings is similar to that of semi-ripe cuttings (see right), but choose the ends of new shoots. Take softwood cuttings after the first flush of spring but before the shoots have become hard, and follow the same procedure as for semi-ripe cuttings. Geranium (pelargonium) soft woodcuttings root readily, and are therefore good to try if you are a beginner.

Softwood cuttings — especially easy ones such as coleus and impatiens — can often be rooted in water. Fill a jam-jar almost to the top with water and fold apiece of wire-netting (chicken wire) over the top. Take the cuttings in the normal way but, instead of inserting them into compost (potting soil); rest them on the netting, with the ends of the stems in water. Top up the water as necessary. When roots have formed, pot up the cuttings into individual pots.

Taking leaf cuttings

Some of the most popular houseplants, such as saint paulias, foliage begonias, streptocarpus and sansevierias, can be raised from leaf cuttings, using a variety of methods. For leaf-petiole cuttings, you need to remove the leaves with a length of stalk attached. For square-leaf cuttings, instead of placing a whole leaf on the compost (medium), cut it into squares and insert these individually. With leaf-midrib cuttings, slice the long, narrow leaves of plants such as streptocarpus into sections and treat them as for square-leaf cuttings.

Make the cuttings 10-15 cm/4-6 in long, choosing the current season’s growth after the first flush of growth but before the whole shoot has become hard. Fill a pot with a cuttings compost (medium) or use a seed compost, and firm it to remove any large pockets of air.

Trim the cutting just below a leaf joint, using a sharp knife, and remove the lower leaves to produce a clear stem to insert into the compost.

Dip the cut end of-the cutting into a rooting hormone. If using a powder, moisten the end in water first so that it adheres. Make a hole in the compost with a small dibber or a pencil, and insert the cutting so that the bottom leaves are just above the compost. Firm the compost gently around the stem to remove large air pockets. You can usually insert several cuttings around the edge of a pot.

Water the cuttings, then label and place in a propagator, or cover the pot with a clear plastic bag, making sure that it does not touch the leaves. Keep in a light place, but out of direct sunlight. If lot of condensation forms, reverse the bag or ventilate the propagator until excess condensation ceases to form. Do not allow the compost to dry out. Pot up the cuttings once they have formed a good root system.

USING ROOTING HORMONES

Some plants, such as impatiens and some trade scantias, root readily even without help from a rooting hormone. Others, and especially semi-ripe cuttings, will benefit from the use of a rooting hormone. Rooting hormones are available as powders or liquids, and their use usually results in more rapid rooting and, in the case of the trickier kinds of plants, a higher success rate

TAKING LEAF-PETIOLE CUTTINGS

Use only healthy leaves that are mature but not old. Remove the leaf with about5 cm/2 in of stalk, using a sharp knife or razor blade. Fill a tray or pot with a suitable rooting compost (medium), then make a hole with a dibber or pencil.

Insert the stalk into the hole, angling the cutting slightly, then press the compost gently around the stalk to firm it in. The base of the blade of the leaf should sit on the top of the compost. You should be able to accommodate a number of cuttings in a seed tray or large pot. Water well, preferably with the addition of a suitable fungicide, and then allow any surplus moisture to drain away.

Place the cuttings in a propagator, or cover with a clear plastic hag. Make sure that the leaves do not touch the glass or plastic, and remove condensation periodically. Keep the cuttings warm and moist, in a light place out of direct sunlight. Young plants usually develop within a month or so and can then he potted up individually, but leave them until they are large enough to he handled easily

TAKING SQUARE-LEAF CUTTINGS

First cut the leaf into strips about 3 cm/11/4 in wide, in the general direction of the main veins, using a sharp knife or razorblade (be sure to handle the latter very carefully). Cut across the strips to form small, even-sized squares of leaf.

Fill a tray with a rooting compost (medium), then insert the squares on edge, with the edge that was nearest to the leafstalk facing downwards. Once the young plants are well-established, after a month or so, pot them up individually.

TAKING LEAF-MIDRIB CUTTINGS

Remove a healthy, undamaged leaf from the parent plant – ideally one that has only recently fully expanded.

Place the leaf face-down on a firm, clean surface, such as a sheet of glass or piece of wood. Cut the leaf into strips no wider than 5 cm/2 in.

Fill a pot or tray with a writing compost (medium), and insert the cuttings 2.5 cm/1 in apart, with the end that was nearest the stalk downwards. Pot up the plants when they are large enough to handle

PLANTS TO GROW FROM LEAF CUTTINGS

– Begonia rex (Leaf-petiole cuttings)

– Begonias (other than B. rex)

– Peperomia caperata

– Peperomia metallica

– Saintpaulia Leaf-midrib cuttings

– Gesneria

– Sansevieria

– Sinningia speciosa (gloxinia) Streptocarpus

Bees

Bees play an important role in nature’s scheme of things. There are some 5,000 species of bees in North America. Most of them are important only to wild plants, but several hundred pollinate cultivated crops (over 100 species, for instance, visit alfalfa).

Value of Bees

The value of those which pollinate only wild plants should not be minimized: they help to keep vital cover on millions of acres not used for farming.

Once we took pollination of our crops for granted. But it’s a different story today. In the past 50 years, under the pressures of a growing population, more and more land was put under cultivation. But the more crops we planted, the faster we destroyed the basic means for full crop return. Forests were cut down, woods and wasteland destroyed and burrows ripped up, destroying the homes of the wild bees.

Concentrated plantings of one crop overlarge acreages left the bees no wild plants to live on when the crop was not blooming; with nothing to fill in the gap in their food supply, they starved and disappeared practically overnight. And when indiscriminate spraying with powerful insecticides came along, the wild bees per acre could almost be counted on the fingers of one hand.

We simply do not have enough honeybees. Farmers in every state, according to the Department of Agriculture, could benefit by having more hives on or near their farms. Some areas need two or three times the number of hives they now have, to insure adequate pollination of the crops grown there.

This is where an increase in wild bees would be of immense help. Such an increase would bolster the efforts of hard-working domestic honeybees and show up in a direct rise in crop yields.

Wild Bees

Wild bees have certain characteristics that make them more valuable than their domesticated cousins. They are hardier, working in cold, rainy or windy weather, when honeybees will not venture from their cozy hives. Thus, they provide good sets of seed and fruit even in bad weather. In parts of New England and eastern Canada, this is especially important to apple growers, for the weather is usually bad there during apple-blooming time.

Practically all wild bees form no colonies, in the sense that the honeybee does. The exception to this is the bumblebee who lives in a colony of some 50 to 500 individuals, with a queen and worker castes. Many new drones and queens are produced each year, but only the fertilized queens live through the winter, each one forming a new colony in the spring.

The other wild bees are solitary dwellers. Each female functions both as queen and worker. She builds her own nest, sealing her eggs in cells with honey-moistened pollen balls for the young to feed on. Once this is done, she has no further contact with her offspring.

Wild bees will nest almost anywhere. Sweat bees and mining bees construct underground burrows. Carpenter bees and leaf cutters chisel their nests in timber, or use old beetle boles. Some wild bees nest in the natural channels of hollow or pithy-stemmed plants; others take their homes in abandoned snail shells or cavities in porous rocks.

The majority, however, is soil nesting. Almost any type of soil, moist or dry, loose or packed, flat or vertical, can be their home. Alkali bees, in some areas the major pollinators alfalfa, nest in fairly sandy soil, often in “communities” of several thousand nests less than an inch apart. Seed growers, knowing that communities like these will insure pollination of their alfalfa for two miles around, protect them from disturbance. If small pieces of land are left unfarmed near the alfalfa fields, the alkali bees will also spread to them and establish new communities there in one season.

Tests by various experiment stations showed that on a cultivated plot situated next to overgrown land, wild bees were four times as numerous as on tilled plots surrounded by other tilled land. To increase your wild bees you can preserve some uncultivated or eroded land specifically for bees. Sometimes bee broods found on land that is to be tilled can be moved into these areas. On cropland, avoid working, flooding or trampling the burrows of ground-nesting bees whenever possible.

Field borders, fencerows, ditch banks, and the sides of roadways should be planted to nectar-producing plants. Kudzu and bicolor or Lespedeza cuneata make excellent bee pasturage, or use whatever is suitable for your region. Pithy-stemmed plants like elderberry, sumac and tree-of-heaven make fine nesting sites. They provide erosion protection and food and cover for other wildlife, too. Multiflora rose fences are very good, and bunch-type perennial grasses along the tops of banks are soil stabilizers as well as nesting sites.

Trees for windbreaks and stream bank protection that also provide bee food and homes include the Russian olive, American Elm, catalpa, honey locust, basswood, sycamore, wild plum, and many others. In wood lot management, make sure bee trees are not cut down.
Bee plants are often synonymous with soil-saving plants. The legumes used for green manures, orchard cover crops and in rotations provide bee food in plenty. Often a small planting of clover may be all that is necessary, with regular crop plants, to sustain a goodly population of wild bees all year. Improved pastures and grassed waterways should have some clover in their planting mixtures.

Bumblebees will nest in cans containing a handful of mattress stuffing or similar material, hung up in sheltered places in your outbuildings. Certain other species can be induced to set up housekeeping in cans with lids and entrance spouts, partially buried in well-drained soil. Some farmers break open her trees in the woods, carrying the bees home in any handy container to be set up in suitable places around their farms. When walking through your fields, you can break over the stalks of hollow-stemmed plants like canebrake, teasel, milk-thistle, and wild parsnip, to provide nesting and hibernating places.

Some species of native bees are more efficient pollinators than honeybees. Red clover blooms, having little nectar and the pollen at the bottom of a deep corolla tube, are often passed up by the honeybee; but the long-tongued bumblebee does an excellent job on them. Honeybees can steal the nectar from alfalfa blooms without “tripping” them to release the pollen. But alkali, leaf cutter and bumblebees are pollen collectors who trip every blossom they visit.

On rangelands, where it is impractical to supply honeybees for pollination, wild bees have a big responsibility to keep the range plants reproducing year after year. Every range reseeding program should include adapted legumes and other honey-producing plants to increase the wild bees, and thus improve the fodder and fertility of the range.

Honeybees (Domestic)

The honeybee is a social insect. The queen, drone and worker bees cannot live alone. All members of the honeybee colony divide labor to facilitate work, and there is never a time when the whole colony sleeps. Honeybees take rest periods throughout the day.

The single function of the drones (males) is to mate with the queen. They become sexually mature at ten to 12 days. During the afternoon, virgin queens fly to “drone congregation areas” where mating takes place. Drones die in the mating process and are not present in the colony during the winter.

The queen is the most important part of the colony for two reasons—she lays eggs to ensure the survival of the colony and controls the social order of the colony with the chemical substances she secretes. The queen is different from worker bees in that she has no wax glands, no pollen baskets on her hind legs and no modifications on her forelegs. She is also larger and her abdomen is longer and more slender.

Worker bees are female and perform all other tasks for the colony. The worker bee cleans cells, at first, and later feeds larvae. Her next duty is to guard the hive. After these tasks are completed, the worker bee begins to work in the fields. The ability of the worker bee to change from one task to another insures the survival of the colony. She lives for six weeks during the peak honey season, and six months in the winter.

There are three races of domestic (honey) bees: Carniolans, Caucasians and Italians.

Carniolan bees of the Alpine strain can be distinguished by their dark gray abdominal segments with bands of white hairs. These bees are the finest gray bees in existence and the largest of hive bees. The Alpine strain is less inclined to swarm than other bees and is extremely prolific.

Carniolans are very gentle, quiet on the combs, good breeders, and have a long life. These bees are economic consumers of stores, honest workers and winter-hardy. They build regular combs with white cappings well suited for comb honey production. They are brave in defending their hives, but gentle to humans.

Carniolan queens are darker than the workers, and drones are large and gray colored with or without visible bands.

Caucasian bees are somewhat parallel or merit a good second to the Carniolans in comb honey production. The Mountain Gray Caucasian can be compared to the Alpine Carniola except it is smaller and intensely populating. The Caucasians are more immune to American foulbrood than other standard bees.

Italian bees are most commonly used in America and enjoy a high productivity. “Pure “Italians” are three banded. Extra-yellow strains of four bands are found in the United States. The queens are yellower than the workers, and the drones are darker.

Italian bees are more reliable in their swarming habits, but are really no better or worse than other honeybees. However, these bees may rob and may be a menace. Their defense of their home is normal and they are fair in accepting new queens. In general, Italians are known for their good dispositions.

Planting Onions

The onion has been grown since remote antiquity and its culture and use are noted in our earliest records. It probably originated in middle Asia. The Onion belongs to the Lily Family with such other closely related plants as Garlic, Leek, chives, shallots and welsh onions. It is generally a biennial or long-season annual although some forms such as the ‘Multi-pliers’ are perennial.

The Onion is one of the most important vegetable crops, grown for consumption in the green and mature bulb state, in all sections of the U.S. The more important commercial production areas are in Tex., Calif., N.Y., Mich., Colo., Ore., Idaho, N.J., Wisc., N. Mex., and Minn.

Onion Varieties

There are many varieties listed in seed catalogues, a number of which are hybrids developed for specific cultural conditions. In general, there are 2 types of onions grown for dry bulbs, the American or pungent and the “foreign” or mild types. Each contain varieties that are yellow, red and white and vary in shape from flat, globular to elongated bottle. With such a wide variation only a few of the more important sorts in each category can be listed.

In the American types ‘Southport Yellow Globe’, ‘Yellow Globe Danvers’, ‘Early Yellow Globe’ and ‘Ebenezer’ which is grown from sets as are yellow varieties. ‘Red Wethersfield’ and ‘Southport Red Globe’ and ‘Southport White Globe’ represent red and white sorts. ‘White Portugal’ is good for pickling. In “foreign” types, ‘White Bermuda’ and ‘Yellow Bermuda’, ‘Early Grano’ and the many strains of ‘Sweet Spanish’ are most important. Varieties that are grown for green onions (scallions) include ‘Japanese Bunching’, ‘Beltsville Bunching’, ‘Multipliers’ and ‘Perennial Tree’.

It is recommended that several reliable seed catalogues be checked for detailed variety characteristics and adaptability.

Onion Soils and Soil Preparation

While onions can be grown on all types of soil, the sandy or silt loams and muck soils, where available, are preferred. For onions, it is important to prepare a well-pulverized seedbed that has been smoothed with a rake or drag. This is especially true if the crop is to be grown from seed.

Onion Fertilization

A soil pH of 5.8-6.5 is optimum. Lower acidity retards growth. The use of well-rotted manure is advisable; 30-40 bu. per moo sq. ft. Fresh manure usually contains weed seeds and may cause a problem in weed control and, therefore, if rotted manure is not available, good compost is preferred. In addition to manure apply 30-40 lbs. of a commercial fertilizer per 100 sq. ft. Incorporate thoroughly into the soil. After the plants are well established a side dressing of nitrate of soda, 3-4 lbs. per 100 sq. ft., is a good practice and yields good results.

Onion Planting Methods

There are 3 methods commonly used in planting onions; by seed, sets and seedling plants. Direct seeding requires a fine seedbed and good moisture conditions. The seed requires from 8-12 days for germination after which some to days to 2 weeks are necessary for the seedlings to become well established. One oz. of seed is needed for 100 ft. of row and the rows are spaced 12-15 in. apart.

Seedling plants purchased from reliable dealers or seeds men are inexpensive and easy to handle. The plants should be stocky with bulbs the size of peas and have bushy roots. Plant distances of 3-4 in. in the row and 12-15 in. between rows. Onion sets, immature bulblets, are used extensively for green onions in the spring and also for mature onions because of their ease of planting. Furrows are opened, the sets placed 3-4 in. apart and then covered with 1 in. of soil. Planting dates for seed and sets, as early as possible, but delay with seedlings until danger of severe frost is past.

Onion Cultivation

Onions require continuous shallow cultivation to control weeds and to maintain soil mulch. A scuffle hoe does a good job. Many commercial growers use a selective herbicide for onions. Again, this is not recommended in the home garden.

Onion Harvesting

When the bulbs have reached mature size and the tops break over, the plants are pulled and placed in rows to dry for 3-6 days. The top is then cut off about 1 in. above the bulb and the bulb is then again spread out for drying for several days before placing into storage. Use crates or netted sacks and a storage that is cool, well ventilated and dry.

Onion Insects and Diseases

Onion maggot is the larva of a small fly. The maggots, in. long, kill the young plants and burrow into the bulb. Starting in early May, apply 3 applications at 7-day intervals of Diazinon, 2 level tablespoons per gal. of water. Onion thrips are small, yellowish, sucking insects which attack the leaves. Dusts containing malathion or Diazinon applied at 7-10 day intervals give satisfactory control. Onion smut, a fungus living over in the soil, attacks the small seedling plants. Avoid soil where disease has occurred. Apply a formaldehyde solution, 1 teaspoon to 1 qt. of water, in seed furrow at rate of 3 qt. per 10 ft. of row. Downy mildew, a fungus disease common during cool wet weather, causes the leaves to turn yellow and die. Dusting at weekly intervals with copper-lime or using a spray of Bordeaux mixture gives satisfactory control. Pink root and neck rot are other diseases that may cause damage but which have no specific control.

How to Build a Rooftop Garden

There are many reasons one can decide on building a rooftop garden, among them; location, ornamental purposes and for the use of social gatherings. For the person in areas that do not allow for gardens around the home because of limited or no space, rooftop gardens provide the perfect solution. They can be traced back to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and became popular in modern use with the rapid and extensive growth of high-rise buildings.

The best way to determine if your rooftop makes the perfect place for a garden is to study it at intervals throughout the day to ascertain how much sun and shade the area receives at any given time, be sure to document your findings on paper to make sure that you can revisit them when necessary.

Making Preparations for your Garden

When planning your garden, think of a theme that best suits you since you will have to buy the necessary containers to house your plants, clay based ceramic pots are a favorite. Some Terra cotta pots (which are also unglazed), are chosen because they are porous hence assist with proper drainage for plants that require this. Terra cotta pots can also help with achieving a Tuscan look; if unavailable try other containers or pots that are glazed with Mediterranean colors. For those who prefer a more contemporary feel, black and white is a suitable match.

Besides pots, window boxes, 6 to 7 inch masonry beds (built-in), 18-24 inch masonry retaining walls, terrace boxes (mainly made of cedar or redwood) starting at 18 inches deep and 4 to 5 feet wide can be used. Planters or tubs; including barrels, wooden cubes and structures made from concrete and fibre glass (for a more modern look) can also be used.

The next step is to decide on which flowers or plants you will grow. Based on the results of your observation you should have an idea of what you can or cannot grow based on the plants’ need for sunlight or shade, you can also start to plan what goes where. Do research on the flora chosen or get advice from persons at your local garden center. During this stage you can also decide whether to start from planting seeds or skip to bedding plants for a faster result.

Before you start planting, try arranging your containers on the roof to see how well your pattern suits your style or taste. Experiment with them to ensure that your final arrangement adds the level of interest and sophistication you want. The best look comes from placing them at different heights to create somewhat of a layered look. Natural materials like bricks (especially if in a color that compliments your garden) can be used for elevation.

Planting Stage

Once the planning and purchasing of everything needed is over, start planting. Be sure to use the necessary fertilizers and pest control methods, both can be store-bought or homemade, organic or chemical based. Many potting mixes can be used to ensure that soil is rich and balanced for each plant or greenery chosen. Be sure to find out how each operates in the different seasons and water as needed.

Planting Chestnut Trees

As we know, the Chestnut in the United States is a member of the Castanets genus, which is a small group of nut-producing timber trees. C. dentata, the American chestnut, was probably the most valuable timber tree in this country. Certainly it was the dominant tree in the vast hardwood forests. Unfortunately an Asiatic fungus, Endothia parasitica, which gained entrance to N.Y. about 1900, has all but exterminated the American chestnut in this country. Common in the hardwood forests of the eastern half of the United States, only an occasional sucker from the live root system isnow seen from Me. to Mich. and south to the Gulf of Mexico.

Sometimes the suckers become large enough to bear nuts arousing hope that eventually the American Chestnut may acquire resistance to the blight. The U.S. Forest Service, the state forestry departments and others, notably Dr. Richard A. Jaynes, have been crossing American chestnut with the Japanese species, Castaneacrenata and the Chinese species, both of which have resistance to Endothia. Some progress is being made, but hope of producing a timber-type hybrid with sufficient resistance to use in reforesting has not yet been realized.

Although a number of named varieties are available from nurseries, notably ‘Abundance’, ‘Carr’ and ‘Hobson’, because of incompatibility between seedling stock and the scion, many persons have had poor results with them. They are now turning to named selections of the Chinese chestnut which have been made by the USDA. Grafted trees come into bearing in 5 or 6 years. Seedlings often do not bear until 15or more years old. Chinese chestnuts have nuts as sweet as the American and often of larger size. Recommended are ‘Nanking’, ‘ Meiling’ and ‘Ruling’. All 3 produce large nuts of excellent quality. Although the Chinese chestnut is questionably hardy in Zone 3, it does extremely well over most of the country.

Very likely the resistance of both the Chinese chestnut and the Japanese Castanea crenata resulted from living with the disease for several hundred years. On that basis we may hope that eventually the American Chestnut will acquire a degree of resistance some day.

The Japanese Chestnut, C. crenata, is a spreading short-trunked tree that usually re-mains under 30 feet in height. Leaves are oblong, 4 to 7 in. in length with the margin serrated. The burr is about 2 in. in dia. and normally has 2 nuts, which lack the quality of the nuts of either the American or Chinese chestnut. It thrives in much of the country from Zone 4 south.

The Chinese chestnut, C. mollissima, may reach 50 ft. in height. The trunk, however, is short and the crown is broad. The elliptic leaves are coarsely toothed with a white pubescence along the veins. Native to China and Korea, the nuts, 2 normally to a burr, are large and sweet. Hardy from Zone 4 south, several producing orchards in the Midwest and the Middle Atlantic States yield plentiful crops of high quality nuts.

The Spanish chestnut, C. sativa, is a tall tree native to Europe, western Asia and North Africa. It has been in cultivation in Europe for many years. In this country, it is less hardy than either Asiatic species. The nuts are large and well filled when properly grown, but they lack the pleasant flavor of either American Chestnut or the Asiatic species. In recent years chestnut blight has reached Europe and is decimating the orchards of Spanish Chestnut.

The Chinquapin, C. panzila, is a shrubby American tree. Native from N.J. to Fla. and west to Tex. and Okla., its burrs are a little over an inch in dia. and normally contain a single nut. Leaves 3 to 7 in. long are coarsely toothed and have a white felt on the underside.

Interest in the chestnut for landscape use has in recent years been largely concentrated on the Chinese chestnut. It is an attractive spreading tree, both ornamental and equally serviceable as a shade tree. Neither the Asiatic nor the American chestnut is exacting in its soil requirement, but no Chestnut will thrive in soil where drainage is poor. A rocky well-drained hillside with a sandy loam is ideal for chestnuts.

The most serious insect pest is a tiny snout beetle which lays its eggs on the growing burrs in July. The grubs hatch and bore into the enlarging nuts within the burr where they feed on the kernel. These chestnut weevils can be controlled with any one of several pesticides, but it is advisable to inquire of the Extension Service of the State University as to timing and the specific chemical to use. Since this pest pupates in the soil under the tree, control may be had by pesticide treatment of the soil. Other insects are not usually troublesome.

The most serious disease of the Chestnut is the blight, Endothia parasitica, for which there is now no known control. It does not affect the roots which sucker freely. Such suckers sometimes live long enough to produce a few nuts. The U.S. Forest Service has acquired detailed information on several hundred American chestnut trees that have not been killed by Endothia. Records of persisting suckers are also in their hands. It is hoped that a disease-resistant American chestnut may be found to be reproduced vegetatively or to be crossed with a Chinese or Japanese Chestnut, thereby producing a resistant hybrid.

Planting Chrysanthemum Seeds

Chrysanthemum is a genus which has contributed several species to the flower garden. Hardy chrysanthemums are among the popular and important garden flowers oust of the long, colorful show they put on in summer and fall. By choosing carefully the hundreds of varieties, the gardeners have chrysanthemum blooming nearly all year round. They can be grown in containers and watered carefully. The dwarfs can be dug with a generous earth when in bud or flower and moved to a dull corner of the garden. Few have such a variety of color and form, are excellent for cutting.

Hardy chrysanthemums require a great maintenance to keep them in top form. If you are a person who has little time to work with, you should avoid having large plants. While they can be propagated, cuttings and seed, most gardeners will divide. Indeed, (or at most, biennial) division in spring may help keep them flowering well. When looking at the clump, you will notice many pale usually with a tuft of small leaves spreading out among the darker roots base of the plant. Each one of these can grow into a large flowering plant by cut off as many as you will need and the rest of the old clump. If you started with larger divisions, use a sharp knife and cut pieces with several new crowns. Small divisions or stolons make the best and they should be set out in full sun in compost or rotted manure, which supplemented with bone meal or sludge are heavy feeders and will benefit from dressings of compost during the growing season. They must be watered carefully at all stages of growth: Drying of the soil in the heat of summer will stunt growth and diminish flowering.

When the young plants have grown six or eight inches tall, pinch out the tip of each stem to induce side-branching. Pinch again after each six inches of growth until mid-July, after which the plants should be left alone so they form flower buds. This early pinching induces heavier flowering and helps to keep tall varieties more compact. The cushion mums, which mature at 12 inches or less, are self-branching and should not be pinched. Some varieties, such as the football and spider mums which develop very large flowers, should be disbudded to make them look really spectacular. All secondary flower buds are removed, allowing each stem only one bud at the top which opens into a flower that can be five to eight inches across. Such varieties usually bloom too late to mature before frost and the flowers can’t take heavy rains, so they are best left to florists and greenhouses. While some-times advertised as being suitable for the open garden, they are really not.

Almost everyone knows of or owns chrysanthemum plants which seem to survive and bloom year after year with little or no winter protection. Even so, the term “hardy chrysanthemum” can be misleading because too often a newly bought variety which was planted in spring and bloomed in fall dies in the winter. This is often caused by poor drainage; while mums require abundant moisture during the growing season; their soil must never be soggy in winter. Try not to plant them in heavy clays if you wish to winter them in the garden. To prevent alternate freezing and thawing, cover the plants with airy mulch such as straw, evergreen boughs or an inverted basket in winter. To be sure that choice variety survives, dig them with earth balls after frost has killed the tops and store them under light mulch in a cold frame for the winter. In spring, plant several of the stolons and compost the old plants. Treated this way, any hardy mum will grow and bloom well each season.

There are several recognized flower types of hardy chrysanthemums of which the button, pompon, decorative, and single-flowered types are most suitable for the open border. There are many named varieties to choose from in each class, so check the catalogs for those which appeal to you most. The cushion or dwarf types might be the best for busy gardeners because they do not need pinching.