June 18th, 2018

Helping Hydrangeas Turn Blue

TheGardenLady received this question from Cookie:

Is it too late in the season to add aluminum sulfate to my hydrangeas to make them blue?  How much would you add to each plant as I have a row of 29.  The blooms are starting to come in but are very light blue at this point.  Would you recommend something else to add to make them blue.  I am always worried I will kill them by adding too much.

It may be a little late  to get the color Hydrangea you want, but it is never to late to start.

The first thing you should do is to test your soil to find out what the soil pH is. Blue hydrangeas like a soil acidity of between 5.2 and 5.5. You can buy a soil test kit at your local hardware store or get the kit through your Master Gardener office of your local agriculture extension office. This will give you an idea of how much  you want to amend your soil with things that bring up the acid level. You should have this test done every year to be sure your soil is as acid as you need it to be. Before you start amending your soil,   you want to check to see what other flowers are near the hydrangeas to know if they are also acid loving plants.  Here is a list of some acid loving plants.

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January 23rd, 2018

TheGardenLady’s 2018 New Years Resolution: Become More Vegan

It is 2018, TheGardenLady hopes your New Year’s resolutions includes gardening.

Catalogs are arriving in my mailbox and my wish is that I could add more vegetables to my garden. Living on a wooded property means that there is limited space for sun-loving plants, especially vegetables. Most of the sun in this garden is near the street. I am afraid of growing anything edible near this street where there is exhaust from the cars that drive by.

Because this GardenLady is trying to go vegan, I would love to grow and eat my own vegetables.

Why is this GardenLady trying to go vegan? More and more evidence is that a plant-based diet is the healthiest diet one can be on. But more important than my health is the health of our wonderful planet. There is more and more evidence that animal agriculture is polluting and causing harm to our environment.

TheGardenlady knows how difficult it is, in our meat-based culture, to become a vegan. However, with the growing global population, according to scientists, there may soon be so many people living that there will not be enough food to go around if we continue raising and feeding so many animals for food.

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January 4th, 2018

Pouring blended waste directly on growing vegetables


TheGardenLady received this question from Oliver at Lloyd’s Landscaping:

Is it safe to pour blended food waste (vegetable leftovers, bones) directly on growing vegetables?

Gardening friends have bought used blenders at garage sales just to blend their kitchen waste to use in their compost bins. It speeds up some of the process of composting. But they never, never chop up bones of animals. And you should never use bones on your vegetable beds. Bones, meat or fat can attract unwanted pests like rats or insects.

To answer your question about safely putting blended vegetable food waste directly on your vegetables. It is safe. But why do it? It might look unsightly if enough of the mushy vegetables are on the ground. And if you live in a city or town, neighbors might complain. And the odors given off as the vegetables decompose might entice some unwanted animals to your garden.

Why not start a compost pile or bin so that the food waste is out of sight until it has decomposed into beautiful friable soil that will look good in your vegetable garden. There will be no chance of odor to attract animals or insects to a compost pile or bin if the composting is done correctly.

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December 23rd, 2017

Do tulips have to be planted annually?


When I was a child, people had tulips in their gardens that returned every spring to everyone’s delight. Is there anyone who doesn’t love a tulip? Then about 30 years ago I spoke to a landscaper who told me tulips were treated as annuals to be sure they bloomed the next spring. This didn’t make sense to me who always thought of tulips as perennials. Why should a plant that I was used to seeing each spring as perennials now have to be planted as annuals? Was this becoming a racket to make people buy tulip bulbs every fall?

I knew that tulips were native to the dry rocky soils of Turkey where they are its national flower. Were we getting too much rain these days that made the tulips rot in the ground? We may be getting more rain these days, but the tulip bulbs we plant, esp. the big hybrid ones, come from the farms in the Netherlands where they have as much rain as many parts of the US has. So the wetness of the soil should not be the cause.

The other day, I attended a lecture given by a lady who runs the seed and bulb company Harvesting History. I asked her what has happened to tulip bulbs that they have to be planted annually. She said the reason is that today the growers of tulip bulbs clone the plants. I guess they do this to insure the customer that he or she will be getting what was ordered. But cloning weakens the bulb and therefore it is not as strong as an un-cloned bulb. A cloned bulb will not return reliably every year. She said scientists are working on this problem.

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December 8th, 2017

2018 Garden Catalogs

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If you are a gardener who enjoys getting garden catalogs in your mailbox, here is a list of some catalogs for seeds and plants for 2018. This is not a complete list by any means. It is a list of some of the more unusual catalogs. TheGardenLady does not endorse or recommend any businesses though TheGardenLady has mentioned when she ordered from a catalog. You are on your own if you order from any catalog. This list contains just suggestions of catalogs that look interesting to this GardenLady. The fact that many of the companies have been in business for many years is a good recommendation of the quality of the companies. Note that besides plants, some catalogs sell heirloom seeds, some sell organic seeds, some sell exotic seeds. Order a bunch of catalogs and “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow” while you are snug indoors dreaming of Jonquills peeping through the snow, or having a phantom smelling of the fragrance of the English Rose ‘Graham Thomas’ voted the world’s favorite rose  or day dreaming about the taste of your ripe Cherokee purple tomato fresh off the vine.

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December 7th, 2017

Winter Holidays are Coming!

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The holidays are coming and this Garden Lady’s thoughts are of the garden and the plants that I want to add to my garden. There are many great gifts online that gardeners may want. But as for this Garden Lady, I cannot wait for plant catalogs to arrive in my mailbox. Instead of sugarplums dancing in my head, I have thoughts and dreams of flowers. So I am eager to see what is new in the seed and plant business that I can buy for my garden.

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Now that I have limited space in my garden, I have to be much more selective of the flowers I add. I would love it if readers of TheGardenLady blog would tell me about their favorite flowers. The garden lady has a wooded property so that the sunniest area is the front of the garden on the eastern side of the property- this is where most of my plants are planted. This is the area nearest the street, so that this garden is for everyone who passes by- and people love to walk or drive by just to see what is in bloom. So could my readers suggest their favorite big showy flowers so that drivers and walkers can enjoy them, too? Tiny flowers just get overlooked in this garden. I also would like readers to recommend favorite plants that are low maintenance, low care plants that have flowers for a long blooming season. This garden is in temp zone 6b.

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October 17th, 2017

Having problems with your avocado tree?

A list of common avocado tree diseases were listed in a previous post.  If you do not see the problems on this list, here are some suggestions.

If you bought your avocado tree just a few months ago from a nursery, take it back to the nursery. If they are a reliable nursery, they will give you a replacement tree or refund your money. Or perhaps the nursery people will tell you the problem your tree is having and if their avocado trees had suffered from the same problems, they will tell you their solution.

If this avocado tree was a gift from someone, ask that person if they are having similar problems with their trees- you may have planted an unhealthy tree that is not worth saving. If their trees are not having problems, see if they will give you a replacement. Plant this replacement in another location to be sure there are no diseases in the soil that may have been in the tree’s present location. Planting instructions are presented in the video above.

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September 13th, 2017


A person by the name of Jay made a comment on the post 35 Acid Loving Plants (with Photos) about Sedum. I wonder if it’s the same Jay who made the nice video above.  TheGardenLady will respond briefly to his comment, which is this:

Most varieties of sedum, a 3 to 5 inch high ground cover that bloom in shades of white, pink, red, purple, yellow, or orange, as well as one everblooming red named “Dragon’s Blood”. These are shade loving plants, low maintenance, drought tolerant, traffic resilient easily grown plants. They will also grow very well in full to partial sun…very versatile plants. They do well by themselves or mixed with other shade lovers such as Hostas, which come in so many leaf colors now and which love acidic soil. So Hosta would be happy with your conifer tree which is also acid loving.. happy gardening.

Sedum are low maintenance, drought tolerant, easily grown plants. And many are hardy in Temperature Zones 4 to 9.

Jay says that sedum are shade loving plants that grow well with hostas. This is not quite accurate. Some will do well in the shade. But the majority of Sedum prefer sun or at least partial sun. So if you do buy Sedum for your garden, please be sure that you read the label or ask the seller which kind you have bought- whether it is for the sun or can take the shade.

Jay also says that Sedum are traffic resilient. Some are, some are not. See here.

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September 12th, 2017

Building an Arboretum

I read with pleasure the comment from Dan Murgor that he is building an Arboretum to help our planet.

What is an Arboretum? According to the definition in the Merrium-Webster dictionary it is “a place where trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants are cultivated for scientific and educational purposes “though many definitions say it is just “a botanical garden devoted to trees.” This GardenLady prefers the inclusive definition.

I wish Mr. Murgor would write more about his dreams and plans for his Arboretum and also give us readers some more information about the temperature zone location of this Arboretum and the size of the property, so that we could know a little more and give more educated suggestions.

Also, part of the definition of an Arboretum is that it is for scientific and educational purposes. Does Mr. Murgor intend to use his Arboretum for these purposes? This GardenLady gets many people who walk though her garden and ask questions about gardening and the names of the plants. These people often go home with free plants for their gardens as well as answers to their questions. TheGardenLady always encourages plantings over hard topping the property or having large expanses of just grass.

I find what Mr. Murgor is planning to be very exciting. He may join the ranks of people like Mr. and Mrs. Lacy who started what Mr. Lacy calls “the smallest arboretum in the world” in Linwood, NJ. Linwood Arboretum has 200 shrubs and trees on only 1 acre of land. I recommend that Mr. Murgor as well as other readers of this column visit this delightful arboretum to see what can be done even on a small parcel of land. And I am sure that when you visit, the people in charge of the Linwood Arboretum would give advice to those starting their own arboretum. Read this article about it.

Mr. Murgor, you made this GardenLady‘s day when you sent the email that you are starting an Arboretum. I hope you will write to TheGardenLady.org to give more details of your plan.

For the rest of you, visit your nearest Arboretum or google up Arboretum images. And maybe more people will decide to do what Mr. and Mrs. Lacy did and what Mr. Dan Murgor is planning to create.

July 25th, 2017

The blackening and dying of an avocado


TheGardenLady received this question from Manuel:

My [avocado] fruit is falling off the vine. The avocado is turning black. My tree is ten years old sits on a hill. I always get a lot of fruit. What can I do?

Like most plants, avocados have their problems. Some problems can be treated and other problems, science has not found the cure. Avocados have a number of problems that growers know about. See here.

But as an online garden blog that tries to answer plant questions, some of these questions are difficult to figure out with such a brief description and so few photos. Also, the best place to ask certain questions is the area where these plants are grown in quantity.

TheGardenLady recommends that the person or anyone who has a serious avocado problem, call the California Master Gardeners – not to email them – and then you can talk directly to someone about your problem, giving all the details you think are pertinent and also to answer their questions about the plant. The people who answer the calls are horticulturists who have studied the plants in their area. If they tell you they cannot answer your problem about the blackness of the tree and its subsequent death, ask them to give you the telephone number of the agricultural extension where you could get answers. Here are some numbers to connect you to a qualified person to help you.

You can also buy a kit to test your soil to see if there is a soil problem for growing avocados or other plants.

And if you want to spend the money to find out what your specific problem is, if Master Gardeners cannot identify it from your phone call, there is a fairly expensive kit you can purchase to be filled with samples from your dead avocado tree or any other diseased plant that you cannot identify, that can be mailed to a research lab for scientists to determine the problem. If you want this kit, ask the Master Gardener you are speaking to about it and how to buy it. Usually people get the answers to their questions from the Master Gardener horticulturalists before having to resort to this last test.