Growing Pains (Get it?)

Why you should grow in raised beds

I've spent a lot of time in bed recently thanks to a sinus infection. As a result, I'm buying things at online auctions and thinking of puns for this blog. Unfortunately, I haven't been successful at either because just typing this sentence is exhausting. So, this will be short and sweet. 

I'm a lazy gardener. I want to enjoy my garden with minimal effort.  Raised beds let me do just that by allowing me to control the quality of my soil, and if you've gardened for any length of time you know soil quality is EVERYTHING.  I can build my beds, gather my bulk compost and get to planting without having to worry about amending the rock-hard red clay that passes for soil in my yard.

Also, raised beds are just a larger form of container gardening (although most raised beds don't have bottoms), so you can find a raised bed that fits anywhere. I have elevated ones that I use on my back porch during the summer months to grow peppers.  

Drainage! Drainage! Drainage! Since I have clay in yard, my soil tends to hold water, which is great during a drought. However, this year, we've tons of rain, and a raised bed has kept me from worrying about the Noah's Ark amount of water we've gotten this year.

To wrap this up, grow in raised beds. Also, you should try these raised beds. I haven't tried them myself, but aren't they darling?  I'm always looking for an excuse to buy them. On a different note,  in the amount of time it's taken me to write this (which has been INSANE because of previously noted sinus infection), I have managed to lose out on all of my online auction bidding, which is also insane because I've been involved in so many.







My 5 Favorite Flowers

Since I'm planning the fall garden (meaning, flowers I plant in the fall for spring blooms), I've had to consider what did well for me last year and what didn't.  There's fantasy and then there's reality, and much of the garden isn't always Instagram perfect. Sort of like boyfriends. There's the profile, and then there's the guy who actually shows up on your date. They're not always the image they present. 

So, if these flowers were on (does that reference date me? I don't think people use websites anymore, am I right?) I would say these flowers are as cute as their profile.

1) Anemones:  I've planted these lovely little corms 3 years in a row and they have never let me down. I've planted Coronaria de Caen, St. Brigid, and some variety I got from Floret Flower that had HUGE stems. I just plop them in the ground, cover them with soil, and watch the magic happen. No babying required. They also start producing in February (for me) and keep the blooms coming for months. 

2) Daffodils: Like Anemones, these flowers are so low-maintenance, it's ridiculous. One of my favorite varieties is Erlicheer, an incredibly early-bloom daff that smells amazing. It has a very short stem, so it's not necessarily idea for cutting, but it's well worth growing. 

3) Cornflowers:  Who doesn't love Cornflower blue? It's perhaps the quintessential color of spring. Just direct sow these seeds in the fall, and you can have them as early as the beginning of March. They're also incredibly cold hardy, and they're like the Energizer Bunny of blooming.  

4) Larkspur:  Despite the fact that my chickens scratched most of my larkspur up this past year, I loved what I got! I didn't think I would like such a tall flower, but they germinate so easily, and the Sublime Azure variety was the perfect purple for spring. This year, I'm looking forward to trying Smoky Eyes and Earl Grey.

5) Poppies:  Poppies have to be my all-time favorite flower. While not exactly the best for cutting, they are so easy to grow and I love have absolutely how over-the-top tacky some of them are. They also seem to thrive in poor soil. Just scatter the tiny seeds in the middle of winter and by May, you'll have 4 foot plants of absolutely gorgeous flowers in your yard without any effort at all.  


It's finally August, which means I should have started planning the fall garden at least a month ago. Yikes! I did, however, manage to get my bulb orders in, so at least that's out of the way. 

Despite the fact that my husband and I have yet to go to the beach this summer, it's time to prepare for spring blooms.  If the success of last year is any indication, taking time to plan and plant the fall garden carefully is the best way to ensure early-blooming beautiful flowers for spring.  

Here's what you need to consider:

1. Color Palette:  I'm making this a priority this year. Last year, I chose colors based on what I wanted as I approached fall. Not a good idea. That's like grocery shopping when you're hungry. After you finally have dinner,  those Fanta-flavored Oreos you bought on impulse now seem as disgusting as they actually are. (I don't actually know if Fanta-flavored Oreos actually exist, but it seems like something Oreo would do, doesn't it?  I don't know who's responsible for some of those new Oreo flavors, but they should be stopped.) In the same way, when I planted black Bachelor Buttons last fall, it seemed like a good idea. They're fun and novel, right? However, after four months of winter, I didn't want to see black Bachelor Buttons in March. I wanted blue, blue, blue!!!!  So, unless you really love dark colors, I say skip them and those Fanta-flavored Oreos.

2. Timing:  I garden in Zone 7b/8a.  So, my first frost date is approximately November 15th.  That said, I have to get most of my flowers planted well before then. I need them to have some good root growth to get through winter.   Experts, like Lisa Mason Ziegler, in her book Cool Flowers (yes, the flowers are cool, but she's talking about flowers that you can plant in cool weather) suggest planting your flowers 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost date.  In my case, that's a 2 week window between September 15 and October 1st. Both my direct-sown seeds and transplants need to go in the ground then.  If any of your seeds should be started indoors and planted outside, you probably need to start them about a month before your plant out window. For me, that would be around August 15th. However, you should check the seed packet to see what they recommend.    

Here are the dates you need to know for Zone 7b/8a

A. First Frost: November 15

B.  Planting Window: September 15-October 1

C. Indoor Seed Starting: Approximately August 15th

3. Be Strategic:  Like many gardeners (and, apparently, Oreo executives), I'm a glutton.  I love to buy seeds. If it's pretty, I want to put it in my pocket and take it home. However, I never have room for all my seeds and starts.  I'm trying to actually be an adult this year and just buy what I need. For me, this comes down to one thing: simplicity.  Is it easy to start? Is it low maintenance? If I've grown it before, has it treated me well?

For instance, last year I direct-sowed a lot of my flowers and they turned out great. I have very limited space to start things inside, so I'm going to stick with a lot of varieties that did well for me sown directly.  Also, I realize that as much as I love certain flowers, they don't love me. I've been trying to grow ranunculus for 3 years and they almost always rot in the ground. I'm trying another small batch this year (I've got a new trick up my sleeve!), but if they don't work after this, then they're out. 

So, that's what's going on this year. I've got a lot of catching up to do to make my August 15th deadline. 

Thoughts? What are you starting this year?  Also, which flavor of Oreos do you hate the most? I think Peeps sounds the most disgusting.