Ya Mama’s Blog

Ya Mama’s Blog
OCT
GardenMama's Dream
I spent a lot of time last summer contemplating life and death and gardening. In meditation, I understand what it takes for me and my plants to live and thrive until our demise. That led to a palette of pure plant joy – if I started a garden today, here’s what I’d plant first.

MAY
GardenMama’s Organic Gardening Tips

These are not in any order of importance. In fact, you may find the list a bit random – but when you need to know, you’ll know where to look for some smart ideas.


MAY
Mama's Container Growing Soils for Pots and Raised Beds

Back by popular demand, and yes, it still grows almost anything! 


JAN
Ritual Pruning
Whether you spell it ‘crape’ or ‘crepe’, myrtle may – or may not – need annual pruning to keep them healthy and florific. This is part of an edited version of an article I wrote years ago for National Gardening and is a part of my program, 'Crepe Myrtle Mysteries'.

JUN
Ten to Avoid

 An interviewer asked me recently if I had 10 mistakes that gardeners make. I recalled answering this question before, and, with all due respect, here's what I said: 


MAY
The Lovely Month of May

 Raised beds work for me and I urge you to think about them - this rainy weather may be saturating your soil and your plants. 


APR
Nature-Deficit Disorder?
As if we need another gardening-related condition to worry about, a lack of time outdoors can lead to a loss of focus about the environment and ourselves.

MAR
The Nonstop Color Garden

 Get a quick glance at my new book in this great article at HGTV.com: http://www.hgtvgardens.com/design/how-to-create-nonstop-color-in-your-garden



FEB
The Daffodil Principle - Plus!

 I honor whoever wrote this piece titled 'The Daffodil Principle'. Each year I read it again and love my old garden even more. The final remark is mine, so do read all the way through! 


DEC
Gifts, Gardeners, and Giggles
I’ve been writing about gifts for gardeners every December for years and suddenly, everything old is new again. Feel free to get inspired for the gardeners on your list – and yourself!

OCT
Mama' on Tomatoes at Fall Garden Fest
Here's the handout for Mama's talks on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 17 and 18:

SEP
Myrtle's Dance Card

Here's what your crepe myrtle tree would like you to do (and not do) each month.


AUG
Mama's Fine Potting Mix

By popular demand, here is my recipe to make better potting mix than you can buy...


AUG
Heads Up for Fall Gardening?!

 Maybe I sound crazy, but it feels like fall and I'm making fall garden plans. Maybe you should, too! 


JUL
Begonias by Any Name
I collect Begonias – not all fancy ones, by any means, but the wildly patterned leaves and flower clusters so big they wouldn’t fit in my hands bring me great delight.

JUN
Fried Squash Blossoms? Yes!
Tired of squash already? Sick of steamed, sauteed, and don't want to pickle it? Try Fried Squash Blossoms!

APR
Cold Tonight - Cover up those babies!
If you have new transplants of flowers and vegetables, it’s time to cover them up to prevent damage from the dropping temperatures that accompany this passing cold front.

APR
Cue the Dogwoods!
Remember last summer? Act now!

MAR
Tomatoes and Kiddie Pools
If a tomato plant wilts, you lose. These ideas explain the bucket growing 'thing' but you can adapt it for any container vegetable.

MAR
Spring's Here!
Spring's best ideas for planting and more - start right, stay right all season.

MAR
Roasted Taters - White+Sweet
Why have only one guilty pleasure? A healthy food life is all about balance and that does include some carbs done right.

FEB
Time for Recipes: Dried Beans Everyone Loves - Honest!
First, you have to know I’m not big on name brands, but honestly, Camellia brand beans are just better. Try them once with this recipe and I promise you’ll be glad.

DEC
The Traveling Poinsettia
That poinsettia on your holiday table may have more frequent flyer miles than you do. Certainly it traveled further to get to your house than many of your guests.

OCT
Herb Redo
I’m always adding herbs to food, partly because I like the taste of many in this group, but also to keep from needing salt for flavor. Now it’s time to get the indoor herb garden going and here’s my plan.

SEP
Passion for Red Spider Lilies

I'm seduced by red spider lilies - who needs 50 shades??


SEP
Sit Down!
At the end of the day, your garden should be the place you want to be after a hectic day. To me, that means a nice place to sit and appreciate this little corner of the world.

AUG
Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season

Around the times of the anniversaries of the biggest hurricanes of my lifetime, it’s easy to get pensive if not depressed. Here’s how gardening helps me stay on an even keel.


JUL
What is THAT??

My oregano is blooming - is yours? 


JUN
Garden an hour and make it pay!

Get into summer rhythm now! Garden an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening to avoid the heat of the day - neither you nor the plants need that stress. Here are some timely tasks to do now:


JUN
Dahlias, Gladiolas, and Lilies - Oh My!
Plant those bulbs, tubers, corms, and rhizomes you bought this spring but never got out of their packages. Time is not your friend here – these living storage organs may wither or turn to mush.

JUN
GardenMama's Organic Strategies

Lately it seems lots of people are asking about 'going organic' in their gardens, so I thought I'd expand the dialogue by posting this information prepared for programs on the subject. Hope it's helpful - let me know if you need more!


MAY
Timely Tips for May

Get busy with these good ideas for May gardening:

 ANNUALS. Watch potted geraniums for reddening leaves or other stress signs as heat builds. Clip off old flowers and move them into less sun for the summer. When each week’s pansy flowers grow smaller, it’s time to pull them out. For a similar clumping effect, plant Madagascar periwinkle.

BULBS. Clivia (C. miniata) is a long lived bulb native to South Africa like many of its relatives in the Amaryllis family. Grow it for strappy leaves and orange flowers in a big clay or ceramic pot.

EDIBLES. Except for new transplants and seedlings, use a vegetable garden food now (5-10-10). When the first tomato fruit or other vegetables are formed and growing, reduce fertilizer by half until they are picked.


APR
Why We Love (Most) Heirlooms

With only a few thousand words to be written on my new book, I'm digging into heirlooms and revisiting what I wrote about them here in 2002. ‘Moon and Stars’ watermelon, ‘Dad’s Mug’ tomato, and ‘Belgian White’ carrots may not be familiar to you, but ‘Casaba’ melon, ‘Brandywine’ tomato, and ‘Danvers Half Long’ carrots probably are. Their common thread weaves horticulture and history together.


APR
Hello Spring - Where Ya Been?

Ok, so here’s what’s been happening: It started raining in February and went downhill from there. I didn’t plant potatoes or English peas and barely got the roses pruned between deluges. I cut some back hard, trimmed others, and drank lots of hot chocolate while I was at it, confident but cold. At this stage of my life, I really appreciate what I call reliable romance, a quality embodied by ‘Clothilde Soupert’. I can depend on this classic rose to bloom soon and often without ever disappointing – she is budded up now and soon will unfurl scrumptious pink petals filled with fragrance that smells like true love to me. Once might be enough, but this rose, like great romance, blooms on and on. Tomatoes are in their pots! Thanks to Matthews Tree Service, we have lots more sun so moved the tomato patch into the now-sunny area nearer the house. The woodpeckers have found their topped tree and I don’t have to worry it will fall on the house. I’ll keep you up to date on the grafted tomatoes we’ve added this year and assorted others, some we’ve grown before like Celebrity and Yellow Pear, others that are new to us. Let me know what varieties you’re growing and how the tomato season is going at your place!



MAR
Another Cold Week??

Temperatures will be flirting with freezing in central and north Mississippi this week, blowing our average last frost dates by more than a week in some places. Good thing we've got plenty of time to plant tomatoes when it does warm up! I'm holding plants in my unheated greenhouse - Celebrity for pots on the deck because they top out at about 4 feet tall, Yellow Pear, an heirloom that I dearly love, and 3 Grafted Tomatoes from my friends at Garden Life. This revolutionary approach to growing tomatoes is sweeping the country but you know I'll be a skeptic until I see them growing in my garden. Stay tuned...and let me know what varieties you are growing this year. 



MAR
Everything Garden Expo

Join me in Starkville, MS, this Saturday, March 23 for live radio and tropical plants! 'Weekend Gardening' 8-10 am and 'Tropical Plants, Indoors and Out' at 11. I've got nifty gifts to give away, including a copy of my newest book and a special surprise from Global Garden Friends.

See YOU there!



MAR
Powerful Garden Color

Join me at 11 am on Friday and Saturday, 12:30 on Sunday at the Jackson Garden & Patio Show for a look at the ways color moves us and how to get more in the garden with plants available at the Show.

Surprise! I've got a gift for you from Global Garden Friends and 1 person will win a copy of my new book, Gardeners Guide to Tropical Plants.



NOV
Thoughts on Organic Insect Control

To my organic grower friends: Nobody in the South decides to grow using organic and sustainable strategies because it seems trendy. From all quarters you hear it is impossible, costly, and no better than conventional approaches. Of course, none of this is true. With good planning and smart strategies you can do the so-called impossible task of growing without chemical fertilizers or pesticides.


OCT
Our Precious Trees

Big tree pruning soon at my house. If you don't know how to choose a tree professional, talk to my go-to guys.  In central Mississippi, I depend on Matthews Tree Service. Call L.E. Matthews for free estimates in the Jackson Metro Area: 601-291-7711.



JUN
Keeping Flowers Fresh
I do not claim to be a floral designer, but love to have flowers on the table and I think I’ve passed that on. My daughter, the new college graduate, celebrated her birthday this week with a gift of huge sunflowers from her beau and called me immediately for advice. We’ve all seen bunches of sunflowers with one bent down badly, wilted with what florists call a broken neck, and she wanted to avoid that scene. She asked the question everyone poses about cut flowers: how can I make them last? Keep those stems open so they can take up water – here’s what I do:

JUN
Gardenias, Glory, and Disaster
I have always taken gardenias for granted – outside my window in Monroe, along the railroad track in Baton Rouge, by the steps in New Orleans, and next to the porch in California. I saw them everywhere when I moved to Mississippi, too, and planted 3. One by one, they have died and I am distraught. Gardenia may be the best case for growing nursery-grown, named varieties of any old-fashioned shrub and believe me; I’ve got to grow some. How does anyone live without that fragrance?

JUN
My Three Sisters
Traditionally, the three sisters are squash, beans, and corn while Emeril speaks with reverence about the trinity of onion, bell pepper, and celery. Both are the staples of a cuisine enjoyed by my family and worldwide, but in my garden this year the go-to trio will be eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers both hot and sweet. There is another triad that I use all the time, too – the perennial herbs oregano and thyme along with annual parsley or basil. Here’s how they’re growing, with a recipe thrown in for lagniappe:

MAY
Heat Wave
The weather has suddenly gone from pleasant to trying – 70’s at night already and well over 90 for days now. I’m trying to avoid the potential sticker shock of the July water bill, so it’s time to make a few changes. Adapting to increasing heat as summer approaches can be as easy as moving a few plants around, or as difficult as rethinking how you garden.

MAY
Lordy at the Blueberries!*
Lots of people talk about how they want to grow fruit in the backyard, but few can be recommended for front garden landscaping. Maybe it’s because I’m picking 2 pints every other day from 3 old bushes, but blueberries are tops with me. Blueberries may just be the perfect plant – easy to grow, delicious and good for you, as well as beautiful year round. * Thus spoke Dave as we picked and tasted this year’s huge crop.

MAY
The Next Chapter
Spring’s weather is fine and dandy now, but no doubt summer will be here before we know it. The time has come to finish the flush of spring gardening projects and face the reality of summer maintenance. As my daughter wrote about her impending college graduation, “red rover, red rover, send the next chapter right over!” Her next chapter already has a job and a new apartment. My garden’s next chapter isn’t quite done yet. Here’s what I’m doing this week:

MAY
Tree Questions Answered
Fielding queries from gardeners is my strong suit and interesting patterns arise from time to time. This week, the inbox is full of tree questions that are instructive to all of us. Indeed, I consulted with some of my personal experts to learn more about the pests and potentials of this important plant group. And, if you are looking for fast growing trees, I’ve got a list for you.

MAY
21st Century Gardening
There’s an old expression about the only constant being change, and that is certainly true in the garden. We’re changing attitudes and strategies, and not just to keep up with the times.

APR
Tropical Sirens
Wild and crazy leaves, stupidly beautiful flowers, and exuberant growth are the hallmarks of plants native to the Tropics. I’m finishing a new book on the subject that will be released later this year from Cool Springs Press and planting 4 kinds of bananas in a new raised bed. Think I’m going for drinks with little umbrellas in them, too!

APR
Water, Water Everywhere
There is something exquisite about waking up to the plop of drops falling on my bedroom window. Gray skies punctuated by spring rain can be glorious, percolating and protecting the landscape against a dry summer to come. Folks with rain barrels are particularly well-stocked for that eventuality. But all this joy comes at a price when the garden gets soggy and stays that way. Insects, particularly mosquitoes, and diseases like mildew, rust, and brown patch fungus can proliferate. Here are some adjustments you can make to improve conditions when the water is winning.

APR
Insect Signs
Caring for plants is sometimes oddly like childrearing. There are visible signs that hint of trouble to come, and a wise gardener or parent pays heed. For instance, when a toddler takes an extra long nap and wakes up pulling at his ear, it can mean an infection is starting. In the garden, an azalea’s leaves can look pale instead of rich green under their spring flowers. That is the gardener’s cue to look further for the signs of an infestation of azalea lace bugs.

APR
Cool Weather? Cool Shrubs!
This week, the weather is cooperating with my gardening plans. Big rain will be followed by cooler temperatures – perfect to move more roses into my sunnier spaces. Yes, cover the tomatoes at night if it gets below 50 degrees, but I’m taking advantage of the brief cool spell to plant more shrubs, too. Here are some truly fine ones available at Lakeland Yard and Garden this week – look for them where you shop, too.

MAR
Love Those Baskets

There are 2 kinds of hanging baskets in my garden, plastic and fiber. Each has its strong points and suits certain plants better, at least while they are in my care. For example, ferns and other plants that thrive in consistently damp soil are better in plastic pots because I dunk them weekly. If I were the type to water deeply every day, clay pots might work better. I grow in bigger pots more often than small ones even when they are both plastic because larger pots need soaking less often. None of this advice applies to cacti and succulents, obviously, but the pots I’m planting this week follow it to a T.


MAR
Curb Appeal

Our front garden bed lies across that wall of the house and extends a long finger down the driveway. Its shape is rather like that of the state of Florida, but its contents are almost entirely woody plants. This week we added some new ones, increased the presence of others, and our faithful mail carrier likes the alternating square and round stepping stones. Here’s what happened and how:


MAR
Smart Planting
Spring will truly be here soon and there’s still plenty of time to get those woody plants into the garden so their roots can get comfortable before really hot weather arrives. Maybe the first decision is a basic one – do I want plants that stay green all year or do I want drop their leaves in preparation for the big reveal of new leaves each spring? Then it’s what colors to add to the garden, the stability of evergreens or the strong skeletons of bare trunks in winter, and how to make the pictures in my mind a reality. See you at the Jackson Garden and Patio Show this weekend!

FEB
Get Inspired!

Meet me in my booth right next to Lakeland’s at the 15th Annual Jackson Garden and Patio Show in the MS Trade Mart on March 16, 17, and 18. I’ll be the embarrassed one, since their booth is always beautiful and will surely outshine mine – again. Every year, I get inspired by the booths at the Show, educated by the speakers, and go home happy with my share of the tons and tons of plants available. Show hours are 9-4 Friday, 9-5 Saturday, and 11-4 Sunday. I’m speaking at 11 on Friday and Saturday, 11:30 on Sunday. Here’s what you’ll find…


FEB
Pushing Spring
People are hoping the mild winter will hold. Gardeners I’ve talked to agree, but they are wisely wary. We know about blackberry winter, the Easter freeze, and the natural perversity of weather, and they give us pause. So does the sight of foot tall fire ant and mounds and mosquito swarms in February. If you aren’t simply watching the early blooms, but want to plant the spring garden now, I have one word for you: cloche. Your new best friend can be a plastic hat for vulnerable plants ready in case it is needed.

FEB
Prune Those Roses
What to do, what to do? The winter has been so mild that many of my roses are still fully leafed out and some threw out flowers straight through January. Some of the plants looked tortured, twiggy and overgrown as roses should now, but others are quite neat yet. It’s rose pruning time, but who’s setting the clock? And what happens if I don’t prune? These questions are tormenting me this week, so here’s what I’m going to do.

FEB
Sweethearts of the Garden
I am more than a bit ambivalent about Valentine’s Day, and I don’t think I’m alone. Suffice it to say I was always grateful for schoolteachers who enforced good manners; they demanded that if you brought a valentine for one classmate, you brought enough for everyone. It’s true I perversely enjoyed my stints as a Vday delivery driver for a florist – good money and without GPS technology, some very long days. But those smiles were as valuable as the generous tips! Flowers, candy, perfume, and nice dinners are fine anytime, but February 14 is the best day of the year to celebrate heart-shaped flowers and leaves on plants that will last long past February 15. Here are some of my favorites:

FEB
Already in Bloom
So, I’ve opened a Twitter account and will soon be tweeting the procession of flowering trees and shrubs in 2012. Ok, it’s not exactly a handwritten journal, but since the Japanese magnolias started blooming during the third week of January instead of early February, it might be interesting to follow along. Here’s what’s blooming now…

JAN
Planting Now
There’s no time like winter to plant trees and shrubs, especially those you want to dig up and move. Container grown woody plants can be planted anytime, of course, but you give them ample time to put down roots before spring growth starts if you plant now. I’m putting in abelia, sassafras tree, and a shrub to be named later…

JAN
Winter Gardening – Yay!
Ok, so the weather gets cold, warms up, rains and gets cold again, usually with several good gardening days in between. Since there are plants all over Chez Ingram, inside and out, that need attention now, it’s a favorable pattern. You’ll never hear me express much affection for summer, but January – now that’s the time to be a gardener in the Deep South.

JAN
Winter Woes
The wind is howling today, and the first ‘brutal’ cold of the winter is headed our way. Though I believe it will be brief, woody plants may take a hit, mainly because the roller coaster temperature profile in the last 3 months has kept many from going dormant at all. Even my fairly tender Brunfelsia (yesterday, today, and tomorrow) still has green leaves on it! Each winter I muse about cold weather, plants, and pruning, and each year is different in the last decade or so. But a few wise words from other professionals are good to consider.

JAN
I Propagate and Prune for Inner Peace

I have been taking cuttings and starting seeds ever since I was 8 years old, and now I have the opportunity to write about it every week in a blog that will compliment this one. Check below for a link to that new effort at Hormex.com. Meanwhile, there are ornamental grasses and clumping groundcovers to cut back and plenty of perennials finally browned by cold weather. Sometimes I think January is heaven in my garden!


DEC
Happy New Year!
I don’t like New Year’s resolutions because as soon as they’re even bent a bit, we toss them away unfulfilled. Let’s call them big goals for the new year and treat them like ladders to be climbed one rung at a time. Herewith, and in print so I cannot deny them later, my garden goals for 2012. And send me yours so we can keep track of each other’s progress.

DEC
My Garden in 2011
Though I am not particularly given to introspection, I do take a look back at the garden each December. This year has been a mix of accomplishments, goals unreached, and downright failure. With apologies to Mr. Eastwood, here is the good, the bad, and the ugly in Mama’s garden.

DEC
Begonias in the Bedroom
Plants come with labels for many reasons, and my begonia collection is an ironic example of what can be gained by losing them. These specimens are beautiful cane, rhizomatous and rex begonias, but sadly I may never know their proper names. I wrote about them earlier this year for my friend, Judy Lowe, who edits the Christian Science Monitor’s online gardening articles. This piece is their premier in Ya Mama’s Blog.

DEC
Easy Peezy Christmas Cheer

I don’t know about you, but the holidays are approaching much faster than I can get ready with cooking, sending cards, and decorating from the garden. Grab a can of spray paint, shears, ribbon, and containers to use my quick ideas to make decorating from the garden simply fun. Trust me, I am a crafting klutz and I can do these.


NOV
Moving Success
The colder and damper the weather gets, the better a newly transplanted tree or shrub likes it. Do it right to prevent transplant shock now and get these beauties growing come spring. The first two years of life are the hardest for woody plants, and what you do at planting time can make all the difference in their future.

NOV
Happy Thanksgiving!
My favorite holidays are those that go on for days and this one will. Tonight it’s dinner for Honey’s homecoming, Thanksgiving tomorrow with 8 friends and family, big lunch with 2 of the kids during the Battle of the Boot on Friday, and trying hard to impress a dear chef friend who’s coming to town Saturday. Here’s the garden-fresh menu!

NOV
Rainy Night, Sunny Day
It’s not often enough that the weather cooperates with my garden plans. Just now, damp soil is calling me to weed and plant. What are you doing in your garden this week? I’m posting a list of what-to-do’s to keep you on track.

NOV
Sweet on Sasanquas
If you don’t know the Queens of Autumn, consider this blog your invitation to join me on their Court. No deep green leaf is glossier, and their abundant flowers open as cool weather sets in as if to herald the change of season.

NOV
Small Works

I’ve been rearranging the courtyard this week to add more interest as the season changes. This small space is essential to my sense of well-being because it makes the transition from indoor to outdoors and vice versa. Colorful pots, sasanquas about to bloom – even though the luscious tropicals are now safely tucked in for the winter, I’m smiling because the courtyard glows.


OCT
Overlooked, Lovely Nandina
Considered too common by too many, Heavenly Bamboo is prized where it is more difficult to grow. Like Rodney Dangerfield, Nandina deserves much more credit than it gets!

OCT
Bulbs for Garden Color
I am ready to plant daffodils, anemone, ranunculus and grape hyacinths, and to put tulips in the refrigerator. I don’t really like hyacinths, but usually grow a pink one because my grandmother loved them dearly. There’s nothing like bulbs to put color anywhere you want it in your garden.

OCT
Crazy Good Shrubs
Horticulturists call them ‘woody ornamentals’. They are the shrubs that work so hard to keep their good looks, sometimes despite our attentions. Some of the woodies are especially good at it. Here's a look at two of my favorites.

OCT
Care for Tender Plants
Cool weather has graced the Deep South, even though it will no doubt warm up again before winter sets in. That puts the tropical plants we have nurtured since spring at risk and if, like me, your collection is counted in scores, losses can be painful. Wise gardeners plan ahead.

SEP
Better Than Ever Shrubs
With time comes understanding, and that includes plant breeders. They knew we liked lorapetalums, but since the red-leafed lovelies first stole our hearts we have tired of pruning their abundance. I love the compact choices, suitable even for containers.

SEP
Lettuce Get Ready to Plant
Yes! Lettuce, mesclun, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, onions, chives and many more food crops can be planted very soon, so now’s the time to prepare beds and pots. It’s the garden version of mise en place, the culinary imperative. When you have everything ready, any recipe or planting project has a much better chance to succeed.

SEP
The Trouble with Ligustrum
To paraphrase a bad joke, Ligustrum – can’t live with ‘em, can’t kill ‘em. These durable evergreens are planted everywhere, yet are not deemed common by the garden police. Right now, I must decide whether to keep a treeform hedge or create a shorter hedgerow. It is old and in need of rejuvenation, one way or the other! But for me, an admitted treelover, it is hard to imagine life without the shade they provide my begonias…

SEP
The Zen of Moving Plants
You can never know how successful you will be when moving established plants. Years ago, I transplanted a dozen old camellias from my father’s garden to mine with great success. Another time, only 1 survived out of 4, even though I did everything ‘right’. Instead, a friend broke all the rules and gave me a glorious hedge of double bridal wreath spireas. Here’s what happened.

SEP
Hurray for Vitex!
Sometimes a plant just grows on you. I had big plans to take down a pale blue Vitex, or chaste tree, and replace it with roses that need the sun. Now it’s covered with bees and I’m in love.

AUG
Sherman's Wisdom
He stood by the fence, his ever-present cup of coffee resting on a post as he spoke these words, “If you cut that brush down in the dark of the moon in August, it won’t come back.” Sherman was right and you can test it yourself this Sunday.

AUG
Tangible Blessings
I’ve always heard that you should count your blessings, even when it seems there are few to list. On this anniversary of Hurricane Camille, I’m counting plenty of produce, flowers in bloom and rain on a Wednesday morning…

AUG
Tropical Plant Love
I confess, there’s a pink hibiscus in my garden that is strutting her stuff today and the very sight of her symmetric pinwheels lightens my heart. It’s irrational and, like many of our reactions to tropical flowers, a purely emotional response.  

AUG
Greenhouses for Everybody!
I know it’s hot as Hades out there, but now’s the time to build the greenhouse you have always wanted. It’ll be autumn before you know it!

JUL
Premium Space
My garden can use some attention, especially in the small spaces I call the vignettes. They are focal points in a way, created by a set of principles I put together long ago. It’s not design, it’s not landscape architecture and probably the opposite of a master plan. Instead, it’s just one gardener’s way of looking at garden space. It’s been a long time since I wrote about how small garden space can work for big visual benefit – MS Gardener magazine in 2004. Great magazine, by the way.

JUL
Lawn Mayhem
Lately the drought is showing in my zoysia lawn. The weeds aren’t winning yet, but there’s a patch of common bermudagrass that would like to spread its influence and a patch of crabgrass that should be discouraged, too.

JUL
The Perfect Birthday
Family, friends, great food and plenty of good wishes – what else could one hope for on a landmark occasion? A good time was had by all, especially me, the Birthday Girl.

JUL
Keep Shrubs Alive!
One way to tell a southern favorite plant is to see it happily standing through heat waves and drought. Many full grown shrubs just grin and keep on going green, so we smart gardeners plant them, but sometimes forget that a new shrub is not ready for prime time – yet.  

JUN
Sunshine: Enemy or Friend?
The way people talk about it, you’d think solar energy was a debatable topic. Sunshine obviously is essential for plant growth, it’s a source of vitamin D and a certain rosy glow is good for you, but too much can have fatal consequences for people and plants. Fans say if you know how to use its power, the sun can be the gardener’s best friend. I say there’s no time like now to solarize!

JUN
Rain, Blessed Rain
There’s rain around and temperatures have dropped into the ‘normal’ range for June for the first time this month. Every plant gets a break when this happens, and so does the gardener. There’s plenty to do to take advantage of the ‘cool’ spell. Here are some ideas.
 

JUN
Tomato Troubles
Not to brag, but the tomatoes here at Chez Ingram have never been better. Unfortunately, Mama’s email is full of questions about others that aren’t doing so well. Here’s a look at what’s coming at me from the internets. And to those who wrote, thanks for asking!

JUN
Hot Summer Plants
We’re known for 12 month gardening around here and that includes planting, even in hot weather. It’s a bit late for spring tomatoes, corn and beans cannot quite get started right now, and many woody plants can suffer transplant shock if planted this month. The good news is that there are more choices than okra and sweet potatoes that can be planted now. Flowering annual plants are tested for heat, humidity and thunderstorm tolerance. In June and early July, we plant the ones that pass all three tests.

JUN
Summer's Best: Eggplants and Basils
Taste does develop over time, if you give your tongue a chance to catch up with your brain. Or is it vice versa? I rejected eggplant and basil for years, but now I can’t live without either. Easy to grow, and tastes worth developing.

MAY
Hydrangea Mysteries
I have loved and grown hydrangeas all my life. Yet again, the rules I thought must be followed have turned out to be questionable, at least. So it goes in the garden, where new introductions and new ways of doing old things keep me growing.

MAY
Today’s lesson
In keeping with my recent theme of learning something new every day, here is today’s lesson: garden every chance you get, regardless of the season or the ‘rules’. It’s the middle of May and I’m planting shrubs!

MAY
Norma's Friendly Garden
To paraphrase my guru, Julia Child: I learn something new every time I get to visit another gardener’s garden. I knew Norma was a great gardener when she brought me loquat-mango preserves and seeing her garden confirmed it. Lakeside, lovely and full of flowers on a perfect spring night.

MAY
Vegetable Smarts

For those of you who can never get enough information about growing vegetables, particularly in containers, I invite you to a feast of savory tips penned recently for our friends at usvictorygardens.com.


APR
Tornado April

When the tallies are made of this week’s weather, tornadoes and heavy rain will dominate the statistics. I keep catching myself watching the skies and radar screens almost as much as I watch the amazing garden spring. It’s an odd end to April, for sure.


APR
Blogging on Blogs

I’m so relieved! After decades of taking care to keep my editorial opinions out of gardening articles and columns, blogging insists on a personal take. So long as there’s a balance of solid information and not too much narcissism, I’m all for it. Thanks for reading my blog here, and check me out at Diggin’ It, the garden blog at Christian Science Monitor. Keep reading for more about some of my favorite garden blogs.


APR
Bee Buzz

I’ve named it. Mine is a Bee Garden, where I do all I can to nurture honeybees, bumblebees and other insect pollinators. My way is to keep something blooming year round and provide water sources in summer.


APR
Get ready for Summer – Now!

What to do, starting now, to make this summer the best ever all around your garden.


MAR
Acid in the Garden

Acid. The very word conjures up images as diverse as car batteries and Timothy Leary. It seems that every aspect of life from tomatoes to stomach trouble involves acid. In the garden, the quality of soil that allows particular plants to absorb specific nutrients is directly related to its acid or lack thereof.


MAR
Spring Garden Smarts

Whether you call it a Garden To-Do List, a Honey-Do List or just Spring Chores, it’s time to take wise action. Here’s what I’m doing this week.


MAR
Shrub love

There’s plenty of time to safely plant shrubs before hot weather lowers your chances of success. If you haven’t investigated the wide world of woody plants available to you, you’re missing a vital element in garden design.


MAR
Get Your Water On – or Off

In the wake of last night’s earthquake in Japan and the accompanying tsunami, our wet spring here in North America may seem like a piece of cake. But our gardens seem to go from saturated to drought-stricken in a month, and neither is good for most of our plants.


MAR
Vegetable Garden Wisdom

The time has come to get the vegetable plot ready and get growing for the early spring season. Right now I’m growing English peas, sugar snap peas, onions, Chinese cabbage, leaf lettuce and mesclun.


FEB
Preview Party

Here’s a look at my plant choices for a program I’m presenting at the Gulf Coast Garden and Patio Show this weekend in Biloxi, MS. It’s titled ‘Get Growing with Great Plants’. For more information, check the Events section of this website. Come see me!


FEB
Rose Family Practice

The doctor is in – the rose doctor, that is. It’s time to prune and plant and I’m up to my shovel handle, moving some, adding others and pruning the whole bunch.


FEB
The Fruits of Summer Start Now

My childhood was full of figs, peaches, plums and pears, and it’s still hard for me to go a week without one of them on my plate. Maybe that’s why I want to grow them all, or at least have a benevolent friend when the harvest is in. Now’s the time to plant and prune most any fruit tree, and I’ve got at least 2 on my list.


FEB
Timing is Everything

Cold weather comes and goes in the Deep South winter, but the garden needs just keep on ticking.


JAN
The Wow Factor

To be a Wow to me, a plant has to be memorable to see and friendly to grow or use. My visit to the Gulf States Horticultural Expo in Mobile last week gave a preview of what’ll be Wow in Spring, 2011.


JAN
To Market, to Market

Off to the Gulf States Horticultural Expo, an industry trade show that I attend every few years. It’s a good chance for me to see what’s likely to be at a garden center near you so I can tell you all about it. And I will – watch this space…


JAN
Vegetables in Containers

Each week, I'll post a vegetable gardening tip here for everyone who, like me, grows in containers.


JAN
Planting Hope

Gardeners must be the most optimistic people on earth. Otherwise, why am I getting ready to plant flowers while it’s freezing outside?


JAN
Garden Joy: See and Sit

At the end of the day, a garden should be the place you want to be. To me, that means a nice place to sit and appreciate this little corner of the world.


DEC
Mama’s Gifts

My mama gave us biscuits, but we got a lot more than that on a cold winter’s night in Monroe, Louisiana.


DEC
Get Growing with Raised Beds

Tired of digging garden beds and watering containers? Raised beds may be your way to garden. With minimal amounts of shovel work and simple irrigation strategies, new planting space is yours.


DEC
Cold blast, last gasp?

Cold weather, like love, is a relative thing. Either can be flirtatious and fickle, or, if you’re really lucky, completely unconditional.


DEC
Decorating Naturally

Begin in your own backyard for holiday decorating. Did you know? Hydrangeas can be even more elegant when they get dressed up for the holidays.

 


NOV
Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m thankful for delicious fresh vegetables, except when they’re overcooked.


NOV
Food Growing Pains

The subject at my house, or Chez Ingram as we call it, is broccoli. The first heads are getting bigger everyday, but did we plant enough?


NOV
The Weeds and Me

The plants we don’t want seem to know it. They come up through mulch and weed barrier cloth, they laugh at vinegar sprays and resist the most pernicious chemical weed controls on the market. They smile at me through the window, daring me to pull them up or pave them over. Not the same weeds I pulled last time, of course, but the never-ending supply of new ones I seem to attract.


NOV
November Garden To-Do's

Humans usually resist change, but a favorable shift in the weather is an entirely different thing. Rain after weeks of drought and finally cool mornings put a spring in my step. At last, garden tasks long belayed can – and some must – be done.


OCT
Coaxing Flowers from Gnarly Bulbs

I dislike the term 'forcing', and prefer to think 'coaxing', especially when it comes to bringing blooming pots of paperwhites and tulips into the house. Here's the handout from a program I gave recently - and I think I coaxed some people into forcing bulbs!


OCT
10 Ways to Get More Veggies

Last weekend I presented a program that summarizes my ten favorite ways to make more out of any vegetable garden. Containers, beds, big space or small, they work for me and by the nods I saw in the audiences, for others, too. That's the best part of going to garden events - the people! You find yourself meeting up with like-minded people and those who grow things you'd never want near your garden, learning something from each and liking them all.


OCT
Amazing Dutch Bulbs

I know I’m not the only one that gets bulb fever in October. It’s not just because I’ve grown them all my life and never got over the joy I feel when they actually bloom. It’s not just because red tulips are my daughter’s favorite (and nearly only) thing to plant. I don’t even think it’s because when I visited Keukenhoff Gardens in Holland I swear I found the place I could be buried happily! Bulbs are easy to grow, but that’s not it, either. I think it’s their sheer magic – and the fact that people of any age can simply plant them pointy side up and enjoy the show.



SEP
Garden Cloche

You can build a great structure to hold plastic, screen or other coverings to exclude pests from small vegetable and herb beds.


SEP
Green Eggplants
My love affair with eggplants began when my grandfather set me up in business. The summer's bounty of glossy purple orbs spilled over to my red wagon and he challenged me to sell them in the neighborhood.

SEP
Put these Herbs to Work!

You've got plenty, so put those herbs to work! Make this hearty marinade for baked fish and chicken dishes.


SEP
In Transition

This year, the vegetable garden has taken to the transition from summer to fall better than I can ever remember.