This refreshing new garden book offers helpful money-saving tips – Orange County Register

“The Garden Refresh: How to Give your Yard Big Impact on a Small Budget” by Timber Press has budget gardening tips to be sure. Yet the plethora of useful information provided by author Kier Holmes goes well beyond pocket considerations.

For example, the use of gray water (water from laundry, shower, tub and bathroom sink, but not kitchen sink, dishwasher or toilet) – something we should all consider as the drought intensifies – comes with some caveats. “Avoid direct contact with gray water as it often contains small amounts of bacteria” and “Do not use gray water in sprinklers due to the risk of inhaling unhealthy organisms.” Ideally, you would build a system that collects and distributes gray water through drip irrigation and thus eliminates the possibility of contact with recycled water entirely.

“Never store gray water for more than 24 hours or bacteria will grow,” advises Holmes. “Use water on edible plants and vines such as corn, grapes or kiwifruit where the edible part is above ground and not in contact with water. Do not use gray water on root vegetables like carrots, potatoes or beets, and keep them away from low-growing strawberries, because if they are not washed properly, serious health problems could occur.

Also, because gray water is on the alkaline side of the pH scale, “acid-loving plants like blueberries and azaleas, which are sensitive to salt, struggle with it. Potted plants don’t like it. neither, as their restricted root zones make them vulnerable to damage.

A useful trick to save water for the garden before it turns gray is to put a bucket in the shower or under the tub spout and use it to catch the running water while you wait for it. heats.

Some additives that you may not be familiar with can make a big difference. “Rock dust, which is any type of quarried rock reduced to powder, is a great way to add trace minerals and micronutrients and feed beneficial microbes in your soil. Add a small handful in the planting hole for a small plant and a big handful for a large plant.Houseplants also benefit from regular applications of rock dust.Azomite is the leading brand in quality rock dust.

Alfalfa meal is another additive, available at farm supply stores, that Holmes advocates, especially when added to the soil before planting herbs. “Normally grown as livestock feed, alfalfa meal adds nitrogen and micronutrients to the soil and contains a natural fatty acid growth booster that boosts root and stem health (roses and tomatoes love it also this flour.) If, despite your initial feeding, your herbs seem yellowish and anemic mid-season, give them a cocktail of fish emulsion. Simply mix a few shots of liquid fish emulsion in your watering can for the to feed.

Regular sharpening of secateurs or lawn mowers, the gardener’s most important tool, is often overlooked. “Every few weeks I take a hand file specially designed for sharpening hand pruners and give my pruners a few strokes on the stone,” the author writes. “I also clean my pruners with a scouring pad and warm soapy water to remove any sap, dirt or potential pathogens, then wipe down the blade. In the joints, I apply a lubricant to stop rust. An Altuna sharpener to sharpen your shears sells for just under $20.

Holmes has some short but valuable lists, such as “best architectural plants” which include silvery blue honey (Melianthus major), foxtail agave (Agave attenuata), cold hardy Tasmanian tree fern (Dicksonia antarctica), papyrus worthy of a pond of water (Cyperus papyrus), and the bear breech (Acanthus mollis), whose foliage was carved on Corinthian columns in ancient Greece.

His “edible plants for partial sun” include “blueberries, calamondin, Swiss chard, cilantro, collard greens, kale, kunquat, lettuce, and raspberries.”

One of the plants on this list, the calamondin (Citrus mitis), deserves some discussion. When ripe, it produces hundreds of orange or reddish-orange fruits, between one and two inches in size, over the course of a year. You can confuse a calamondin with a kumquat, another very cold-tolerant small-fruited citrus fruit.

The difference between them is that kumquats are elongated capsules compared to the more spherical calamondins. Also, kumquats are weaker than calamondins. Kumquats (Fortunella spp.) rarely live more than five or six years, while calamondins can last twice as many years or more. In addition to their exceptional status as a container specimen, you can also keep calamondins pruned into a glossy decorative hedge six to nine feet tall.

Calamondins, like lemon and lime trees, differ from orange, grapefruit and tangerine trees in that they bear flowers and fruits throughout the year. Like lemons and limes, calamondins are tart and not usually eaten fresh, but are used in cooking and to flavor salads, desserts and drinks. Calamondin fruits and flowers are very aromatic and the plants tolerate somewhat heavy soil unlike citrus fruits in general, whose demand for fast-draining soil is well known. Speaking of which, the author draws our attention to the fact that container-grown citrus fruits use the same soil mix recommended for cacti.

Holmes mentions begonias as candidates for clonal propagation. Large-leaved begonias such as the Dragon Wing types can be propagated by tearing off individual leaves, dipping them in root hormone, and inserting them into a fast-draining propagation mix. The author further informs us that honey can substitute for root hormone to induce cuttings to root. “Boil two cups of water in a saucepan. Add a tablespoon of honey to the water and mix the two until the honey melts. Turn off the heat and allow the solution to cool to room temperature. Containerize the solution and it is ready for soaking stem cuttings for rooting.

I picked California poppies from my garden and placed them in a bud vase. I had never noticed that their petals closed when the sunlight waned in the afternoon. While researching the subject, I learned that they belong to a select group of species with a similar nyctinastic tendency. Nycninasty refers to the movement of plant parts as night falls or approaches. I’ve observed this same behavior in some daisies, including the White African Daisy (Osteospermum) and Gazanias, which come in white, yellow, pink, and coppery orange. This nyctinastic characteristic is also found in many other daisies, which could explain why daisies are part of the largest family of plants on earth with 24,000 species. In fact, the word “daisy” comes from “eye of day” since the petals around the central discs or eyes of daisy flowers close in on them at night.

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