Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

291 Top 10 Habits of Successful Gardeners

November 10, 2023 Fred Hoffman/Debbie Flower Season 4 Episode 45
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
291 Top 10 Habits of Successful Gardeners
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What are the habits of successful gardeners? A couple of Master Gardeners from Santa Clara and San Joaquin Counties, in California pursued that question awhile back. They discovered several tips and tricks that seasoned, happy gardeners use for garden success. Today, America’s Favorite Retired College Horticulture professor, Debbie Flower, and myself share their top ten habits of Successful and Happy Gardeners with you, along with our thoughts that take us down, yet again, many scenic bypasses of good gardening information. You might want to listen to this episode more than once, maybe read the transcript as well. Or take notes. Debbie says there’s a good chance a lot of this will be on the final exam. I’m just sayin’…

 It’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery.  Let’s go!

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Topic Links:

Top Ten Habits of Successful Gardeners: Pt. 1
Top Ten Habits of Successful Gardeners: Pt. 2
Book: Pruning and Training
Podcast: Ep. 79 Seed Starting Tips. Reusing old potting soil.
Farmer Fred Rant Blog: Plants That Attract Beneficial Insects
Brooklyn Botanical Garden: Cut Flower Care
Flashback Episode of the Week: #247 Trees vs. Storms
Hedgerow California Native Plants to Attract Beneficials
FloraLife Flower Food
Brooklyn Botanical Garden: Cut Flower Care
Flashback Episode of the Week: #247 Trees vs. Storms


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GB 291 TRANSCRIPT Top 10 Habits of Successful Gardeners


Farmer Fred  0:00  

Garden Basics with Farmer Fred is brought to you by Smart Pots, the original lightweight, long lasting fabric plant container. It's made in the USA. Visit SmartPots.com slash Fred for more information and a special discount, that's SmartPots.com/Fred.

Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information, you've come to the right spot.



Farmer Fred

What are the habits of successful gardeners? A couple of Master Gardeners from Santa Clara and San Joaquin Counties, in California pursued that question awhile back. They discovered several tips and tricks that seasoned, happy gardeners use for garden success. Today, America’s Favorite Retired College Horticulture professor, Debbie Flower, and myself share their top ten habits of Successful and Happy Gardeners with you, along with our thoughts that take us down, yet again, many scenic bypasses of good gardening information. You might want to listen to this episode more than once, maybe read the transcript as well. Or take notes. Debbie says there’s a good chance a lot of this will be on the final exam. I’m just sayin’…

We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory, it’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. Let’s go!


THE TOP 10 HABITS OF SUCCESSFUL GARDENERS, Pt. 1


Farmer Fred

Do some gardeners have a natural green thumb? A lot can be said for just having patience and perseverance when it comes to certain landscaping tasks. But perhaps there are some habits that seasoned gardeners have in common. Well, such a list was published by the San Joaquin and Santa Clara County Master Gardeners a few years ago, it was entitled, “The Top 10 Habits of Happy and Successful Gardeners”. It was written by Master Gardeners Sue Davis and Louise Christy. It’s a list that really is worth reviewing from time to time, to see which habits you've made a normal part of your garden day, along with those habits that  just might need a bit of refreshing. So I thought now would be a nice time to refresh ourselves on a very thorough list of good gardening habits. Speaking of habits, Debbie Flower is here, America's favorite retired college horticultural professor. Over all, this was a pretty good list wasn't it?


Debbie Flower  2:31  

It's pretty extensive.


Farmer Fred  2:32  

Yeah, it is. It's good to revisit these things every now and then just to make sure that what you're doing makes a lot of sense. So let's talk about the successful habits of happy gardeners. 


HABIT NUMBER ONE: FEED YOUR SOIL


Habit number one, and I say this a lot, is, “feed your soil”. Happy and successful gardeners know that taking care of the soil and learning to love it. In particular, clay soil is their first priority, as they point out, and you've said this a lot, Soil has three parts. 


Debbie Flower  3:01  

Yes, it does. What does it have? Well, it has the mineral part, which is what we call the sand, silt and clay. It has the pore space between those parts, which is filled with air for the most part and some water. And it has organic matter, which is a very small part. It’s two to 5% organic matter. That is considered a good amount for a good soil. The pore space, the open spaces, should be about 50%. And then the mineral part is 50 minus two to five. 


Farmer Fred  3:35  

Still, that little bit of organic matter contains what, billions of microorganisms? 


Debbie Flower  3:41  

Yes, it has a huge effect on how the soil acts, how it absorbs water, how it hangs on to nutrients, how it gets them back to the plant and how the plant grows in it. They do much better if there's organic matter in there.


Farmer Fred  3:56  

So when they talk about feeding the soil, what they're talking about is basically replacing the water and organic matter and preserving the air by not overwatering or compacting the soil. It comes down to, like they say: compost, compost, compost; mulch, mulch mulch.


Debbie Flower  4:13  

Right. They don't say this, but one thing I always recommend is to have paths through the garden. Sometimes it's just the gardener's path, you know where it is. It's just where you walk all the time to get to the plants that are in maybe a very deep or wide bed, too deep for you to work at all from the front. But take the same path all the time. And that way you are not compacting the soil around all the plants just in that one location.


Farmer Fred  4:38  

Yeah, compacting the soil. Avoiding it  basically comes down to you. Yeah, you and your equipment staying off of wet soil.  Which brings up an interesting question. You may have had Halloween throngs of little feet, running up your driveway or running through your front yard to get to your doorbell, right through your garden bed. They’re coming for some sugar or nuts or whatever. If you have plants in your front yard, and you don't have a dedicated walkway, you may want to put in a temporary walkway or a barrier to get them to go onto the driveway instead of  taking the shortcut across the yard, especially if you live in an area where it might have rained that day, right?


Debbie Flower  5:20  

That's critical. That makes a big difference whether the soil is moist or dry. If it's moist, the particles in the soil are slippery, and they will slide together more more readily.


Farmer Fred  5:30  

I saw a good display of that in action. Somebody actually made a walkway through the front garden, in an unplanted area, leading to the front door, by using light-up skulls on either side. There's like little nightlights, that light up very bright. Little skull nightlights to delineate a walkway.


Debbie Flower  5:52  

That's a clever thing to do. And you know, it would work for other seasons as well. Just don't use skulls, I mean, some people would. But use some sort of light, some sort of solar triggered light.


Farmer Fred  6:05  

Yeah, nobody else does what we do, which is very simple: Use yellow police line tape, surrounding the front of the house and park a police car in front.


Debbie Flower  6:12  

Or like me, live way back from the road and have no lights on. It's so dark, they can't find the front door over there. 


Farmer Fred  6:20  

That works, though but probably not as much as in the old days. We still get 20-30 trick or treaters per year. By having our lights lighting up the sidewalk and driveway and the walkway. We avoid them stomping on the California natives.


Debbie Flower  6:35  

That's a good way to do it.


Farmer Fred  6:36  

So basically, soil compaction does not feed the soil.


Debbie Flower  6:42  

Compaction reduces the air,  the space that roots can easily get that air. And roots need air. They need air for doing vital things. So roots need air as well as the top of the plant needs air.


Farmer Fred  6:54  

As they point out, when working with clay soil. A lot of people have clay soil, avoid overwatering it and let it dry until it's moist and crumbly before you dig. Worse yet,  a lot of people think they can improve clay soil by adding sand.


Debbie Flower  7:07  

Ooh, boy.


Farmer Fred  7:08  

what do you get with that, concrete?


Debbie Flower  7:09  

Yeah, adobe, something that's very, very hard unless you add enough sand, and that's at least 30%. So if you have a cubic yard of clay, which is three foot by three foot by three foot, you need to add a huge amount of sand to that. 


Farmer Fred  7:25  

30% of 27 cubic feet is nine nine cubic feet. That would be as if you were buying sand in 1.5 cubic foot bags. Six bags, a lot.


Debbie Flower  7:37  

A lot. Yeah. And then you have to turn it in. You have to turn it into the ground. You don't just lay it on top.


Farmer Fred  7:44  

Well, then you have the other problem then. The water from the surrounding soil is going to go to that area.


Debbie Flower  7:49  

Yes, because it's now more open. Although it will be pushed in. But that's a whole other topic. So people will say, Well, what am I supposed to do with my clay? You bring in the organic matter and you lay it on the surface and you let nature take its course.


Farmer Fred  8:01  

Yeah, you add the compost. 


Debbie Flower  8:05  

I had a professor at Rutgers. I've told this story before so you can go get a drink if you've heard it. Rutgers campus  was in a place that had been dorms for World War Two soldiers. So it was not, you know, pretty and landscaped and such.  Back then, when he was a student, he worked the soil. It was very heavy clay and he worked on campus to make money to support his going to college. And he worked in the animal labs. So like the mice and the gerbils or whatever they had, I don't know what they had. And so he had to clean up the cages, which was animal feces, urine and some organic matter, typically wood. And he collected all of that and threw it on the ground outside of what then was his dorm. And by the end of his time as a student there, it went from being soil that so hard that you couldn't put a shovel through it, too soft, so soft, you could plunge your arm into it.


Farmer Fred  9:02  

Oh, I think we should point out that lab animals for the most part are vegetarians. And so you can use their feces, right?


Debbie Flower  9:11  

They're not going to have the worms and things that like a dog's waste might have. 


Farmer Fred  9:16  

Mice eat greens, right.


Debbie Flower  9:20  

So do cows.  Cow manure and horse manure, except horses don't process their food as well. And so if there are weed seeds coming in, there are typically weed seeds in the horse manure as well.


Farmer Fred  9:32  

But it is a slow process, building that soil. You just gotta give yourself time


Debbie Flower  9:37  

You do. But as you said, Patience is important to being a successful gardener.


Farmer Fred  9:41  

I think it's one of the primary marks of a successful gardener: have patience not only with your soil, but also with your plants. Give it three years to grow. “Sleep, creep and leap,” we are fond of saying, right? The first year of a plant's life, especially a perennial plant or a shrub, it just sort of sits there.  Put a stick in the ground next to it when you plant it, that is exactly the same height as the plant. And you may not think that it has grown, but it probably will have grown. If you go back the next year and look at the height of the plant versus the height of the stick, it's probably maybe a bit taller than the stick. 


Debbie Flower  10:14  

Right. And another technique is to take a picture. When I do that I'm blown away by it. I look at it the next year and think nothing's gone on. But if you look back at the pictures like well, a lot has happened here. 


Farmer Fred  10:26  

Especially if you've got something next to it to compare. 


Debbie Flower  10:30  

Yes, a fence or another plant or a structure of some sort. 


Farmer Fred  10:35  

Don't use children though, because children grow, too. And they don't stop. All right. So yeah, building great soil can take years. But with careful treatment and feeding, impossible clay can become lovely garden soil. Yes, it can. And then in the third year, that plant will leap. Yes, sleep creep, leap. 


HABIT NUMBER TWO: LEARN BEFORE LOPPING

Okay, habit number two, according to the San Joaquin in Santa Clara County Master Gardeners in their successful habits of happy gardeners, learn before lopping. And that's one thing you've drilled into my head, Professor, is the fact that there's a damn big difference between doing two cuts on a plant: a heading cut, or a thinning cut.


Debbie Flower  11:18  

It makes a huge difference in how the plant grows and what it looks like. 


Farmer Fred  11:21  

And the thinning cut is much more preferable. 


Debbie Flower  11:25  

Yes, and you need to make many fewer of them to get the same result on a plant, many fewer of them.


Farmer Fred  11:30  

Yes. And,  a thinning cut is made where that branch meets a bigger branch. And when you cut it off at that point, you're helping to start new, healthy growth.


Debbie Flower  11:44  

Yes, but you prune it in a natural way, in a place where the plant would naturally put on growth, which is at the tips of other branches.


Farmer Fred  11:52  

If you make heading cuts, though, you're asking for trouble. If you just top a plant to get it to be a certain height, you're going to have even more growth above that height.


Debbie Flower  12:03  

 The growth begins right below the cut. And it will be multiple branches. I'm thinking of a Casuarina. That is a tree that was in my yard. It's not there anymore. And it was topped and it grew because it was under the power lines. And it grew probably six new upright branches all around just below where the cut was made. I made some of my own notes from this list, and under “learn before lopping”, I wrote: Why are you pruning? You should ask yourself that. You should never just prune because people prune or because plants are pruned. Plants in their nativity are not pruned, except maybe by storms or beavers or something. In general, they are not pruned. They grow in a shape that they're genetically destined to become. And when we go in and start cutting on them, we make changes to that. So why are you making the changes? First is the three D’s: remove the dead, the damaged and the diseased wood. And you do that as soon as you see it, preferably with heading cuts. And another is to control flower formation and fruit formation and location, quantity and quality. Sometimes you're removing some so that you get bigger fruit. Sometimes you're pruning a fruit tree so that you are getting it down to where you want to be  able to reach it from the ground. So that's permissible. Growing it so that you can get good fruit and flower production and location. Or for safety. You're always pruning for safety. Remove branches that may be sticking out at shoulder level on the sidewalk that might impale somebody. An interiorscaper (indoor houseplant displays) brought up the point that when she puts plants into the shopping mall, she has to think about the kid in the stroller. Is some part of that plant going to poke that kid in the eye? So you have to think about the situation. 


Farmer Fred  13:53  

That makes a lot of sense. Just yesterday I was working in my narrow side yard and backed into a spine on a Meyer lemon tree. And of course, my first reaction is okay, I carry my Felco pruners in my back pocket. This is not a problem. I’ll snip off the branch to get it out of the walkway. Basically, if I'm going to travel along a walkway, I want a clear path without having to hit thorns or get bopped in the head by a low hanging persimmon on the persimmon tree at the end of the walkway.


Debbie Flower  14:21  

I did that when my son got married and there was a tent on my driveway and I have a lemon that encroaches on the driveway and I didn't want people getting impaled. So yes, I went through and actually took just the sharp tips off. 


Farmer Fred  14:33  

So that's grooming for appearance, I guess. And safety. To train the plant, you want to control the shape and size of the plant. How does it influence flowering or fruiting? 


Debbie Flower  14:45  

Well, I was thinking about chrysanthemums. Back in when I was in an undergraduate school, people talked about the football mum. It was a thing. I was on the East Coast, not southeast, but the East Coast. And the thing to wear to a football game was a giant chrysanthemum. A flower, as a corsage. But in order to get that giant chrysanthemum, all the other chrysanthemum buds have to be taken off. So you got that only one. All the energy goes to that one. There have been giant pumpkin contests all over the place, recently. And that's one of the techniques of getting the pumpkin to grow huge. You take off all the other pumpkins from the vine. And  apples produce a cluster of flowers, it's five, typically with one in the center, they call that the king flower. And, and  you can go through and remove the other flowers and leave the king, and get a bigger fruit.


Farmer Fred  15:37  

I like to do it with roses. If I'm planning an event at the house that will occur in about six weeks, during rose growing season, which is basically March through October-November. If I want to have a good show of roses on my repeat blooming roses, six weeks before the event, I will deadhead the plant. 


Debbie Flower  15:59  

which is pruning and it's a heading cut.


Farmer Fred  16:01  

It's a heading cut, yes. And so it's not a thinning cut, it's a heading cut. But in this case, you're cutting down a rose branch that had produced a flower, cutting that branch down to a five-leaf leaflet. And that will spur new growth that will develop a flower.


Debbie Flower  16:13  

But at the tip. We didn't define a heading cut. Heading cuts are random; you cut anywhere you want. It doesn't have any definition to it. 


Farmer Fred  16:22  

Other than that, there are reasons for heading cuts. I did a 100 mile bike ride a couple of weekends ago in farm country, up in Colusa County. And I came across a cherry orchard that were all flat topped. It looked like the barber came in and just cut them all off at the same height. And the reason for that is you've got workers on ladders, picking cherries and anything above what they can't reach is for the birds, right?


Debbie Flower  16:46  

Or you take it so low that they don't need ladders and then your workman's compensation bill goes way down.


Farmer Fred  16:51  

Yeah, there's that too. These, though, we're cut to be about 15 feet tall. 


Debbie Flower  16:56  

I've watched some fruit and pecan trees in Arizona get headed back with what basically looks like a big pizza cutter. We've talked about this before. It’s a big pizza cutter on the end of a long arm and they just drive down the the aisles and cut the top of the tree off randomly. So they are doing heading cuts there again, for a similar reason. Although people don't get on ladders to harvest nuts, they just shake the tree, the nuts fall out. But you know, as trees get taller, it reduces the amount of light that gets to the tree next to it. So there are reasons for doing that. Also, you can prune to prevent pests. And the way to do that is to increase airflow through the plant. And so the beneficial insects can get to the the insect,  the aphid or whatever that's sucking your plant. And the airflow can also dry the plant out so you don't have as many fungal problems. 


Farmer Fred  17:44  

However, in the case of fruit  and nut trees, when you do that, you're exposing the interior branches to a lot more sun. So you may want to whitewash those branches, just to give them a little sunscreen protection.


Debbie Flower  17:57  

Especially the thin-barked trees, like cherries.


Farmer Fred  18:00  

Your best bet is to get some good references about pruning and training. In fact, there's an excellent book called “Pruning and Training.” We'll have a link to that in today's show notes as well. So yeah, definitely learn before lopping. 



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Farmer Fred

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TOP TEN HABITS OF SUCCESSFUL GARDENERS, Pt. 2


HABIT NUMBER THREE: EMBRACE FAILURE

Farmer Fred

In this seemingly endless series entitled The top 10 habits of happy and successful gardeners - we'll be done by dinner, by the way - comes number three, which is “embrace failure”. Learn from failure.


Debbie Flower  19:42  

Absolutely.  Yes. Learn from it.  You know, the best gardeners are old people like us, because we've tried all kinds of things and we failed and we have the patience to think about what went wrong and why. Maybe we’ll figure it out. And we just try again. And we see what we did differently. But we've made enough mistakes that we've learned from them. 


Farmer Fred  20:07  

It could be as simple as moving a plant from a wet area to a drier area, or from a shady area to a sunnier area. But basically, when you come across a plant that isn't doing too well, before you yank it, or toss it, think about what it really needs or look up what it really needs, and maybe give it a slightly different home.  That could help. You know, we always say, give a plant a chance, give it three years before you give up on it. Sleep, creep, leap.


Debbie Flower  20:35  

Yes, sleep creep, leap.


Farmer Fred  20:38  

Most experienced gardeners aren't very sentimental about plants.  I always like to talk with rosarians, because whenever they utter the phrase “shovel prune”, they have a smile on their face as they're making room in their garden for the latest, newest roses.


Debbie Flower  20:50  

Well, yes, it gives you a chance to do something else. And I find I grow things just because I want to see how they grow. And once I've done it, I'm bored with it. And I would like something else in that place. So it does give us an opportunity. But you often say life is too short to live with the problem plant. That is absolutely true.


Farmer Fred  21:08  

Some people do have this sentimental attachment to plants, thinking they will do better. I don't know where they get the idea. But I get that idea too. You know, you stare at a plant and it's not growing, it's not doing anything. It's not enhancing your life. What's going to change to make it change? If you do nothing, it won’t change.


Debbie Flower  21:25  

Unless you make it happen. 


Farmer Fred  21:28  

Yeah, exactly. Moving the plant might work. One thing I like to do if if there is a problem plant, I want you to dig it out and before I toss it, I want to see the roots, I want to smell the roots, I want to see how big the roots are, I want to see if there's anything growing on the roots, I want to see exactly if there was a problem with the roots, maybe they’re going round and round and round.


Debbie Flower  21:47  

Right. Use all your senses. Smell it. if it smells like dead fish, you probably drowned the thing. Check the color. If the soil is gray, again, you probably drowned it. Soil becomes gray when it's saturated for long periods of time. Obviously, you're looking for holes and pests and color and all kinds of things. And keep notes.


Farmer Fred  22:12  

And use the old Bend or Break test. If you're wondering if a branch is dead or not, start at the tip of a  dead branch on a plant. You're wondering, Well, why is that branch dying? And maybe you start bending that branch at the very end? And maybe it snaps? Okay, well that part is dead. Let's back up a little bit on that branch. Let's go in a few more inches and try that bend or break test. Does the branch bend, or does it snap? iI it snaps, it's dead. Go back a few further inches and do the bend or break test. And if you get a little bend, it's alive there. And the other technique that you like to talk about is to scratch the surface of the branch with your fingernail and see what color is below. 


Debbie Flower  22:54  

Right.  if the bark won't come off, and you can't see anything below, it's dead. Because the plumbing of the plant is just below the bark. And so it's very lubricated there. And it's easy to scrape off the bark if the plant is alive at that point. And if it's dead, there's no moisture there. So it won't scrape.


Farmer Fred  23:13  

If it's alive, the area should be green below where you scratched the bark.


Debbie Flower  23:17  

Some plants have other colors like green, yellowish green, something like that. 


Farmer Fred  23:21  

By the way, that's also a technique for figuring out what's wrong with your tomato plant. Scraping part of the main stem to see if there's a pattern below. if there's a pattern of brownish discoloration, that sometimes can be a sign of verticillium wilt. Fusarium wilt is noticeable on a cross section of one of the main tomato stems. The interior of that cross section should be cream colored if the tomato plant is free of fusarium wilt.


Debbie Flower  23:40  

Oh, that is something that's growing in the plant, a fungus. Something that's growing in the plumbing of the plant and blocking it up.


HABIT NUMBER FOUR: SHOP FOR PLANTS CAREFULLY


Farmer Fred  23:48  

Right. Let's move on to number four in our search for happy and successful gardeners, their top 10 habits. You know, if you throw out a plant, you have the opportunity to buy a plant or get another plant? Well, that's part of the fun.


Debbie Flower  24:01  

absolutely.


Farmer Fred  24:03  

I got a couple plants  waiting for a new home in the yard. I got to figure out what I'm going to do with them.


Debbie Flower  24:07  

 Well, that's number one. Have an idea where that plant is going to go. 


Farmer Fred  24:12  

In my defense, I have an idea. And then I actually go out there and say well, do I really want to remove what's there, right?


Debbie Flower  24:17  

I have a perpetual collection outside my kitchen door of plants and pots that people gave me or I bought on a whim and I don't know where I'm going to put them. So that's number one is know what you're going to do with it.  And then buy something that's healthy. Buy a plant that's an appropriate size for the pot. Not huge. Not the biggest one, but not tiny either. The tiny ones are probably suffering. The biggest ones are probably root bound and it's not going to establish well in your garden. Only one plant per pot. Having hosted many plant sales when I was teaching, people loved when there were two plants in the pot, too. 


Farmer Fred

Everyone loves to get  two for one.  


Debbie Flower

But typically, one of the two is not going to survive, or the two are both going to grow poorly, because there's so much competition between them. Tomatoes that are grown too close together in the garden, will never bear. They'll grow, but they will never have fruit. So what's the point? Just buy the one you want: a well-rooted, established plant.


Farmer Fred  25:21  

Maybe it's a case of there's one really nice plant in there, and there's a smaller, scrawny one in there, well, you can buy that and just cut off the scrawny one.


Debbie Flower  25:29  

Right. And that's the way you thin, is by cutting, not by pulling.


Farmer Fred  25:33  

Right, you don't want to disturb the root system too much.


Debbie Flower  25:37  

You don't want to buy plants that are in full bloom either. 


Farmer Fred

Good luck on that, right? 


Debbie Flower

There’s an adage in the nursery industry: “what sells is what's in bloom”. So you go to the table with the ones in bloom, and you find the one that has a lot of buds on it. Because that means in the future, when you get it home, you're gonna get to look at those flowers when they open. But if you buy the one where all the flowers are open, you're gonna get it home and in a day or two, it's going to have no flowers on it.


Farmer Fred  26:06  

This also brings up another good point about not only shopping carefully, but helping it along in that transition period. When you buy a plant and take it home, plant it immediately; if you can’t do that, pot it up into a larger container. Because how many of us have ever been in the habit of buying a plant on a Saturday, and then maybe the following Saturday or the Saturday  after that or the Saturday after that, you finally get around to planting it. If you buy a plant, especially a plant in a six pack is when you get home and you know you're not going to plant that day. Pot it up. Yes, move it up to a one gallon container. You'd be surprised at how that plant will thank you, by putting on all sorts of growth that by the time you get around it actually sticking in the ground, it’s going to be a happy camper. 


Debbie Flower  26:50  

Right. Mary Helen Seeger from Four Winds Growers, the citrus and Daphne growers in California, told me that when she buys a plant, she just moves it right into the next size pot. And I started doing that. Boy, was she right? 


Farmer Fred  27:04  

Yeah, it really does pay. So always keep your one gallon containers. Keep them around.  And as you've pointed out in the past, you can reuse your old potting soil.  You can go back and look for that episode; I think we got three or four episodes with that info in them. So you can find that there. I'll have a link to one, in today’s show notes. All right. Now, you're shopping for plants at the nursery. Don't just pay attention to the top of the leaves. Turn the leaves over, check the bottom of the leaves, looking for little bad bugs.


Debbie Flower  27:37  

Little bad bugs or rust, or fungus or some diseases.

 

Farmer Fred  27:41  

Also, I'm looking at the bottom of the container. Because slugs like that area, right inside those holes. Slugs and snails, a big problem here in California. And in other areas, for that matter. Debbie, if you turn over that pot, and you've got roots coming out the bottoms of those holes, would you buy that plant?


Debbie Flower  28:03  

Depends. I would go through them all. And if I really want the plant, and I can only find them with roots coming out the bottom, then I want to go with the one with the least number of roots coming out the bottom. But ideally, the plant has all the roots in the container. And the media in the container is only a half inch to an inch below the top, depending on how big the pot is if roots coming out the bottom. And the media may have dropped significantly from the top of the container. That would indicate it's been in the pot too long. 


Farmer Fred  28:34  

And maybe it's just roots that are sort of trapped along the bottom. You could probably just loosen them up with your fingernails or whatever. 


Debbie Flower  28:43  

And you can even cut them off and plant it. And as long as you give good aftercare to the plant, once it's planted, it will live.


Farmer Fred  28:49  

well, that and making sure the hole is big enough so that there's room for those roots to grow out, and not be scrunched in there. That always helps. So yeah, shop carefully. What about getting plants from a neighbor or a friend? I would apply the same rules. You really don't want it if it's got insects, you really don't want it if there's a lot of weeds growing in the pot. How many times have you gotten a gallon or bigger pot from somebody with a plant that you want but it's full of who knows what?


Debbie Flower  29:27  

Right. Weeds. Unfortunately or fortunately, even at a well-run nursery, those weeds often still exist. The perennial ones anyway, will pop up, employees go through the pots and pull them. Sometimes they don't get the root system. And when you get home it regrows. Weeds are forever.


Farmer Fred  29:44  

I’m looking at you, Bur Clover.


Debbie Flower  29:46  

Yeah.


HABIT NUMBER FIVE: PUT THE RIGHT PLANT IN THE RIGHT PLACE


Farmer Fred  29:47  

All right, let's move on to number five in the habits of happy and successful gardeners. Put the right plant in the right place. My heavens yes, read the tag on the plant at the nursery. It tell you whether that plant is for sun or for shade. They're serious about that.


Debbie Flower  30:03  

It also gives an estimated size and width of the plant when it’s full grown You want to make sure that plant has enough width to grow, the space to reach its full width. I talked to a landscape architect friend. I said,  “I’m teaching people about plants. What's the number one thing they should learn?” And that's when she said, “They should ask themselves, how big is the plant going to be when it's mature?” So, give it enough room to grow, so it won't bump or scrape against  the house or the fence. It shouldn’t grow onto the sidewalk area and impale people as they walk by, or cover the lovely picture window out of the living room, so you can't see anything.


Farmer Fred  30:43  

 Yeah. There, you got your privacy, congratulations? Boy, we saw that maybe 20-30 years ago here, during a housing boom, when homes were (and still are) placed right next to each other. People wanted plant privacy screens. And what they would do for a privacy screen, is put in a row of plants right next to the fence. And they were small plants. They were in one gallon, and they're saying, “they're so cute, I'll just plant these a few feet apart, and maybe a foot away from the fence.” Around here, those privacy screens were coast redwood trees. Of course, a redwood tree is going to grow, it's going to grow tall, and it's going to grow fast. But it's going to be so crowded, they're going to be dead coast redwood trees in 15 years.  And you’ll have to replace the fence too. So think about that full size, and the growth of those plants. And plan ahead. One landscape architect told me - and it makes a heck of a lot of sense - if you want a privacy area, if you want to keep people from looking at you in your hot tub or your pool, you’ll want to put that privacy screen of plants closer to the area you're trying to protect as private. Don't stick it out in the back 40 next to your fence. If you do that, it's going to take longer to protect your privacy from their line of sight, from a two story building to that pool or spa area. So you want to have that privacy screen of plants - it depends on the plant, of course, and the litter it creates - perhaps 15 feet from that area, if not more, depending on how good your pool service is.


Debbie Flower  32:11  

So you also have to look at what the plant needs in terms of sun, shade, or water. You want to hydrozone your plants.


Farmer Fred  32:24  

Tell us about hydrozones.


Debbie Flower  32:25  

Hydra is water and zone is area. So you want an area where it can all be watered at the same time, the same amount, and all the plants in that area will like that. So you put plants together by the amount of water they need. And there are definitions: low, moderate, high, like a swamp. Soggy. That is pretty much the range that's given. But every site, every book, every nursery, will have nuances in those words. But basically you're gonna have all your low water plants in one place and your high water plants in a different place. Typically high water is closer to the house because that's where you get more of the lush growth and the lovely flowers and your lower water plants are further out.


Farmer Fred  33:09  

Yeah, hydrozoning also includes just planting along the circuit of your sprinklers or your drip irrigation system. Most of us have several circuits, and most of those circuits have the same type of emitters or sprayers on them and will put out the same amount of water. So you want to group your plants by their water needs along that same circuit where you can give them the correct amount and cycles of water.


Debbie Flower  33:31  

Right. I have a circuit that just goes around the perimeter of my yard. It’s not along the fence. it's in about 10 feet, at least, from the fence, and that is a low water zone for me. But I I know where it is and I know that everything there is going to get low water and so that's how I plant it.


Farmer Fred  33:50  

My wife doesn't pay attention to where the drip irrigation tubing is, and for a good reason: it’s buried a few inches deep under the mulch.Yet she manages to find every drip irrigation line with her speedy, spading fork.


Debbie Flower  33:56  

Yes, yes. I have a bucket I carry with me to for those fixes. 


Farmer Fred  34:02  

There's always duct tape.


Debbie Flower  34:05  

No, no, the bucket is full of drip parts.


Farmer Fred  34:08  

Yeah, I am very familiar with the drip irrigation part and tools bucket.



DAVE WILSON NURSERY


Farmer Fred

Now’s the time to plan the what and the where of you want to plant for the future. To help you along, it pays to visit your favorite independently owned nursery on a regular basis throughout the fall and winter, just to see what’s new. And coming soon to that nursery near you is Dave Wilson Nursery’s excellent lineup of Farmers Market Favorites of great tasting, healthy, fruit and nut varieties. They’ll be already potted up and ready to be planted. 

And we’re also talking about a great selection of antioxidant-rich fruits such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, Goji berries, Grapes, kiwi, mulberries, gooseberries, figs and pomegranates.


Wholesale grower Dave Wilson Nursery has probably the best lineup of great tasting fruit and nut trees of any grower in the U.S. Find out more at their website, DaveWilson dot com. While you’re there, check out all the videos they have on how to plant and grow all their delicious varieties of fruit and nut trees. Plus, at dave wilson dot com, you can find the nursery nearest you that carries Dave Wilson plants. Your harvest to better health begins at DaveWilson.com.



TOP 10 TIPS OF SUCCESSFUL GARDENERS, Pt. 3


HABIT NUMBER SIX: WATER INTENTIONALLY AND WITH BOTH HANDS


Farmer Fred

All right, let's move on to the number six habit of happy and successful gardeners. “Water intentionally and with both hands.” Debbie, you say this a little bit differently. When you talk about watering intentionally with both hands, because you talk about pay attention to your plants. Lift up those leaves, see what's on the underside of the leaves, you may want to water the underside of the leaves, and water deeply and infrequently.


Debbie Flower  35:48  

There's actually a video I used to show the students about watering container plants, many people just go out and sort of have a hose with a lovely wand on the end that has an rainbreaker that produces all these little droplets of water, and they just swing it around, turn the water on, swing it around the tops of the plants and get them wet. And though that's good for cleaning leaves it’s not good for watering the soil. You want to water the whole surface in a container, the whole surface of the soil and let it fill up to the rim. You should have some headspace there in the pot (about an inch), let it drain, watch, wait, water again, let it drain, then you may need to put a finger or a water meter in there and see if the water is actually going through the container of media in the plant pot. If it's not, it's going out and around. So that's something you need to know.


Farmer Fred  36:42  

And it doesn't necessarily go very deeply, even in a raised bed. I was watering my raised beds yesterday. When I replant for the cool season or the spring and summer season, I rework the soil. Basically, I work in compost, work in worm castings, cover with mulch. And you taught me this about container plants and the definition of what is a raised bed. It is simply just a big container. Water that soil well before you plant and make sure that the water does go down. I was surprised. I thought the water would have gotten much more deep into the soil. But it turned out to only have gone down maybe an inch or so. And that's so bad all over.


Debbie Flower  37:25  

That's what this video showed. As the guy in the video watered, he counted. He had  the same plants in the same size containers, let's say number ones (one gallon containers). It was chrysanthemums. And he watered the first one with his rain breaker nozzle, holding it right over that pot, right over that media. And he counted to three. And then he did the next one, and he counted to five, and he did the next one. And he counted to seven. And he did the last one, he counted to nine. He let them all drain, and then he knocked them out of the pots to see. The ones he counted to three only went down a quarter of the way. And when he counted to five, it went down a half of the way. I think the count of seven was the count that he used. So now he holds the wand over those containers and counts to seven, and then moves to the next container and counts to seven. You can't just swing it back and forth.


Farmer Fred  38:17  

By the way, when it comes to counting and watering. Some of us tend to rush our numbers a little bit. So I always like to go one hippopotamus, two hippopotamus, three hippopotamus. Some people prefer to use the word Mississippi,


Debbie Flower  38:29  

How about one one thousand, two one thousand… 


Farmer Fred  38:33  

That works. As long as it's consistent. Of course, in this case, the soil consistency would have to be the same in all those different containers, right? 


Debbie Flower

Absolutely. 


Farmer Fred

For that to work, start thinking about raised beds as big containers, and water accordingly. And that probably means add more water, more frequently, than you think. And fertilization as well. Because the fertilizer is getting leached out. 


Debbie Flower  38:57  

Right. in the yard and in the garden soil, especially if you have clay, you may need to apply water for two runs off. Let's say that  the first application takes 10 minutes before runoff occurs. Shut off whatever your irrigation application is.  And then leave it off for 10 minutes. Come back, turn it on again for 10 minutes and leave it off again for 10 minutes. And at some point go in there and check how deeply that water has gotten. But just because it's running off especially if you've clay soil or compacted soil, that does not mean it has penetrated the soil. It means that the soil takes it in so slowly that it can't keep up with the rate you're applying it. 


Farmer Fred  39:38  

Another good tip, too, for watering containers if it is like totally dry and the water is running off to the side. Maybe take that container plant, and stick it in a bucket of water, a bigger bucket of water. And one of my favorite tips - I'm making this list of things I've learned doing this podcast -  one of them Is kitty litter trays. Now who uses kitty litter trays? 


Debbie Flower

Me, me!


Farmer Fred

Yeah. Okay, that kitty litter tray can hold a pretty good sized pot, right? So if you fill that kitty litter tray with water and stick that pot in there and let it sit there overnight, chances are, if the drain holes are open, that soil will get hydrated, right? 


Debbie Flower  40:21  

Kitty litter trays help. Yeah, it also keeps the mess away from other places too.


HABIT NUMBERS SEVEN AND EIGHT: CONTROL SLUGS AND SNAILS, NEVER LET A WEED GO TO SEED (Control Pests When the Problem is Small)


Farmer Fred  40:25  

All right. It's the top 10 habits of happy and successful gardeners written by Master Gardeners, Sue Davis and Louise Christy. They're both with the Santa Clara and San Joaquin County Master Gardeners. They put together this list a few years ago. And number seven on their list is a very California thing. If you're in California or other mild climate states, and you want to be a happy successful gardener, control snails and slugs.


Debbie Flower  40:50  

Yeah, I have not found snails and slugs in New York when I gardened at my mother's house, or in Minnesota when I garden at my son's house. So yeah, you're right. It's kind of a real California thing. I combined number seven with number eight, never let a weed go to seed, which I turned into control pests when the problem is small. There.


Farmer Fred  41:11  

I like that. And you've seen snail eggs. 


Debbie Flower  41:17  

I have! I’ve a great picture somewhere in my phone of it slug eggs. It’s probably a three inch diameter ball all the way around, in a four inch container. It practically filled the container with slug eggs.


Farmer Fred  41:31  

So  was it a plant and only the top of the soil was there? And below the soil were more slug eggs?


Debbie Flower  41:37  

There was about a half inch or an inch above the mass, as well as soil  down one side. There was some soil to the bottom. But then, the rest of it was just full of slug eggs, which are whitish, and kind of slimy. And they're all touching each other.That wouldn't be visible above ground, but certainly you would see slug and snail trails, which would indicate to you that you have a problem, right?


Farmer Fred  42:04  

There are some ways to control snails and slugs once they get out of hand. You ever get up late at night or early in the morning and go out there with a flashlight looking for them?


Debbie Flower  42:14  

No. I try to do preventative care.  I find that  the biggest problem is when I have seedlings in the ground, and it's wet. Well, if I'm irrigating, then it's wet. So that takes care of that. And if I'm in a raised bed or a container, I will put slug bait around the outside of the container and maybe a little bit on the surface. 


Farmer Fred  42:40  

When you say slug bait, what are you talking about?


Debbie Flower  42:40  

Iron Phosphate, which is sold under several brand names, including Sluggo. And there are other ones. As we always say, read and follow all label directions. And I found students who said, “Oh, I know that stuff”. And they would go out to use it in our horticulture class outdoor area. And you could see a whole layer of what look like broken up spaghetti because they're made in a pasta machine. That used to be one of the things the salesman would tell you. Oh, thank you. I'll never eat pasta again. But once you look at how much you're supposed to scatter on the surface, it's about enough granules that are the size of a quarter, on which you might lay four of those little pasta-like things. And this was so thick. And the problem with it being too thick is, it kills earthworms. 


Farmer Fred  43:30  

By the way, these pasta things are maybe a quarter of an inch long, right? It's chopped up. So it's not very big at all. Yeah, they might use too much or unfortunately they may have not chosen the iron phosphate product but maybe a product where metalhyde is the active ingredient, which has toxic effects on dogs, cats, and kids. And  it's attractive, because it's a bait. And even though you do get the satisfaction of seeing them dead on the spot, something you won't get using iron phosphate. It's too dangerous to use because of toxic effects on people and pets.


Debbie Flower  44:07  

just slick. Yeah, Slug is derived from iron phosphate. The snails and slugs just slink away and die under a bush. 


Farmer Fred  44:11  

And, there's always beer traps, too. But you got to go out there and manage those traps and keep the dog from licking it.


Debbie Flower  44:20  

But extra protein from the slugs. 


Farmer Fred  44:23  

And by the way, controlling slugs and snails does begin at the nursery, too. Turn over that pot and make sure that there's nothing on the bottom.


Debbie Flower  44:31  

They can be outside  especially if the roots have grown outside, underneath the container. They can be in the drain holes.


Farmer Fred  44:38  

And you're definitely right about weeds. You do want to pick them when they're small before they have flowered before they've set seed. Otherwise you may end up with something like hairy bittercress, which when it has a small delicate flower on it, and if you just pull the plant out, the seed case explodes and yes, things can fly. 10 or 15 feet.


Debbie Flower  44:59  

Yes, like Medicago, which is Buttercup.


Farmer Fred

Oxalis?


Debbie Flower

Yes, oxalis or Medicago has a seed capsule. I was at my son's house in Minnesota and his driveway, the concrete, is starting to break up. And he was complaining he had to weed all this stuff out of his driveway and there was a Medicago there with its formed seed pod. And I said, “you know, son, when this dries out, it's gonna throw hundreds of seeds across your driveway.” And he said, “Oh,” and bent over as I'm driving away, he bent down and was pulling out the weeds. You got to get them before it sets seed.


Farmer Fred  45:39  

Before BISS: Before It Sets Seeds. 


Debbie Flower

Yes.


Farmer Fred

All right, the crazy thing is those seeds can last for decades, right? This is why we like soil solarization. Because if you can raise the temperature of the soil to 120 or 140 degrees, it could kill those seeds. If the soil is moist enough. Water can penetrate 12 inches down at that temperature.


Debbie Flower  45:59  

Right. And it will kill all those seeds in that process. In order to find the problem, the pest problem when it's small, you have to go observe the garden and to me that is the number one rule of successful gardening. 


Farmer Fred

We're gonna get there. We're gonna get there.


Debbie Flower

Okay, I'm impatient. 


HABIT NUMBER NINE: ATTRACT BENEFICIAL INSECTS


Farmer Fred  46:16  

I know. That's going to be part of number 10. Okay, let's go to number nine: attract beneficial insects.  Build the good bug hotel. Let nature do your killing for you, right? And tolerate a small pest infestation.


Debbie Flower  46:32  

Well, you have to, or we won't have the good bugs. Because the good bugs eat the bad bugs. And so if you take away their food supply, they're moving on.


Farmer Fred  46:38  

Not only taking away their food supply, can reduce the beneficial population, but if you decide to spray the bad bugs, you're killing the good bugs, too. Right?


Debbie Flower  46:43  

And probably quicker and in greater numbers because they have not been exposed to the chemicals as often, in their history. So they don't have resistance built up in their genes yet. 


Farmer Fred  46:57  

And in the war between vegetarians and carnivores, you want the carnivores in your yard because usually it's the teenage beneficial insects that will go munching on things like aphids and whiteflies.


Debbie Flower  47:11  

And those young beneficial insects also ugly or wormy looking.  They are good guys, though. If they're walking kind of faster, it's often you see them eating, sitting there eating. So they're sitting still, but they're eating so you know, they're good guys. But if they're moving around faster than the other thing on the leaf, they're the predator. Like the aphid is sitting there with its mouthparts stuck in the plant. And the larva of the lady beetle is walking around, or the lady beetle itself, finding the aphids and eating them. So the one that's moving faster is the predator.


Farmer Fred  47:46  

When you're attracting these good bugs, you would have a lot more success if you put in the plants that they find attractive, as opposed to  going to the nursery and buying a box of ladybugs, which are probably just going to fly away. You're better off, like I said, building the good bug hotel, putting a lot of plants in that they want to raise their children in. They use it for part of their dinner, as well. Not your children, but the plants themselves.


Debbie Flower  48:13  

So they're looking for nectar and pollen, right. And you can find lists all over the place. You can find seeds, seed packets that are a mix of things that would attract beneficials. And there are, I think, I last saw it on the Audubon Society. There's one for California that includes shrubs, and it's to make like a shrub border. They need a place to live and eat something to drink and something to eat.


Farmer Fred  48:41  

Yeah, these habitats are actually becoming quite popular now. Especially here in California on farms of having that hedge row.  Hedgerows include beneficial attracting plants and consists of annuals, perennials and shrubs.  Something for everybody.


Debbie Flower  48:56  

Yes, perennials do take work. But in that sort of situation, I think it's easier to have them as perennials because you don't have to think about replanting them every year. Right.


Farmer Fred  49:06  

And remember, too, as you're fond of saying about chemical controls on an insect, read and follow all label directions. Know the pest you're trying to control. Know the plant that you're spraying it on as well. Because all of that information, if ignored, can lead to problems.


Debbie Flower  49:23  

And it should all be on the label.


Farmer Fred  49:25  

Read the label. Good luck on that, take your magnifying glasses with you. For weed control, especially, I don't want to be grandpa here, but go back to hand pulling. 


Debbie Flower  49:38  

Yes, especially right after a rainstorm. They come out really easily.  If you pull them when they're little doesn't take much, hoe them out. Cut them off when they're very young. I was out in my yard a couple days ago and I saw this patch. There are some varieties of oxalis, pretty oxalis bunches, that are quite large, three feet across. They were there when I bought the house, and I saw a patch of seedlings that could have been that oxalis. And it was a ways away from the bunches that I already have. And I thought, well, that would be nice. But I did some more research using an app on the phone to look it up. And they said no, it was it was one of the bad Medicago species. One of the bad oxalises. But they were just seedlings, they were just getting their first true leaf. So I just hoe them out. Just cut them off at the soil level, back and forth with the hoe.


Farmer Fred  50:29  

Yeah, it's amazing how easily some of that can come out too. 


Debbie Flower  50:34  

Especially when they're young. 


FLASHBACK EPISODE OF THE WEEK #247: TREES vs STORMS


Farmer Fred 50:44

Unusually brutal Fall and Winter storms will continue across the country in the months ahead. Heavy winds, atmospheric rivers of rain, and relentless snow will be toppling trees from coast to coast, crushing cars, homes and power lines. Why are so many trees falling? It could be due to the lack of care by the homeowners. Or the city. Or whoever owns the trees. Today, we have tips for discovering some of the structural weaknesses that can lead to toppling trees, and how you can help prevent disaster from striking. It’s Trees versus Storms.

Give it a listen, episode 247, from January of 2023: “Trees versus Storms.”  Find a link to it in today’s show notes, or at the podcast player of your choice. And you can find it, along with a transcript, at our home page, garden basics dot net.



TOP 10 TIPS OF SUCCESSFUL GARDENERS, Pt. 4


HABIT NUMBER TEN: LINGER IN THE GARDEN

Farmer Fred

And now we come to number 10 of the successful habits of happy gardeners as written by San Joaquin and Santa Clara County Master Gardeners, Louise Christy and Sue Davis. Number 10: Linger in the garden. Observe  in the garden. They were rather succinct about lingering in the garden as the number 10 habit to have. They say, “linger: to stay in a place longer than necessary, typically because of a reluctance to leave. Well, that's true of just the way gardening is. You go out to do one thing, and you end up doing everything else but that one thing. But yeah, just observing the plants is amazing when you just focus in on something and the other things you will see.


Debbie Flower  52:20  

And that's when you're going to find the problems, you're also going t see the successes and be able to enjoy them. I try to walk my garden, it depends on the season, at least weekly, maybe daily when things are really active. I love it. I love doing it. But I also find the things that need to be taken care of that way.


Farmer Fred  52:41  

I'm a nosy kind of guy. So I really like observing in the late afternoon because some plants have an aromatic air to them in the late afternoon. And that might be when they are in bloom or even just because of the oils in the leaf. They tend to emanate better in the late afternoon. It’s something to enjoy. But it's also a way for you to notice problems in the yard which causes you to linger longer than you intended in the yard. You will start one thing and that's why when you walk outside to observe your garden, you probably have a pair of pruners with you right? You may have a bucket with you. You may have a trowel with you.


Debbie Flower  53:15  

Yes. Perhaps a trowel is not so often but definitely shears and a bucket.


Farmer Fred  53:19  

Yeah, you got to put that stuff somewhere.  And yeah, you'll find something to do. Absolutely, yes. 


Debbie Flower  53:26  

And, again, I'll feel good for having done it. Sometimes I'll prune a plant and step back and say you know what, it even looks bigger now that it's been given some symmetry or you got rid of the crossing branches that distracted your eyes, things can look so much better with a little effort.


Farmer Fred  53:41  

I think if I was going to start all over again, with this gardening thing, I would want a flower station in the yard, which would basically consist of a table, a sink, running water, and the ability to cut flowers  there in water and maybe a selection of vases there. So, you are spending more time in the yard. Cutting flowers for indoor display in vases. And just because sometimes if you go down to cut flowers for a vase, you find five or six and you're walking around with them in your hand. YNow you want to keep them in water right? 


Debbie Flower  54:18  

And cut them in water, right? They make devices for that for the industry.  They kind of look like kitty litter boxes with a guillotine. They have  a sloped side you lay the flowers in,  and then you bring the guillotine down to cut the stems off. It's all done underwater. 


Farmer Fred  54:38  

Well that's probably, if I got into the business, I'd want one.


Debbie Flower  54:42  

 I don't have one of those. But the other thing to get is some floral preservative powder. And it tells you how much to put in, usually a scoop per gallon of water.


Farmer Fred  54:52  

What is in floral preservative?


Debbie Flower  54:54  

I'd have to look at the label.


Farmer Fred  54:56  

 Is it just powdered Gatorade? 


Debbie Flower  54:58  

No, no, I don't think so. but it really works. If I put the flowers in that they'll last a good week. If I don't, it's just a few days. I gotta believe it's sugar. People have recipes that include things like seven-up o an aspirin or something and I don't I think there's some efficacy to some of those. I think people have done research and their answers online about that, and I don't know them off the top of my head. This is an industry approved. It's called FloraLife. 


Farmer Fred  55:29  

What is in floral preservative ingredients? Let's ask the internet, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Would you trust them for information? 


Debbie Flower

Yes. 


Farmer Fred

Okay. Let's see what they have to say about floral preservatives. “Cut in the morning.” That's always good. Yes, it's the ideal time to cut fresh flowers. “Use sharp tools, clean, sharp utensils. Never use ordinary household scissors”. boo. All right, fine. Whatever. “Cut off flowers and foliage about one inch from the bottom of a main stem make the slice at an angle of about 45 degrees. This cutting at an angle provides a larger exposed area for the uptake of water.” All right. “Water temperature should be 100 to 110 degrees.” I did not know that.


Debbie Flower  56:13  

Wow.


Farmer Fred  56:18  

It says, “Professional florists and commercial growers always use lukewarm water for their cut flowers. The water temperature should be 100 to 110 degrees. Warm water molecules move faster than cold water molecules, and so can be absorbed by flowers with greater ease. The objective is to get the water and nutrients as quickly as possible to the head of the flower to survive.” The Brooklyn Botanical Garden goes on to say, “flowers need three ingredients: carbohydrates, biocides and acidifiers. Carbohydrates are necessary for cell metabolism. Biocides combat bacteria, and are necessary for maintaining plant health. Acidifiers adjust the pH of the water to facilitate and increase water uptake.” And so, their homemade formula for floral preservatives: “use one quart lukewarm water, one teaspoon sugar, one teaspoon household bleach and two teaspoons lemon or lime juice”.


Debbie Flower  57:23  

So I assume the commercial floor preservative has some sugar, has some biocide - which the bleach would be - and has some acid in it.


Farmer Fred  57:31  

Okay, so you're lowering the pH.


Debbie Flower  57:34  

You're lowering the pH. Acid lowers the pH. When I use the commercial floral preservative, I do use warm water because it dissolves better in warm water. 


Farmer Fred  57:45  

All right. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden says: “Those floral preservative solutions contain sugar for nutrition, bleach to keep the water clear of bacteria, and citric acid to gently acidify the water. Be sure to follow the recommended measurements for different sized containers.” Now, what about aspirin? It says, “One common suggestion is to place an aspirin in the water to keep flowers fresh, it is likely that aspirin’s effectiveness is simply the result of the drug’s carbohydrate content. Another well known suggestion is to drop a penny into the water. Apparently the copper in the penny works like an acidifier, decreasing the pH of the water. Unfortunately, solid copper pennies are no longer being minted.”


Debbie Flower  58:33  

I wonder if they work, because I have a penny collection. 


Farmer Fred  58:37  

It may be pennies minted before 1956, I think.


Debbie Flower  58:40  

My collection goes back before that.


Farmer Fred  58:43  

Well, then those were real copper pennies. If you want to do that. 


Hectoring Farmer Fred

(buzzer sound) Nice guess, Fred. But no, according to the US Mint, it was in 1982 that the penny became primarily zinc with only two and a half percent copper. (bell rings)


Debbie Flower  59:00  

No, I'll use my commercial floral preservative. 


Farmer Fred  59:05  

 I'll have this link to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden  on cut flower care in today's show notes. There's a lot of good information there. Along with  a lot of people's comments.


Debbie Flower  59:16  

It’s a beautiful place. If you ever get a chance, visit it. 


Farmer Fred  59:20  

All right. Did we do it? Wow, this was an extra long edition of the Garden Basic’s podcast. The top 10 habits of happy and successful gardeners. Sue Davis, Louise Christy, representing the Santa Clara County and San Joaquin County Master Gardeners who wrote the article for the San Joaquin County garden notes. I'll have a link to that in today's show notes, as well. It's actually in two different newsletters that they put out but we will have links to both of them there for you, as well. And my thanks to Debbie Flower for helping us out in making a lot more successful, happy gardeners. 


Farmer Fred

The Garden Basics With Farmer Fred podcast comes out once a week, on Fridays.  It’s brought to you by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. The Garden Basics podcast is available wherever podcasts are handed out, and that includes our home page, Garden Basics dot net, where you can find transcripts of most episodes, as well.  Thank you so much for listening…or reading.