The Fruits (Or Flowers) Of Your Labor – From Beginners to Green Thumbers!

Stepping outside your door and cutting a flower that you have grown is incredibly satisfying.  That doesn’t mean that you have to be an expert to do it!  Here is a list of 5 flowers that are all great for cutting and enjoying in a vase inside your home.  They are listed by their D.D. (Degree of Difficulty),  from the “easy peasy lemon squeezy” ones to the high maintenance types.

sunflower

Who knew?  Not me! The easiest flower award goes to the sunflower!  It can grow to 6 feet in 3 months.  This annual doesn’t mind the heat and they will tolerate poor soil – that makes it Northern Virginia’s best friend!  It’s also drought and pest resistant.

peony-14Ahhh…the smell of a peony in bloom!  I’d take it over a rose any day! Peonies produce huge, delicious blooms and are only a  challenge if you want to get rid of them!  This perennial will grow up to four feet and comes in an array of colors.  It’s also pest resistant and can take some shade, but prefers the sun.

Bachelor’s-buttonBatchelor’s Buttons are in the middle of the pack, as far as maintenance goes.  Easy to start from seed; just throw them down, water occasionally and enjoy their sweet smell!  This annual will need staking when it get going and can grow to 2 feet tall.  They come in shades of white, red, blue and pink.

poppyOriental Poppies!  We are now in the high maintenance zone, but who can resist these tissue paper-like beauties?  Coral, red, white or pink, this perennial could be worth the work.  However, they require rich soil with good drainage, and lots of sun.

dahlia3806The leader of the high maintenance pack is….the DAHLIA!  This tall beauty comes in so many shades and can give you blooms up to 10 inches in diameter, however, dahlias have a long list of needs…Rich soil, tons of sun, staking, fertilizing, deadheading and good drainage are all required!  If you have the time, the payoff is worth it!  You get what you give!

DIY Combination Planters, Part 2

Last week, we walked you through the creation process of making your own combination planters, today in Part 2, we’ll tell you how to take care of it!

Combo Pot Maintenance

It can be challenging to keep your combination planter looking as perfect as it did at the start of the season. Whether you purchased a pre-assembled combination planter or put together your own DIY combo pot, here are some tips to keep your container garden looking its best:

1.      Water, but not too much!Watering-can-green

Container gardens dry out much faster than in-ground plantings. Check your pots daily and water as needed. Plastic pots retain moisture better than clay pots do. Remember, you can “kill them with kindness” by over watering  so don’t go overboard!

2.      Fertilize!

To keep those flowers blooming and growing, remember to fertilize! You’ll be one step ahead if you used fertilizer-enhanced, time-release potting mix (like Miracle Gro) when you planted, but even then, you’re not covered forever! Time-release fertilizer fades by mid-season, and by design, it is less concentrated, so you may find it necessary to supplement.

3.      Deadhead!deadheading1

Deadheading is not necessary for all plants, but many flowering specimens benefit from it. Deadheading is simply removing the spent blooms (including the stem) from your plant, so it can continue to produce new blooms. An added benefit: deadheading instantly makes your garden look better!

 

4.      Haircut!

Just like a shaggy llama, sometimes your combo pot will need a haircut. When we talk about cutting back your combo or basket in this way, we’re not talking about deadheading. Mid-season, when the stress of the summer heat begins to take a visible toll on your combo, do your planter a favor by giving it a trim. You’ll be able to see the weight being lifted as your combo is transformed back into a smaller and sportier version of itself.

5.      Welcome Change!combo pot

The truth is, your combo pot CAN’T stay the same as the day you bought/planted it, because it is made up of living things that continue to grow over the course of the season. With that in mind, try to “go with the flow” and accept that your combo pot will evolve over the season.

If you need more inspiration, check out our Container Combos board on Pinterest! http://pinterest.com/coxfarmsva/container-combos/

DIY Combination Planters – You Can Do This!!!

This is Part One of two part series on DIY Container Combo PlantersCheck back next week for Part Two:  Maintenance and Care Tips!

Our experts design our popular “combo pots” with both form and function in mind. Of course, they must feature stunning mixes of plants, striking contrasts of color, height and texture. But combos also must include plants that will “get along” together in close quarters for the rest of the growing season. Growth habit is a key factor, since particularly aggressive plants may overpower or hide other plants in the combination. Of course, pay close attention to the sun exposure needs of the component plants: consider the space where the planter will live, and be sure the plants used in your combination planter will thrive in that environment.

 

Getting Started…

CONTAINER COMBO

If you plant your own combo, start at the beginning: the pot. The container you use matters. Size is important; keep in mind that your plants will grow, so you want to allow room rather than cramming in the plants too tightly… if you envision a mix of many different plants, you’ll need a large container (and a LOT of soil).

In terms of aesthetics, you can choose a striking, attractive pot that sets the tone for your container garden, or you can choose something subtle that will blend in and make the plants the stars of the show. Either way, make sure the pot you choose has adequate drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Many people like to put a layer of something (sand, gravel, pebbles, broken pottery shards, etc.) at the bottom of the pot; studies have shown that this practice does not improve the drainage, but some recommend it to prevent soil from clogging the drain hole.

Next crucial decision: dirt. Be sure to choose a high-quality potting soil. We make our own mix for our planters, and while you can certainly attempt this yourself, there are several commercially-available mixes that produce great results. MiracleGro potting mixes feature a (conventional or organic) time-release fertilizer mixed into the soil, which provides slow and steady fertilizer to your planter for the first few months of the season. MiracleGro’s Moisture Control mix includes a component that absorbs water and releases it into the soil as needed, stabilizing the soil environment and giving your plants a protective buffer from over- and under-watering. These “enhanced” potting mixes are not necessary, but they can certainly give your planters a boost, especially if you’re a gardener prone to neglect

Combo 101: Thriller, Filler, Spiller

When planning your own combinations, you can’t go wrong following the simple “Thriller, Filler, Spiller” recipe. You can read in detail about this method here (http://www.finegardening.com/design/articles/thrillers-fillers-spillers.aspx), but here’s the recipe: first, choose a dazzling “thriller” to be the center of attention, then a “filler” or two to fill out the pot, complementing the thriller and adding texture, mass, and color to your planter, and finally round out your combination with a “spiller” to hang over the side of the pot.

Of course, if you prefer combo pot anarchy, throw our rules out the window and follow your heart!

For more combination planter idea, check out our Container Combos board on Pinterest! Here is the link:  http://pinterest.com/coxfarmsva/container-combos/

Meet Chewie the Llama’s Biggest Fan!

IMG_4814In Llama Land, or the “Chewniverse” as we call it at Cox Farms, we are very much aware of the fact that Chewie, our guardian of the goats, has a huge fan base.  They like to call themselves “Chewleaders” and there are many.  Some observe Chewie daily from afar and some Chewleaders come to the farm and watch him more closely.  Today, we interviewed Tayler from Centreville, who just may be the Captain of the Chewleaders!

Q:  When did you see Chewie for the first time?

A:  It was last spring and he reminded me of an angsty teenager, awkward and adorable at the same time.

Q:  Did you know it was a llama?  I ask because many people confuse him with an alpaca or sometimes a camel!

A:  I knew he was a llama.  I’ve liked llamas since I saw “The Emperor’s New Groove”, even though it was animated!

Q:  Can you name one of Chewie’s features that you like the best?

A:  His stubby legs and the way he flails them around when he lays on his back to scratch an itch.

Q:  Give me three adjectives to describe him, please.

A:  Spastic, opinionated, and awkward.

Q:  Opinionated? Why?

A:  Because he knows what he wants and who he likes.  He has no patience for anything else.

Q:  Would you call this a healthy obsession?

A:  Maybe.  He is the screensaver on our computer, my mom searched for as many stuffed llamas as she could find for me for Christmas last year.  He is my sunshine, my happy place!

Thank you, Tayler!  I call Cox Farms my happy place, too! Are you a Chewleader in the Chewniverse?  Please send us your Chewie photos and/or the reasons why you love Chewie! IMG_4809