This beautiful hydrangea was left for dead on the compost pile.  Petra, one of Hidden Ponds' employees, rescued it, gave it some love and some coffee grounds.  It said thank you by producing flowers almost as large as her 16 lb dog!

Preserving the Flavor of Summer Herbs

Out to dry

  

Drying herbs is a pretty simple process, and when you consider the cost of some bottled herbs, it is a worthwhile endeavor.  The type of herbs you grow will determine the drying process.  

 

Herbs like marjoram, oregano, rosemary and dill contain less moisture than other herbs and will dry very easily using the air dry method.  Cut your herbs in the morning after the dew has dried, but before the sun becomes too hot.  It is recommended to just shake or brush off any dust or insects, but if you have to wash them (I would) just rinse in cold water and pat dry.  Remove any bruised or damaged leaves.  Tie several stems together in a bundle of 5 or so, with string or a rubber band.  Keep in mind the more stems that you bundle together, the longer it will take for them to dry.  Simply hang your bundle in a warm, well-ventilated area for about a week.  Avoid hanging them in direct sunlight as this will cause the leaves to lose their color.

  

Some herbs like basil, mint, chives, oregano, tarragon and lemon balm have a higher moisture content and will tend to mold if the drying process is not helped along.  To dry these herbs, spread them on a cookie sheet and place in the oven set at about 180 degrees with the door open.  Allow 2-4 hours for drying.  The heat of the oven will tend to cook the herbs a little, removing some of the potency of the flavor.  Another oven method to try, especially with herbs that have a large leaf, is to pick the leaves off separately and place them on a paper towel.  It's okay to layer about 5 paper towels with leaves, place the whole stack into the oven with just the light on, for a gas oven the pilot light should be on, and close the door.  The light should provide just enough heat to draw the moisture out while the paper towels will help to wick it away.

  

Your herbs are ready to be placed into air tight containers if they crumble easily.  It is best to store them whole and crumble as you use them.  Dried herbs can be kept for about a year.  Dried herbs are usually 3 to 4 times stronger than fresh herbs. To substitute dried herbs in a recipe that calls for fresh herbs, use 1/4 to 1/3 of the amount listed in the recipe.

 

Give it a try - to help you along we are offering 25% off of all herbs the month of June!


 

Proper Planting Techniques
Don't plant your expensive new plant in a cheap hole!
 


 

Don't be embarrassed or shy, go ahead and talk to that new plant or tree that you just purchased, go ahead and give it a name if you want.  I was just introduced to a pindo palm named Sydney!  It seems to like the name and is doing very well, not sure if that is due to the conversations and greetings as the gardener is coming and going, or if it has something to do with the initial planting of the tree.
  
You can choose the healthiest plant at the garden center, but if you put it in a poorly prepared hole, chances are very good that it will not have a very long lifespan.  And when I say don't plant your expensive new plant in a cheap hole, what I mean is go ahead and invest the time it takes to properly prepare a good home and yes, spend a little extra on some amendments.  Sydney or (insert your plant's name here) will thank you with abundant growth!
  
Your soil type and site conditions will determine the type of amendments and hole that are required, but one guideline is constant.  Do not dig that hole any deeper than the height of the root ball.  Once planting is complete, you want the topmost layer of roots in the root ball to be level with the soil surface.  If you notice that you have dug your hole too deep, backfill and tamp the soil down well.  Once the soil is disturbed at the bottom of the hole, there is a chance that it will settle and cause the plant to sink, thus putting the root ball below the desired location.  This could cause plant suffocation.
  
If you are lucky to have rich organic soil you might be able to get away without adding any amendments, you might be able to just use the existing soil as backfill.  If you try this, I would recommend having daily conversations with Sidney, just to reassure him that you really do love him!  If you want to skip the conversations, you will want to dig your hole two to three times the width of the root ball and add about 20% compost, mixing it in with your existing soil and backfill your hole.  Be careful to break up any clods and pack the dirt firmly into the hole.  You want to be careful and not leave any air pockets around the root system.
  
Those lucky enough to live on the beach will need to add spaghnum peat moss to the soil to help with water retention.   The sand allows water to drain, the spaghnum will act a little like a sponge, holding on to some of the water.  An organic compost will also help with water retention.  A good organic compost that has completely finished cooking will help to give the plant the nutrients that it needs for a good start.  It also has trace elements necessary for plant growth, that you don't find in a commercial fertilizer. 
  
That brings us to the question should fertilizer be applied at the time of planting?  The experts are conflicted, or maybe just divided by organic or not!  Some say yea, some say nay.  My experience is that most plants do just fine without an application of fertilizer when planting.  The only time I would recommend fertilizer at planting is if you are transplanting and then I would recommend a transplant fertilizer that will help the plant with transplant shock.  You will notice that most plants have some fertilizer in the pot or the first bit of soil when you purchase them, go ahead and mix that into the soil and use a good organic compost, that should be enough to get them started, as long as you keep talking to them!
  
So I have saved the worst for last - those of you who live in the north end of Mt. Pleasant know who you are and why you are last.  Those of you who are not familiar, let me tell you why you should stay where you are and not venture out into the mucky, messy clay!  The 'Northerners' of Mt. Pleasant, those who live in north Mt. Pleasant face many planting challenges.  The biggest of that challenge is clay soil.  Clay soil is hard to dig, will not drain and has a high salt content.  When planting in this type of soil, your amendments are crucial.  Your hole is going to need to be about five times the width of the root ball and you will want to mix plenty of organic matter into your existing soil.  You are also going to want to use some gypsum, spread some on the bottom of the hole and mix some into the backfill, also spread some around the top of the ground in the planting area.  Gypsum is a natural element which will help to break up the clay soil, making for better drainage.  It contains calcium which is needed by plants, but better than that, the calcium will help with the salinity problem.  It is recommended to use gypsum on a yearly basis, just top dress and water in.  An alternative to planting in the clay is to dig a hole about half of the depth of the root ball and add enough soil to mound the area around the root ball, this will help with any drainage issues.  Just be sure to add enough soil that it will not wash away with rain or irrigation.
  
You are going to want to add a layer of mulch, this will help with moisture retention, weed prevention and regulate the soil temperature around the root ball.  Now that you have your plants nestled nicely into the ground, sing them a song, they will like it.  Sydney's gardener told me so!  All kidding aside, the last and very important part of successful planting  is the watering.  Remember your soil conditions play a very big part in determining the amount of water that will be needed, the weather also contributes to your watering schedule. 
  
One of the most frequent myths is that you can only plant in the spring or fall -  not true.  You can plant year round in our area, you will just need to be mindful of what the plants are telling you when we are in the hottest times of the year.  A plant is going to be much happier in the ground than in a nursery pot in July and August, that awful black pot will get very, very hot, and it will require more water than it would have in March.  The same is true if you plant as it gets hotter, but think of the conversations you could have as you water!

 

           
 
Fungus and Bugs, oh no!
Scout your lawn for these pests
  
As the weather warms up and the humidity levels start to climb, our lawns may be under attack.  It is a sneaky, unfair attack so you must be vigilant to catch the attackers before major damage is done.
  
Weather conditions are optimal now for large patch and brown patch fungus.  Both diseases are types of Rhizoctonia solani.  The most common symptom of the fungus is a thinning and browning out of the grass in a circular pattern.  The circle could be as small as a few inches or as large as a few feet.  In some cases, the fungus will cause large areas of grass to thin and eventually die with no circular pattern at all.
  
Fortunately, there are several things we can do to assure that our lawns are not susceptible to attack.  Like any bully, the fungus is going to target the weak.  There are ways to make our lawn strong, the first being to cut your grass at the appropriate height.  From there you will need to give your lawn the correct amount of water at the correct time of day.  It is recommended to water an inch a week, it is best to water longer and less frequently in the morning so the grass will have time to dry.  Compacted soil and heavy thatch can also contribute to fungus, so aerate and rake up that thatch!  And, if you have followed all of the best practices for a healthy, strong lawn and you still see a fungus, don't worry, you can treat with a fungicide.  Our practice has been to treat with a fungicide, repeating the treatment in 14-21 days.  It is not a bad idea to use two different types of active ingredient for the two treatments.  Keep a close eye on the spot with fungus for the rest of the season and also the next year.  It is not uncommon to see the fungus re-occuring in the same spot year after year.  If you notice that you have fungus in the same spot two years in a row, consider a preventative application in future years.
  
The other awful pest to look for this time of year is the dreaded chinch bug.  This nasty, hungry insect can wipe out a lush, beautiful lawn in a matter of days.  The chinch bugs insert their slender beak into the grass and suck the plant juices.  As the chinch bug sucks the plant juices, it releases a toxin that causes yellowish to brownish patches in turf.  Typical injury appears as spreading patches of brown, dead grass.  This pest is a sunshine-loving insect and seldom attacks grass in a dense shady area.  These pests prefer St. Augustine grass but have been known to feed on centipede also.
  
If  you are unlucky enough to host a swarm of chinch bugs in your prized St. Augustine, you will need to take chemical action immediately.  Acephate, a rather smelly insecticide, is effective in alleviating the infestation, although you will want to purchase enough for two applications to be applied two weeks apart.  Be sure to read the application instructions to determine the correct application amount.  This will also help with fire ant control.  Although you may want to treat with Talstar, an insecticide that contains acephate and bifenthrin, usually only requiring one application.  This will control molecrickets. ants and the dreaded chinchbugs!