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Plant Alyssum to Help Naturally Protect Lettuce Crops

lettuce-allysum

A new study by horticulturist Eric Brennan, from the Agricultural Research Service, shows that organic lettuce growers in California are using Alyssum (Lobularia maritime) as a companion plant, to help naturally protect their crops from destructive aphids.

Alyssum, an easy-to-grow annual, produces small, elegant flowers that attract hoverflies. The hoverflies feed on Alyssum’s nectar and eventually lay eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on aphids common to lettuce crops. Aphids can be particularly difficult to control on lettuce crops because they tend to live in the inner leaves of the plant.

lettuce

The study shows that Alyssum is so effective in protecting lettuce crops from aphids, that California farmers are using the wildflower on as much as 10 percent of their land.

Brennan shows that best practice for the companion planting is to randomly intersperse Alyssum throughout the rows of lettuce, which helps to encourage hoverflies to feed and lay eggs more evenly throughout the crop.

Shop Sweet Alyssum Seeds Here. Shop All Lettuce Seeds Here.

March 1, 2015 · Amanda Shepard · One Comment
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Gardening in Fall, Gardening in Spring and Summer, How-Tos, Perennials, Vegetable Seeds

All About Begonias

Begonia Picotee mixed

Begonias are the stars of the shade garden, with colorful, dazzling blooms that open up in the late summer. Begonias love rich, moist soil and are perfect for containers, window boxes and small space gardens. We love planting Begonias in containers all throughout the garden, then bringing them inside in the winter to liven up our indoor spaces.

When to Plant

Begonia double whiteBegonias are not quick-blooming plants. We recommend starting the tubers indoors in the late winter, around February or March (we begin shipping in early February). Give them plenty of water and regular feeding with an organic fertilizer. Come spring, once the ground warms and the chance of frost is over, bring your Begonia tubers outdoors and either keep them in containers or transplant into the garden.

Care

Begonias love shade, rich soil and plenty of water. We recommend giving them a regular watering every few days and organic fertilizer every other week. With the proper care, Begonia blooms can reach 5 to 6” across, creating a spectacular show in the summer garden. Once temperatures drop in the fall and frost threatens, bring your Begonias indoors in containers for the winter. Continue to feed and water them regularly, then bring them back outdoors the next spring.

Varieties

Begonia splendide pastelTuberous Begonias have rose-like blooms and come in a variety of colors, including pink, scarlet, yellow, white and more. Hanging Basket Begonias aren’t as upright growing and look amazing planting in containers, cascading down the sides. View our entire selection of Begonias here.

What experiences have you had growing Begonias? Please share on our Facebook Page or in the comments below. Happy Gardening!

 

 

One gardener was so impressed with our Begonia tubers, she wrote us a letter and sent photos!

 

February 21, 2015 · Amanda Shepard · One Comment
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Flower Bulbs, Gardening in Spring and Summer, Gardening in the Winter, How-Tos, Perennials

Plant for Monarchs this Season

Annual Monarch Collection

We’re excited to announce the introduction of two new seed packet collections for spring 2015. We’ve created a Monarch Perennial Wildflower Seed Collection and a Monarch Annual Wildflower Seed Collection. Each collection contains five packets of Wildflowers that attract Monarchs and give them a place to eat, rest and reproduce.

Perennial Monarch Collection

Our Monarch Butterfly Perennial Wildflower Seed Collection contains Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Milkweed), Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed), Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed), Eupatorium fistulosum (Joe Pye Weed), and Solidago rigida (Stiff Goldenrod). This colorful mixture will bloom in the second season and for years after, making it the perfect long-lasting choice for any garden or meadow. Monarchs use these varieties to pollinate and as breeding grounds, and will be coming to and from your garden all season long!

Annual Monarch Collection

Our Monarch Butterfly Annual Wildflower Seed Collection contains Zinnia elegans (Zinnia), Cosmos sulphuris (Sulphur Cosmos), Lobularia maritime (Sweet Alyssum), Gaillardia puchella (Indian Blanket), and Tagetes erecta (Marigold ‘Cracker Jack’ Mix). This colorful mixture will bloom in the first year and is the perfect choice for gardens, meadows, green spaces and anything in between! Monarchs use these varieties to pollinate and as breeding grounds, and planting this mixture will make their lives a little easier.

Whether you have acres of land or are planting a city garden, these collections are the perfect choice. You’ll not only enjoy the gorgeous blooms of native Wildflowers, but also be visited by Monarchs all season long and know you’re doing your part to help the disappearing Monarch population. Happy Gardening!

February 12, 2015 · Amanda Shepard · Comments Closed
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Gardening in Fall, Gardening in Spring and Summer, How-Tos, Wildflowers

Create Your Own Honeybee Wildflower Wedding Favors

mike-rachael-favor

We were ecstatic when we saw Amanda’s DIY blog at Small Home Big Start. She created unique and adorable honeybee favors for her summer wedding using our Honey Bee Wildflower Seed Mix! We’ll outline how she did it below, but you can learn more and view her amazing photos here.

Amanda says, “When we started talking about making DIY Honey Jars for the wedding favors, it made me think about the bees. We needed to give something back to them too. That’s when I came up with the idea of creating little packets of wildflower seeds that guests could take home.”

She paired her honey jars with a homemade packet of our Honey Bee Wildflower seeds, asking guests on the sign to please “scatter them in your garden or in a ditch on your way home.” Taking it one step further, she and her husband took some of the Wildflowers on their honeymoon to spread, but instead gave them away to people they met on their trip!

wildflower-seed-closeup

Amanda found great resources for the envelopes and labels, so each favor only cost them $.58 (including the seeds).

She put a tablespoon of seed in each packet, which will cover almost 100 square feet. She placed the seed in transparent envelopes and used store-bought labels to print “Honey Bee Wildflower Seed Mix” on the labels using her printer.

She created a fabulous display for the favors using a wood tea box and moss. Check out her photos to see more.

sunflower

We absolutely adore this idea and are thrilled that we could be such a colorful part of Amanda’s wedding. Have you used Wildflowers in your wedding? Please share your experiences in the comments below or on our Facebook Page. Happy Gardening!

February 3, 2015 · Amanda Shepard · Comments Closed
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: How-Tos, Wildflowers

Pollinator Partnership Part II: Creating a Pollinator Habitat

Butterfly Weed and Daylilies

In last week’s blog, we talked about our sponsorship of the Pollinator Partnership, a non-profit that is dedicated to the protection of pollinators and spreading awareness of their cause.

One of the big focuses of their organization is working with gardeners and farmers to create better habits for pollinators. They work on conservation techniques that you can easily create in your own back yard!

Plant native varieties as much as possible and make sure to create a garden full of easy-to-pollinate varieties that bloom all season long.

As you’re planning your spring gardening season, try to keep the following varieties in mind to add to your garden and make it a little easier for our disappearing pollinator population!

Dahlias

Wildflowers:

View all Wildflowers that are great for creating a pollinator habitat.

Summer-Blooming Bulbs:

View all Summer-Blooming Bulbs that are great for creating a pollinator habitat.

bee-ffmnPerennials:

View all Perennials that are great for creating a pollinator habitat.

Even if you only have room for a few more varieties in your garden, consider choosing plants that are easy-to-pollinate and will create a better habitat for bees, butterflies and others. Happy Gardening!

January 27, 2015 · Amanda Shepard · Comments Closed
Tags: , , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Gardening in Spring and Summer, How-Tos, Perennials, Wildflowers

Pollinator Partnership – Part I


milkweed

We’re excited to be sponsoring the Pollinator Partnership in 2015. This non-profit is the largest organization in the world that is dedicated to the protection of pollinators and their ecosystems.

HostaThe Pollinator Partnership not only works hard for the protection of pollinators, but also helps to promote the importance of pollinators in our world. They shed light on the problem (and solutions) through initiatives in governments and industry, consulting, public outreach and education programs. They work in the United States, Canada, Mexico and other countries around the world to help preserve the pollinator population.

From their website: “Many pollinator populations are in decline and this decline is attributed most severely to a loss in feeding and nesting habitats. Pollution, the misuse of chemicals, disease, and changes in climatic patterns are all contributing to shrinking and shifting pollinator populations. In some cases there isn’t enough data to gauge a response, and this is even more worrisome.”

So how can you help? The Pollinator Partnership works with gardeners and farmers to create better habitats for all pollinators. They work on conservation techniques that you can create in your own back yard.

sunflowerBut how? It’s pretty simple. Choose native plants and make sure to create a garden that is in bloom all season long, which will help busy pollinators know that your garden is a good spot for them to stop at. Growing a vegetable garden? If you plant native flowers around your garden, the pollinators will help you get bigger and better crops.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive database on native plants, try using the great online tool from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

For others way to help, visit the Pollinator Partnership website, but they emphasize that everyone should be spreading the word about the importance of pollinators and supporting farmers and beekeepers by buying local honey and locally produced organic foods.

Stay tuned for the second part of our blog, which will outline a variety of seeds, bulbs and perennial plants that you can add to your garden this season to help the disappearing pollinator population. Happy Gardening!

Zinnia

 

January 18, 2015 · Amanda Shepard · Comments Closed
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Flower Bulbs, Gardening in Fall, Gardening in Spring and Summer, Gardening in the Winter, Perennials, Vegetable Seeds, Wildflowers

5 Reasons to Plant Wildflowers This Year

WildflowersIt’s not surprising that most of us here at American Meadows are wild about Wildflowers. With the Seed Man leading the way, we’ve all added Wildflowers to our gardens – big or small – and still can’t get enough. With many of you making New Year’s resolutions, why not make an easy, positive resolution to plant Wildflowers this year?

We know this is your year for Wildflowers, because:

Wildflower Seeds1. Planting Wildflowers is easy. It couldn’t get any easier than Wildflowers. It’s as simple as removing existing growth, scattering seed on to bare soil, stepping on the area and watering regularly just until sprouts are a few inches tall. Want more in-depth planting information? Read our how-to guide here and see the Seed Man’s planting videos here.

2. Planting is fun. Spring or fall, we always have a blast planting Wildflowers. The scent of the overturned soil and the excitement of planting something you know will become a spectacular focal point in the garden is exhilarating. It’s also a GREAT activity for little gardeners – Wildflowers are easy and an extremely rewarding experience for a child’s first garden.

3. Great for Pollinators. Wildflowers are an integral part to the pollinators’ existence in nature, offering them an abundance of easy-to-pollinate choices in their native areas. Learn more about how Wildflowers help pollinators in our article here.

Echinacea

4. Good for the Environment. Wildflowers occur naturally throughout the world and play a key role in the ecosystems in which they naturally occur. They can also naturally fix problems on your property such as an unsightly septic area, water runoff from a roof, and much more.

5. Good for You. Gardening not only offers health benefits from the physical activity and calorie burning, but according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute it can also help lower your blood pressure and strengthen your immune system. It also is an AMAZING stress reducer and is extremely therapeutic.

So this year, resolve to do something that is good for you, the environment and your landscape – Plant Wildflowers! Happy Gardening!

 

January 12, 2015 · Amanda Shepard · Comments Closed
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Gardening in Fall, Gardening in Spring and Summer, How-Tos, Wildflowers

Perennial Plant Association Names Geranium Biokovo as the 2015 Perennial of the Year

Geranium Biokova

Each year, the Perennial Plant Association awards one perennial variety as the “Plant of the Year.” This year, Geranium Biokovo has earned the award!

Perennial_Plant_Association_LogoThis Geranium, also known as Crane’s Bill, is the perfect groundcover for any garden. Delicate, pure-white blooms are splashed with pink, creating an elegant carpet of color in the summer garden. Biokovo grows in full sun to light shade and tolerates most soil types.

Geranium Biokovo attracts pollinators to the garden and will quickly become one of your favorite go-to perennials for easy-care, low-growing blooms. This variety spreads heavily, but it is easy to control by digging up and dividing every few years.

We love the ease of this perennial and are excited that the Perennial Plant Association has awarded it the “Plant of the Year” for 2015.

Geranium Biokovo

Have you grown Geranium Biokovo? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook Page. You can view all of the past “Perennial of the Year” winners in our blog, “Award-Winning Garden Plants.” Happy Gardening!

January 4, 2015 · Amanda Shepard · Comments Closed
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Gardening in Fall, Gardening in Spring and Summer, Perennials

2015: The Year of the Gaillardia

ngb-year-of-the-gaillardiaEach year, the National Garden Bureau chooses a variety of plants to feature. They explain on their website, “Each year we select one annual, one perennial and one edible as our “Year of the” crops. Each is chosen because they are popular, easy-to-grow, widely adaptable, genetically diverse, and versatile.”

They’ve chosen 2015 as “The Year of the Gaillardia” and we couldn’t be more thrilled. We love this versatile, easy-to-grow perennial for a variety of reasons. This native plant boasts daisy-shaped flowers that ignite the garden in all shades of red, orange, and yellow. They delight in the summer garden through the fall, providing a bounty of blooms even in extreme heat and drought.

The National Garden Bureau explains the story behind Gaillardia’s common name, Blanket Flower. “Legend has it that a native American weaver was so good at her craft that when she died, her grave was blanketed with flowers colored as brilliantly as the blankets she had made.”

gaillardia-blanketflower

The boldly-colored, bright blooms make a statement in almost any garden. The National Garden Bureau talks more about the perennial gem.

Gaillardias are unparalleled companions to ornamental grasses and you don’t need many to make an impact. They also work well as bright, long-flowering fillers in young shrub beds. As the shrubs mature, they’ll replace these short-lived perennials when their time is up.

In borders, mass single varieties of compact gaillardias along the front, or plant taller ones in bold groups separated from other flowering perennials by plants that have gray foliage or blue or white flowers, which provide a cooling buffer between hot-colored gaillardia flowers and their neighbors. Use cool-colored plants as companions for containerized gaillardias too. A few gaillardias also deserve a place in every cut flower garden. Just be prepared to stake the tall ones so they don’t flop.

Gaillardia_Fanfare_BlazeWondering if you could grow Gaillardia in your garden? As long as you have full sun and well-draining soil, Gaillardia will thrive in your landscape. Blooming in June through frost, remember to deadhead flowers as they fade to prolong the life of the plants. This perennial thrives in almost any hardiness zone and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. Many varieties also thrive in containers, making this the perfect choice for a small space or container garden.

In 2015, “The Year of the Gaillardia,” consider adding this versatile, easy-to-grow perennial to your garden. We carry four Gaillardia varieties as small plants, Gaillardia aristata seeds and Gaillardia pulchella seeds.

What is your experience growing Gaillardia? Please share in the comments below or on our Facebook page. Happy gardening!

Learn more about Gaillardia on the National Garden Bureau’s website.

December 28, 2014 · Amanda Shepard · Comments Closed
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Gardening in Fall, Gardening in Spring and Summer, Perennials, Wildflowers

Bee Helpful By Gardening

Butterfly Weed

Honeybees are integral to our food system; they pollinate many fruits, nuts and vegetables, helping crops grow and produce. Recently, the bee population has been declining worldwide, which can be harmful to our eco-system in many ways. Agricultural agencies, environmental workers and farmers have been trying to solve the bee problem for several years, and it really starts with you – the gardener.

Bees need nourishment from nectar and pollen, so as a gardener, planting a diverse variety of flowers and herbs can go a long way. Native varieties are great for bees in your area and it is extremely helpful to plant easy-to-pollinate varieties.

Gaillardia SeedEasy-to-Pollinate Varieties that Bees Love:

Other than planting bee-friendly varieties in your garden, you can also provide bees a clean source of water to drink. Whether it’s a small-scale water feature or rainwater collection system, keeping bees hydrated is extremely important. Taking it one step further, you could contact your department of transportation and see if they have the budget to plant Wildflower Seeds along the highways and public roads in your area. This will help the bee population in your area tremendously.

Did you know? Bees Pollinate an Estimated 33% Percent of All Crops (Berkley.edu)

sedum-bee-blog

Gardeners can really make a difference in the movement to help restore the bee population and keep crops producing in a healthy, natural way. How do you help honeybees in your garden? Please post in the comments below or on our Facebook Page. Happy Gardening!

December 22, 2014 · Amanda Shepard · Comments Closed
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Gardening in Fall, Gardening in Spring and Summer, Gardening in the Winter, How-Tos, Perennials, Wildflowers