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Tulipa
( Lefeber's Favorite Tulip )

One of the Darwin Hybrids, this tulip has showy, scarlet flowers with golden bases. The tulip has been the favored spring bulb for centuries. Thriving where summers are dry and winters are cold, this bulb is treated as an annual where summers are hot and long. A genus with around 100 species, tulips are divided into 15 distinguishing divisions. Best planted in large drifts, tulips can be used in rock gardens, containers, overplantings above perennials, forced indoors, and as a cut flower. Make your selections according to what zone you live in. Largest selections are available for USDA zones 4 through 6, fewer for USDA zones 7 through 8. Bulbs grown as annuals in USDA zones 9 through 10 must be pre-cooled at 40 to 45 degrees 8 to 10 weeks prior to planting. Plant in fertile, well-drained neutral to slightly acid soil where they will receive full or at least afternoon sun. In USDA zones 7 through 10, plant in shady areas or areas with only morning sun. Plant between 8 and 4 inches deep in early fall in USDA zones 4 through 8 or late winter in USDA zones 9 and 10. If you live in an area where your tulips will be perennial (zones 4 through 6 and sometimes 7), work bonemeal or bulb booster into or around planting hole per label directions. While growing, water periodically and fertilize with a liquid fertilizer every 4 weeks. Once flowering is complete, remove spent flowers and allow foliage to yellow and wither for 6 weeks prior to cutting back foliage. Greigii and Kaufmanniana Group tulips may remain in the ground for several years, where other groups may be removed annually and stored in a warm, dry place. Replant the largest bulbs the following year, allowing smaller bulbs to grow out in nurse beds.


How to Grow this Plant:


Where can you buy this plant: click here!

Characteristics
Cultivar:Lefeber's Favorite  
Family:Liliaceae  
Size:Height: 1 ft. to 1.33 ft.
Width: 0 ft. to 0 ft.  
Plant Category:annuals and biennials, bulbous plants, landscape, perennials,  
Plant Characteristics:edible flowers, low maintenance,  
Foliage Characteristics: 
Foliage Color:green,  
Flower Characteristics:erect, showy, single,  
Flower Color:reds,  
Tolerances:rabbits, seashore, slope,  
Requirements
Bloomtime Range:Early Spring to Early Spring  
USDA Hardiness Zone:3 to 8  
AHS Heat Zone:Not defined for this plant  
Light Range:Dappled to Sun  
pH Range:5.5 to 6.5  
Soil Range:Sandy Loam to Loam  
Water Range:Normal to Normal  

Plant Care



Fertilizing
How-to : Fertilization for Young Plants

Young plants need extra phosphorus to encourage good root development. Look for a fertilizer that has phosphorus, P, in it(the second number on the bag.) Apply recommended amount for plant per label directions in the soil at time of planting or at least during the first growing season.

How-to : Fertilization for Established Plants

Established plants can benefit from fertilization. Take a visual inventory of your landscape. Trees need to be fertilized every few years. Shrubs and other plants in the landscape can be fertilized yearly. A soil test can determine existing nutrient levels in the soil. If one or more nutrients is low, a specific instead of an all-purpose fertilizer may be required. Fertilizers that are high in N, nitrogen, will promote green leafy growth. Excess nitrogen in the soil can cause excessive vegetative growth on plants at the expense of flower bud development. It is best to avoid fertilizing late in the growing season. Applications made at that time can force lush, vegetative growth that will not have a chance to harden off before the onset of cold weather.

How-to : Fertilization for Annuals and Perennials

Annuals and perennials may be fertilized using: 1.water-soluble, quick release fertilizers; 2. temperature controlled slow-release fertilizers; or 3. organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion. Water soluble fertilizers are generally used every two weeks during the growing season or per label instructions. Controlled, slow-release fertilizers are worked into the soil ususally only once during the growing season or per label directions. For organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, follow label directions as they may vary per product.

Light
Conditions : Partial Shade

Partial Shade is defined as filtered light found beneath trees with high limbs. Partial shade usually offers some protection from direct afternoon sun.

Conditions : Dappled Light

Dappled Light refers to a dappled pattern of light created on the ground, as cast by light passing through high tree branches. This is the middle ground, not considered shady, but not sunny either. Dappled remains constant throughout the day.

Conditions : Part Sun

Part Sun refers to filtered light, with most sun being received during the afternoon hours. Shade usually occurs during the morning hours.

Conditions : Light Conditions

Unless a site is completely exposed, light conditions will change during the day and even during the year. The northern and eastern sides of a house receive the least amount of light, with the northern exposure being the shadiest. The western and southern sides of a house receive the most light and are considered the hottest exposures due to intense afternoon sun.

You will notice that sun and shade patterns change during the day. The western side of a house may even be shady due to shadows cast by large trees or a structure from an adjacent property. If you have just bought a new home or just beginning to garden in your older home, take time to map sun and shade throughout the day. You will get a more accurate feel for your site's true light conditions.

Conditions : Filtered Light

For many plants that prefer partially shady conditions, filtered light is ideal. Good planting sites are under a mid to large sized tree that lets some light through their branches or beneath taller plants that will provide some protection.

Conditions : Partial Sun, Partial Shade

Part sun or part shade plants prefer light that is filtered. Sunlight, though not direct, is important to them. Often morning sun, because it is not as strong as afternoon sun, can be considered part sun or part shade. If you live in an area that does not get much intense sun, such as the Pacific Northwest, a full sun exposure may be fine. In other areas such as Florida, plant in a location where afternoon shade will be received.

Conditions : Full to Partial Sun

Full sunlight is needed for many plants to assume their full potential. Many of these plants will do fine with a little less sunlight, although they may not flower as heavily or their foliage as vibrant. Areas on the southern and western sides of buildings usually are the sunniest. The only exception is when houses or buildings are so close together, shadows are cast from neighboring properties. Full sun usually means 6 or more hours of direct unobstructed sunlight on a sunny day. Partial sun receives less than 6 hours of sun, but more than 3 hours. Plants able to take full sun in some climates may only be able to tolerate part sun in other climates. Know the culture of the plant before you buy and plant it!

Conditions : Light and Plant Selection

For best plant performance, it is desirable to match the correct plant with the available light conditions. Right plant, right place! Plants which do not receive sufficient light may become pale in color, have fewer leaves and a "leggy" stretched-out appearance. Also expect plants to grow slower and have fewer blooms when light is less than desirable. It is possible to provide supplemental lighting for indoor plants with lamps. Plants can also receive too much light. If a shade loving plant is exposed to direct sun, it may wilt and/or cause leaves to be sunburned or otherwise damaged.

Conditions : Full Sun

Full Sun is defined as exposure to more than 6 hours of continuous, direct sun per day.

Watering
Problems : Waterlogged Soil and Solutions

Waterlogged soil occurs when more water is added to soil than can drain out in a reasonable amount of time. This can be a severe problem where water tables are high or soils are compacted. Lack of air space in waterlogged soil makes it almost impossible for soil to drain. Few plants, except for bog plants, can tolerate these conditions. Drainage must be improved if you are not satisfied with bog gardening. Over-watered plants have the same wilted leaves as under-watered plants. Fungi such as Phytophthora and Pythium affect vascular systems, which cause wilt.

If the problem is only on the surface, it maybe diverted to a drainage ditch. If drainage is poor where water table is high, install an underground drainage system. You should contact a contractor for this. If underground drains already exist, check to see if they are blocked.

French drains are another option. French drains are ditches that have been filled with gravel. It is okay to plant sod on top of them. More obtrusive, but a good solution where looks aren't as important, think of the French drain as a ditch filled with gravel. Ditches should be 3 to 4 feet deep and have sloping sides.

A soakway is a gravel filled pit where water is diverted to via underground pipes. This works well on sites that have compacted soil. Your soakway should be about 6'wide and deep and filled with gravel or crushed stone, topped with sand and sodded or seeded.

Keep in mind that it is illegal to divert water onto other people's property. If you do not feel that you can implement a workable solution on your own, call a contractor.

Conditions : Normal

Normal is defined as regular watering to a depth of 18 inches, but periodically dries out in the top 7 inches between waterings.

Conditions : Regular Moisture for Outdoor Plants

Water when normal rainfall does not provide the preferred 1 inch of moisture most plants prefer. Average water is needed during the growing season, but take care not to overwater. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.

Conditions : Moist and Well Drained

Moist and well drained means exactly what it sounds like. Soil is moist without being soggy because the texture of the soil allows excess moisture to drain away. Most plants like about 1 inch of water per week. Amending your soil with compost will help improve texture and water holding or draining capacity. A 3 inch layer of mulch will help to maintain soil moisture and studies have shown that mulched plants grow faster than non-mulched plants.

Conditions : Outdoor Watering

Plants are almost completely made up of water so it is important to supply them with adequate water to maintain good plant health. Not enough water and roots will wither and the plant will wilt and die. Too much water applied too frequently deprives roots of oxygen leading to plant diseases such as root and stem rots. The type of plant, plant age, light level, soil type and container size all will impact when a plant needs to be watered. Follow these tips to ensure successful watering:

* The key to watering is water deeply and less frequently. When watering, water well, i.e. provide enough water to thoroughly saturate the root ball. With in-ground plants, this means thoroughly soaking the soil until water has penetrated to a depth of 6 to 7 inches (1' being better). With container grown plants, apply enough water to allow water to flow through the drainage holes.

* Try to water plants early in the day or later in the afternoon to conserve water and cut down on plant stress. Do water early enough so that water has had a chance to dry from plant leaves prior to night fall. This is paramount if you have had fungus problems.

* Don't wait to water until plants wilt. Although some plants will recover from this, all plants will die if they wilt too much (when they reach the permanent wilting point).

* Consider water conservation methods such as drip irrigation, mulching, and xeriscaping. Drip systems which slowly drip moisture directly on the root system can be purchased at your local home and garden center. Mulches can significantly cool the root zone and conserve moisture.

* Consider adding water-saving gels to the root zone which will hold a reserve of water for the plant. These can make a world of difference especially under stressful conditions. Be certain to follow label directions for their use.



Conditions : Normal Watering for Outdoor Plants

Normal watering means that soil should be kept evenly moist and watered regularly, as conditions require. Most plants like 1 inch of water a week during the growing season, but take care not to over water. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important for establishment. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.

Planting
How-to : Preparing Garden Beds

Use a soil testing kit to determine the acidity or alkalinity of the soil before beginning any garden bed preparation. This will help you determine which plants are best suited for your site. Check soil drainage and correct drainage where standing water remains. Clear weeds and debris from planting areas and continue to remove weeds as soon as they come up.

A week to 10 days before planting, add 2 to 4 inches of aged manure or compost and work into the planting site to improve fertility and increase water retention and drainage. If soil composition is weak, a layer of topsoil should be considered as well. No matter if your soil is sand or clay, it can be improved by adding the same thing: organic matter. The more, the better; work deep into the soil. Prepare beds to an 18 inch deep for perennials. This will seem like a tremendous amount of work now, but will greatly pay off later. Besides, this is not something that is easily done later, once plants have been established.

How-to : Planting Bulbs

Plant bulbs at a depth that is three times their height, and at least 1-1/2 bulb-widths apart. Work a little bone meal fertilizer into the bottom of your hole, and then place the bulb upright in the hole. The more pointed end is almost always the top. If you have trouble telling which is the top, look for evidence of where a stem or roots were last year. If in doubt, plant them sideways. Fill in with soil gently, making sure there are no rocks or clods that would impede the bulb's stem. When planting a great number of bulbs, dig out an area to the specified depth, place bulbs and replace soil. This ensures that ground has been properly prepared and bulbs are evenly spaced.

Plant bulbs in natural drifts rather that formal rows: bulbs can fail or be eaten, leaving holes in a formal arrangement, or will shift with freezing and thawing. If you have trouble with gophers or squirrels eating your bulbs, try sprinkling red pepper in the holes, covering the bulbs with chicken-wire, surround bulbs with sharp shards of gravel or other substance, or planting rodent-repelling bulbs like Fritillaria nearby.

How-to : Preparing Containers

Containers are excellent when used as an ornamental feature, a planting option when there is little or no soil to plant in, or for plants that require a soil type not found in the garden or when soil drainage in the garden is inferior. If growing more than one plant in a container, make sure that all have similar cultural requirements. Choose a container that is deep and large enough to allow root development and growth as well as proportional balance between the fully developed plant and the container. Plant large containers in the place you intend them to stay. All containers should have drainage holes. A mesh screen, broken clay pot pieces(crock) or a paper coffee filter placed over the hole will keep soil from washing out. The potting soil you select should be an appropriate mix for the plants you have chosen. Quality soils (or soil-less medias) absorb moisture readily and evenly when wet. If water runs off soil upon initial wetting, this is an indicator that your soil may not be as good as you think.

Prior to filling a container with soil, wet potting soil in the bag or place in a tub or wheelbarrow so that it is evenly moist. Fill container about halfway full or to a level that will allow plants, when planted, to be just below the rim of the pot. Rootballs should be level with soil line when project is complete. Water well.

How-to : Plant Bulbs

It's time to plant bulbs.

Problems
Diseases : Rhizactonia Root and Stem Rot

Rhizoctonia is a fungus that is found in most soils and enters the plant through the roots or the stem at soil level. Prevention and Control: First of all, do not overwater and if you suspect Rhizoctonia may be your problem, decrease watering. If a plant is too far gone (all the leaves from the bottom up are wilted), remove it. If your plant is in a container, discard the soil too. Wash the pot with a 1 part bleach to 9 parts water solution. Fungicides can be used, according to label directions. Consult a professional for a legal recommendation of what fungicide to use.

Diseases : Bulb Rot

Improperly stored bulbs, or bulbs that are too wet in their dormant stage (usually summer), will be susceptible to fungal diseases that cause them to rot. To prevent this, store bulbs properly when out of the ground. Avoid planting bulbs in poorly drained soils. Fusarium bulb rot can be a serious problem which attacks both the growing plant and stored bulb. Usually introduced by an infected bulb, corm, soil, or even tools, the fungus enters the plant through an abrasion in the tissue. This problem is worse in warm climates where temperatures rarely drop into the freezing range and can persist in soil that stays 60 to 70 degrees Farenheit. Prevention and Control: Buy bulbs that are firm, not mushy. Avoid planting new bulbs in areas where the disease has been present. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for Fusarium bulb rot. Remove all infected bulbs and soil in the immediate area.

Pest : Slugs and Snails

Slugs and snails favor moist climates and are mollusks, not insects. They can be voracious feeders, eating just about anything that is not woody or highly scented. They may eat holes in leaves, strip entire stems, or completely devour seedlings and tender transplants, leaving behind tell-tale silvery, slimy trails.

Prevention and control: Keep your garden as clean as possible, eliminating hiding places such as leaf debris, over-turned pots, and tarps. Groundcover in shady places and heavy mulches provide protection from the elements and can be favorite hiding places. In the spring, patrol for and destroy eggs (clusters of small translucent spheres) and adults during dusk and dawn. Set out beer traps from late spring through fall.

Many chemical controls are available on the market, but can be poisonous and deadly for children and pets; take care when using them - always read the label first!

Pest : Aphids

Aphids are small, soft-bodied, slow-moving insects that suck fluids from plants. Aphids come in many colors, ranging from green to brown to black, and they may have wings. They attack a wide range of plant species causing stunting, deformed leaves and buds. They can transmit harmful plant viruses with their piercing/sucking mouthparts. Aphids, generally, are merely a nuisance, since it takes many of them to cause serious plant damage. However aphids do produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface growth called sooty mold.

Aphids can increase quickly in numbers and each female can produce up to 250 live nymphs in the course of a month without mating. Aphids often appear when the environment changes - spring & fall. They're often massed at the tips of branches feeding on succulent tissue. Aphids are attracted to the color yellow and will often hitchhike on yellow clothing.

Prevention and Control: Keep weeds to an absolute minimum, especially around desirable plants. On edibles, wash off infected area of plant. Lady bugs and lacewings will feed on aphids in the garden. There are various products - organic and inorganic - that can be used to control aphids. Seek the recommendation of a professional and follow all label procedures to a tee.

Diseases : Pythium and Phytophtora Root Rot

Rot Rot, Pythium or Phytophthora occurs when soil moisture levels are excessively high and fungal spores present in the soil, come in contact with the susceptible plant. The base of stems discolor and shrink, and leaves further up the stalk wilt and die. Leaves near base are affected first. The roots will turn black and rot or break. This fungi can be introduced by using unsterilized soil mix or contaminated water.

Prevention and Control Remove affected plants and their roots, and discard surrounding soil. Replace with plants that are not susceptible, and only use fresh, sterilized soil mix. Hold back on fertilizing too. Try not to over water plants and make sure that soil is well drained prior to planting. This fungus is not treatable by chemicals.

Rhizoctonia Root and Stem Rot symptoms look similar to Pythium Root Rot, but the Rhizoctonia fungus seems to thrive in well drained soils.

Weeds : Preventing Weeds and Grass

Weeds rob your plants of water, nutrients and light. They can harbor pests and diseases. Before planting, remove weeds either by hand or by spraying an herbicide according to label directions. Another alternative is to lay plastic over the area for a couple of months to kill grass and weeds.

You may apply a pre-emergent herbicide prior to planting, but be sure that it is labeled for the plants you are wishing to grow. Existing beds may be spot sprayed with a nonselective herbicide, but be careful to shield those plants you do not want to kill. Non-selective means that it will kill everything it comes in contact with.

Mulch plants with a 3 inch layer of pinestraw, pulverized bark, or compost. Mulch conserves moisture, keeps weeds down, and makes it easier to pull when necessary.

Porous landscape or open weave fabric works too, allowing air and water to be exchanged.

Miscellaneous
Conditions : Salt Tolerant

Anyone that lives close to the coast or in areas where soil salt content is high, can appreciate a plant that is salt tolerant. Salt damage is usually worse where the climate is arid: there is not enough rainfall to wash built up salts from the soil. It takes about 30 inches of rainfall a year to move salt through the soil. Plants that have salt damage usually have yellow leaves, brown tips or margins, and leaf drop. Soils may have a crusty white layer, too. Salt tolerant plants are often natives or introduced plants that have evolved in salty conditions.

Conditions : Slope Tolerant

Slope tolerant plants are those that have a fibrous root system and are often plants that prefer good soil drainage. These plants assist in erosion control by stabilizing/holding the soil on slopes intact.

How-to : Cut Flowers

Flowers suitable for cutting maintain their form for several days when properly conditioned and placed in water or soaked oasis. A cut flower should have a fairly strong, long stem, making it easy to work with in arrangements. There are many short stem flowers that make good cut flowers too, but they look best when floated in a bowl or clustered and placed in a juice glass size vase.

For best results, always cut flowers early in the morning, preferably before dew has had a chance to dry. Always make cuts with a sharp knife or pruners and plunge flowers or foliage into a bucket of water. Store in a cool place until you are ready to work with them, this will keep flowers from opening. Always re-cut stems and change water frequently. Washing vases or containers to rid of existing bacteria helps increase their life, as well.

Edibles : Edible Flowers

Some flowers are edible or have edible portions that are not only beautiful, but nutritious and tasty. Buds, flowers, leaves, stems, and roots are selected from designated edible varieties. Plant as you would a regular flower, but use only organic practices. If you are not a total organic gardener, separate growing areas should be used for the growing of edible flowers.

When portions of edible flowers are desired, pull petals or edible portions from fresh flowers and snip off the petals from the base of the flower. Remember to always wash flowers thoroughly making certain any residue or dirt has been removed. Give them a gentle bath in water and then dip the petals in ice water to perk them up. Drain on paper towels. Petals and whole flowers may be stored for a short time in plastic bags in refrigeration. Freeze whole small flowers in ice rings or cubes. Make sure you know what the flower is before you eat it; have an accurate identification done.

Glossary : Border Plant

A border plant is one which looks especially nice when used next to other plants in a border. Borders are different from hedges in that they are not clipped. Borders are loose and billowy, often dotted with deciduous flowering shrubs. For best effect, mass smaller plants in groups of 3, 5, 7, or 9. Larger plants may stand alone, or if room permits, group several layers of plants for a dramatic impact. Borders are nice because they define property lines and can screen out bad views and offer seasonal color. Many gardeners use the border to add year round color and interest to the garden.

Glossary : Container Plant

A plant that is considered to be a good container plant is one that does not have a tap root, but rather a more confined, fibrous root system. Plants that usually thrive in containers are slow- growing or relatively small in size. Plants are more adaptable than people give them credit for. Even large growing plants can be used in containers when they are very young, transplanted to the ground when older. Many woody ornamentals make wonderful container plants as well as annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, and bulbs.

Glossary : Low Maintenance

Low maintenance does not mean no maintenance. It does mean that once a plant is established, very little needs to be done in the way of water, fertilizing, pruning, or treatment in order for the plant to remain healthy and attractive. A well-designed garden, which takes your lifestyle into consideration, can greatly reduce maintenance.

Glossary : Mass Planting

Mass is one of the elements of design and relates directly to balance. Mass planting is defined as the grouping of three or more of the same type of plants in one area. When massing plants, keep in mind what visual effect they will have. Small properties require smaller masses where larger properties can handle larger masses or sweeps of plants.

Glossary : Naturalizing

Naturalizing refers to planting in a random pattern, much as itwould occur in nature. If you spend any time in the woods, you've probably noticed that plants often grow in groups. The center of the group is dense and towards the edges, plants are located farther apart. Narcissus bulbs are easy to naturalize if you use this method: fill a bucket with bulbs and toss them out. Plant them where they fall. You will notice a portion of the bulbs are close together while the others have scattered farther away.

Glossary : Some Sand

Some Sand refers to a soil that drains fast, but has lower water holding capacity due to the presence of a little organic matter. A good workable soil that needs added fertilizer due to lower fertility levels and adequate water. Usually gray in color. Forms a loose, crumbly ball that easily falls apart when squeezed in the hand.

Glossary : Sandy Loam

Sandy Loam refers to a soil that drains well, with excellent air space, and evenly crumbled texture when squeezed in the hand. A good workable garden soil that benefits from added fertilizer and proper watering. Dark gray to gray-brown in color.

Glossary : Loam

Loam is the ideal soil, having the perfect balance between particle size, air space, organic matter and water holding capacity. It forms a nice ball when squeezed in the palm of the hand, but crumbles easily when lightly tapped with a finger. Rich color ranges between gray brown to almost black.

Glossary : Clayey Loam

Clayey loam refers to a soil that retains moisture well, without having a drainage problem. Fertility is high and texture good. Easily forms a ball when squeezed in the hand, and then crumbles easily with a quick tap of the finger. Considered an ideal soil. Usually a rich brown color.

Glossary : Some Clay

Some Clay refers to a soil that is loam-like, but heavier. Drainage is not bad, prolonged periods of rain cause bog-like conditions. Rich in nutrients, but needs the addition of organic matter to improve texture. Easily forms a ball when squeezed and requires a firm tap with finger to crumble. Light brown to slightly orange color.

Glossary : Annual

An annual is any plant that completes its life cycle in one growing season.

Glossary : Bulbs

A bulb is a modified, underground stem.

Glossary : Perennial

Perennial: traditionally a non-woody plant that lives for two or more growing seasons.

Conditions : Site Conditions

When setting criteria for site conditions, check boxes that apply to your planting area. This will narrow the search for appropriate plants. Naturally, you'll need to select a USDA Hardiness Zone. Selecting a specific soil type and pH are just as important as light and water conditions because they enable a search that will find plants best suited to your site.

Glossary : Plant Characteristics

Plant characteristics define the plant, enabling a search that finds specific types of plants such as bulbs, trees, shrubs, grass, perennials, etc.

Glossary : Flower Characteristics

Flower characteristics can vary greatly and may help you decide on a ""look or feel"" for your garden. If you're looking for fragrance or large, showy flowers, click these boxes and possibilities that fit your cultural conditions will be shown. If you have no preference, leave boxes unchecked to return a greater number of possibilities.

Glossary : Foliage Characteristics

By searching foliage characteristics, you will have the opportunity to look for foliage with distinguishable features such as variegated leaves, aromatic foliage, or unusual texture, color or shape. This field will be most helpful to you if you are looking for accent plants. If you have no preference, leave this field blank to return a larger selection of plants.

Glossary : Soil Types

A soil type is defined by granule size, drainage, and amount of organic material in the soil. The three main soil types are sand, loam and clay. Sand has the largest particle size, no organic matter, little to no fertility, and drains rapidly. Clay, at the opposite end of the spectrum, has the smallest particle size, can be rich in organic matter, fertility and moisture, but is often unworkable because particles are held together too tightly, resulting in poor drainage when wet, or is brick-like when dry. The optimum soil type is loam, which is the happy median between sand and clay: It is high in organic matter, nutrient-rich, and has the perfect water holding capacity.

You will often hear loam referred to as a sandy loam (having more sand, yet still plenty of organic matter) or a clay loam (heavier on the clay, yet workable with good drainage.) The addition of organic matter to either sand or clay will result in a loamy soil. Still not sure if your soil is a sand, clay, or loam? Try this simple test. Squeeze a handfull of slightly moist, not wet, soil in your hand. If it forms a tight ball and does not fall apart when gently tapped with a finger, your soil is more than likely clay. If soil does not form a ball or crumbles before it is tapped, it is sand to very sandy loam. If soil forms a ball, then crumbles readily when lightly tapped, it's a loam. Several quick, light taps could mean a clay loam.

How-to : Getting the Most Out of Cut Flowers

Cut flowers bring the garden into your home. While some cut flowers have a long vase life, most are highly perishable. How cut flowers are treated when you first bring them home can significantly increase how long they last.

The most important thing to consider is getting sufficient water taken up into the cut stem. Insufficient water can result in wilting and short-lived flowers. Bent neck of roses, where the flower head droops, is the result of poor water uptake. To maximize water uptake, first re-cut the stems at an angle so that the vascular system (the ""plumbing"" of the stem) is clear. Next immerse the cut stems in warm water.

Remember when the flower is cut, it is cut off from its food supply. Once water is taken care of, food is the resource that will run out next. The plants stems naturally feed the flowers with sugars. If you add a bit of sugar (1 tsp.) to the vase water, this will help feed the flower stems and extend their vase life.

Bacteria will build up in vase water and eventually clog up the stem so the flower cannot take up water. To prevent this, change the vase water frequently and make a new cut in the stems every few days.

Floral preservatives, available from florists, contain sugars, acids and bacteriacides that can extend cut flower life. These come in small packets and are generally available where cut flowers are sold. If used properly, these can extend the vase life of some cut flowers 2 to 3 times when compared with just plain water in the vase.

Glossary : Viruses

Viruses, which are smaller than bacteria, are not living and do not replicate on their own. They must rely on the cellular mechanisms of their hosts to replicate. Because this greatly disrupts the cell's functionality, outward signs of a viral infection result in a plant disease with symptoms such as abnormal or stunted growth, damaged fruit, discolorations or spots.

Prevention and Control: Keep virus carriers such as aphids, leafhoppers, and thrips under control. These plant feeding insects spread viruses. Viruses can also be introduced by infected pollen or through plant openings (as when pruning). Begin by keeping the pathogen out of your garden. New plants should be checked, as well as tools and existing plants. Use only certified seed that is deemed disease-free. Plant only resistant varieties and create a discouraging environment by rotating crops, not planting closely related plants in the same area every year.

Glossary : Fertilize

Fertilize just before new growth begins with a complete fertilizer.

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