On the First Day of Christmas My True Love Said to Me … Chop Down a Live Tree!

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By Kimberly Sevilla

Christmas comes a few days after the Winter Solstice, which falls on December 21 or 22. Ancient Romans, Egyptians, Celtic Druids, and Vikings decorated their homes and temples with evergreen branches during the solstice season as part of celebrations dedicated to various gods for the days becoming longer and spring returning. Objects like gold and silver balls, candles, and fruit and nuts were used as part of the decorations.

It’s Germany that is credited with the Christmas tree. It was common to have a tree in German and Dutch homes at this time of year, but most Americans thought it was an odd, pagan tradition and did not have Christmas trees. In fact, strict puritan laws forbade Christmas celebrations altogether. The laws were revoked by 1681, but Christmas was not celebrated in New England until the mid 1850s, when a large influx of German and Irish immigrants moved into the area. Southerners, however, always celebrated Christmas and considered it a holiday.  More > >

Container Gardening in North Brooklyn—from the series by Kimberly Sevilla of Red Rose & Lavender

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on May 13, 2010. We’re re-publishing articles in this series so that we can share the wonderful Kimberly Sevilla’s knowledge and experience with you, because, hey, it’s spring! Again!

Photo by Jessi Bautista

By Kimberly Sevilla of Red Rose & Lavender Floral Design Studio and Organic Garden Center

Q: I’d like to create a garden, and I have a small balcony, what can I grow?

There are lots of things that you may grow on a balcony, you just have to consider what your goals are. You can grow everything from flowers and herbs to vegetables and fruits. Throughout the ages, container gardening has been extremely popular and a convenient way for urban dwellers to grow delicacies on small patios and balconies.

Fortunately for us, there are lots of fruits and vegetables that have been specifically bred to grow in small spaces and lots of containers available for us to use.  More > >

Fall/Winter Crops & Cuttings

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GROWING BROOKLYN

LOCAL MASTER GARDENER KIMBERLY SEVILLA
ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS.

What are some things I can do to enjoy my garden year-round, and to save heirloom and favorite plants?

It’s still a little warm outside and in a few weeks it will be the perfect time to sow your fall and winter crops. Until then, you can prepare your favorite plants for gardening all year long by taking cuttings for next season. Taking them now will ensure that the plants are actively growing and have not started to slow down, you will get better results than if you take them later in the season. Cuttings are a great way to propagate plants and to extend your season. It is also a great way to share your plants with friends and family.  More > >

Urban Gardening: Tomatoes Abound!

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Heirloom Tomatoes

Brooklyn Grows
with Kimberly Sevilla

Help, tomatoes abound! What do I do?
Yep, it’s been a bumper year for tomatoes, and anyone lucky enough to have grown their own, no doubt have plenty, but for everyone else, the Farmers Market is the next best thing.

What do you do with all those tomatoes? Can them!   More > >

Help, it’s hot as hell, and my plants need water …

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… and I want to go away to the beach this weekend, what can I do?

Brooklyn Grows with Kimberly Sevilla

Yup, it’s hot, and when it’s hot, we perspire, and plants transpire. The key to successful gardening is keeping our plants well hydrated, and there are several ways we can achieve this without the need to water them every day; this includes self-watering planters, plant sitters, soil engineering, additives and drip irrigation systems.

If you are planning a trip out of town, be sure that your plants will get the water they need. The simplest way is to get a large container, like a kiddy pool and put your plants in the pool and fill it up to about 3 inches. I know you’ve been told not to let plants sit in water, but over a long weekend, they will be fine. Be sure to take them out when you get home. This will protect your plants while you are away. For houseplants, you can use your bathtub or sink as a plant sitter, just be sure that the plants are still getting plenty of light.

An alternative to this, is to place a bucket of water near your plants and to use a cotton cord (a clothesline works great). Place one end of the the cord through the bottom of your container into the soil, and the other end into the bucket of water. The water will wick through to your soil from the pot, this works because of osmosis; isn’t science fun?

There are many self-watering planters on the market, my favorite is the Earthbox. We have been using ours for a few years now and it’s terrific for small patios. I have never had a problem with my plants and my tomatoes grow to be HUGE in the box. I love the fact that it’s on wheels and can be moved around our patio. There are also a number of self watering window boxes available. Misco, makes an especially nice one that is made right here in New York from recycled plastic, I call this good plastic. You can also make your own out of five gallon buckets. Some great instructions can be found at: www.sustainlane.com.

Plant sitters are nifty devices that hold water and are placed in the soil. Those “as seen on TV globes” actually work, and even look pretty. Other alternatives: plastic soda bottles or wine bottles.

For plants in the garden (and in pots), be sure to add lots of organic components to your soil at the time you are planting; this can include compost, manure, leaf mold, coir fiber, cocoa shells, whatever, and be sure to mulch up to 3 inches. The mulch will hold in moisture and will keep your plants’ roots cool. The organic components will hold in extra moisture and release it back to your plants when they need it. Make sure you use organic fertilizers; chemical fertilizers will kill microorganisms in the soil that help break down organic components which allow the plants to get the nutrients they need. Chemical fertilizers also bind up trace elements and make your soil silty and dry.

Soil Moist Natural is another product that will help save your plants. Soil Moist is a starch that is designed to help reduce plant watering. It holds several hundred times its weight in water and releases back to the plant as the soil dries out. I use this in hanging baskets and containers as well as in guerilla gardens in tree pits to help keep the plants alive. People have suggested using rice to me, I haven’t tried it, if you do, let me know if it works.

Another terrific method for keeping your plants hydrated is to install a drip irrigation system. The drip irrigation systems are low flow systems that deliver water slowly next to the roots. You can use this system in conjunction with an automatic timer or with a countdown timer that shuts off after it is set. Dripworks.com has lots of kits that come with all sorts of emitters, hoses, and sprayers that you can use. If you like to tinker, putting it together can be a lot of fun. The initial cost is somewhat daunting, about $200 for a small city garden, but after it is all set up you get to enjoy your plants with no worries and spend your time doing other things, like cooking all the terrific food you grew.

What can I plant now from seed?

You can plant a lot of things now from seed, just check the packet. Our first frost date is around Halloween, fast maturing plants like lettuce and radish can be sewn up to that date. Longer growing plants like pumpkin, squash and corn can also be planted now, we still have about 100 days left in the growing season before the first frost, so you can plan on a harvest by then if the days to maturity is 100 days or less. The trick though is to keep the seeds moist and the seedings hydrated. Use cheesecloth or a row cover if you plant seeds outside to protect them from the sun. Use misters, drip emitters or a soaker hose on your seedbed to keep the seedlings moist.

Will summer bulbs grow if I plant them now?

Yes. summer bulbs such as lilies, dahlias, and gladiolus will bloom if planted now and you can take advantage of the summer sales. They all love containers. It’s also a great use of space that may have been freed up by plants dying from lack of water (oops) or from removing spring crops like radish and lettuce that are too far gone to eat. Just remember to use bone meal or an organic fertilizer and mulch.

I would be happy to answer any gardening questions you may have. Please send them to: lavender@roseredandlavender.com

Kimberly Sevilla and daughter Lavender. Photo by Amy Wise

Warmest Regards,

Kimberly Sevilla, Rose Red & Lavender

653 Metropolitan Ave

Williamsburg, NY 11211

Flowers, Gifts and Beautiful Things

lavender@roseredandlavender.com

718-486-3569

Spider Mites! Bamboo & Mosquitoes

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LOCAL MASTER GARDENER KIMBERLY SEVILLA ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS.

Q: Help, I Have Spider Mites, What do I do?

When the weather warms up, plants tend to get dry, and those pesky spider mites come out to feast.

There are many types of spider mites but the ones that are a problem in our homes and gardens is the two-spotted mite (Tetranychus urticae). Spider mites are about the size of a grain of sand so they are difficult to see. The best way to tell if you have them is to examine the underside of leaves. Spider mites will leave small brown or yellow dots on the leaves, and sometimes fine strands of silk or webbing. Try holding a piece of white paper under a leaf and gently tap, if you see slow moving dots on the paper, these are most likely spider mites.  More > >