Black Gold At the Summer Green Road Show in Hickory, NC

Summer Green Road Show - Photo by Mike Beck
Teamwork at the Summer Green Road Show provided by: (left to right) Wayne Bagwell, Sun Gro Professional Products Rep. for North Carolina; Pam Beck, Black Gold Community Expert Garden Writer; Scott Pace, Sun Gro Horticulture’s District Manager of Southeastern Retail Products; and, Lee Urwick, Buffalo Horticultural Sales representing Fafard products in N.C.

August was the perfect time to visit the Metro Convention Center in Hickory, North Carolina, an internationally famous furniture convention site nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. On this trip, however, the emphasis was on living plants, garden tools, and potting medium at the 2012 Summer Green Road Show.

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Earthworm Castings, Organic Fertilizer from Humble Earthworms

Organic Fertilizer from Earthworms - Pam Beck
Earthworms are tiny, but they make a tremendous impact on your garden.

Earthworms are the ultimate recyclers of the natural world. They take the debris and litter of the garden and digest it, creating a perfect soil conditioner in their waste, which is called “castings”.

Castings can be used as a top dressing for container gardens, amended directly into your soil, or steeped into a nutrient-rich manure tea.

If you don’t have an over-abundance of earthworms, this ideal organic fertilizer is still available for vegetable gardens and ornamental landscapes as Black Gold® Earthworm Castings.

Put the vigor of earthworm castings to work in your garden.

Begin Saving On A Rainy Day By Installing Rain Barrels

Rain Barrel
A well-placed rain barrel offers a practical solution for water catchment. Photo courtesy of Schultz Communications.

It is a small project, but installing rain barrels onto your downspouts will capture free non-potable water that could make a big difference in your garden.

How much water? Depending on the size of your roof and your catchment system, a rainfall of only 1-inch should fill a typical 55-gallon rain barrel to overflowing. That is a lot of water that you won’t have to pay for later.

What about eliminating mosquitoes potentially attracted to the standing water? Use Mosquito Dunks® made with B.t.i., bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, a naturally occurring biological control that is safe for birds and pets.

~Photos are courtesy of Schultz Communications




Mosquito Dunks
The natural bacterium contained in Mosquito Dunks kills mosquito larvae without harming birds, fish, pets or humans. Photo courtesy of Schultz Communications.

In the Dog Days of Summer Keep your Pets Hydrated

Dog Days of Summer - Pam Beck
A quick dip in a pool is one sure way to beat the heat.

It is officially summertime, and the high temperatures are sizzling. Now’s the best time to provide water features to keep your pets hydrated.

As much as we work to keep our plants hydrated, this is also a critical time for the various creatures who share our garden spaces as they need plenty of fresh water for drinking and bathing, too.

Check and refresh the water level of your outdoor pet’s drinking bowls a couple of times a day. It is essential for urban chickens to have continuous access to cool drinking water. And, remember to keep your birdbaths and hummingbird feeders cleaned and topped off.

Scrumptious, Old-Fashioned Tawny Daylilies

Old-Fashioned Tawny Daylilies - Pam Beck
Hemerocallis fulva is also known as the Ditch Daylily, but will grow just about anywhere.

The individual blooms of the Tawny Daylily, Hemerocallis fulva, only last from dawn to dusk, but what a performance they give when properly staged in a garden! Since there are several flowers on each stalk, and multiple stalks in every clump, these easy-to-grow species perennials remain showy for weeks. Though sweeps of Tawny daylilies are familiar along old country roads in the Southeast, they originally traveled from their homeland in Asia, where these daylilies are still used in traditional cooking (think hot and sour soup).

Easy Does It: Gently Loosen Potted Plants

Easy Does It - Pam Beck
The image on the left above is NOT a good horticultural practice! To remove a plant from its container, gently tip your plant while supporting it at the soil line with your free hand.

Be kind to your transplants. Don’t tear a developing plant out of its original container by its leaves, stems, or trunk risking ripping off foliage and roots. It pays to gently loosen potted plants at planting time.

When loosening potted plants, the best way is to first make certain that its potting medium is moist, then slowly tip the container over while holding one hand around the base of the plant, supporting the shifting weight of the soil as the intact plant slides free.

Rediscovering Old Roses

New Dawn Heirloom Roses - Pam Beck
The captivating ‘New Dawn’ climbing rose was discovered in 1930, and quickly became a favorite focal point in Southern gardens.

Heirloom roses are again gaining in popularity in our 21st century gardens due to their time-proven hardiness. These are roses with real perfume, a wide variety of colors and bloom types, and many sport luscious hips for fall and winter interest. Plus, they are easy to grow as a majority of old roses are disease resistant, and tolerant of a variety of site conditions. Just be sure to feed them with rose & flower fertilizer.

Officially, Antique roses are defined as any rose grown before 1867, which was before hybrid tea roses were introduced, whereas old roses can be any rose 75-years-old or more. So, if you want roses, but crave something different, rediscover the joy of growing old roses.

Start Spreading the News: Recycle Newspaper In the Garden

Pam Beck - Start Spreading the News
Preferred newsprint for your garden will have used nontoxic soy-based ink.

Layering yesterday’s news onto your garden is a great way to recycle newspaper in the garden while building wonderful soil. Simply take a section of the paper running at least 8-10 pages thick, and apply it to either a new or existing bed. Be sure to overlap these sections in order to help prevent any future weeds. Wet the paper to help hold it in place, and then add a 2-4 inch deep cover of quality mulch, such as Black Gold’s Garden Compost Blend or Garden Soil.

How to Grow Edible Herbs

Lavender is a great herb that also looks beautiful in flower borders. (Image by Jessie Keith)


Herb gardening is undeniably a great way for a beginning gardener to enjoy success while reaping delicious culinary benefits.

All of the five senses are fully engaged when growing edible herbs. There is a serene beauty of a garden composed mostly of evergreen and silver-grey herbs. Herb gardeners are treated to a daily miniature cantata as visiting bees contentedly work their pollination magic among the flowers. The tantalizing fragrance exudes from sun-warmed culinary herbs and is absolutely intoxicating. This is also the perfect lure to prompt a passerby to brush their fingertips across the soft foliage, tear a nearby leaf to greedily sniff, then gratifyingly sample.

Growing Herbs

Chives are beautiful in spring and taste great in a variety of dishes.

Surprisingly, edible herbs are really easy to grow. Provide them with a few simple essentials, and they will reward you with both vigorous growth and flavor.

First, be sure to site your potential herb garden where it will receive six hours or more of full, direct sunlight. When you remember that the majority of our culinary herbs were native to sunny Mediterranean regions, you appreciate how well they thrive in heat and light.

The second most important element to successful herb gardening is excellent soil drainage. Herbs hate wet feet, so there are a couple of ways to approach this challenge.

One is to prepare an herb bed by incorporating a porous soil amendment to increase good tilth. Black Gold Garden Soil has the perfect balance of peat moss, bark, and perlite to lighten and lift heavy garden soils. If your future herb bed is in pretty good shape, try adding Black Gold Garden Compost Blend to improve your soil’s structure and tilth. It can also be added to the soil surface a beneficial mulch.

Since good drainage can make or break an herb garden, many gardeners choose to create raised herb beds with stones, natural wood, or other non-toxic borders. Containers are also great for herb growing.  Fill containers and raised beds for herbs with Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Soil. This specially-blended organic mix is safe for all edibles, uses worm castings as fertilizer, and won’t pack down with time, so excellent drainage is assured.

After preparing your herb bed or container, the choice of what herbs to grow is completely up to you and your cooking preferences. Here are a few of the easiest.

Choosing Herbs

Thyme is a lovely cascading herb for containers and gardens.

The most familiar herbs, and the ones that were also popularized by Simon and Garfunkel, are parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. These work well together in a garden due to their complimentary leaf shapes, colors, and textures. Of the four, only parsley would have to be replanted each year as the others are perennial herbs which you should enjoy for years.

Basil is a favorite for pesto and Italian cooking, but is a warm-season annual herb, so wait to sow it into your garden until after all chance of frost has passed. (Click here for a great video about growing basil in containers!)

Cilantro is another annual herb that grows best in cool weather. It’s aromatic leaves are favored for salsa making and its crushed seeds are the spice, coriander.

Peppermint, spearmint, and pineapple mint spread rapidly and can be extremely cantankerous to remove, so consider growing them in large, isolated containers. But, be cautious! Even container-grown mints may sneak out of the bottom of pots or leap over the sides in an attempt to take over your garden.

Basil is one of the easiest summertime herbs to grow.

Oregano is another aromatic member of the mint family that will spread and take over if given a chance. Once again, consider growing this favorite Italian and Greek herb in a contained situation.

Lavender is one of the prettiest herbs for the garden–offering fragrant culinary leaves and colorful summer flowers that are also useful in cookery, potpourris, and sachets. The shrubby perennials can tolerate drought and attract many pollinators when in bloom.

The flavor and fragrance of herbs connect us deeply to memories of traditional family gatherings from holidays past and inspire future recipes. Since the variety of herbs you can grow is endless, your greatest challenge will be to decide where to place even more herb beds and containers.

This container of lavender, thyme, and parsley looks and smells great!

Avoiding A Spring Cold By Measuring Soil Temperature

Pam Beck - Avoiding a Spring Cold
Your soil’s temperature will be more accurate when taken by a professional.

Eager gardeners often forget that the slowly raising temperature of the soil is a more important environmental factor for successful springtime gardening than fickle air temperatures. Measuring soil temperature can help ensure successful transplanting. Seeds and transplants planted during optimum soil temps quickly develop healthy roots necessary to take up precious water and nutrients. Check your local weather channel or state government’s websites for current soil temperature information applicable to your area.