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The Grass is Always Greener…

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Empowerment
The Grass is Always Greener…

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By Cynthia Brian

“Society is like a lawn where every roughness is smoothed, every bramble eradicated, and where the eye is delighted by the smiling verdure of a velvet surface.” Washington Irving

The cool evenings, warm days, and majestic orange sunsets signal the season of fall. While children will be preparing for the festivities of Halloween, gardeners need to be thinking about greening their lawn costumes. Much to my dismay, throughout the drought our water company encouraged homeowners to dispense with growing grass and either let lawns die or replant with succulents and other drought resistant species. In my humble opinion, this was terrible advice as a healthy lawn offers so many benefits not only to the environment but also to our health and wellbeing. It is also much more expensive to revamp a landscape than it is to maintain it, even minimally. With the drought in our rearview mirror, my email has been blowing up with requests on how to re-install a green lawn.

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Thankfully all is not lost as autumn is the perfect time to plant a new lawn or reseed an existing one. Most grass seeds that you scatter in late October or early November will thicken and be well established by spring. Over-seeding a healthy existing lawn works wonders but if you have multiple bare spots, using a grass patch is a super alternative.

“What type of grass should I plant?” you may be thinking. Several readers have asked about UC Verde buffalograss. Although I have never set out plugs of this buffalograss, it is my understanding that this particular grass must be planted in the spring as it goes dormant in the winter, allowing for more weeds to take hold. It is also work intensive as you cannot just toss seeds or plant sod.  Plugs need to be planted on a twelve-inch center. Once established, it is resistant to most turf damaging insects and diseases and requires less water than other grasses.  Since it is seedless, it produces less seed heads resulting in less pollen, which may be of interest to allergy sufferers.

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My personal preferences to obtaining a greener grass is to use seeds from Pearl’s Premium (www.PearlsPremium.com), red or white clover, or plant plugs of isotoma, also known as blue star creeper. Full disclosure, I do not work for, nor have I any affiliation with any of these three favorite lawn alternatives. I recommend them because they work. You can plant just one species for a clean, fresh, green blanket of tactile grass, or you can mix and match as long as you realize that your lawn will resemble a patchwork quilt.

Here’s a run down on my three preferred lawns:

Pearl’s Premium: www.PearlsPremium.com

Although you can start from scratch, I really appreciate being able to over seed my existing lawn with grass seed that grows roots to 20 inches deep, starves out the weeds, and is easy to maintain. Pearl’s Premium is constantly upgrading its seed to be the most effective for creating a beautiful lawn. This past year it added a thin white coating to the seed to help gardeners know where exactly the seed has been tossed. The coating also thwarts our feathered diners, although I suggest putting screens over areas with new lawn seed if you witness birds pecking at the ground. Spread the lawn seed at a rate of 10 pounds per 1000 square feet right over your existing lawn. Add organic fertilizer and top dress with ¼ inch of organic compost.  I like to spread the seed right before a rain, but otherwise water twice a day until the grass sprouts then, be attentive to watering needs. In our warmer climate, to maintain the greenest color, you may have to water deeply twice a week, but it will be less than using other grass seeds. Once established, the lawn gets so lush and thick that you may need to adjust your sprinkler heads. Although many people have indicated that they mow once a month, I have found that for the most manicured look, it is necessary to mow at least twice a month, or ideally, once a week at a mower height of 3.5 inches.

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Clover

At one time clover was systematically eradicated from lawns using pesticides. But as gardeners now realize the importance of organic living, more homeowners are including clover in their grass. As a legume, clover has ability to turn nitrogen into fertilizer using the bacteria in its root system. It stays green all year, even when it is not watered on a regular basis. I love it because it thrives in conditions where other grass seeds struggle. It does fine in the sun or the shade and even in poorly drained soil. My favorite parts of growing clover besides its self-fertilizing system, are the beautiful pink or white flowers that crown the tops of the clover when it is left uncut. Butterflies, bees, and beneficial insects flock to clover. Don’t be afraid of the honeybees as they usually don’t sting when away from their hives. Clover does best when it is mixed with grass seed. I mix mine with Pearl’s Premium. Try incorporating 2 ounces of clover for 1000 square feet of lawn.

By planting the two together, you’ll have a minimum care green lawn.

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Isotoma—Blue Star Creeper

This lawn substitute is best used in small areas or between stepping stones. I like it for its tiny blue star flowers that surface and shine brightly spring through summer.  I would only use it in combination with clover and Pearl’s Premium because I have found that in the cold months it has a tendency to look brown and ragged. It likes full sunshine, doesn’t require much water, and sustains immense foot traffic, both human and animal, without damage. It sends out runners and creeps along and is especially good as a ground cover. If you like the idea of a patchwork lawn, buy a flat or two of isotoma and plant the plugs randomly throughout your existing grass as a filler and thriller.

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For homeowners who want instant gratification, sod is the answer. The caveat with planting sod is that the roots don’t grow deeply enough and sod has a shorter lifespan. You can lengthen the longevity by over-seeding when bare spots begin appearing. By throwing seed on top of the sod, keeping the grass watered and fed, you’ll be able to have a long lasting green oasis.

Benefits of Maintaining a Lawn

Although many people tend to discourage lawns in landscapes as a water conservation method, I am a firm believer that the humble grass shoot offers benefits to our health and wellbeing.  Besides the fact that children and animals enjoy a safe, comfortable place to tumble and toss, lawns contribute to better air quality by trapping dust and smoke particles while cooling the air from the ground up. Our environments are made more habitable by the generation of oxygen absorbing the pollutants of carbon and sulfur dioxide. Lawns clean the air we breathe. Erosion is controlled because water can’t carve deep recesses in a thickly planted lawn. Water filters through turf grass making our ground waters safer and cleaner for the environment. A patch of green soothes the eye in viewing a landscape, offering a resting space between the color explosions of flowers and shrubs. And a huge plus in our fire prone communities, lawns offer a buffer zone for fire prevention.

The grass will only be greener if you maintain it. You’ll be rewarded with better health for you and the environment. Your green grass is your safety zone. May all your roughness be smoothed as you delight in your velvet verdure.

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Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Garden Guide

  • FIRE danger is at a high point this month. Be alert. Remove brush, wood, dry grass, and all other flammable materials from around the perimeter of your home.  Clear your roof and gutters of leaves. Create 100 feet of defensible space around your home and structures.
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  • SIGN up for emergency notifications at www.nixle.us. The easiest way is to do it through text messaging on your smart phone. Text 888777.  In the message area, type in your zip code. You will get an alert in case of any impending emergency.
  • APPLY deer repellent to young trees and shrubs. As winter nears the deer are hungrier and will do damage to saplings causing branch injury and even inviting diseases.
  • EAT fresh locally grown figs and grapes.
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  • CHECK for decay or damage to trees to thwart injury or downing of trees when storms arrive.
  • MULCH your landscape to prevent erosion in winter and protect plants from a freeze.
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  • SWIM a few laps in a garden pool before the cold weather begins.
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  • ORDER my new gardening book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, from my on-line store and receive extra goodies. 25 % of the sales will benefit Be the Star You Are!® 501c3 helping in disaster relief. http://www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store

PRAY for the firefighters, first responders, evacuees, shelter volunteers and everyone that is affected by this most disastrous fire in California history. Napa County is my birthplace and the home of my family, our ranch, and vineyards. We will rise again! front cover-Growing with the goddess gardener book copy.jpg

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Read more in the Lamorinda Weekly:https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1117/Digging-Deep-with-Cynthia-Brian-The-grass-is-always-greener.html

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Cynthia Brian

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, raised in the vineyards of Napa County, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3. Please make a donation to help with hurricane disaster relief at www.BetheStarYouAre.org.  

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Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show and order her books at www.StarStyleRadio.com.

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My new book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, is available at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store.

Available for hire for any gardening project.  

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

Grow a WildFlower Garden with Cynthia Brian

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Empowerment
Grow a WildFlower Garden with Cynthia Brian

renees garden seeds 1

“May all your weeds be wildflowers.”

When I was a child weeds and wildflowers were synonymous. I would meander through the hills and creeks with my handy Golden Nature Guide called “Flowers: A Guide to Familiar American WildFlowers” along with notebook, paper, and a Brownie camera to capture the images and properties of as many specimens that I could find. Trillium, morning glory, lupin, California poppy, clover, stargazer, brodias, columbine, buttercups, and mustard all captivated me. I would pick the flowers to quickly bring home to iron between wax paper and catalogue into my wildflower scrapbook. In a field of specimens, I’d dig a plant up with the attached roots to transplant into my personal flower plot.
freesia & osteospernum
What I found out is that wildflowers aren’t fussy. They grow in all kinds of soil, don’t need water once they are established, and add stunning textures and vibrancy to your landscape.
1. Find a place where the flowers will get at least six hours of daily sunshine. Wildflowers need lots of sunshine.
2. Before spreading the seed, clear the dirt. Purge all weeds, grasses, or any other growth from the area. Turn the toil with a hoe or a tiller.
3. Rake the soil.
4. Add sand to the seeds at the rate of ten parts sand to one part seed. This will help you to see it when you spread it. Use a seed spreader if you are seeding a big area, or feel free to sprinkle by hand.
5. Don’t cover the seed with soil. It does need to be compressed for better germination either by walking on it or rolling it. I use a five gallon bucket to roll over the seeded soil in any smaller locations.
6. Water the seeds regularly until the plants reach six inches. After that, wildflowers flourish without the addition of extra water, especially great addition to any garden when there is a drought.
7. Prepare for a cavalcade of colors. Annuals bloom quickly, usually within five weeks while perennials may not blossom until the second year.

While many of these flowers are sold in nurseries as annuals, they are wildflowers that will look handsome in your new garden. Annuals live, bloom, and die in one year. Many spread their own seeds after they are done flowering.
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African Daisy
California Poppy
Cleome
Cornflower
Coreopsis
Cosmos
Delphinium
Forget-Me-Not
Four O’Clock
Gaillardia
Lupin
Morning glory
Shirley Poppy
Sunflower
Tithinoa
Zinnia

Perennials are interesting as most of them are blue, yellow, orange, or pink. Perennials come back year after year and continue spreading their seeds and beauty. They do need to be pruned back at the end of the season.
Agastache
Aster
Bee Balm
Blanket Flower
Blazing Star
Blue Eyed Grass
Blue Flag Iris
Blue Flax
Butterfly Weed
Cardinal Flower
Columbine
Echinacea
Goldenrod
Gloriosa Daisy
Indian Paint Brush
Joy Pye Weed
Lobelia
Mexican Hat
Milkweed
Oriental Poppy
Turtlehead
Purple clover
Soapwort
Shooting Star
Wild Petunia
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Biennials are plants that live for only two years. During their first year they have foliage but no flowers. In the second year they bloom, set seeds, then, die. Their complete life cycle is two years.
Black-eyed Susan
Canterbury Bells
Dame’s Rocket
Evening Primrose
Hollyhock
Queen Anne’s Lace
Sweet William
David Austin roses-bare root
Where to Find Seeds:
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds: www.RareSeeds.com
Renee’s Garden: www.ReneesGarden.com
Sow True Seed: www.SowTrueSeed.com
American Meadows: www.AmericanMeadows.com
Territorial Seed Company: www.TerritorialSeed.com
Select Seeds: www.SelectSeeds.com
John Scheepers Garden Seeds: www.KitchenGardenSeeds.com

Lady Bird Johnson may have said it best with her heartfelt words about wildflowers. “Almost every person from childhood on, has been touched by the
untamed beauty of wildflowers. Buttercup gold under a childish
chin, the single drop of exquisite sweetness in the blossom of
wild honeysuckle, the love-me, love-me-not philosophy of daisy
petals.”

Wildflowers have certainly been an essential element in my life. I still have that Golden Nature Guide (it cost me a hard earned $1.00 selling chicken eggs) and that Brownie camera (now on display on my collectibles shelf) but most of all I still have the passion for wild flowers. My wild flower garden has been sown and I look forward to sharing photos with you once the blooming begins.

Spring forward and enjoy the outdoors. Plant a wildflower meadow.

MID MARCH REMINDERS from Cynthia Brian

CONGRATULATIONS are in order to the Lamorinda Wine Grower’s Association for their diligent efforts in getting the 29,369 acres of Lamorinda recognized as an American Viticultural Area (AVA). To buy local wine or learn more, visit www.LamorindaWineGrowers.com

CUT the spent blossoms off of daffodils and narcissus but leave the leaves to add nutrients for next years blooms.

HARVEST asparagus spears when they are six to eight inches long.

DYE eggs for Easter with colors from your garden. Red and yellow onions, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, beets, and more will give a unique look to your egg hunt.

PLANT your bare root roses, vines, and trees. Prepare the soil with compost, dig the hole according to directions, fill with top soil, water, and wait for the magic.

UPCOMING GARDEN EVENTS

VISIT the San Francisco Flower and Garden show March 16-19 from 10am-7pm at the San Mateo Event Center, 1346 Saratoga Drive, San Mateo to find answers to your gardening dilemmas. $22. www.sfgardenshow.com

ATTEND the Water Conservation Showcase on March 22 between 9-6pm at the P.G. & E. Energy Center, 851 Howard Street, San Francisco sponsored by the United States Green Building Council dedicated to educating and inspiring solutions for saving water, energy, and our earth. Jackson Madnick, Founder of Pearl’s Premium grass seed will be presenting at 4pm. This is a great opportunity to meet the lawn pioneer in person to understand how revolutionary his seeds are and how you can have a lawn in a drought.

SWAP plants and tools on March 26th at 4500 Lincoln Avenues in Oakland from 12-4pm. Trade your goods for other garden elements. Free. www.theplantexchange.com

MARK your calendars for wine and books event benefiting Be the Star You Are!® charity on Saturday, April 9th from noon until 7 at Dawn’s Dream Winery Tasting room, NW Corner of 7th & San Carlos, Carmel-by-the-Sea.

SAVE the earth April 17 from 11:30-4:30 for the Wildlife Earth Day Festival at Wagner Ranch in Orinda.

Read More

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing.
©2016
Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Starstyle® Productions, llc
Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com
www.GoddessGardener.com
925-377-STAR
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
Garden and plant consultations by appointment.

March Garden Tips from Cynthia Brian by Cynthia Brian

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Empowerment
March Garden Tips from Cynthia Brian by Cynthia Brian

cu iris

“That which surrounds you is within you.”~ Karl Schmidt

After visiting the Yucatan Peninsula for a week at the end of February where I snorkeled and swam in underground cenotes (rivers) as well as the aqua waters of the Caribbean, I returned to a garden exploding in blooms. Bearded iris, tulips, anemones, freesia, cyclamen, calla lilies, oxalis, Chinese fringe, rosemary, ranunculus, cinerera, gladioli, plus hillsides of daffodils as well as fruit trees of Asian pear, peach, apricot, prune, and crabapple. As the wind blew, the air rained pear blossoms. The soothing smell of springtime permeated my nostrils. How lovely to come home to beauty.
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The recent insert in our water bill made me laugh with ways to use only thirty-five gallons a day. Besides the fact that they failed to recognize that most households contain more than one individual, they also completely overlooked water for gardens, indoor plants, and pets. Although my water conservation efforts have placed me in the top 20% of savers, the water company also recognized that 68% of my water usage is for landscaping. If only we had access to the water of those 6000 cenotes in the Yucatan!

Many emails have arrived asking about more information on the Pearl’s Premium lawn seed. Since the ground is warming yet the heavens still shower us with rainfall, March is an opportune time to seed and re-seed your lawns. Since my November 4th, 2015 article about this award winning lawn seed, I’ve learned that new research indicates that the roots grow to twenty inches, making the grass, once established very drought resistant. The one draw back that I have discovered from my personal experience is that in our area, the birds do indeed like the seeds. Make sure to roll the seeds for good soil contact and water deeply. Water daily until sprouting occurs. You may have to over seed a few times to get the lush green thickness you desire.
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What to do in your March garden:

PICK up all fallen camellias to prevent petal blight on the plant. Remember that camellia bushes grow into camellia trees so plant in an appropriate location.

PLANT asparagus crowns as soon as the soil is dry enough to work.

SOW Irish potatoes, English peas, radishes, turnips, kale, and carrots any time this month.

ATTRACT Monarch butterflies to your garden by planting milkweed.  A caterpillar increases its body mass 2000 times as it nibbles on milkweed.

ADD the perennial vegetable rhubarb to your potager along with strawberries. They’ll be ready to harvest at the same time, just right for pies, jams, sauces, and other treats.

ESPALIER apples, kiwis, and grapes for easier picking as well as space saving.

SEED and reseed lawns. Clover is an excellent option if you are seeking something other than grass.

FERTILIZE lawns with an organic feed high in nitrogen. All plants can use a boost of nitrogen.

TIME for a tetanus shot if you haven’t had one in ten years. Tetanus does not occur just from rusty nails. You can get it from digging in the dirt.
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REPEL insects naturally with swaths of pennyroyal, nasturtium, calendula, and marigold.

NET plants, shrubs, and trees that you don’t want nibbled by birds, deer, rabbits, and other foragers.

DIVIDE agapanthus, daylilies, and iris while they are still semi-dormant.

COMPOST all organic matter to add to your garden. This includes newspaper, shredded cardboard, food scraps (except meat), eggshells, tea leaves, and coffee grinds.

BUILD hugels now while the soil is still easy to dig to help with moisture retention for the summer months.

PLAN your vegetable garden. Check the soil, turn over the cover crops, determine the sunlight conditions, choose your seeds, and write a list of plants you wish to purchase to keep you eating fresh all season.

PLANT culinary herbs including cilantro, chives, dill, mint, parsley, rosemary, and thyme.

PREPARE for Easter celebrations with arrangements of tulips, hyacinths, lilies, and colorful annuals.

START seeds of eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers indoors to get a head start on your summer barbecues.

WEED! After all the rainfall, weeds are proliferating. Start pulling them up or turning them under before seedpods set.

MARK your calendars for wine and books event benefiting Be the Star You Are!® charity on Saturday, April 9th from noon until 7 at Dawn’s Dream Winery Tasting room, NW Corner of 7th & San Carlos, Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Chinese fringe
Allow your surroundings to sink deeply into your soul. You have the power to bring beauty to your everyday environment.

Happy Gardening! Happy Growing! Happy Spring! (almost)
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©2016
Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Starstyle® Productions, llc
Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com
www.GoddessGardener.com
925-377-STAR
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
Garden and plant consultations by appointment.

tulip, cinerara

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