Tomato Troubles

I have large tomatoes, plenty of them…that is not the trouble. Hornworms. and cracking, those are the troubles.

Right now, I am picking the fruits just turning red and ripening them on my window.

Hornworms are officially called Manduca quinquemaculata. As caterpillars they are voracious pests, munching through incredible amounts of your tomato harvest.

How To Prevent Hornworms?

  • Till the ground pre-season to destroy up to 90% of overwintering of them.
  • Wasp larvae attach themselves to hornworms and are a biological control.
  • Dill, basil, and marigolds are companions to tomato plants which help repel them.

Some Cracking Rainstorms

cracked tomato
Skin cracked, but delicious all the same.

The other malady of my tomato plants is the case of the cracking fruit. What causes the lines and opening of the tomato skin? Just the weather conditions we experienced: Dry weather period followed by rainstorms. It was the lack of water which caused the splitting skin. The answer would have been more regular watering during a droughty period.

Rains have left the ground in good condition for sowing some late summer seeds for the fall crops. That is next on my agenda.

This Is The Time Of Year That My Garden Gets Away From Me

The weeds, the harvest, the garden maintenance…. all need attention. As an older gardener both my health and summer’s heat conspired against me. I must take a laissez faire attitude against the chores which go undone while I take refuge from hot temperatures.

But thankfully, the days are cooler and less humid this week! I look forward to catching up.

The earth looks so gratefully green after its thirst is quenched. I, too, have joined its gratefulness and drink in the blue skies and high cotton clouds.

The Turn Of Summer

Chrysanthemums have appeared at the stores, a sure sign that we face the end of summertime. It is this shift of plant focus that signals the wax and wane of our seasons.

Chrysanthemums used to be perennial in my garden, but now it is difficult to bring them through the winter. They have always needed more protection in this rural garden. The scathing winds and bare winter earth was too much for the varieties planted here. I imagine there were other factors of neglect that contributed to their short lived existence, as well.

Mums tend to be garden plants that thrive on cultivation and fade way with a wild, competitive garden. They like space and room, plenty of fertilizer and being reset every few years.

These days I treat them like annuals.

I will look for an apricot one to place in my large container, and soft pinks for the containers on either side of my front walk.
Cushion mumsGrowing Cushion Mums

It is too early, but already my thoughts turn towards the hope that I will be a better, more attentive gardener next year. I am reining them in to create a more “in the moment” framework of savoring the bounty of autumn.

The garden is not finished with the end of summer, it is gathering strength for a grand finale.

How is your garden growing? Are you tempted by the bulbs and baskets of chrysanthemums yet?

How To Plant Dutch Bulbs For Fabulous Spring Flowers

Start Spring With A Big Pop of Color

Apeldoorn Tulips
Apeldoorn Tulips |

Though the usual sequence is to plant the bulbs in the fall for bloom in the spring, some growers cheat the system by chilling those sold for spring bloom. This is necessary for Southern gardens which don’t get the required cold temperatures.

Presented here are some of the fine selections that you can plant in your own gardens to brighten up the Springtime with color and fragrance.

Find out if the small bulbs, tulips, or daffodils might be best for you.

Planting and maintenance tips, secrets to success, all included for your pretty garden.

A Healthy Look

Fat, Healthy Tulip Bulbs
Fat, Healthy Tulip Bulbs

These Are Always Planted In Autumn

Though planted in Autumn, Spring is the best time to make lists of varieties to order or look for when the season rolls around in late August.

Pick Healthy Bulbs

Dutch Perfection

  1. The Dutch have perfected the bulb growing for ideal blooms.
  2. Most bulbs are shipped to stores and gardeners at planting time ,starting about September.
  3. Bulbs come in different sizes according to variety, but also due to quality.
  4. They produce 4.32 billion tulip bulbs annually, some of which will grow cut flowers.

Fat Bulbs: Heavy Means Healthy

Because tulips and other fall planted spring bubs are grown in Holland to ideal size, it is important to get the largest bulbs you can. Look for tight tunics (the brown skin), a feel of heavy weight for the size, to indicate freshness and health.

Although bulbs differ in look, they should feel heavy, since the lighter they are the more they may have dried out. When taking care to get the best bulbs, be sure to plant them promptly. This allows the roots to get a start on the winter.

When ordering online, the catalog should record the diameter of the bulbs offered, usually in centimeters. This is the way to gauge the quality of what is offered.

  • 10 cm. minimum for tulips, 12 cm. is better
  • Daffodils depend on variety and class, but look for those with 16 cm. bulbs for best results
  • Not sure of size? Choose according to feeling of weightiness

Glory of the Snow
Big impact from a small size: plant in large groups. Glory of the Snow



How To Plant And Naturalize

Put Those (Plant) Babies In The Ground

Bulbs are simply a storehouse which contain the baby plant in entirety. Everything needed for a beautiful blooming plants is right inside the bulb along with a storehouse of food for that year. This is why we can “force” bulbs for inside the house during winter months.

It also explains two other things: why forced bulbs are useless to plant in the ground and why we need to leave the foliage growing after blooming. The foliage is fattening up the storage bulb and creating the next year’s flowers.

First Steps For Fabulous Results

  1. Find a sunny spot- most spring flowering bulbs need full sunshine.
  2. Make sure the soil is well-drained. These bulbs will rot in soggy ground.
  3. Dig holes or a trench 3 x deeper than the bulb’s height.
  4. Sprinkle in the fertilizer.
  5. Plant bulb root (or plate) side down and cover with soil.

Mixed Triumph Tulips (25 Bulbs) - Assorted Colors of Tulip Bulbs
Mixed Triumph Tulips (25 Bulbs) – Assorted Colors of Tulip Bulbs

Add pretty color with old fashioned looking Triumph tulips. They are a bit shorter than Darwins, but their large flowers are held on sturdy stems.

These bulbs are grown to flower this spring, and don’t forget that they can look lovely in containers plantings, too.

Nothing says spring like a bunch of colorful tulips.

Plant them towards the front of the flower bed.They bloom mid-Spring.

Blooming Together For A Spring Picture

Daffodils and grape hyacinths usually bloom together
Daffodils and grape hyacinths usually bloom together. They are just one example of the layering technique, where large sized bulbs are planted deeper with small ones are planted a few inches higher.

This produces a carpet of contrasting color for the larger blooms of Daffoils and Tulips. It is a favorite method of Dutch growers in their display gardens.

How To Mix Bulbs Together In Pretty Combination In Your Garden

Check bloom times on bulbs for the greatest likelihood of pretty garden pictures.

Given the variability built into Mother Nature it still is no guarantee that the bulbs will all flower on cue. However, the upside of that truth is that sometimes many flower simultaneously with other plants that you didn’t expect.

This past winter delayed everything in my own garden, and provided quite a few surprises, but in normal years the inner clocks of the flowers are dependable.

The garden always surprises.

Good combos?

  • Small bulbs and earliest daffodils
  • Early Kaufmanniana tulips with crocus
  • Choosing two or three harmonious tulips of the same class
  • Daffodils and Scillas
  • Tulips and Hyacinths

My Favorite Spring Flower Pairings

Low growing perennials like Moss phlox ( Phlox subulata), Iberis sempervirens, ‘Basket of Gold’ Alyssum at the feet of tulips are probably the best of the blossoming spring show.

The moss phlox and Iberis are also attractive groundcovers all season long with attractive foliage that persists and smothers many weeds.

Moss Phlox With Red Tulips, And Yellow Daffodils

In my driveway garden, this carpet of moss phlox is paired with red tulips and golden daffodils.

What Flowers Make You Think Spring?

Which is Your Favorite Spring Flowering Bulb?

While there are many perennials which flower in springtime, it is the Dutch flower bulbs like Tulips, Daffodils, and Crocus which most of us identify with the beginning of the new garden season.

In fact if you would choose an icon for the Spring, it might well be one of those blooms. Although they may not come first to mind, there are a plethora of other flowers that bloom from bulbs in the spring: Hyacinths, Frittilarias, Snowdrops, Glory of the Snow, Eranthis, and numbers of lesser known like the Alliums and dainty bulb forming Irises.

Start the garden out right with a plan that includes a display of these easy care bulbs with good looking perennial plants to bloom with them, or cover them later.

Cover The Ground With Perennials

I like to grow perennials with Spring flowering bulbs, not just to cover the dying foliage, but also as companions that bloom in tandem with them.

Low growing perennials are the classic pairing, Phlox subulata, Arabis, Basket of Gold are just a few. Forget-me-nots and pansies create bright, colorful panoramas of bloom along with the larger flowers of tulips and daffodils.

Another Landscape Idea

Perennials that are slow to emerge will give the bulbs time to bloom and then cover the fading foliage. Hostas are ideal, but daylilies are better for sunny spots and keep the color going into summer months.

What Sort Of Fertilizer Should I Use?

Add Long Lasting Fertilizer

Fertilizers such as bone meal or the special formulation sold for bulbs create perennial vigor and bloom.
Organic fertilizers are often slow acting and soil building which is just what bulbs like to produce gorgeous flowers.

Fertilizing For Bulb Maintenance

Be sure your flowers come back year after year and bloom to maximum results by adding fertilizer when planting and annually thereafter.

Scotts Bulb Continuous Release Plant Food, 3-Pound (Not Sold in Pinellas County, FL)
Scotts Bulb Continuous Release Plant Food, 3-Pound (Not Sold in Pinellas County, FL)

I personally prefer to add bone meal, which has a typical analysis of 3-15-0. The middle number is phosphorus which aids in root growth and promotes blooms.

Fertilize as you see the shoots emerge, and then after bloom each year.

Remember that roots are growing under ground in the fall, and that is another period of time to add slow release fertilizers.

The food that is formulated especially for bulbs takes out the guesswork.

Scilla Hispanica or English Bluebells Naturalize In Shady Places

Scilla hispanica
Like in an English woods, these wood hyacinths have covered the ground with blue flowers. source: Wikipedia Commons



“Scatter” is the operative word in naturalizing.

Whether you scatter the bulbs on top of the ground before planting, or scatter seed after the flowers set seed, the effect is as if mother nature herself were at work.

Have you ever seen pictures of a river of blue flowers among trees? A lawn with an endless parade of spring flowers such as daffodils, or even a hillside covered in crocus? They probably did not get there by accident, but by the artful planting in a style called “naturalizing”.

Chionodoxa is a good choice for naturalizing
Chionodoxa is a good choice for naturalizing

Some bulbs will helpfully seed and multiply, but many need a gardener who distributes bulbs each year in a way that looks so unstudied that it seems as though it had to be Mother Nature.

It is easy to do. Simply choose the bulbs you wish to grow, a spot where they can be left alone after blooming (remember they need time for leaves to die down), and patience.

How To Naturalize

  • Scillas and Chionodoxa are easiest to grow this way. Crocus is a little more difficult, because rodents may eat them and they don’t spread through seed in most gardens.
  • I like to scatter the bulbs in the area I want to plant them, and then use a shovel or trowel to open the ground. Drop in the bulb with a bit of bone meal. Done!
  • Under shrubs and trees when a neat lawn is required; in the lawn itself, if you don’t mind some weeks of shagginess for withering foliage.
  • Along a driveway, mulched during bulb dormancy, is a pretty way to naturalize Grape hyacinths.
  • In lightly wooded areas, on hillsides, within a shrubbery.


  • 5 Best Small Spring Blooms
    One of the ways I like to combine these small bulbs is to have a garden with all blues, naturalized in the grassy areas and under trees. A mix of Scillas, Glory-of-the-snow, blue Muscari, are a melange of blue color spilled over the ground

My Daffodils Multiply Every Year

Daffodils readily multiply. In fact, they will need to be divided every once in awhile if they become crowded; but this simply results in more free bulbs for you!

Bulb Garden Maintenance


  1. After bulbs bloom, snip off dead flowers, leaving stems.
  2. Allow all green parts to wither and die down, or lift bulbs and keep in a cool, dry place.
  3. Allow to grow in situ until bulbs no longer bloom well. Then lift, divide, and move.
  4. Don’t allow to go to seed unless they are minor bulbs which you wish to naturalize. Seed formation weakens daffodil and tulip flowering. Allow all strength of plant to go to bulbs.
  5. Lightly fertilize in following fall to help roots and plant prepare for next year.


Take off the spent flowers to prevent bulb strength going into seed production.

Garden Snips I consider my garden snips to be invaluable for the job of dead heading and a surprising number of other garden tasks. Read my review of the economical, favorite brand I use.

Spring Garden Harmony

Choose colors, heights, and bloomtimes
Choose colors, heights, and bloom times

Fall Planted Spring Bulbs

Plant Type Colors Depth
Tulips many colors,except blue 6 to 8 inches
Daffodils mainly yellow and white, but also oranges 6 to 8 inches
Fritillaria imperialis yellow, orange 6 to 8 inches
Hyacinths blue,purple,pink,white,salmon, 6 to 8 inches
Hyacinthoides hispanica blue, white, pink 4 inches
Alliums, large Purple 6 inches
Minor bulbs: crocus,scillas,galanthus,iris,etc multi-colors and single colors 3 to 4 inches
Alliums, small rose, yellow, white 3 to 4 inches

Quick color and planting depth chart

© 2014 Ilona Erwin

change for social media

I need to make this post in order to claim my blog and change the settings on Bloglovin:

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

This blog is the Ilona’s Garden Journal moved onto its own site. Someone had squatted on “” years ago so I bought “Home Garden Companion” and moved the blogger site to this self hosted WordPress site.

I finally took the old blog private now that there has been time for my readers to locate the new url.

On Bloglovin there were some followers and I moved them to the published site so they can enjoy the posts they signed up for!

Apologies for the awkward way I have moved and changed my blogs over the last year. Hope for smooth sailing ( writing and gardening) ahead.

A Dry And Crispy Lawn

We have had heat and my part of Central Ohio has been skipped for the last several thunderstorms. I see the toll it is taking on the surrounding cornfields: pineappled upper leaves and browning lower ones. The soybeans handle the conditions in far better shape.

My lawn, as it were, is crunchy underneath as I trudge the hose around to my suffering containers. I don’t water lawns. Ever.

Yet, my grass areas have a semi-green appearance. The white clover defies succumbing to our August drought; though the grass is dormant, dry, and crispy.

clover and grass

This is rather normal for August, actually. Very hot, horridly humid, looking for rain, seeking shade and coolness.

What I Water

So, the chores! Sometimes there is no escape, and a nagging guilt that I will regret my procrastination moves me forward.

Besides the flower containers, which honestly could use it more often than I proffer it, I water tomato plants. Waiting until it is obvious they desperately need a drink, I finally gave them a good deep watering the other day.

The forecast rain went south and headed east- I saw none of the promised rain!

Not all of the procrastination of outside work as been deliberate. For health reasons I can no longer go outside in the humidity saturated 90 degree weather.  So my garden languishes in this drought.

Believe me, I suffer looking at it!

Morning Sessions

Work can be pleasant on summer mornings as long as the temperatures drop a bit. Yesterday I half-weeded the vegetable beds, finally removed the spinach which weeks before had gone to seed.

As you can imagine, mine is no picture perfect garden.

buddleia bush
Buddleia bush and striped Miscanthus grass

Today I am enjoying a lovely morning.

Especially this year, I am disposing of those inner promptings to make the garden for imaginary others. No one comes to see them, even when they are at their best. My yardwork is for my own benefit, and the challenge is to adjust my thinking to calibrate with that truth.

Enough Moaning

new hydrangea bush
I bought this Forever and Ever Hydrangea as a half dead sale plant- it perked up when promptly planted and watered.

I might seem to be moaning- forgive me, I hope not. The adjustments to changing conditions does not always have a downside… even when we are in a season of “less”.

I am enjoying the breeze of the morning, observing a couple incredibly small hummingbirds jockey for territorial rights to their space in my apple tree. So much of life is rich and we have only to focus elsewhere if one area is going through drought.

We don’t need to complain. Too many people just complain about the weather. Not that I never do- but what usefulness is there in complaining about something you have no control over?

In Sum

And so I walk on my dry and crispy lawn, crunching underneath my counted (yes, daily counts of steps are measuring my actions) steps. Much of the days energy might be relegated to hauling the infernally heavy hose around (I need to try one of those lightweight ones again…. maybe they will last longer for me this time), but I can see which plants do well in my climate, plan for a fall crop of new spinach and salad greens, catch up on writing, and find any number of ways to flow with life rather than fight and rail against it.

It is choice. It does help to plan for the lean times. I have a love for clover in a lawn; for hardy and tolerant plants; for variety in seasons; for help when it is given and grace when it is not.

Maybe the choice is generously mixed with gratefulness.

I leave you with that thought…until next time, my friend.

Found Flowers

“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” ~ Henri Matisse

When in California a few years ago, I had been walking in a nature preserve on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. By chance, some unknown person left this pretty handtied bouquet of flowers in the dirt path. It was so delightful, an unforeseen gift . I took a photo and left it as it had been found.