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gardner and bloome organic soils and compost shirley bovshow garden expert landscape designer

One of the most confusing subjects for new gardeners is soil, especially the "added value" kind of soil that you buy at the garden center.

Isn't soil just dirt, cleaned up and packaged?


As a new gardener, I didn't know the difference between "planting mix" and "potting soil," and bought whatever was on sale.

Dead plants were the result of my ignorance.


Dozens of garden soil options were available at the garden center but I didn't understand what they were for.

Apparently, many of the garden center sales people didn't know either.

So, I'm going to be the help that I wish someone had been for me!



I recently presented on "Soil 101: What Soil Should I Buy" on the Home & Family Show on the Hallmark Channel.

My goal was to introduce the viewer to the role soil plays in plant viability as well as explain the key ingredients added to commercial soil mixes.

Let's dig in!


Watch my garden segment in the video above from Home & Family show!




Since this isn't Biology 101, I'm going to stick to basic concepts about soil and its relationship to plants.

Your plants live in the soil; this is where they source all that they need to grow and thrive.

The fundamental roles of soil in plant life include:


  • Soil provides physical support and anchors plant roots so they can stand upright.
  • Soil retains moisture for plants to tap into.
  • Soil provides nutrients for plants and beneficial bacteria that help break down nutrients for easy absorption.
  • Soil provides air pockets so oxygen can get to the plant's roots.


The bottom line is that ALL the bagged soils provide these services to plants, albeit in different quantities and with different ingredients.




One of the most pro-active, educational habits a new gardener can adopt is to read the labels on bags of soil.

Ditto for fertilizer labels and ingredient lists for any garden amendment.

These labels contain the "nutrition facts" and a list of ingredients in the bagged soil beginning with the most plentiful to the least plentiful in the product.


When you understand the functions of soil - plant support, moisture, nutrition, aeration and drainage - you will begin to identify ingredients in soils that speak to these roles.

You will become a "well read" gardener!







Compost is simply decomposed organic materials. In other words, it's stuff that used to be alive.

Formerly living things include leaves, grass clippings, stems, and branches.

Compost enriches both native soil (in the ground) as well as potting soil that you use in containers with nutrients.


If you don't keep a compost pile, I recommend buying some and making it a staple in your garden.

Benefits of compost include improved tilth (soil texture), bringing a degree of expansion within the soil so that air can circulate.

Compost can help break down clay soil with time and may affect the soil's PH level.

Most of all, compost makes nutrients from formerly living matter available to your plants.

It's the circle of life!



Add compost to your native soil and in containers when planting bare root roses and trees.





Vermiculite is a sterile mineral that acts like a sponge and traps water in the soil for plants to tap into.

Since vermiculite is lightweight, it is used in seed starting mixes where seed rot from excess water is a potential problem.

Improved oxygen flow is also a benefit.

As a mineral, vermiculite reacts with other soil compounds, making other nutrients available such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.





Perlite is hard, porous volcanic glass with tiny surface crevices that hold water and air.

Added to soil mixes, perlite improves drainage and releases water to the soil as needed.

Many gardeners have discovered that fine and medium grade perlite by itself is an ideal seed starting medium.

You can also grow plants in perlite, provided you supplement it with fertilizer, as perlite does not provide the essential macro and micro nutrients plants need.




Horticultural sand is washed to remove salts and is added to clay soils to improve drainage and aeration.

When adding sand to clay soils it must be added in 50/50 ratios or poor drainage can become even worse.

You'll find horticultural sand as an ingredient in succulent/cactus and tropical plant soil mixes.





Coco coir and peat moss function in the same way; both hold moisture in soil, contribute organic matter, improve soil texture and are lightweight additives.

Of the two, coco coir is considered to be the more sustainable and renewable one.

Coco coir has the amazing ability to hold up to 10 times its weight in water and is made from coconut husks.

This is an ingredient that you want to see in soil mixes.








Seed starting mix is a soil less mixture which helps control against bacteria, weed seeds and insects found in regular soil.

Use it for starting seeds.





Garden soil blends for flowers and vegetables is meant to be added to outdoor garden soil to improve tilthe (texture), add nutrients and help retain moisture.

Never use a garden soil mix for container plants!

Garden soil is too heavy and will not allow sufficient air flow in a container environment.






Compost is a gardener's best friend and can be added to outdoor planting beds as well as container plants.

Full of nutrients and beneficial bacteria, compost can be used in the garden as a mulch or top dressing, mixed with lawn seed when preparing new lawns, and used for planting bare root roses and trees.


Add compost to your soil when creating new garden beds.

Dig in 3 to 4 inches of compost to your soil to a depth of 6 inches every season to replenish the nutrients and organic matter that has been absorbed and broken down.



There are a number of specialty soil mixes available for specific plants.

You will find soil for succulents, tropical plants, African violets, orchids, and more.

These soils are worth looking into, as they are blended to incorporate ideal ratios of organic materials, wetting agents, drainage, and nutrients for specific plants. 





Succulents, cacti, and many tropical plants require excellent drainage.

Sometimes soils that drain too fast aren't able to retain nutrients that plants need.

A commercial succulent mix offers the ideal ratios of sand, compost, humus, and nutrients to keep your plants fed and their "heads above water!"





Although many people plant orchids in simple orchid bark, you can also use an orchid soil mix enriched with nutrients as an alternative.

The added benefit of an orchid mix are nutrients such as worm castings and oyster shells for time released sustenance.




If growing plants organically is a priority for you, choose soils that have the OMRI seal (Organic Material Review Institute).

There are companies that produce organic products but have not paid fees to be certified as "organic," as it is an expensive process.

Read more about OMRI certification here.


Now that you have some basic information about common ingredients in bagged soil, you should be able to navigate your way through the soil aisle.

Soil is a very deep subject and we've just scratched the surface.

Please leave me your questions in the comment section below!



Shirley Bovshow, professional garden and landscape designer and Garden Lifestyle Expert on Home & Family Show on Hallmark Channel.


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Container Sizes For Growing Vegetables: Ask Shirley Garden Questions

container sizes for growing vegetables small medium large explained edenmakers blog

Growing vegetables in containers makes growing food accessible to most people, even those without a yard.

I answered gardening questions from viewers of the Home & Family show on the Hallmark channel recently in my "Ask Shirley" gardening segment.

Teresa Martin of Oklahoma wrote:

I've seen container gardening and want to know how much dirt do you need to grow veggies?
Does it matter? What can you grow in containers?



You can grow lots of vegetables and herbs in containers!


Healthy and prolific vegetable plants need the proper soil, sun exposure, water, and nutrients.

When you grow vegetables in a container, I would add that they need the appropriate space for roots to spread and take up nutrients and water.

Planted in the ground, plant roots are able to spread as much as needed but they are confined in a container.


Here's an example of what you can grow in a small, medium, and large container.




Vegetables for Small Containers (8-10 inches)


I made containers for herbs from white plastic microwave bowls from the Dollar Store: just poke a drain hole!


You can grow most annual, non-woody herbs in a small, 8 to 10-inch container.

This includes basil, cilantro, thyme, lettuce, and other leafy greens.

Mint doesn't really need a deep container as much as it needs a container with a wide surface area for its creeping roots.


The soil in small containers tends to dry quickly, so check it frequently.

Plastic containers retain moisture longer than terra cotta pots.




There are plenty of "compact" variety vegetable plants that have been developed that grow well in a medium-sized container.

You can grow a single broccoli, cauliflower, compact cucumber, small shishito peppers, or multiple leafy greens in a 14 to 18" diameter container.



"Patio Baby" is a compact growing eggplant variety.




Large containers can house a single, indeterminate tomato with support cage, an artichoke plant, squash, or any large growing vegetable.



Plant a strawberry patch in a large container with enough space to run!


If your vegetable needs a trellis, install at planting time or you risk injuring the plant roots when you add it later to the container!




If you haven't visited my Foodie Gardener blog,  please subscribe to it for information about how to grow food with style!


Read answers to other "Ask Shirley Gardening Questions."

Pruning Hydrangeas: Ask Shirley Garden Questions


One of the most popular questions I get is "When do you prune hydrangeas?"

Who said you HAVE to prune hydrangeas?



This question was posted on the Home & Family show Facebook page, and I answered it on the show recently.


Lene Brown of Pennsylvania wrote:

"I had a problem with my hydrangeas this past summer: no flowers! Could it be because I cut the whole plant back to the ground in the fall?

I have three bushes that never did that before. The bushes got big, beautiful green leaves, but only a few flowers."


My reply:

You probably cut off all your hydrangeas flower buds for next season!

It's important to understand that hydrangeas do not require cutting back unless you have dead, badly formed or crossing stems.

You can also cut off the dead blooms after flowering with no consequence to next season's bloom.

This is simply "dead heading" and is a practice to keep your plants looking tidy and clean.


If you are tempted to prune your hydrangea (to keep it small, or whatever reason), you need to know what hydrangea species (or type) you have, and if it blooms on "old wood" or "new wood."





"Endless Summer" hydrangeas by Bailey Nurseries


Lace cap and mop head type hydrangeas bloom on "old wood," or stems from last summer.

The buds for the following season are produced usually around the end of summer, between August and October,on the SAME stems that produced that summer's bloom!

So, if you prune your lace cap or mop head hydrangeas in the fall, kiss your next season flowers goodbye!



The "Twist N Shout" variety is also the first re-blooming lace cap hydrangea so you can enjoy a long season of blooms!


The exception to this rule applies to specially developed hydrangeas such as the "Endless Summer" series (seen in the two photos above), which puts out blooms on both old and new season stems.





"Limelight" hardy hydrangea by Proven Winners

'Annabelle' hydrangeas (arborescens) and 'Limelights' (paniculata) are hydrangeas that bloom on "new wood" or wood that emerges the same season as the blooms.

Annabelle and Limelight hydrangeas are both white hydrangeas that can take a severe pruning and still bloom the following season.


A word of caution: Don't prune these hydrangeas when it's close to blooming time (June-July), or you WILL cut off the blooms for the summer display!


I invite you to subscribe to EdenMakers to be notified of new blog posts as well as garden giveaways that I'll be hosting in coming weeks!










DIY Rose Clock Garden Craft


The DIY "rose clock" craft project I made for the Home & Family show recently was particularly special; it featured flowers and the menu from a gala event we all attended!

The red carpet event was hosted by Crown Media, owners of the Hallmark Channel. They invited all the cast members from their shows.


Winter TCA 2015Cast-of-Home-and-Family-Show-Hallmark-channel-at-2015-Winter-TCA-Event-Pasadena.

Photo by Jeremy Lee © Crown Media Family Networks


Cast members and executives of the Home & Family Show on the Hallmark Channel standing left to right (front row): Jeanette Pavini, Shirley Bovshow, Susan Sheryako, Marty Tenney, Mark Steines, Cristina Ferrare, Kym Douglas, Sophie Uliano

Back row, left to right: Debbie Matenopoulis, Laura Nativo, Woody Fraser, Dr. Jeanette Levenstein, Matt Iseman, Fabio Viviani, Matt Rogers and Kenneth Wingard.


I got to dress up and socialize with my Home & Family brothers and sisters over a delicious dinner!


Winter TCA 2015Crown-Media-hallmark-channel-shows-dinner-placesetting-pink-roses


When I saw the rose menu on the table and the gorgeous pink roses, I knew I wanted to create something special from them to remember the event.

As a fan of functional art, I decided to make a clock using these elements and it couldn't have been easier.


Take a look at how I made it.





Menu from the TCA dinner



Dried or preserved flowers



Clock kit

Hot Glue




Cake Round for base (could also use foam board)

Drill or round screwdriver to bore hole through cardboard cake round



Mod Podge






Start by making the clock face or base.

In this case, I glued the menu from my special event to the cake round and added a coat or two of Mod Podge.

I used the extra small white pearls as an accent.


Now, we’re going to make the clock.






Drill the hole for the clock stem and attach the clock mechanism to the back of the board by inserting the clock shaft through the hole.




Diagram for clock movement installation.


I preserved the roses.

You can hang them to dry or press them in a book.

I preserved these in silica gel.



Bury the flower in the gel and microwave it for 1 minute.


Final steps:

Preserve or dry your flowers in advance.

Brush or spray Mod Podge on the flowers to prevent crumbling.

Using a hot glue gun, position the flowers where you want them. 

Add a battery to the clock kit and adjust the time.


Rotate the dial in the back of the clock kit and advance to each hour.

Mark on the face of the clock where the hour hand lands for each hour you rotate and glue your number to face.

This way, you place the numbers on the hour!





Keep all decorations clear of the path of the clock hands

Large theme clocks are very on trend.

A 16 inch clock can cost from $60 – $100



I experimented with different clock face backgrounds.

This one has gold and white tissue paper, but it didn't make it to the final design.



Do you like this background paper and placement of roses, or is it too busy?



Clock Mechanism $10 

Base board $2

Silica Gel $11

Muffin cups $5

DIY Preserve Event Clock Under $30



garden designer shirley bovshow makes rose clock with cristina ferrare and mark steins on home and family show

Shirley with Mark and Cristina and guest, Pamela Bellwood of "Dynasty."



I placed my dried roses in muffin cups to protect them from crumbling.



This is the promotion photo I created for the rose clock segment.

I love working with Cristina Ferrare!


Photos of Shirley Bovshow, on the Red Carpet, TCA 2015


Clowning around at the TCA event with Matt Rogers, JJ Levenstein, Laura Nativo, and Matt Iseman



Shirley Bovshow with Fabio Viviani and Laura Nativo.




Garden and landscape designer, Shirley Bovshow at TCA 2015 for Crown Media



Thanks for reading this long blog post!
Isn't it time you made a clock from a cherished momento?



Palm Frond Succulent Container Arrangement


My latest garden craft uses repurposed palm fronds as containers for succulent plants.

I love the way the containers look and I'm very satisfied with how easy they are to make.


Watch the garden segment as seen on Home & Family show with Shirley Bovshow!



If you live in an area where there are no palm trees, you can order the fronds online at crafting stores.


You can also check your indoor mall for palm fronds; many grow palm trees indoors.




In Southern California, the windy season blows many palm fronds to the ground and all I have to do is drive around and pick up my future "container" materials from the street!


The rest of the materials are inexpensive, so give this project a try. 

You have nothing to lose!

As seen on the Home & Family show on Hallmark channel.




  • Palm fronds- any shape you like from "boat-like" to flat frond. 
  • sphagnum moss
  • plastic chicken wire
  • metal wire


  • outdoor grade crafting paint in your favorite color
  • polyurethane sealer-glossy
  • twine
  • copper or steal wool pot scrubber
  • succulent cuttings

I created my palm frond succulent container arrangements for the Home & Family show using succulents from Proven Winners brand, Savvy Succulents.




1. Clean the inside and outside of your palm frond with a copper pot scrubber- works just as well as sand paper!

2. Wipe off dust


3. Apply 2 coats of outdoor grade paint to outside and seal with polyurethane.

4. Wet the moss until moist but not saturated with water.



5. Cut a piece of plastic chicken wire the length of the inside of the palm frond 'pocket' and wide enough to fold over and fill with moss. Make sure it is small enough to fit inside the pocket or flat area.




6. Close the "chicken wire and moss" burrito with thin gauge wire.



7. Take succulent cuttings from your garden or from plants bought at garden center. Remove all the soil around roots.

8. Stick the succulent cuttings into the sphagnum moss and use a pencil to help create an opening in the moss.



9. Wrap twine or metal wire around the palm frond and moss to secure it and the cuttings to the frond.

10. Place palm frond container arrangement indoors in bright room, but not in direct sun, or outdoors in covered patio.




Shirley Bovshow, garden lifestyle expert for Home & Family Show on Hallmark channel

with her succulent container arrangement.


red-palm-frond-succulent-container-designed-shirley-bovshowPalm frond painted red and used as succulent container.


close-up-succulent-plant-combination-red-palm-frond-containers-shirley-bovshow-designer-edenmakers-blogClose up of Savvy Succulent plant combination


white-painted-palm-frond-on-drift-wood-planted-succulent-arrangement-shirley-bovshow-designer-edenmakers-blogShirley Bovshow's repurposed palm frond succulent container arrangement painted white and resting on driftwood.


bronze-painted-palm-frond-succulent-container-arrangement-moss-eucalyptus-sticks-designed-by-shirley-bovshow-edenmakers-blogBronze-colored palm frond succulent container arrangement with deep pocket for plants.





Do you  have any questions about making the palm frond succulent containers?






Living Succulent Tapestry Pillow in Under 5 Minutes



UPDATED JAN. 5, 2015

This  "Living, Succulent Tapestry Pillow" was designed by Shirley Bovshow and created in less than five minutes!

* The video from the Home & Family show is on automatically, if you would like to turn it off, please scroll down and press the "play" button.

(Hopefully, you'll want to watch it).


One of my favorite "garden craft" designs is the "Living Tapestry Succulent Pillow" that I originated a few years ago for my live presentation at Epcot in Walt Disney World.

Ever since then, I've been tweaking it out and I really like how it looks these days.

I had the opportunity to present the succulent pillow on the "Home & Family" show which airs weekdays on the Hallmark channel.




Watch my garden segment on Home & Family show.


The one I created for Home and Family is a  bit more fancy, but the succulent pillow instructions are the same.


Original Blog Post

Shirley-Bovshow-Living-Succulent-Tapestry-Pillow is made with moss-filled outdoor pillows. A Shirley Bovshow original design!


I'm making a living succulent tapestry pillow for my presentation at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival!

It's part of my "10-Ways to Incorporate Art in Your Garden," presentation and is an affordable and easy garden craft to make.



Here's a video I recorded a couple of years ago for the succulent pillow.

Watch us make the succulent pillow on my web series, "Way to Grow" on the Digs channel on YouTube.


It is a Shirley original, as far as I know, (a vision came to me for it while watching Citizen Kane).

Inspiration comes from the most unlikely places!

This pillow is so easy to make that you will feel guilty accepting compliments for it.

Here we go.




Materials for Living Succulent Tapestry Pillow

Outdoor pillow in solid color- avoid prints if you want your plants to be the focal point.

1 large bag of  sphagnum moss (moistened)

3 small succulent cuttings or 3"-inch potted plants

Panty hose

A sense of style

Xacto knife



  1. Open the seam of pillow on one side and remove all the stuffing.




  1. Stuff the pillow with moist sphagnum moss
  2. Position your succulents where you would like them. (Groups of three or more look nice)
  3. Remove the succulent from the pot, remove half of the soil and wrap pantyhose around root ball to keep intact. 



     4. Cut slits where you want to place your succulents and gently insert the plants. 




 Open an area in the moss and insert succulent root so that  it's not free-floating in a sea of moss.

You may want to add a "fringe" effect  to the pillow by using  a trailing plant such as fishtail senecio.

If you like a true pillow look, you can add Velcro to close the pillow. 

Or, leave it open and crown the pillow with a focal point plant like a small aeonium or echeveria.

You are done and ready to receive your praise!


Place your living succulent tapestry pillow on an outdoor bench or other water-safe surface in a part shade area.

Don't subject your pillows to harsh sunlight.

Water by misting roots once a week and less frequently in the winter time.

If you leave an opening on top of pillow, you can add water there and it will flow down to water your succulents.



Cold winter gardeners can over-winter their succulent pillows indoors and place on a pebble tray.




Succulent pillows can last for a few years although you may want to plant the cuttings in the garden once they get bigger.

Enjoy the compliments!



If you like my succulent pillow, pin it on Pinterest and tell your friends about it.