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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

I'm a little late with the Halloween post but I hope you had a Happy Halloween!

Here's Little Jack*:

Here's Big Jack:

Happy Halloween!

*Little Jack was home grown from the vegetable garden. At least there was one pumpkin that was not smooshed!

Friday, October 30, 2009

October in the Garden

Yesterday during a reprieve from the rain we went out to examine the state of the garden. The past two weeks I've been mostly concentrating on the greenhouse project and I felt it was time to see what I've been missing.

The celosia I planted from seed this year did really well. It's a virtually no maintenance annual unless you consider the weeding of extra seedlings I may not want next year. 

The Dusty Miller I planted in the spring has finally emerged from behind the purple sweet potato vine. The Potato vine took over the location beside the arbor covering the Dusty Miller, Columbine, 'Purple Homestead' Verbena, and variegated liriope. The Dusty Miller is a semi-hardy annual to tender perennial here. It can handle some of the cold temperatures we get and may come back the following year. It's cheap to replace and usually gets treated as an annual.


Beside the back deck I planted a 'Shasta' Viburnum. It didn't bloom this year as it was probably protesting being moved from it's previous location. In the background is a 'Firebird' Penstemon. 'Firebird' Penstemon is rated to zone 7 cold hardiness but I planted this one last year and we live in a frost pocket so I would guess that it's relatively safe up to zone 6. It's easy to take a cutting from and overwinter indoors or in a pot in the garage.


My 'Dale's Strain' Heuchera is doing great. I bought it last year and divided one of the two plants to make a grouping of three. The two that were divided are smaller but still doing well. 'Dale's Strain' has a nice green and white variegation that turns into caramel coloring in the winter.


If we hop over the wire fence into the vegetable garden we can see my strawberries have run amok! It must mean that it's time to expand the garden. I hope to add some more raised beds then transfer the rampaging strawberries over. After the strawberries were done fruiting in the spring I fertilized them with bloodmeal which combined with the rich soil in the raised bed spurred lots of runners (don't fertilize strawberries before fruiting since that will produce green growth and not fruit growth). Strawberries need rejuvenated every couple of years by eliminating the mother plants and replacing them with the young runners. Every runner will eventually turn into a new mother plant and the process can be sustained indefinitely. This strawberry bed began as 3-4 plants from a pot and 6-8 plants from a plant swap. 


My grass is green and shiny thanks to all the rain! I haven't fertilized the yard yet in the two and a half years we've lived here and really have no plans too with anything other than sifted organic compost. I believe that a lawn can be environmentally responsibly grown. I overseed with a new variety of grass every fall. Now if they would just come out with a riding reel mower...


My 'Daiblo' Ninebark (Physocarpus) has grown a little. It's a new addition to the Birdbath garden this year and is paired with a pair of 'Powis' Castle artemisias. I'll need to keep the artemisia trimmed lower to prevent it from completely enveloping the ninebark but that will just give me an opportunity to make more free plants! I don't think you can go wrong with planting silver and purple foliage plants as companions.  In the background you can see the current state of the greenhouse shed. It's coming along!


And here's a closer look. The plantings in front of the greenhouse will need some reworking but I'll worry about that after construction is complete!


Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Greenhouse Project: I Need Braces

We managed to accomplish a little more on the greenhouse project this week. We ran into a small roadblock when we botched putting together the roofline and had to take the rafters down to reattach them to the center beam. I was trying to do things in a simple and easy way which turned out to be complicated and difficult, figures! That's been corrected now and things are back on track. 

The next few days won't be good work days due to the rainy weather and Saturday is Halloween (I'll be Trick-or-Treating with a Kitty Cat and a Princess) so the greenhouse project will be on hold through the weekend but I'm still happy with the progress we've made so far. I think Thanksgiving is a good target date for completion of this project. I have a tendency to underestimate the amount of time needed for completing projects so I'm trying to be generous!

The next step in building this greenhouse is to add braces. We attached metal brackets to the edges of the framing to aid with getting the roof up but they won't hold the weight they need to for this roof to stay up. Having the roof stay up is very important don't you think? The brackets did help to align the rafters and give us a temporary way to hold the rafters while we attached them to the center beam. The ridge line is held up by a post in the back, in the middle attached to a center beam, and in the front above the door headers. The braces we need to add will attach to 12' beams that come across the structure and will connect the rafters that hold up the roof.

After bracing we'll finally be able to add roofing material which will be very exciting! I need to fit a couple windows on one side of the roof to catch more light and heat. The roof will be mostly covered with normal roofing materials but having a couple windows on the western side will help add more afternoon light in the winter. The peak of the roof would ideally be higher to catch more light but we didn't want too tall of a structure in the backyard.


I'm still trying to figure out the heat extremes that I'll have to deal with this winter. The need for supplemental heat will be determined by the daytime temperature and heat loss overnight. I'll insulate the areas of the greenhouse structure that will be without windows which will help reduce some heat loss. There are all kinds of passive heating methods that will help with heat retention and I may need to use them to keep this greenhouse warm for seed starting in late winter. What are the winter temperatures in your greenhouse and what do you use to keep your greenhouse warm on a cold and dark winter eve?

Previous Greenhouse Posts:

Fall Color Project: In the South

As yesterday we saw more and more fall color from the south in Virginia and Tennessee today brings us more proof that fall is here in the Southern U.S.. SC Gardener has fall foliage that is well worth a look! One post entitled Fall Color Isn't Just for Trees: Shrubs With Fall Leaf Color gives us a look at the fall color of several of my favorite shrubs like Oak Leaf Hydrangea, Fothergilla, and various viburnums! For a group of links to other Fall Color Spots in South Carolina check out Fall Color in South Carolina.

See the most recent Fall Color Project Posts:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fall Color Project: A Flurry of Foliage

Today was one of those days when everyone decided to have a great idea at once, post about fall colors! Unfortunately I've been working all day on the greenhouse and have just now been able to update the project. Better late than never right?We'll start today's flurry of fall foliage posts in the order they were received!

The first stop today is to see a canopy of golden foliage at Catherine's garden. On her blog, A Gardener in Progress, her maple trees are shining with some of the greatest colors I've seen in a tree. I really think you could match it, but never beat it! The last picture is a classic one of fall, arching branches laden with golden leaves and a blue sky in the background.

Your next stop is to Virginia and the garden blog of Racquel, The Perennial Gardener! Racquel has prepared a neat slide show of fall scenes in her area to watch. Scenic hillsides with the turning colors of maples and oaks brighten up the landscape!

I always look forward to what Nancy at Soliloquy has posted. Not only is she a great photographer but she has a definite talent for poetry as well, and we are lucky to be treated to both!

On a familiar road I stood
And scanned the trees for gilded wood;
No crimson, orange or scarlet here.
“We’ve missed Fall’s flame”, I thought, I feared.

For the rest of her poem you have to visit Soliloquy!

Beautiful, simply beautiful is the only way to describe fall in Connecticut. Over at Evolution of a Gardener you can see Kate's photographs from her trip to Devil's Hopyard. Picturesque bridges, fall foliage and wild fauna are frozen in time for us to enjoy all week at her blog. Go for today and visit all week as she posts more fall foliage pictures from her trip!

The Hudson Valley is another great place to travel for fall color gawkers! JGH from Nyack Backyard visited Tallman Park which is part of the Palisades Interstate Park System. Once inside Tallman Park JGH and Miss B show us the trees, the North Picnic Area where you can see the Hudson river, and Piermont Marsh. The Hudson Valley is well worth a trip if you like fall color, especially when it's only a mouse click away!

Fall Color Project: Michigan vs. Tennessee

Nope we aren't talking football here but fall foliage!

Monica the Garden Faerie has posted some fantabulous fall foliage! She also happens to have many of my favorite shrubs in her garden including fothergilla, Red Twig Dogwood, viburnums, and smokebush. I would be right at home in her garden, except or the whole Michigan cold weather thing! Go pay Monica a visit and see some of the great autumn foliage her garden has to offer.

Tina at In the Garden is the first in Tennessee to show off her fall colors! Dogwoods, camellias, and a really neat Korean maple have begun the fall leaf change in her garden. Bradford pears are turning bright red while her serviceberry (which is a good replacement for Bradford Pears) is turning a beautiful golden yellow. Come see what fall color is like here in Tennessee!

See the most recent Fall Color Project Posts:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Smooshing Pumpkins

We've all heard about the infamous teenagers who go around neighborhoods looking for pumpkins to smash. Smashing pumpkins is one of those activities I never did and frankly always found rude and obnoxious, unless of course the smashers purchased their own pumpkins but that's rarely the case. In fact I find the current state of my own pumpkins to be quite rude too but I can't blame any misguided teenagers for this. Nope, I blame the borers (insert scary generic sound effect here).

The vine borers have been relentless this year in the garden. The borers made holes the trunks of the vines and tunneled their way into every part of the pumpkin that they thought tasted good. I suppose if I had been more on top of things I could have cut them out of the vines. I also suppose if I were more on top of things these pumpkins would be in the compost bin by now! I've just been too busy lately to take care of little chores and these smooshing pumpkins have been left to disintegrated. I'll move them before Saturday, but maybe they add a little Halloween ambiance?

I had to resort to buying our Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin from the store this year. Last year's pumpkin came from a pumpkin farm that we took the kids to, but we haven't had time for that this year. I'm sure Jack 2009 will be appearing on this blog soon. Until then these rapidly deteriorating pumpkins from the vegetable garden will have to do!

Coping With Slopes: Future Fruit

This month's Gardening Gone Wild Garden Design Workshop is coping with slopes. As you can see in the picture we have a pretty good sized slope. There's a whole lot of area up there that we just really have no great way to use, at least not yet. I have ideas for what I would like to do but for now I have kept control of the area.

Over time I've mowed pathways through the slope to allow us to have access to different areas. The pathways cut through sassafras and locust trees as well as blackberries, Queen Anne's Lace, goldenrod, wild roses, and honeysuckle. I'm not a fan of the latter two as both of those plants are very invasive. Right now my slope is completely uncultivated except for the grass pathways, but I have plans. Each pathway will eventually form a new garden bed along it's side with the center piece of each bed a type of fruit tree, most likely apple. This slope is positioned well for growing fruit since it is somewhat shielded from the sun and fruit trees should remain dormant longer which is better for fruiting (The blossoms can avoid a potential late freeze).  Inside each of the garden beds will be deer resistant plants to help defend the apple trees from grazing. I hope to get fresh apples from late summer through fall without having to buy them at the grocery store!

Right now coping is an accurate word since I'm simply managing what I have. I would love to eventually tier the slope to help with planting it but for now I have other projects like my greenhouse shed to finish, garden fence to build, and many other things that need done. A gardener's work is never finished, he just stops to enjoy the scenery every now and then!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall Color Project: Been to Blithewold?

If you haven't been to Blithewold lately you are missing out on a bunch of beautiful fall foliage! Kris just recently put a post up with all sorts of foliage perfection but it's the Katsura photo that has me trying to figure out where to put one in our yard! Full moon Japanese maples, sourwood, and even large leaved hostas get into the autumn act.

See the most recent Fall Color Project Posts:

Through the Trees

I took this picture over the weekend while the afternoon sun was beginning to descend. It was taken from the very back of our yard looking up toward the treetops of sassafras, dogwood, tulip poplar, and walnut. The fall colors are beginning their peak time and I know I'll be loading my camera card with many more pictures than I could possibly share with you. Of course maybe that's a good thing because you will see only the best!

Fall Color Project: A Walk Through Washington

Tatyana took a walk through her town in Washington to bring us fall color. Along the way she found some spectacular images of fall in the Pacific Northwest. I envy their ability to grow Japanese maples so successfully in that region. Birches, maples, evergreens and the Olympic Mountains all have their place in Tatyana's fall photos!
See the most recent Fall Color Project Posts:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Greenhouse Project: Shaping Up

The greenhouse shed project is coming along nicely. As I've mentioned before I'm not rushing things along but striving to do things as perfectly as possible. I'm very pleased with the results so far. Side to side and front to back, the greenhouse is almost exactly the same measurement. The greatest difference is about 1/4" between the longest sides. I figured that's about as close as I could manage!

I missed updating you on Friday so this post will cover everything we accomplished between Friday and Sunday. Consider it a weekend update!

Tasks completed:

  • Framing the windows.
  • Framing the patio doors openings.
  • Attached the headers.
  • Attached crossbeams
  • Attached brackets for roof rafters.

The above picture is taken from the long side with the big windows. I was taking the picture of the bracket we'll use to hang the rafters but I really like the picture for the golden glow of the tulip poplar tree in the background. Fall color will soon be peaking here in Tennessee.

This picture is taken from the back of the greenhouse shed looking toward the house. The large opening framed here is the backdoor where the mowers will be brought in and out through during the mowing season.

What's next for the Greenhouse Shed?

  • Raise the roof!
  • Panel the sides
  • Add crushed gravel
  • and more crushed gravel
  • stick in the windows
  • stick in the doors
  • add the siding
  • insulate and caulk

That's the short list!

Previous Greenhouse Posts:

Fall Color Project: Canadian Colour!

It's been a difficult year for many of use to get the optimum fall color shots since rains seem to be perpetual but Garden Lily has managed some very cool shots of her Canadian landscape! Cascading Japanese maples, beautyberry bushes, and burning bushes all provide some unique fall color in different ways. Go check out Garden Lily's Flowers and Weeds for some awesome fall colour!

See the most recent Fall Color Project Posts:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fall Color Project: Trees, Shrubs, and ... Snow?

How about a fall foliage trip to Bethlehem? Bethlehem, PA that is! Yet another example of fine Pennsylvania foliage is on display with photos taken from Penn's Peak by Marie at Garden in Bethlehem PA. Oaks, maples, locusts and all kinds of other trees are coating the hills like paint on a canvas.

Kylee of Our Little Acre has fall colors. In her Ohio garden all sorts of beautiful displays of the season have emerged from maples, crabapples, and dogwoods to one of my favorite plants: viburnums! You also get a look at some pretty cool cats out and about on a fall day. I'll bet they are thankful they got away from their close encounter!

Sarah Laurence offers us up a treat of two seasons. I say two seasons since snow in our area is almost exclusively a winter event. Did I say snow? Wow snow! Pictures of frosted red maple leaves and a dusting of snow covering everything are the icing on the fall color cake!

See the most recent Fall Color Project Posts:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fall Color Project: It's Not All About the Trees

Sometimes we trap ourselves into thinking one notion and stereotype things accordingly. We tend to think of fall color as a time of changing leaves, which it is, but often we leave out the perennials and shrubbery that provide us with color throughout the fall. Asters, fall crocus, and eupatorium seed heads grant us readers a different perspective from the leaves at The Deep Middle!

See the most recent Fall Color Project Posts:

The Greenhouse Project: Mostly Screwed

Yes you read the title right. My greenhouse project is mostly screwed.

Rather than use nails to hold everything together we're using coated deck screws as they tend to hold things much better and if you mess something up it's easier to fix!  The three disadvantages of this is it takes longer, the drill eventually runs out of power (although I'm borrowing my dad's which holds a charge pretty good), and they tend to be more expensive.

Did you think I meant something else?

I thought you might be interested in seeing where we stand with the greenhouse project today. All the windows are framed sized and almost tested. I'm waiting to install them until after we have the roof installed. I don't want to risk damaging any the windows with an errant board, foot or ladder. Sizing each opening properly was time consuming. Every window has different dimensions which means a lot of measuring, figuring, and planning. In some cases I had to take apart sliding windows to use individually because the frames were in no condition to be used.

Because we're using a combination of  patio doors and windows some of the openings had to be specially framed. Here in this picture you can see the two rough openings for vertical patio doors on the left and one opening for a patio door turned on it's side for another window.

Here's the same side from a different view. The space on the left will be to house the mowers. After all it's not just a greenhouse, it's a shed too!

Since rain is in the forecast for Friday I have no clue if I can accomplish anything on the greenhouse but I'll do what I can. I feel like I've gotten a pretty good start on things but there is still a long way to go!