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Monday, November 30, 2009

The Cold of Winter is Coming

Today more than many others I felt the cold of winter beginning to enter our Tennessee garden. The weather has been mild all throughout November and as December approaches noticeable changes are entering my consciousness. Overcast skies seem more prevalent than the sunny days we've been fortunate to enjoy, colder air seems to last here longer than the pleasant air. Even the wind seems different, more biting and much less inviting. I should count myself lucky that the weather has been so pleasant for so long but as is human nature I just can't seem to get enough of a good thing. The nice days have really been a boon to my recent project and have propelled it much faster than I really anticipated.

From the Birdbath Garden

Later this week the weather report is calling for highs of 40 degrees. Much too cold for this gardener to enjoy significant time outdoors, especially one spoiled by 55-60 degree temperatures. A few minutes here and there are fine but long term projects and activities will be slowing down a bit while waiting for the occasional unseasonal and extremely welcome pleasant day that is known to pop up from time to time here in TN. To rephrase a cliche I am definitely a fan of fair weather. Since the doors and windows are mostly on the greenhouse I should be able to tinker with its construction during the cold days and get it ready for spring seed starting. There's a whole list of things I need to do to get the inside plant ready but I'll save that for another post. For now though I'll be spending one more pleasant day outdoors working on my project before the cold sets in for the week. December 21st is the first day of winter and it is approaching fast. It's time to accept the fact that the inevitable cold weather is coming, winter is coming!

What outdoor activities do you like to tackle in the winter?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Greenhouse Project: Feeling Closed In

It's time for another backyard greenhouse shed update and I'm excited about this one!  You might ask why am I so excited...the doors have been set! This is when I can see that everything is starting to look like I originally intended. The front doors are on after a little bit of repair work. We shaved off an inch of the bottom of each door because of rotted wood. The rot didn't extend far up the door (less than the inch we cut) but needed removed otherwise it would continue to spread.  The doors have been sitting outside for a long time resting on the ground and just couldn't weather the weather! Additionally cutting an inch off the doors helped the doors fit a little better.

Here in these pictures I have the door and one window propped closed. I needed to attach a latch to the more stationary left side of the front doors so that the right side would lock against it. That's done now but it wasn't when the picture was taken. The window is being held closed since latches haven't been installed for it yet. I have some things to add on the inside before I attach them. The right window needs latches too but holds itself closed pretty well.

What Needs Done on the Front of the Greenhouse: Door trim, trim the gables, window latches, siding, install small windows, paint and stain siding and window frames.

On the back side of the greenhouse shed we added the plywood in the gables, a window in the gable area, the back door and a door/wall. The gable window is hinged and will serve as a vent for the greenhouse. I opened it from the inside today and felt a rush of air, I think it's going to work fine!

The door/wall will be covered in siding and will blend in with the surrounding siding to essentially be a hidden door. The left hand door can open and shut while the door on the right remains closed allowing it to function as either a single door or a double door.

Today I installed doorknobs and deadbolts in the back door from our old patio doors. they are keyed the same as our house which will be very convenient. I need to replace the doorknob and deadbolt on the French doors in the front of the greenhouse with some others I have after I have them matched to our keys.

What Needs Done on the Back of the Greenhouse: Door trim, window latches, secure the right door with latches, add siding, trim gables, paint and stain siding, windows frames and doors.

Here's a little look through the backdoor at the inside of the greenhouse shed, or to paraphrase myself "here's a look at my mess!" All the materials I want to keep dry are stored inside until I don't need them anymore. I doubt I'll have many leftovers. All the plywood will be used to cover the stud openings after insulating to help retain any heat gains the windows make. So much yet to do, but so much has been accomplished!

Leatherman Pruners?

I was looking on Amazon at some of the bestselling garden tools recently and I noticed this little tool that I found interesting: A Leatherman Pruning tool. It's a neat idea but as I pondered it I began to wonder exactly how useful it might be. Would it be able to replace my Swiss Army pocket knife I carry everywhere?

The Leatherman tool has pruners (which are a necessity in the garden), wire cutters, weed remover, grafting knife, bark lifter, Phillips screwdriver, saw, flat screwdriver, sprinkler tool, bottle opener, and a ruler. That's quite a few tools in one device but when I'm in the garden I usually don't need all of those tools very often. The one tool I would use the most would be the pruners which I'm pretty pleased with a pair of Fiskar pruners (Fiskars UltraBlade Traditional Bypass Pruner) I bought a couple months ago. I've needed wirecutters so rarely that I don't see need for them on the garden multitool tool, I'll just use the ones in my workbench. My Swiss army knife has the saw, screwdrivers, bottle opener and of course a more than adequate knife for whatever I need. The ruler would be handy but from seeing other Leatherman multitools I really think a good measuring tape is a much more functional choice. I'm trying to figure out what value the weed remover might be. In many cases killing weeds through boiling water, shovel, or simple weed pulling works fine. I doubt the weed remover is long enough to reach deep enough get to a dandelion or thistle taproot.

The multitool is missing one major garden tool which would make it much better, a simple pair of scissors. The scissors on my knife are one of the most useful tools I have. I use them for cuttings, for snipping twine, and for anything that needs a cut. I suppose the Leatherman tool is an attempt to help gardeners to reduce the amount of tools they carry in the garden. I'd rather just go with my pruners and my knife. Those two tools are much more functional paired together than one multitool and really aren't that inconvenient to carry, but that's just my opinion. What do you think? Is it a worthwhile tool for the garden or just a gimmick? What tools would you put in your Ultimate Garden Multitool?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Can You Identify This Rose?

I'm definitely no expert in roses.  Recently I saw this rose blooming at my mother-in-law's home and was curious as to it's identity. The insides of the bloom are a creamy yellow color while the outside of the petals are a kind of red-peach color. The rose has a cluster of four flowers which make it most likely a type of floribunda or grandiflora (For more information on roses: All American Rose Selections).  With such an amazing variety of roses in existence it may be impossible to identify with 100% accuracy what this one is but I'm hoping someone out there might have a clue!

I ended up taking four cuttings from this rose bush as well as about 8-10 other rose cuttings of two other varieties. So far in rose propagation I've scored and grand total of one rooted rose (out of 8-10 from the plant swap). I haven't had many opportunities to try propagating roses but I can tell you that maintaining the proper level of moisture on the roses is imperative. I've heard from several people who have recommended different methods of rose propagation from misting, to the soda bottle method, and even the jar covering method. The one I've rooted was without any covering in plain old sand for rooting medium. Since it was the only one of its group to succeed I would advise some sort of moisture containing covering to root them.

I'm definitely learning as I go with the roses!

Here's some good information I found about rooting roses from Texas A&M.

Can you identify my mystery rose?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday this Thanksgiving! Visit well, eat well, and most of all give thanks for all the wonders of life that we take for granted each and every day.

I would like to thank everyone who reads this gardening blog for adding something extra to the enjoyment of my favorite pastime! Without the readers and commentors blogging would be a whole lot like talking to myself (which I have been known to do sometimes!)

Also I would really like to thank my parents for all the help they have been with my Greenhouse project so far. I couldn't have gotten this far without you!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Simple Compost Solution

You can go out and spend all kinds of money for a fancy compost bin but sometimes a simple solution can work just as well. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a lazy composter. There I said it. I don't get out there to the bin to turn it regularly. I don't check it with a fancy compost thermometer to make sure the temperature is ideal. I don't add special compost ingredients designed to speed along the process. I probably should but I don't. I suspect if I did I would have a lot more finished compost available for my gardens. But as I said, I'm a lazy composter. I'm also a cheap composter. My big bin is a group of 4 pallets screwed together. Three pallets are actually attached and the fourth I use as a loose barrier that I move out of the way on the rare occasion I turn the pile! Most of the pallets came from transporting the paving stones for my patio project last year. Total cost - $0.

My point in revealing my composting secret is to say that you don't have to do much to get compost. If you wait long enough compost happens. Six weeks ago the compost bin was filled high up to the top board in the back with a variety of grass clippings, weeds, and spent garden plants. Today its as you see it with nearly half of the vegetable matter gone. I never turned it. Our kitchen scraps, leaves, and grass clippings go into the compost bin. Grass clippings are a little secret of mine. Adding 1-2 bags of grass clippings each time I mow greatly increases the speed of the compost - without turning.

You don't even have to have a compost bin to compost, a pile in the backyard works great although it isn't the prettiest thing in the world. Or you could trench compost. Dig a trench where you want to plant a garden and gradually fill it in with compost then cover with soil. Plant your plants in the spring over the compost trench and they will have easy access to the yummy nutrients you added. Just be sure to keep the animal products out of the bin as they can attract animals!

What Do I Compost? Vegetable scraps, coffee and tea grounds, egg shells, grass clippings, leaves, weeds, dead plants, shredded newspapers, and I even once threw in an old pair of holey jeans. After all jeans ARE made from cotton! Have you composted anything more unusual than jeans?

I hope to add a second bin soon with parts from another pallet I have handy as well as my old compost bin. Maybe by adding that second bin I can start a more regular turning process. Or maybe I'll just be twice as lazy!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Persian Shield Propagation (Strobinlanthus dyerianus)

Before the first frost of the fall I took a few cuttings of my Persian Shield (Strobinlanthus dyerianus) to hopefully overwinter it as a houseplant. This was the first year for Persian Shield in my garden and I've only seen it at one nursery around so I wanted to be sure I had some for next year in the garden. Saving a little cash while getting more plants is a pretty nice side effect!

It's a very cool plant with it's almost metallic sheen that reflects a mixture of purple and silvery hues in the light. It likes the shade but did very well in a part sun area in my garden. I took as many stem tip cuttings as I could to increase my odds of getting a rooted cutting but really this was so easy I probably didn't need to take any more than 5-6. I ended up with 8-10 rooted cuttings.

How Did I Root My Persian Shield?

The water method! The simple, plain old method for rooting cuttings of coleus, basil, or sedum works very well for Persian Shield too. I gathered a variety of internodal and nodal cuttings and placed them in baby jars filled with water. I didn't use any rooting hormones since I don't normally when using the water method for propagation. If you have willows available you may want to prune a stem off and put it in the water with your water cuttings to make them root faster but it isn't necessary. (You might end up rooting an extra willow that way too!)

Change the water regularly (at least every other day) while the roots are forming.  Once roots have formed, which for my cuttings took about 3 weeks, you will need to add water as it depletes or plant the Persian Shield cuttings into a pot.  I'll be planting these together with some coleus to make a colorful house plant combination.

Something I Noticed

The internodal cuttings didn't root along the stems which means that nodal cuttings are the way to go when taking cuttings of Persian Shield. Roots grew from each node that was submerged under water and the remains of the stems that were on the cut ends died back to the rooted node. It's not a big deal if internodal cuttings are taken since the cuttings still rooted but it might work better if the extra stem was removed before trying to root them.

Now if I could just get my greenhouse ready to house them for the winter!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Greenhouse Project: My Back

While I can assure you that my back is perfectly fine (at the moment!) I do need to have some work done on the back of the greenhouse shed. A few more things have been accomplished since my last greenhouse update but there are always more tasks to tackle (it seems like I've said that before). Since last time I've fitted a door and two windows on hinges. I also put together a moving wall that will match up with the back door to create a double door for the mowers to come through after use. When I don't need to bring out the mowers I will be able to come in through the back door by just going through the one single door on the left. Once it's all put together I'll show you in detail how it will work.

This is the southernmost side of the greenhouse which is where most of the winter light will fall. A good portion of it will come through on the western side which is where the big windows were. Our reason for positioning it this way is party aesthetic and partly function. For aesthetics we wanted to lessen the impact by having the short side of the structure the most visible. For function it had to fit the location and 16 feet back fit better than 16 feet side to side. There is also a small drainage gully that I needed to avoid and the greenhouse had to fit in the boundaries.

I'll be adding a ventilation window in the gable area before we completely close up the gables. I'll rig the window so that it will move on hinges and eventually (as funds become available) I hope to add an automatic opener for it. There area  couple kinds of openers that look pretty good one kind uses solar and the other uses a fluid system (see picture on the left from Gardener's Supply Company). The fluid system is pretty interesting. When the temperature reaches between 65-80 degrees F it expands to let out hot air from the greenhouse.

Most of my plant related activities will take place on the southern western and western sides of the greenhouse while the southeastern portion will be the storage area. I haven't designated the northeastern area yet but it may become a shade corner for those plants that enjoy a little less light!

I can't wait to start using this thing!

Still to do on the greenhouse:
  • Add doors on front.
  • Finish wall/door on back.
  • Enclose gables with appropriate locations for windows.
  • Siding, Siding, Siding. 
  • Fix locks and latches on windows and doors.
  • Insulate, caulk, paint/stain outside.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Reflecting on the End of The Line

The end of the line has come at last for the leaves on our trees. Today I went out and took a few pictures around the greenhouse project and happened upon this image of the trees bereft of leaves in one of the large picture windows I installed on the greenhouse and thought of the Gardening Gone Wild Picture Contest for this month "The End of the Line."

The pale sunlight was filtered through the gray clouds that moved for a short time earlier in the afternoon. In fitting with the theme of the contest the picture highlights the end of the foliage but also shows the crooked, snaking, and branching lines that create the structure of the tree.

Friday, November 20, 2009

November in the Vegetable Garden

As strange as it may sound there are things still growing in the vegetable garden in November and it's not because of our unusually warm weather. Unfortunately there is only one vegetable growing but there are several kinds of herbs that are doing great. All the vegetable garden pictures were taken this morning while a light frost was still covering everything.

The one vegetable that continues to grow through the cold weather is the lettuce. It's a Romain mix that I put out several weeks ago that while it's growth is slow is still growing. Lettuce can handle light frosts and has already been through 4-5. Just add a little coldframe over it and who knows how long it will keep growing! Of course Tennessee has a mild winter so if you live north of me your lettuce might not last as long.

I planted some oregano seeds while my squash was growing in the hopes that it would ward off my number number one most despised garden pest: squash vine borers. Oregano is listed in many charts as a generic works against nearly everything companion planting herb. It didn't work. I may have to try a second organic strategy and place row covers over the squash when the borers are actively reproducing. The thing about organic pest control practices is that they are not fool proof; what works for one gardener may not work for the gardener next door. The result of my companion planting of oregano with the squash ended up with quite a bit of oregano. Two raised beds are completely covered with it and will need thinned in the spring.

Another raised bed is completely covered with cilantro. I read once on a blog (sadly I can't remember where otherwise I would link to it) where cilantro was by volume the most expensive grocery vegetable. If that's the case then I'm doing very well! This cilantro was sprinkled over the garden after my first plants of the year bolted.

Another herb that has a small place in our garden is parsley. I bought this one from a garden club member who sells to farmers markets and festivals. I stuck it in a little corner of the cilantro bed. I didn't plan on the vegetable garden become an herb garden but the two gardens do go hand in hand!

Of course we do have the strawberry plants that are growing way outside the boundary of their original raised bed. When I get the greenhouse enclosed I'll transplant them to a new spot where hopeful they can be very fruitful! I may have to bring many of them to a plant swap in the spring.

That's about all there is to my vegetable garden update for November. I was disappointed that the spinach never germinated. It was probably old seed and I'll have to buy some more this year. Soon I'll evaluate my raised bed layout/design and figure out where to plant things next year. I try to rotate my crops as much as possible each year to prevent the same diseases from bothering the same plants in subsequent years. Go check out Tina's blog to see what other folks have in their vegetable garden!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Greenhouse Project: In The Front

Here's a quick look at the front of the greenhouse. My idea is to have the front side or the view from the house appear to be a small cottage in the backyard. The windows on the front were originally from one sliding window that I separated into 2 approximately 20 inch wide windows.  I say approximately because one is slightly larger than the other but most likely no one except those I tell (like you!) will know.

Between the windows the French doors that are currently resting on the corners of the greenhouse will be installed.  The gable areas were left open while I deliberated about what I wanted there. I ran through a few ideas and managed to put together some of what will be installed there.  It involves 4 small 12" x 9" windows that were panes I removed from another window. The window was falling into pieces but the glass was in great shape. Since the window actually had 8 panes of glass I'm planning on making the small glass windows into double pane windows. There's no way I can come close to a factory built vacuum sealed double paned window but any air space between the outside and the inside will improve the insulation ability of the window.

What still needs done on the front of the greenhouse:
  • Install the French doors.
  • Attach some sort of lock for the windows.
  • Trim the door area.
  • Finish the windows for the gable and panel it with plywood.
  • Cover the greenhouse front with trim. 
  • And something special I just came up with! Stay tuned to see, it may be several posts away!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Greenhouse Project: A Peek Inside

Today's peek into my greenhouse project is just one little picture, but it's a view from the inside out. The biggest windows have been installed but, as you will see in the picture, need a thorough cleaning and painting. The misty haze on the panes is due to too much time spent outdoors under the effects of the weather.  Dirt and grime have accumulated but I'm confident that they will clean up nicely like the smaller windows did. These two are 6' tall by 7' wide and still need a little leveling. Initially I measured the windows and allowed a little over 1/2 inch of extra space to play with on the windows. When we started to fit them we discovered a little mistake, OK big really.  The bottom of each window was beveled and I made my first measurements from the short end.  This meant that we had to trim a piece off the wood frame in order for it to fit. It was a pain to fit the panes but we had plenty of wood to trim with room to spare. The old dirty windows remind me of an old conservatory.

greenhouse, windows, greenhouse gardening, shed

Taken at 6:49 AM on a cloudy November morning. It's very bright when the sun chooses to shine!

In the back are two open spaces for windows that will swing outward. I've also hooked up one side of the back door but need to do some custom fitting work to get the other side pieced together. A peek up toward the back roof area will reveal the "skylight" made from two storm door windows.  I have some serious caulking to do to make them air and water tight. It's not the windows that are leaking as much as it is around the window framing. I'll come back and fit some flashing around them when I can.

It's very exciting to start to see the sides piecing together.  Yesterday I worked inside the greenhouse for a little while and was able to do all my wood cutting in there. With the walls on the long sides completely covered I didn't have to deal with the wind that came through the yard. It was very cool to be working inside the greenhouse for the first time.  I can't wait to get the doors all put together!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gardening on the Radio

I was on the radio yesterday to talk about gardening on Spotlight on Spring Hill (WAKM 950 AM) and had several fall gardening topics prepared to share. Then the first guest to talk, our City Codes Inspector, began mentioning some upcoming projects and I nearly got completely sidetracked. You see I meant to talk about leaves, not to burn them, not to waste them, but to use them in your compost or as mulch. I had seen a Craigslist ad that completely annoyed me last week and thought the radio would be a great opportunity to get out the message. The ad actually said "Free leaves, if you don't come get them I will burn them!" Now that is shortened and paraphrased but the ad offered leaves and threatened to burn them! I hope it was merely a motivational tool used to encourage people to take his leaves, but I doubt it. Let me apologize in advance if this offends you but burning leaves is completely irresponsible! It pollutes, it wastes, and it's just plain dumb. Now I'll forgive you if you have burned leaves in the past not realizing why you shouldn't but why would you waste a free and valuable soil conditioner? A mulch that comes down from the heavens to keep the moisture in the ground and feeds the bacteria and earthworms that turn regular soil into fantastic garden gold! Sorry but the issue of burning leaves has always burned me up.

I also meant to discuss lawnmower maintenance. Sharpening the blades, running out the gas, checking the spark plugs and changing the oil are all good things to do now so that your mower will be fresh and ready to go come spring. A little maintenance now is a good thing. (Of course this is yet another thing to add to my Things I've Neglected List!) Running the gas out keeps it from gumming up your engine over the winter.

I mentioned the leaves on the radio but completely ran out of time for the lawnmower talk. Why you ask? Maybe you didn't ask but as I often do I'll tell you anyway. The City Codes inspector mentioned the installation of a rain garden here in Spring Hill at Harvey Park! This coming Saturday from 9AM-1PM volunteers will be helping to create and plant a garden that will help filter water and preventing it from washing contaminants into our stream system. As soon as he mentioned rain garden I grinned. I've installed two kinds on my property and both have been very effective problem solvers. I wasn't necessarily worried about contaminants but was concerned over excess water pooling on our driveway and in another location flooding into our yard through the neighborhood drainage system.

Rain gardens use the root systems of plants to retain soil and to soak up the water to keep it from washing sediment into the streams. The plants serve as filters and clean the water before it enters the streams which is much better for the fish and wildlife that use those areas. One kind of rain garden uses a drainage area underneath a garden as a water holding area. That was actually the first type of rain garden I installed. It collects water from our driveway and brings it into a gravel area below a planting bed I established. Inside the bed are a combination of flowers and grasses that so far have enjoyed the extra water in that location. I've even planted a Yoshino Cherry tree that is definitely thriving in that location. This type of rain garden is more labor intensive to install as it involves digging deep into the soil and putting gravel where the soil was then back filling. It's very effective in absorbing water and solving drainage issues.

My second rain garden was done completely with plantings. Ornamental grasses are prominent along with a birch, beautyberry, and several perennials. The area used to flood back into our yard but the plantings help to defer the water back into the established drainage area and retain some of the moisture in the soil underneath. In the picture the area that is flooded is on my neighbor's property. It was taken back in September just after an extremely heavy rain. If these types of gardens lined our community drainage systems we would all have healthier water systems with fewer erosion problems.  

I was pretty excited to hear that our town is on the forefront of such environmentally sensible ideas. I would like to be there helping them install it but I have a birthday party to attend for a certain almost 2 year old girl! Maybe I can get out there early to help, we'll see, maybe you can too!

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Things I've Neglected List

Similar to the "Things to do List" in form my "Things I've Neglected List" contains the stuff I should have already accomplished but didn't for some reason (Greenhouse shed construction). The garden chores that have be displaced by the aforementioned project still need to be accomplished and I really hope to when I get the time!

Things I've Neglected (in no particular order):

  • Pot up two Chocolate Eupatorium cuttings that have rooted (weeks ago!).
  • Pot several coleus cuttings into an indoor winter pot.
  • Plant crocuses. It's time, it's definitely time to plant bulbs!
  • Update the Fall Color Project for a grand finale post.
  • Pot up several Persian Shield cuttings. The plant is toast but the cuttings live on!
  • Write about How to Propagate Persian Shield cuttings.
  • Finish cleaning out the vegetable garden. I still have lettuce happily enjoying the weather.
  • Weed the corner shade garden, the front garden, the...er...everything!
  • Figure out how I want to make my next raised beds. Two big ones? Four small ones? Wood? Stone? There are so many options for good beds. I'd better take a look back at my 11 Things To Think About Raised Beds Post!
  • Plant neglected plant swap plants!
  • Transplant two small maples and a sycamore.

There's a whole lot more for this list that pertains to the greenhouse but I'm leaving that off as technically it hasn't been neglected. In fact it's coming along nicely, so be on the alert for a greenhouse update!

EcoSMart Giveaway Winner!

I would like to thank all those who posted an entry for the EcoSmart bug killer giveaway!  All the names were dropped in a hat (actually a Halloween candy bag), mixed, and one name was drawn by my oldest daughter.  The name that was chosen was Stacyjo! Congratulations to Stacy.  All you need to do is go to the EcoSmart website and select a household product. Then let me know via Email or Direct Message on Twitter what you chose and where the company can send it (address). The product will be on your door as fast as they can ship it! Thanks again for participating!

On a side note you can follow The Home Garden on Facebook now!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

November Blooming (The Unusuals)

Our unusually spring like fall weather has encouraged quite a few plants to either continue blooming longer than usual or bloom at a very unusual time!  I went out this morning and took a few pictures of what's blooming in our Tennessee garden as a result of those 70 degree days we've had.

Three different varieties of Achillea millifolium are in our garden with two of them currently blooming. All three may in fact be blooming, I just forgot to check the third!

'Paprika' Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)


'Appleblossom' Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)


I found several salvias still producing flowers. This first one is 'Caradonna' Salvia nemorosa. I'm a big fan of the dark purple colors of the Salvia nemorosas and also have 'East Friesland' and 'May Night' in the garden. I love to propagate salvia in the spring!


The 'Mystic Spires' salvia is beginning to fade but the color of the flowers is still hanging on. I bought one of these last year but it didn't survive the winter. Maybe things will be different this year.


This Texas sage (Salvia coccinea) that I added to the garden this year is still doing well after several frosts. Hopefully it had enough time to reseed just in case it doesn't come back next year.


One of my favorite Gaillardias, 'Oranges and Lemons' is still prolifically blooming. I have two of these planted and both still have quite a few flowers growing. Last year the one I had passed away over the winter (bad location - not enough sun, too wet) but seeded a different gaillardia to replace it. It's probably a reversion back to the parent plant.


It's a strange and straggly version of the Susan (Rudbeckia) that was blooming but it's a bloom nonetheless.


The 'Purple Homestead' Verbena is still growing strong! I love this plant!


While this isn't a bloom I thought it was worth sharing. It's one of the most unusual looking leaves on a red maple (Acer rubrum) I've seen. It didn't appear like this last year, but then it was suffering from repeated deer munchings.


I hope you enjoyed what's blooming here in my garden. Hop over to visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens for more Bloomsday Blooms! I wonder what, if anything, will be blooming in December?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Miscanthis Sinensis Tassels Waving in the Wind

Though it is listed in the invasive plants list for Tennessee the very quality that makes Miscanthis sinensis so invasive makes it fun to have in the garden, the seeds!  Ornamental grasses of all kinds add great fall color interest with their seed heads or tassels that wave in the wind. This particular variety is 'Zebrinus' or Zebra grass.

If you are looking for a nice substitute for miscanthus that is also a native try switch grass (Panicum virgatum). I've added two switchgrass varieties this year to the gardens: 'Shenandoah' and 'Northwind'. Both of which are worthy plants in the landscape but are a little different in appearance than miscanthus. 'Shenandoah' has a nice reddish tint to its late summer and fall foliage with clouds of seeds. 'Northwind' is a strong upright plant with green foliage and airy seed heads. 'Shenandoah' is in our back garden near the greenhouse and 'Northwind' is near our mailbox garden (May 2008, August 2009).

Have you added any new grasses to your garden this year?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Don't Forget!

Don't forget that today is the last day to tell your bug tale to win an EcoSmart product!  Read here to find the details for the giveaway!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fall Colors From My Garden

The fall color may be winding down across the northern hemisphere but I still haven't showed you what autumn foliage we've seen around here in Southern Middle Tennessee. I hope you will forgive my lateness at my own entry for the Fall Color Project.  I've taken tons of pictures of our fall colors and have selected a few that are characteristic of what we've seen over the last couple weeks. If you are looking for maples check out my Plant Maples For Fall Color Post I wrote earlier in the week.

And now for our fall colors!

The sassafras trees were one of the first trees to begin changing for the fall. Their leaves are very interesting, not only for the fall color but for the shapes of the leaf lobes. With sassafras trees the lobes can be one two or three lobed with colors ranged form yellows to reds. It's all over our slope and many folks may not want it in their gardens but it does provide some very nice fall colors!

Also appearing on our slope are the blackberries. I make a special point to leave as many blackberry bushes along the slope pathways as I can. Hopefully next year we'll have quite a few to pick. The edges of the blackberry leaves seem almost a metallic bronze color.

When we start to look at more trees we can see a very old and large tree. It put on a massive display of golden colored leaves this year, better than I've ever seen it before.

The dogwood trees changed color just after the sassafras but have kept their color much longer. These are natural dogwoods that have been here awhile and were not planted by any person. The lie along a fence row.  I heard a person say in my Master Gardener class once "If you want to plant a tree line put up a fence!" Around here the mockingbirds do much of the planting. Honestly I could do without their help! They seem to like planting too much pokeweed.


Here's a closer glimpse of the dogwoods. I love the red colors they give in the fall and the white in the spring.


And here's a closing shot of more of the golden maples in our backyard. They are most likely silver maples and junk trees but during the fall the are pure gold.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Day is Not Complete...

It seems to me, and maybe you feel the same, that a day is not complete without some time spent outdoors. Even if all you do is walk around and look at the garden or take a walk down the street that time is invaluable. Today I went around the yard looking at the garden, the greenhouse project, the deck, the rocks around the garden beds, the ornamental sweet potato hiding from the frosts behind the hollies, whatever my eyes happen to gaze upon. There was no rhyme or reason to it but throughout the walk informal lists were being made. No pictures were taken, the camera was left inside. Sometimes it's better that way. I could look at things and think without trying to form a post in my head about the pictures. Many good posts can be made from just a few good photos.  It really is amazing how pictures can drive a blog, but that's not the point of this post. Now what was the point of this post? Maybe the point is just ... everything. Getting outside, breathing the fresh air, enjoying the garden, taking time to evaluate what is there, what isn't and taking time to stop and think.

When the days are so perfect, temperatures in the 60s and 70s, warm sun shining and a cool breeze blowing it's hard for me to imagine not spending some time outside. I watched as lady beetles climbed over the frost singed caryopteris. I checked a set of hinges I purchased to make sure they would fit my greenhouse doors. I watched as the plumes of ornamental grass waved in the wind of a breezy November day. I meandered through the yard several times taking note of the changes that fall brought.  The leaves have nearly fallen off the maples but the redbuds and Bradford pears are still hanging onto a whole lot of green. A few minutes spent outdoors with no purpose is the point, is the purpose. Maybe that seems a bit philosophical but I think you know what I mean. In those peaceful moments when you release any preconceived notions of accomplishing a task, doing a chore, or working on a project you see clearer, think better, and begin to relax and really enjoy the garden.

A day really isn't complete without time in the garden. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Short Greenhouse Project Update

Here's just a quick update on the greenhouse-shed project. More work will ensue later in the week but several time consuming things have been done. The roof windows on the south-western side are somewhat framed, the plywood is attached and the shingles are up. The roof is one of the more shed-like aspects of this project. Since the south western side is where the majority of the deciduous trees are located positioning the roof windows (which are really two storm door windows) there will allow the greenhouse to catch the winter sun but not the summer sun. There are plenty of windows around the walls for allowing light to shine through. The angle of the sun in the winter is much lower than at other times of the year and most of the light will actually come through the windows along the walls. More light means more heat which during the winter is a precious commodity.


Soon it will be time to add windows, plywood siding, more siding, doors, stain the siding, and add plants. I can't wait for that last one!

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Rant on Content Theft

OK folks, I'm more than a little irritated at the moment. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that's the case then several someones have really enjoyed what they have read here on The Home Garden. It's not the idea of someone using my content to promote gardening, to teach someone something, or to display a plant they might want in their garden that bothers me.  In fact I really enjoy being able to share the things I do here in the garden with everyone I can, that's the whole point! It's fun to talk about it. But here's the thing that bothers me, and it's really important, permission. I've never given it. No one has asked for permission yet in the last couple weeks at least two feed aggregator websites have taken my content. One of which didn't even have a return link to this site and misrepresented the content as their own claiming it was written by "Mr. Gardener". No credit, no link, simply theft. I attempted to contact them twice through their site with no response and finally looked up the owner of the url using WHOIS and contacted that person. Since then the site is no longer up. The second site I just discovered today. I have questioned them on taking my content and haven't received a response yet. It's early so I'll give them time. The fact is this I spend time writing what hopefully are interesting posts for my subscribers, friends, and family to read. I'm not writing for Mr. Aggregator. Without my express permission it is theft, plain and simple.

How does this happen? Through subscription feeds. The offending site takes my content through the feed and puts it up on theirs in an attempt to find keyword rich content that Google and other search engines will love. Then they can charge advertisers for space on the webpage or use Google Ads on the site to generate revenue off of someone else's hard work. The funny thing about the site taking from my feed is a line on the bottom of each feed that says "Not to be reproduced or reblogged without permission." It's now reprinted all over their website plain as day on all my stolen posts.

I know you're probably curious as to what this site is but for now I'm choosing to not call it by name. I want to give the site the chance to do the right thing and I also don't want to send any traffic over there.  I'll keep an eye out for other bloggers I know and try to let you know if I see your site there. It was mere happenstance that I found it today. I did a search on Google where I typed in "site:www.growingthehomegarden.com" and found various mentions of my URL, one of which happened to be the site. I recommend you do this for your own blog if you are concerned about your content being stolen and used.You could also use "link:www.yourblog.com" to see who is linking to your site. Sometimes links you that have put into your content are not blocked or removed.

My strategy for dealing with content theft is this:
  1. Contact the individual and request removal/conversation.
  2. If contact doesn't work contact the ISP and report them.
  3. Contact Google and report them.
  4. Contact a lawyer for a cease and desist letter.

I hope the last step is unnecessary. Most reasonable people should remove the content after first contact.

Unfortunately if content theft of this blog continues I may have to change the feed back to partial feeds only. I know this will disappoint some people but I hope you understand the reasons why.

Anyone know a good lawyer?


If you are reading this and it is not on the website URL: www.growingthehomegarden.com please follow the URL and contact me, the content may be stolen and in violation of copyright.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Plant Maples for Fall Color

I've made no secret about it but maples are without a doubt my favorite shade tree. Maples offer shade in the summer, feed wildlife with their samaras, and are a feast for the eyes in the fall. Reds, yellows, and oranges tend to be the predominate colors and they set the fall landscape on fire! All the gold colored maple leaves appearing in the woods behind our yard create a glowing landscape for us to enjoy.
This year the maple color has been outstanding. The increased summer rains have given the trees a little extra tenacity for the end of the growing season. The leaves have held on much longer and believe it or not some maples are still green or variations of green as in the picture to the left. The colors on this red maple (Acer rubrum) remind me of a reversed pattern from a 'Stoplight' heucherella.

This other red maple is showing a very deep red coloring which I'm very pleased with since this is one of several trees the deer damaged last fall. It's returned strong as have all the other deer damaged trees except for the dogwood. Sadly we are still mourning the passing of the 'Appalachian Spring' dogwood, but that's a story for another time.
Not all is grand in maple land. The first tree we planted in our landscape was a maple and it has developed some kind of damage to the trunk, most likely a canker. Cankers can be caused by wounds from lawnmowers and power equipment colliding with the poor maple.  Fungi can also be a cause for canker damage. In the case of the fungi the tree may be a goner but in the case of physical damage the tree may yet recover, it's just a matter of time until we know for sure. I doubt it was me running into it with a mower. I mean, I've had some mower incidents but they never involved a tree! Really, the nandina was just a shrub!

A quick not on tree planting: don't amend the hole! Year ago people recommended amending the soil in the hole when planting a tree. The problem with this is that the really good soil gets concentrated around the base of the tree. The roots have no motivation to reach out to get nutrients in the surrounding soils and stay concentrated around the improved soil area. If you want to amend the soil, amend the areas outside of the drip line of the tree. This will lead to a healthier tree which will be more drought tolerant with a better root system!

All in all maples are fairly maintenance free trees. A leaf raking in the fall might be necessary unless you prefer the mower mulching method.  Aside from the fantastic fall colors they make great shade trees and for the kids (or maybe the kid in you) great climbing trees. When was the last time you climbed a good tree?