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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Garden Project Review for 2009

It's time for my end of the year garden project review. In the remote case you don't know what I mean I'll explain. This is where I go back and see what I actually accomplished from among the lofty project goals I established on January 1, 2009. I'll have a new set of projects for 2010 very soon but some will be a carry over from 2009.

Let's see how I did!

1. Prepare and plant the self-seeding garden. I'll have a specific post up for this idea later in the week but to sum up my plan I want to create a garden with easy to grow annuals, biennials, and perennials that will seed themselves year after year.

The self seeding garden was double dug, planted, and enjoyed throughout the summer. We'll have to see what comes up this year but the 2009 occupants included the following: Black and Blue Salvia, Zinnias, Verbena, Sunflowers, and many others. It was also enhanced by the arbor project.

2. Propagate plants, propagate plants, propagate plants...did I say propagate plants? (Especially more salvias and Russian sages!) I want to put more Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) in more places. It's deer tolerant (which is extremely important here), looks great, and thrives in full sun. I want more salvias for the same reasons.

This was a given, of course I would propagate plants! I added more salvias and Russian sage as I listed above but attempted anything I could get my hands on! (Beautyberry, Viburnum, Sedum (leaf cuttings), Asiatic Lily (leaf cuttings), 'Powis Castle' Artemisia and several more.) 

3. Build an arbor as an entrance to the shady corridor. I accomplished this as a part of the Better Homes & Gardens 48 Hour Blog Challenge. You can see it here: An Entry Arbor , learn how I built it here:How to Build an Arbor, and vote for it here: 48 Hour Blog Challenge.

Even though I didn't win the $5000 in the project it was still very cool to put together the arbor. Better Homes & Gardens paid for the project and gave me a bonus $100 for completing it. The miter saw I bought with the $100 is coming in very handy for my greenhouse project!

4. Design and implement the shady corridor. On the eastern side of our house I am creating a shady area that will serve as a cool transition to the backyard. It gets morning sun now but a row of hemlocks and a small grove of other trees (redbud, crapapple, crape myrtle, and witch hazel) are planted at the edge of the property and will eventually provide shade for the garden passage.

The shady garden corridor is still a work in progress but the new entry arbor definitely sped it along. All I need to do is wait for the plants to grow. The crape myrtles I planted grew very well over our wet summer and should put on some nice growth in their second year.

5. Build a fence around the vegetable garden. A nice picket fence is just what our garden needs.

The garden fence hasn't been started yet. I came up with a couple designs and posted about it but I became sidetracked with building my greenhouse. The fence is something we really would like but we decided that getting the lawnmower in the shed portion of the greenhouse was more important than the fence. That way my wife can park in the garage!

6. Expand the vegetable garden. I need a little more space to grow more vegetables. I'll eventually add more raised beds to the garden and I need space for corn. Edit: I've put together a new raised bed vegetable garden layout that will organize the garden much better than what I had.

I expanded last year and changed from an "L" shaped raised bed vegetable garden layout to a more conventional design. I still have some more places to build raised beds in the garden and hopefully I'll tackle building some more raised beds very soon.

7. Lay the sidewalk brick that will connect our patio to another sidewalk. There is a short stretch of ground from our patio to the garage backdoor that I would like to cover with a walkway.

Here's another project that got sidetracked due to the greenhouse. It will be carried over to 2010 along with the garden fence project.

8. Expand the birdbath garden. It needs a beautyberry somewhere and a couple more ornamental grasses.

I did expand the birdbath garden but not exactly as I intended. I added a large sitting rock, a physocarpus (ninebark), 'Powis Castle' Artemisia, and a few other plants along the way. I added the beautyberry in another location because I just had to have one somewhere!

9. Build my rustic log bench. I still have two chunks of trees that I brought home from my in-law's tree cutting extravaganza last year (2008). I need to strip the bark, stain them, then add the bench seat made from reclaimed deck lumber.

Yet another little project I never finished! It's an easy one but not a high priority. The stumps do pretty well for sitting spots as is. The neighbors cats enjoy it and so do my kids.

10. Create a pathway for the shady garden corridor. I haven't decided if I want to put stepping stones laid into the grass, create a gravel pathway, or use reclaimed bricks (I'd have to find some of those). A moss cover brick pathway would look pretty nice I think!

For now we've decided to just use the grass. Any bricks or stones I come across will become flooring for the greenhouse. When I decided to do the greenhouse quite a few priorities changed with my project list but we'll see if I can get them done in 2010!

Tomorrow I'll have a list of my 2010 projects. What projects do you hope to tackle in your garden in 2010?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Propagation with Hardwood Cuttings

I thought I would take a moment to talk about hardwood cuttings. It is the beginning of winter and which is also a great time to go out and try to reproduce many of your favorite woody trees and shrubs in the garden. Many plants will easily propagate through hardwood cuttings and I've included a short list below that you might like to try. Hardwood cuttings root easier than softwood cuttings (at least in my experience!)

So what is a hardwood cutting? It's a cutting taken from a mature branch of a woody plant usually during the late fall, winter, or early spring while the plant is dormant.

How do you take a hardwood cuttings? With a sharp pair of clean pruners cut a mature section of your specimen with at least 3 nodes. That is a general guideline I use and it seems to work pretty well. The best way to root a specific plant may vary depending upon the variety of plant so you may want to try a few kinds of cuttings out and see what works best.

Good Plants for Hardwood Cuttings:

  • Hydrangea - these shrubs are easy rooting plants in almost any state whether hardwood, softwood or anywhere in between!
  • Rose - my experience with roses has been limited but hardwood cuttings work as do semi-ripe. I have two in my house that need planted very soon!
  • Viburnum - I recently took six hardwood viburnum cuttings and placed them in sand. So far so good! Semi-ripe cuttings of viburnums also root easily.
  • Arborvitae - I'm still waiting for some to root...
  • Japanese Dappled Willows - OK any willow will root easily anytime (softwood, semi-ripe, hardwood) but I really like the dappled foliage on Salix integra 'Hakuro Nishiki' so I'll take an opportunity to talk about it.  In the spring the foliage emerges with tints of red that gradually change as they mature into its spring through fall dappled foliage. Propagating a dappled willow couldn't be easier, just stick the hardwood cutting in the ground where you want it to grow. You can wound the bark around the base if you want to help it along a little but usually you can just stick them in the ground and they will grow.
  • Purple Leaf Plum (Prunus) - I've had a lot of success with purple leaf plum hardwood cuttings. These are beautiful trees in the spring with their white flowers and have nice purple foliage throughout the year. In our yard these were the second to last of the trees to lose their leaves.  Other members of the prunus genus may also be worth trying some hardwood cuttings. I managed one Yoshino cherry from a hardwood cutting last year.
  • Red Twig Dogwood/Red Osier Dogwood - I love red twig dogwoods! I'll be taking some more cuttings from several of our red twig dogwoods very soon. They look fantastic planted enmass or with an evergreen backdrop. I have two varieties of redtwig dogwood that I'll treat the same way - stick them in dirt! (Cornus alba and Cornus sericea) A little rooting hormone won't hurt but isn't needed.
  • Rhododendron - I just recently took a few cuttings from my wife's aunt's rhododendron. It blooms with purple flowers and I can't wait to see it planted in our garden. I've had good success with rooting azaleas and I'm expecting good results with the rhododendrons. 
  • Forsythia - Perhaps the easiest plant to propagate! Or at least a close second to willows (see above). Just stick the hardwood cuttings in soil and let them root. Softwood and semi-ripe cuttings do well also.
  • Honeysuckle - I wouldn't recommend going into the woods to take cuttings of the honeysuckles growing in the wild. Most of these are invasive and really don't need out help to multiply but where I would recommend propagating honeysuckle is on the native Coral Honeysuckles or Lonicera sempervirens. Native honeysuckle is usually a red hue and isn't very fragrant but is still very popular among the hummingbirds. It's also not aggressive which is why it is being overtaken in the wild buy non-native varieties.
  • Russian Sage - While technically a perennial Russian sage will propagate easily from hardwood cuttings. A few weeks before spring weather (I did this in February of last year) prune off a few branches and either stick them in the soil where you want them or treat them with rooting hormone and put them in a pot in a sheltered location.
  • Spirea - This fun shrub is another easy one to propagate. Since the nodes are fairly close together I tend to take cuttings about 5-6 inches long rather than just 3 nodes. 
  • Butterfly Bush - Butterfly bushes root very easily from cuttings. Softwood will work too but hardwood cuttings require less maintenance!

There are all kinds of plants that will root easily through hardwood cuttings. If a plant you are interested in taking hardwood cuttings from does not appear on the list above just do what I do...experiment!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas To All!

I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

These pictures were taken after a rare snowfall last December (2008). While we are celebrating the holiday I will be taking a break from blogging until the beginning of January. Of course I reserve the right to write whenever the mood strikes but don't be surprised if you don't see anything until January! I hope all of your Christmas' are filled with joy and family fun and that the New Year (2010) brings you good luck and good fortune. Have a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A December Sunrise

To me it has always seemed that winter makes up for the lack of color in the skies of the sunrise.

 What do you think? Are the colors of the sunrises and sunsets a substitute for the flowers and foliage of the spring, summer and fall?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Coral Bells of December

To say I'm a fan of heucheras is an understatement. I like to think of myself as a collector of coral bells, as they are often called, even though my collection is still just a work in progress. I'm gradually adding different varieties to my garden but seem to be running out of room in the corner shade garden (corner shade garden in 2008).  Thankfully I'll be able to use some areas in the backyard near the greenhouse once it's complete to add more of one of my favorite foliage perennials. I've grown some heucheras from seed and others I've collected from nurseries but they all retain interesting foliage throughout winter and that is definitely welcome in December!

Why I like Heucheras:
  • Low maintenance
  • Many can handle dry shade
  • Can handle some sun and humidity
  • Deer and rabbit resistant
  • Usually pest free!
  • Year round color

So here are a few of my heucheras!

Heuchera ~ Unknown maybe 'Palace Purple':

If forgot exactly who this little heuchera is but I suspect it's just a 'Palace Purple' I divided in the spring. It's in the raised bed just off of my back deck. The purple shades fit with other 'Palace Purple' Heucheras we have.

Heuchera 'Palace Purple'

This one is definitely 'Palace Purple'. It's ratty appearance is due to an outbreak of bagworms that have infested the conifer above the corner shade garden. They tasted the heuchera and must have thought it was lacking in flavor otherwise there would be much more of it gone.

Heuchera 'Silver Scrolls'

I mentioned back in spring that this 'Silver Scrolls' Heuchera was one of my must have plants for 2009. I'm happy to say I found one at a nearby nursery. I love the frosty white variegation on the leaves.

Heuchera 'Dale's Strain'

This little heuchera is another fun one to watch. It's color changes to a more brown-bronze look in the fall but displays green and white variegated leaves throughout the growing season.

Heuchera 'Mystic Angel'

'Mystic Angel' was found at a nearby spring festival. It reminded me of 'Silver Scrolls' before I bought it. The white-silver colors stand out more in 'Silver Scrolls' but both plants are very attractive.

Heucherella 'Stoplight'

While not quite a heuchera this 'Stoplight' Heucherella fits in nicely with the heucheras. It's a hybrid of tiarella (foam flower) and a heuchera. The red vein variegation is it's most prominent feature.

Not featured in this post: Heuchera 'Mocha', Heuchera 'Melting Fire', Heuchera 'Fireworks'

How to propagate heucheras:
  • The best way to propagate heucheras in the home garden is to divide them in the spring. Just separate the newer/younger crowns and remove the parts that have died back to replenish the plant. Heucheras can also be divided in the fall but I generally do most divisions just when my plants begin actively growing.
  • I have managed to root a heuchera from a basal leaf cutting but you must have a piece of the root crown attached to stimulate leaf growth.
  • Heuchera 'Palace Purple' comes true from seed but you may get some interesting heucheras by collecting open pollinated seeds from other varieties. Then again you may not but it's fun to try! I store my seed in a cool and dry place so that I can begin starting heuchera seed indoors in January.
I found this book on Amazon that I think I will have to add to my bookself soon. It's written by Dan Hiems, a master cultivator of heucheras and heucherellas. He's responsible for many of the neat varieties of heucheras that we enjoy in our gardens!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Greenhouse Slideshow

I put together a short slideshow of the greenhouse pictures I've taken since beginning the project. They start in August with pictures of the site and end with the greenhouse's current state (in December 2009). I hope you enjoy the look back!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

2009 Fall Color Project Wrap-up

As the official date of the beginning of winter is almost upon us it's time to say farewell to fall! What better way to say good bye to the fall of 2009 than by taking a look back at all the wonderful posts that our fellow bloggers have written about fall foliage. The weather was an issue for many who participated in the project with its effects either improving the colors or completely confusing the colors! Whatever the case, the Fall Color Project participants did a fantastic job of showing off the fall foliage around them. Let's take one more look back to see what Autumn 2009 was all about.

(Please note that all the text below is from the original summaries of the individual fall color posts. I'm happy to add anyone who may have missed the 2009 Fall Color Project at any point in the future. Just take a look at this post to see what to do!)

2009 Fall Foliage From the United Kingdom

Joco was concerned a couple weeks ago that there would be very little fall color in the UK due to the unusual weather but thankfully for us and our leaf peeping enjoyment the fall colors have arrived! The gorgeous reds of the Japanese Glory Vine (Vitis coignetiae) make it easy to see how it may have come by its name. I think I will have to be adding it to my list of plants to add to my garden. Go pay a visit to the UK and see Joco's fall color show!

Without this world of blogging there are so many places I would never have seen or even known about. Thanks to VP at Veg Plotting I've just learned of one more place that if I'm ever in England I would have to visit. Go read about VP's trip to the Westonbirt Arboretum and view some of the photos she took.  The first photo is a classic fall shot if I've ever seen one! You might also want to stop by and see the fiery fall photo VP posted for Garden Bloggers' Bloomday, it's most definitely worth a look!


2009 Fall Color From Canada

Helen at Toronto Gardens is treating us with a blast from last year's fall foliage past. The palette of colors along the hillside is nothing short of stunning. The pictures are taken from Leaside bridge and offer a nearly bird's eye view of the leaf landscape. Hopefully the leaves will be on the trees when Helen gets back home so that we may feast our eyes upon another Toronto treat!

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!

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!
2009 Fall Foliage From Maine

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!
2009 Fall Foliage From Rhode Island

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.

2009 Fall Foliage From Michigan

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.

Up in Michigan Joey has posted some really cool collages for the Fall Color Project. The colors from the maples and other trees around her town couldn't have been painted more vividly with any paintbrush. It's a palette of autumn color that awaits you at The Village Voice!

2009 Fall Foliage From Washington and The Pacific Northwest

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!

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.

2009 Fall Foliage From Iowa

Welcome to Iowa and Shady Gardener's garden where she asks Does Everything Grows Better in My Neighbor's Yard? (Which incidentally I don't believe and you wouldn't either if you've seen her pictures of the garden! ;) ) SG's fall color post takes us not only from her garden but beyond to other areas of her town for some drive by shots of the fall foliage there in South Eastern Iowa! Burning Bushes, gooseneck loosestrife, and her neighbor's pagoda dogwood are just some of the fall foliage features on display!

2009 Fall Foliage From Pennsylvania

Our friend TC has his fall color post up and you don't want to miss it! Pennsylvania fall colors are some of the best I've seen (OK I'm a little biased since I grew up there but you have to admit that Western PA is gorgeous in the fall!) TC takes us around with his both his camera phone and camera to show us what fall is like on the roads of the Keystone State. Scarlet colored maple foliage mixed with gold and the newly turning green leaves create a spectacular scene! 

Today we can also take another trip to the Keystone State with Nancy Ondra, garden writer and blogger for Gardening Gone Wild and Hayefield. While the rains may have dampened some of the fall foliage fun we can still view some great gratuitous leaf color! Nancy plays with the camera and Lake Nockamixon to give sus some reflections of fall and brings us to her own garden where I was stunned by the blazing red of her Itea virginica (Sweet Spire). There's lots to see ~ just don't ever plant the Toxicodendron radicans, no matter how much you like its fall color!

Rhoda Mauer knows photography! Even though her blog is quite young there are some fantastic nature shots beyond her post for the Fall Color Project. And her fall color photo is pretty nice too! Dancing maples await you at Listening to Nature in southeastern Pennsylvania.

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.

2009 Fall Foliage From Ohio

Our first walk begins with Teresa in Ohio. She takes us along with her through the magic of her digital camera to see blazing maples, wild berries, Canada geese, and all kinds of great scenes. She is quite fortunate to have a park like George Bible Park nearby!  So go visit Teresa at The Cottage on the Corner to see some Ohio fall color.

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!

2009 Fall Foliage From Illinois

Mr. McGregor's Daughter takes us to our third park of the day in Northern Illinois. Her photos allow us to travel with her along the boardwalk of Cuba Marsh where the colors were not quite as good as what she had in mind. Then she takes us to her own garden, Squirrel Haven, to prove that sometimes the best things are close to home!

2009 Fall Foliage From Nebraska

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!

2009 Fall Foliage From Virginia

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!

In my opinion you can never have enough fall color! Jan just posted more for us to look at and I highly recommend that you do. Photos of fall reflecting across water with hues of red, orange, and yellow blending in a perfect autumn tapestry is what you will find.  Fall is here at Thanks For 2 Day!

2009 Fall Foliage From Tennessee

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!

The colors have officially reached their peak here in Tennessee. Over at Clay and Limestone Gail took some fantastic fall photos from her garden and from Percy Warner Park. Carpets of golden leaves, golden shagbark hickory trees, and sassafras are all showcasing a bright display of autumn color. The colors will soon fade to leave behind bare branches. Better look while you can!

The fall colors have been peaking here in Tennessee for the last several days and you can see why I like fall in Tennessee from Elizabeth's photos. Classic fall color trees like maples, sweet gum, and tulip poplars are on display turning an Autumn day into a virtual museum of art which definitely makes Life Worth Living!

This time we'll venture out to East Tennessee to see what fall color Frances finds! Colorful maples among arborvitae, Euonymous europaeus, and Muhlenbergia capillaris are all showing resplendent fall colors whether through foliage or fruit. I find it impossible not to stop to observe the peeling bark of a river birch whenever I pass by and maybe you will too at FaireGarden!

Here's a look at some of my fall foliage!

2009 Fall Foliage From South Carolina

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.

2009 Fall Foliage From Missouri

Sometimes the weather makes stops our plans, sometimes it changes them, and sometimes we just don't let it stop us! Such was the case for Healing Magic Hands who braved the rain to bring us fall color. Japanese maples, American cranberry bushes, and many other fall foliage plants enticed her out of her house and into her garden while the rain fell for fall foliage photos!

2009 Fall Foliage From California

Let's join up with Town Mouse to see what California has to offer for fall color. While hiking at the Montebello Open Space Preserve Town Mouse took several pictures of autumn foliage including the infamous poison plants, ivy and oak, as well as the California big leaf maple. I've always been a fan of maples and this one is impressive! Head on out to California and pay a visit to Town Mouse and Country Mouse!

Contrary to popular belief California does have fall color, and it's pretty good too! Birches, maples, and crape myrtles all are displaying their fall show in Rebecca Sweet's garden. The view of her 'Forest Pansy' Redbud really makes me wish the fall webworms hadn't munched on mine. Take a trip to the Bay area of California to see what color is at Rebecca's blog Gossip in the Garden!



Friday, December 18, 2009

Random December Gardening

Today I did a few garden related things just to get outside - nothing major - nothing terribly exciting. Just a few little things as an excuse to breathe some fresh (and rather cold) air. The weather forecast calls for snow flurries over night but little or no accumulation - at least in our area.

Butterfly Bush Cuttings

I took about 20 cuttings from one of our butterfly bushes. It's the one in the birdbath garden and was admired by my garden club when we met at my house in the summer. Of all the plants in my garden that I find fascinating the red twig dogwoods, the 'Powis Castle' artemisia, the salvias, the gaillardia the one that received the most comments was the butterfly bush! I gave away many cuttings that day but no one has reported back to me that any lived. I figured I would root some hardwood cuttings to give away in the spring. Butterfly bush is really easy to root. I used rooting hormone on cuttings with multiple nodes and stuck them in sand (see my page on rooting butterfly bushes for more "how to" details). I put them in a nice pot indoors for them to root over the winter. Hopefully in a few weeks I'll have some rooted cuttings to share. (Free plants are just one benefit to becoming a member of garden clubs!)

I Dumped out the Compost

I took a load of compost that's been sitting in an old nursery pot just off of our patio. I use the old nursery pots as temporary holding spots for compost material until I can get around to dumping it in the back compost bin. It works pretty good except that when it gets cold I get lazy and I don't get the compost back to the bin as often as I should!

I Tinkered on the Blog

Last year I put together a post to use as a directory of sorts for all the landscape plans, designs, and layouts that I've put together for our yard over the years. I spent a little time today improving the layout of the layout page! I added short descriptions, thumbnail pictures of the designs, and arranged the thumbnail pictures to double as links to the post where I talked about the plan.

And that's about it! I know it's not much but maybe, just maybe, it was enough for me to get outside for a few minutes.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Are You Ready For Spring Gardening?

I don't know about you but I'm ready for spring. Notice I said spring not spring gardening. I haven't done everything I need to do to get ready for the new gardening season but I'm already lamenting the cold temperatures that we are destined to have for the next two months (January and February). When March comes we usually have some nice days mixed in with the cool ones but until then we'll just have to bear the frigid temperatures, cold winds, and snow. Oh did I say snow? We'll see about that one! But now it's time to start thinking about getting ready for spring gardening. There's always something to think about while the garden and gardener is dormant during the winter.

Here are three things I do to get ready for spring gardening:

1) Analyze. I don't make any formal analysis of anything but I take note of the things that worked and the things that didn't. It would be very helpful to write these things down so I can avoid them but I usually don't. Even if I did I would probably forget where I wrote them down! Generally I can keep the major things in my head. I take note of strange ideas like never plant more than 2 cherry tomato plants or never allow a tomato plant volunteer to grow where it wants!

2) Plan, plan, plan, and plan. I scheme and I plot. Sometimes my planning evolves around point one (Analyze) and other times my planning is based off of ideas I've seen on garden blogs, magazines or just out of some crazy notion in my head. I try to think about what I want, where I want it, and how to get there. I try to think about my vegetable garden and what raised beds to add each year. I make quite a few lists when planning in one of my notebooks. My project list for 2009  is one example of a list I made.  I'll review it later in the month to sum up the 2009 gardening season.

3) Decide on my seeds! This is the biggest task and probably the most fun. I check each seed catalog multiple times trying to see what I like, what I need, and what I want. It's mostly vegetables that I look for but all seeds are fair game. This year I'll be targeting heirlooms for many reasons but mostly so that I can save the seed each year and reduce my future gardening expenses.

I know this post is early but I couldn't resist. I was looking back at pictures from this spring and suddenly all I could think of was spring...and winter isn't even here yet!

Have you started planning for Gardening in 2010 yet?

More on GM Seeds

Last week the idea of genetically modified seeds popped up due to a seed giveaway I was hosting. I mentioned that it would be a good topic for further discussion and recently Susy at Chiot's Run put together a great post explaining everything that you need to know about GM seeds. It's frustrating to realize that a large seed conglomerate can dominate so much of the agricultural market but there are options for the home gardener. Certain heirloom seed companies are competing against the big corporation Susy mentions and offer quality open pollinated heirloom seeds that you can save each year. I'll let you read her post to find out more, and I highly recommend that you do!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A 10'x2' Raised Bed for the Vegetable Garden

Each year I expand my vegetable garden just a little. I use raised beds which just can't be beat for productivity in the backyard vegetable garden and so this year I'm planning on adding four more raised beds. These four raised beds may just be the last of the raised beds in the vegetable garden for the foreseeable future so I want to make sure that they are functional, productive, easy to work with, and look good with all the other raised beds.

Raised beds are not hard to make and can come in a variety of ways from a mound of soil that is raised in the center and slopes to the outside, to hay bales as edging, or to what I usually use: non-pressure treated lumber.  Ceder wood is the best since it is rot resistant but I've been going on the cheap side with regular old pine. It rots in 2-3 years but that rotting material nourishes the soil and can eventually be replaced with something nicer like brick or cedar when more money is available.

The Raised Bed Plan/Layout:

raised bed layout, vegetable garden, plan

The basic idea for this raised bed vegetable garden layout is to allow easy access to all the plants. By making the raised beds only 2 feet wide I can guarantee that I can reach anywhere in the bed. Typically I've been using 4 foot wide beds for my other layouts and sometimes it can be very difficult to reach the very center of the bed especially if you are not a very tall person (i.e. my kids or my wife ;)) Often the plants themselves can impede the gardener while trying to reach across to the far side of other vegetables. I'm all about making things as easy as possible! (even though frequently I end up making things more difficult) In the plan above I allowed a 2' square for each tomato plant and allowed for some interplanting space in between.

Companion planting is a good way to maximize space and reduce possible insect and pest damage.  One of my favorite companion planting combinations is basil and tomatoes which is what I have highlighted in the plan above.  (I have a theory that if you would eat it together you can plant it together although I'm not sure if that holds true for all vegetables!) Another idea would be to substitute marigolds as they are said to help reduce damaging root-knot nematodes on tomato plants. A 2 foot square for tomatoes should work fine since the tomatoes will grow deep and be trellised in some way. The bed divides itself into five 2 foot sections which will provide some space for air to flow around the plants (important for preventing fungal diseases).

This year each of the new 10'x2' raised beds will be used for tomatoes. I like to rotate my vegetables from location to location and since tomatoes have been in each of my beds over the course of the last two years I decided that the new beds is the best place for the tomatoes to go. The diseases remaining in the soil of the former tomato beds won't effect other vegetable families and I can rotate the tomatoes back in after a couple years in other locations. Hopefully by then the soil diseases will be gone.

Are you expanding your vegetable garden for 2010?

Other Garden Layouts and Plans
Fall Vegetable Planting Layout
Vegetable Garden Layout Comparison
11 Things to Think About When Designing a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden
Vegetable Garden Layout Using Raised Beds
My Original Vegetable Garden Layout (The L's)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Greenhouse Update

I just posted another greenhouse update that includes pictures of the new trim that is enclosing the eaves and along roof line. It's progressing nicely and the roof is all enclosed!

Monday, December 14, 2009

An Alien World of Moss and Fungus

Sometimes when you look really close at things they appear much different than you expect. Sometimes closeup pictures appear almost...alien. Like a strange land that contains unique flora of its own. What do you think? Can you imagine the foreign fluffy ferns and gigantic puffy cup-shaped mushroom fungi? Can you disappear for a moment into the picture and immerse yourself in some quasi-alien landscape. Or do you just see Cyathus striatus and Hypnum cupressiforme?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

There's Still a Little Fall Color in the Front Garden

It seems that the fall colors are slow to fade from one plant in particular in our front garden: spirea. This little shrub was transplanted from a previous location further down the sidewalk. It was little, just a small sprig that emerged in the spring after we bought the house. The previous residents allowed the landscape to grow out of hand and the real estate company had many of the overgrown plants removed. I suspect that other spireas were present but that they were removed as part of the "reclaim the sidewalk from the landscape plan!"

This fall it began to glow with a fiery red color that would have looked really nice if the whole plant had changed at the same time. Unfortunately the spirea foliage changed at different rates and I never noticed the colors until now when nearly everything else is bare. Spirea is a nice plant with several really spectacular cultivars out there like 'Bridal Wreath'. I'm not sure of the exact identity of this one but it's probably 'Magic Carpet'. I have noticed problems with aphids from time to time on the spirea, but aphids seem to effect almost every plant at some point.

How to Propagate Spirea

Spirea is another easy plant to propagate, especially from hardwood cuttings. Usually all you need to do is insert a few hardwood cuttings in potting medium and let them go. I do use rooting hormone to help it along but it may not be necessary. I take a 4-5 inch cutting below a node, dab it in rooting hormone, and put it in sand. Pinching the growth tip will help redirect growth down into roots of the cutting and encourage branching later when foliage growth appears.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

How to Keep Squirrels Away From Birdfeeders Naturally

Have you ever wondered "How in the world do I keep the squirrels from emptying out our birdfeeders?" It's a common problem that so many of us have while trying to feed our fine feathered friends. We spend all kinds of money adding seed to the feeders to feed the birds only to have it thrown all around on the ground by gray and brown furry acrobats! It doesn't matter how high your feeder is squirrels are not acrophobes and have an uncanny ability to get into things they shouldn't or we think they couldn't! Today I found the solution! And to make it all even better it is 100% all natural!

I call it the Predator Squirrel Preventer! Or PSP 1.0 for short.

hawk, bird of prey,squirrel,wildlife, picture

It's low maintenance, takes care of itself, and is nothing short of fascinating to watch swooping through the yard after it's prey! Obviously the first part of this post is just silly but today I was looking outside the window when I saw the hawk fly across the yard and grasp something in its talons and land in these branches. I couldn't see what it was the hawk picked up only that it appeared larger than most of the birds around here and gray. I ran to get my 200mm lens to see what it really was and found the picture you see in this post. Our hawk friend sat there for several minutes waiting while I snapped pictures. Don't blame the hawk for capturing this squirrel in fact you might blame the person who let their two dogs run loose in our neighborhood today. They were out and about chasing rabbits and squirrels and this unlucky squirrel ran across our yard to try to escape them while the hawk took the opportunity to find lunch.

The squirrels usually don't visit our feeders often but they have in the past. When they do I stop feeding the birds for a few days and the squirrels go away, for a little while at least. This is a different hawk than the Sharp-shinned hawk I saw other day, it's much larger and the tails are different. The hawk is probably a red tailed hawk which is very common. Although it may seem strange to some I think that it's fascinating to watch nature take its course!

Have you seen anything fascinating with wildlife recently?