Sunday, February 28, 2010

Playing With Blocks

Sometimes you just never grow up. When I was a kid one of my favorite toys was Legos. My brother and I would build all kinds of contraptions from buildings to vehicles. Even today I still play with toy building blocks with my kids but there is a different sort of block that I like to use in the garden: concrete/cement. Concrete and cement blocks are very handy in the garden whether you want a retaining wall, a patio, or just a few well placed stepping stones. You can always make your own too with a bag of cement and a nicely shaped form.

In my garden I've used several kinds of concrete blocks for different purposes. I prefer natural stone whenever I can get it for things like stepping stones but concrete works in a pinch.


Here is how I've used blocks in the garden:


As Stepping Stones


These blocks are actually retaining wall caps that we used during the Arbor Project for BHG last year. Soon I'll move them to use as additional flooring material in the greenhouse. I want to replace them with some homemade stepping stones of a different design. Larger stepping stones will work better here.


As a Retaining Wall/Raised Bed

These large and heavy blocks were used to build the area up a little around the arbor. They also add a little presence to the pathway.


The raised bed around the patio garden is made also constructed with retaining wall blocks. The blocks are heavy but can be arranged into curves which makes them good for ornamental gardens or creative vegetable garden designs.

As Lawn Mower Treads

In order to create a good resting location for my riding lawnmower I used some very cheap 8"x16" concrete cap stones to make treads going into the greenhouse shed. Of course this also means a significant event has occurred...THE LAWN MOWER IS OUT OF THE GARAGE! I'm sorry...please excuse this brief moment of exuberance!





As a Patio

The patio was one of the first big projects we did here in our landscape. It's a porous patio where the water can move between the cracks.  Underneath the stones the base is made from gravel and sand. My best advice when building a patio of your own is to make sure you dig the area out sufficiently enough to spread a good layer of base material. There were a few spots that needed dug out more as we went which slowed down the process and was pretty frustrating but I'm happy with the results.



Garden Blogger Assignment:

Write about how you have used blocks in the garden! You have two weeks (March 14th) to write about blocks in the garden or this post will self-destruct...um...not really. (The due dates are just general guidelines, if you would like to post about one of the earlier assignments you are more than welcome to and I'll add a link into that assignment to your blog post.) Have fun playing with your blocks, I know I do!

Completed Assignments:

Tina at In The Garden: Stone in The Garden

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pruning, Carpets, and Chickdees (Weekend Update)

This week had a couple of nice days that showed a hint of spring starting to emerge. It's not there yet, in fact we're far from it but officially and we're 10 degrees below normal still (I feel like a broken record). The good news is that the sun has been out and the rains and snows have subsided somewhat although they still have a home in forecast. With the increase in sun comes more garden fun!

What happened this week at The Home Garden?

Saturday February 20
One of the best pictures I've taken of any bird has to be the one of this little chickadee. We enjoy all the birds but I always feel a special kinship with the chickadees. The are fearless and aren't bothered by anyone working in the garden.


Sunday February 21
Have you been putting things off? I have and at least one other person has too! Maybe a few more will jump in this week and tell us about what they are putting off, maybe they are putting off putting things off? Hmm...

Cyndy at Gardening Asylum: Holy True Confessions Batman!

Monday February 22
Nature's Carpet or Moss got its own picture op. Moss is a much maligned denizen of the landscape that never is given enough credit for its characteristic beauty.

My fascination with greenroofs has finally manifested itself in my garden and more specifically my garden shed. It's not a true green roof as it is really just a door overhang but its a fun first foray into greenroofs!


Tuesday February 23
I revealed my pruning handiwork on a dappled willow at my in-law's home. It turned out pretty interesting but I think we'll have to wait and see how it appears once foliage begins to show.


Wednesday February 24
Folks are always looking for garden tips! Hopefully this post should satisfy in more ways than one, please excuse the puns.


Thursday February 25
You can't get a much more radical pruning job than this: total tree removal of a bagworm infested cedar. It was hard to do but was needed. Alas poor cedar...the bagworms knew you too well.

If you're desperate to see a few flashes of flowers you can check out the Deck Garden: Then and Now. Irises, catmint, penstemon and others will brighten you computer screen, if not your day!

Friday February 26
My weekend to-do list. What does yours look like?

Are you curious what other bloggers have planned for their summer projects? Go take a look at what these participants in the 5 New Things Assignment are getting themselves into!

Completed Assignments:
  • Tom has a lot of work on his plate with vines, fruit trees, a meadow project and more - go check out Tom's 5 New Things for his garden!
  • A proper vegetable garden, butterfly attracting plants, and new layers on the wall are on the agenda (among many things) at The Great Wall of Lutz!
  • One project I'm really looking forward to seeing is the pergola over at Shady Gardener's blog. I love a cool garden structure! Go see the other four things she has in mind.
  • Nell Jean is at it again with a good list of projects planned. I like them all but I'm a big fan of the raingarden project.
  • Melody is focusing on her Japanese garden but has quite a few other plans as well. She's also looking for a few planting suggestions!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Just a Few Things To-Do

While the weather still may not be ideal I've managed to get a few chores accomplished outside the last couple days. There's much more on my weekend to-do list but I feel good about what has been started so far.

The short list of things that I did:

  • Cut back a Russian sage. 
  • After I cut back the Russian sage I took hardwood cuttings and stuck them enmass on our slope. I had some success by sticking the hardwood cuttings directly into the soil last year and I'm hopeful that they make it. If they do I'll have 14-15 low care and easy maintenance plants covering an area I hate to mow!
  • I cut back one caryopteris and stuck a few of them on the same slope. Caryopteris roots very easily so I figured the hardwood cuttings would do fine directly stuck into the soil.
  • Picked up 6 bales of pine needles. I'll need more mulches but the pine needles are good to start covering some gardens. They are light and cover easy. Not to mention they are a whole lot cheaper than other mulches.
  • I also unloaded another yard of gravel into the greenhouse-shed. This load is primarily to fill the spot where the mowers will rest. 

The If I Have Enough Time Weekend Garden To-Do List
  • Cut down the ornamental grass stems.
  • Prune back all perennials.
  • Plant lettuce seed.
  • Work on the greenhouse-shed (all kinds of fun things to do here).
  • Transplant 1 more small red maple. 
  • Weed: chickweed of all kinds.
  • Imagine what it will all look like when everything is finally in bloom!


It looks like I'll be busy this weekend! How about you?

Next week is the Nashville Lawn and Garden Show (March 4-7)! If the weather isn't cooperating in your garden why not pay it a visit?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Deck Garden: Then and Now

I was out today looking at the sorry state of the gardens and though it might be an interesting exercise to look back at how the gardens appeared last spring and compare them. Over the next few posts I'll go back for a few photos of the spring time version and contrast it with that same garden today. Let me start off by saying I have a lot of cleanup to do! On with the show:

The Deck Garden Then (May):

I built the timber raised beds around the deck for an additional planting area in conjunction with the patio I built.  The hand me down irises are blooming here as is the pink phlox from Gail. I'm looking forward to that combination this spring since the phlox has had some time to grow and should have filled in . To the right is a 'Walker's Low' catmint about to bloom and just past it is a salvia - one of my favorite perennials. You just can't go wrong planting a salvia.


This is a little later in May when the red 'Firebird' penstemon is beginning to bloom. It's very easily propagated. Sometimes a glass of water is just fine.


Here we are standing back a little to look at the garden as a whole. The irises are done blooming and the catmint is coming into its time.


A little farther down the bed you can see gladiolas, a daylily, and caryopteris. Caryopteris is fantastic perennial for late summer and fall.



The Deck Garden Now (February):

The scene is much different. Please excuse the messy foliage and dead branches. I like to leave the perennial foliage to provide a little extra frost protection. It's time to cut things back and start getting them cleaned up for the season.

 

In the center is the 'Walker's Low' Catmint from the earlier picture. The penstemon is to the right and on the left is a Sweet Autumn clematis. 

  

A viburnum anchors the deck corner.  I'm always excited this time of year about the potential the garden has. Each year there are changes, plants grow larger, plants die and get replaced, and of course new plants get added. Spring is a time of excitement in the garden, now if it would just get here!

 

A Radical Tree Pruning

The other day I mentioned something I've been putting off: a tree removal. It didn't take long but it was tough work especially the hauling away part. I don't own a chainsaw and just used an old bow saw that has been worth its weight in gold over the years.

The tree was a cedar. I don't know exactly what type but it could easily have grown to 40 feet or more in height over time. Well above a good height for a tree planted so close to the house. It's proximity to the house was the primary reason for removing the tree but it was also severely infested with bagworms.


I won't plant exactly in it's place due to its root system. I'll move a few more feet away from the house and plant a white dogwood that my wife has been wanting for a long time. We planted one once but the deer rubbed the bark off and destroyed the tree. The dogwood won't be prone to bagworms and is a much smaller tree than the cedar would have been.

Completing this chore brings up another project to add to the list: a latticework screen for the heating/AC unit! Boy are those things eyesores! (the Heater/Ac unit not the latticwork!)

A gardener's work never ends - I think I like it that way!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Few Gardening Tips

Many people find The Home Garden in search of gardening tips so I thought today I would oblige all the seekers of garden tips with a post all about and only about garden tips!

Garden Tip #1: 
Daffodil Tips!



Garden Tip #2
Compost is good - Use it! Make it!
Keep a compost pile in the backyard to get rid of your organic kitchen waste and keep unnecessary volume out of landfills. Then use the compost in your garden or make a compost tea from it to help your plants.

Garden Tip #3
Winter Blooming/January Jasmine Bud Tips
-not blooming yet unfortunately!



Garden Tip #4
A Tomato Tip
The best way to plant a tomato is to bury it all the way in the soil except for the top two leaves - horizontal or vertical doesn't really matter since the stem will root anywhere it is underneath soil. Or you could read this post about the best way to plant a tomato!

Garden Tip #5
Tulip Tips! 'Negrita' and 'Shirley' are on their way.



Garden Tip #6
Save Money by Growing Your own Plants
Propagating plants through division, layering, and cuttings is a very easy and fun way to save money in the garden! You can also save a lot of money by growing your plants from seeds.

Garden Tip #7
Be Handy with Your Handle
Measuring and marking the handle of your shovel, rake, or hoe with inches and feet (or your favorite units of measurement) can be extremely useful in the garden - I really should do this!

Garden Tip #8 
Hosta Tips!



Garden Tip #9
Raise Your Garden's Standards with Raised Beds
Raised beds help you control the soil of your garden and help your garden to flourish. They can be built from many materials, in many shapes, and many sizes.

Garden Tip #10
Grow Your Kids in the Garden
Get the kids into the garden as often as you can, the fresh air does wonders!
It also teaches the kids valuable skills about growing food, nature and the environment as well as the big buzz word of today: sustainability!



I hope you enjoyed these "tips"!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Creatively Pruning a Dappled Willow

This past weekend we went to visit my wife's family. On the property they have a couple Japanese Dappled Willows ('Hiroki Nishiki') that I've taken cuttings from in the past. They are several years old and have really become large shrubs stretching over ten feet tall. Needless to say a shrub this large needs a special place and if doesn't have that special place it needs pruned.


The willow needed pruned so I set about attempting to coppice the shrub. Coppicing is where you cut the shrub to within a couple inches of the ground and allow it to regrow. Usually trees that are coppiced are cut back annually but this willow never had the treatment.

I started the process of coppicing but as I cut back branches I began to see a shape emerge.

Two main branches that I tied together last year had formed a nice curve and began to reveal an interesting and somewhat symmetrical branching structure. I've seen pictures of chairs, living arbors, fences, and many more things made from willows that have been trained and creatively pruned into living sculptures which gave me an idea: since this willow was beginning to reveal something interesting, why not encourage it? I cleaned out the extra branches and trunks using a set of heavy duty lopers and gradually a willow window was carved from the unruly shrub. The window seems to highlight the grandma and grandpa statue in the garden behind it. I left the branches above the willow alone so that they could fill out with foliage and provide a small shade canopy. Anything that grows inside the window will be pruned while the above areas will be allowed to grow freely.

I moved a couple other things around the willow including a heavy stone bench and the birdbath. As long as the willow stays pruned to the two main trunks both birds and bottoms will have a place to rest!



A Bit on Willow Propagation:

I also saved some of the cuttings for rooting. I dug a hole about 6-8 inches in the soil mud and covered the bottom of the bundle. Willows don't take too long to root so I'll check them in a few weeks then pot them up or plant them where I want them. Rooting willows in bundles is a good way to root a whole bunch of them at once without spending a lot of time doing it. They tend to root well anywhere you stick them. 


I would love to try a willow structure or willow fence at some point but that will need to wait until I have a little more time!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Nature's Carpet

Moss: Nature's Carpet


Edit: Here's just a short note to mention that I finally managed a little more work on the greenhouse! If you go to the post you'll see the beginning of a green roof overhang for the front door.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Putting Things Off

We've all done it before, put something off to do later. We justify it as we don't have time or come up with other reasons that may cover our laziness. Sometimes it's not laziness but life that interrupts things we want to get done. Really who could blame someone for not doing a gardening task in the middle of the northeast's Snowpacalypse? Life interrupts but that doesn't change the fact that we wanted or needed to get something done.

Two things I've been putting off can be seen in this one photo:


Can you guess what needs done here? One chore can easily be seen from the photo but the other is much harder to distinguish. Here are two clues, one is in the foreground and the other in the background.


If you still don't know I'll help you out!

In the foreground are sticks of dead annuals, coleus to be specific, that I left up over the winter. It doesn't harm anything to leave them there but they eventually start to look like a mess. When you multiply the few you see in the picture with the dead annuals in the other gardens it really starts to add up. Basil near the deck garden, coleus here, and all sorts of plants in the selfseeding/self-sowing garden.  I even have sunflower stalks left in place because I just never took the time to dispose of them. My excuse for them is that the birds were enjoying them, but not now!  They have eaten all that I left for them. A thorough cleanup of the gardens is definitely in order!

In the background the conifer is infested with a very irritating ailment, bagworms. I hand picked bagworms last year and put them in a bucket of soapy water to kill them but must have missed a few. That technique works good for small infestations and for Japanese beetles. I missed a couple and they multiplied rapidly. I've decided to take out this tree entirely but not just because it's prone to bagworms.  This tree was not planted by a builder, landscaper, or myself - it was planted by Mother Nature. She doesn't care weather a plant is too close to a house or utility line. Mother Nature gardens indiscriminately and plants with an extremely carefree attitude. All well and good until tree roots get too close to a foundation!  The tree is just too big to be this close to the house. I'll replace it with a deciduous tree (I'm thinking of a white dogwood) that won't attract bagworms by the thousand, will be a slow grower, and will be limited in height. I'll also plant it a little farther away from the house and the heat/AC system. I've noticed that the exhaust area from the unit is also causing the lower branches to die back. That's something worth noting so that I can avoid the same problem with other plants in the same location.

My excuse:
It's been cold, very cold. I know you folks reading from up north have it much worse than we do here in Tennessee. Our temperatures have been 10-15 degrees below normal for January and February. Let me just say that I like things normal. My other excuse is the greenhouse shed project. I've been devoting all available time to getting it completed.

So what's your excuse? What have you been putting off that needs done in your garden?

Garden Blogger Assignment:
Write about the garden chores that you have been putting off whether because of natural reasons (weather or circumstances) or for laziness (which I've been very guilty of at times!) If you have it posted by March 6th I'll post links back to your post from this post, just let me know when you have it complete!

Completed Assignments:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chickadee Ready for A Closeup

This little chickadee was seen on my back deck going after some birdseed.  It's always fun to watch the chickadees fly around. They seem fearless and will often just land a few feet way while I'm working in the garden. I didn't participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count last weekend but I think next year I'll jump in and count some feathered friends.



The Home Garden Weekend Update

This week finally brought us some nice temperatures, or at least nicer temperatures. We're still a little under the normal highs for February and will most likely drop down again next week but the warmer weather is definitely something to brighten the spirits. Not only that it also improves the frequency of garden activities!

Sunday February 14th

Valentines Day Found me talking about 5 New Things to Add to My Garden. You can look back at it if you would like to see some ideas I hope to get to this season but also check out the blogs who completed their assignment to talk about the same subject! You still have another week to talk about it on your blog if you are interested!


Completed Assignments:


Monday February 15th
Bloom Day found my collection of blooms sorely lacking except for the indoor plants, but they count too don't they? I'm a definite outdoor gardener who tends to ignore the indoors when it comes to plants.

Later that day I posted a garden layout for the landscape around my greenhouse shed project.


Tuesday February 16th
My vegetable seeds were finally planted. I'm already seeing germination of Dark Opal Basil and a few tomatoes. I'll update on their progress next week when a few more have decided to emerge from their shells.


Wednesday February 17th
Love it or hate it liriope was the subject of the day along with its use in the garden.



Thursday February 18th
Shadow Play was my entry for the Gardening Gone Wild Photo Contest and the First Outdoor Bloom of February 2010 found itself in my garden.

Friday February 19th
Do you garden in raised beds? I do and I built one more because I never have enough space!


Are you curious about Magic in the Garden? Several bloggers joined in on this Sunday Assignment go check them out!


 Who Has Magic in their Gardens?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Building A Raised Bed for the Garden

Building a new raised bed for a vegetable garden isn't difficult and  doesn't have to be expensive. This week I put together a new raised bed that measures 3'x10' with materials I had laying around the garage. It's wider than I originally intended in my garden layout but I discovered after remeasuring the area that I actually had a little more space. I think 3 feet wide is probably the ideal width most people should build their beds but 4 feet is definitely the maximum width. Gardeners want to be able to easily reach the middle of the bed for weeding and harvesting and 3 feet wide beds are only 18 inches to the center which I think is good enough for most people. 

The raised bed I put together uses a hodgepodge collection of materials for a couple reasons:  
  1. I had the materials conveniently laying around the garage (which means I didn't have to buy anything) and  
  2. I needed to compensate for a slight slope in this area of the garden.  
To try to keep a level bed I used a 3 foot long section of 2"x6" on the lower end and a 3 foot long section of 2"x4" on the high side. The result was pretty close to level.


I used two 2"x4"s on each side; one measured 4 feet while the other measured 10 feet long. I put the smaller one on the bottom and the larger one on top to build a little depth. The actual height on the deep side is 7 and 1/4 inches while on the high side is only 3 and a half inches. The soil underneath is in good shape after being amended with grass clippings and leaves in the fall. Generally if there is good soil underneath the raised beds the height doesn't need to be as tall. Rocky and clay compacted soils necessitate a higher/deeper raised bed.


To attach the beds together I used 1"x3" pieces cut to the correct height (7.25") on the corners and on the sides where the bottom 2"x4" ends. These pieces required a few more screws (I used 2" coated deck screws) to fit together than just going end to end but should hold together well. I put these on the outside of the beds but using 4"x4" posts on the inside corners is a good method also.


Now I need to layer the bottom with newspapers or cardboard then fill with soil, compost, and grass clippings from the yard.  I still have at least one more bed to put together but since these will be tomato beds and tomatoes can't be planted outside for several weeks I have a little window of time to get the job done!


How are you expanding your vegetable garden this year?



Thursday, February 18, 2010

The First Bloom of February

I found it.


I finally found it.


The First Outdoor Bloom of 2010


Today while working outside for the first time in weeks I saw a little yellow bloom peeking out from the edge of a raised bed in the vegetable garden. It's not much but it's a flower nonetheless. And it may not even be a plant you like but it is a flower that grew on its own, outside through the cold and the snow to bring color where it could.




This single dandelion is a just a promise of more color to come.


All I can say is the sooner the better!

Winter's Light: Shadow Play

The Gardening Gone Wild photo contest for February is all about Winter Light. The picture below is my entry which I took from our upstairs window out across the yard. I'm calling it Shadow Play, you can probably figure out why!



The shadows of the ice covered trees are dancing across the backyard and the children's playset creating an unusual landscape for us here in Tennessee. To the left is a birch and ornamental grasses while below and slightly off center is the birdbath garden.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gardening with Variegated Liriope

Among many potential plants a gardener should consider in the garden are ground covers. Groundcovers allow you to fill in areas of the garden for a lush seemless scene. One such groundcover that is very low maintenance is liriope and in this post I'm specifically talking about Liriope muscari 'Variegata'.  There are other varieties of liriope that aren't as attractive or can be more aggressive like Liriope spicata (which spreads via runners) but variegated liriope is much more tame. It fills in quickly into clumps and depending on how close you plant it can easily cover wherever you need a groundcover.



When comparing the variegated to the non-variegated versions of Liriope muscari I've noticed that the variegated does much better when placed in shade. The non-variegated seems to do fine anywhere. The plants in these pictures were divisions I made while remodeling a fence garden at my parent's home. More than twenty plants easily came from three large clumps in another location of their yard. All you need to divide liriope is a good sharp shovel and a strong back. I always pull away the loose crowns first by hand then divide the more stubborn pieces more aggressively with the shovel blade. Washing the soil away from the roots can also help to loosen the clumps.

Liriope has also been recommended as a lawn replacement/substitute due to its drought tolerance and low maintenance


Here is a picture of the partially finished garden. It was completed later in the year but this picture shows the liriope in the center of the garden underneath the cherry trees and in front of azaleas and a dappled willow. It flowers in the summer and eventually produces berries. Many people recommend mowing liriope in the spring to encourage fresh new growth, around here that's not usually necessary - the rabbits do that for us!



Your thoughts?
It seems that some people either love liriope for its utilitarian uses or hate it completely. I think if used the right way it can be an asset in the garden, what do you think?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Few Vegetable Garden Seeds Planted

While this post might be more interesting to me (for record keeping purposes) than anyone else it contains the list of seed varieties I planted on Monday Feb. 15, 2010. They were planted in peat pots and seed starting medium and are currently under lights indoors in a roughly 70 degree environment. Warmer temperatures might hasten the germination process but I don't use heat mats. Not that heat mats aren't a great idea I just never got around to buying any! Starting these seeds in mid-February will give them a good 8 weeks to grow before mid-April.


2010 Vegetable Seeds Started as of 2/15/2010

Tomato 
Pepper
Basil
Herbs
Other
San Marzano
Cardinal Hybrid
Thai
Cilantro
Hosta
  Brandywine
Flavorburst
Spicy Globe
Dill
Daylily-Mixed Stella
Cherokee Purple
California Wonder
Dark Opal


Viva Italia
Big Dipper
Sweet Italian


Pantano Romanesco
Cayenne Long Thin



Chico
Sweet Banana



Roma VFN




Brandywine




Big Boy




Yellow Pear




Better Boy

Monday, February 15, 2010

Greenhouse Garden Landscape Ideas

While the snow is coming down I thought I would put together a rough draft garden layout of the gardens I hope to cultivate around the greenhouse once it is complete.

The Landscape Garden Layout around my Greenhouse/Gardenshed


Garden Landscape Layout for around Our Greenhouse Shed (not to scale)

When planning out a landscape project like this the first thing I do is factor in what is already there. In this case the tree line in the upper right, the wild cherry trees on the left, the maple tree in the lower left and the willow on the right were planted before the greenhouse was started. In fact the beds on the bottom were begun before the greenhouse too. The right perennial bed doesn't go very far yet but will be expanded over time. The two 'Shenandoah' switch grasses and crape myrtles were planted in 2009. The crape myrtles were from cuttings.

The bridge is on my project list for this year and I hope to use only reclaimed or recycled wood to construct it. I'd like it to resemble a Japanese footbridge but it all depends on the materials I have on hand.  The shade bed on the top of the garden layout right now is just a large mound of dirt left over from the excavation underneath the greenhouse. Some of the dirt will go to fill a raised bed in the vegetable garden.

Stepping stones will create a shortcut to the greenhouse front landing which will be made from a few 4"x6"s left over from greenhouse construction and decorative gravel.

The goal of this area is to section it off into it's own garden spot. The layout is not to scale and will probably change but it's good to have a place to start.  Of course most of this will have to wait until the greenhouse is completed and the new raised beds are built for the vegetable garden, but I like to plan ahead!

Not Much to See Here for Bloom Day

As you probably know every 15th of the Month is Bloom Day started and hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens and as you know it's February. When you put the two events together you will find that I really don't have much to show. Last year at this time the daffodils and several other plants had already begun blooming. This year I don't even have the lawn loving weed henbit to fall back on. I do have a few small offerings of indoor blooms that I can share but most of the garden must be waiting patiently for March and warmer weather.


Hyacinth, Carnation, and Christmas Cactus

The hyacinth was for my wife for Valentine's Day and one carnation was given for each of the girls. The Christmas cactus decided that it was time to bloom again! Does that make it a Valentine's cactus?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

5 New Things in the Garden

Self Sowing Garden, reseeding plants
Self Sowing Garden
Unfortunately I don't have any new things to share with you like my title says.  The new things in the garden refers to what new things I would like to accomplish with my garden this year. I've been doing a lot of virtual gardening lately; looking at old photos of the garden and I glimpsed a few new things that I added last year. New things like my self-seeding garden, my arbor, quite a few new plants, and I can't leave out my greenhouse shed (started a new feature on it today but it's not ready to blog about yet!).

This time of year in 2009 I was rearranging the vegetable garden to fit into a better layout. Of course you could go look at my project list to get an idea of some of the larger projects I'd like to tackle but let's go somewhere else for right now and brainstorm 5 new things that I want to add to the garden.

  1. New heirloom vegetables to try. The heirloom seeds have been purchased but none have been planted yet. This week I hope to get many of my vegetable seeds going to get them ready for spring planting. 
  2. Add more penstemon varieties! Penstemon is such a great plant - easy to grow - great for hummingbirds, bees, and other pollinators - it looks great - and of course it is easy to propagate.
  3. Make the garden more child friendly. As my children grow older they fend for themselves a lot more. Maybe fending is the wrong word.  I mean that they roam about the yard, play on the swingset I built, and are becoming more independent. I'm still there whenever they are but they seem to need me less and entertain each other more. I want them to enjoy the garden and have fun with it. One idea I had was a sunflower maze - nothing huge just something for them to run around inside and explore. I've toyed with the idea of a gourd tunnel for a couple years now, maybe I'll actually do it this year!
  4. Hillside gardens. The slope is huge and looks very unkempt most of the year. In the fall the golden rod glows with snakeroot and ironweed and it looks nice but the rest of the time it's a scraggly mess. I'd like to add one or two garden beds on the slope to help the slope become more interesting year round. 
  5. Crazy about canning. Recently we enjoyed some very delicious (homemade) tomato soup with some of the summer vegetables we canned. I really want to do more canning to help lower our food budget and raise our food quality over the winter!
There are 5 things that hopefully will be new (or improved in the case of number 5) in my garden later this year.

Garden Blogger Assignment:

Write a post about the 5 Things That Will Be New in Your Garden this year! Try to be specific and imaginative. It doesn't matter if you think you can get them done, just write what you want. Try to put up a post by Friday February 26th and I'll link to it here.  It's still February (and winter) which means most of us are still only dreaming about gardening!

Completed Assignments:
  • Tom has a lot of work on his plate with vines, fruit trees, a meadow project and more - go check out Tom's 5 New Things for his garden!
  • A proper vegetable garden, butterfly attracting plants, and new layers on the wall are on the agenda (among many things) at The Great Wall of Lutz!
  • One project I'm really looking forward to seeing is the pergola over at Shady Gardener's blog. I love a cool garden structure! Go see the other four things she has in mind.
  • Nell Jean is at it again with a good list of projects planned. I like them all but I'm a big fan of the raingarden project.
  • Melody is focusing on her Japanese garden but has quite a few other plans as well. She's also looking for a few planting suggestions!

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Week in the Virtual Garden

I really have to admit that despite the cold temperatures, snowfall, and generally crummy weather I've had a good week in the garden. Not my real garden, my virtual one. The garden that sits inside this black box next to my desk. Gail mentioned it too in her recent post. Times like these garden bloggers resort to old photos of the garden for material. A single picture can inspire quite a few ideas for writing. For today I would like to sum up what made this week a fun blogging week for me! I hope you enjoyed it too!

Sunday February 7th 2010
How to add Magic to the Garden 
This post was an invitation for garden bloggers to show what makes their garden magical! Two participants are listed in the original post and I decided (at the urging of another blogger) to extend the magical deadline to Friday February 19th

Monday February 8th 2010
Perennials Around the Vegetable Garden 
Yep, just like it says in the title!
Perennials Around The Deck
No fooling around here, the title is about what it says!

Tuesday February 9th 2010
How Big is a Moonflower Bloom?
curious? Go Look!
Cosmos - One of My Favorite Annuals
A very worthwhile and easy to grow annual for the garden. I like it and apparently many others do too.

Wednesday February 10th 2010 
Monarda is Called Bee Balm for a Reason
It's a good perennial to attract pollinators and I even threw in some propagation tips (shocking, isn't it!).

Thursday February 8th 2010
Variegated Pachysandra - A Plant I Wish I Had a Spot For

I also added a Garden calendar page with garden events that will be happening here in Middle Tennessee. It's incomplete but growing - strange...just like my garden!


Like I said before looking back at the old photos to write about was a lot of fun. Until I can get outdoors to work in my garden you will probably see a few more of these short, picture oriented, yet fun posts. Maybe they will give you an idea of some things to plant into your garden or maybe you already have them but just like to see life in the dead of winter. Whatever the case, thanks for tagging along!

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Variegated Pachysandra - A Plant I Wish I Had a Spot For

Seen here is one plant I wish had the ideal location for it to grow. Ideal location you ask? OK maybe I'm putting words in your head but let me add an image too. Think shade, think moist, think well drained, think shade garden. I don't have that place...yet.



This little plant was planted in a nearly ideal location in my parent's yard during a garden remodel last spring. I love the variegation in shade plants and this evergreen groundcover is a good one. Pachysandra grows fairly slow and will take a couple years to fully establish as a groundcover. Of course you can help your groundcover along when planting by spacing the plants closer together. That means more money on the front end for faster gratification. To reduce your cost you could propagate pachysandra by stem cuttings. Propagating pachysandra is fairly straightforward. Take a stem cutting with a leaf attached, dip in rooting hormone, place in filtered light while keeping the soil moist and you may have rooting in a few weeks. You can also divide the plant occasionally to increase your plantings. Once you have a few cuttings you can plant them in the gaps of your groundcover to thicken it up a little faster. 

Behind the backyard greenhouse shed is an area I hope to one day cultivate with shade plants like pachysandra, hosta, and heuchera. I have too many things on my plate to worry about a new shade garden yet but I can dream!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Monarda is Called Bee Balm for a Reason!

Monarda is called bee balm for a reason!



This bee balm was brought home as a division from a plant in my wife's aunt's garden in West TN. Monarda is a great plant for attracting pollinators! It doesn't only attract bees, butterflies are more than happy to land upon this flowering perennial. I planted it just outside our vegetable garden in the same area of the picture I showed earlier in the week.  Monarda can spread so just be sure you like it before you plant it!  I like planting pollinator friendly plants near the vegetable garden to attract the pollinators. There have even been studies that say the mere presence of bees actually reduces the population of problem insects. Apparently the bad bugs hear the buzz of the bees and are fooled into thinking that a predatory wasp is nearby ready to swoop in so they lay low.

Monarda Propagation:

Monarda (Bee balm) can be propagated easily through division but stem cuttings (Taken in Spring or Summer) are very easy to root and you have the added advantage of creating many more plants at one time. You really don't need any more than 1 node on a cutting to get rooting going since internodal cuttings work well.  Layering is a good option too. If you're just considering learning to propagate perennials monarda would be a good choice to try for the first time.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cosmos - One of My Favorite Annuals

When you are planning your gardens for 2010 and begin to think of what annuals to put in it give cosmos a look. It comes up easily from seed, blooms prolifically, seems to have few pest problems, attracts pollinators, and looks pretty darn good!



The flowers in the above and below pictures are from the same plant just taken at different times of the year. The above photo was in September and the one below was in November. What's not to like about plant that blooms into November? Since cosmos grows so easily from seed it makes sense to collect the seed each year and save if for the following year. Saving seed is a great way to reduce your gardening budget! I'm not a big fan of pink so I've ordered a few more varieties that I hope to add to the gardens in 2010. Tina sent me some seeds for an orange cosmos last year which bloomed but sadly I don't think I have a picture! A failure of blogging I won't repeat this season.


The red cosmos in the bottom picture was a resident of the self-seeding garden. I'm looking forward to seeing how many of the plants from that garden return from seed!