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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Garden Questions from a Four Year Old

This afternoon my daughter and I were out in the garden doing a few tasks that needed tackled: we planted potatoes and filled in a raised bed with soil. We brought a bucket of water with us and stuck newspapers in the wet water before laying them over the grass clippings in the raised bed (you can see a picture of that in this post about lawns). Then we filled the bed with soil. At four she's old enough to do many of the garden activities I do and old enough to ask a lot of questions along the way!

Here's a few garden questions from my daughter that I can remember.

Q. Why are you wetting the newspaper before you put it down (on the grass clippings)?
A. Wetting the newspaper holds them down long enough for me to cover with soil and helps to add moisture to heat up the layers underneath.

Q. Why are you leaving the leaves in the dirt?
A. Because leaves enrich the soil as they breakdown.

Q. Are leaves good for the soil?
A. Yep. They add organic matter that is good for the soil.

Q. Do we have any more potatoes to plant?
A. No ten is enough for us, we'll have plenty of potatoes ('Yukon Gold') with 10 plants.

Q. Is this a weed?
A. Yes that's chickweed.

Q. What about this plant with the pretty purple flowers?
A. Yes that's a weed too, called henbit.

Q. We are going to have lots of strawberries this year! (OK that's a statement not a question).
A. I hope so!

Q. [When in the front yard] Ewww, what's that smell?
A. That's just the smell of the Bradford pears in bloom! Great isn't it? [Yet another reason not to plant one - the odor is awful!]

There were many more questions that I can't remember, you know how 4 year olds are!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One Thing, Then Another, Then Another...

Have you ever had one of those days where you start on one project then move to another, then another? I do it a lot this time of year where I begin something finish then move immediately to another one. It's a kind of flow where I just can't stop doing something in the garden. I have to be careful because I could just go until dark without stopping.

Today I started working on the garden shed. My mom took the girls for the day and I went to work adding plywood paneling to the inside. I used whatever plywood I had leftover from the outside walls and the roof as well as some that I had stored in the garage and covered the inside of the garden shed with several forms of plywood. Eventually the walls will get painted which will help them blend but a little mismatching doesn't matter - especially when you aren't having to go buy more materials.

I came to a stopping point on the garden shed then moved toward the mowers. Our hillside is full of dead brush from various wild plants and I've been gradually cutting pathways through them. Last week I cut several branches from a couple locust trees and several wild rose bushes to make a couple new paths. Today I used the mower today to clean up the pathways.

After that I began mowing with the push mower along our slope in an attempt to clean up a new garden area. It will serve as an entrance to the pathway system. I need to figure out a way to incorporate steps up the slope. The steps will eventually go up the path in  the center of the picture while to the right will be seating area and the left will be meadow plants. Right now the hillside is mostly composed of sassafras, Queen Anne's Lace, goldenrod, a few ironweeds, pokeweed, and several vine plants.

Hillside Garden

After mowing I went and pruned out branches from several trees and cut down several sassafras saplings. They tend to grow together too thick on our hill and a little selective pruning will improve the area.

Do you ever get into a gardening flow?

Monday, March 29, 2010

I Have to Admit it, I Really Do Like My Lawn...

I have to admit it, I really do like my lawn. The "in" thing right now is eliminating lawns by replacing them with gardens. That's great idea that I fully support but it just isn't feasible when you have a large yard. The other option is letting areas become meadows which I think is pretty cool too (and for one section of my yard I'm working on a wildflower path garden) but the vast majority of our yard will be grass for some time. Certainly there are advantages to eliminating lawn areas but I believe you can keep a lawn in good shape and still be environmentally friendly.

Those who support eliminating lawns tell us that fertilizers poison our waters, the increased pollution from mower emissions threatens the environment, and lawns can be water hogs which reduces available water in areas where water is in short supply. The lawn eliminators are correct but only if you treat your lawn with the traditional chemical laden and irresponsibly maintained methods.

Here's what to do (and what I do) instead:
  1. Mow the grass high. Mowing high encourages the roots to grow deep underneath the soil and prevents many weed seeds from germinating because they haven't seen the light! When the roots grow deep they are better able to gather water from deeper layers of soil which is ideal for dry weather.
  2. Mow less frequently. If it hasn't rained in two weeks why in the world would you want to mow!? I'm persistently perplexed by this notion that "it's time" for that weekly mowing. Grass doesn't keep on a schedule it follows the weather. If the temperatures and moisture levels are good for the grass it will grow. Otherwise it will slow down or stop growing altogether and go dormant. 
  3. I don't water unless I just planted seed. Even then I try to plant the seed just before rain is in the weather forecast. Running around with sprinklers isn't my idea of fun...although it might be on a hot summer day! When people water they stimulate the grass to grow which means they have to cut it again. Then they water, then they mow, then they water, then they mow, then they get their water bill... It's a cycle that isn't good for the grass, the environment or your pocketbook. Just learn what type of grass you have cool season or warm season and know it will go dormant at some point. Fescue which is a cool season grass goes dormant in the summertime but reemerges in the fall and looks awesome in the spring. Bermuda grass which is a common warm season grass around here stays brown until the temperatures warm up.
  4. Use organic fertilizers. I have done very little to my lawn as far as fertilization to keep it nice. Organic fertilizers like bloodmeal (12-13 % nitrogen) and corn gluten (9-10% nitrogen) can help to provide the nitrogen your lawn needs and enrich the soil rather than add unhealthy salts from synthetic fertilizers. Sifted compost is another good way to improve the lawn.  When you spread compost across the ground it helps to condition the soil for your grass to get nutrients more efficiently. Using a mulching blade on your mower also helps to fertilize your lawn as the decomposing clippings may return 4% nitrogen to the soil!
  5. Avoid chemical pesticides and herbicides. Chemical pesticides aren't the most friendly chemicals in the lawn. Many of them are non-selective and kill the good and bag bugs. If you let the good bugs live they'll eat some of the bad bugs. Invite nature to your yard through bird feeders and houses as the birds love to munch on juicy little bugs. I remember once I was digging an area for a garden and the bluebirds perched on a electric wire nearby watching. As I found grubs I tossed them out and the bluebirds had a feast. Typically I remove weeds in the lawn the manual way and the only one that really bothers me know is an occasional thistle. The ragweed is mostly gone in the lawn, the dandelions are limited, and I let the clover go - to me it's not a weed! The clover adds nitrogen to the soil, feeds the bunnies which keeps them off my plants, and feeds the bees. I suspect that the overuse of pesticides and herbicides has helped to contribute to colony collapse disorder among our bee populations. I don't have evidence but I give the bees a safe haven in my lawn. To spot remove other weeds I've used boiling water and vinegar in spots. but the shovel is pretty efficient.  When combined with mowing high the manual weed pulling works well..
  6. Overseed the lawn in the fall for cool season lawns.  I overseed our lawn every fall which makes for a nice thick turf when the temperatures return in the spring. If you want a really nice green lawn even when the warm season grasses aren't looking so happy try rye grass. My dad seeded his lawn in the fall with rye and it's never looked better! The annual rye grass will die back when the Bermuda grass begins to return.
  7. And while this doesn't have much to do with a healthy lawn collecting grass clippings and using them in your raised beds is a fantastic way to get great soil! Every new raised bed I start begins with grass clippings among other organic materials. I also use them as a mulch for new garden areas before I put something more attractive down. Grass clippings are a great soil conditioner. I love my bagging mower!

I seem to write this post every year but I figure that not everyone has figured it out yet! When everyone has it right let me know and I won't have to write this again next year!

Two Gables Down!

The siding work on the two gables for the garden shed have been completed! It's really starting to come together. I can't wait to get in there and start working on something other than the building!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hiding Spent Foliage

I like daffodils and tulips, but you know their foliage just isn't much to get excited about. Once the flowers are done we all know the best thing to do is to cut back the flower stems to prevent them from going to seed (unless you are hybridizing or want to collect the seed) and leave the foliage to absorb the suns rays. So what do you do with that mess of foliage? Can you stand it? Often gardeners get tired of looking at it and cut the foliage back while risking reduced vigor the following year in the process. I prefer to think about plants that help to hide or disguise the unsightly foliage.

In this picture you can see the daffodils I have in my front garden. To hide the daffodil foliage, or disguise them rather, I have a couple other perennials that will come to the forefront. In May the bed becomes filled with the purple flowers of salvia and the yellow blooms of daylilies. My tulips, which are in the sidewalk garden, don't have much to disguise their foliage but I leave the leaves to die back on their own anyway. I've been able to maintain a reliable display of tulips this way. Last year I planted lantana among them but it won't return here - at least not without help from the gardener. 

What perennials do you think make a good sequential planting for bulb flowers to help hide the foliage?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fickle Spring

Spring weather is at best fickle. One day it's warm and sunny with temperatures in the 60's and 70's then next day the weather forecasters are bringing up the "S" word - SNOW! We didn't have any of the white stuff thankfully. Sometimes I suspect that there's a fair amount of weather sensationalism out there where bringing it up certain words makes you stick around through the commercial break. Still cold temperatures came and left, rain came and left, and most certainly will be back.

This weekend's weather will be good for the first half which is just what I need to get a little more done on the greenhouse. Saturday will find me sawing and hammering more siding in the gables after a quick trip for supplies. Maybe, just maybe, I'll get the outside done (except for cleaning, caulking, and painting of course!)

If I get the chance I'll finish filling my two newest raised beds. I've already filled them with grass clippings, newspapers and soil will be next. I set up a cucumber trellis today but have to wait on planting for a little while at least until after April 15th and maybe longer- when the 15th comes I'll be glued to the 10 day weather forecast! I always direct sow my cucumbers but I may start a few in peat pots to get a jump start on germination.

Here's my Weekend Garden To-do List!
  • Greenhouse siding on the gables.
  • Add another cabinet to the inside of the greenhouse (In case you missed the post on the other two here's the link).
  • Assemble a plant bench.
  • Fill the raised beds.
  • Mower maintenance!

A look back at this week on The Home Garden:

Saturday March 20
  • Mulch Madness! It's that time of the year when gardeners everywhere are rushing to gather mulch anyway possible.

Sunday March 21

Monday March 22

Tuesday March 23

Wednesday March 24
  • Another Garden Shed update: Peek Inside!
  • The patio garden is blooming with daffodils and hyacinths, isn't spring great!

Thursday March 25

Friday March 26

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Few Flower Photos

The signs of spring are showing themselves all over the garden. It's not just in the flowers the bees and bugs are all coming out of their winter nesting places to sip on nectar and gain strength for another growing season. Here are a few pictures of the flowers I've seen over the week.

The daffodils are coming up everywhere. Here are a few in the birdbath garden.

Strangely the daffodils beat out the crocuses for the title of The First Bloomer*.

The hyacinths are sending their frangrance on the wind all over the garden.

The creeping phlox is coming along and soon they will all be covering the ground with color.

While not officially a flower yet these redbud buds from a 'Forest Pansy' redbud I planted last year as part of the arbor project are beginning to emerge!

What has been your favorite sign of spring so far?

*The title of the First Bloomer only applies to planted flowers - weeds are not eligible. My apologies to the dandelions.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I Could Really Use that Pot O'Gold!

The rain today had a couple of small openings for some sunshine to come through. It always seems that March has the most rainbows, what do you think?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Patio Garden Blooming

Spring is officially here and it seems like the daffodils were waiting for the memo. They are in full bloom now and their yellow flowers are a bright and happy sign that the cold dreary days of an extra long and extra cold winter are behind us. Sure we'll have some cold days ahead, but those are little dips in the road compared to the vast valley of winter we crossed. One of the spots in my garden where I have daffodils is a small garden just above our patio. It's actually a raised bed made from retaining wall blocks and was part of the patio project two years ago (one of the first things we attempted to improve our former foreclosure lot.)

Inside this garden bed there are hyacinths (which are currently turning the patio into a very fragrant place to visit), daffodils, Muhlenbergia capillaris or Muhly Grass, a Japanese maple I was given for fathers day, some Ponytail Grass (aka Mexican Feather Grass or botanitcally Stipa tenuissima), a sedum, sage, some irises - white rebloomers (we'll have to wait for late April or May to see them), and hopefully some poppies. Everything has its own season and this garden should provide pretty good 3 seasons of interest.

Similar scenes are beginning to reveal themselves all over the yard - isn't spring the best time of year?

Want to Peek Inside the Greenhouse Garden Shed?

The greenhouse garden shed isn't not done yet - I know, that completely surprised you - but you can take a peek inside and see what I did over the weekend.  There's much more to come!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Starting Lettuce from Seed in the Vegetable Garden

It's that time of the year here in Tennessee where if you haven't already done so you might want to think about planting lettuce in your vegetable garden. Lettuce likes the cool air of early spring to start growing.  I planted three types of lettuce last week in our raised beds - all of which are heirlooms.

How I Plant My Lettuce:

Scatter and thin! Lettuce seeds are small and for a home garden I don't see any reason to worry with rows. I simply take a few pinches of lettuce seeds and scatter them as evenly as possible over the soil where I want them to grow. Then I press the seeds gently into the soil to insure good seed to soil contact, water, and I'm finished. When the lettuce grows larger we'll thin out the small plants as they grow and eat the fresh lettuce like microgreens. Tender young greens are great in salads and on sandwiches! Eventually we'll end up with good spacing for the lettuce through thinning.

What Kinds of Lettuce Did I Plant?

One of the two green lettuces is 'Tom Thumb'. It grows into small 2-3 inch heads. I picked Tom Thumb lettuce mostly as a novelty because I thought my girls would enjoy seeing "baby lettuce." Although admittedly I'm excited to see how this diminutive lettuce delivers in taste!

The other green variety is called 'Little Gem'. It's a small romaine type that I thought would be our main munching lettuce.

The third type of lettuce I planted is 'Rouge d'Hiver' which is a red heirloom romaine lettuce from France. I really enjoy having unusual colors of lettuce in the garden.  Last year we had a mixture of speckled romaine that had a nice flavor but I'm looking forward to seeing how these different heirloom varieties do. One goal with all of our vegetables is to produce our own seed supply for next year with the hope of reducing our gardening budget even further.

When the weather warms the lettuce will begin to bolt but I'll leave a couple heads of lettuce alone to produce its seed.  Then I'll collect and store it for a fall or spring crop. Either way we'll come out ahead, of lettuce that is!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Gardening Rules to Live and Garden By

Recently in the gardening blogosphere there's been a little uproar over a particular post on a particular blog regarding the particulars of gardening. While I don't wish to officially enter the fray of back and forth I thought I might offer my thoughts on gardening rules that should be strictly adhered to at all costs.

Garden Rule Number One: Garden With a Purpose
  • Do you garden for vegetables?
  • Do you garden for aesthetics?
  • Do you garden because you like digging in the dirt?
  • Do you garden because you like to design?
  • Do you garden because you want to save money by growing your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs?
  • Do you garden because it relaxes you from a hectic day at work?
  • Do you garden because you love it?

Pick one, two, or all of these, it doesn't matter which ones so long as the last one is always included.

Garden Rule Number Two: Stick to it!
Stick with your garden, don't give up too quickly no matter what anyone says. A garden doesn't have to be perfect for them, just for you and your family.

Garden Rule Number Three: Try Something New Every Year
The only way you learn to do new things is to try new things! I know that sounds incredibly profound but really branch out and try something - it doesn't have to be successful. In many ways we learn more from failure than we do success.

Garden Rule Number Four: Make Your Garden Your Own
Your garden is your garden. If you have the time, the will, the energy, and the experience you can turn it into perfection. If not there is nothing wrong with it as long as it's good for you! Find your garden's purpose then just grow it! I work hard trying to make my gardens look nice, even the vegetable garden, but that doesn't mean it always does. Most of the time the garden starts of fantastic, then it gets hot, the tomatoes take off and somewhere along the way the garden turns into a jungle. But you know, my main purpose in the vegetable garden is to add more wholesome, organically grown food that lowers our gardening budget.

And that's exactly what my garden does.

My purpose is writing this isn't to counterpoint anything anyone else has said but merely to support gardeners and gardening for any purpose, any reason, and any goal that anyone may have. It doesn't have to be perfect in the eyes of every beholder. The perfect garden is the one you make, the one you enjoy, and the one you maintain to the best of your ability. Growing a garden takes effort but it's only work if you don't enjoy it!

If you're curious about the debate go visit Mr. Brownthumb at Garden Bloggers to get filled in.

My Garden Shed's Backdoor

The siding is mostly up except for the gables and the almost secret doors are in place! You can see a picture of the backside of my greenhouse garden shed over on the greenhouse page. It's not often that I will encourage people to look at my backside, but for the greenhouse I'll make an exception! ;)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What's The Best Mulch?

In posting yesterday about my mulch (that I got for $1.34 per 2 cubic foot bag) several people left comments about what mulch they like to use. I thought that maybe today it might be good to take a look at the types of mulch and what's good about each one. The main purpose behind any mulch is to retain moisture in the soil for plants to utilize.

Hardwood Mulch
The mulch I use the most is regular brown hardwood mulch. I usually get it in bulk from a local bulk landscaping supply company because it's usually cheaper in bulk than in the bag. Generally I pay about $30 per yard which is 27 cubic feet. The brown mulch looks good and lasts through each season and then some. It's an organic mulch which gradually decomposes and feeds the soil.

Pine Mulch
Pine Mulch by the bag
The bags of mulch I picked up this weekend were filled with pine mulch. It breaks down a little faster than the hardwood mulch.

Pine Straw
Pine straw is just pine needles. Pine straw usually comes in bales and is very inexpensive. It's even cheaper if you happen to live in areas with pine trees! Over the course of many years it can acidify your soil - slightly. It makes good cover for azaleas, blueberries, and other acid loving plants but really won't effect other soils significantly unless you had very heavy acid soil to begin with. There are two good advantages to pine needles - it's cheap and easy to spread!

Straw works great on vegetable gardens and decomposes fast to enrich the soil. It's also fairly inexpensive and sold by the bale.

Rock, Stone, and Gravel
This is probably the most expensive of the mulches but it will probably outlast the gardener! I'm not a big fan of rock mulch because is doesn't feed the soil. If the rocks are in a sunny location they will heat up the area more during the day creating a warmer micro-climate. That may be good if you live in cooler regions but for Tennessee it's not necessary. I'd rather save the rocks for use in borders and dry creek beds.

Grass Clippings
I have a push lawnmower with a bag attachment that I use all the time to collect grass clippings. The clippings decompose fast, feed the soil, and keep the moisture underneath. My favorite use for grass clippings other than the compost bin is to start new beds with heavy layers of grass. A 3-5 inch layer of grass will completely kill off the grass and weeds I cover with it. A layer of newspapers underneath is a good insurance policy against a few highly determined weeds creeping through. When the grass decomposes I have a soft soil to begin a new bed with a more attractive type of mulch.

In the fall I collect leaves everywhere I can, chop them up with the bagger mower (which inevitably fills with a mixture of leaves and grass clippings) then spread them anywhere that needs more mulch. Around trees, over garden beds, in the vegetable garden, or anywhere else - it works great! Just be careful if you have black walnut trees since the leaves contain a chemical that retards plant growth.

Questions for Garden Bloggers:
In a post on your blog write about your favorite mulch! Why do you like it? Where do you put it? Share a little Mulch Madness with us. Any blogger posting about your mulch mayhem will get linked to in this post with the appropriate mulch!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mulch Madness

You read it right! It's not March Madness - or maybe it is - but it's also MULCH MADNESS!

This morning I picked up 20 bags of mulch and fit in my Honda CRV. That's a yard and a half of mulch ready to go on the gardens. And at a $1.34 per bag it was quite a bargain!

Taking Advantage of the Weather

If you are like me you've been scanning the forecast trying to plan out every possible moment you can be outside in the garden! Around here Saturday is supposed to be pretty nice with scattered clouds and no rain coming in until late. And I can't forget to mention the big 70 that has appeared in the temperature predictions! Since the weather is set to be favorable I've designated my spare time to the greenhouse garden shed - I've just got to get this thing finished! I dropped the kids off by their grandparent's house this past Thursday (after signing the oldest one up for kindergarten, she's growing fast!) and spent the day putting the siding on the back of the greenhouse. I'm close to being finished with the siding and have only the gables and a few spots on the sides to cover.

My target this weekend is the inside. It's a mess, too many pieces of wood just laying around. So here's my Greenhouse Garden Shed work plan:
  • Clear out all the leftover plywood from siding the greenhouse.
  • Measure and find appropriate size pieces of plywood to cover non-glass walls on the inside of the greenhouse garden shed.
  • Build the first of several plant holding benches.
  • Install some old cabinets for storage.
  • Plant potatoes - oh wait, not in the greenhouse, in the garden!

As usual I never have enough time to do it all but I'll report back on Monday with what I actually managed to finish.

A look back at this week on The Home Garden:

Sunday March 14
  • Catching Up. A look back at previous Garden Blogger Assignments.

Monday March 15

Tuesday March 16

Wednesday March 17

Thursday March 18

Friday March 19 
  • Refreshing The Mailbox Garden - A little mulch goes a long way! I expanded the mailbox garden few feet in either direction making a much better sized area for a garden.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Refreshing The Mailbox Garden

Last year one of the areas of our yard that I was sorely behind on updating was the mailbox garden. Since mailbox gardens typically are the first thing that people see when they come to visit it's nice to have something to greet them. It really doesn't take much to refresh or renew a garden. A few bags of mulch and some newspapers changed this mailbox garden:

Into this mailbox garden:

Fresh mulch really makes a difference in appearance! This mulch is shredded pine mulch I picked up yesterday. Three and a half 2 cubic foot bags refreshed and added several feet of garden to both sides of the mailbox.  Whenever I start new garden areas I subscribe to the "lazy" gardener method - newspapers! Throughout the garden season I use a ton of old newspapers as a weed barrier to kill of the underlying layers of grass or weeds. I like this method much better than removing the sod since laying a few newspapers is so much easier.  Just wet the newspapers lay them down and cover with mulch. 3-5 layers of newspapers is usually enough coverage.  

I haven't added anything new to the garden since last year but I do have plans to in the expanded areas on the right and left of the mailbox garden. Blackeyed Susans (rudbeckia) will take up residence on the left while some Russian Sage will be planted on the right. They should look great with some of the other perennials like 'Purple Homestead' verbena, salvia, veronica, Catmint 'Walker's Low', a clematis, several daylilies, and a mum or two. I can't wait to see how things grow together!

Also in the garden is creeping phlox and several daffodils. I really like the look of bulb plants emerging through groundcover plants. As you can see the daffodils in this garden are still a little behind everywhere else. So it goes with life in the frost pocket...just call me zone 5b!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sugar Snap Peas Sprouting - From the Vegetable Garden

The earliest vegetables to emerge from our vegetable garden are the sugar snap peas. I planted them back in February but the cold temperatures kept the peas from coming up as early as I hoped. I planted two 3'x4' raised beds with the peas in the hopes that we would enjoy a large crop this year. Several of the seeds I planted are now emerging which means the vegetable garden is now officially in season!

My daughters both love eating the sugar snap peas right from the garden. If you are wondering how to get your kids to eat vegetables and enjoy gardening think sugar snap peas. Carrots, cherry tomatoes, and radishes are great too. Last year we had very few pods that actually made it in the house - most were nibbled to nothing in the garden. They were just too delicious to save for later!

Sugar snap peas are a legume, like beans, which means they have a very useful property - nitrogen fixing! Legumes form a symbiotic relationship with bacteria that likes to make nitrogen as a byproduct. It's great for the legumes and any other plant you want to put in the same soil after the sugar snap peas are done for the spring. That's one reason why the gardening technique called Three Sisters works so well. The corn likes the nitrogen and the pole beans like to climb the corn stalks. The corn and the beans really enjoy each others company!

Sugar snap peas like the cool temperatures and should be finished when the warm season plants are going in the garden. The nitrogen fixing quality makes them a good first crop to plant in any garden. Just make sure you trellis the snap peas because they do like to climb!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The First Daffodil Bloom of 2010

During these gray overcast days of a winter almost past, seeing the first daffodils of spring bloom in our yard is like watching the sun sprout from the earth.

Our garden is behind most at this point but that's OK because it means that there will be more blooms overlapping each other than usual!

When did your first daffodil bloom shine?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Deer Damage on Yoshino Cherry Update

Two falls ago (Fall of 2008) a lone buck came wandering through our yard. It was a magnificent sight to behold. Nature at its best...and its worst, at least for this gardener. You see this wandering deer was going through its normal fall ritual of rubbing its antlers for the winter. Their favorite target - young trees. That year I had planted several trees (maple and dogwood) that became natural scratching posts along with a Yoshino Cherry tree I planted the previous year.

When deer rub on trees it is often a death sentence for the tree. The antlers easily scratch through the bark and remove the cambium layer. If enough of the cambium layer is removed the tree cannot transport water up through the trunk to the areas above. No water means a dead tree. The lucky thing is that the deer didn't remove all the bark around all the trees. The only fatality was the 'Appalachian Spring' Dogwood that was just too small to withstand the beating. (Losing that tree still bothers me today since I haven't been able to find it again locally!)

The amazing thing about trees is that they grow new bark over the old. The new bark and new cambium layer form and gradually the wounds close from the outside of the wound. It's a slow process and would take several years on older trees but small young and healthy trees, like I have, could possibly close the gap in just a few years. The old layers of bark form the tree rings or growth rings that we typically see when we try to measure the age of a tree. Each ring corresponds to another year of growth or really another growing season of the cambium layer.

Here is how my Yoshino Cherry Tree looks now. The wound is closing significantly and probably is only a sixth the size of the trunk. It's good progress but until the wound is closed it could remain susceptible to insects or disease. I'll do my best to keep the tree healthy and happy!

What Should You Do If Deer Damage Your Tree?
  • First Don't Panic - It may not be the end of the tree.
  • See how much of the tree is damaged. If a small amount 25% or less of the trunk is scraped it should be OK. If more than that is damaged it could still survive but may need some TLC.
  • Cleanup the wound.With a sharp clean knife cut away the rough edges of the wound. Rough edges won't transport water efficiently. They could also be a good spot for insects or disease to hide.
  • Then let time have its way. Monitor the tree and treat it kindly - keep the deer away - and it could come back. The say that time heals all wounds is true in this case and just might be the best way to heal a deer damaged tree!

If you live in an area that is prone to deer consider covering the trunks of young trees with some sort of mesh that will prevent them from bothering the trees. Otherwise you might have the same experience!

Google Patent Search for Plants

Google Patent Search has probably been around for a little while but since it says Beta it may be a relatively recent development. The patent search makes it very easy to find patented inventions including plants. Just type in the name of your plant and instantly you are provided with the patent records. This could be extremely useful for those of us who really enjoy propagating plants. Just keep in mind that you need to be very specific on your plant query since there are over 7 million patents listed to search through. Plants are given patents to protect the research and development of new plants. The patent gives the holder a period of time (20 years from the date of the application) where they retain the license of the plant and can charge others for the use of the license. It's good overall to encourage the development of new varieties of plants but can be tricky to navigate for plant propagators who wish to remain in good terms with the law! I went into greater detail in my post What In The World Are Plant Patents?

'Oranges and Lemons' Gaillardia
If there's a plant you have doubts on propagating because of a potential patent it's a good idea to run a search first and make sure it isn't protected. You can also look at the date and figure how long it will be until the patent expires so that everyone may propagate it. The patent search is also useful if you want to learn more about a patented variety. You can look at the patent, the drawings and pictures that are submitted, and who developed the plant. If you are looking for something very specific try the advanced search where you can input dates, patent numbers, names, and other information to hunt down that elusive patent. Keep in mind that patents aren't easy reading.  I wouldn't want to sit down in a comfy chair with a cup of tea to relax while reading plant patents, but maybe that's just me. It is interesting material to look at on occasion to learn more about your plants!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Garden Shed is Coming Along

I just posted on the greenhouse shed page with a new report on the siding installation. The garden shed is shaping up! Adding the siding really changes the look for the better - much closer to what I've envisioned. There's always more to do but progress is being made!

I forgot to mention in the post but I also installed insulation on several of the walls where there are no windows.

Almost Blooming

The below normal cold temperatures have set us a back a little bit in our blooms this year. In comparison we had daffodils blooming in February of 2009. This March 2010 Bloomsday hosted by Carol brings us a few almost-bloomers. These flowers could all be just day or two away from full fledged blooms with a couple nice days in the sun!


Red Maple Buds

Blueberry Buds

Daffodils - Almost there!

If you want to see an actual bloom in my garden take a look at the Winter Blooming Jasmine!

Or how about some Henbit?

Henbit in the Yard

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Catching Up!

I thought I would put together a catch up post for anyone who might have missed the past Garden Blogger Assignments. You are welcome to write about any of the past assignments over the last several weeks. I won't be putting together a new assignment until next Sunday so please enjoy taking a look back at what some of the participants had to say about the gardening topics below.

Week 1 How to Add Magic To The Garden
Week 2 5 Things in The Garden
Week 3 Putting Things Off
Week 4 Playing With Blocks
Week 5 Four Favorite Plants

Edit:  This post was meant to run earlier in the day but the auto-post feature on Blogger seems to be a little iffy.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Return of Warmth

This week marked the return of warm temperatures to Tennessee. Last Sunday was beautiful, the kind of day you can wear short sleeve shirts and start thinking about grilling out. Monday was even better then the rains came but the warmth was still there. This weekend brings us to a little cold front that tagged along with the rains or perhaps the other way around. It's temporary and the warmer temperatures will become increasingly regular as we move ahead. The warm weather definitely made gardening chores much more bearable and in fact - exciting - there's a gardener's perspective for you! I accomplished many things this week but still need to do many, many more.

What's on the big garden to-do list this weekend?

  • The greenhouse - hopefully I'll play inside it working on insulating the walls - putting on a few internal walls - and maybe building a shelf to hold some plants.
  • More on the greenhouse - Put on more siding - having a half finished layer of siding is driving me nuts - of course I could look at from the other perspective: the siding is half done!
  • Build another raised bed - still on the to-do list. One of these days...
  • Fill the raised bed - with a variety of layers.
  • Work on the lawnmower - it's time to do any pre-spring lawnmower maintenance - especially if you were lazy in the fall like me. Sharpen the blades, check the oil - replace it, check spark-plugs, write a post about it, and please don't blow it up.
  • Take lots of Pictures - The daffodils are almost in bloom!

What Happened this week on The Home Garden?

Sunday March 7, 2010
  • Four Favorite Plants - You still have time to put together a post about your four favorite plants. Pick one plant from each type: annual, perennial, shrub, and tree.
Cyndy is the first to post on her four favorite plants.
  • TARP for Gardening - A post all about a unique gardening tool that will make all your garden cleanup chores a lot simpler!

Monday March 8, 2010
  • My Greenhouse Roof Re-do Project.  I attempted to solve some leaky issues on my roof window. It has a few leaks that need caulked but its performance is greatly improved.

Tuesday March 9, 2010

Wednesday March 10, 2010
Thursday March 11, 2010
Friday March 12, 2010

Past Garden Blogger Assignment Updates:

Thanks to Tina who also likes to Play with Blocks

*It's not too late to get in on the previous assignments!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Herbs in the Vegetable Garden

It's that planning time of the year still for most plants and I want to mention something I think is important, herbs! Herbs go great in the vegetable garden mixed in with other plants like tomatoes and peppers. As companion plants go herbs are said to prevent various insects from effecting your plants. (Darla had an interesting post about companion plants earlier in the week you should read).  I tend to blend my herbs and vegetables relatively haphazardly which may limit their effectiveness in companion planting.

Currently I have three herbs alive and well in the vegetable garden: cilantro, oregano, and parsley.


Oregano is a perennial and it shouldn't be a surprise that it came through the cold winter just fine. I like to dry the leaves for use in sauces over the winter but we use it fresh throughout the year. Rumor has it that oregano is a good companion plant for cabbages and helps to repel cabbage loopers - I despise those things!

Parsley in the Vegetable Garden

Parsley is a biennial and likes to grow nice fluffy foliage the first year then produce seed the second year. Once the seed comes the plant is done for! Parsley is a good companion plant for alliums (onions, chives etc.), asparagus, tomato, and carrots.


Cilantro in the Vegetable Garden
Of course the cilantro is one of our most useful herbs. It's also called coriander but I think cilantro flows better. I enjoy making guacamole, fajitas, and Tex-Mex kinds of dishes and cilantro is great for those foods.  Cilantro is a cool season herb that excels this time of year. Once the warm weather comes it will start to bolt and will send up flower stalks. Once this happens I let it go to seed then leave it alone until the seed has formed. Once the stalks have dried I'll either collect the seeds or sprinkle them right away in another vegetable garden bed. The seeds will germinate in the fall and you'll be able to harvest the leaves late into the winter.

Other Herbs I'll Grow in the Vegetable Garden:
Basil - I already have basil seed started but I'll sprinkle basil seed in many places. It goes great with tomatoes.
Thyme - Can you ever have enough time? I'll direct sow these seeds too.
Sage - I already have this herb growing in some ornamental beds but this year I'll propagate a few to put around the outside of the garden.

Herbs can play an important role in repelling animals like rabbits since the scent of the herbs is not necessary something they enjoy.  Too bad, they just don't know what they are missing!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Yoshino Cherry Buds are Swelling

It won't be too much longer now before the Yoshino Cherries begin to bloom in Tennessee. Last year the Yoshino Cherry trees bloomed at the end of March. Right now the buds are beginning to swell which makes me optimistic that they will bloom at about the same time as last year.

We have three Yoshinos and maybe four. I realize that it sounds kind of odd that I don't know the identity of one but it should be a Yoshino. I received it from Arbor Day a couple years ago but I have some doubts as to whether it is a Yoshino or another variety of cherry. It was ordered as a Yoshino and we'll see for sure if it blooms this year. The tree in the pictures of this post is definitely a Yoshino Cherry.

At the end of the month here's what to expect and why I like this tree so much. The cherry trees become completely covered with white blossoms. It's alike a magical white painting.

But for now we'll just wait and see. There should be quite a few other plants coming along to brighten our spring!

You should be able to find the Yoshino Cherry in nurseries any time now. If you have room for another tree in your landscape I highly recommend it. I listed it as a favorite the other day and wholeheartedly believe it's one of the best spring flowering trees around!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Winter Blooming Jasmine - In March!

They call it winter blooming jasmine, and last year it really was. I suppose that technically this year it still is but with spring fast approaching it's almost too late to call it winter, almost. The first bloom happened several days ago but more and more blooms are rapidly opening. Its lateness in flowering is probably due to the extremely cold temperatures we had in February. Despite the tardy blooms seeing color of any kind right now is an exciting event since the flowers and buds on all the plants are fresh and new.

Winter blooming jasmine (Jasmine nudiflorum) is a zone 6-9 plant that is really very easy to grow. It's tolerant of poor soil and will eventually grow into a 6-10 ft. tall bush-like shape. Propagation is about as easy as you would expect with a vine plant. Layering works well because anywhere the plant touches the ground is liable to sprout roots and although I haven't tried cuttings yet they should root very easily. I may try a few after blooming is finished to bring to a plant swap in May.

It won't be long now before the daffodils, hyacinths, and other spring bloomers start to emerge! What's blooming near you?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Getting Things Done

Like everyone else this time of year my chore list seems monstrous, insurmountable, and just plain humongous.  To write it all down would be a chore in itself. I suspect that if I did write it all down at one time it might look so large that I would just give up - probably not, I enjoy gardening too much but it would surely be very intimidating. I suppose that's why I break things down into parts and work around the garden haphazardly getting things done that would be on that monster to-do list. I tend to make a list of a few things I would like to get done then fill in the rest as time allows. You've seen my to-do lists, they're always ambitious and I rarely accomplish everything I set out to do. So today I tackled a few things from my chore list over the weekend that just didn't get done and a few that never even made it to the list.

My Garden What's Been Done List

  • Transplanted a redbud - two redbud saplings tagged along on some plants from Gail last year. One of them had too many roots to transplant but the other did fine. Redbuds are notoriously hard to transplant becasue of their root systems!
  • Divided golden ragwort - one of the redbuds tagged along in the ragwort so by necessity the ragwort came apart into many little baby ragworts - free plants are always good - unless they are weeds (which are worth exactly what you pay for).
  • Divided the Phlox paniculata - these plants also came from Gail and the second redbud was hiding among them. Six divisions were made without even intending to do so. Now nearly every garden will have Gail's PPPP!
  • Transplanted two Miscanthus sinensis grasses. One from the rain garden and the other from the border garden. I put them in the back yard where a massive flow of water usually occurs when it rains. I figured that the strength of the miscanthus root system may prevent or reduce some erosion problems. 
  • I screwed a screw into the greenhouse back door molding. It was bowing one spot and just needed an extra screw put in.
  • I transplanted the maple that has moved so many times - perhaps this will be the last time!
  • I transferred various materials into the greenhouse from the garage. I'm hoping to be able to insulate a couple inside walls then put in a couple cabinets that I was given from some friends of my parents (you can visit their daughter's food blog called the Healthy Spoon and say hi!). I can't wait to get the garage cleared out!
  • I raked coffee grounds over an organically challenged area in the front yard. It may sound silly but if coffee grounds can work in the compost bin why can't they add a little organic material and nitrogen to the turf? Coffee grounds have about 2% nitrogen and nitrogen is good for fertilizing your yard this time of year. I've slowed down my coffee intake the last two weeks so there may not be a next time. I think after this post there may be a run on the coffee shops for used coffee grounds!

  • I pruned one butterfly bush and have three more to go. I made some last minute hardwood cuttings from it. The picture to the right is the butterfly bush before pruning, I never brought the camera out I was too busy.
  • I also stuck some rose cuttings that have been sitting in our garage for several weeks. It may be too late to get them to root but since they were all still alive in the jars of water I figured it couldn't hurt to try.
  • I moved several overwintered plants to the back deck so they can enjoy the rain and sun of spring. The plants were cuttings taken last year that I decided to keep in my garage. I didn't put anything out that couldn't take the cold.
  • Yesterday I was able to remove a ton of dried weeds from the vegetable garden with my my TARP technique.  I'm trying to get the vegetable garden presentable for the season. I need to clear the grass that has grown underneath the fence, mulch, build a couple raised beds and I should be ready to go. I hope I can get to my fence project sometime this year!
 I may have left something off the list but if I have that's OK - I'm worn out!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Greenhouse Update: The Roof Window Take 2

I just posted an update on the greenhouse shed. I re-installed the roof window over the weekend. Hop on over the greenhouse shed page and see what I did!

How Would You like to Win a Free Shed?

How Would You like to Win a Free Shed? If you live in the UK you just might be able to! Walton Garden Buildings, a company based in the United Kingdom, is sponsoring a design your own shed contest. The idea is for people to come up with an interesting shed design then send it in to them. They will pick a design winner then build the entire shed for free. Sounds pretty neat to me, I only wish I were eligible for the contest. I suppose shipping over the ocean would cost more than the building is worth!

For those of us who can't submit an entry, what design features would you like to see in your dream shed?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

TARP for Gardening

No I'm not referring to the stimulus package here. I'm talking about what possibly could be the most handy tool you ever use for spring gardening - the tarp. As my gardens have grown over the last several years I've added many more plants. As all gardeners know with more plants comes more responsibility and more work when spring cleanup comes. All dead growth needs cleaned up, pruned out, and disposed of in a good location - ideally the compost bin. Sadly my wheelbarrow just isn't up to the task. It would work in a pinch but would require multiple trips back and forth to the compost bin.  The tarp is the simple and easy solution that saves the day!

That one 6'x8' piece of plastic came in very handy to haul all the garden debris to the back yard for composting, and in one trip. In this case I didn't actually use an official tarp I used 6mm plastic sheeting that can also be used for row covers. It was easy to slide the plastic tarp with a pile of clippings, prunings, and dead leaves 4' wide, 3' high, and 6 feet long across the grass to the very back of the backyard.

TARP definitely saved my gardening today!

New post at Complete Organizing Solutions: 6 Things To Do For Your Spring Garden!