• Gardening Tips
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  • Vegetable Gardening
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Monday, May 31, 2010

Win a Compost Bin?

Today I have a very cool giveaway to tell you about. The folks at Clean Air Gardening are providing a 60 Gallon Spin Bin made from recycled materials for one lucky winner here on The Home Garden. To enter into the drawing all you need to do is comment on this post before 11:59 PM CST on Friday June 4th. The only guideline is that the bin can only be shipped within the 48 contiguous states.

After all entry comments have been made I'll randomly select a winner. The winner will receive the compost bin shipped to their home! The compost bin retails for $169.99 so get your entries in for your chance to win a nifty compost bin!

A Few of the Spin Bin's Features (from Clean Air Gardening):

  • 20 ventilation / drainage slots -- means that your tumbler will give you superior aeration of the contents, one of the keys to successful composting.
  • 4 compost thermometer ports -- so that you can easily keep track of how well your compost is doing.
  • Dual locking lids -- make it easy to add materials to the compost tumbler, no matter which end is up.
  • Sturdy Powder coated steel legs -- will effortlessly hold your bin for years outside in the elements.
  • Easy assembly design -- means that you'll only needs a Phillips screwdriver to put the bin together.
  • Wide mouth -- for easy access to contents inside.
  • Compost instructions embossed in each lid -- so you'll always have the instructions handy.
  • Large 60 gallon capacity -- is the perfect size for most homeowners.
  • Ribbed interior design -- gives your compost bin added strength and superior mixing action.
  • 90 Day No Risk Free Trial -- so that you can buy with confidence.
  • Sealed, off the ground design -- keeps animal pests away.
  • 2 year manufacturer's warranty -- so you know it will last for years to come.
  • 100 percent recycled plastic -- construction is environmentally friendly.
  • Dark color -- absorbs light and helps heat up the materials inside for quicker composting.
  • Tumbles in place -- so it's easy to keep your compost mixed up and aerated, which makes for faster composting.

  • In Memory

    Memorial Day isn't about cookouts or backyard BBQs. It's not about the fireworks or vacations either. It's about paying tribute to the memory of those who have given their lives in the service of their country. Originally it was meant to honor those who died in the Civil War and eventually changed to honor those from all wars after World War I, but today it seems like the meaning of Memorial Day has become watered down with store sales and all sorts of frivolous things.

    I can't imagine what our country would be like without those who have fought and died to save our freedoms and I hope you will take this holiday in its context and think of those who have died to protect this country, its citizens, and their families on this and every Memorial Day. It's amazing to think about the sacrifice that so many of our soldiers and their families have made. They gave up their lives so that we may live ours. If you have lost a loved one in the service of our country I want you to know that I appreciate what your family member did for our country. No words that I can say will adequately express what needs to be said.

    May their sacrifice always be remembered and honored always.

    If you would like to tell their story here in the comments you are more than welcome to share their memory.

    Saturday, May 29, 2010

    Random Thoughts and the Week

    Today I actually found myself in a home improvement store looking for paint for the garden shed. How I found myself or more importantly how I got lost there I'll never know but I ended up coming home with four gallons of paint. The colors will be revealed at a later date. They aren't groundbreakingly unique colors but I think they'll dress up the shed nicely. The colors had to blend with the house and the garden and hopefully they will make a nice blend.

    New Roots:

    I also found myself with a couple beautyberry bush cuttings ready to pot up as well as two more rosemary cuttings. New roots are always very exciting!


    Today I canceled my mowing for the second time. The other day I was out mowing when a storm came through. When it was over the yard was less than 1/3 mowed and the grass was too wet to continue. It rained again today incoveniently and I never got back to it. Suffice it to say that my grass is tall, very tall but all children are accounted for!

    If you missed something this week here it is!

    Sunday May 23, 2010

    Monday May 24, 2010

    Tuesday May 25, 2010

    Wednesday May 26, 2010

    Thursday May  27, 2010

    Thursday, May 27, 2010

    Things to Do in the Vegetable Garden (End of May)

    This Vegetable Garden To-Do list may or may not be relevant to you. If you're in zone 6-7 it probably is, if not it might be useful later - or maybe you already did it! It's just a collection of things that I desperately need to complete in the vegetable garden. Maybe desperate it too strong of a word but you know the feeling of standing on the brink of impending chaos while trying to stay above the wave of garden chores while the approaching summer heat continues to stream on in!

    Here's what I need to do in my Garden at the End of May:
    • Weed, Weed, Weed! I need to stay ahead of the weeds before they get too much of a hold on any of the beds. I've been pretty good so far with the tomato beds and several of the others but the cool season beds are getting very weedy. (I'm fed up with persicaria and crab grass!)
    • Clear out some of the bolting cool season crops. I'm planning on letting a couple of the lettuces bolt to try to save seeds but I really don't need all the lettuce seeds. I need to make room for beans so the lettuce very soon has to go.
    • Plant more beans. I planted some purple pole beans that are coming up but I really need the space that removing the cool season crops will provide. I like bush beans planted in sequence which I haven't planted yet.
    • Mulch the beds. I use grass clippings in the beds from mowing the yard. They decompose fast but form a great barrier to prevent weed seeds from germinating and let the water right through. Awesome organic matter! (It just isn't right to get so excited over grass clippings is it?)
    • Mulch the pathways around the raised beds. I began the process of re-mulching the garden beds but didn't cover everywhere I needed to cover. I used a thick layer of newspapers underneath the mulch as an additional weed barrier. I'm not a fan of commercial weed fabrics and prefer the newspapers. Most weeds that emerge from a garden are from seeds that are blown in on the wind or deposited by birds. If the weed fabric is underneath the weed seeds it doesn't do any good. I think it's better to install newspapers which will break down and improve the soil slightly and prevent that first year of weed seeds from emerging underneath. Weed fabrics tend to be useless against weeds like Johnson Grass which sends out massive systems of runners. When you go to pull the Johnson Grass guess what else you pull up? Yep, that weed fabric!
    • Tie up my tomatoes. The tomatoes are growing fast now that the heat is here and they need some guidance that only a stake or cage can provide. I'm still using stakes since they are fairly cheap but one day I'll make the switch to heavy duty metal cages. I needed a few more stakes so I cut some 6 ft. sassafras saplings down to use. They had straight trunks and the slope needed a few of them thinned out. (If you saw the slope you would never have even known they were there!) 
    • Sucker those tomatoes! I know it's hard to do but some of those suckers need to go otherwise your tomatoes will get way out of hand. (I've been there, done that!) The larger branches may need pruned but you can propagate them into more tomato plants just by sticking them in a jar of water. They will be more than happy to grow roots for you!
    • Plant more basil. I sprinkled basil seed in many places but it really isn't doing much yet. Hopefully it will come alive, if not I need to start some more. I'll plant it in the vegetable garden as a companion for the tomatoes. 
    • Continue to hill up around the potatoes.
    • Clear the area around the blueberries.
    • Transplant strawberry plants to a new location out of the garden - no rush on this one. (Strawberries are still producing...YUM!)
    • Clean up around the fence areas. Grass always grows up underneath the fence. I'm mulching and newspapering under it too to help reduce the weeds.
    • Monitor squash and zucchini plants for squash bugs and vine borers. I haven't seen many this year but it's wise to keep vigilant. Look for little tiny seed-like eggs in clusters which could indicate squash bugs. To control them organically squash the bugs with your fingers! Or if you just said "eeew!" you can remove that part of the leaf an dispose of the eggs. I'm experimenting with placing catmint cuttings around the base of each squash or zucchini to try to repel the bugs. Hopefully it will do some good (I've got plenty of catmint to use!)
    • Train my cucumbers up the trellis. I haven't showed that to you yet but I will soon. Don't worry you aren't missing much as it's just a hodgepodge of sticks, stakes and fencing material - but it works!
    • All sorts of other tasks that I can't think of right now...but I know they will find me...

    That about covers it. My list shouldn't take too long! (Yeah... right!) 

    What's on your to-do list?

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010

    What Bolted Cilantro Looks Like!

    Cilantro is one of those plants that you either like to eat or don't. Fortunately I'm a fan, especially when it's in guacamole, but even if you don't like to eat it cilantro sure looks good when in bloom! I let my cilantro go to seed each year so that I can collect the seeds and plant it again. I don't do anything fancy other than sprinkle the seeds after they have formed where I want the cilantro to grow. Last year I did this right after they bloomed and a fall crop of cilantro appeared and lasted throughout the winter. The flowers appear as delicate clusters of white blooms which apparently are very attractive to some little tiny pollinator bees (could they be masons?) Underneath the bolted cilantro I planted summer squash from seed in an attempt to safeguard them from vine borers and squash bugs. We'll see how it works out later.

    The cilantro is in one of my 3'x4' raised beds. I'll sprinkle the seed somewhere outside the garden for next year as there really aren't any pests that will bother it and I really could use the garden space.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    The Gardens From The Porch Perspective

    Have you ever stood in one place to take a few pictures in all the different directions of your garden? It's a great way to observe the progress of your garden from slightly different perspectives. (Click on any of the below pictures to enlarge them.)

    We'll start here against the house. Up close there is a pyracantha and a young birch. The birch was planted to give a fast growing privacy screen for the back porch. Beyond those plantings is a Salvia coccinea and a Chocolate eupatorium.  The eupatorium is probably in the wrong spot as the salvia is much taller and hides the dark colored foliage of the chocolate eupatorium. The sad looking plant in the back of the picture is a red twig dogwood that needed moved form another location - it's a little shocked right now. A crape myrtle stands in front of it and blocks a bathroom window.

    Here we'll move a little more to the right and you'll see the side border garden in the back of the picture. It doubles as a rain garden and absorbs a good deal of moisture from the community drainage areas. In the center of the picture is one of my favorite viburnums: arrowwood. The stepping stones would be more prominent but the grass has encroached around the edges. I meant to get the trimmer out last time I mowed to clean them up but forgot.

    If we continue our rotation you can see the birdbath garden and the garden shed in the back. It looks like I need to refill the bird feeders! The bird bath garden looks like it's all foliage right now with a couple small spots of color but once the butterfly bush blooms that will change. To the left is achillea and a Burkwood viburnum (I hope you have one of these for the scent in the spring, if not put it on your "buy list"!)

    From this perspective you can see the vegetable garden and the garden shed. In the middle is a nice little kids table the girls enjoy playing with. The first tree we planted in our yard is the maple tree to the right between the camera and the vegetable garden.

    Patio Under Construction
    Here's where I cook! You can see smoke coming from the grill that was cooking burgers when the picture was taken. I also had campfire potatoes (sweet potatoes, red potatoes, onions, rosemary, sage and of course butter wrapped in a foil pack) on the grill. I think in this case the side dish became the dinner feature! I built the patio two years ago. It's permeable which is great for drainage but the grass and weeds sometimes emerge. Weeds are always opportunistic! All I need to do is dump some boiling water on the tough ones and pull the easy ones and it's all cleaned up.

    Here's the last picture for this post and it looks out across the patio toward the Japanese maple garden and the rain garden. To the right is an arborvitae which was planted to block the view of the trash can. The bushy plant in front of the Japanese maple is a sage which bloomed profusely this year. That's been great, but I really think I liked it better in my potatoes!

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Here's What Rooted Today

    Plant Propagation, perennials
    Rooted Cuttings - Potted up
    Perhaps I should have titled this post "Here's What I Potted Up Today" but rooting is more exciting don't you think? Anyway this morning I potted several different kinds of cuttings that I've been propagating inside the house. This isn't the end of the propagation process since they still need to grow stronger root systems in while sitting in their own pots but they've come along way from the little twigs they were a few weeks ago. This is one of the most exciting parts of gardening to me - making new plants from little pieces of other plants. In the picture to the right I have 25 well rooted plants that will be grown on for a couple more weeks before planting in the yard.

    Here's what rooted:

    Plant Propagation, perennials

    Plant Propagation, perennials
    • Salvia coccinea x1
    • Catnip x1
    Plant Propagation, perennials
    Plant Propagation, perennials

    Plant Propagation, perennials

    In each of these cases I used very similar techniques to get rooting to work. The rooting time varies for each plant but all of these plants rooted within the last four weeks. Most of them within the last two. Caryopteris only needs a few days but the 'Husker's Red' penstemon took almost four weeks for good roots to happen. Once the penstemon rooted the roots began taking off! I'll write more about 'Husker's Red' Penstemon propagation later in the week as well as Veronica (Speedwell).

    What plants would you like to read more about propagating?

    Sunday, May 23, 2010

    Meeting Other Garden Bloggers

    As I mentioned yesterday I had a visit from another garden blogger to my garden. It's not often that my garden gets company and I'm always a little nervous about the things someone might see. Like the loads of Johnson Grass invading the beds (all the beds) or the currently unkempt nature of certain areas of the garden I just haven't gotten to dealing with yet. You probably realize this but with the blog I can control what you see which often results in me putting the garden's best face forward. I can censor the weeds, the overrun areas, and the plants that have died (every now and then one does!). I do share the bad on rare occasions but it's human nature to want to share the good and not so much of the bad. Of course the garden blogger who visited shared some wisdom with me - people want to see that kind of stuff, all of it! The good with the bad and how we as gardeners deal with it. It's not always intentional as sometimes I get excited to show all the cool stuff and just forget about the bad. There are a lot of really neat plants and flowers that are doing fantastic in the garden and it's hard to break away to show the stuff that isn't doing so well. I also think that sometimes we consider our gardens as unfinished or as a "work in progress" and are hesitant to invite people or show others until it's acceptable in our own minds (I'll post more on that subject later).

    The garden blogger also shared another important aspect of garden blogging: a picture doesn't always give you the whole picture. Standing in someone's garden that you have only viewed through a computer screen looks much different! Some bloggers take a lot of close-up pictures that you just can't get a great visual perspective of the entire garden while others show a good selection of landscape shots. The choice is unique to each blog and blogger but it's truly impossible to convey exactly what a garden looks like through a few pixels with accompanying text.

    Every time I meet another garden blogger I always come away with more ideas and a greater understanding of how this whole blogging thing really works and why it's fun. It's not always about the information, but it can be, it's not always about the people, but it can be - mostly it's a combination of both and how it all fits in with the garden experience. We learn a lot from each other and have fun while doing it!

    Left to Right: Naomi and Tina (In the Garden)
    Tina, I want to thank you for the conversation, your visit, and the banana tree on Saturday and I hope to one day stop by your garden! Thank you Naomi for tagging along with Tina and bringing the St. John's Wort (it's already planted)! (and you're always welcome to weed in my garden!)

    I'll add the rain garden picture below for a larger garden perspective!
    Rain Garden, Naomi and Tina, Vegetable Garden and Garden Shed

    Saturday, May 22, 2010

    Plant Swaps and the Week in Review

    This morning I attended the Middle Tennessee Plant Swap at Henry Horton State Park. If you've never been to a plant swap before you really should consider going to at least one. It's a fantastic way to expand the plant varieties in your garden on the extremely cheap side. The concept is simple, bring any extra plants you have to the swap the talk to fellow gardeners and arrange trades! In essence you turn your extras into new plants. The only big disadvantage of this is that you don't always know the exact variety of plant you're getting. I'll bet you're wondering "What plants did he get?" Well I don't have any pictures taken (I know you're thinking "WHAT? A garden blogger didn't take pictures?!) but I'll share a list with you from what I remember (I promise to feature pictures of the plants in the future (most likely during their bloom time))(I know what else you're thinking "Why is he using so many parenthesis?" then again maybe you're really thinking "Why is he telling me what I'm thinking?")(On with the plants!)

    The "What came Home With Me From the Plant Swap List"

    Iris (Multiple kinds and colors)
    Tennessee Coneflower - a rare native
    Catnip x2
    Penstemon grandiflorus
    St. John's Wort
    Black and Blue Salvia
    Hydrangea macrophylla
    Banana Tree*
    Orange Asiatic Lily
    and more!

    I'll post more later about the mystery person (and garden blogger) who came to the swap and the person's visit to my garden but you probably can figure that out!

    For now though here are the posts from the week:

    Monday May 17, 2010

    Tuesday May 18, 2010

    Thursday May  20, 2010

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    Achillea millifolium (Yarrow)

    Achillea millifolium is one of the easiest perennials to grow. Almost no care, very little maintenance, and bright punches of color make it a very good plant for low-maintenance gardens. In our garden we have 4-5 varieties which unfortunately are mostly unnamed but their colors include red, yellow, white, and pink. The only thing I do to maintain achillea is the occasional deadheading and division (which I'll write more on below).

    'Paprika' Achillea is the one I know - all the rest are unidentified. At one point I added one that was called 'Appleblossom' but I have some doubts as to the accuracy of its name.

    How to Propagate Achillea

    Propagating achillea (yarrow) is about as easy as maintaining it. Just divide a small section during the growing season and plant it where you want it (including a pot). The nice thing about division is that you can go ahead and plant the new plants right into the ground without waiting for rooting to start - it's already done! There very little need to try stem cuttings since the plants divide so well.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010

    The Corner Shade Garden

    One of my favorite little garden spots is the shade garden. It's nestled into a little corner created by the layout of our house. When I began gardening here I knew I wanted a shade garden somewhere but our options were extremely limited. Most of the yard was full sun back then, but that's changing. It's a slow process, adding trees and waiting for them to grow, so until I could cultivate some really good shade spots the corner shade garden was the best option. It gets morning sun and afternoon shade which is just right for most shade loving plants.

    Plants in the Corner Shade Garden
  • Oak Leaf Hydrangea
  • Hosta 'Ginkgo Craig' 
  • Hosta 'Patriot' 
  • Hosta 'Unkown' - I have at least 3 varieties of Hosta 'Unkown'! 
  • Heuchera 'Silver Scrolls' 
  • Heuchera 'Palace Purple' 
  • Heuchera 'Midnight Rose' 
  • Heuchera 'Fireworks' 
  • Heuchera 'Mocha' 
  • Heucherella 'Stoplight' 
  • Hydrangea 'Lady in Red' 
  • Astilbe 
  • Japanese Painted Fern

  • The central focal point of this garden is the oak leaf hydrangea. It ranks up there as a joint number one and two with lacecap hydrangeas on my favorite hydrangea list. OK the list is purely figurative - I really don't have a list but if I did you can bet oak leaf hydrangeas would be at the top. It gets bigger each year which means I'll need to transplant the heucheras and hostas gradually to new locations as the hydrangea grows. It really is an unintentionally perfect plan. As more shade develops in the rest of the yard I can move the displaced corner shade garden residents to new homes. It also gives me a great opportunity to split and divide them for more plants - you know, I think I like that!

    The air conditioner is a necessary visual abomination in the south. Around here if you don't have AC in the summer...well...let's just say you'll be sipping a lot of ice cold drinks. When I was young in PA AC wasn't a big deal, my grandparents didn't even have it installed in their home and I can't remember if we did either. I have an idea to disguise the AC that is a little different but requires some collecting of old materials. I'll update you when I finally put together my plan.

    It's a little rough around the edges right now. It needs more weeding, edging, and mowing. The great garden to-do list is always growing and ever present.

    Vegetable Garden Updates

    It's been a few days since any real vegetable garden update so I figured it was time to show you a little of what's going on out there in veggie land!

    The cucumbers:

    I always direct sow cucumbers, squash, and other cucurbits. Unless you have them in biodegradable pots they don't always transplant well. I also like the cost effectiveness of growing them from seed. Cucumbers are one of the easiest vegetables to grow from seed - especially so if you have a trellis. I'll show you my MacGyver trellis later in the week. I've had problems in the past with verticullum wilt which is transmitted by the cucumber beetle. So if you happen across a beetle the shape of a lightning bug (or firefly) but orange/yellow with either stripes or spots you'll know that you've found the dreaded cucumber beetle! They spread disease as they nibble on the plants.

    Here you can see the cucumber seedling with the first two leaves called cotyledons fully emerged along my 1/4 inch soaker hose.

    Here's another one that was planted a little earlier with the first true leaf all ready to go.

    The Lettuce:

    The lettuce has done very well considering our wacky weather. It won't be long before it bolts and that will be the end of lettuce until fall ... maybe. I'm going to try a few spots of lettuce underneath our cucumber trellis. The shade may helps us get an extra crop or two before the heat of summer makes it next to impossible. Lettuce likes to germinate in the mid 60's and we don't see that often until fall!

    The Strawberries:

    Strawberries are by far the tastiest of fruits from the garden right now! They are producing very well but will never match the size of the store bought varieties. What they don't have in size though they make up for in flavor! You just can't beat fresh from the garden. After the strawberries finish producing it's a good idea to give them a nitrogen based fertilizer like bloodmeal to encourage new leaf/runner growth. Never, never, never  do that before they set fruit or you may end up with lots of leaves and no strawberries

     Other vegetables not featured in this post but are producing: The Sugar Snap Peas.

    (I tried to get a hold of their agent for but due to scheduling conflicts the Peas were unable to make the photo shoot.)

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    My Front Porch Garden Design Project Part 1

    One area that I'm extremely unhappy with in my yard is the front porch garden. To put it simply, it's a mess! It's not just the weeds that I haven't had time to pull it's the plantings and the way they are arranged. In the front of the beds I've planted severla things over the last three years that I'm happy with and intend to keep, at least for now, like the 'Powis Castle' artemesia, the salvias, and a few of the daylilies. I added the 'Sargent' crab apple thinking that it would provide some nice flowers in the spring but so far it hasn't amounted to much. To make it worse all the foliage is growing to the right of the plant which makes the whole plant rather unbalanced. The leaves are following the sunlight which is strongest in the late afternoon between 4-6 PM. The rest of the day it's almost but not quite shade. It was a free tree so removing it doesn't really bother me, it disappoints me that I have to consider it but doesn't really bother me, not much anyway. OK I hate taking out trees!

    The other problem I have is with the hollies. I've never been a big fan of hollies - except for the deciduous types which have awesome berries in the wintertime. The hollies were part of the "builder's special" landscaping package that came with the house. You know, the same special that dictates two Bradford pear trees in every yard. I'd sure like to tell the guy who came up with that idea a thing or two!

    When we bought the house all the hollies were in sad shape having just suffered through the freeze of 2007. If you lived here in TN at the time you probably remember it well. The weather warmed up unseasonably nice then dropped to freezing temperatures and damaged many trees like crape myrtles and Japanese maples. The sap flowed through the trees only to be frozen while inside cause the bark to tear open. The hollies here were close to gone after that freeze and I was tempted to remove all of them after we moved in but I thought "What am I going to replace them with? We can't afford to redo the garden yet, we have to make the house livable!" Our house was a foreclosure property and the previous owners allowed their dogs to trash the house so our primary concern was getting it cleaned up, painted and ready to move into as soon as possible. I'm getting sidetracked a little now - you really don't want me to describe the mess...back to the hollies. I removed one holly from the front that was D.O.A. and several Japanese hollies that were also not looking good along the front sidewalk. Which leads me to my current situation - how to make this front porch garden look fantastic.

    So this post is really about step one in re-designing the garden: the decision to re-design/the evaluation! I know what I don't like: the hollies and the crab apple. I know what I like - the perennials I've added and the area near the arbor. The next step will most likely be the removal of the hollies. Then I'll figure out some ideas of what to replace them with and plant! This garden re-design isn't going to happen in a week, or even a month. There are so many things that need done, projects left unfinished - like the greenhouse garden shed, preparations for the new baby due in July (if I haven't already mentioned it: it's a boy!), the vegetable garden, and a myriad of other things to do that this process will be a very gradual one. Ideally I'll be able to plant the front porch garden this fall. Like always I'll show you the process as we go!

    Saturday, May 15, 2010

    What Blooms in May in My Tennessee Garden?

    Here is what blooms in my Tennessee garden in May 2010. There's always a lot to see this time of year and I'm sure I've missed some things but here we go!
    Red Achillea
    Patio Garden - Garden Shed in the background

    Achillea, Phlox pilosa, and Catmint Combination
    Deck Garden - The irises here are done but the foliage still remains.

    Nepeta faassenii (Catmint) 'Walker's Low'
    Around the Witch hazel with oregano sprawling around.

    Nepeta faassenii (Catmint) 'Walker's Low'
    Self-sowing garden - not a big self-seeder but I like it so I put it there!

    Purple Iris

    from the Arbor Garden/Self-Sowing Garden

    (grown from seed of an 'Oranges and Lemons' Gaillardia, definitely not true to type!)

    White Iris next to a Japanese Maple
    Arbor Garden/Corner Shade Garden

    Asclepias tuberosa (Orange Butterfly Weed)
    Rain Garden

    Buds are all over

    and Flowers are underneath!

    Red Poppies
    Self-sowing Garden

    Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna' and 'Snow Hill'
    Front garden - I want to completely renovate this garden. I'll explain in a later post.

    Thanks to Carol for hosting Bloom Day!

    If you missed anything from The Home Garden this week check out the list of posts below:

    Sunday May 9, 2010

    Monday May 10, 2010

    Tuesday May 11, 2010
    Wednesday May 12, 2010
    Thursday May 13, 2010

    Friday May 14, 2010

    Friday, May 14, 2010

    I'm No Mr. McGregor

    We all know the tale about that famous gardener who is protective of his garden and the hungry and curious little Peter Rabbit. The silly rabbit invades Mr. McGregor's garden (not to be confused with Mr. McGregor's  daughter's garden) to gorge himself on the fruits of the gardener's labor, then loses his clothes in the process of fleeing from Mr. McGregor's wrath and returns home sick and exhausted. I understand the damage those little bunnies can do but last night I was definitely no Mr. McGregor! While I was mowing around our yard four bunnies ran out from their hiding places afraid of the sounds of the riding mower. I couldn't bring myself to continue mowing until I knew they were out of the way and safe so I gathered up those that I could and put the bunnies in a tall bucket until I was finished mowing.

    I was only able to gather three of the little rabbits, the fourth was a clever little one - possible Peter himself! I released all the bunnies back into my yard and back into their nest after I finished mowing for the night. Yes I know, I'll probably regret that one day. But the kids got to see a little bit of mother nature in our backyard - just where it should be!

    Gardening Before Breakfast

    In the south it's a necessity to get up early to get outside for gardening. Any delay into the mid-morning will result in unnecessary suffering due to the heat and humidity! This morning was already very humid before 8 AM. In the summer it is much worse and this morning's humidity is just a sign of rain on it's way. Next week we are predicted to cool back off in to the 70's again which will be very welcome! This morning I went out and tackled a few small garden chores before breakfast.

    Before Breakfast Garden Chores 5-14-2010
    • I staked a 'Gala' apple tree that was leaning to heavily to one side. I need to give it a pruning since it won't bear fruit this year. Apples like to be pruned into conical shape like a Christmas tree. The 'Gala' is our favorite apple but we also planted a 'Fuji' as a cross-pollinator.
    • I transplanted 8 rooted Russian sage cuttings into pots along with 4 'Powis Castle' Artemsia cuttings that were also rooted. I love this time of year for making new plants!
    • I pulled up some spearmint and put it into a hanging basket on the front porch. The spearmint is taking over one garden spot that I really do want back. My 'Oranges and Lemons' gaillardia is counting on me!
    • I watered several potted plants that were on our front porch. Some are destined for the plant swap next weekend while others are for us or friends. 
    Hopefully sometime today I'll get a chance to get out with my camera and take some photos for tomorrow's Bloom Day post!

    When is your favorite time to garden? Early morning, during the day, or evening?

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    Random Thoughts While Mowing

    Tonight while mowing I had no fear of the myriad of carpenter/bumblebees that were hovering through the garden. I was on my riding mower and said to the bumbles "my buzz is bigger than yours."

    Into the Lettuce

    Lately around our house we've really been getting into the lettuce from the vegetable garden - in fact quite literally!

    This red Romaine lettuce called Rouge d'Hiver is a very tasty selection we made from Baker's Creek. The red coloring is fading as the temperatures are beginning to warm. It won't be long before this heirloom vegetable begins to bolt and I can collect seed from it for use next year. Until then we're eating salads like they're going out of style! I commented last night to my wife how we always seem to eat better during the growing season. The explanation is simple: we grow more of our own food, it's healthier because it is organically grown, it tastes better because it's fresh from the garden, and the vegetables get used more because I see them and don't forget about them in that deep dark place in the refrigerator from where there is no return! (I have a bad habit of buying lettuce then forgetting it exists!)

    Do you really need more reasons to grow vegetables in your own backyard?

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Hydrangea Propagation (Hydrangea macrophylla)

    Everyone likes a hydrangea in the garden. And everyone likes having more hydrangeas! So why not propagate a few more hydrangeas? Of course you have to have a suitable spot for one but if you have a garden location with dappled morning sun and afternoon shade you have the perfect home to plant a hydrangea. But this post isn't about planting a hydrangea, it's about making more hydrangeas through cuttings. Hydrangeas are one of the easiest shrubs you can propagate. It is possible to root hydrangeas through water but I don't recommend using the water method for hydrangeas. I like using a propagation medium like sand or sand/peat for most of my cuttings. What you use is up to you and will probably work fine.

    Hydrangea macrophylla Cutting

    How to Propagate/Root a Hydrangea:

    Hydrangea rooting
    • Whenever you try to root cuttings make sure that your cutting tools are clean. You don't want to transfer diseases from another plant to your new hydrangea!
    • First I take a softwood cutting with a couple nodes on it. I don't worry so much about the length of the cutting but if you keep at least two nodes you can be sure it will be long enough. I try to avoid flowering cuttings so I don't cut off any potential blooms. 
    • I remove all but two leaves. Some people leave 4 and trim back the leaves to avoid excessive moisture loss. 
    • Then I dab a little rooting hormone over the cut ends and a little bit of the stem.
    • After that I place it in a moist rooting medium (i.e. sand) and continue to keep it moist. In about 10 days it will begin rooting. 

    Hydrangea rooting along the stem.
    It is really a simple process. I could have left the cuttings to grow a few more roots before transplanting them but they should do fine with a little care.  The amount of nodes isn't a hard and fast rule but the more nodes you have closer together the more natural growth hormones reside in that part of the stem, which - in theory - means faster rooting. I only take a couple stem tip cuttings at a time but if you are wanting a bunch of hydrangeas propagated you can cut one branch then divide it into multiple cuttings. Rooting forms along the stem and not just at the nodes (as you can see in the picture) so internodal cuttings should work out fine.

    Always keep in mind that you want to use a clean medium for your cuttings, keep sterile equipment for making the cuts, and take cuttings from disease free plants. If any one of those factors isn't present problems with rooting may occur.

    This method works great for both lacecap and mophead hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) but other types of hydrangeas, like oak leaf (Hydrangea quercifolia) may need a slightly different treatment. I've found that oak leaf hydrangea is a little tricky sometimes to get rooted but it definitely can be done!

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    6 New Plants in My Garden

    I'm a sucker for cheap perennials - annuals too for that matter. If I go to a nursery I look first at the shrubs and trees just to look - to see what they have. Then I hang out and hover over the perennials, herbs, and even the annuals. I gravitate to the cheap prices marked on perennials and annuals that will grow to nearly full size in one season. Those 4 inch pots are like a magnet for this gardener! Today my attention was caught by six little plants that I'm pretty excited about: Coleus 'Rustic Orange', Ornamental Pepper 'Black Pearl', Catnip, Pineapple Sage, Salvia 'Mystic Spires', and Cinnamon Basil.

    The coolest of the bunch (in my opinion) is the coleus. The leaves are an orange shade with burgundy hues mixed in. This coleus seems to glow in the light.

    I'll be propagating more 'Rustic Orange' coleus using the water method since it isn't protected by a plant patent. Coleus is really a perennial but isn't a fan of our winter cold. I overwintered some (of a different kind)  as a houseplant last year effectively and put it back out into the garden this spring.

    Here are my other purchases in order from the left to right:

    'Mystic Spires' Salvia - I buy this one every year. Once the greenhouse is finished up I hope I can over winter some cuttings to keep from having to purchase it each year. It's a perennial but isn't hardy here in zone 6b. Some plants are worth buying each year aren't they?

    Pineapple Sage - Pineapple sage is both and herb and an attractive perennial. The leaves can be used in cooking and have a faint pineapple scent to them. I think plants that encourage you to touch them whether through the texture or a scent enhance the garden experience!

    Catnip - (Catnip isn't the same as catmint but they are related.) I was intrigued by a recent article in the Tennessee Gardener magazine where Cindy Shapton explained that there was a chemical in catnip that was an extremely effective mosquito repellent. I figured we could make a tea from it and see if it helps repel those nasty bloodsuckers. Both my wife and my oldest daughter swell up where they are bitten by mosquitoes. If nothing else we may be seeing a lot of kitties in our future! (Catmint probably has the same effect.)

    Cinnamon Basil - This basil has a scent/taste of cinnamon to it. We used it last year in our pestos some and it was just a unique basil I wanted to have around. Basil is good for repelling flies. I only bought one but intend to propagate a few more basil plants for the garden.

    'Black Pearl' Ornamental Pepper - Peppers are perennials that can't take the cold and either need to be treated as annuals or brought inside. 'Black Pearl' is attractive enough to go the extra mile and try to overwinter it indoors. I planted it in a pot so that it could be easily moved. The peppers are edible but extremely hot - I've not tried it myself this is just what I've heard! (I'll probably be too chicken actually to try it!)

    That's it for now! I think I need to restrain myself for the next two weeks on plant purchases since there is a plant swap coming up. You can find all sorts of neat plants at swaps.