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Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Garden Project Review!

Last January I came up with 9 garden projects that I wanted to accomplish. As is my tradition over the last several years it's time to review and see what I actually achieved!

The block areas are from my 2010 project list and the bullets are what was accomplished.

1) First and foremost I need to finish the greenhouse. I'm close, so close I can see where everything is going to be inside, what landscaping I plan to do on the outside, and the potential this project has for my garden. The greenhouse still needs siding, sealing, flooring, insulating, and painting/staining. If I can get it sealed and insulated the rest can wait until later.

  • Structurally the greenhouse is about finished! The siding is done, the sealing is almost done (a few more places to caulk that seem to appear when I'm not looking), the flooring is in progress (I need more free bricks), insulating is done, and the panting is almost finished. The weather changed to cold on me before I could finish painting the doors and windows. I also need to set up the green roof overhang.

2) I want to build at least four more raised beds for the vegetable garden. Raised beds are definitely the way to go in small backyard gardens. The raised beds I intend to put together will be 2'x10' in size like I put together in this raised bed vegetable garden layout.  I also have one more place I would like to install an extremely long but narrow raised bed or a series of beds to move my strawberries into.
  • I managed to piece together two raised beds using leftover lumber and decided to leave the area where the other two were intended to go to remain open ground. I ended up planting 10 mounds of potatoes which  gave us some yummy Yukon gold potatoes to dine on! The strawberries still need moved but that will probably have to wait until after they have fruited in 2011.

3) Build the fence around the vegetable garden! Here's one project from last year that hopefully will get tackled in 2010.
  • Yet again I deferred the fence to the following year! This will be at the top of the 2011 to do list!

4) Landscape the beds in the back of the backyard with a variety of plants and flowers. I'll put together a design plan soon that will show some general ideas I have for the back corner of the yard where the greenhouse resides.

  • The landscaping in the back near the shed is mostly put together. I can't wait to see how it fills out in 2011! Annuals, perennials, and some shrubs and trees (crape myrtles, viburnum, maple, red twig dogwood, and others) will fill it out!

5) Finish the patio sidewalk to the garage door.

  • Like the fence this one was deferred to 2011. Work on the shed took away a lot of time from other projects but 2011 should see results in other areas!

6) Build a decorative bridge! I've been wanting to get to this project for a long time with some old deck lumber I have in the back. Unfortunately much of the wood may be not be usable but I'll see what is and put something together.
  • The bridge still hasn't been put together yet - I still have the wood - I just need the time!
7) Put in some new garden areas on our front hillside. I want to transfer several Russian sage plants from our front garden for use in this new area.

  • The Russian sages have all been moved to new locations and should enhance our hillside garden. I need to mulch once a nice warm day comes along...

8) Redo my front sidewalk garden. The Russian sage plants are getting a little large and need transplanted somewhere, it's a good thing I have a spot for them!

  • The Russian sage plants have found new homes - I can't wait to see them bloom in their new locations!

9) Establish the hillside pathway. We have some pretty large slopes that are covered with weeds and brush. Some of the weeds are welcome because they house beneficial insects but I would like to edge and add gradual steps  up to the top of the slope and eventually landscape the resulting new garden areas.

  • There's still a lot of pathway to make. I need to widen the sides but I kept the pathway mowed and mostly clear throughout the growing season. the biggest issue is the wild blackberry branches that attack me each time I ride up the hill on the mower. They will have to be trimmed back!

It sure looks like my 2011 list will be a long one!

    Thursday, December 30, 2010

    5 Spring Planning Things To Do

    The holidays are almost past and that means it is time to start thinking and planning for the spring garden. Below are 5 things to do to start planning for that spring garden. Aside from getting a better start each year making the to do list puts my mind on the sunny days ahead rather than the cloudy cold days overhead!

      1. Get rid of the old catalogs! I have a habit of keeping the old seed catalogs way too long. This year I'll recycle any that aren't current. Some people like to clip out their favorite plants from those old catalogs to save in a notebook of some kind for future reference - I'm never disciplined enough to do it but I do think it's a great idea! Of course you can do that digitally with the online catalogs or take photos of the current ones to save on your computer which can help reduce clutter.
      2. Evaluate the garden. Go back to last year and figure out the plants that did well and those that didn't. Then plan on replacing the poorly performing plants with other plants that have similar characteristics to those that did well. It's always helpful to make a list of the plants you grow in your garden for this purpose and evaluate each year. That's one reason I love the blog - I can look back at my garden and see a visual record of everything.

      3. Plan the garden budget! Here's another task I fail at often. Either things cost more than I plan for or I get  the impulse buy. Having a set budget will help to control your spending (or overspending). I tend to think in categories like "seeds and seed starting supplies", "plants", and "project materials." Plan the plants you need to replace. If you regularly buy annuals you know these are a reoccurring expense so plan ahead for them. The same goes for vegetables like tomatoes and peppers. If you are planning a major project like a new deck or a garden shed (I can speak from experience here) plan on it costing more than you think! Add at least 10% more to cover materials and possible as much as 25% more to give you a lot of wiggle room. If you come in under budget all is well (and you have a nice savings ready to buy new plants!) 

      4. Once you have your garden budget purchase your seeds. I've noticed that many retailers offer discounts for early shoppers. This may be more in the plant area than the seed department but is still worth noting. I like to order mainly heirloom seeds and plan on ordering from Baker's Creek. I've found their prices reasonable and their catalog will just make you hungry by looking at it! Other companies are out there like Renee's Garden and Seeds of Change who also have a great reputation.

      5. Get ready for later winter early spring cleanup! I always let my perennials stand with their dead branches held aloft and wait until late winter and early spring to cut them back. The extra canopy helps protect the crown of the plant from the cold by making an insulating pocket of air. It may not help all plants but those who are a little finicky when it comes to cold stand to benefit from the standing foliage. In the late winter when the temperatures are starting to warm I cut the foliage back and toss it in the compost bin and to get the garden ready for the next show!

        There are five things I try to do to help with spring planning, do you have any other ideas to add to the list?

        Wednesday, December 29, 2010

        Looking Ahead

        It's amazing how fast time flies, isn't it? It seems like just a short time ago I posted my 2010 garden project list (which I can never fully complete!) Soon it will be time to write a new project list and bring back some of those projects that have been hanging around for years! I'll have that list up after the 1st of the year but there are many things to start thinking about now in the garden like seed starting, planning new planting beds, and moving plants to better locations. All of that will have to wait a few days more until I have some time to get to it.

        As for seeds I'm hoping to get some winter sowing started very soon. Winter sowing is great for plants that like some cold stratification. It doesn't take much effort to winter sow which makes it a favored method of seed starting for many gardeners! I also have a magnolia I started from seed that needs moved before warmer weather comes along.

        Two book reviews will be on their way in the coming weeks also. But what I am most excited about in the weeks ahead is the opportunity to blog for the Tennessee Gardener Magazine. Many of you may be familiar with the State-by-State Gardening magazines that offer gardening articles catered to each state and now once a week or so I'll have a blog post up on their website in 2011. It will be a fun way share more gardening experiences with more people! (I think I'll save the blowing up the lawnmower stories for this blog though!)

        I hope everyone had an amazing Christmas with friends and family!

        Friday, December 24, 2010

        Merry Christmas!

        May your Christmas be a time fill with friends, family, hope, and joy!

        Thursday, December 23, 2010

        Propagation Continues - Even in Winter!

        On Monday while all three of my children were napping at the same time (that is a major feat!) I spent some time preparing some cuttings. Until Monday I really haven't had many opportunities to get outside and garden. The weather has been too cold and with my youngest, who doesn't seem to like taking naps during the day, I haven't been able to do much!

        Since the historic napping was in progress I went out to the garage to prepare some hardwood cuttings. All the cuttings were about 6-8 inches in length and all of them were treated with rooting hormone prior to sticking. There are two differences between what I did on Monday and what I usually do. First you may notice that I used a soil mixture rather than sand. Why? It was close at hand and I had more of it. It's also lighter and contains nutrients that plants will need right after rooting. The second difference is that I placed all the cuttings into bundles and stuck them together. Bundles are an easy way to do many cuttings at one time. Each pot pictured below holds 10-15 cuttings! Two of the pots have already rooted lilacs that I divided from a mother plant and one pot holds three hardwood lilac cuttings. 

        Schip Laurel, Cherry Laurel, Butterfly Bush, Leyland cypress, Purple Leaf Sandcherry, Lilacs

        By using the bundles I can make many cuttings in small amount of space! Now I just need to wait and see how many root. It may be spring before I separate the rooted plants but for now they are safely resting in the garden shed!

        The answer to yesterday's Guess post was the Cherry Laurel! Prunus caroliniana

        Tuesday, December 21, 2010

        What Evergreen Am I?

        A little more guessing fun on this first day of winter!

        Do you know this evergreen tree with the black berries? I'll give you a hint - I've written about it before! 
        No links - that would be too easy! No rhymes either - that would be too cheesy! Oops...

        Yesterday's post "What Seeds are We?" were the  seeds of the Tulip poplar - the state tree of Tennessee!

        Thanks for guessing Randy and Tina - you both got it right!

        Monday, December 20, 2010

        What Seeds Are We?

        Can you guess what seeds these are? 
        If you guess a certain state tree you wouldn't be far.

        No prize for the winners,
        just a job well done!
        I thought a little game,
        might make winter more fun!

        Maintenance-Free Gardens: Everything You Need to Know (Guest Post)

        Maintenance-Free Gardens: Everything You Need to Know

        A flower garden in full bloom is every gardener's masterpiece. And like most great masterpieces, each brush stroke is calculated, the color palette chosen in advance, and the overall composition exists in the artist's mind well before touching brush to canvas, or in this case, trowel to soil.

        Although we all appreciate the beauty of a healthy garden, few actually take the time to create their own. Perhaps it is the unwillingness to devote hours each day tending to the garden that stops most people. But the best gardens are virtually maintenance free, and with proper planning you can create a masterpiece garden that requires minimal upkeep. Just follow the tips below:
        • Tangling With Weeds
        Weeds are every gardener's enemy, and many a gardener spends his days battling them on every front. However, with a little preemptive strategy, most of these battles can be avoided. Weeds sprout up in new gardens because their roots were hiding below the otherwise pristine looking surface. So make sure you eradicate these roots from the very beginning. Dig up all the soil in which you will place your garden. Dig deep enough to reach all the roots. Turning over the soil will dry up roots and prevent weeds from running rampant in your new garden.
        • Paths Offer Potential
        A common mistake many gardener's make when hastily planting a gardening, is to inadvertently block off sections of the garden. This will cause headaches in the future, especially if you're forced to climb through prickly bushes every time you need to prune your favorite shrub. There's no need to bushwhack through your own garden. Instead, integrate pathways through your garden. Stepping stones or even paved walkways will allow you to reach each section more easily. You might even consider hanging those pawleys islands hammocks in a secluded nook. Garden paths greatly expand your garden's potential.
        • Place Needy Plants Nearby
        Remember that favorite shrub hidden in the back of the garden? If you had placed it in front of those prickly bushes, pruning wouldn't have been such a hassle. Some plants need more attention than others. Why not plant them in the most convenient place possible? This will make your gardening experience much more enjoyable.
        • Make a Lawn for Mowing
        When it comes to mowing the lawn, all yards are not created equal. Some lawns seem to take forever to mow despite their small size, while other much larger lawns are a breeze to mow. Designing a lawn without sharp angles and multiple obstacles will make mowing easier. Stick to slowly curving edges and rounded corners. If you can mow the entire perimeter without stopping and turning, then you will love mowing your lawn.
        • Moveable Plants Add Depth
        Keeping some plants in containers is a great gardening strategy. Not only are decorative pots attractive additions to your yard, but they also allow you to rearrange your garden effortlessly to create a new look. Additionally, pots increase the types of plants you can keep in your garden. Even those plants that are a little fragile can appear in your garden, because you'll be able to move them to safety in the event of a heavy rain or sudden heat wave.
        • Go Native and Save on Water
        Native plants offer advantages over non-native species, because they are well adapted for the climate. This means they will not need daily flooding to stay healthy, and this will save you from a hefty water bill. Of course, you don't need to limit yourself to native species, but keep in mind the water needs of each plant you do choose. Keeping thirsty plants together will make watering much easier.

        Integrating drip irrigation into your garden plan is a real time saver. Pair it with a lawn sprinkler system, and your watering needs will be virtually maintenance free. Of course, the expense of this might be prohibitive for some. Fortunately, soaker hoses are a great alternative. Regardless, of the watering method you decide on, consider it during the design phase to best implement it into your garden.
        • Pruning Keeps Plants Healthy
        Pruning is essential to keep many plants healthy, but you can limit the time required to prune by choosing low maintenance plants and by pruning for the right reason. Some people choose fancy, artificially shaped plants, only to discover it requires lots of effort to maintain their original shape. Instead of pruning for for aesthetic appeal, prune with the health of you plants in mind. Additionally, many plants require little pruning. Those that grow more slowly generally require less pruning.

        Closing Thought: By visualizing your perfect garden and creating a composition well before playing in the soil, you'll be able to create a garden environment, which is time efficient, easy to maintain, and a pleasure to look at. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and design your own masterpiece garden!

        Author Biography:

        Jay Chua is an online publisher and passionate gardener. When he's not tending to his own garden, he's reading and writing about gardening or working on his website, PorchSwingSets.com, which provides useful information on many of the newest and greatest backyard seating options. His site offers reviews that can help readers decide on the right hammock chairs stand or choose between the best metal porch swing.

        Friday, December 17, 2010

        Fall Color Project 2010 Wrap Up!

        Do you want to know where you can find tons of awesome photos of amazing fall color? Right here in these posts listed below! Over the last couple months we've been treated to fall color all over the northern hemisphere courtesy of bloggers all over the world. In many places the weather of 2010 was very difficult for folks to deal with but the Fall Color Project Bloggers managed to find fantastic foliage everywhere. I hope over the next couple months while you are wistfully dreaming of sprouting crocuses and daffodils that you will take a look back at the fall colors in these 37 posts and remember the days when the trees were adorned in fiery reds, oranges, and golds.

        Thank you to everyone who joined in the Fall Color Project 2010!

        Week 1

        Mr. McGregor's Daughter had the first entry into the Fall Color Project for 2010! Originally posted last Friday her post highlights some of the early changes happening in her garden! Do you like Oak Leaf Hydrangeas? How about dogwoods? You've come to the right place!

        At an Obsessive Neurotic Gardener's blog you will find more of fall's beginning color transformation. Goldenrod, itea, and 'Prairie Fire' crabapple are some of the highlights that will help get you in the mood for more autumn. And that 'Matrona' sedum isn't half bad either!

        One of the plants that struck me for outstanding fall color last year was the grape. Plantaliscious shows us some photos of her grape vines changing. Although I have to admit I'm more envious of the fruit that she gets to pick than the fall colors at the moment! Pay a visit to this new gardener!

        Week 2

        Joy over at Garden4Joy has some very nice colour in the trees near her home. Maples, one of my personal favorite trees, are bursting in the colors of flame - red, orange, and yellow - which is one reason they are one of my favorites! The photos of fall colour that she took over the waters on her way to Kingston epitomize the beauty of fall!

        Last year Janet took a trip to Westonbirt arboretum and came home with some fantastic pictures. Guess what? She did it again this year too! The picture you just have to see is the Japanese Maple. It's form and shape combined with the color of Autumn make it a masterpiece maple.

        Back in Pennsylvania garden author and blogger Nancy Ondra saw her region suffer from a similar summer to the one down here - too hot and too dry. Despite the challenges of the summer of 2010 she was still able to capture some great images of autumn. Another one of my garden favorites is in her picture to the left here. Do you know it? If not hope on over to Gardening Gone Wild and find out!

        Week 3

        Last Friday an Obsessive Neurotic Gardener (aren't we all? ;)) put up a post with some beautiful scenery. Could pictures of fall that include covered bridges and red barns not be perfect for the season? The colors up in New Jersey are beginning to show!

        Tina at In the Garden joined the project with a post that included oak leaf hydrangeas, hickory trees, and berries! Sometimes people focus on the foliage and forget about the other colors of fall in the berries and drupes.

        Back up in the Northeast again we can visit Nyack Backyard with a post that offers a lot more color fun! JGH's post is very handy for anyone who lives in the area and wants to go leaf gawking. Suggested leaf viewing locations are linked to within the post - very handy info!

        Fall in Kentucky is experiencing the same sort of drought those of us here in Tennessee have been dealing with in 2010. Despite the drought you should see the blazing maples Shawn Ann has! Fiery red colors in the trees lead to a lot of fun for a little one on the ground!

        Poetry and pictures await you at Nancy's blog, Leaping Greenly! THere she has shining reds and golds mixed with a bit of Emily Dickenson. That's a pretty good combination!

        Week 4

        Charlotte told me about her Fall Color Project post last Friday with some very rich and colorful fall favorites. In fact the plants she has pictured are some of my personal favorites! Japanese maples and pyracantha are two of the highlights and the color is nothing short of amazing!

        TC the Write Gardener is showing us the power of technology! Specifically the power of his iPhone to bring fall colors to the rest of the world. With phones and cameras integrated together no longer is there any excuse to not photograph the best fall color nearby! TC shows that you had better have your camera at the ready for those fall photos!

        VP's Fall Color Post shows us the beauty of fall that can be captured within a single leaf. The veining coloration of this single maple leaf reflects within its own heart the image of the tree it once hung on.

        Shirley in Edmonton gives us fall color enmass in her post! She takes us to scenic bridges, to the gardens around the city, and to her own home for some gorgeous fall color.Aspen, oak, maple, buckeye, and all kinds of plants are highlighting Edmonton in fall splendor!

        Janet at the Queen of Seaford has done a great job of highlighting each colorful tree near her. For each tree she put together an awesome collage of fall foliage. Dogwoods, sassafras, and other fall favorites are brightening up the South Carolina landscape!

        Week 5

        Janet at Plantalicous is Celebrating Autumn for another Fall Color Project Post! (Anyone is welcome to do multiple posts - especially if you can't fit all that gorgeous foliage into one!) Ornamental grass tassels, coneflower seed heads, and many other fall features add color and interest the garden this time of year.

        Gail's post at Clay and Limestone is a great one for who everyone who enjoys gold! And who doesn't this time of year? Shagbark hickory, witch hazel, and of course good old Rusty! Rusty is a little more orange than gold but definitely has awesome fall color!

        Jan's put together a perfect post for the fall at Thanks for Today! All the things you think of when imagining the perfect fall scene are there. Wildlife in the form of herons and geese, water with fall colors reflected upon its surface, and picturesque farm house landscapes really set the perfect autumn mood!

        More rustic barns and lake scenes await you over at Growing Goodness! Pictures of the backroads remind me of when I was a kid in Pennsylvania riding the bus home in the fall. The view of her property with the cutting garden would be the envy of many a gardener!

        Shady Gardener took a different approach when it came to her Fall Color Project post. She showed a sequence of fall as it progressed through her neighborhood! The orange colored maples appear to be on fire. Her words "breathtaking" and "gorgeous" definitely ring true!

        Perhaps the number one tree for fall color is pictured in Prairie Rose's Fall Color Project post - maple! Ash, sumac, and brightly colored crabapples also add color to her post. I'm extremely envious of the free pine needle mulch she has available. I would love to have a few of her pine trees in my landscape!

        VP's second Fall Color Post this year shows us what thoughtful landscape planning can do around roadways! The colorful trees in the fall make roundabouts and roadways into welcoming locations. Let's just hope that the beauty of these trees doesn't distract drivers too much!

        Tatyana's post features all kinds of color among a backdrop of evergreens. The tall pines accentuate the blazing color of Japanese maples, big leaf maples, and others! Even the roses get into the game with some beautiful blooms!

        Week 6

        Frances has a great fall color post filled with autumn associated colors. One of my favorite plants (that I don't have but want) is featured in the first picture - Winterberry Holly! It has great fall and winter interest with all those masses of bright red berries. There's lots to see at France's blog but one of the things she is most known for is the Muhly grass! Just take a look at the last picture to see why!

        Phillip's post at Dirt Therapy is a tour of his home garden but may as well have been at a botanical garden. The colors are filling up every corner of his garden. Japanese maples, hydrangeas, dogwoods and all kinds of color can be found down in Alabama!

        Skeeter popped back in at In The Garden to show us some of the colors around her Georgia home. One of the most wonderful things about fall is the opportunity to see that 3 dimensional painting that our gardens become and Skeeter's surroundings definitely fit the bill! Stop over to see Skeeter's Georgia colors!

        The brilliance of autumn can definitely be seen over at Chris's blog Garden Sense. Red, gold, and orange colors are highlighted among maple, ginkgo, weeping cherry, and ash trees. A stop to Chris's post should be on your fall color tour!

        Newsflash - Texas has fall color! Stop on down and visit Tufa girl and see the brightly color trees emerging for autumn in the Lone Star state. Red and gold trees are beginning the fall transformation. There's plenty of green still around so maybe there is more color to come!

        Racquel has put together a cool collection of fall color through a collage. One of my favorite trees (yes I have quite a few) is featured there - the sweet gum! It's often maligned because of its seed balls but I think its color in the fall makes up for that. Go take a look at Racquel's Fall Color Collage!

        Week 7

        This gorgeous carpet of red Japanese maple leaves awaits you over at Plantalicious! Her last hurrah features birches, blueberries, and deciduous magnolias. There is definitely some nice color still to be seen during this Autumn season!

        Mark's fall color post points to one of Nature's ironies. I'll let you find that one out for yourself when you visit his blog. Blueberries, cotinus, chestnut and other colorful leaves are featured. Go check out fall in Great Britain!

        How about some California fall color? Over at Town Mouse and Country Mouse you'll find some great autumn colors from the California countryside. An old walnut orchard, sycamores, oaks, and other fall colors await you on a cross country walk in California!

        Week 8

        Ginny starts us off with our fall foliage tour today. Bright red and yellows fill the branches of maples, oaks, and dogwood trees. The words of Abraham Lincoln open her post and set the tone for Thanksgiving week!

        Atlanta is beginning to show some signs of fall color which you can see if you visit Pook and Bug! You will envy the beautiful Japanese maples glowing with fall color. Also take a look at the nicely window framed photo of the Japanese maple!

        Matt at Passalong Plants put up a post on Friday with some awesome fall photos. The clarity and perspective of each shot are amazing. Although I think the subject in his last photo had better run - it's not a good week for members of his species!

        Twolipps posted some wonderful shots of maples, a bald cypress, a tea house and the ponds from Brookside Gardens in Maryland. The first photo of the cypress is probably my favorite but all of the pictures epitomize fall!

        Amsonia, little bluestem grass, and of course maples are putting on a show up in Ohio! Kyleeheucherella, oak leaf hydrangea, and a blazing sumac (great plants for fall color!) Go check out what fall color is blazing through Our Little Acre.

        Week 9

        Today's entry comes from the blog Garden Sense and shares with us the gorgeous colors that fall foliage brings to shrubs. Brilliant barberries, itea, fothergilla, oak leaf hydrangea, chokeberry, and even azaleas fill this post with plenty of autumn wonder.  Go pay a visit to Chris's post if you haven't already and enjoy what could be the last of fall's wondrous foliage!

        Week 10

        Chris over at Garden Sense has really enjoyed the fall color this year! This week's fall color post is all about the berries. In many ways the berries are even better than the foliage. They last beyond the color change, they create food for the birds, and the brightly colored berries are extremely festive this time of year! Stop over to Chris's blog and check out the hollies, the beatyberry, the chokeberries, and others!  

        If by some chance you submitted a post for the Fall Color Project and I've left you out please let me know! I'll work you in! Also if you wrote a fall color post but weren't aware of the Fall Color Project until know then do three things 1) let me know 2) add a link either to this post or the kick off Fall Color Project post in your Fall Color post and (most importantly) 3)Mark this on your calendar for next year!