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Friday, August 31, 2012

Your Labor Day Weekend Garden To Do List!

Just what you want right?  Even more things to do in the garden.  I'm sure you have everything perfect.  Everything is mulched to 2 inches high.  Every weed is pulled and the gardens are in pristine condition!  Not our garden, not even close! An extra long weekend is ahead which (unless you've been deluged with rain from Isaac) will give all of us gardeners a good opportunity to get a few things ready for fall.  So what should we be doing in the garden to get ready for fall over this Labor Day weekend? Here's a to do list!

A Labor Day Weekend Gardening To Do List

  1. Get those beds cleared up and ready!  Pull out the old fading plants, add mulch, and get those garden beds back into shape.  Ragweed and crabgrass are flowering now so get them pulled before they go to seed and you will have fewer weeds to worry with next year.  Keep the mulch coming! 2 inches of mulch is what most people recommend but that depends on what kind of mulch you're using.  Add a little bit more mulch to replace what broke down over the summer. 
  2. Get some seedlings started!  If you haven't started your seed yet it's time to get moving on seed starting.  Fall greens like cooler temperatures to get going so try to offer them some shade and keep them moist which will keep the soil temperatures down a bit.
  3. Start taking some cuttings of annual herbs like basil or ornamentals like coleus.  Both can make great houseplants that can be put back outside in the spring.  And who wouldn't want fresh basil in January for some awesome tomato soup with tomatoes you canned from the garden!
  4. Speaking of canning...can can can!  Save those veggies over the winter and you'll think happy thoughts of your summer garden until spring comes around and you can grow again. 
  5. The fall planting season is just beginning so it's time to plan out any new additions for the fall.  Shrubs and trees are what most people think of planting for fall but perennials are great to plant now.  If you plant your perennials in the fall they will have a chance to set a larger root system before going dormant and you may even save a few dollars on fall plant sales!  
  6. September is when to start sowing grass seed for cool season grasses.  I overseed each year to add different varieties of grass to the lawn and fill in any areas that have died off. Expanding your garden areas to reduce the need to mow hard to mow areas is also a great option!  Consider using native grasses to fill in hard to mow areas.  There are even native grasses like Buffalo grass that can be used in lawns to replace non native grasses like fescue and Bermuda.
  7. Red Clover Cover Crop
    Use a cover crop!  Cover crops are a genius idea that uses plants to protect and nourish the soil.  Annual cover crops that die off are great to use in raised beds and perennial cover crops can easily be tilled into the soil or mowed down when it is time in the spring.  As cover crops decay they put nutrients back into the soil for plants to use in the future.  Some popular cover crops are clover, rye grass, oats, vetch, mustard and wheat.
  8. Harvest those garden vegetables!  The more frequent you harvest the more you'll vegetables will come.  Prune the tomatoes to refresh them and you'll continue getting tomatoes into October.
  9. Turn that compost pile.  Turning the compost helps oxygen get into the bin which speeds up the composting process.  Don't forget to add a good balance of materials (green and brown) to keep things processing at maximum capacity!  Also if it hasn't rained in a while watering your compost bin will help to keep things active.
  10. It's time to make a few new beds.  Lasagna Gardening (link to Amazon.com) (also called sheet composting) is a great way to go about making new beds.  This time of year is perfect for a little lasagna gardening!  Lay down alternating layers of green and brown organic materials.  Starting with a layer of newspaper or cardboard will kill off the grass and weeds underneath and allows you to make a new bed without having to till.  Pretty soon we'll have lots of leaves falling from the trees - perfect for layers of brown or a nice mulch on top!
  11. Start cleaning out that garden shed, if you start now it might just be done before fall starts!
  12. Enjoy some time in the garden with that cooler fall weather.  Winter will come before we know it and we'll miss the growing season when its done!

I hope you have a great Labor Day weekend!

Don't forget to look back at my latest project - which I may be still be working on over Labor Day - for Lowe's Creative Ideas!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In and Around the Garden

The end of August is nearly here and the garden is shaping up for its conclusion.  Hopefully it will be a spectacular finish where the flowers bloom out and blend with the foliage as it turns into flaming reds, oranges, and yellows.  That may be the proverbial pipe dream as the weather has been strange this year and we don't know how well the trees will retain their foliage and what colors they might display. 
Cherry tree leaves
We're already losing the leaves off of the cherry trees.  They tend to be the first to drop leaves in the fall.  The sassafras trees are beginning to change their coloring as well.  Next week I'll make an announcement about the Fall Color Project that I host each year here at Growing The Home Garden. You'll be able to see autumn foliage from around the country and even in other countries!  For now though let's meander around my garden and I'll show you a few things.

I haven't showed you the patio area I built a couple years ago in a while.  The biggest issue we've had is keeping it well weeded between the cracks.  I use boiling water to kill off the weeds periodically.  A tea pot and a stove top do make an effective organic weed control method!  I need to find a good method for storing all those hoses to the right of the picture. The gladiolas on the left need moved and replanted somewhere were they won't be an issue for people walking along the pathway.

We have most of our perennial herbs planted along the sides of the patio.  Here we have some Greek oregano.  It spreads very fast and grows so easily from seed that I have to weed the plants severely a couple times a year.

Sage and thyme are across the path from the oregano.  The thyme decided to spill out onto the patio and actually rooted along one of the stems.  I'll have to remove that and replant it in another location.  The herbs kind of give the patio a Mediterranean feel which is neat but they also repel insects to some degree. I love to use sage in the kitchen!

Here's an angle with both the thyme and the oregano.  Next the oregano on the left is lemon balm and to the right where you can't see it is catmint.  Behind the oregano is a witchhazel.

Next to that witch hazel is a patio peach tree (Prunus persica 'Bonfire').  It has beautiful burgundy foliage in the spring that fades slightly in the heat of summer.  The peaches aren't really for eating but the plant is a good low growing ornamental perfect for adding color to an area.  Flowers fade and lose their color. Flowers also attract bees which isn't the best thing for a patio area so having foliage color is a better choice for patio areas.

The self-sowing garden near the arbor is looking nice this time of year.  Included in the self sowing garden are cosmos, celosia, salvia, coneflowers, rudbeckia, poppies (in spring), Russian sage, and several other annuals and perennials.

Here's another look from next to the arbor.

Another zinnia bloomed this week.  This one is a very clean looking white zinnia that would look great mixed together with some purple flowering plants.  I know it has a name somewhere but I'd have to go look for the seed package to find it!  I save seeds from zinnias each year and spread them around to other gardens.  They don't always turn out the same way.  Some are double, some aren't, some flower the same color, some don't, but they always do a great job of adding color to the garden!

We also had this red zinnia appear this week. 

We have a reblooming white iris that is showing off right now.  This is probably its last set of blooms for the summer.

A friend in a garden club gave me this large white flowering hardy hibiscus.  It was just a seedling last year and didn't bloom but this year it has been a blooming powerhouse!  I really need to propagate a few of these for other spots in the garden.

The black-eyed Susans (rudbeckia) are still flowering along.  You can tell this one is on its way to losing its petals and producing seed for the birds.

The pyracantha (firethorn) has some berries that are ripening.  It's a beautiful plant when covered with berries - assuming it isn't hidden behind a large birch tree!

Of course the butterfly bush is blooming away too!  It always does.

How's your garden growing this August?

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Gardener's Garage Remodel

This month's Creative Ideas Project with Lowe's and Growing The Home Garden is all about organization!  By using a $100 gift card donated by Lowe's I've redone a part of my garage to make it more useful for our whole family - not just the gardener!  I think the main problem people have with organization is that they don't have placed to put things.  I know that is true with our family.  Just having a location for our stuff makes keeping organized a lot simpler.  This remodel has also created a place to store my gardening supplies which I really didn't have before.  The project is not completely finished yet but let's take a look at how it looks today!

The garage has always been a place of entry for our house.  We use it much more often than either the front or back doors and so its a natural fit for a bench to take off dirty shoes.  I suppose I'm the one with the most dirt and mud on his shoes on a regular basis. To help us here in the garage I built this bench.  I call it the one legged bench!  I'll bet you can't guess why...

...yep it only has one leg!  Creative name don't you think?  This bench is a built in bench screwed into the wall studs on all the important corners.  It rests on the one leg where there is no stud to screw into.  I should have removed the children's lawn chair before this picture so you could get a look at my leg.  As you can see I still have tools and stuff around the bench area since it isn't completely finished yet.  I want to paint the bench then put up several coat hooks just underneath the shelf.  Under the bench itself will go three plastic containers to put our infrequently used shoes in to keep bugs and spiders from making homes in our footwear.

Another garage organization issue we had was finding a place for our bikes.  The bikes were sitting in the way of everything we needed to reach.  The kids toy area and my garden shelves were essentially blockaded and as a consequence stuff just ended up finding homes on the wrong side of the blockade.  I hung the bikes from four hooks that were screwed into two 2x4 pieces of lumber.  The 2x4s were screwed into three studs each for plenty of support. 

Before the garage remodel there was a set of shelves in the location where the bikes are now hung.  The shelves were moved to my garden supply area where I keep my potting soil, perlite, fertilizers and other gardening essentials. I keep the soil in large plastic containers and mix my own potting soil as I need it.  Before the shelves it was a pile of boxes.  Now its a neat and organized soil supply area!

I still have some work to do on this project but that's what I was able to accomplish over the weekend!  Once I have the bench complete I'll post a more detailed post in its construction.

I hope your weekend was as productive as mine!

Friday, August 24, 2012

5 Fall Vegetables for Your Garden

Fall is creeping closer and closer each day which brings to mind cool evening breezes, pumpkins, festivals, the Fall Color Project (more on that later), and of course the fall vegetable growing season.  Most gardeners seem to garden almost exclusively in the spring or summer and don't even consider the fall.  It's probably since starting plants this time of year can be tricky.  Fall plants in Tennessee need to be planted early enough to have a couple harvests before the frosts come and often the temperatures are not conducive for easy germination of seeds. 
Once started fall vegetables will do fine through the early frosts and will continue to grow (albeit a little slower) until the cold sets in for good when they go dormant.  Once spring comes back around the fall vegetables can spring back too and provide you with a delicious early harvest!

5 Fall Vegetables For Your Garden

  1. Spinach - Spinach is a delicious alternative to lettuce (which can also grown in the fall vegetable garden).  It's much more nutritious than lettuce which makes it a great substitute in salads or on sandwiches.  Spinach in Tennessee will survive easily without cover into spring.  If you want to keep it growing you will need some sort of cover like a row cover or cloche to keep the frosts off and hold in the warm temperatures.
  2. Brussels Sprouts - Lately my family has had a fascination with Brussels sprouts.  At least my wife, son, and I have.  My two daughters haven't quite warmed up to them yet.  When sauteed in grape seed oil they taste like popcorn! Brussels sprouts have more flavor when grown in the fall due to the cool temperatures which aid in generation of its natural sugars. Brussels spouts are extremely close relatives of broccoli and have many of the same health benefits.  Broccoli isn't on this list but also makes a great fall grown vegetable!
  3. Kale - Kale is another vegetables that has seen a revival of sorts over the last couple years.  It's highly nutritious and boasts high levels of calcium which is more easily absorbed into the body than calcium from milk and dairy products.  Kale is frequently mixed together with fruits in smoothies.  It adds the nutritional benefits while the fruits add the flavor!
  4. Chard - Chard is one of the most ornamental vegetables you will run across.  It's stems can be all sorts of colors from yellow to orange to red.  It's easy to grow and is full of vitamins C, K, and A among various other nutrients.  It's so pretty you may have trouble eating it!
  5. Beets and radishes!  I'm sneaking two vegetables into this section but radishes are so easy to grow that they had to be included. 
    My only issue with radishes is finding interesting ways to eat them.  Sliced in a salad is good, but what else can you do with a radish?  Any ideas? Beets are great pickled and can be eaten as greens as well as a root crop.

If you want to start a fall garden from seed you still have time but if time gets away from you you can still plant transplants!  Do you grow a vegetable garden in the fall? What do you plan on growing in your fall vegetable garden?

A couple years ago I put together a fall vegetable garden design if you need some ideas on how to arrange your fall vegetable garden.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Mix of Natives for Wildflower Wednesday

Over at Clay and Limestone Gail celebrates the diversity of native plants with Wildflower Wednesday so I thought I would join in this week to share a few of the native plants I've run across over the past week. 

Let's start with a shrub!  This is what I believe to be a gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa).  It has white clusters of flowers that eventually change into these nearly white berries.  As you can see someone has snatched a few berries - must have been the birds!

Rudbeckia is a favorite of many gardeners for some good reasons: low maintenance, it looks great, feeds the birds, makes pollinators happy, and has a rather cheerful general disposition in the garden!  In this picture my rudbeckia is intertwined with a lilac verbena.  Verbena is another great plant for the pollinators.

I spotted this tall white wildflower over the weekend.  I think it may be a type of eupatorium but that's just a guess.  Maybe you can identify it?

The purple coneflowers look great this year! I think I have a few of these in every garden.  I gather the seed heads in the fall and sprinkle them where I want new plants. 

The Tennessee coneflower is flowering nicely too.  It will hybridize very easily with other coneflowers so we have it separated from its cousins.

This 'Arizona Sun' Gaillardia that I shared yesterday is another native plant well worth planting in the garden. 

Stop over and visit Gail for Wildflower Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Feels Like a Fall Morning

This morning's cool temperatures made it feel like my favorite season is well on its way.  Of course autumn is coming but the extra cool August temperatures we're having have me hoping for an extended fall season.  Here's a look at a few things from around the garden this morning!

'Arizona Sun' Gaillardia - Blanket Flower is a good native plant to have around.  It works well as a border plant at the front of gardens that tend to be relatively dry.  I've grown 'Oranges and Lemons' before but lost the last one to aster yellows disease.  I've removed every plant I've seen that shows the aster yellows signs so hopefully we're in the clear.

'Primal Scream' daylily - I was surprised a couple weeks ago when I saw another scape growing from this daylily!  I don't think 'Primal Scream' is normally a rebloomer, but maybe I hit the jackpot.  The blooms are about 8 inches in diameter.

Purple Smoke Tree 'Grace' - I'm really excited to see my purple smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria x obovatus 'Grace') bloom this year.  Every year it has been nibbled on by deer until this year.  I'm not sure how it avoided the deer but I'm glad it has. Hopefully it will start to grow taller now!  It's been in the ground for 3 years and is still around 3 feet tall.

It looks stunning in the morning dew!

Have you planted a purple smoke tree?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Organizing a Gardeners Garage

What does a gardener's garage look like?  Before you put an image into your mind please realize that the photo I'm about to show you is extremely embarrassing.  My garage has never been a priority for me - the garden has been!  When you add three kids to the mix who never seem to be able to put something back where they got it from you have a recipe for a messy garage.  But thankfully Lowe's and Creative Ideas are giving me the motivation to tackle this unorganized disaster area.  I'll show you the before photos in a moment, but first let me tell you what we use our garage area for and it isn't for cars.  We don't park there, even though we would love to, our garage is an activity/storage area.  For me the garage is where I have grow lights set up and where I start my seedlings for my business.   It's also where the tools go - both for gardening and for other assorted purposes. For the kids it's where they get their toys and their bikes.  For my wife the garage is somewhere she passes through to get inside the house while trying not to think about the mess!

The garage is full of pots, plant tables, shelves, a refrigerator and freezer, numerous storage crates with clothing we'll never wear again, old college books, and all kinds of junk.  We aren't candidates for one of those reality TV shows that highlights extreme packrats - we're not that bad - but the mess is frustrating to work around.  To tackle some of this issue we decided to organize one very common use for the garage that will help us manage things just a little bit better - shoes!  Yes this is still a gardening blog but I am going to talk about our shoes.  The five of us have accumulated a large collection of frequently and infrequently worn footwear.  Boots, tennis shoes, flip flops, and mocs all times five.  We have to have somewhere to put them where they aren't in the way and can be put on conveniently for all our activities.  So here's the target area:

The target itself is the corner between the door and the right wall.  This is where I'm going to put together a bench for sitting on with an area for shoe storage underneath.  Right now there is a bookshelf in that corner where the shoes area kept.  It will be moved and used to store the kids toys and garden tools and the shelf in the middle will once again go back to housing gardening equipment!  You see there is a gardening aspect to this after all - I get to reclaim lost space for storing my gardening gear.  Now I don't want you to think I'm a complete organizing disaster (although I'm sure my wife will argue differently) so I'd like to show you the way I organize my tools.

It's a nifty little track system from Rubbermaid that I bought from Lowe's a while back.  It holds up most of my gardening tools and keeps them from getting in the way.  It's a 4 foot long track system where you can attach different types of hooks.  I'd like to install a few more of these around the garage for other tool areas.

I hope the bench turns out as nicely as I have it made in my head!  I've already set most of this project into motion and hope to complete another section of it later today.  Come back and see what the result is and if it will actually help keep me organized!

Friday, August 17, 2012

How Tall Should a Raised Bed Be? (5 More Raised Bed Design Tips)

Have you ever wondered exactly how tall a raised bed should be?  Here's the answer: 11 and 5/16ths.  Yep that's right, 11 and 5/16ths.  Of course not!  The real answer is that the height of a raised bed is dependent on a number of factors which makes each situation different.  Today's Friday Fives post is another raised bed design post all about the height considerations when building a raised bed.  Hopefully this will be helpful as you plan you fall garden or even your spring garden for next year!

5 Considerations for Determining How Tall A Raised Bed Should Be!

  1. The most important thing for your plants is the soil.  It has all the nutrients and its where all the water will be stored after rains.  If you have rich, compost like soil already than you don't have to worry about how tall your bed will be.  In fact then you might not even want to worry with raised beds unless you just want them for convenience (more on that later) or appearance. If your soil is less than perfect - i.e. rock or clay - you will want more height so that you can add better soil on top where the plants will be happy.  Raised beds will eventually improve the soil conditions underneath as organic matter trickles down into the clay areas.
  2. What materials do you have available to use for you raised beds?  If you are planning on using lumber of some kind then you can build as high as you like fairly inexpensively. 
    When it comes to stone you will need some kind of mortar to hold the stones together as you gain height.  The same is true with concrete retaining wall blocks.  The other difficulty with tall stones or concrete raised beds is the time involved in building them.  The taller they are the longer it takes!  However you could build a layer or two one year then add to them the next and gradually build height.  
  3. Consider what plants you are growing. 
    Plants like potatoes that like to be buried then covered as they grow may need deeper raised beds than a more shallow rooted plant.  Vegetables with long roots like carrots or parsnips should be considered for the height of the raised bed especially if the soil quality underneath the raised beds is very poor.  Carrots like loamy soil with very few obstructions like rock or clay.  They find it difficult to grow long and straight and tend to end up producing funny looking tap roots! 
  4. The taller the raised beds are the quicker the soil will dry out.  As you build height you also build surface area around the sides.  The sun and air will move against the outside of your beds which increases the rate of evaporation and will dry the beds out faster.  Raised beds in general dry out faster than gardens planted in the ground so this may not be a major factor but should still be considered.  
  5. Convenience!  Raising the height of a garden as much as 24 inches can be a great boon for the handicapped or those who have trouble bending in the garden.  It makes weeding, watering and harvesting much easier on the body.  Tall raised beds are a great option for those who are having trouble gardening but still want to participate in the hobby they love!

I think in general that raised beds of any height improve a gardener's ability to garden.  They keep the soil in place and usually involve a higher quality organic rich soil than what was originally present in the soil.  If money is a concern consider building raised beds in mounds that slope down to the edges without any type of formal sides.  It's still a raised bed and will do the job nicely!

For more raised bed design tips please read Designing a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden: 11 Things to Think About!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August in Bloom in My Tennessee Garden

With summers in Tennessee you never know exactly what your going to get.  Usually you expect dry and hot.  That's a pretty safe bet.  But lately the temperatures have reminded me of fall.  The scents are on the wind.  Fall blooming plants like goldenrod and ironweed are beginning to flower.  The smell of fall is in the air - but summer isn't over yet.  When you add to the more pleasant weather with the rains that have been coming down on a somewhat regular basis you end up with a pretty nice climate for gardening!  Since things have been shaping up in the garden let's take a look around at what is in bloom.

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day August 2012

Let's start with the rose pictures!  This rose is a double knockout that really needs a better spot in the sun.  It does seem pretty happy here with morning sun and afternoon shade.  It's surrounded by coleus.

This rose is along our front walkway.  Liriope serves as a ground cover next to the sidewalk.

Coneflowers are one of my favorite perennials.  This first picture is our native Tennessee Coneflower.  The grass all around it is Ponytail grass or Mexican feather grass.  The combination makes the picture seem like it was taken in a prairie. I think those two perennials put together would make a very nice mass planting!

This is a new coneflower to my garden called Sombrero Hot Coral.  It got a little stressed last week and isn't as impressive as it should be.  It should bounce back and do just fine though.

Purple coneflowers are all over our gardens. I like to let them self sow but also help them out a little by collecting the seed and moving it to new areas.  If I leave the seed stalks up in the fall the finches get a nice feast. 

Russian sage is in the background of the previous picture.  Here are its flowers a little closer.

My gutter planter arbor is doing pretty good so far.  The petunias are looking nice and I haven't really had to water it very much through July and August.

Here's our front garden.  The crape myrtle is full of booms.

Other crape myrtles continue beyond the arbor to connect the front yard to the backyard.  You will see those down below.  Let's move closer to the arbor.

On the way we can stop by and visit the sweet potato vines in bloom.

Self sown cosmos is blooming under the arbor.

Near the arbor is the self sowing garden.  Here are a couple pictures from there.


Celosia is a good self sower.

Salvia with cosmos in the background.

More cosmos!

A cosmos closeup! 

This oxalis is right beside the arbor in a semi-shady garden area.

If we move past the self sowing garden and arbor we find the crape myrtles putting on a show!

the crape myrtles are underplanted with caryopteris which hasn't started blooming yet.

The catmint is a always a great bloomer.

Verbena and rudbeckia are also reliable!

I'm a fan of salvias.  This one is Salvia verticillata or meadow sage ('Purple Rain').

To end the garden tour today we'll go all alphabetical and look at a zinnia!

For more blooms visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens!