Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Compost is going to happen!

I have had bins, I have had big round compost heaps and they have all had the same frustrating outcome…no compost.  I admit it, I want to dump it and forget about it.  My worms make awesome compost and compost tea, but it’s not very much even with all I feed them.  So I decided to get myself a new compost bin.
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Every gardner needs a compost bin right and this one it’s a spinning style with two chambers.  I can’t wait to start filling it up with kitchen scraps and some leaf matter and maybe some grass clippings!  I am hoping that with the ability to turn it and the fact that I can sit it somewhere that it will actually get some sun that I’ll actually get compost.  I want compost for my garden not just my house plants and containers.
Wish me luck!

Woodland weeding…

 

I don’t have normal weeds, then again, I don’t have your typical garden either.  Remember I’m carving my garden out of a section of weeds, I mean woods.

When I think of the woods I think of several inches of rich moist leaf matter scattered below a lovely canopy of trees.  I think of understory trees and native flowers scattered through out and sun light being gently filtered onto the forest floor.  That however is not my reality.

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This is my reality.  A mess of weeds that I don’t know what they are, plus the ones that I do know and hate with a passion!  Japanese honeysuckle and oriental bittersweet mat the ground, climb and choke the trees and are growing like mad up the deer fence. Dog rose is easy enough to get up when the ground is wet and I’m double gloved. More shrubs to pull out are Japanese barberry and Euonymus alatus, a.k.a. burning bush. There are also these stinking trees and by stinking I mean they smell bad.  They are sprouting all over the place and they are as hard as heck to pull up. Oh and the poison ivy there is so much of it, I’ve never seen so much in my garden or the woods in all the time we’ve lived here! The worst is the Japanese stilt grass and now some sort of other grass that is similar but bigger and wavy. 

Complicating this issue is the fact that there are indeed native plants fighting to survive in all this mess, American Holly saplings, Mayapples, Jack in the Pulpit, Solomons seal and Virginia creeper.  Further around in here are ferns and birds foot violets and some other delicate wildflowers that bloom in the early spring. 

Ideally, I’d love to just take a brush mower through here and be done with it.  My conscience won’t let me though because I think about the critters that live in the leaves and well, by hand it is.

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I pulled, tugged, ripped and yanked my way through and if I left it, it’s because it’s a native plant, (or possibly I missed it). Most of what I left is Maple leafed viburnums, they are everywhere and I’m okay with that.  It’s a native, it makes berries for the birds and flowers for the pollinators and is very pretty.

The next overcast day I’ll be back at it!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

How a garden grows..

I’ve been going through and labeling my gardening pictures.  I always planned to make a scrapbook that showed how the garden changed over the years.  Looking at the pictures has made me very aware of how much has changed, how the trees have grown and even the loss of some plants. 

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Look at all that sun this was 2002!  There was so much sun that I had a vegetable garden.  That’s pretty amazing.  Things change though, the maple trees grew and grew.

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No garden but there are those maple trees.  Just a mess of leaves and weedy brambles and vines in 2009.

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In 2010 we built the new pond right were the vegetable garden had been, between those maple trees.

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The maple trees are still there in 2011, but we’ve got a gazebo base, over looking the pond.

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2012 the gazebo is up and it’s when we added the stream, the fieldstone walls and the bog.

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Big changes in 2014 when we cleared the weeds and installed the deer fence, so much was about to change in a way I never dreamed of.  All those years of dreaming of plants not being eaten by the deer.  Of having quiet paths that meandered through a woodland garden rich with natives and shade lovers.  A place that was quiet and peaceful, with niches to sit in and just relax.

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2017 finds me still working but well on my way to achieving the dream I have.  Some day I’ll be able to walk all through my gardens with less weeds and less work.  Until then I’m going to keep relishing all the changes and enjoying every moment of striving towards my dream.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

A shopping we did go…

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The Green Springs Plant Sale has been something that my mother has told me about for years.  She said it was one of the best she had ever been to and that I needed to go, so go we did.  I got a lot of the shade plants that were on my wish list, including an Empress Wu hosta.  I will have to spend some time moving the plants around and deciding where I want to put what and with who. 

Looking at the picture though I think that the Grape Soda Heuchera looks really good with the yellow plants!

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I also found some miniature hosta to add to my gardens.  I could see getting hooked on them, there are so many to chose from!

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Happy sights..

 After working in the morning I was sort of just meandering around in the afternoon, pull a few weeds here, adjust a rock on the pond, watch the hummingbird zooming around.  I saw something that made me very happy and had to run back to the house to get my camera.

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I have not seen or heard a peep from these two bullfrogs since we cleaned the pond and to be honest I was afraid they had left.  So I was delighted to see them perched in the grass on the side of the pond.

Up next was this

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Apparently the Cicadas have decided, or at least some not to wait and are baffling scientist by coming out early.  I know a lot of people don’t like them but I loved it when they were last here.  Well except I refused to mow the grass because they were everywhere and I didn’t want to run them over.   A few minutes after seeing several of these I made friends with this cute little bugger.

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Personally I think they are adorable and very friendly!

I went to check the hummingbird feeder and saw this.

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My American Wisteria is getting ready to bloom!  I’ve waited a long time to see this.  When I bought it, it was just a stick!

Finally as I was headed back to the house I noticed something that a lot of people probably would never even see.

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The tiny delicate bloom of the sedum that is growing in the pond wall.  It’s an adorable little flower.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Mulching matters…

 

It is way to hot out for May.  It was 95 yesterday and is supposed to be the same today with higher humidity.  I was out a little before 7 this morning getting some weeding and mulching done, I only have a little to spread…

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For the last several years I confess that I’ve had a landscaper come in and weed and mulch my easier garden beds.  It’s a lot of work and it takes me a long time to do what a crew of 5 can do in a day.  Customer service however is not what it use to be and my landscaper let me down big time this year.  It took him almost a month just to get back to me, then another week to set up a time for an estimate, then two more weeks to get the estimate to me.  By this time with the weather having been so warm the weeds and plants had exploded in growth.  I had already spent 2 days weeding beds and told him just get out here with the mulch, days later he informed me it would be several weeks before he could get here.  That wasn’t going to work, weeds wait for no one. 

Now the debate raged between myself and my husband bagged or bulk.  I wanted bulk, he wanted bagged.  He said bagged was easier for him to move around.  I am having a hard time using these bags, they are almost as tall as I am and because of torrential rains two weekends in a row, they weigh a lot.  So spreading for me goes like this. Fight to open bag. Let bag fall forward. Grab bottom of bag and lift up. Then shake and or jump up and down with bag to empty.  Then spread with hands and or rake.  If area is tight with plants, scoop small flower pot amounts out around plants..

Does it look great when I’m done? No doubt.

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It’s just the getting to that point that is giving me one heck of a workout.  I’m still thinking I’d prefer bulk at the very least for the flower beds out front.  I’d rather do a cart load that I can maneuver at a time then dance with mulch bags.  Maybe for the back bagged is best because it will be easier to get back there and spread in the larger beds.  In the case of mulching maybe we are both right, just for different reasons..

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A new old favorite

Us gardeners we will get our hands on a lot of tools over the course of our gardening lives.  Some we will hate, some we will like and some we will love, but there is one other category the ones that we can’t live without.  These are the tools we will reach for over and over again, the ones that we take good care of, the ones that we always know where they are.  I had three such tools, now..I have four.

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Meet my new old little garden shovel!  This is an inherited tool, when my husband’s grandmother moved she left behind a few things for us.  A wheelbarrow, a pitchfork, a birdbath, some concrete garden statues and this shovel.  At first glance it’s just a little shovel on a long handle, but for me this is the perfect shovel for planting, for scooping mulch into tight spaces, and even chopping up roots.  Regular size shovels are heavy for me, the handles are thick, the blades are big and when dirt sticks to them they can weight a ton.  This little guy skinny handle, small head and so no issue even when dirt sticks.

I’ve been using this shovel daily and I told my husband I now know how his grandmother managed to do so much for so long.  So thank you Grandma for giving me this shovel I love it!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Plants, herons and pots…

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It doesn’t look like much but one day…

I spent some time separating the hosta with the white and green leaves from the ragwort.  These hosta were planted along the other side of the path but I wanted to mix them in with the solid green hosta.  I have I think about 24 of the white and green ones and countless solid green as I found more of them the other day.  This is my first attempt at actually planning where I’m planting things.

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The other morning I was sitting in the quiet enjoying my coffee when I saw something very large fly towards the house, as it made it’s was past the French doors my heart sank it was a blue heron.  Now our pond is not hunter friendly, the thing is almost 4 feet deep in the center.  The sides are not flat and I did this on purpose because I didn’t want anyone to be able to hunt my fish or frogs.  I have a Koi cave as well that looks like a log and if the fish hide in there you can’t see them.  On top of all of that I also have an aerator now and it does a great job of obscuring the view into the pond.  All those things are supposed to make it unfriendly to heron, yet there it was flying away and I didn’t know if it had a belly full of fish or not.  I quickly ordered a couple more Koi caves and a decoy heron.  Supposedly heron don’t like to share space with other heron and won’t come to a pond that is already occupied. I will move this guy around the pond all season, just to keep any heron that might be checking in thinking there is someone already here.

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And then there were two..okay technically there are still 5 plants in pots left to be planted.  This dogwood and fringe tree, a yellow twig dogwood, a huge Turks Cap lily with some creeping fern and a Japanese rose.  All but the fringe tree require assistance in planting because they need big holes dug and the pots are heavy!  Ironic that I’m down to 5 and am about to hit a mega plant sale this weekend.  I will not however buy anything that I don’t have a place for!

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Last but not least, my Sweet Tea finally made it into the ground!  I bought this at a plant sale years ago.  It was huge.  I brought it home and planted it in one of my shade beds and it slowly died away to just a few leaves in one season.  At first I thought it was transplant shock but the following season it did nothing.  So I dug up this pathetic little thing that barely had a leaf on it and planted it in a pot where I could keep an eye on it.  After 2 years in the pot it finally got big enough to try in the ground again, I’m hoping that this area is more to it’s liking because I love the colors on this one.  Oh and yes I planted it with these green hosta on purpose, funny, I’m gardening on purpose now!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A cart for a gardener…

As a gardener who’s garden is more then a few feet, I need a cart.  It has to be easy to handle, it has to be able to haul more than a couple of plants and it needs to be versatile. I have had a FoldIt cart for years and I love it. 

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This cart has gone with me to plant sales, it has hauled mulch, rocks and logs.  The ends come off making it perfect for hauling sticks or dumping, really this is a great cart!  Bet now you are wondering what’s wrong with the cart, nothing really it’s just that this cart is wide and that makes it hard to navigate on smaller paths, the tires are big and don’t maneuver well in tight areas and on occasion lose air (though now I see you can get tires that are airless).    So how do you replace a cart that you adore?  Where can you find something that will make your little gardening heart pitter patter???

You stumble on it while looking at shredders, no seriously that is exactly what happened!

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Meet the Worx Aerocart now this cart isn’t just a cart.  This cart can be a dolly with that handy little foot on the front.  It’s perfect for moving big pots, bags of mulch and even concrete statues!  See those arms on the side they fold out and with the included accessories you can haul boulders and strap down taller items.  Don’t want to use it as a dolly, fold in that foot and you’ve got a great cart that will dump mulch, rocks or dirt with ease.  Add the wagon accessory, pop off the handles and the cart is now a wagon that you can pull into the garden with a built in seat and water bottle holder!  There is also a tool bag you can get that fits into the bucket for all your gardening supplies, but wait there’s more (sorry couldn’t resist!) there are clip sets you can buy that attach to the sides and will hold 2 of your long handled tools.  As if all of that wasn’t enough, the cart is small with never flat tires.  It is super easy to handle and fits perfectly into all those tight places in my garden.  I have already beat this cart with rocks, mulch and field stone and the interior of the bin still looks good.  I also love the fact that like my Foldit cart it’s sturdy on it’s wheels, no tipping over.

Now I won’t be getting rid of my FoldIt because it can haul more plants and I need that for my plant sales!  Plus since it does fold up it isn’t taking up very much room at all and as I said it’s perfect for hauling sticks when I’ve got piles to go to the brush tile.

So there you go.  Two wonderful carts that work hard for gardeners that work hard!  Oh and I’m not getting anything for reviewing these carts, I’m just sharing my experiences with you!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A new pollinator

 

I met a new pollinator the other day and you know how much a gardener loves pollinators.

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At first glance I thought it was some sort of honeybee but there were several and they kept disappearing down into the bottom of the plants.  I grabbed my camera and took some pictures and then searched online.

Meet the digger bee.

Digger bees are solitary like mason bees only they make holes in the ground.  One female can make a lot of holes and she can be pursued by a lot of males.  They won’t be around all summer, just early spring and then again next year.  They are docile but can sting if handled or bothered, so we won’t do either.

It’s amazing to me how many types of pollinators we have and don’t really notice.  I mean sure butterflies are beautiful.

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So of course we are going to see them and bumble bees well they are just goofy and fun to watch.

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But the ones that we don’t see or pay attention to are doing some hard work.  Mason bees, leafcutter bees and all manner of ground nesting bees, like the digger bees.  Next time you are out in the garden, take a second to see who’s flying around.  You never know who you might meet!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Plans paid for and otherwise…

 

In 2014 while we were finishing up the deer fence, we had an official garden plan drawn up.  The plan shows existing trees, the pond, the gazebo etc.  It is a good representation of the bones of the garden and where it could eventually go.  The plan wasn’t cheap and to be honest we had high hopes that it would lay out what to do with the plants we had and what plants to add to complete the garden.  We didn’t think it would be an over night process more like several years and that was okay.

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 When we got the plan we realized there were some issues, for starters she hadn’t included any of the plants that were already here.  The plantings while lovely on paper for the most part weren’t correct for our growing conditions.  When we asked we were told she would get back to us, she never did.

Now here I am some 3 years later doing my best to design with the plants that I have around the bones that were on the plan.  I’ve taken an inventory of my plants, I researched their growing conditions and the best times to transplant.  I’ve also been devouring plant combination pins on Pinterest as well as suggestions for additions to the gardens.

The thing is, planning a garden this way involves a lot of thinking.  Over the years I’ve basically just plunked down plants where the growing conditions were close to what they needed.  I’ve occasionally tried to put color combinations together, but I’ve never worried about texture or varying heights.  What my eyes didn’t see in my 20’s they now see very clearly in my 40’s.  I need evergreens for height, winter interest and for the birds to take shelter in from hawks.   I need shrubs that will add color and focal points and I need texture in the form of grasses and different types of leaves.  I see it clearly now and the work that is ahead.

For me gardening is the best stress release there is.  I get pleasure from working outside till I can barely walk, being covered in dirt and knowing that when my head hits the pillow I’ll fall asleep. 

Even if it is to dream about garden plans…

Friday, May 5, 2017

Clean pond and a garden makeover

It’s raining today, we are supposed to get an inch or more.  That’s a good thing if it comes down slow and steady and the ground has a chance to absorb, not so much if it pours and causes flooding, especially around my freshly cleaned pond.

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Last weekend we set out on the task of finally getting the rock and sludge out of the pond.  Maintenance should be much easier now and if anything makes it to the bottom we should be able to just scoop it out.  I think though…I want more fish as I only have 8.  There were also 2 bullfrogs and one Pickerel frog 12 huge snails and about 5 bullfrog tadpoles.  I haven’t seen or heard the frogs since we put them back in the pond, hope they didn’t leave.

In other news, I’ve made a garden changing decision, I’ve decided to move all my perennials onto one side of the yard.  I’m going to concentrate everything into the area from the left side of the gazebo down to the area where (hopefully) my garden shed is going. 

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All the beds that the perennials come out of will get low maintenance shrubs or small evergreens something easy to weed and mulch around.  For me having everything spread all over the property is to much for me to handle alone.

So I started my design process by going around the yard and taking pictures and making notes in my garden book about what I wanted to do in that area.  I got to work the next day, because a garden waits for no one!

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The first thing I did was move logs that Randy had cut into sections for me to give him a solid mow line between what is a jungle but will one day be a mostly sunny flower garden and home to my garden shed. (I’m sure if I say it enough it will come true!)

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Next up was moving filed stone to start a break between the grass and where I want to create a new planting area.  The grass has never done well over here and it’s very hard to mow. The cardboard is just the start to suffocating weeds and grass clumps.  I’ll add more cardboard and will be pulling some leaves that are already decomposing on the other side of the yard to pile on top.  I’ll also get some topsoil and compost of some kind to add in.  While it percolates to planting perfection,  I’ve got plenty more to do.

Like protecting plants from big feet.

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I added fieldstone from the ‘stone steps’ around the back and along the side of the large hosta.  I wanted to leave an area for bog maintenance, but to designate the rest as a no walk zone for big feet of the four and two variety.  I’ll put something down like gravel or wood chips suppress the weeds and stop erosion.

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On the other end I did the same thing blocked off the flower bed ara and opened a spot in the path to allow access to the filter.  The big feet crew like to take shortcuts through flower beds and I’m hoping that this will at least lessen that, fingers crossed.

I know this is going to take a lot of work, I just think in the end it will be easier for me to take care of.   So for now it’s one section at a time.

Compost is going to happen!

I have had bins, I have had big round compost heaps and they have all had the same frustrating outcome…no compost.  I admit it, I want to du...