Friday, April 29, 2011

Harvest time!

Just about ready to start picking lettuce out of the AeroGarden! Put some more water and nutrients in a few days ago and now the lettuce is looking pretty close to being ready to pick. The seed pack that came with the AeroGarden said it was a mix of green leaf, red leaf, romaine, and butterhead but so far it just looks like green leaf to me. Ah well, not a big deal considering how fast and how well it’s growing.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Top landscaping/gardening mistakes

Having graduated with a degree in horticulture and started my own landscaping business, I can’t help but notice misplaced trees and shrubs and incorrect pruning and mulching as I’m out running errands around town. Some are understandable, others inexcusable, particularly in a situation where the culprits are professional landscapers:

  1. The “Mulch Volcano” – I see this a lot in commercial settings, mostly in parking lots of shopping centers. Mulch is piled up in the shape of a volcano around the trees in the medians/islands, 3 or 4 times the amount than what is actually needed to retain moisture and smother weeds. That much mulch can lead to disease because the roots and bark are smothered and cannot get oxygen. Additionally, roots can begin to grow out of the trunk ABOVE the soil, where roots should not be growing.
  2. “Crape murder” – excessive and incorrect pruning of crape myrtles. I see so many crape myrtles being pruned too far down the trunks, chopping off much of the natural, sculptured canopy of the tree. Over time, this leads to knobby bulges below the cut and very leggy new shoots above the cut. Instead, crape myrtles should be pruned by only cutting back the longest shoots or any branches that are crossing each other. If people are having to cut the tree way back as described above, it’s probably the wrong plant for the space and a more compact, dwarf tree should be planted instead.
  3. Arborvitae and Leyland cypress planted in shade – Understandably people love these two shrubs because they provide an excellent privacy hedge and stay a lovely green color year round, and grow quickly. But people don’t often realize that conifers, the group of plants that Leylands and cypresses fall under, do not tolerate much shade. They really need a full blast of sun most of the day. Too much shade invites disease and poor, lanky growth.
  4. Azaleas sheared into a square hedge – technically this isn’t a “mistake”, per se, but it bothers me to no end because Azaleas have a nice natural growth habit and azaleas forced into a tight square shape just doesn’t look right to me.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Strolling in the garden

The weather here in Virginia has been beautiful lately, so my girlfriend and I went for a stroll in Maymont park the other day. Maymont is a large, victorian era property overlooking the James River in Richmond, and is home to an extensive array of gardens and meadows shaded by giant, very old oaks and magnolias. While we walking (and as I was explaining each plant in detail, including the scientific latin names, as I’m in the habit of doing) I took a few pictures:

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The last one is my favorite…the sun was coming in at just the right angle and really illuminated the trees and the grassy field. Unfortunately, I missed out on most of the cherries and magnolias. But dogwoods were smothered in white and pink blooms and redbuds still had a smattering of pink along their branches.

And here is a quick update on my AeroGarden lettuce. Not much longer and I’ll have salads in abundance! And this is only week 2 after planting the seeds in the pods, without having to manually water or fertilize!

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

AeroGarden update

After only 3 or 4 days, the lettuce seeds in my AeroGarden have sprouted and are growing quite nicely, as you can see in this pic:


Only one pod has not sprouted just yet...not bad at all! My lettuce plants outside in the raised beds are not faring so well. 4 of them turned yellow and withered, the others seem suspended in time, not deteriorating but not growing much either. Don't know what the problem is...I gave both beds a thorough turning and loosening of the soil and added manure to mix in. No big deal, if they don't work out, I'll have nice indoor lettuce, and will put some warm weather crops in the raised beds, like squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Adventures in indoor gardening

Decided to buy one of those AeroGarden things to grow veggies and herbs indoors (in case the stinking squirrels make off with what I'm growing in the raised beds outside). Usually I'm pretty skeptical about stuff I see on infomercials and the like, but the idea of having vegetables and herbs all year long really excited me. So I bought one several days ago and ordered the Salad Greens seed kit, and it arrived today. Got it all set up in less then 10 minutes. I'll be posting pictures and updates as I (hopefully) start to see the lettuce growing. Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hello spring (almost!)

My inner garden ninja is anxiously waiting to go gung-ho and go all out with planting, but alas it's still that time of year when night-time temperatures are volatile. The gardenias are still being brought in at night to protect the fragile flower buds as temperatures still hover precariously in the mid 30s some nights. Not much longer now and I can make my perennial pilgrimage to the nurseries, this time not just to browse but to bring home a car-load of herbs, flowers, and shrubs. So far I've been able to start early, with plants that are tough enough to handle a late frost or two: a few herbs in a pot, a small fig tree in a protected spot, lettuce and spinach in the raised veggie beds. My biggest ambition this year is a medicinal herb garden, so I can supply myself with natural remedies for my various health ailments while giving our endangered honey and bumblebees a source of food.

Thyme, Catmint, and Lemon Balm
A few weeks ago, I built a second raised bed for just such a purpose, so I can continue with vegetables like squash, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, etc. I've found that these raised bed kits from Lowes and Home Depot really do work. Once I have the supplies, it takes me no longer than 10 minutes to set up the beds, which are 4' by 4' and about 10" deep. I put chicken wire down to keep moles/voles from coming up into the bed and chewing on the roots, then I layer organic garden soil with compost from my compost bin. Last year I had a fantastic harvest of lettuce, broccoli, peas, and cucumbers!

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