Sunday, May 29, 2011

Great balls of color!

Right on cue, my Endless Summer™ hydrangeas are blooming. One of them has turned all blue after initially blooming pink when first planted a few years ago. The other, which has been in it’s present spot under a large oak tree for 7+ years, has always flowered pink, purple, and blue on the same plant. Both are now about 4” high and 5” wide, and reliably flower year after year regardless of how harsh the winter was.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pests on my plants!

I knew it was only a matter of time before the usual garden pests would rear their ugly heads again and start "nom-nom-nom" all over my plants. In my garden, they seem to be particularly fond of the leaves of peppers, blueberries, gardenias, Okra, and basil. Since I don't believe in using chemical stuff like RoundUp (made by the same company that produces GMO (genetically modified) seeds), I use a natural, organic, non-toxic spray called EcoSmart. It contains natural plant oils that are safe to use around pets and children. Having been using it now for several months, I can say that it really does work if you spray your plants on a regular basis. It costs 5.97 at Lowes and Home Depot. I also use the same company's other products, their Garden Fungicide and Weed and Grass Killer. Same as their insect spray, they both contain natural plant oils and are very effective at controlling fungi and killing weeds. Of course, I still argue that the best way to keep pests at bay is to keep your plants healthy and vigorous through use of compost and manure amendments, mulching, and companion planting to attract beneficial insects like ladybugs.
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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Return of a classic American tree

American chestnut's revival is taking root in Louisville | The Courier-Journal | courier-journal.com

Great article on the efforts being made to develop an American chestnut tree that is resistant to the blight that nearly wiped out the entire Am. chestnut population in the early 1900's.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Maintenance work

Finally taking a break from bringing home plants to add to the garden, and getting started with the maintenance part. Weedy grass is slowly encroaching into the beds, so I will need to rent an edger and put some space between the grass and the garden. The garden also needs a good layer of fresh mulch. Last year I tried something different and put down cypress mulch, which I quickly realized just didn’t pack the same punch as natural dark brown hardwood. And then there are the paths that wind and twist between the different beds of shrubs and perennials. I can’t seem to make up my mind as to whether I want to go with small rocks/pebbles/gravel, or large stepping stones with Stepables™ planted between them, like creeping thyme or sedum.

This week I also started working on getting the garden beds edged, and pulling out grass that had started encroaching on the shrubs and perennials. Not the most fun or glamorous part of gardening, but it gives things a nice defined, clean look when the mulch is put down. Hope to have some more pics up soon!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Going native

Lately I’ve been on a “native plants” kick. My interest in sustainable agriculture and supporting local ecosystems and wildlife has led me down a number of fascinating paths, not the least of which has been gardening with native flowers, shrubs, and trees. Unfortunately, when most people think of “native” plants, they conjure up images of messy wildflower meadows and fields. However, all it really entails is using flowers that are native to your region and support the local wildlife (bees, birds, butterflies, etc.) Many of these native plants are drought tolerant, cold hardy, and bloom reliably throughout the spring, summer, and into the fall, and they can blend well with your existing plants.

Here are a number of excellent websites dealing with gardening with native plants:

NATIVE PLANTS AND WILDLIFE GARDENS

LADYBIRD JOHNSON WILDFLOWER CENTER

RESTORING THE LANDSCAPE

ECOSYSTEM GARDENING

USDA PLANTS DATABASE

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Photographic garden tour

Finally have some pictures from around the garden. After a slow start, the lettuce and spinach are coming along nicely, as are the tomatoes and peppers I planted a few days ago. This year I’m trying ‘Supersonic’, ‘Better Boy’, ‘Better Bush’, and ‘Solar Flare’ tomatoes. I’m going to have to put some kind of fencing around the raised beds, because last year I didn’t get a single tomato. Squirrels ran off with every last one!

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I’m also growing a lot of herbs this year: Thyme, Lemon Balm, Mint, Pineapple sage, Catmint, Rosemary, and Basil. As you can see, I’ve amassed quite a collection here on the side porch. So far I’ve made some great teas from the thyme, lemon balm, and catmint…very refreshing after a long day of digging in the dirt.

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Edibles aren’t the only things going on. Our old Rhododendron is blooming beautifully, with the best color I’ve seen on any Rhodo. Also brought home a Honeysuckle from a plant sale at the school where I went for horticulture:

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