Tuesday, February 26, 2008

FORGOTTEN ANNIVERSARY

While shopping at Sam's this week I ran across one of the orchids that I had purchased a month ago for my friend that turned 90 years old. The plant was not in bloom anymore, so the price was reduced from $30.00, to $6.00. I quickly grabbed one up, and only one because my husband was along. if he had not been with me, I am not sure how many of them would have come home with me. The only problem was that I really wanted a yellow one, and could not tell what color this one will be. I guess it will be a surprise!
Well, as I stated in the previous post, I have been very busy. Therefore, I let my blog anniversary slip by. February 20 2007. I had jotted the date down on my notepad about a month ago, but I missed it!
So, happy late anniversary to me!
How did I get started blogging you ask? Well, it is kind of a funny story. I ran across Librarything while playing on the Internet, and thought that this had to be the neatest site I had ever found. I immediately decided to add my books. I had no idea how many books I owned, and how much of a job it would be to catalog them. After entering several hundred books I began to notice that there were several people that had a lot of the same books that I had. One of these people was from Indianapolis, Carol at May Dreams Gardens. I sent a note to her on Librarything, and she wrote back. She commented that when I got my blog going, to let her know. Blog???? I had never had any experience with a blog, what exactly was it? Wasn't it just a bunch of people that didn't have anything better to do than sit around and write about there daily lives, stuff nobody really cared about?
So, I went to Carol's blog, and from there to other gardening blogs. I was hooked. These people actually wrote about gardening!! This is great, other people that loved gardening as much as I did!! I have never been very good at journaling about my garden, what an opportunity this would be to keep track of my garden in a blog. Of course my Husband and Son made fun of me, and my Son's girlfriend even giggled one night when she was over, laughingly wondering how many people read it, 10 maybe 20? When I told her that over a period of a year, there had been over 4000 people read it, she stopped laughing. I said that she just didn't understand gardeners. We don't write about the date we went on last night, or the new makeup we were trying. we write about important things like which tomato variety was the best, and where was the best place to buy seeds. She looked at me like I was crazy, and walked off.
So, I continue to blog, whether anybody reads it or not. I can now enjoy going back and following where I was at this time last year. I would never have taken time to record these events in a notebook, it's just not as much fun. And I am so happy to have met all of the people that "garden" on their computer too. I have learned from your posts and hope that you have learned from mine. After all, that is what we are here for, to help each other out in the pursuit of the "perfect" garden.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

BUSY, BUSY, BUSY

I love this picture! Someone sent it to me in an email. If this snowman was in my yard, the rabbits would have crawled up the front of him and taken the carrot, not the deer.
Wow! I haven't been on for awhile. I can explain. I take on way to many projects in the winter, and then as Spring comes around, I panic in my effort to get them all done. The library project at my church is coming along, I have the room painted, ordered the furniture, and the carpet goes in next week. I also have about 100 of my books that I am donating to the library, entered into Librarything, after deleting them from my library.
We have three apartments on our property. People thought that we were crazy when we bought the place, but how often do you get the chance to have someone else make your house payment. The problem is that I have one apartment ready to rent, and one that just came open. I have not cleaned it yet, and of course when someone called about renting, they wanted the one that hadn't been cleaned yet. He needs it by the weekend, so I have been getting it ready this week. That is the part that I hate, but those monthly rent checks are sure nice.
I also spent last weekend taking my 10th grade Confirmation class to a retreat in Noblesville. It was a wonderful experience, but sleeping on a gym floor two nights in a row, and getting about 3 hours sleep each night, just about did me in. But it was worth it. There is nothing quit like watching teenagers "discover" Jesus.
We are also starting to gear up for the Spring season in our business. That means sending out letters to last years clients. That takes loads of time, and I dread it every year.
So, needless to say I have not had much time to think about gardening, or blogging. I am hoping that on Saturday I can get out into the greenhouse and get some planting done. Every year I get busy and don't get my tomatoes planted early. I intend to change that this year.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

WHERE IN THE GARDEN WORLD ARE YOU?

Well, everyone seems to be doing it, so I will add gardening in Lafayette, Indiana to the list. Lafayette is about 1 hour North of Indianapolis, and about 2 hours South of Chicago.
It is a University town, so we have a pretty stable economy, year-round, but when the students come back in the Fall, it really jumps. You might think that living in a town with a well-known University like Purdue would be great. It is most of the time. Like I said, Purdue employs lots of people, and with the student here most of the year, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. But there are disadvantages.
Like, try getting around on a football weekend. Or try finding a restaurant to eat at on Parents weekend. Small things, but it can get annoying.
You would think that because Purdue has a great Horticulture program, the employee selection for us in the landscape business would be great. But, for whatever reason, we do not get many students apply for work with us.
We are in zone 5, but I can sometimes get zone 6 plants to survive here. We have a great downtown, with lots of events through the summer held there. We are close to historic Battleground, and Prophetstown State Park, a fairly new park focusing on a 1920's working farm, a Native American settlement, and a 122 acre prairie.
I was born in Lafayette, but did not live here until I had graduated high school. Until I was 6 years old I lived in a small town about 40 minutes from Lafayette, then moved about 60 miles North to Highland, Indiana, were I grew up. When I graduated I knew that I could not stay in "the region" any longer, so my Brother, who lived in Brookston at the time, (a small town about 20 miles from Lafayette) talked me into moving back here. He was sure that I could get a job in one of the nursery's in town. Sure enough, the first one that I walked into hired me. So, as they say, "I loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly!".
I have never regretted it. I love the weather, our four distinct seasons. I always say that in Indiana when you are just about getting tired of one season, another one comes along. I also don't think that I would survive gardening year round. I love winter for the chance to catch up with things ignored during the Spring and Summer months. And the wonderful anticipation for Spring. I have a good life here, with much of my family close by. It still has a little of that small town feel, and within an hour you can be in Indy if you really need to do some major shopping.
It would be the perfect place to live, if we could just get a Trader Joe's or Wild Oat's, and a Half-Price bookstore.
Thanks to Jodi at Bloomingwriter for suggesting this "sharing" of our garden world, with other garden bloggers. It's been fun to read them all!

(photo's from the Battleground and Lafayette town websites)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

THREE THINGS (PART 3)

The last thing that I think that you need for a successful and easy to care for garden, is in my opinion, the hardest. The goal in your beds is to have no openings were you can actually see the soil or the mulch. The plants should grow together, just until they meet, and maybe mingle a little bit with each other. This is very difficult for me, because I have always read that you need to keep plenty of space between plants for good air movement. They need this to keep from getting mildew, and other diseases that plants get from being to close together.
When you plant your garden, you should usually know a little something about what you are planting. How big it gets, how much sun, type of soil, etc. Plants rarely follow the rules. If they like were they are planted, they may get twice the size that the tag says that they will get. So even if you follow the rules, and leave plenty of space between plants, they usually grow where they want to grow.
If you put the plants to close together to begin with, you can really have a problem in a few years. The old adage, "the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap" is very true.
The other problem is that all of the garden magazines and books show these beautiful gardens. They set us up to think that that is the way our gardens should look. The pictures are usually taken on the one day of the year when the garden is perfect. Every plant is blooming, and disease-free. In the real world, this does not happen. How many times is one area of a bed in your garden gorgeous, and right beside it some plant has either decided to die, or the rabbits have chewed it to the ground, screwing up the whole effect? It is rare when all of the plants in our garden cooperate with each other, and all look great at the same time. To me the hardest part of gardening is to get something blooming, in the right color combination, at the right times. My husband says that I move plants around more than I move furniture in the house. I have been known to move a plant a couple of days after I planted it "for good" in a spot. I always apologize, and tell them that this time it is really "for good", but they know better. They know that next week I might decide that they would look much better in that bed on the other side of the lawn.
Sorry, I kind of got off on a tangent there, my original point was getting the plants to fill the space, without growing close enough together to cause disease problems.
If you accomplish this in your garden, and you have mulch down to keep the weeds from sprouting and hold in the moisture, and you have a good edge to keep the grass and weeds from creeping in from outside, your well on your way to a semi-maintenance free garden. You can spend your time in the garden doing things like dead heading, fertilizing, watering, and pulling the stray weed that always shows up no matter what you do.
So, if you have accomplished this, please give me a call, because I haven't, and I sure could use your help.

(The pictures that I used in this post ARE NOT from my garden. They are from books, were all the "perfect' gardens are)

Monday, February 11, 2008

THREE THINGS (PART 2)

The second thing that I believe is imperative to a successful and easy to maintain landscape, is to mulch the beds. Mulch will keep most weeds from sprouting, hold the moisture in the ground, and keep the beds looking nice. Mulch's will also add valuable nutrients to the soil as they decompose. I most often use hardwood mulch for my landscaped beds, leaves in my perennial beds, and straw and grass clippings in my garden and fruit bed. I have the advantage of always having shredded leaves on hand, because we collect them from clients lawns in the Fall, and I usually keep a few truckloads for myself. These leaves have gone through several shredders, so they are cut into very small pieces. I also keep mostly the "dry" leaves like oak. Maple leaves tend to stay wet and mat together, so they aren't as desirable to use as a mulch. I can apply these leaves in the Spring and they last through the next Spring. I also have lots of grass clippings at my disposal, so I usually lay newspaper in the paths of my garden, cover them with grass clippings, and then add a light layer of straw. This also lasts the whole season. I add the straw on top of the grass clippings mainly because it dries out better, and looks nicer.
The bark mulch that I use is always hardwood. I never use colored mulch's for one reason. When you look at a landscape that has colored mulch around the shrubs and perennials, what do you notice first? That's right, the mulch. I believe that when you look at a landscape, the first thing that you notice should be the plants. There should never be anything used in a garden that will take your eye away from the plants. I also don't like the idea that colored mulch's tend to float and move around in the rain.
Hardwood mulch matches the soil color closest, and decomposes nicely. The orange mulch is cypress, which does not decompose quickly, so people tend to just keep piling it on year after year. I have often tried to dig a hole in a landscape with this kind of mulch, and don't hit soil until I am 6 inches down.
The colored mulches, red, black, and even aqua, are usually ground up pallets that have been dyed. I have often wondered if whatever chemicals were stored on these pallets leaches out into our soils after they have been ground up and made into mulch.
Then there is the free mulch that you can usually get from the city. It is usually made from live trees, so as it breaks down it robs your soil of nutrients. This mulch could be made from anything, walnut trees, trees covered in poison ivy, etc. The only place I use this mulch is on paths in woodland settings.
I also occasionally use rock mulch. It is not my favorite thing, but sometimes it is the best choice, in an area of high traffic or for people who don't want to mess with a landscape once it is done. One thing that you should never do with a rock mulch used around plants is to put weed fabric under the rock. What happens when you use this fabric, is the plants roots grow partially on top of the fabric, and partially underneath the fabric. it is a nightmare if you ever want to change it. There is nothing harder when installing a new landscape, than removing fabric that is all entangled with roots from the plant material. It also can not be healthy for the plants. The only time that I use fabric under rock is if I am installing a rock strip along the side of a building.
If you do use a rock mulch in your landscape, make sure that you "plant" a few coffee cans in the beds. You can then put the lid on the can and cover it with rock. Then, in the Spring, pull the rock away, take the lid off the can, fill it with soil, and plant your annual flowers. In the Fall, remove the plant, put the lid back on, and cover with the rock.
Plastic mulch's are sometimes used under rock, but I don't recommend it under mulch. The plants will do the same thing that they do with the fabric, and if you don't poke holes in the plastic, they won't get any water either. Fabric used under bark mulch is also a bad idea. As the mulch decomposes and turns to soil, you get weeds sprouting and trying to grow down, while the plant roots are attaching to the fabric. You don't want to know how hard it is to pull up fabric with 2 inches of soil on the top, and the shrubs roots growing on top and underneath the fabric.
So mulch's are the second "must" for a successful landscape. Tomorrow, the third and last thing that you need to know to keep your landscape easy to maintain.

THREE THINGS

After gardening for 30 years, and working in the landscape business for almost the same amount of time, I have found that there are three things that are necessary for a successful and low maintenance landscape.
The first thing is a good edge to your beds. If you do not have a clear edge, the weeds and grass waste no time taking over. The perennial grasses are the worst. They send runners just below the surface of the soil, and come up, in and around your plant material. Once this happens, it is almost impossible to get rid of the grass without removing everything and starting over.
I most often use the plastic edging shown in this photo. Many people complain that this edging works it's way out of the ground, but if it is installed properly, this edging will stay in place for many years, and can even be dug up, and moved out as your plants grow. The key is to install it straight, not slanted, and always keep grass on one side, and soil on the other. Sometimes the soil will wash out on either side of the edging, especially if a plant is hanging over the edging and shading the soil. You also need to drive steel spikes through the edging back into the soil. These spikes are usually supplied with the edging when you buy it. There are different grades of this plastic edging. Hint: If it is rolled up in a box, it is probably not of the best quality. The best edging of this kind is usually sold in 20 foot strips, at about $1.00 per foot, and you will only find it sold this way at garden centers.
If the edging is cut, it can also fill with water and freeze in the winter, which will also cause it to work it's way out of the ground. Sometimes I add a row of bricks on the outside edge to add a little bit of interest to the bed. This also gives you a place to run your mower wheel. I have this edging installed on my property, and in some places it has been there for 10-12 years, and still in good condition.
I also use boulders, or other types of rock as an edge. I have found if these types of edging are used, you must keep a few inches of bare ground along the edge facing the lawn, in order to keep the weeds and grass from creeping around and underneath.
Sometimes you can get these types of edging materials from people tearing out landscapes, or farmers that are happy to have some crazy city person, load their trunk with the rocks that they have piled at the edges of their fields. Always ask permission first though, because sometime the farmers wives have the same idea.

You can also use timbers as an edge to your bed. The problem with these is sometime they are not deep enough to keep grasses from creeping underneath. They also don't last as long as the plastic or rock. They tend to rot after 8-10 years. They are also often treated, so you wouldn't want to use them around edible plants. If you do decide to use them, it will help keep them in place if you drill holes about every 5 feet, and pound a 2-3 foot piece of rebar through the timber and into the ground. This will keep it is place, especially over the winter. I used timbers around my fruit garden which allowed me to put my fence up, leaving about 4 inches extra along the bottom. I then lay this extra fence flat, and lay bricks on top of it. This has kept my fruit garden free from rabbit damage. They are not able to get under the fence because the brick is anchoring the extra fencing to the ground. You can't see the bricks in the picture, because of the leaf mulch, but they line the entire inside of the fence line. Because of the timber on one side and the brick on the other, the rabbits can't get in.













Another kind of edging that I have tried this year, and have been extremely happy with, is a composite plastic timber. These are made from recycled tires, and come in landscape timber, 4x4, and 6x6 sizes. They are fairly expensive, but because they will last forever, I think that they are a good investment. I have used the 6x6 as an edge in an area, where constant traffic with tractors and trucks would not allow use of any other kind of edging. So far, they have held up very well. They are an attractive brown/black color, but be warned, they are very heavy, and very hard to cut. I have commented to my husband that if we move from this property, these timbers are going with us.
I only have two beds on my property with no edging. These are both along a white pine border, and the edging would have to be moved to often to justify having it. So every other year, I cut these edges by hand. I don't have much trouble in these beds with weeds and grass, because of the dense shade, and pine needle cover.
So, a good edge, in my opinion, is the most important thing to having a successful and low maintenance landscape. I know when I come out to work in my garden, I am not going to have to spend any time on edges. That means a lot, when you have a limited amount of time each week in your garden.
Tomorrow I will post on the second element to having a successful and low maintenance landscape.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF GARDENING

Sorry I have not posted lately, I am in the middle of winter projects. I have been given the go-ahead on a library for my church. So I have spent a couple of days painting the room, and getting ready for new carpet. I have picked out the book cases, and as soon as the carpet is in, they will be installed, and then the books can be added. The majority of the books will come from my personal library, and the rest will be donated. We will eventually purchase books as memorials, and add books that parishioners request. This library has been in the back of my mind for years, so I have not gotten rid of any books, in anticipation of moving them to the church. I am definitely running out of shelf space at my house, so it will be good to transfer the books I have saved, to the church. There is another library sale at the end of the month, and I will now have shelf space!
I intend to have the library on Library.com, so I have been removing the books from my library, and adding them to the church library. This takes a lot of time, so I have not been able to 'blog' much. I did think that I would pop on and add something that I ran across in my travels. I hope you enjoy it!

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF GARDENING

1.) Thou shalt not covet the neighbors roses.
2.) Thou shalt honor thy mum and thy poppy.
3.) Thou shalt not plant it if thou cannot spell it.
4.) Thou shalt not feel silly talking to plants.
5.) Thou shalt nurture thy bleeding heart and thy weeping willow.
6.) Thou shalt dig in thy dirt, not dish thy dirt.
7.) Thou shalt bloom where thou be planted.
8.) Thy plants shall be expelled from thy Garden of Weeden.
9.) Thou shalt forget-me-not with friendship everlasting.
10.) Thou shalt rest on the seventh daisy.