Category Archives: Landscape

Skywatch Friday – 1/27/17 – Joe O, VA, USA

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Early morning sunrise behind the replica log cabin of my neighbor.

For Skywatch Friday.

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Daily Prompt: Construct 12-2-16

via Daily Prompt: Construct I try to find a way to respond frequently to the Daily Prompt one word prompts. Sometimes it is easy, but in other instances it takes some time to decipher a good answer.

Early this spring we decided we needed to approach our gardening differently. For years I have worked up a large patch of soli so we could plant various vegetables such as potatoes, onions, beans, corn, tomatoes and melons. We have enjoyed various amounts of success many times base don the weather or the rodents that choose our garden as their salad bar.

But this year we made the choice to relocate our tomato growing efforts to a raised bed. My wife was the architect of this idea, I just had the task of making it happen. You need to understand how much we love tomatoes to get a sense of how important this new bed would be. Tomatoes are something I look forward to from the time the last is picked in the fall until the first new one is picked to enjoy the next summer.

As I began to think about how to do it I knew I wanted it to be big enough. I had to CONSTRUCT something large enough to provide the tomatoes we would use for soups, spaghetti sauce and to put on sandwiches all summer long. I benefitted from a generous friend who allowed me to borrow a tool that basically extends your truck bed in a way that you can haul longer lumber.

I drove to my local big box hardware store where I bought 4-2x10x16 foot long boards. When cut to twelve foot I had a 12 foot long by four foot wide by 20 inch deep raised bed in which to plant my tomatoes.

Once I got enough composted soil to fill up this large bed I was ready to plan the tomatoes I had been protecting from the elements in my greenhouse for a few weeks while they had a chance to grow larger than they were in the small packs when I bought them.

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The raised bed was a huge success as we collected more tomatoes this year than in quite a while. We even collected tomatoes into October, which has never happened before.

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This is my response to the Construct Daily Post topic. What’s yours?

End of Month View – May 2016

This is part of a monthly opportunity to take photos reflecting the progress of your gardening adventures over the past thirty or thirty-one days depending on the length of the month. Depending on your climate this may be quite a bit of growth or none at all. For me it is at the cusp of summer and a lot of growth is happening. So sit back, relax and let me show you what we are enjoying these days. Oh and this is hosted by Helen Johnstone at The Patient Gardener.

In my climate zone the middle of May is the time we can finally put our annuals outside without fear of frost damage. I had to hold off an extra few days this time around as May 10th is usually the bench mark, but we had frost early on the morning of the 13th, meaning it was the 17th before I finally felt free to move things outdoors.

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Above you see another window box outside the window of my wife’s hair salon on an eastern facing window where the Gerbers will not have to endure full sun conditions. There is also some trailing Verbena to help fill out the box.

 

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Here is two large clumps of Wild Geranium and a smaller one of a different variety on the back side of the pansies that line the retaining wall outside the hair salon. Although you cannot see it, their are seed pods developing now.

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This is a new type of Dianthus (perennial variety) we added this year. It is just beginning to bloom.

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Our Dahlias are slow to emerge, but are beginning to show themselves. We love to cut these and make fresh arrangements throughout the late summer blooming period.

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This is our first time trying a raised bed for anything. After having such terrible fortune with tomatoes succumbing to blight we wanted to give this a shot.

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The sporadic moisture throughout April and May have caused everything to grow sluggishly. We finally replanted beans after waiting as long as we felt we could for the first seeds to sprout.

The bed on the left was re-mulched and has many blooms that will come either late in June or early in July. The bed on the right has mainly hostas, with a new butterfly bush in the rear that may take a while to be seen.

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If you zoom in on this picture you will notice the freshly planted Gerber Daisies. Usually when the heat comes the pansies die back, but we worked really hard to get this new variety of Wave Pansies established and they continue to thrive.

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This is another place we worked really hard to get the Wave Pansies established, planting them last fall. Usually by now we have Geraniums in place, but the pansies still are hanging tough.

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This is a long term project, a flower bed on a steep bank I don’t want to have to struggle to keep mowed. Right now it has Wild Geraniums, Japanese Iris, Gazanias, Cosmos and a few Wave Pansies. I hope by the next EOMV it will show much more color.

Tell me what you think fellow EOMV contributors!

 

My Love Affair With Clematis

 

 

Over time I have had the joy of planting and enjoying at least a half-dozen varieties of Clematis. The range of colors is dazzling, from white to dark purple to a combination of different colors. Clematis is a perennial, which means you can get many years of enjoyment from this plant.

Clematis is a full sun type of plant, something many of us seek when we go ot the garden center or greenhouse to find a new plant. To be sure many folks enjoy some shade in their yard but at my house our three and a quarter acres benefit from the shade of only three maple trees. One tree per acre just doesn’t shade nearly enough.

But do not fear, you can still grow these in spaces where they do not benefit from full sun. The one above only gets direct sun until noon or so and does very well along with another that is planted about eight feet away. Both of these benefit from a deck railing onto which they attach and climb.

Of all the Clematis I have grown the one to do so well is a variety called Montana Reubens. On the product tag it said it could grown to be 30-40 feet tall. With this in mind I planted it near a telephone pole and then took some lightweight fencing and nailed it around the pole to allow the plant something to climb on. As you can see from the photo it did not reach the potential height, but rather due to its weight fell back down to the sides to make an even more spectacular display.

To say that I will mourn a plant when it dies seems an exaggeration, because all plants will at some point, but when this beauty failed to sprout two growing season ago I was saddened. Such a beautiful and seemingly vibrant and hardy plant showed no signs of distress. But alas after sitting dormant for most of a second growing season I knew it was time to replace the beauty with another. The replacement has the potential to be somewhat like its predecessor, but the Montana Reubens had been in place for almost a decade and will hold a special place in my flower memory for some time to come.

If you have Clematis photos to share let me know, I enjoy seeing all of them!

 

Can I Make My Own Mulch?

Yes you can!  This time of year is when the kooks come out. You know the ones I mean, the amateur or season gardeners that come out to take advantage of the Spring Black Friday sales at places like Home Depot and Lowes where they run the great deals on the bags of mulch. Something like 4 for $10 or maybe even 5 for $10.

So why do I call these fine bargain hunting folks kooks? It is not their frugal nature that my son despises. It is the customers that come in and want a pallet load of the bagged medium stuffed in their subcompact car. All the young men and women at Home Depot, Lowes and the rest would prefer you get your mulch loaded on the pallet into your truck or on your trailer.

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We are blessed to have a neighbor with a lawn care business who also does tree work. Five or so years ago he purchased an industrial size chipper and began chipping the brush created from trimming or removing trees.

If you have been here before you know my past includes a stint as a greenhouse owner and the experience of growing annuals and perennials for nearly three decades. This equates to having lots of flower beds. One of the bad things about lots of flower beds is that they are a great place for weeds to grow. Circling back to my neighbor and his chipper, the result of the chipping is a low cost alternative to the Home Depot bagged mulch scenario. My neighbor brings the chips and dumps them on my property as well, so there is no transport cost.

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As a deterrent to weeds and also to retain moisture for the plants we take the wood chips and use them as mulch. So there is your answer to the question. The chips are a low-cost alternative to mulch. If you aren’t blessed to have a neighbor who can provide your supply  you can contact one of the tree trimming services as they do the very same thing with their brush.

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This 23 HP Kubota tractor is one of the most versatile tools for our 3+ acre property.

The purchase of a Kubota subcompact tractor four years ago with a front bucket makes the entire process much easier on the back. Within a very few minutes I can move significant quantities of this great mulch source to where I need it. I used to either go to a business that made their own mulch or buy the bags. Then it was a matter of shoveling it out of the truck or hefting the heavy bags.

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Interestingly the day I drafted this post I was driving and got behind this car with the tell-all bumper sticker.

So I should be through with this post, right? Well, I am if you are not interested in the rest of the story as the great Paul Harvey used to say. There is a side benefit to mulch and the natural process of it breaking down, which is making your own compost. If you came for a highly scientific explanation I am sorry to disappoint you, but my method is more of a case of letting science and nature take its course. I learned early in my gardening experience that organic matter will break down over time. Green will turn to brown as the nitrogen escapes and brown to black with time. Such is the nature of mulch.

How do I make the compost? Well, as I stated before you really can’t, but nature can and will even if you would prefer it did not. You see the decomposition is aided by the elements of nature, sun, wind, rain, snow and human traffic across the mulch in the beds.

We are in the midst of redoing some of our beds where a few years of mulch application has developed into a rich mix of natural almost potting soil. It is like consistency of dirt atop our heavy duty, professional grade landscape fabric left over from my greenhouse business days.

One of the new pivots we have chosen to make this year is to move our tomatoes and perhaps another vegetable or two out of the garden into raised beds. My plan is to repurpose the rich soil we are shoveling out of our beds to fill the raised bed containers. We will need a significant amount of something to fill the raised beds. My thought is to put mulch in the bottom of the raised bed to take care of some of the bulk needed, since it will eventually break down anyway and then put the richer mix on the top where the plants will draw the nutrients.

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This is not something I have done before, so I cannot declare 100% that it will work, but the science seems sound. However, I can provide an anecdotal piece of evidence however. Last summer I took some seeds from a blackberry lily that were still left from the previous growing season and buried them in a portion of this decomposed mulch. They germinated within a reasonable short period of time..

Frugalness should not be a virtue people turn into derision. We are supposed to become smarter and wiser as we age, and I claim that as what this is. I invite you to come back as I chronicle the success or failure of this idea.