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Monday, March 31, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Book Club March Virtual Meeting

Welcome once again to the virtual meeting of the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club! Settle in to your easy chair with your favorite beverage and snacks close by and join me in reading the reviews and blog posts for the the February – March selection, Second Nature: A Gardeners’ Education by Michael Pollan.

I will readily admit, as the “hostess” of this book club, that I had not read any of Pollan’s books before and so thought a good place to start reading them was with this book, since it was his first book.

I’ll also admit that I got a bit lost and disinterested in the story of Pollan becoming a gardener and didn’t find may way to the end of the book, where the good stuff appears to be. In hindsight, I might have enjoyed one of his later books more and perhaps should have read one of those first, which I offered as an option for anyone participating in this month’s virtual post. Indeed, I’ll likely read one of those later books this summer.

But we have several bloggers who did read or re-read Second Nature and offered a wide range of reviews.

Here are the book reviews I found or was made aware of:

Andrea at Heavy Petal

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

Old Roses at A Gardening Year

Annie at The Transplantable Rose

Bill at Prairie Point

KJohnson at Musings of A Garden Historian

Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening

Mr. McGregor’s Daughter at Mr. McGregor’s Daughter

Dee at Red Dirt Ramblings

Kate at Kate Smudges in earth, paint, and life

Beckie at Dragonflycorner

Pat at Commonweeder

If you are interesting in reading more about Michael Pollan, you might start with his website and then move on to his NYT blog.

Thank you to all who participated in the book club for February – March. If you posted late and would like to be added to the list, just let me know via a comment or email.


April – May Selection Announcement

I have learned more about horticulture, plants, and garden history and literature from Elizabeth Lawrence than from any other person.”—Katharine S. White in Onward and Upward in the Garden

Many of us read the letters exchanged between Elizabeth Lawrence and Katharine S. White in Two Gardeners: A Friendship in Letters, edited by Emily Herring Wilson, the book selection for February 2007. However, we have not actually read the writings of Elizabeth Lawrence, at least as a Garden Bloggers’ Book Club selection.

Let’s fix that situation by reading Beautiful at All Seasons: Southern Gardening and Beyond with Elizabeth Lawrence, edited by Ann L. Armstrong and Lindie Wilson. Don’t let “southern” in the title bother you if you are not gardening in the south, there is a lot to learn from Lawrence regardless of where you garden. In fact, Katharine S. White gardened primarily in Maine.

Or you may choose as an alternate book any book written by Lawrence or other compilations of her articles and columns including A Garden of One’s Own: Writings of Elizabeth Lawrence, edited by Barbara Scott and Bobby J. Ward and Through the Garden Gate, edited by Bill Neal.

We’ll wrap up the April – May book club with a post on May 31st linking all the reviews.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Container Planting at May Dreams Gardens

The “container season” starts early in my garden with violas and pansies. As soon as I can find some for sale anywhere in the spring, I buy a flat or two or three and plant them in some low containers to put on my front porch and in a front window box.

This year I planted the violas and pansies on March 21st.

The container season continues in the late spring when I plant containers of summer annuals to put on my front porch, back patio, and on my sister’s patio.

Then in the fall, I add some mums and gradually clear out the containers that have plantings that look tired and worn out from the summer, until I end up with all the containers stowed away for the winter, waiting until spring arrives again.

I generally plant the same plants each year, very predictably.

Boring!! Stop me!!! I need help!

That’s why I am looking forward to reading all the posts for this month’s topic for the Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop, container plantings, sponsored by Gardening Gone Wild. My containers could use a little (a big) “punch up” this year and so could my sister’s, which I am also responsible for planting.

I have a good handle on the “how to” of containers…

Good drainage. It is difficult if not impossible for plants thrive in containers without good drainage, unless, of course, it is a containerized water garden. I won't buy a container that doesn't have holes for drainage or isn't made of a material that I can punch holes in myself.

Good soil. I mix my own potting soil for containers because I use a lot of dirt and it saves money. However, I am now looking for a good substitute for peat moss and will be experimenting with "the recipe" this year.

Good watering. I water my containers at least once a day in the summer-time. The soil can dry out quickly!

Good containers. Like Pam/digging wrote, “go big”. Larger containers make a greater impact and actually can go more than a day at times without extra water. Like many gardeners, when I have large containers, I put some old plastic pots or other loose filler in the bottom so I can use less soil. I also like the light weight “faux” stone pots.

Good plants. To maximize the impact of containers, just like elsewhere in the garden, use good, healthy plants. And remember to use plants that have the same light and water requirements when you plant them together in containers.

Good food. You should provide some light fertilizer for your container plants to get better results. I generally use a liquid fertilizer every few weeks or when I remember. This doesn’t have to be a synthetic fertilizer that comes as a powder that turns the water blue. There are organic liquid fertilizers readily available.

Good combinations. This is where I could use some help. I have a few tried and true combinations that I over-use. I’m tired of them and ready for something new.

The nice thing about container plantings is if you see one you like, it is pretty easy to duplicate it in your own garden. So I’ll be reading all the posts for this month’s Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop looking for new ideas for plant combinations in containers.

Or, if you want to directly help me out, just let me know about your favorite container plant combination and if I use it, I'll dedicate one of my containers to you in a future post!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Privilege of Visiting a Gardener's Garden

Do you know what the best thing is about visiting another gardener’s garden?

The possibility of getting some free cuttings or seeds? No! And don’t even ask. It’s against the unwritten rules of garden visiting to ask for cuttings, divisions, plants or seeds.

What? You don’t know the rules for passalong plants? Let me go over those quickly because if you don’t follow the rules, the passalong plant may not grow in your garden.

First, never, ever, ask the gardener for seeds or cuttings or plants when you visit their garden. If so inclined, the gardener may offer you something, but they are under no obligation to do so.

Second, never, ever, thank the giver for the plant. You can say something like “that will be a nice edition to my grass collection”, or “I’ll put this cactus under a window to make it burglar safe”. Or you could say “I’ll return the favor when you visit my garden.”

Just don’t say “thank you”. Saying “thank you” keeps the plant from thriving.

So what is the best thing about visiting another gardener’s garden?

It’s meeting the gardener who tends that garden!

When you meet the gardener in their own garden, you learn so much more about the garden than if you just walked around and viewed the garden on your own. It’s a chance for the gardener to tell you about not only the plants, soil, accents, etc., but also the stories of the garden.

They can tell you about how the garden was created, what they want it to be, how it looked yesterday and how it will look tomorrow. They can tell you about what they love in their garden, their favorite spot in the morning and their favorite spot in the evening.

There are just a few things to keep in mind when you visit another gardener’s garden.

Let the gardener lead you through the garden. Don’t rush ahead. Stroll beside or behind the gardener at a leisurely pace. Stay on the paths or in the lawn.

If you are a plant toucher (I am), hold your hands together to keep from instinctively reaching out and touching a plant, like you do in your own garden.

It should go without saying, no snipping a little cutting, taking a seed, tasting a vegetable or picking a flower without the permission of the gardener. In fact, these gifts of the garden should come from the gardener’s own hand and not by your efforts. (see above).

Don’t point out weeds or reach down to pull a weed. Are you sure it’s a weed? It’s not your garden, so leave it alone.

Don’t suggest what you would do differently, unless asked for your opinion or if the gardener invited you to visit to offer suggestions. Avoid asking the “why” questions like “why did you plant that”?

Ask before you take pictures or post about the garden on your blog.

Compliment honestly and freely and effusively. There is always something good to find in any gardener’s garden.

Finally, always remember that it is a privilege to visit another gardener’s garden.

A gardener's garden is often a highly personal space, even a private space, and always a special place. The gardener is letting you into their world, letting their guard down. Their garden is their creation. They are like a painter who, after hours spent behind an easel with their painting hidden from the eyes of others, finally turns the canvas around so others can see it.

(Oh, and one other thing to remember when visiting another gardener's garden. If you believe in garden fairies, never try to coax another gardener's garden fairies to leave with you to live in your own garden. Garden fairies turn quite mischievious under those circumstances and eventually go back to the garden they came from, anyway.)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Slow Spring - I Have Proof

Spring is slow to arrive this year, and I have proof.

In 2002, I had daffodils blooming here at May Dreams Gardens on March 14th.

In 2006, I wrote in my garden journal that many daffodils had buds on March 15th, I assumed they bloomed shortly afterwards.

In 2001, I wrote that the first daffodil bloomed on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th.

In 2004, the first daffodils were blooming on March 19th.

In 2007, I enjoyed not only the first daffodil blooming on March 21st, but also a high temperature of 76. We set a record four days later on March 25th with a high temperature of 81. That really got things going that spring, but later everything came to a crashing halt with a very cold April.

In 2005, some daffodils were blooming on March 22nd.

In 2003, I don’t know. I can’t find references in my garden journal about when the daffodils bloomed that year, but I did note on one day in March that the rabbits were eating the leaves of the Hellebores. Go figure.

Which brings us to 2008. Here it is March 28th, and no daffodils are yet blooming.

There are buds, but no blooms. I am hopeful that tomorrow’s predicted sunshine and warmer temperatures will coax these daffodils to bloom.

I will accept this slow spring if once it warms up, it stays warmed up. I do not want another spring like last year. That was an awful experience. As was the dry summer. And the time I got stung by a German yellow jacket. And the other time I got stung.

But I don’t talk about those 'less than positive experiences of gardening' especially with ‘those who don’t garden’. They wouldn’t understand, would they? They would not understand this compulsion to garden and what gardeners go through some years.

If you are reading this, you probably have this gardening compulsion, don't you? Do you hold back on talking about some of the 'less positive aspects' of gardening when you are talking about gardening with ‘those who don’t garden’?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tales from the Rabbit Wars

Gather round, all ye gardeners young and old, to hear some tales from Rabbit Wars of past years.

I don’t remember too many skirmishes at other places where I’ve gardened, but there have been plenty of battles with rabbits here at May Dreams Gardens.

There was the great rabbit escape of last summer. Oh, yes, that was the day I stood in the rain in my garden, holding that rabbit caught in the trap, singing my victory song. And then the rabbit shot out of that trap like a shot from a cannon! I’ll never forgive that rabbit for leaving me standing there looking like a fool, a wet fool, holding that empty trap.

There was also the time when I first built my raised bed vegetable garden and had the brilliant idea to put some kind of barrier around each raised bed to keep the rabbits out. I selected some plastic fencing that was clearly labeled for use in keeping rabbits out. Then I nailed two foot high stakes on each corner of each raised bed and stapled that plastic fencing all the way around each bed.

When I was finished, my garden looked absolutely ridiculous and that fencing made it very difficult to get into each bed to actually garden. But I put that all out of my mind. It would be worth it to keep the rabbits out.

Then one day I went out to the garden and noticed that something, a rabbit, had been eating all my green bean plants, leaving behind little nubby stems. How did those rabbits get in through my fencing?

They chewed little doors in the fencing, that’s how.

When I saw those “doors” and “windows” and other openings in that ridiculous fencing, I ripped it all down, sent a letter to the manufacturer, and got my money back.

The next year, I stretched some chicken wire fencing across the entrance to the garden. With that fence and the privacy fence around the other three sides of the garden, I thought for sure I had won the Rabbit Wars, finally. And for good measure and just to be sure, I cut strips of hardware cloth and stapled them along the bottom of the privacy fence and then pinned the strips to the ground with landscape staples. There was no way a rabbit was going to get to my green beans!

Then one day I came home and there was a rabbit in the garden eating the green beans. Furious, I climbed over the chicken wire fence and chased the rabbit around the garden. That rabbit was in such a panic that with one flying leap it jumped over my three foot tall fence.

So I took that fence down, too.

Rabbits 3, Carol 0

But I still did not wave the white flag of surrender and go down in defeat!

I came up with a new plan, a new attitude, a new campaign against the rabbits last year. And though I had some set backs in the continuing Rabbit Wars with my new methods I had some success, too, so I’ll be using this method again this year.

It doesn’t involve foul smelling concoctions. Though I appreciate all the suggestions for foul smelling concoctions that I should spray around the garden, I live in a subdivision, and think my neighbors are too close to use something that smells.

It doesn’t involve using stuff that grosses me out. I don’t plan to get fox urine, coyete urine, my urine or human hair to put around the garden. After all, this is my Vegetable Garden, where I grow food to eat.

It doesn’t involve “wishing the rabbits away.” I know from experience that wishful thinking doesn’t work either. I’ve tried that, believe you me, and it was the least effective method.

What seems to work for me is to cover young plants with row covers and sprinkle cayenne pepper around and on plants like tomatoes and peppers. So I’ll try that again this year.

And I am also hoping that now that I have adopted some rules of engagement and given the rabbits their rules to follow for all future Rabbit Wars, it will be different this year and we will be able to live in harmony.

Let there be peace at May Dreams Gardens!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Handy Garden Tools

They are two of the best tools in my gardening tool box. Engineering marvels, really.

I can grasp, grip, pull, pinch, hold, scoop, smooth, and pat with them, and I never lose them in the garden.

They are my hands.

And by a gardeners’s hands, you can know the gardener.

Which type of gardener are you?

1. The “point with the hand and tell someone else where to plant” gardener.

I think of Katharine S. White when I think of this kind of gardener. I believe she always had someone else do the actually gardening for her, though she herself had her own ideas on what to plant. There is a picture of her in the book, Two Gardeners: Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence -- Friendship in Letters, and part of the caption is “she did not ‘dress down’ to the garden”.

I would guess she didn’t get her hands terribly dirty either, but perhaps just used them to manipulate some scissors or small pruners to gather a few flowers to enjoy indoors.

2. The “I always wear gloves to protect my hands when I garden no matter what” gardener.

This type of gardener skips those tasks that can’t be done with gloves on, like seed sowing. She (or I suppose it could be he) just doesn’t do gardening work that is best done bare-handed. She (or he) may have spent as much on a manicure or maybe even faux nails in a given week as on plant material in the garden.

3. The “I started out with gloves, now where are they” gardener.

You know how sometimes you start out with gloves on, and then you have to take them off because you just can’t do what you need to do with gloves between your hands and the plant or seed or dirt or whatever? And then you move on and keep gardening and see something that you should wear gloves to do, like pull some thistle, and that’s when you realize your gloves are clear over by another flower bed and your hands are now dirty. That’s this type of gardener.

4. The “gloves are the exception, not the rule” gardener.

This type of gardener generally prefers to work barehanded and only wears gloves when absolutely necessary, like when thorns or poison ivy are involved. They accept that their hands are going to get dirty, and figure they can wash them up just as well as they can wash up a pair of gloves.

Regardless of our feelings regarding gardening gloves, we should all make sure to take care of our hands, because they really are our best gardening tools.

By your hands, what type of gardener are you?


Don't forget to enter the drawing to win a copy of Nightshade by Susan Wittig Albert, if you haven't done so already. But you’d better hurry! The drawing here at May Dreams Gardens closes at noon on March 27, 2008. Tomorrow someone is going to win a book, maybe it is you?!


By my hands, I am a Number 3 type gardener, with some tendencies to Number 4. That's my hand in the picture above, after I had planted all the violas and panises in containers last Friday, bare-handed, obviously.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Looking at Ground Level to Really See

You’ll never really know your garden if you just stand there leaning on a hoe, looking down at where the plants are.

To really know your garden, you’ve got to get down on your hands and knees and really look at it from the ground level.

The other day, while indulging my current obsession of taking pictures of crocus blooms, I was kneeling next to some crocuses and made several discoveries.

Look, it’s a snowdrop!

Years ago, I planted a dozen or so snowdrops in the grass around the lamp post, but thought maybe I had killed them off when I dug up that area for a new flower bed. I should have been more hopeful; snowdrops are tough little flowers. I’ll reward this one by planting some more snow drops around it next fall.

Look, it’s this flower that I can never remember the name of, hiding behind a beautiful clump of white crocus blooms!

It is more like the bud of the flower I can’t remember the name of. If I hadn’t been down on my knees examining the crocuses, I wouldn’t have spied these little buds and known to start watching for the blooms.

Because I have a blog, I was able to go to a post from last March to remember that these are Chionodoxa, Glory of the Snow. I knew it was “chio” something. I think I have a hard time remembering the name because I don’t know how to pronounce it. Chi-on-o-dox-a? Chi-no-dox-a? Or does it start with the “K” sound? I think I’ll stick with Glory of the Snow, I can remember that.

(By the way, the post of them last year was on March 21st, which confirms my suspicion that the garden is waking up a more slowly this year. Wake up, garden, it’s spring now!)

Look, it’s hyacinth planted in a straight line! It’s kind of embarrassing to show something like this. I didn’t even manage to get the line parallel to the edging. Really, if I am going to commit this kind of gardening faux pas by planting bulbs in straight lines instead of more pleasing-to-look-at groupings, I should have planted them more precisely.

My excuse is I was… really there is no excuse. But if you are going to plant bulbs in a soldierly fashion like that, hyacinths will look as good or bad as anything else.

Look, more crocuses!
The crocuses were why I was crawling around at ground level to begin with. I love the crocuses and I wanted to take more pictures of them. If anyone needs a picture of crocuses, feel free to use mine. I have a lot of them.

What are you finding down there at ground level in your garden?


Don't forget to enter the drawing to win a copy of Nightshade by Susan Wittig Albert, if you haven't done so already. But you’d better hurry! The drawing here at May Dreams Gardens closes at noon on March 27, 2008.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Notorious Nightshades: A Guest Post by Susan Wittig Albert

I am pleased to host Susan Wittig Albert on her first stop on a blog book tour. See information at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of her new book, Nightshade.

A big thanks, Carol, for hosting me here at May Dreams today!

This blog tour celebrates the launch of Nightshade, the sixteenth China Bayles mystery. In case you haven’t met her yet, China is a former criminal defense attorney who has opted for a quieter life as the owner of an herb shop in Pecan Springs, TX. Life in the garden isn’t nearly as peaceful as she expected, however, and China keeps turning up mysteries. In Nightshade, the mystery centers on China’s father, who died in an auto accident 16 years before—and on China’s recently discovered half-brother Miles, who seems to be hiding some shadowy secrets.

Since China is an herbalist, each of her mysteries has a plant theme, and I’ve included a wealth of botanical information into the plot. In China’s new mystery, I chose nightshade as the theme. Today’s post is the first of two posts about the plant family that lends Nightshade its name. You’ll find the second post listed, with the other posts in my blog tour, on this calendar.

The Notorious Nightshades, Part One

Have you ever heard of the nightshades? If you have, you might have a vague idea (or maybe not so vague!) that the plants in this family are notorious for something-or-other. And you’d be right. Over the centuries, the nightshade family (over two thousand species of annuals, perennials, vines, shrubs, and even small trees) has gotten a very bad rap.

But this is a pity, because the nightshades rank high on the list of plants that humans find extremely useful. Did you know that the potato is a nightshade? And what about tomatoes, chile peppers, and eggplants? And maybe you didn’t realize that petunias and nicotiana are both nightshades.

But like any large family, the nightshade clan includes some very bad actors. Tobacco, for instance, the cash crop that has made some people hugely rich and millions of people desperately sick. It’s this side of the Solanum family—the dark side—that has given these herbs such an evil reputation.

Nightshades on Your Table

Let’s start with the good nightshades, the tasty ones. Chances are, you’ll be enjoying at least one of them today: hash-brown potatoes for breakfast, tomatoes in your lunch salad, maybe Eggplant Parmesan or a bowl of chili for dinner.

In its native Peru, the potato (Solanum tuberosum) was a staple food and an important medicine for nearly 8,000 years, used to treat everything from arthritis and frostbite to infertility. But when the Spaniards brought the potato to Europe in the 1570s, nobody wanted to touch it. Why? Because a botanist assigned it to the Nightshade family, which made it seem poisonous. The virtues of the potato did not become obvious for another two centuries, when Europeans could finally accept it as a delicious, nutritious vegetable. It was Thomas Jefferson who introduced the potato to polite American society, when he served a platter of elegant, tasteful French fries at a presidential dinner at the White House.

For some serious potato fun, check out the Potato Museum. And if you don’t have enough potato recipes in your collection, go here.

The tomato, valued as both a food and medicine by American Indians, suffered a similar rejection when it arrived in Europe in the sixteenth century. The tomato was said to be unwholesome at best and poisonous at worst, although a few herbalists thought it might be good for the treatment of eye ailments and scabies. The Italians took to the tomato more readily than other peoples, and their sixteenth-century practice of drying the fruit in the sun has come back into favor today. Scientists now tell us that the tomato is not only nutritious, but helps to prevent certain cancers and strengthens the cardiovascular system.

You’ll find a brief history of the tomato here. And for the healing benefits of this popular nightshade, go here

The eggplant (Solanum melongena) is an Asian nightshade that was taken by the Moors to Spain and then to America. In Asia, it is both food and medicine, enjoyed as a vegetable and used as an expectorant, a diuretic, and as a treatment for throat and stomach ailments. In Europe, it was called the “mad apple” (and thought to make you insane) but began appearing as a vegetable in cookbooks in the nineteenth century. Americans called it eggplant because some 18th-century European cultivars bore yellow or white fruits the size of goose or hen's eggs. The Gourmet Sleuth tells you everything you need to know about this love-it-or-hate-it nightshade, and offers a cornucopia of recipes, to boot.

The chile pepper is Texas’ favorite nightshade. Most Texans couldn’t survive a single day without chowing down on at least one chile. But who can stop at just one? For the last word on chiles as both food and medicine, read this highly informative ChileZone page. Be sure and check out the heat ratings (expressed in Scoville Heat Units) of the various kinds of peppers. There’s some good information about the health benefits of chiles on this Whole Foods site. And if it’s recipes you’re after, try the Pepper Fool.

The tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa), is a lesser-known nightshade that we love, down here in Texas. Sometimes called a “husk tomato,” it is beginning to show up in supermarket produce bins. But it’s as easy to grow as tomatoes. And once you try it, you’ll find all kinds of uses for it.

Gourmet Sleuth gives you some history, lore, and facts about this nightshade, along with grow-your-own instructions and some tasty recipes.

And there’s more!

The nightshades are such fascinating plants that I couldn’t begin to tell you all about them in one post. So please join me on April 9, when I’ll blog about some of the ornamental nightshades, as well as the notorious “black sheep” of the nightshade family. I’ll be stopping in today, tomorrow, and Wednesday (March 24, 25, and 26) to answer your questions and reply to your comments. Oh, and thanks again to May Dreams for being such a wonderful host!

About the book drawing and Susan’s blog tour

If you’d like to enter the drawing for a copy of Nightshade go here to register. But you’d better hurry. The drawing for May Dreams closes at noon on March 27, 2008.

Want to read the other posts in Susan’s blog tour? You’ll find a calendar and links here.

If you have any questions for Susan on nightshades, or anything related to China Bayles, please leave a comment. Susan will be checking back over the next few days to review comments and answer questions.

Thanks, Susan, for visiting May Dreams Gardens today!

Update March 27th. Congrats to Dana F. from San Francisco on winning a copy of Nightshade!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Easter Time Break

Spring did not skip over my garden today! She arrived with sunny skies and seasonable temperatures and brought with her more crocus blooms.

The days of the first crocus, just a month or so past, are fast disappearing in the rear view mirror.

Anticipated events of spring are now more clearly in focus before us.

Everyday, there is a new bloom in the garden and a new task to be done.

Within a matter of days, I will be mowing the lawn again, picking daffodils to bring indoors, and marveling at how yellow a forsythia bloom really is.

I already have this bright yellow in the garden. My first lone little Iris danfordiae has plenty of company now.

And nearby is the color blue.I smile every day when I see these Iris reticulata 'Clairette' blooming in my front garden.

Now it's time to buy violas and pansies to put in some containers on my front porch. It's time to celebrate spring in the garden with a full-fledged GADS attack before I get down to some serious spring garden renovations.

And with the observance of the Easter Triduum from Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday, it's a good time to take a break from daily blogging. I'll return on Monday morning with a special guest post.

See the land, her Easter keeping,
Rises as her Maker rose.
Seeds, so long in darkness sleeping,
Burst at last from winter snows.
Earth with heaven above rejoices...

~Charles Kingsley

Have a Happy Spring and a Happy Easter!

Let's Invite The Rakes

I believe that each gardener should find their own way in gardening, using whatever tools work for them to create and tend their garden.

And I know that some gardeners rarely use or even own any hoes. I respect that and understand it.

But not owning a hoe shouldn't exclude those gardeners from being a part of the Garden Bloggers Hoe Down!

After reading about MSS's new rake at Zanthan Gardens, I'd like to extend the invitation to also post about your rakes for the Garden Bloggers Hoe Down on May 3rd.

After all, rakes are closely related to hoes, as you can see on this video.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rabbit Wars: What I Expect From The Rabbits

Now that I've outlined my rules of engagement for the rabbit wars here at May Dreams Gardens, it is time to review what I expect from the rabbits.

Would the garden fairies please pass these rules along to the rabbits?

Rule no. 1 - No eating from the vegetable garden!

Rule no. 2 - If you must eat from the vegetable garden, then only eat weeds. There is plenty of henbit now and later this summer, you can eat the purslane.

Rule no. 3 - If you bite off the stem of a flower, don't leave it laying around for me to find it. Eat the evidence!

Rule no. 4 - Absolutely no having baby bunnies in the lettuce patch.

Rule no. 5 - Do your doo-dy business in the grass.

Rule no. 6 - You may eat as much grass as you'd like, just eat it evenly and not all in one spot.

Rule no. 7 - No parties. Only one rabbit allowed in the garden at a time.

Rule no. 8 - Eat the food in the trap and when the doors slam shut, remain calm and wait for me to come and take you to a better place. (A better place will not be someone's garden. It will be a big field or park.)

Rule no. 9 - Do not return to May Dreams Gardens should you happen to be relocated.

Rule no. 10 - Follow all the rules!

Seems reasonable to expect an animal with big ears and big hind feet to follow these rules, don't you think?

If they don't, I reserve the right to alter my own rules of engagement accordingly.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Rabbit Wars: My Rules of Engagement

The hole in my center garden bed appears to be getting bigger, and I still don’t know what or who lives in it.

In an attempt to avoid getting wet, it was raining, I first tried to view the hole from the house using some binoculars, hoping to catch sight of a rabbit burrowed in there attempting to keep dry.

I was unable to view the hole from that far away, so umbrella in hand (remember, it was raining and still is) I went out to the garden to see the hole up close. Once outside, I had a few flashbacks of the last time I was in the garden on a “rabbit errand” holding an umbrella to keep from getting wet. Déjà vu, I’ve done this before!

Helllloooo… Anybody home?
Now where would a rabbit go on a rainy evening like this? I did some cursory checking around the garden and under a few shrubs and found no rabbits.

But is this a rabbit’s warren? There is no fur inside, but the hole is definitely a hole that something dug, and it is getting deeper. I’m guessing that one day I’ll go out there and the hole will be filled with baby bunnies.

Baby bunnies look like little rodents, by the way, because they are rodents. I know. I’ve found some in my garden before, in a lettuce patch, and I know I could find some again. And when I do, I know it will be frustrating and annoying and make me think of doing things I wouldn’t normally do.

Apparently, other gardeners, like Michael Pollan, author of Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, have done things they normally wouldn’t do when first confronted with wildlife that thinks a vegetable garden is full of food for them. As noted in the chapter “Nature Abhors A Garden”, he actually tried gasoline and fire to rid his garden of woodchucks before he realized that this was not the best way to keep nature out of the garden. He ended up fencing in his garden to keep them out, which is much more civilized.

Fencing is not a good option for me to keep rabbits out of my garden. I have a privacy fence around three sides of the garden, but I don’t want to fence off the fourth side and create a barrier between the rest of the yard and the garden. Plus a fence is expensive.

So to remain sane as I battle the rabbits, I am writing my own rules of engagement for how I will conduct myself in my war on the rabbits. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions.

I will not….

Use firearms of any kind to shoot the rabbits.

Use fire to burn out the rabbits.

Use poisons to cause the death of the rabbits.

Use traps that when sprung result in the death or injury of the rabbits.

So far, it seems like I am giving all the advantage to the rabbits!

I will…

Use deterrents, primarily cayenne pepper, to keep the rabbits from eating from the garden.

Chase after any rabbit that I find in the garden.

Use a live trap to capture rabbits and then release them someplace safe, like in my sister’s yard.

Use row covers on my garden beds for as long as I can to hide the produce from the rabbits.

Allow the neighbor’s cat to roam around the garden, as long as there is evidence that he is keeping the rabbits out.

And most importantly…

I will keep my dignity at all times, conducting myself in a civil, rational manner throughout any battle with the rabbits.


This is my post for the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club, February-March virtual meeting. I have to confess that I have not finished the book, Second Nature, and probably won’t be able to by the end of the month. So I am choosing option three, to post something related to the book.

It’s easy to join in this virtual book club. There are three options:

Read the current book selection, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education by Michael Pollan, and post something about it on your blog.


Post a review of any book written by Pollan.


Post on any idea related to the topic of the book. That’s what I did.

Once you’ve posted, let me know via an email or comment, and then I’ll include a link to your post on the virtual meeting post on March 31st.

The more the merrier.

Monday, March 17, 2008

What To Do While Waiting For Seeds To Germinate

Now what?

I’ve sown seeds for the early spring vegetables outside in the garden, and inside I’ve sown seeds for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and a few flowers.

Now what?

I’ve taken dozens of pictures of crocuses over the last five weeks.

Now what?

Waiting, that’s what.

Did you ever notice that a lot of gardening time is spent waiting?

I’m waiting now for…

Seeds to sprout. After decades of sowing seeds in the spring or helping to sow seeds, I’m pretty confident that the seeds I’ve sown will germinate. But way down deep inside, there is always a little tiny kernel of doubt, of concern, that something won’t germinate. If that happens, I’ll just sow more seeds.

Rain to end. We are expecting quite a bit of rain in the next few days. I’m glad I got my vegetable garden started yesterday because I think it will be too wet the rest of the week to do much outside. I'm not complaining about the rain, mind you. And I won't complain about the rains after that moderate drought we had last summer. I'm just waiting for it to end.

Grass to grow. Oh, yes, my love of mowing the lawn is well-documented and widely known. I don't hide it, I embrace it! I should be mowing the lawn for the first time this spring sometime around the last week of March. And I must mow the lawn before April 3rd or it will have to wait until April 7th.

Pansies & violas to go on sale. I’m going to start cruising by some of the garden centers and yes, “big retailers” looking for pansies and violas for sale. My goal is to plant some in containers to put on my front porch by this coming weekend.

If like me, you are waiting, may I suggest some blog related activities for you?

Join in the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club.

It’s easy to join in this virtual book club. Read the current book selection, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education by Michael Pollan, post something about it on your blog, let me know about your review via an email or comment, and then I’ll include a link to your review on the virtual meeting post on March 31st.

That’s all there is to it. You don’t have to ask in advance, be approved to become a member or anything like that.

In fact, you don’t even have to read the book. If you don’t have time to read this book, you can still participate by posting a review of any book written by Pollan. Or if you have another idea for a related post, go for it. The more the merrier.

Suggest a book or two to read in April and May.

I could still use some help with suggestions on what to read for the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club for the April-May selection. Send me an email or leave me a comment if you have some ideas for gardening related books that others would like to read.

Nominate your favorite blogs for the Mouse & Trowel awards.

Colleen at In The Garden Online is organizing the second annual “Mousie” awards and is accepting nominations in several categories with finalists announced on April 15th. Then voting will take place from April 15th – May 15th.

Post for the Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop and Garden Bloggers’ Muse Day.

These are two great opportunities to join like minded gardeners in sharing thoughts on design in the garden and poetry and quotes about gardening.

Get caught up on reading everyone's bloom day posts.

I've added a few more bloggers to the list of participants for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, so we are up to 81 participants. From coast to coast and around the world, nearly everyone has something blooming in March.

Plan now how to dress up your hoes for the Garden Bloggers’ Hoe Down on May 3rd.

If you are a blogger and you own a hoe, you will not want to miss this once in a blog-life event. My hoes will all be there, and maybe I’ll have a few new hoes by then, too.

Goodness, we have quite the “social calendar” for our blogs, don’t we?

Finally, don’t forget that May Dreams Gardens will be the first stop on Susan Wittig Albert’s blog tour to promote her new China Bayles mystery Nightshade. On March 24th, Susan will be my guest blogger with some information on “notorious nightshades”. I’m looking forward to hosting her and giving her an old fashioned Hoosier May Dreams Gardens welcome, so check back on March 24th to find out more about nightshades and to enter a drawing to win a first edition copy of Susan’s new book, Nightshade.

Between gardening and blogging about gardening, can anyone really get bored?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Vegetable Garden Update: Day One

It’s Day One here in the vegetable gardens at May Dreams Gardens where I’ve met my first goal for the vegetable garden by planting my peas ‘around’ St. Patrick’s Day. I planted them today.

I also planted lettuce, spinach, radishes, beets, onions, turnips, and swiss chard today.

And then I covered it all up with some garden cloth so that the rabbits won’t eat everything as soon as it germinates.

I expect my battle with the rabbits for domination of the vegetable garden to continue this year. I saw a big fat bunny in the front yard the other day and noticed a few tulip leaves have been nibbled on.

And I think I have a rabbit living here, in this hole.
This hole in the center of the vegetable garden.

When I was planting the garden earlier today, Mrs. Rabbit, or whoever lives in this hole, wasn’t home. I might be a gardening fool because I left that little warren alone, if indeed that is what is is.

I’m definitely a gardening geek because before I planted my peas, I checked the temperature of the soil, with a soil thermometer. Open wide, earth of the garden...For those just getting started with vegetable gardening, I assure you that checking the temperature of the soil isn’t really necessary. I just happened to have a soil thermometer and decided to use it today, for once.

The soil temperature was right at 45 F, which is the minimum temperature for planting peas, so Let’s Plant.

I got to use some garden tools today!
A rake and a hoe, my hand rake, my new Cobrahead hand hoe, a yard stick, gloves, a seed apron and scissors.

Wait, skip the gloves. I never used them. You can NOT sow seeds with gloves on.

Also included in the picture are three bags of onion sets and the seeds (in the seed apron pocket), and seed labels already written out (also in the seed apron pocket).

Oh, and I had my Felco pruners with me because I always have them at my side in a holster when I go out to the garden. In fact, it is nearly automatic that when I go outside to the garden through the garage, I grab my pruners, which are right there by the door into the house, and clip the holster onto the side pocket of my jeans.

One of these days, I am going to get to work, look down, and see that I am wearing my holster with pruners. I hope not. At least I get to work early enough that I could take the holster off and hopefully, no one would notice.

Here’s the first bed I prepared.
I used the hoe to loosen up the soil, then I raked it smooth with the rake. Now you see why I brought the yardstick along. It isn’t so much to measure out how far apart to space the seeds, though you can use it for that, but more to make a nice little furrow for sowing the seeds.

I can usually just guesstimate on spacing after all these years of sowing seeds, but if you are unsure, use a yardstick.

You can also see that I use labels to note the varieties of what I am planting. That’s just my preference. You can also make a map of the garden and keep track of what and where you planted that way.

Here’s a row of onions ready to be covered over.
That onion spacing is easy to figure out. I plant onion sets nice and tight in the rows. Then the first harvest will be what we call the spring onions. I’ll pull enough onions when they are still small to leave about three inches between the remaining onions. Those remaining onions will continue to grow and can be harvested late in the season, dried in the sun for a day or so, and then kept for use most of the winter.

I planted the onions, three rows of them, across the first bed you see when you walk into the garden because I read somewhere that rabbits don’t like onions. So this was my way of telling all the rabbits that they are not welcome in the vegetable garden at May Dreams Gardens.

By the way, did you notice those diagonal rows in that first bed shown above? Isn’t that fancy? One of my other my goals for the garden this year is to mix it up and not just plant straight rows, parallel to the sides of the beds, which is what I usually do.

I also have a goal of doing more succession planting, and so some of the rows are only planted halfway. I’ll come back in a few weeks and plant out the other half of those rows to extend my harvest.

For all you new gardeners, and some old gardeners, too, now you can see the advantage of raised bed gardens. Yesterday was a drizzly wet day around here so it would not be possible to till up and plant a spring garden right now. But because the raised beds dry up and warm up faster than an untilled garden, I was able to plant today.

I think it will probably be a few more weeks before it is dry enough to till the soil without messing it all with clumping, etc. if that is the kind of garden you have.

By the way, the best time to prepare a vegetable garden with raised beds for planting is in the fall!

Also for you new gardeners, I goofed up on something today when I was sowing seeds. In one of my beds, I planted some beet seeds and then a few minutes later I planted some turnip seeds right in the same area. (Keep your discussions about "senior moments" to yourselves, please.) It will be interesting to see how that all turns out and if I can tell turnip greens from beet leaves.

I only confess to this so that if you make a mistake or two sowing seeds in your garden, you’ll know that it happens to all of us every once in a while.

So now that I’ve planted the early spring crops in the vegetable garden, I can figure out probable harvest dates.

Here are my predictions on my first harvest dates this spring:

Swiss Chard, Mixed Colors, 30 – 60 days, April 14th - May 15th
Turnip Greens, Topper, 35 days – April 19th
Radish, German Giant, 37 days, April 21st
Radish, Pinetree Mix, no days to harvest listed on the pkg., I’ll guess April 21st
Lettuce, Pinetree Mix, 40 days, April 24th
Spinach, Bloomsdale Longstanding, 42 days - April 26th
Green Onions, doesn’t really say so I’ll guess April 30th
Lettuce, Red Velvet, 47 days, May 1st
Lettuce, Specked, no days to harvest listed on the package, this will be a mystery!
Lettuce, Tom Thumb, 47 days, May 1st
Beets, Early Wonder, 50 days, May 4th
Turnip, White Globe, 58 days, May 12th

And finally, the last of the early spring vegetables…

Peas, Green Arrow, 63 days, May 17th

I think I’ll throw a big Pea Party when I harvest the peas and invite everyone to come and eat some! Wait, check that. I only planted the equivalent of an eight foot row so let’s just not tell anyone when I am likely to have peas to harvest and I’ll eat those myself.

How’s your vegetable garden coming along?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bloom Day List and A New Bloom

The laughter heard at May Dreams Gardens today came not from these crocuses but from a new bloom that showed up this afternoon.

This picture of the crocuses is just a "decoy picture", something for you to look at for a minute while I build up your anticipation for seeing what bloom showed up in my garden today.

Are you ready?

Oh, wait, before you look at my new bloom, I have another surprise.

While viewing all the bloom day posts, I compiled a list of all the posts with links to make it easier to get to them.

So far there are 86 blogs on the list. If you posted for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and you do not see your blog listed below, it is an oversight on my part. Please let me know and I'll add you as soon as I read your comment or email letting me know. Likewise, if you find your link doesn't work, let me know.

And if you are posting about your blooms later, as I get your comment, I'll add you to this list.

Now, back to my new bloom...

The garden laughted today with a new blue bloom. This is Iris reticulata 'Clairette'.

All those green sprouts around her will be more of the same.

This view looking straight down shows a hint of gold on the petals.

I'm very happy to see these flowers.

And now...

The list of all who joined us for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day this month. Thank you all for sharing about your March blooms!

Frances at Faire Garden, Tennesee

Mr. McGregor’s Daughter at Mr. McGregor’s Daughter, Illinois

Melanie at Old Country Garden, New York

Ricki at Banners By Ricki, Oregon

Sherry at Sherry at the Zoo, Indiana

SuzyQ at Squirrel Chatter, Indiana

Rusty at Dragonfly Garden, Florida

Lisa at Greenbow, Indiana

Annie at The Transplantable Rose, Texas

Rose at Prairie Rose’s Garden, Illinois

Gail at Clay and Limestone, Tennessee

Muum at Muum’s Musings, Utah

Leslie at Growing a Garden in Davis, California

Yolanda Elizabet at Bliss, The Netherlands

Katarina at Roses and Stuff, Sweden

Gintoino at Jardim com Gatos, Portugal

Susan at Garden Rant, Maryland

Jan at Always Growing, Louisiana

Carolyn Gail at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago, Illinois

Nan Ondra at Hayefield, Pennsylvania

Entangled at Tangled Branches Cultivated, Virginia

Ki at MuckNMire, New Jersey

KJohnson at Musings of a Garden Historian, New York

Kay at Acorn Alley, Arkansas

Shady Gardener at Does Everything Grow Better in My Neighbor’s Yard, Iowa

Dave at The Home Garden, Tennessee

Karen at An Artist’s Garden, Wales

Chigiy at Gardeners Anonymous, California

Tina at In The Garden (The Leaf Chronicles), Tennessee

Curtis at Growing Thumbs, Oklahoma

Robin at Robin’s Nesting Place, Indiana

Lyntis at Garden Girl, Illinois

Doug at Doug Green’s Blog, Canada

Jean at Secrets of a Seed Scatterer, Georgia

Salix Tree at Windywillow, Ireland

Kate at Kate Smudges in Earth, Paint, and Life, Canada

Ewa at Ewa in the Garden, Poland

Green Thumb at India Garden, India

Kethry at Urbania to Stoneheads, Great Britain

Crafty Gardener at The Gardener Side of Crafty Gardener, Canada

Phillip at Dirt Therapy, Alabama

Weed Whackin’ Wenches at Weed Whackin’ Adventures, United States

Bonnie at Kiss of Sun, Texas

Meems at Hoe and Shovel, Florida

Chuck B. at My Back 40 (Feet), California

Vivé at Something About Blooming and Butterflies, Texas

Vanillalotus at New Sprouts, Texas

Pam from Tales from the Microbial Laboratory, South Carolina

Christopher C. at Outside Clyde, North Carolina

Rachel at In Bloom, Texas

Materfamilias at Materfamilias Writes, Canada

Cake at Rake Shovel Hoe, Indiana

Les at A Tidewater Garden, Virginia

Vertie at Vert, Texas

Jodi at Bloomingwriter, Canada

Aunt Debbi/Kurt’s Mom at Aunt Debbi’s Garden, Texas

Craig at Ellis Hollow, New York

Bill at Prairie Point, Texas

Sue at The Balcony Garden, Italy

MSS at Zanthan Gardens, Texas

Amy at Garden Rant, California

Jenn at Garden Djinn, Arizona

Gloria at Pollinators-Welcome, Illinois

Blackswamp_Girl (Kim) at A Study in Contrasts, Ohio

Kerri at Colors of the Garden, New York

Daniel at Daniel Mount's Garden Journal, Washington

Layanee at Ledge and Gardens, Rhode Island

Kylee at Our Little Acre, Ohio

Rosemarie at Rosemarie's Garden, Illinois

Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening, New York

Ether at Sweet Vitriol, Pennsylvania

Beckie at Dragon Fly Corner, Illinois

Arythrina at Metaphyta, Indiana

Pentunia's Gardener at Petunia's Garden, Washington

Corinna at Paradise Found, Germany

Lori at The Gardener of Good and Evil, Texas

Shirl at Shirl's Gardenwatch, Scotland

Diana at Sharing Nature's Garden, Texas

Mary Beth at Cultivating Paradise, Texas

Pat at CommonWeeder, Massachutsetts

Kathy at WashingtonGardener, DC and Maryland

Cindy at My Corner of Katy, Texas

Pam at Digging, Texas

Lisa at Millertime, Wisconsin

Lisa at A Shower Fresh Garden, Mississippi

Sarah at Sarah Laurence, England

OldRoses at A Gardening Year, New Jersey

Tamara at Can You Dig It, Texas

Indeed, Emerson was right, "earth laughs with flowers"!

Update 03/19 - Thank you to all who participated. It is a nearly overwhelming response. I hope you all will come back and post about your blooms again on April 15th!

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - March 2008

Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day this fine March day.

If Ralph Waldo Emerson is right and "earth laughs in flowers", then March is a series of little giggles in my garden here in USDA Hardiness Zone 5b.

The laughter starts out quietly with single flowers popping up around the garden and in the grass.

Then there are pairs of flowers giggling together.

And finally a whole group of crocus flowers make even passersby turn their heads and notice something different in the garden.
Joining in the chorus is a new flower, alluded to a day or so ago on a Twitter update.This is Iris danfordiae, one of the dwarf irises.

Soon enough there will be many Iris flowers laughing away the winter.Mid-march is also a time to note the great potential for louder laughter in the garden.

There are early daffodils proudly showing buds.
The hellebores, Helleborus orientalis, likewise seem ready to bloom as soon as the days warm up just a bit more.
This red maple, Acer rubrum is surely going to be in full bloom in a few daysAnd I do believe that is a praying mantis egg case attached to that branch. Those are good bugs in the garden, so they'll be welcomed along with the flowers.

Before we end our bloom day tour, we look closely and find that a hint of the laughter of the May flowers, a peony, is just beginning to sprout.
Yes, this soft chorus of giggles and little blooms here and there will soon grow into the loud laughter of flowers as Spring comes to Indiana.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of May Dreams Gardens today and will join us in this monthly bloom parade by posting on your blog about what's blooming and laughing in your garden. Then leave a comment here so we can find you and visit your blog to see all your pretty flowers.

All are welcome!

“We can have flowers nearly every month of the year.” ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How I Got My Knees All Dirty: Ribbon Grass Dig Out

Yesterday, I started digging out all the ribbon grass that I no longer want in my garden.

This is the before picture of the grass.

It's too invasive. It has zero winter interest. I think voles like it in all that dead grass. It must go.

Tools of choice for this job were a Cape Cod Weeder, a hand rake, and some gloves.
Tip of the garden hat to Annie in Austin for recommending I get a Cape Cod weeder. I have no idea how I gardened all these years without one!

I used the hand rake to rake out as much loose grass and leaves as I could and then I followed up with the Cape Cod weeder to dig out the grass roots a section at a time.

I knelt in the dirt to do this, which is how I got my knees all dirty.

I am thankful that I can still kneel on the soft, cool ground to dig in the dirt, and I'm JUST as thankful that I can stand back up afterwards.

The result after about 50 minutes of raking and digging by hand is that I've removed 75 percent of the ribbon grass.
That's a very good start, if I do say so myself. Another 30 minutes or so of digging and most of that blankety-blank grass will be gone. (I know the grass won't be completely gone, but it will be gone enough that what remains I can weed out as it sprouts.)

Some tips for others who have some digging to do this spring:

- Work in small sections. No matter how big a digging job looks, if you do it a square foot at a time, a little at a time, you can get it done!

- Always buy the best tools you can afford. The two tools I used are well made and they make the work easier. I can do the work without worry about the tools falling apart.

- Get started.What are you waiting for? Why are you procrastinating? You've dreamed all winter of getting back out into the garden, so just go out there and get started. This was literally the second good day to work outside in the garden this year. I went straight home after work, changed in to my gardening jeans and headed out to the garden.

- Don't over do it the first few times you get back to gardening in the spring. I decided to start with about an hour's worth of work so I wouldn't end up with blisters, a sore back, aching knees, sun burn, etc. I just wanted to do enough so I could see some progress and I can definitely see some progress. Remember, a runner doesn't start out by running a marathon after resting all winter; a gardener shouldn't start out with an all day gardening marathon on the first nice day of spring.

- Don't plant ribbon grass. A friend gave me a start of this when I first moved to this new garden. I was desperate to plant something. Too desperate. I was vulnerable because I'm a gardener and I like to plant. I believe this ribbon grass is probably Phalaris arundinacea. Watch for it, avoid it, don't take a start of it.*

The happy end to all this digging is that I'll end up with a pretty large area to plant something else in, which is what every gardener wants, right?

(*Okay, you can plant ribbon grass if you have an area where nothing much will grow, or you have a slope or hillside and you need to plant something for erosion control. But do not plant it in a flower bed and think you will contain it. You will not contain it.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sloppy Gardening at May Dreams Gardens

There is some sloppy gardening going on here at May Dreams Gardens!

Indeed, the raised bed vegetable garden may have given the impression that all is neat and in order around here.

But that is not the case.

There is abundant evidence of sloppiness.

For example....

Whenever I go out into the garden, my knees get all dirty.

Thought I have some of those soft, cushiony kneeling pads, I often forget to bring them out into the garden when I am doing a lot of kneeling. And if I do remember to use the kneeling pad, I generally kneel on it to start with, and then when I move to the next place, I forget about it. Later, when I am putting everything away, I completely forget about the kneeling pad and leave it out in the garden to get rained on, walked on by rabbits and occasionally blown around by the wind. Sloppy!

My fall bulb planting technique seems to be a little on the sloppy side, too.How did that tulip bulb end up on top of the ground? I suspect some sloppy planting techniques are to blame. I probably didn't plant this pair deep enough and then they "heaved" out of the ground through a series of freezing and thawing cycles. Or these are some of the bulbs from the year before that I uprooted while planting new bulbs and I left them laying on top of the ground. In either case... Sloppy!

Here's another example of plant heaving.This is a new dwarf tall phlox that I planted late last year. (I know, 'dwarf tall phlox' sounds funny to me, too, but that's what it is.) If I had done a better job of mulching around it, it probably wouldn't have heaved out of the soil like that. Sloppy fall preparation, indeed!

Do you southern gardeners know about this heaving phenomenon? As the soil freezes and thaws and freezes and thaws and freezes and thaws through the winter, shifting of the ground can occur, uprooting some perennials and other plants. I used the heel of my boot to push this perennial back down and I think it will be fine. But really, I should have put more mulch around it and then it would have had a better chance of staying planted. Sloppy!

By the way, that freezing and thawing is also what causes "potholes" in our roads and parking lots. This year must have been a big freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw year because I have never seen so many big pot holes like we have this year. You could lose a Miata in some of those pot holes,

Now, sloppy isn't always bad.

For example, I think it is better to leave some of your perennials uncut through the winter and then cut them back in the spring. It might look sloppy, but the birds enjoy eating the seeds left on the seed heads.

And it is a losing battle to try to be neat with a compost bin. You can't "neatly stack" all those plant trimmings, rotting vegetables, and leaves, so why try? The best you can do is try to hide the compost bins.

Does anyone else want to confess to some sloppiness in the garden? Or am I the only sloppy gardener?