Sunday, November 29, 2009
At the hardware store, I took the long way around so I could pass by the houseplants and saw these “just add ice orchids™".
This is the second store I’ve seen them in, so it looks like they are making the rounds. The instructions say to just add three ice cubes every week to water the plant. They could not have made it sound easier, could they? So simple! Just take the cubes of the frozen form of water and let them slowly melt on top of the bark they grow these orchids in and you’ve completed your watering duties for the week. And on their website, you can even register your email address and they will send you a weekly reminder to go get those three ice cubes and “water” your orchid.
But in my opinion, it is so wrong! The proper way to water an orchid, or any indoor plant for that matter, is to first determine that it actually needs to be watered, timing of which will vary depending on the conditions where it is growing, including the humidity level, then thoroughly water it, letting water drain out the bottom.
I don’t think that’s very hard to do, is it? Why this ice cube gimmick? Have we become that lazy? I wonder if the growers used ice cubes to water these orchids? I’m guessing they didn’t!
I’ve posted before about not watering with ice cubes. At work one year, they nearly killed several poinsettias by watering them with ice cubes. The cubes melted, but the water only penetrated about an inch down in the soil - the rest of the root ball was as dry as dust! I would guess the same would happen with these orchids. Three cubes a week would not thoroughly wet the growing medium.
Someone give it a try and convince me otherwise. Until then, I’d say if you want one of these orchids, get one because they are pretty. Just please water it with room temperature water when the bark begins to feel dry and water it thoroughly.
Speaking of poinsettias, at the big box grocery store, I had my first sighting of painted poinsettias this year.
These were first introduced a few years ago, as I recall. I don’t like them and I have never found anyone who does like them or who will admit to liking them. But somebody must be buying them because the growers would not go to the added expense and effort to paint them just to paint them.
So who is buying them and why? What ever happened to just plain red poinsettias?
These painted poinsettias and the “just add ice orchids™" have to be the fault of marketing groups. Who else could be responsible? The consumer for buying them?
I just can’t imagine a gardener, a plant lover, falling for either one. Can you?
It’s the reel deal.
It will mow over the competition.
It’s a cut above most reel mowers!
But I would never do that… Instead I will say I thoroughly enjoyed using it to mow my lawn yesterday. I found that it lives up to the statements in the press releases, and I predict that it will be much sought after this spring when it hits the stores.
As way of background, I’ve been mowing my own lawn since 1987 and of course did plenty of mowing growing up in suburbia. In '87, I started out with a reel mower, mowed all of ten feet with it, then put it back in the box and returned it because it was just too hard to mow and it cut very unevenly.
I then resorted to a cheap, bottom of the line gas powered mower until around 1991, when I moved and purchased a cordless rechargeable electric mower. It had just enough charge to mow my lawn, but if the grass was thick, I had to really hustle to get it finished.
Then I moved to my current lawn and replaced the electric mower with another gas-powered mower, choosing to upgrade to a self-propelled model. That lasted a few years and then the self-propelled part stopped working, so I sold it for $25 and bought another self-propelled mower, choosing a top of the line self-pacing, mulching mower.
And that’s what I’ve been mowing with prior to trying out the Fiskars® Momentum™ Reel Mower yesterday.
It was the last cut of the season, so I set the mower to a height of two inches and think I cut off about one half to three quarters of an inch. The mower can be set as high as four inches, which is good because usually I mow my bluegrass-perennial rye-fescue lawn at a height of around three inches.
I did not have any troubles pushing the mower and decided it took just a little more “oomph” than the self-propelled mower, but was easier to push than an old spare bottom-of-the-line gas powered mower that I also have. I do have a slight incline in the front, but was able to push the mower up it without too much extra effort.
I was also impressed by how quiet it is. I was able to overhear two neighbors bantering across the street at one another about the big sports story of the day, which coincidentally was about a certain golfer who would appreciate a well-mown lawn or fairway. I was also able to hear my phone ring (I always carry it outside with me), answer it, and start talking to my sister without having to stop mowing.
I also was able to mow one handed while shooting a video of the mower working with the other hand. I’ll upload it later so you can see how that works.
And now I can’t wait until spring, when the grass is growing again, to try this mower out in taller grass. I’ll post more about that when I do so.
Thank you to Fiskars for sending me a Fiskars® Momentum™ Reel Mower and giving me the opportunity to try it out. If anyone has any questions, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email, and I'll answer them as best I can.
Friday, November 27, 2009
I first saw this mower from above as I entered the trade show. There it is, in the lower right hand corner of the picture. And guess who is standing there looking at it?
Yes, me. I sent out a note to a few people I knew who had attended the symposium and asked them if they had a picture showing the trade show from above and someone sent me this one. Imagine my surprise when I looked more closely and saw that I was in the picture.
I should note that I did not spend my entire time at the trade show admiring this new mower. Just part of the time. But I will admit that I did ask if I could get one to review. I told them how I tweet via Twitter when I mow. I showed them my avatar on my iPhone, the one of the lady in the white dress mowing with a reel mower. And others vouched for my character and confirmed my reputation as a gardener who mows her lawn and enjoys doing it.
Finally after a few emails back and forth, it arrived on my doorstep on Wednesday, Nov. 25th.
It's like Christmas, one month early.
So while most everyone else spent Thanksgiving morning cooking, I spent it putting this new mower together.
But I didn't spend quite all morning putting it together. To say that would be a bit of an exaggeration. It only took about 15 minutes and one wrench to put the handle together with four bolts and then attach the handle to the mower part with two cotter pins. And I didn't even have instructions since this one is a demo unit. It is obvious how to put it together and easy to do, too, with just one person and one wrench.
The mower has arrived just in time because the mowing season is sadly coming to an end here in central Indiana. I will mow tomorrow, likely the last time I mow this season, when it is supposed to be sunny and 55 F.
And I will mow with the Fiskars® Momentum™ Reel Mower.
It's ready to mow...
... and so am I.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
It should be a day to reflect on what we are thankful for, to rest and relax before we begin the next holiday season, to spend some quality time in the garden in autumn.
But some people won’t rest and relax. They will pull out that big, thick stack of ads that came with the morning paper and start plotting their shopping strategy for Black Friday. Others will jump up from the table after eating and begin pulling out boxes and bags of Christmas decorations, sweeping aside any remnant of Thanksgiving that might have existed for a fleeting minute or two.
And this has raised the ire of the…
The Thanksgiving Thumper is a close relative of the Halloween Hare, the Christmas Cottontail, and Bountiful Bunny but feels quite left out of things. He is not happy that many people take down Halloween decorations and immediately replace them with Christmas decorations. He is less than pleased when Thanksgiving is turned into a planning day for Christmas shopping.
He feels nearly powerless to change things, but he’s stubborn and will not go away easily. He wants people to enjoy Thanksgiving as Thanksgiving. He wants people to slow down and not get caught up too soon in the frenzy of the Christmas season.
He offers five suggestions to honor Thanksgiving:
- Enjoy a meal with family and friends and take it nice and slow. No fighting over the homemade noodles, no trying to rush the main meal so you can get to the chocolate cream pie first. (Note: If you have an aunt or sister who gardens, as a way of showing appreciation, please allow her as many noodles and as much chocolate cream pie as she wants.)
- Hide the Black Friday shopping ads. Who needs those deals and those crowds? I can guarantee if you go shopping at your local garden center tomorrow, you’ll find all you need for yourself and family, and there will be no crowds.
- Spend some time outside after lunch enjoying the last of autumn by taking a walk, or engaging in more vigorous activities like chopping wood, raking leaves or mowing the lawn.
- Eat, eat a lot. Do not diet. The Thanksgiving Thumper abhors those who try to diet on Thanksgiving.
- Leave the Christmas decorations in storage until another day. In fact, consider leaving them in storage for several more days, at least until the leftover turkey is all eaten.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone from the Thanksgiving Thumper at May Dreams Gardens.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
So I didn’t write about that for the newspaper. Instead, I’ll post it here on my blog!
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for...
I am thankful for:
Good health, for without it gardening would be a spectator sport and I like to be in the game.
All the food that I’ll eat tomorrow, because my older sister and her family do all the cooking, so I just have to show up and eat and then eat some more, and that will leave time to garden, weather permitting
Relatives, including my immediate family. They are smart, fun, and a joy to be around, even if some of them don't actually garden.
Dirt, or rather soil, the foundation of any garden, because I have some pretty good dirt in my garden.
Every season we have, even winter, because it does give us a chance to rest from the garden and plan for next year.
Never having had to go to bed hungry and having enough to share with others, especially from my own vegetable garden.
Iced green tea from Starbucks, so refreshing after a day in the garden.
New and continuing opportunities I’ve had this past year to have some of my writing published in Horticulture and a weekly newspaper column.
Garden blogging because of all I've learned from it and the people I’ve met through it; once just pixels on a screen, they are now real people, real gardeners, real friends.
Monday, November 23, 2009
You might be a gardening geek when it comes to driving if…
You keep a couple of big plastic bags and a small shovel in your trunk just in case you end up someplace where someone offers you some passalong plants.
Your traveling companion has to constantly tell you to “stay on the road” because your car seems to veer slightly off the road every time you pass a pretty tree or shrub or garden.
You plan your driving route so that you end up going by a nursery or garden center that is just a bit out of the way. When you get close to it, you act surprised and suggest to everyone in the car that you might as well stop there for just a minute to see what they have.
Your passengers automatically pack food, water, games, books and other diversions to kill time because they long ago figured out that “just a minute” in a gardening center is the equivalent of at least an hour to a regular person.
You plan your driving route to go by a special garden you like to see and then slow down to a crawl as you actually drive by it, causing at least three or more cars to back up behind you.
You have a bumper sticker on your car that says “Honk If You Are A Gardener” and think how nice it is that there are so many gardeners behind you as you slow down to see that special garden.
You can't believe there isn't a station on satellite radio that plays all gardening shows all the time so you download dozens of podcasts of gardening shows to listen to on the drive to Thanksgiving dinner, much to the "delight" of your non-gardening passengers.
And finally, you might be a gardening geek when it comes to driving if…
You have a special direction on your compass marked G for gardening, so that even when you are lost, you end up somehow at a garden.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Lean in a little bit now and make sure no one is looking over your shoulder. Okay, ready to read about the secret?
There are actually two secrets.
The first secret is to have beautiful days on the weekends in November. This lures even the worst procrastinators out to the garden where they can’t help but pick up their pruners and start cutting back a few perennials here and there. Enough of that and before you know it, the garden is all cleaned up and ready for winter.
I honestly can not remember ever having such wonderful weather for fall clean up.
The second secret is to have and use good tools. Start with sharp pruners, a pair of well made gardening gloves and a chipper that is a dream to use. Throw in a Cobrahead hand weeder and you can easily tackle even the most overgrown and untended of flower borders.
I honestly believe that in anything you do, having good tools makes it much more enjoyable and easier, too.
These secrets are so powerful that if you aren’t careful, you may end up with a garden that is a bit too cleaned up for winter, with little left to provide winter interest. I came very close to that, but did manage to leave one stand of tall sedum, envisioning tufts of snow like cotton sitting on top of each flower.
Now as the sun sets on this gardening season, I can see and imagine the new garden that will take its place starting early next spring. I’m excited about it, have big ideas for it, and plan to make it my best garden yet.
All year, I dream of the days of May… let the dreaming begin.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
My big pile of stuff reminds me of Jed Clampett’s truck all loaded up with all they owned, ready to head out to “Californy”.
Only my pile isn’t all that I own, it’s just the stuff that I don’t like to drag around to the garage to store for the winter. I like to save my back and strength by storing it all as close as I can to where I use it in the summer time.
And I’m not going to a place called “Californy”, I’m heading to a place called “Winter”.
Wouldn’t all you southern gardeners and southern Californy gardeners secretly like to spend a few months in this place called Winter, where the garden doesn’t demand daily attention? Aren’t you just a bit envious of the free time we have in Winter that gives us the opportunity to actually read gardening books, plan for next year’s garden, and enjoy growing plants indoors without feeling like there is something we should be doing out in the garden?
Well, keep dreaming, Winter is all that and more! Only we won’t tell you the “more” part because it involves ice, sleet, snow, wind, and cold, which can be taken out of context and sound absolutely miserable.
Just think of us northern gardeners as The Beverly Hillbillies of gardening, loading up the truck and moving to Winter, a place you want to be!
And now… you may want to skip this part…
Come listen to a story about a gardener like me,
A gardener who happens to be in good ol’ 5b,
Now one day I’m gardening and I see a bit of frost
And then the plants succumbed and I was lost.
Cold that is, wintertime, Indiana snow.
Well the first thing you know I’m running around
Pulling all the annuals up out of the ground
They said the indoors is the place I oughta be
So I loaded up the patio and moved some plants indoors.
Sunroom, that is.
Blooming plants, forced bulbs.
The Wintertime Gardeners!
(Don't say I didn't warn you to skip that part).
Friday, November 20, 2009
I paused to study it, to see if I could determine what it was to become. Of course, it will be a plant. But what kind? A weed? Or perhaps a more desirable plant? Perhaps a petunia? One that is a color never seen before! Or maybe it is a lettuce seedling? One that could offer me freshness in the midst of winter!
Almost instinctively, I added water. I moved it to a better window where it would get more sun. I took a picture of it so I could remember its humble beginnings.
And I named it…
“The Accidental Terrarium”.
It reminds me that I have another terrarium, one that I now call…
“The Procrastinator’s Terrarium”.
I bought this rather large terrarium several years ago, in the winter-time, when it was too cold to find plants to plant in it, so I decided to wait until spring. Spring came, and soon I was busy outside and had no time to plant my new terrarium. Summer and fall passed and once again, when I had the urge to get some plants to put in it, it was winter time, the wrong time of year to have houseplants shipped.
I promised myself I would get to it in the spring. Spring came, and soon I was busy outside and had no time to plant my year old terrarium. Summer and fall passed and once again, when I had the urge to get some plants to put in it, it was winter time, the wrong time of year to have houseplants shipped.
I promised myself I would get to it in the spring. Spring came, and soon I was busy outside and had no time to plant my two year old terrarium. Summer and fall passed and once again, I had the urge to get some plants to put in it, and it was winter-time, the wrong time of year to have houseplants shipped.
Repeat for about two more years and we arrive at today. Once again, I’ve decided I want to plant something in that terrarium, and it is nearly winter-time, the wrong time of year to have houseplants shipped.
I think I need help. Dr. Hortfreud? Hortense Hoelove? Readers?
*Why did I have compost in a mason jar. To take a picture of it, of course.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
By the time I arrive at my sister’s house for dinner that day, I like to have all the fall clean up done in the garden so that I can give my full attention to making sure that I get to the homemade noodles for a second helping before a certain nephew does. Otherwise, I won’t get a second helping of homemade noodles.
By full attention, I mean 99% of my mental faculties, because there is no mental cut off day for me when it comes to gardening!
In fact, right now while I write this post, I’m thinking about gardening.
I’m thinking that it is a wonderful thing that yesterday I finally received my first seed catalog of the season, a sure sign that it is once again time to think of the beginnings of a new garden in the spring. After all, in just four months, give or take, I’ll be out in the garden once again planting peas.
I’m thinking about gardening.
I’m thinking how flattered I am that this May Dreams Gardens blog was included in a Top 20 Favorite Garden Blogs list by the editors at Horticulture magazine. I'm in some great company on that list.
I’m thinking about gardening.
I’m thinking about what a new reader would think about yesterday’s post where I wrote about not yet receiving a seed catalog and Garden Hoes: The Movie. With no knowledge or background on me and my garden, I might come across as some sort of a gardening geek.
I'm thinking about gardening.
I’m thinking that I am a thankful to not just be thinking about gardening, but to be a gardener.
And, of course, I'm thinking about gardening.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I, on the other hand, have not yet received any seed catalogs and am starting to feel as though I have been inexplicably dropped from the seed companies' mailing lists. I wonder, ever so briefly, how this could be because I order as many seeds, if not more, than most gardeners. I order so many packets of seeds that I use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of them.
1) It's better for the environment.
2) It saves trees.
3) It reduces costs for the seed company to not send catalogs.
4) It keeps me from staying up late reading seed catalogs.
5) It reduces clutter on my coffee table, which is already loaded down with gardening books.
Rest assured, even with no seed catalogs, I will be buying seeds this winter, going directly to the seed company websites to order online. Really, it's fine that everyone else seems to have gotten at least one seed catalog in the mail already, and I have not.
In fact, not having any seed catalogs right now has left me with some free time, which I have put to good use to create...
Garden Hoes: The Movie
Please take a minute to put down your seed catalogs and gather everyone around to see this not-to-missed cinematic achievement.
Now aren't you glad no one has sent me a seed catalog yet?
Monday, November 16, 2009
I will attempt to keep it family friendly as though I am telling it to my eight year old nephew, the one who is going to review The BugFarm™, a new “DVD-Rom simulation game that teaches children 7+ about gardening and the insect world”. All he needs is for me to remember to take the DVD to him so he can actually try it out. Then he can write a guest post!
Anyway, hoe stories have a funny way of being mis-interpreted because the garden tool “hoe” rhymes with another word that means something else to some people. Actually, it sounds exactly like another word that is spelled like “hoe” but without the “e” on the end.
You know you are a gardening geek, by the way, when someone says “hoe” and you immediately think of a garden tool. You know you are my gardening geek friend if someone says “hoe” and you immediately think of me, because of my hoe collection, of course. Why else? Really, let’s bring it back around to gardening now. Focus here, I’m trying to tell a hoe story.
Where were we? Oh, right. The funny hoe story.
I was telling some people last week about some of the superstitions related to gardening and they asked for some examples. So, I told them how you aren’t supposed to thank someone when they give you a free plant, as in a passalong plant, because if you do, the plant won’t grow. I know it is hard to not thank someone for a free plant, but try. Why take chances? Use other phrases of gratitude, like “I have just the place for that”.
Most gardeners will understand.
So continuing with my funny hoe story…
Then I told them about how it is supposed to be bad luck to carry a hoe into the house, but if you do, you should carry it out the same door or “death will follow”. Now, when I posted this before, some people asked why anyone would carry a hoe into their house. Don’t ask, but I have two hoes in my house right now. One of them in the sunroom, the other resting on the fireplace hearth. In fact, I once listed five reasons you might have a hoe in your house. Honestly, I didn't think it was that unusual to have a couple of hoes in your house, until I read about that superstition.
Now, in case you don’t recognize it as such, this next part is the funny part of the hoe story…
At which point, one of the guys says, “If I carried a hoe into the house, it wouldn’t matter which door or window I carried
Huh. His wife must really not like him to have garden tools in the house.
Gardeners with questions!
Gardeners wanting to know what's wrong with their plants.
The 1st lucky number drawn was no. 8 - Rose of Prairie Rose's Garden! Rose commented, "During the gardening season, I would probably be consulting this book every other day! This year my Knockout rose leaves were covered with little holes in the spring and didn't bloom much until after the Japanese beetles had left. I later found out they had probably been infected with sawflies and I could easily have gotten rid of them early if I'd only known what it was. And then there's my floppy sedum..."
The 2nd lucky number drawn was no. 20 - Cindy, from My Corner of Katy. Congratulations, Cindy! I hope all your plant problems down there in Texas are quickly solved with this book.
And the 3rd lucky number drawn was no. 38 - Caroline of The Shovel-Ready Garden. She commented that her main plant problem is "that I am running out of room to put plants! I don't suppose the book covers that topic, though. :)".
Nope, Caroline, it doesn't cover that particular topic but it does cover many other plant problems!
Thank you to all who entered to win and thank you to Timber Press for supporting this book giveaway!
(Winners, you'll soon get an email from me with info on how to get your book.)
Sunday, November 15, 2009
This fall season seems to be one of the longest I can remember, as though it started much earlier in a summer that never seemed to get all that hot and still lingers on through ever-shortening days that seem warmer than normal.
I expect I'll wake up one morning and winter will have just arrived with no warning. But that won't be for awhile, if you believe the ten day weather forecasts.
Outside in the garden, we have had a killing frost so there are just a few new blooms, like these errant little blue flowers on Vinca minor, which grows in a little patch on the side of the house. It isn't unusual to find these "spring" flowers after a warm stretch in the fall.
Nor is it that unusual to see old-fashioned Sweet Alyssum, Lobularia maritima, still blooming in a pot not yet emptied out.
This is a variety called 'Oriental Nights' from Botanical Interests Seeds. I sowed the seeds inside this past spring a few weeks before I planted them out in containers and thought they did much better than flats of Sweet Alyssum that I've purchased in the past. I'm planning to get seeds for several varieties this coming spring.
Out in the front garden, there are still a few mums hanging on, accompanied by some rather raggidy looking pansies I planted out in September and a few white roses on a carpet rose.With such mild weather this fall, I've been able to take my time and enjoy the process of fall clean up. I have just a few containers left on the back patio to clean out and some perennials I would like to cut back to discourage rampant self-sowing. And I hope to mow the lawn a few more times, the last time dropping the blade an inch or so to cut the grass shorter for winter.
Then I can turn more of my attention inside for the winter, where the "Thanksgiving Cactus", Schlumbergera sp., is in full bloom.
My records show that this particular Schlumbergera always blooms in November. I've had it for years, along with another one that blooms white around Christmas and a new passalong plant that is supposed to have orange blooms, but so far has no flower buds.
It's accompanied by the blooms of an African violet, Saintpaulia, a rescused Fuchsia, and the tiny pink blooms on Crown of Thorns, Euphorbia milii, which always has a bloom or two. I consider Crown of Thorns my "emergency flower", the one I can always point to when I quote Elizabeth Lawrence once again and say, "We can have flowers nearly every month of the year.”
What's blooming in your garden on this fine November day? I hope you'll join in for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day by posting about what's blooming in your garden on the 15th of the month.
It's easy to participate! Just post about what's blooming in your garden, then leave a link to your post in the Mr. Linky widget below so we can find you and a comment to tell us a little about what we'll find in your November garden.
(Then if you haven't checked out the book giveaway, go to that post and check it out.)
All are welcome to participate!
"We can have flowers nearly every month of the year.” ~ Elizabeth Lawrence
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Instead, it's a picture of a little pile of tiny radishes, truly the last harvest this season from my vegetable garden.
We should all be planting large shrubs if we have the room for them. They not only can be a "living fence", but they also provide shelter and sometimes food for a variety of birds.
Don't be afraid of those big shrubs. Go ahead and plant some in your garden. You and the birds will enjoy them for a lot longer than you will enjoy a little pile of fall radishes.
Friday, November 13, 2009
I assume that all remember that the Society likes to meet whenever the 13th falls on a Friday, as it does today. I, your self-appointed president, came up with a full agenda for this meeting.
There were announcements of various sorts, a program to inspire every gardener, and a funny hoe story.
First up were the announcements.
Mary Ann, the Idaho Gardener, announced that she is hosting a contest on her blog called “Why I Garden”. To enter, just write a short essay to explain why you garden and let her know about it by the Winter Solstice, December 21st.
Flowergardengirl gave a report on Garden Bloggers Operation Christmas Child which she recently organized. She started it off with a big bang by getting the generous folks at Proven Winners to kick in the first $300. Garden bloggers have added another $435 to bring the total to $735, so far. She has already started purchasing the toys and goodies for all the kids who, thanks to the generosity of garden bloggers, will have something to enjoy on Christmas Day. She is accepting donations until November 20th.
I, your self-appointed president of the Society announced, again, that I am hosting a book giveaway, thanks to the generous people at Timber Press and will be giving away three copies of What’s Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do Fix It?) by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth. To enter, all are encouraged to go to the original contest post, enter your name and a url in the Mr. Linky Widget and leave a comment there telling us about a problem one of your plants has. Deadline to enter is November 16, 2009, 5:00 PM EST.
Over at Gardening Gone Wild, the monthly photography contest is in full swing with a theme of “End of the Line”. Entries are being accepted until November 22, 11:59 PM EST.
And the final announcement? Oh yes, Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is this Sunday, November 15th. By now all know how it works, right? Whether it is your first time or your 33rd time, all are invited to participate!
Next up was the program.
At most Society meetings, I, your self-appointed president, generally provide the program, but due to lack of time, I amended the by-laws to specify that others could provide programs, as time permitted.
For this meeting, all were enthralled with a photography demonstration by photographer extraordinaire, Mr. David Perry, who showed us all how to take a macro picture in a mason jar.
He then gave us great insight into life as a garden photographer as shown in his segment on Garden World Report.
I, your self-appointed president, took the picture above of Zygocactus flowers in a mason jar. Oops, make that Schlumbergera sp. flowers - those crazy botanists changed the genus name awhile back.
Then I took this picture of some of my compost in a mason jar.
Isn’t it pretty compost? My photography technique clearly needs some work, but this is a fun way to take close ups.
Compost was one of the alternate topics for the meeting. I was going to report on my compost, then Dee from Red Dirt Ramblings was going to report on hers, then we were going to ask everyone to bring in samples of their compost. But we nixed that idea as a bit too messy for one of our refined garden society meetings.
The other alternate topic was on gardening superstitions, a favorite of the Society, but I wrote about that for this week's newspaper column instead.
At this point, the meeting concluded without me having an opportunity to tell my funny hoe story. We just ran out of time! I guess I’ll save that story for the next Friday the 13th meeting of the Society, which will be in August 2010. Can you all wait that long to hear my funny hoe story?
These minutes, without the funny hoe story, humbly submitted by:
Current President, SPPOTGWLS,
May Dreams Gardens
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Such a Friday being tomorrow, there will be the minutes of a meeting posted here for all to read. It is not to be missed, with announcements of all kinds and various programs of interest to all gardeners.
Plus, I have a funny hoe story to tell.
Plan on "attending" by reading tomorrow's post.
Oh, and don't forget, there is still time to enter the drawing to win a copy of What’s Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?).
It’s easy to enter. Just go to that post, enter your name and a url in the Mr. Linky Widget and leave a comment there telling us about a problem one of your plants has. Deadline to enter is November 16, 2009, 5:00 PM EST.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Someone requested that I show you all what my homemade compost sieve looks like.
I made it myself from scraps of 1” x 6” lumber, sized to fit over my wheelbarrow, using half inch hardware cloth for the screen part. I’ve been using it for five or more seasons with nary a sag in the sieve. (“Nary a sag in the sieve”… I’ll have to admit that I like that phrase and am tempted to yes, hold on… turn it in to an acronym: NASITS)
Generally, I throw two or at most three good sized shovelfuls of compost onto the screen part and then push it through into the wheelbarrow with my hands. It is best to wear heavy leather gloves for this work; lesser gloves will end up with holes in them in no time at all. I know this from first hand experience.
What doesn’t make it through the sieve goes back into the compost bins for further breakdown.
My bins didn’t start out as nice as they ended up last Sunday.
Here’s the before picture.
They were actually fuller than that, but I had already removed some of the uncomposted “stuff” from two of the bins before I remembered to take a “before” picture.
Here’s the after picture, one more time.
What you don’t see in this picture is the bamboo screen that I usually use to hide the bins during the growing season. I purchased the screen and the wire compost bins from the Gardener’s Supply Company. The bins have lasted for at least 10 years and show no signs of needing to be replaced, and I’m on the second screen in that same amount of time. To keep the screen from being completely destroyed in the winter time, I store it under a tarp with all kinds of other stuff to keep the ice, rain, and snow off of it.
After reading my post on “Embrace Compost”, Dee from Red Dirt Ramblings suggested in a comment that everyone post about their compost bins, sort of a “I showed you mine, now you show me yours” contest, except there is no real prize other than I promise you’ll be richly rewarded with wonderful compost if you do have compost bins.
So how about it, what does your compost set up look like? Post about it and let us all see. Leave a comment here with a link so we can find you!
And if you are disappointed that there is no prize for posting about your compost bins, don’t forget you still have time to enter the contest to win a copy of What’s Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?).
How’s that for a great prize? And there will be three winners!
It’s easy to enter. Just go to that post, enter your name and a url in the Mr. Linky Widget and leave a comment there telling us about a problem one of your plants has. Deadline to enter is November 16, 2009, 5:00 PM EST.
Monday, November 09, 2009
If you raised your hand, I’m guessing you already have What’s Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?) By David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth (Timber Press).
If you didn’t raise your hand, I’m guessing that like me, you have literally hundreds of gardening books, but no one book like this one that deals exclusively with plant problems.
So, let’s follow along in the style of What’s Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?) and see what the remedy is for your library problem.
My library does not have a good book on plant problems.
Do you want such a book?
If yes, go to next paragraph.
There are three ways to solve the problem of not having a good book on plant problems.
You can purchase What’s Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?) for yourself.
You can ask someone to buy the book for you as a gift.
You can enter a book giveaway and be one of three lucky people who will get their own copy of What’s Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?).
Which remedy would you like to try first? The book giveaway? Yes, that's what I would try first, too.
To enter, leave your name and blog url in the Mr. Linky widget below and leave a comment describing one of your plant problems by Monday, November 16, 2009, 5:00 PM EST. Later that evening, I’ll randomly pick three winners who will each receive their own copy of What’s Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?) by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth.
Be it a disease, an insect, a rabbit or a mystery, don’t hold back the gory details when you describe your plant problem in your comment. We want to know all about it so we can commiserate with you!
(The fine print: Open to U.S. residents only. If you don’t have a blog, leave the url of http://www.timberpress.com/ in the Mr. Linky widget. Make sure I can get your email address from your blog or your comment, or send me an email because you will be notified by email if you won. The generous people at Timber Press are providing the books for this giveaway. One entry per person.)
For more information, check out my review of this book, posted on October 20th.
Sunday, November 08, 2009
They aren’t composting!
They don’t have compost bins or any means to compost the refuse from their garden. I don’t know what they do with all their plant clippings and leaves and apple cores and leftover jack-o-lanterns, and I’m too polite to ask. But I won’t judge them, either, because each gardener has their own circumstances and must live with their own actions.
I’ll just go on record as saying…
Embrace composting for a happier gardening life.
There are all kinds of excuses for not composting…
Some gardeners think that composting is a lot of work. There’s all that talk about turning the piles, after all, which involves a pitchfork or shovel to “turn” the compost, usually by digging the compost out of one pile and onto another.
Some gardeners think that composting is complicated. It sure sounds complicated when you read about the “proper” ratios of green (wet) matter and brown (dry) matter. And then there are compost starters for sale at the garden centers. How much of that do you need? And what if the pile is too wet. Or too dry?
Some gardeners think that compost piles are ugly and that they smell. They think it looks like a pile of debris and wonder what the neighbors will think if the wind blows the wrong way.
Well, forget all that, none of it is true!
Embrace composting for a happier gardening life.
Composting doesn’t have to be a lot of work. You can add to a pile and just let it sit without turning, if you’d like, and eventually, you’ll have compost. It may not be as fast as you would get compost if you occasionally turn the pile, but that pile will eventually break down into compost.
Composting isn’t complicated. You can just pile up whatever you have from your garden, “greens and browns”, with no store-bought compost starters, and you’ll eventually get compost.
Composting doesn’t have to be ugly and it shouldn’t smell. You can put a screen around the compost pile to keep it from being seen or purchase a tumbler or other plastic unit and hide it behind a big shrub. And if the pile is getting enough air and isn’t full of stuff that shouldn’t be in a compost bin anyway, it won’t smell.
Embrace composting for a happier gardening life.
I spent today embracing composting!
I started out early this morning harvested the compost that had miraculously appeared since the last compost harvest. This involved removing the uncomposted debris from the top of one pile, then shoveling out the compost underneath. I used a homemade compost sieve to screen out some of the uncomposted debris in some of it, (screened compost pictured above) but as I dug further down into the pile, I found I didn’t have to screen out debris as much.
Then I put the uncomposted “stuff” back into that empty bin and proceeded to fill it with uncomposted debris from the second pile, and repeated the process of harvesting compost from that second pile. Then I moved on to the third pile and did the same.
Once I had the compost harvested, I got out my chipper-shredder and went around the garden cutting back some of the perennials and sending them through the chipper. This reduced what were once big piles of debris into bite-sized pieces, which will compost much faster. (The more I use that chipper, the more I love it, but that's a topic for another post.)
Now I’ll just leave the compost bins for the winter, adding whatever kitchen scraps I have leftover that I can’t use in the worm bins in the sunroom and let compost happen.
Embrace composting for a happier gardening life.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
My reputation for hoeing being well established by then, several gardeners were excited to tell me about this sculpture of a boy hoeing in a garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Today, I found this draft post on my blog with this picture and wondered whatever was I going to write about it?
Also included in this draft post was this picture of the famous sculpture of the Swedish botanist, Carolus Linneaus.
Wouldn't it have been an interesting story if my mom and dad had named me "Carol Lynn" after "Carolus Linneaus"?
They didn't, of course. Lynn is not even my middle name. But it would have been an interesting story.
Finding this long forgotten draft post buried in my list of posts is like discovering work undone in the fall garden. With leaves fallen from the trees and perennials standing as mere skeletons of what they were, we all discover amid the new bareness of the garden the remnants of plans and ideas that we didn't actually carry out like we had hoped to.
Perhaps hidden behind a shrub there is an unplanted half flat of annuals that just didn't make it into the ground? Maybe we finally found that bag of canna roots from two seasons ago that we meant to plant in the spring? Or we stumbled upon some stakes marking the corners of a new bed we had hoped to dig when the ground finally dried out in a season that turned out to be very rainy.
Regardless of what we find undone in the fall, the good news is that winter is coming, the garden slate will soon be wiped clean by snow and ice, and we can start anew in the spring. We can make plans to tie up those loose ends in the garden, to do better next year.
Friday, November 06, 2009
I don't know if I'll find a dried up rose on the 15th for the next bloom day or not. Regardless, fellow gardeners from all climates, Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day will take place all through the winter.
You'll be surprised how clever and resourceful we temperate climate gardeners can be when it comes to finding blooms in the winter time.
Are you wondering where Hortense Hoelove is and what happened to her Friday advice column? Me, too. She went off to the garden late this summer, and hasn't returned yet. But if she gets a few questions, she might be lured back to answer some of them this winter. Send questions for Hortense to me at my Indygardener email address or leave them in the comments.
There is a big rumor going around about a new bunny in town for Thanksgiving, who is of that same ilk as the Christmas Cottontail and the Halloween Hare. I love how non-commercialized Thanksgiving is, how if you do it right it can be a nice harvest celebration, a celebration of gardening. I hope the Thanksgiving Thumper doesn't ruin that!
One of the greatest compliments one garden blogger can pay to another garden blogger is to expand upon an idea they've posted about, with a link back. Please check out this post on the Greensparrow Gardens blog. Thank you, Greensparrow!
TGIF, Thank God It's
I hope you have a nice weekend, too! Will you get to spend some of it in your garden? I hope so!
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Yes, I thought so, too, and many online resources and books still include it in that family. But it appears that after careful review using molecular phylogeny, botanists decided that the genus Viburnum should be moved to the Moschatel family, Adoxaceae.
Molecular phylogeny? I also naively thought that botanists looked primarily at flower structure to determine what family a plant should be in. Apparently somewhere along the way, botanists started looking at molecular structure to group plants together. What would Linnaeus think of that? What do you think of that?
This new-to-me plant family, Adoxaceae, which is in the same Order, Dipsacales, as Caprifoliaceae, started out with just one a plant, a little herbaceous number called Adoxa moschatellina. Pictures of it look vaguely familiar, like I’ve seen it somewhere before so I’ll have to watch for it now, just because I’m curious about it.
But it doesn’t look a thing like its newest family members, the Viburnum species, which are generally woody shrubs - much loved woody shrubs, if I may say so myself. But I guess molecularly, that little Adoxa and the Viburnums are more closely related than Viburnums and Honeysuckles. Who are we to question it?
Raise your hand if you know of the other two genus in the family Adoxaceae?
Even if we don’t know the answer, we can easily use online resources to find out. What would Linneaus think of that?
The other two genuses are Sambucus and Sinadoxa. And just like the genus Adoxa, there is only one Sinadoxa, Sinadoxa corydalifolia. Unlike Adoxa, however, we are all unlikely to see a Sinadoxa, because it is a native to one specific region in China. (A little botanist humor, what do you call an Adoxa that does something bad? A Sinadoxa!)
One last botanic tidbit, I promise, maybe, at least for now. Do you know what a genus with only one species, like Adoxa and Sinadoxa, is called? A monotypic genus. I feel certain that tidbit is going to come in handy sometime - at a party, over the upcoming holidays, perhaps the next time you are admiring the yellow foliage of Ginkgo biloba, which is another monotypic genus, and is in fact the only genus in a monotypic family. Often called a living fossil…
Whoa, oops. Not sure where I was going with that. Anyway, back to Viburnums…
Raise your hand if you have a Viburnum in your garden.
I think most gardeners do because it doesn’t take long after being introduced to gardening to realize that some of our most beloved and memorable shrubs are Viburnums. In fact, as long as you garden someplace where Viburnum can grow, you’d be crazy not to have a least one in your garden.
In my own garden, my stand out Viburnum is Viburnum carlesii, the Korean Spice Viburnum, fall foliage pictured above. It has it all - spring blooms, good foliage all summer, excellent fall color, berries for the birds.
My sentimental favorite Viburnum is the old-fashioned snowball bush, Viburnum opulus 'Sterile'. It’s a big “wow” for a few weeks each May when its branches are weighed down with those big snowball sized blooms. I first saw it blooming in my grandmother's backyard and once I figured out what it was, I had to have one.
Plus it is a big shrub and I can hide the compost tumbler behind it.
What's your stand out Viburnum?
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
If a gardener is going to follow a sport, I've always suggested it should be basketball, especially pro basketball, as in the NBA, because it's timed so that its season doesn't interfere with most gardening activities, at least here in USDA Zone 5.
For the most part, the season begins in late fall, after the first frost. Then it ends by mid-April, a few weeks before the last frost, especially if your team plays like my team these last few years and does not make it to the playoffs.
There are also several simliarities between basketball and gardening.
Both basketball and gardening sometimes involve digging holes. In basketball, that's not a good thing, as it usually means you've fallen behind by a lot of points and it would take a miracle to get caught up.
Digging a big hole can be a not-so-good thing in the garden, too. We can dig a big figurative hole if we let weeds grow out of control all season. Then we end up with not enough time to pull them all out. The weeds win, we lose, so we can relate to the frustration a basketball team feels when they dig a big hole and lose a game because of it.
Both basketball and gardening involves trees. Basketball is played on a hardwood floor, which of course comes from trees, and most gardening involves some trees. And some of the players are as tall as trees, too.
Both basketball and gardening bring to mind peaches. The first basketball games were played with peach baskets tacked up to the wall and many gardeners grow peaches and other fruits in their gardens. And what gardener doesn't have a peach basket or two squirrelled away in their garage or shed?
For years, I didn't think that anyone realized how perfect a sport basketball is for gardeners to follow!
Then I walked into the gift shop for the Indiana Pacers a few days ago and found... you are never going to believe it... or maybe you will believe it...
A team gnome!
Finally, life has come full circle.
Gardening meets basketball. Basketball meets gardening.
My new team gnome came home with me this evening and is currently hiding behind the Christmas cactus, pictured above, out of the glare of the lights of the gift shop.
Someone asked me if it has a name. All gnomes have names! This one is named gBloomer (with a silent "g"), which rhymes with Boomer, the name of the Indiana Pacers mascot.
Who can deny now how perfect a sport basketball is for a gardener to follow?
Welcome to May Dreams Gardens, gBloomer.
Monday, November 02, 2009
Today’s lesson is on the terms that experienced gardeners use for “distance” and what they really mean.
We will begin with three terms used for distances within the garden and conclude with one term used for distances outside of the garden.
As deep as you can dig
For most bulbs planted in the fall, the instructions indicate to plant the bulbs at a depth that is two to three times the height of the bulb. Sometimes they’ll say to plant the bulbs four to six inches deep. What this means to gardeners is to dig as deep as you can so that when you plant the bulb it will be covered with dirt, and that’s deep enough! This is especially helpful for those who have hard clay soils or lots of roots to dig through. Note, results are not guaranteed when you plant "as deep as you can dig”, but sometimes that is all the deeper you can dig.
A little closer
Most gardeners tend to space their plants a little closer than the directions, if there are directions, might indicate. We set all the plants out where we think they should be and then decide “a little closer” is better. Or at the very least, if a tag says to space the plants six to eight inches a part, six inches is better, or maybe a little closer for good measure. In some cases, this achieves that “fully planted” look sooner; in other cases this means that the plants get crowded out and some may have to be removed or trimmed back. Even experienced gardeners have to be careful with “a little closer”.
“Dang it” is the term gardeners use when they discover that their garden hose is not quite long enough to reach that furthest corner of the garden. We stand there, with the hose stretched as taunt as possible and say “dang it”. Then we drop the hose, which of course lands on the sprayer handle and shoots water up like a fountain, soaking us in the process, and go get a watering can, which we have to fill multiple times to reach that one spot that the hose won’t reach, dang it.
Not very far
When a gardener decides there is a particular nursery, garden center, garden, or garden event they would like to visit, the distance to it magically becomes “not very far”. For example, as it turns out, the first garden bloggers’ spring fling in Austin, Texas, was “not very far”, just a quick plane ride to St. Louis, then another plane to Austin and I was there. See, not very far. Ditto, it was not very far to Chicago this past spring for the second spring fling, and it is not very far to Buffalo, NY for the next fling in July 2010.
I would advise anyone that when a gardener coaxes you to go with them to a garden whatever that is “not very far”, make sure to go to the bathroom before you get in the car, pack some provisions including an overnight bag (just in case!), check to see that the gas tank is full, and then relax and enjoy the drive because though it’s “not very far”, it might be further than you imagined and then a few miles more.
New gardeners, I hope this was helpful, as helpful as learning about gardener’s terms for “time” and “quantities” and that you are beginning to finally understand the language of gardeners.
Perhaps you are even gaining enough understanding and confidence to use some of these terms yourself?
I hope so!
Sunday, November 01, 2009
How are you going to spend it? Who is going to decide how you spend?
Unfortunately, like it or not, how we spend an hour is often decided by others around us, by forces and fates that are not ours to control.
Today, a force referred to as “Jack Frost” has decreed that the extra hour gained today by turning back the clock an hour will be spent in the garden preparing for the annual visit of “Old Man Winter”.
Jack Frost is a demanding task master and insists that as soon as that block of ice melts in the birdbath, I need to clean that up and stow it and most everything else on the patio under a big brown tarp. Out in front, I need to gather up the containers on the front porch, clean them out a bit, and move them to the garage for safe keeping.
Jack has created a sense of urgency to do it sooner rather than later. He always does.
You see, once Jack has paid a few visits to the garden, Old Man Winter isn’t too far behind. And Old Man Winter doesn’t like for things to be left outside! He kicks them and breaks them with his freezing and thawing. He covers them with snow, pelts them with sleet and occasionally adds a coating of ice for good measure. He can throw an awful tantrum if he sees something left out in the garden that should be put away for the winter.
And he is particularly unkind when it comes to containers.
The big question for gardeners is whether to store containers over the winter with the soil still in them and use that soil again next spring, or dump all the dirt out, scrub the pot clean and add all new soil in the spring.
There is of course, conflicting advice on that subject.
Many sources insist that pots should be clean and the soil mix fresh to ensure that your plants get the best start possible in containers in the spring. They make it seem as though plants will simply not thrive in your dirty old pots with that tired soil from last season!
But many gardeners, like me, know that some of those containers are big and heavy, even without the dirt, and to remove all that dirt every year just seems like a lot of work and a waste of money. Our dirty little secret is that we often leave most of the dirt it our pots from year to year. We don’t even scrub the containers out between uses.
And I think it is fine that we do that.
Really, let’s just think this whole "clean pot, sterile soil" idea through a bit. Do you think for one minute that plants that are planted out in the actual garden have a “clean pot and sterile soil”?
They do not!
Cast aside that whole "clean pot, sterile soil" idea! What I generally do is pull the plants out of the conainers in the fall and scoop out some of the top layer of dirt and throw all that in the compost bins. Then in the spring, I sift through the dirt in the pot and pull out any roots or plant debris I might have left, maybe even scoop some more of it out if it looks kind of gray and tired, then mix in some new dirt (container planting mix) and plant.
Time and again, season after season, I’ve done this and I have yet to see any terrible disease on a plant in one of my containers. And yes, of course, if a plant had a bunch of disease, I would completely empty the pot it was in and rinse it out. But I don’t ever recall a container plant becoming diseased in my garden. Occasionally a plant doesn’t do well in a container, but that isn't usually because it was sulking about the dirty pot and “used” soil.
I hope this was helpful. I hope I've freed you from the tyranny of the clean pot.
I hope you'll understand that there is more I could write on this, but, I’ve got to hurry now, Jack Frost is nipping at my nose!