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Showing posts with label lawns. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lawns. Show all posts

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Oh give me a lawn...

"Oh give me a lawn
Where the bees roam along
And the rabbits have plenty to eat."

Such a lawn will surely have clover in it.

Lean in and let me tell you a secret about my lawn.

I bought a bag of seeds for dutch white clover and sowed the seeds around my back lawn earlier in the spring. I'm not sure how well I timed my sowing but as I mow now I see little spots of clover coming up all over. Some of the clover seed must have germinated.

I'd like to convince others to add clover back into their lawns. I truly think we lost our way, lost our minds, lost our sense of what's important in the garden and in life when we let the lawn care companies and services convince us that clover should be killed off with herbicides.

I think there are many angles to use to help people find their way back to lawns with clover in them.

We could appeal to the feelings of nostalgia we often get when we see something from the past. Did you know that prior to the mid 20th century, clover seed was actually included with grass seed mixes?  I have proof in the form of a 1931 Department of Agriculture Farmer's Bulletin on lawn care. They recommended 17 parts of bluegrass, 2 parts of redtop (another type of grass), and 1 part clover for the ideal lawn. 

We could tug at the inner child in all of us, and remind people of a time when kids spent hours looking for four-leaf clovers or picked clover flowers to tie together to make bracelets, necklaces, even crowns.  Sometimes, when I was a kid, we just tied the clover flowers together to see how long of a flower chain we could make. Kids can't do that without clover in the lawn.

Some people might be convinced to add a bit of clover to their lawn once they find out clover is in the legume family, so it fixes nitrogen in the soil. This nitrogen then helps the rest of the lawn grow better, without lots of additional, costly, fertilizer.

Yet another reason to grow clover in your lawn is to give the wild rabbits something to eat besides the vegetable garden. Though I have no scientific proof, I have anecdotal evidence that once I allowed clover to grow in my back lawn, the rabbits seemed to eat less in my garden.

And before I forget, I've noticed clover is much more tolerant of drought or near drought conditions, staying green longer than the actual grass in the lawn.

Of course, you can't blast your lawn with a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring and then sow clover seed. The seed won't germinate. Nor can you soak your lawn with a broadleaf herbicide. It will kill off the clover.

You also can't expect your lawn to be weed free when you grow clover in it. You'll have a few dandelions, some plantain, maybe even, if you are lucky, wild violets.  But you'll also have a place where children and the young at heart can sit for hours looking for four-leaf clovers without exposing themselves to herbicides.

Oh give me a lawn with clover, for all the reasons or any of the reasons above.


Sunday, October 07, 2012

Welcome Back, Lawn

Lawn on October 7
Drought? We had a drought? We had a record setting drought? This summer?

You're kidding, right?  It sure doesn't look like there was a drought in my garden. The lawn is green, the roses are blooming again.  And it has been raining, quite a bit. 

The lawn was an awful khaki tan color toward the end of the drought, and it had that funny smell that lawns have when they are dormant due to lack of rain in the summertime.
Lawn on July 24
 But the lawn came back with the rains. I knew it would.
Lawn on September 10
Welcome back, Lawn.  You really do add some serenity and peace to my garden. You provide a place to sit, a place to stroll. I could spread out a blanket and have a picnic with you.  I'm keeping you, Lawn.  You look marvelous.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Planting and Care of Lawns in 1931

I now have a copy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers' Bulletin No. 1677.

Yes, that one. No. 1-6-7-7.  "Planting and Care of Lawns".  Published in 1931, updated in 1935.

I now know the truth.

I know that in 1931, when this booklet was originally published, "A beautiful green lawn is the ambition of most home owners... but few are willing to expend the effort necessary for a successful lawn."

Not much has changed in homeowner's attitudes in the past 80 years. Too many homeowners want their lawn to look good, but  they don't want to put forth the effort, or don't know what effort to put forth to make it look good.

I now know that the recommended seed mixture in 1931 for lawns in the northern areas of the country was:

17 parts Kentucky bluegrass
2 parts redtop (probably Agrostis gigantea)
1 part white clover.

By weight.

It's good to have the evidence that they  did put clover in lawn seed mixtures. Who took it out and why?  Of course, I know why. It isn't completely green. But clover is good stuff.  I credit clover with keeping the rabbits out of my garden. Plus, clover is good for the soil.

I know now that they also recommended leaving grass clippings on the lawn 80 years ago,  unless of course you were mowing very tall grass and the clippings were smothering the lawn.

Why did someone invent lawn mowers with bags to catch lawn clippings?  I think I have two, maybe three lawn mower bag attachments up in my attic.  As a kid, I hated having to bag the lawn clippings as I mowed. That darn bag would fill up just as I got into the rhythm of mowing. It was disruptive.  It was like having a good song stop just as you had become one with the beat.

I now know that in 1931,  "the use of chemicals, thus far, has not yet proved a very effective method of controlling lawn weeds". And furthermore, you just have to keep after your weeds to keep them in check. 

I knew you could keep weeds in check. Though I've not done a good job of keeping after my weeds, in the lawn or elsewhere,  I do believe in this 80 year old advice. Just keep after those weeds, and no matter what, don't let them set seed.

I now know about lawn care in 1931.  And I like it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mowing With A Troy-Bilt Mower: A Review

Your average American garage contents… probably two cars, a shovel, a rake, a hoe, and a lawn mower, mixed in with some bikes and sports equipment.

My garage? No bikes, and for sports equipment I think I could find a Frisbee® if I could climb over the two electric chipper shredders and move the snow blower over a bit past the lawn cart and the wheelbarrow. I have to be careful, though, not to crash into my stash of clay pots. Let’s not talk about shovels, rakes, and hoes for the moment, they are on the other side of the garage anyway.

Let’s focus instead on the lawn mowers. Yes, there’s a new mower in my garage, a Troy-Bilt B270 ES TriAction™ 21" Electric Start Self-Propelled Mower sent to me by Troy-Bilt to try out on my lawn.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Setting Up The Mower:

The mower was easy to get out of the box. Open top flaps of box, cut all four corners with razor knife so the sides of the box lay flat and wheel it out. It was easy to set up, too. Straighten handle, loosen two bolts, pull handle out eight inches, tighten bolts back down. Pull starter cord and hook onto handle. Add oil, add gas, turn key to electric starter. Engine starts, ready to mow.

It took just 15 minutes or so to set up the mower, with no tools required. Somewhere in there I should have noted to review the owner’s manual.

Mowing with the Mower:

This is where the rubber meets the road, or we should say, the blade cuts the grass. Short version… once I made a few adjustments, this mower mows quite well.

Longer version...

It is very easy to adjust the height of the mower deck to adjust the cutting length, and the heights are labeled “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6”, which I took to mean inches. So I started out at “3” and scalped the first section of lawn I tried to mow. I moved the two levers up to “5”, which seems to be a 3” cut. I measured to be sure because the owner’s manual didn’t seem to note that particular detail.

The mower is self-propelled by the front wheels. My other gas powered mower is a self-pacing self-propelled mower so I was concerned that this one would be too fast or spin out of control in some sections. But it did neither. It moves at a very comfortable walking pace and I never felt it jerk forward, as some earlier self-propelled mowers seemed to do in the past.

I did note that the handle is a bit higher than I am used to and isn't adjustable. But once I got used to it, I forgot about that, and think it made me stand up a little straigher while mowing.  When I finished mowing, I didn't seem to be quite as worn out as with the self-paced mower, probably because I didn’t try to go faster than the walking speed. But overall, it took about the same amount of time to mow.

The cut is good. I used the mower in “mulching mode” with no side discharge and no bagging (I never bag the grass as I cut it) and it did a nice job of cutting with no clumps of grass left behind.

The second time I mowed with it, I put it through a serious work out. First, the grass was dampish in places since it had rained earlier in the morning, but it still cut well. This could be because of the “rake bumper” on the front that helps to separate the grass as you mow.

Then when I finished mowing, I dropped the blade down and “short cut” the areas where I will have new garden beds. I do not recommend cutting a lawn that short, ever, and so question why lawn mower designers even make it possible to cut a lawn that short. But the lawn mower did well through this little exercise. I was cutting nearly two inches off, so at times it would start to clog up a bit, but occasionally lifting the mower slightly cleared out the grass clippings. A better option might have been to put the side discharge chute on. 

(The whole time I was mowing these sections this short I was thinking about how there are actually people who mow their lawns at this height all the time. Why? Don't "short cut" your lawn unless you are going to dig it under anyway for a new flower bed or shrub border.)

Deciding What to Do With The Mower:

When I got this mower from Troy-Bilt to try out on my lawn, I assumed I would try it out, write the review and then look for a good home for it, as I wouldn’t want to give up my self-paced mower, plus I also have a delightful reel mower, plus I have a cheap push mower, plus I have… well, it isn't really all that relevant how many mowers I have.  What's relevant is that I mow my own lawn, usually twice a week during "the season",  and I've mown with all types of mowers, except a riding mower, and amongst all those I've used, this Troy-Bilt mower ranks pretty high as a good mower. 

For more information on this mower and all the Troy-Bilt mowers, visit their website

(Troy-Bilt sent me this mower at no cost to me, with a request for me to use it and write a review of it on my blog. My opinion of this mower is based on my experience after using it twice.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

And The Winner Is...

To help ensure that a winner was truly chosen at random, I asked  The Hoosier Gardener, Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, co-author of Indiana Gardener's Guide, to use http://www.random.org/ to pick a number between 1 and 174, the total number of entries.

She sent me an email just a few minutes ago to let me know the winning number is 33.

Entry number 33 belongs to...

Samia!

Congratulations, Samia. You've just won a  Fiskars® Momentum™ Reel Mower! Mowing your lawn will never be the same again.  I'll be in touch via email to get you in touch with the generous people at Fiskars so they can send a new mower out to you.

Thank you to everyone who entered the drawing and thank you to Fiskars for allowing me to host this giveaway.  Please visit Fiskars' website for another opportunity to enter a drawing for a free mower.

Happy mowing, everyone!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Evidence of Garden Fairies Found In Lawn

Please choose the most correct answer:

What causes these dark rings to form in lawn grass?

a) This is where the garden fairies gather late at night to dance and sing and make merry while drinking tiny bellflowers full of odd potions and elixirs. The odd potions and elixirs slosh out of the flowers and over-fertilize the lawn in those places

b) This is where the spaceships carrying hoards of hungry rabbits land in the lawn. The rabbits are released out into the garden where they can hop around and gather food to take back with them on their return flight to their own planet.

c) This is caused by the gardener when she performs a ceremonial dance under the full moon to give thanks for the harvest not being taken by the rabbits, ala Betty White in the movie “The Proposal”.

d) This is caused by fungi which produce nitrogen as they break down. The extra nitrogen causes the grass to be taller and darker in that location.

The correct answer is D. However, if you chose A then you get partial credit, because these are called fairy rings, after all. If you chose B, you really must stop obsessing over the rabbits. And if you chose C you have to be laughing right now because that was a very funny scene in that movie. I laughed for days thinking about that scene.

So what am I going to do about these fairy rings?

Nothing. It’s been a cool, wet summer, so we are likely to have an increase in mushroom and fungi growth in our lawns. It’s not killing the lawn, it just looks odd. And by the way there are several fairy rings in my back yard. As noted in this PDF from Purdue University, for the most part homeowners should just try to coexist peacefully with their fairy rings.

And that’s exactly what I plan to do, along with making up other stories theories about what else they might be, like maybe they are some kind of sign for the raccoons that points the way to the sweet corn...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

History Of Mowing at May Dreams Gardens

I remember the day several years ago when someone at work ask me if I had ever mowed the lawn after Thanksgiving. I said no. They claimed I had. And I said “Let me check my records”.

At that moment, as everyone turned and looked at me, I realized that it was quite possible, in fact very probable, that I’m in the minority in keeping track of when the first mowing and the last mowing of the season take place each year. The past several years I’ve actually kept track of every mowing. And I keep track in my ten year garden journal.

I embrace mowing.

Having kept track, I can provide a brief history of mowing here at May Dreams Gardens, USDA Zone 5b, going back to 2001.

The earliest I’ve ever started mowing? That would be today, March 26th, this year.

The latest I’ve ever started mowing? That would be April 12 back in “aught one” (2001)

The most probable dates for me to start mowing? March 28th (2003, 2004) and March 31st ( 2006, 2007)

And just so you have a complete history, I mowed for the first time on April 6th in 2002, April 9th in 2005, and April 7th in 2008.

I started off my mowing this year with the usual “first mowing” festivities, speeches and ribbon cutting ceremony. The temperature was very comfortable, in the low 60’s, and the skies were clear blue. I wore my best gardening jeans and a nice green t-shirt and my ‘just for gardening’ sunglasses. The mower started easily and purred like a kitten.

Many of the same flowers that were blooming last year when I mowed for the first time on April 7th, were blooming today on March 26th, confirming for me that Spring has arrived a little earlier this year, by maybe two weeks. This is in spite of the first Crocus blooming later this year than it has ever bloomed. Go figure.

Some of the blooms include Narcissus, Hyacinth, Star Magnolia, Vinca minor, Helleborus, Forsythia, Chiondoxia, and Puschkinia libanotica, pictured above.

I’ll admit that I could have waited a few more days, even a week, to mow the lawn for the first time this year, as it really has just started to grow. It’s at that stage where there are clumps of grass growing up tall in some places, but elsewhere the grass hasn’t really started to grow very much at all.

But I mowed anyway, because I wanted to even out the lawn in preparation for A Major Lawn Event taking place tomorrow evening and Saturday.

A Major Lawn Event.

After years of thinking about doing it, getting an estimate for doing it, and thinking about doing it some more, I am finally having the sod removed along the fence in the back and creating a new border for shrubs, perennials and who knows what else.

Consider this the before picture. The sod cutting festivities begin tomorrow after work, weather permitting.


Details to follow on how I removed the sod and what I plan to do with this new planting area

Sunday, November 23, 2008

On Waiting and Garden Blogging

This morning while I sit and wait for the frost to burn off, I thought I'd answer a few questions about...

Garden blogging!

I'm waiting for the frost to burn off so I can mow the lawn one last time this season. Winter seems to have come on quite suddenly here in the midwest and points north, and so I've not been able to finish my fall clean up in the garden. But today promises temperatures in the mid 40's. That's perfect, or as perfect as we can expect, for garden clean up this year.

But back to garden blogging...

Jan from Thanks For 2 Day recently left a comment about what to do to respond to comments on your blog and how do you remember to go back to a blog to see if the blogger responded to your comment, anyway.

There are several options for comments and commenting, and no one best way.

You can read and enjoy comments left on your blog and do nothing more. Or you can read and enjoy them and then visit the blog of the person who left them and leave a comment on their blog. Everyone loves comments!

Or you can comment back on the same post with a response. If you regularly do this, then people might figure it out and get in the habit of going back and looking for the response. Might.

If it is a Blogger blog, you can subsribe to follow up comments and get an email for new comments, even if it isn't your blog. Then you would find out through an email if the blogger left you a response. But this can result in a lot of email if it is a post that is generating a lot of comments.

I used to try to answer individual comments in response to comments, but lately, I'm doing good to leave a comment at some point to address all the comments collectively. Now I'm leaning more toward visiting the blogs of those who comment to see what they've got going on and commenting there.

The other option, if you know the person who left the comment, is to email them back, which I've also done.

Now, there, doesn't that help clarify options on comments? What's your preference?

Speaking of comments, I got a comment from Kim/Blackswamp Girl at A Study In Contrast suggesting that I try Mister Linky for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Great idea! I've thought about doing it before but just needed that little push. Thanks, Kim.

But let's try it before the big day! I've installed a Mister Linky below so you can enter your name and blog url, and it will include you in a nice link list to whatever you have on your blog right now.

Let me know via comments how you like it.

Speaking of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, I would like to thank everyone who posted about their blooms for November. There were a little over 90 bloggers who participated, that I know of, and for the first time, I wasn't able to visit all of them. I am hoping the link list will make it easier for me to do so in December.

Speaking of December Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, Elizabeth at Gardening While Intoxicated suggested that we encourage those who live in the temperate zones to also show all the plants they have growing inside in December. Great idea! So, if you have foliage plants, plants you are trying to overwinter indoors, or plants you bought just to have something blooming, we'd love to see them on December 15th!

So here's the Mister Linky to try...

(Per Annie in Austin, if you don't see it and you are using Firefox, the browser may be blocking it... If you allow blenza.com via the options, the form should appear.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mowing Is Like Dreaming

Mowing the grass is a like lot dreaming.

While mowing, a thousand and one thoughts occur to me. I solve problems. I come up with answers to questions that I hadn’t even thought to ask. I think through entire blog posts. I remember past events and wonder what the future holds.

Then just like when you wake up after dreaming and the dreams are soon forgotten if you don’t write them down, once the mower stops, I soon forget what I was thinking about, if I don’t write it down. Unfortunately, most of the time, I don’t write it down.

Fortunately, this last time I mowed the lawn, the 35th time this season, I thought to write down what I was thinking about. So without further ado, I was thinking about…

The third grade and my third grade teacher. My niece is now a third grade teacher. I’ll be posting soon about some very special things she is doing so that one day when her students are decades removed from third grade, they might remember the year they were in her class and what they learned about gardening.

The Garden Bloggers’ Book Club. I’ve decided it has run its course and so I’ll be bringing it to a graceful conclusion at the end this month. If you did happen to read the current selection, Weedless Gardening, and decide to post about it, let me know via an email or comment and I’ll include you in the final ‘virtual meeting’ wrap up post on or about September 30th. Please don’t confuse this with Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day on the 15th of the month. That will never end, as long as I’m blogging!

What I will post for next Father’s Day in June 2009. No hints, I want it to be a surprise, if I remember it. I think I will. I hope I do.

Blotanical awards. I was very flattered to be nominated in several categories, including Best U.S. Blog, Best Blog Design, Best Blog Writing, Most User Friendly Blog, Best Blog Post, Blotanist of the Year, and Blog of the Year. I offer a sincere thank you to those who nominated May Dreams Gardens! If you are registered with Blotanical, please go there to vote before this Sunday. (My name is Carol and I approve this message.)

What to post on the Examiner site. This time I posted five tips for buying shrubs.

How mowing is like dreaming.

I forget what else I thought about while going back and forth, diagonally this time, from southeast to northwest and northwest to southeast across the lawn. Back and forth, back and forth, occasionally going around a tree. Good exercise, good thinking, good times!

What do you think about when you are mowing?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Embrace Mowing for a Happier Life

On the occasion of the completion of the 25th mowing of my lawn this season, I ask you to consider embracing mowing for a happier life.

I suspect there are some who look down on those of us who will admit that we enjoy mowing the lawn. They are probably shaking their heads right now and getting ready to hit the "delete" key on this post.

Perhaps they think we are some kind of faux gardeners, those of us who enjoy mowing. That we are not yet enlightened on the joys of either hiring a mowing crew to mow for us or completely obliterating our lawns so we never have to mow again.

They think we don't get "it".

But I'm still standing by, and on, my lawn. I think it is a wonderful backdrop to the rest of the garden, a place to look to rest your eyes, a sea of green that is calming and cooling.

I embrace mowing.

It's good exercise! I could walk on a treadmill, ride a stationary bike or even jog around the block while a mowing crew mowed my lawn. But where would I be when I was done? Right where I started but with less money in my pocket.

It's good think time! I've mowed my lawn so many times that I could probably mow it with my eyes closed, so while I'm mowing, I'm thinking about a lot of things, and not just about reducing the size of my lawn. I'm solving problems, making lists, and writing entire blog posts, like this one, in my head.

It's a money saver! If you are going to have a lawn, it is cheaper to mow it yourself than to pay a mowing crew, at least around here. All that money I save can be used to buy plants for the garden.

It's relaxing! Or it can be if you embrace it and just get out there and enjoy the exercise and fresh air.

And I'm thankful every time I mow the lawn that I still have the stamina, knees, and strength to mow my own lawn, and I hope I can do so for many more decades.

But even I, with an avatar featuring a woman in a long white dress mowing a lawn, would like to dig up some of her lawn (not all of it) and add another planting bed.

I've wanted to do this for awhile, but had some other areas of the garden that needed more attention, so I worked on those garden beds first.

But now that those beds are more or less straightened out, it is time to dig a new planting bed along this fence.

As I mow, I've been contemplating how to remove the sod. Till it in? Smother it with newspapers, compost, and mulch? Nuke it with Round Up and then dig it up? Dig it out section at a time by hand? Hire someone to do it at a cost of close to $1,000?

This bed will be approximately 64 feet long and since it will curve around those trees to include them in the bed, it's width will vary from five feet to maybe 15 feet, so it is a lot to dig up.

But since we've gotten so much rain this year, it is too wet to dig right now, so I have time to decide how to do it.

In the meantime, I'm going to continue to embrace mowing and celebrate the 25th mowing of my lawn this year at May Dreams Gardens.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

And Ladies of the Lawn

Yesterday was a special day at May Dreams Gardens.

These Turkish Glory of the Snow, Chionodoxia sardensis, were starting to bloom. I planted them last fall, scattering them here and there through out the front flower beds. They are small flowers, so you can't see them from the street; I can see and enjoy them as I walk around the garden.

But you can sure see this Forsythia 'Gold Tide' from the street.
It was just beginning to bloom last Thursday, and now it is screaming with yellow. I've told myself for several years that once it is finished blooming, I need to dig it out because it is crowding a nearby spruce, Picea orientalis 'Green Knight'.

But then it blooms like this and I decide to let it stay there 'one more year'. I'm not committing to moving it this year, either. Look at it! Could you?

Daffodils have started blooming all over the place, both in the front and back gardens.
I've long since forgotten the names of the varieties of daffodils, so last year I just gave them my own names. I feel like they should have new names this year, so instead of "Fried Egg" for this one, I think I'll call it "Austin Memories". All the daffodils are blooming several weeks later than they bloomed last year, by the way.

Moving on, because this post is really about the lawn, here is another Helleborus blooming.

And there beneath the blooming Star Magnolia, Magnolia stellata, is what made the day a special day.

It's the lawn!

Under clear skies with the temperature hovering around 70 degrees, I got to mow the lawn for the first time this season.

Yes, I'm a gardener and I still like to mow my lawn and I'll admit it.

I am a Lady of the Lawn.

I enjoy the exercise. I feel blessed to have the strength and stamina to mow the lawn each week or twice a week if I am lucky and the grass is growing quickly.

I like the look of the lawn next to the flower beds. I like to walk the labyrinth of the lawn to help me think things through, provide time to solve complex problems, clear my mind of my troubles.
So I celebrate the first mowing of the season. It is my one eccentricity, I guess, unless you are counting the hoe collection as an eccentricity, then I'd have two. Or maybe three if you count all the gardening geek traits as one. But I'll admit to no more than three eccentricities.

Anyway, to celebrate mowing the lawn yesterday, I wore my new hat that I won at the spring fling and broke in a new pair of old sneakers that have been promoted from everyday wear to lawn mowing. I "twittered" that there were speeches and a ribbon cutting ceremony, just like when I harvest the first tomato.

There really weren't any speeches or ribbon cutting ceremonies, don't believe everything on Twitter, but it was fun to think about the first lawn mowing of the season being such an important event that it deserved some pomp and circumstance.

Are there any other gardeners who will admit to being "Ladies (or Gentlemen) of the Lawn?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Garden of Miscellany

Tonight I’m posting a “garden of miscellany”, some gardening related thoughts that aren’t quite enough for a full blog post and are too much for a twitter.

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Does anyone else think this orchid bloom looks like a chicken’s foot? I posted about this for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, but didn’t include a picture, just a link, so I think a lot of people didn’t see what I was talking about. Often flowers and plants look like something else from a distance, or even up close. I can’t think of any good examples right off, but I know once I post this, I’ll think of some.

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I am on top of it this year as far as getting my lawn mower into the shop and tuned up for spring. Last year, I took it in too late and then I was desperate to get it back because the grass really, really needed to be cut. This year, I took it in last week. Last week! It should be ready by next week, and I’ll be ready to mow as soon as winter moves on out of here and the grass starts to grow again. Fresh air, exercise, that’s what mowing the grass is really all about!

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I’m never sure if anyone notices my “twitters” on the sidebar. I’m microblogging to provide brief updates, usually at the beginning and end of the day or if something happens on the weekend during the day. I try not to twitter too much about the weather, but as a gardener, I think I pay more attention to the weather than others do. Once spring arrives and I’m gardening outside again, more of the twitters will be about what I am doing in the garden. Who else is microblogging?

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I've been posting about the different vegetables I grow in my garden. So far I’ve posted about green beans, early spring vegetables, zucchini, corn, peppers, and eggplant. I’m still planning to post about flowers in the vegetable garden, a few minor crops, and of course, tomatoes. I’m flattered to have gotten a few emails and comments with more questions about planting vegetables in raised beds; I’ll try to answer those questions in upcoming posts. I'm always excited to find "kindred spirits" who like to grow vegetables in addition to flowers!

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Orchids, lawn mowing, microblogging, and vegetable gardens. That's enough "garden of miscellany” for one post. Have a good one.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

More Fall Clean Up Tips

Gray skies are going to cheer us, we have a happy face...

What? Those aren't the words to the song??

They should be, at least around May Dreams Gardens here in central Indiana. It's been raining off and on since yesterday afternoon and the skies are overcast. My garden has gotten way more than one inch, but not quite two inches, of rain, near as I can tell.

Once the rain ends, I am hoping for some cool, sunny weather so I can start stripping the sod off the area where I want to plant a new tree and add a big planting bed.

I'll use the sod pieces to fill in some bare spots that invariably show up in the lawn after a dry summer. It's an easy way to get rid of the sod without filling up the compost bins. Just drop the sod piece in the bare spot and stomp it down with your foot. Stomp, stomp, stomp. The ground is nice and damp now so I won't even have to water those spots. Then by spring you won't even know where I filled in the bare spots.

And I'll get going on some real garden clean up, too, even though I am not behind in my fall clean up. There's plenty of time, so I can take it nice and easy and following my own clean up tips.

Here are ten of those tips that I've come up with after cleaning up my Zone 5 gardens in the fall for ten, twenty, more than twenty years. (Your tips may vary depending on your climate.)

Tip 1. Clean up and compost any perennials that get all mushy after the killing frost, like hostas.

Tip 2. Leave the dried up perennials that didn't turn to mush after the frost, especially if they have seed heads for the birds to eat or you are short on time. Or you can cut these perennials back if you are concerned about self-sowing or just like a tidy garden in the wintertime. The exception is hardy mums, like those pictured above. Wait until spring to cut mums back, to give them their best chance of wintering over.

Tip 3. Don't compost the peonies. Peonies can be infected with botrytis blight which can be spread through the compost. In fact, don't compost any plants that look diseased. Throw them out. An exception might be powdery mildew. I don't think it matters what you do, if a plant is likely to get powdery mildew, it is going to get it, regardless of what's in the compost.

Tip 4. Pull out and compost all annuals. They're done after the first frost anyway.

Tip 5. Empty the soil from containers. For bigger containers, I sometimes empty just the top several inches and leave the rest for next year. The exception is if the plants in the container were diseased, then definitely get rid of all the soil and clean the container thoroughly.

Tip 6. Clean up garden ornaments, furniture, and containers before you store them for the winter. I've learned that if this stuff is dirty when you store it, it will still be dirty when you get it out in the spring.

Tip 7. Carry heavy items as short a distance as possible when you put them away. Save your back! I used to haul all the stuff on the back patio around the side of my house to the garage. Then one fall I was pulling a cart with a big clay pot on it and the pot rolled off and broke in half. This was at about the same time that I realized that I had acquired more stuff than would fit in the garage anyway. So why was I trying to haul heavy stuff all that way? Now I stack up most of the back patio 'stuff' in one corner of the patio and throw a big tarp over it.

Tip 8. Toss a few moth balls under the tarp to keep the animals out. When you store stuff outside with a big tarp over it, some critters like raccoons may want to set up housekeeping under the tarp. The moth balls seem to keep them out.

Tip 9. Weed the garden and flower beds. When you trim back perennials and pull out annuals, you'll find some weeds that were hiding, hoping to winter over unseen until spring. If you weed a little now, it will save time in the spring.

Tip 10. The last time you mow the lawn, take it nice and slow and savor the moment. Kidding! I know some of you don't share a love of mowing. The real tip is when you mow the lawn for the last time, lower the blade and cut it about an inch shorter than normal. This assumes you follow the good advice of "mow high".

I think that's a good start on some fall clean up tips. Do you have any other tips to offer?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Why Is It Still Like Summer?

One could almost mistake this fine fall October day for a hot summer July day, except the asters are blooming, and asters don’t bloom in July.

I walked the labyrinth of the lawn late this afternoon after work, deep in thought. It might have looked like I was mowing the lawn, but actually I was planning how to battle the moles, thinking about an idea for the garden bloggers’ bloom day in winter when flowers won’t be blooming outside at my house, and theorizing on why summer seems so persistent this year.

Why has summer been so persistent this year? So hot. So dry. So long. Today I think we tied the 1922 record with a high temperature of 87 F. Don’t quote me on that, but I think that’s right. (Edit... we DID tie the record, I was right.)

While I was mowing, I came up with two theories on why we are still ‘enjoying’ summer weather in October.

Theory 1: Mother Nature is trying to make amends for allowing winter to take up so much of spring’s time by giving us more summer. Remember how we all complained about the cold weather of April? It will be a cold day in spring before I do that again!

Theory 2: The garden fairies found a long forgotten secret potion and drugged Mother Nature. She’s fast asleep someplace and so hasn’t flipped the switch to turn on fall.

I have a feeling that fall will arrive all of a sudden one day, when Mother Nature wakes up and realizes what day it is. We’ll go from high temperatures in the 80’s one day to high temperatures in the 60’s the next day. In fact, based on what the weathermen are saying, I think that’s what’s going to happen here this coming Thursday.

I just hope Mother Nature isn't so mad at the garden fairies that she makes winter colder or snowier than usual.

Any other theories on why summer is hanging on like this?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Gardening Time Management

Do you ever get overwhelmed by all you need to do in your garden? Weeds to pull, flowers to dead head, mulch to spread, shrubs to dig out, annuals to plant, seeds to sow, the list seems endless at times!

My sister was feeling overwhelmed by all she wants to do in her garden and her time is limited. The picture above is of a simple bird house with a clematis vine wrapped around it sitting on a ledge on her gazebo. A gazebo! I don't have a gazebo. Do you? If I did, I'd love having a garden accent like that on one ledge and that's where I would spend my time.

Here's the advice I gave my sister.

Stopping thinking about EVERYTHING that needs to be done or that you want to do in the garden. Instead figure out what you can do in 15 or 30 minutes, when you have time, and then go do just that without thinking about everything else. It's a little time-management mind game.

For example, I'll tell myself to just weed for 15 minutes or until the container I have is full, whether that is a wheelbarrow load, a basketful or a trash bag full. Or I'll think, "I'll just weed from here to there" maybe a distance of 10 feet and then I can stop. Then I do just that and stop and decide if I have time or the desire to do more. I don't look at the whole bed and think how long it might take to do the whole thing, because most times you won't have that much time to spare all at once, so why go on thinking you will someday?

Enough of these 15 minute sessions and pretty soon, you see some real progress.

Of course, you don't want to be like one of those people who stop to mow their lawns when a hurricane is swirling out in the Atlantic heading right toward them. You have to prioritize and make sure the urgent matters are attended to first, like making sure the chairs in the gazebo all work, which you do by sitting on them and relaxing with a good book and a tall lemonade.

And occasionally you do have to plan enough time to do an important big project, like spreading mulch, or replanting an entire perennial bed, or building a gazebo, but you won't do those kinds of projects every day.

Other high priorities include, for example, getting rid of poison ivy, making sure prized perennials aren't being overrun by weeds, planting the vegetable garden before the fourth of July, planting trees, watering if everything is parched. Stuff like that.

Speaking of watering, I have some neighbors who are already running sprinklers on their lawns. I'm not talking about those people who have irrigation systems and turn them on in the spring and off in the fall and so end up watering nearly every day rain or shine. I'm talking about neighbors who have to go to some effort to drag out hoses and sprinklers and position the sprinklers just right so they aren't watering the street or their driveway.

It is a little dry outside, even though we had some rain last Wednesday. Regardless, I think these neighbors are making a mistake. May is not the month to be "babying" the grass and having it think there is an endless supply of water right at the surface, so that's where the roots stay. No! The lawn must not be babied along like that. It needs to learn to send those roots deeper for moisture, so that when it is really dry out, in July and August, it has a better chance of surviving without additional watering.

That's what I do with my lawn. I even let it go dormant mid-summer and only if it is really, really dry do I do some watering in late August-September, when it starts to cool down in the evenings. And I've not lost it all to a drought yet.