Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bradford Pear Tree

I have one Bradford Pear Tree on my one acre lot, and even though I love it dearly, I have realized too late it is planted too close to the house. When we bought out house 15 years ago, we planted this lovely tree on the day we took possession, and at the time, it seemed very far away from the front porch. Over the past few years, the tree now dwarfs the front of our house, and occasionally has branches that we must prune to keep it from rubbing against the house.

At this time of year, I especially love the Bradford Pear for its bright read leaves. The coloring blends in nicely with autumn decorations I like to use in the yard: corn shocks, pumpkins, gourds, and occasionally a fake cemetery.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Autumn Joy Sedum

Autumn Joy sedum is one of my favorite plants because it is so easy to grow and propagate. It is also extremely drought tolerant is is a wonderful food source for honey bees.

Autumn Joy sedum flower heads are really made up of hundreds of tiny flowers, tightly clustered together on thick stems.

This photos is from the last snow in February 2008. Left to dry overwinter, the stems and flower heads not only provide architectural elements to the garden, but they keep providing food for insects and early orchard mason bees.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Frost Asters

At this time of year, the only things still blooming in my gardens are the Autumn Joy sedum, Goldenrod, and the Frost Asters. The asters looks like miniature daisies.

They grow in large clumps in several areas of my gardens and wildflower meadow.

Early on autumn mornings, when you look out the windows, the asters remind you of snow flakes dancing above the ground.

I think it's beautiful when the asters and goldenrod are mingled together, growing in the same space.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Goldenrod (Solidago) is the state flower of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and it is one of my favorite flowers. Contrary to popular belief, goldenrod does not cause hayfever because the pollen is too thick to travel very far in the wind. Most of the autumn allergies contributed to goldenrod are actually caused by ragweed, which blooms at the same time.

Goldenrod is the host plant to many insects, bugs and butterflies. There are over 18 different varieties of goldenrod native to Kentucky.

I have several plots of goldenrod growing on my one acre property.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sweet Autumn Clematis

I love this time of year, when the Sweet Autumn Clematis is blooming. I have two that are threatening to take over sections of my garden - and I LOVE it! This clematis is growing over my septic tank area and is the only plant - except for a snowball bush - that is growing in this area. All spring and summer, the clematis grows rapidly, spreading dark green leaves throughout the area. In late August or early September, when the blooms start coming on, the greenry disappears behind the canopy of white flowers.

The individual flowers of the clematis are fairly small, but the profusion of petals makes a stunning sight when they start to bloom. And the smell - WOW - they smell wonderful! A light, sweet smell that fragrants the late afternoon air.

This clematis is threatening to take over my small shed. Light pruning in early spring helps to remove old growth, so this vine has grown this much in one season. (It is growing up a six foot post.)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Time to Mow the Back 40

It's getting close to time to mow my one acre backyard. The wildflowers have been beautiful, but most of them are now going to seed. I usually mow this area in late September, then I use the "hay" to seed bare areas in my meadow garden. The hay is full of wildflower seeds and this is an easy way for me to increase the size of the meadow garden.
This photo shows the grass pathway I keep mowed through my meadow garden.
This photo shows some of the drying grass in another area of the meadow garden.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

It's Time to Plant the Garlic

It's that time of year again - time to plant the garlic. Although I'm no expert on growing garlic, this will be my second season and I'm looking forward to it. For more expert advice on growing garlice, check out Bifurcated Carrots - they always have GREAT advice! (This photo is from this past spring.)

I recently finished harvesting the last of my onions, so I will be planting my garlic in the same bed. After tilling up the soil, I amended it with some compost. I got my seed garlic from the local Southern States, so I only have one variety. One of these years, I'll try some new varities, but for now, I'm still learning.

I harvested about 3 dozens heads of garlic this spring and I was so proud! I'm hoping to increase my plantings this fall, so I'll have more garlic with the coming spring. (This photo is also from the spring.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dog Days of Summer

August is turning into a bear of a month. The drought in the Bluegrass state is well into its 3rd week and everything is starting to show wear and tear. Although I am trying remove much of the lawn on my one acre property, I still have large expansives of grass - it's looking bad. There are places were the ground is cracked into wide fissures running along the ground.

I have been trying to keep the container plants, veggie garden and young trees watered, but even they are starting to show signs of giving up the fight to the drought.

All plans for my fall garden have been put on hold until we can get a good soaking rain to re-saturated the parched soil. I do have some seedlings started, but for now, I'm keeping them in pots until I'm sure they can survive in the garden.

Even with everything scrotched and dying in the garden, there are a few things that are thriving in the heat and drought. The Autumn Joy sedum is just coming into bloom and is showing no signs of stress. I have this lining my driveway and this area gets the full sun and heat from the road and driveway all day long.

The goldenrod and ironweed are also coming into bloom, and although the leaves are showing some wear and tear, the blooms have not been effected. I love the yellow of the goldenrod mixed with the purple ironweed - they make wonderful cut arrangements. The frost asters are also starting to bud, although there are no flowers yet. When the asters bloom, it looks like snow in the backyard, but that's a few more weeks away.

So, all in all, even with the long, dry summer, I have a few things to be happy about in the gardens.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Harris Seeds if having a deck and patio vegetable challenge and the prize if a $25 Harris Seeds Gift Certificate! I just received their newsletter and here's what is says:

"If you are growing vegetables on your deck or patio, tell us your story in a few short paragraphs and send us some photos of your accomplishments (the photos should have you in it and your special growing techniques to illustrate how you get it done). We will award 8 - $25.00 Harris Seeds Gift Certificates to the top 8 entries, and a $100.00 Gift Certificate to the gardener with the most creative and successful presentation for growing vegetables on a deck. We will publish the winners in our newsletter some time in the fall, after harvest."

Submit your entry to gardeners@harrisseeds.com.
Deadline for entries: August 31, 2008.

Now, if you'll excuse me, August 31st is just around the corner!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Last Chance for Book Give-Away

Just a reminder to all those interested, tonight at midnight is the deadline for entering my contest to win a copy of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. To be eligible, click here and leave a comment. Good luck to everyone!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tending the Back 40

When our riding lawnmower broke down this past spring, my hubby and I made the decision to not mow our one-acre backyard this year. With the exception of the trails I mowed throughout the backyard, we have allowed the native grasses and wildflowers to grow unchecked, along with many new seedlings of maple, walnut and oak trees.

We have many different varities of grasses that grow in the back 40: Kentucky Bluegrass, fescue, wheat, oats and millet. After the grass has completely dried, we will push mow the grass and rake it into piles for the birds and rabbits to live on this winter.

I do have one section of the backyard that has many different types of wildflowers: Black-eyed Susans, purple coneflowers, goldenrod, daisies, yarrow and several different types of asters. During the month of August and September, the backyard will be filled with many varying colors and textures of flowers.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Heat and Humidity

Sorry for the lack of posts this week, but the Kentucky heat and humidity has made me very cranky. Although I love working in my gardens, the heat is just too much for me!

So today I'm going to leave you with two wonderful photos. I help with the newsletter for Habitat for Humanity - Mercer County and we had the dedication service for our 13th home this week. The family is a lovely couple with 6 children - ages 3 to 17. They helped with the house as much as possible and with help from our other volunteers, this home was built with love. I'm including a photo I took of the house, as well as one with the entire family. Enjoy!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Rev Up the Victory Garden

Red, White and Grow wants to rev up existing Victory Gardening chat online a bit more.
"We can build greater interest and demand for Victory Gardening in our own communities if we work collaboratively. By replicating a Victory Garden/fall harvest meme, we can use or blogs to engage in some serious social entrepreneurism. By writing about vegetable gardening in a particular way--united around a particular set of principles (gardening for ourselves, our pocketbooks and the planet), we'll be fueling interest in our online and real world communities."

1.) What are your favorite local sources (ex. nurseries, blogs, reliable regional "celebrity" gardeners, county/parish extension office)? In my area of Kentucky, I get organic seeds from Southern States. DanyaBrook is a local nursery that I can get locally grown veggie seedlings.

2.)What are your favorite books and magazines? Organic Gardening, Herb Companion, and Mother Earth News are my favorite gardening mags. As for books, I love all the gardening books by Sharon Lovejoy: Sunflower Houses, Hollyhock Days, and Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots.

3.)What have you had success with growing in your fall garden? Peas, green Roma beans, cabbage and salad mix (different types of lettuces).

4.)When do you plant and harvest it? I typically plant the first few weeks in August and continue to harvest through Thanksgiving, sometimes even later.

5.)What is your favorite gardening tip? Use garden waste from summer garden to mulch around plants in the fall garden.

6.)Why do you call your garden a _________ (Victory Garden, Peace Garden, Freedom Garden, vegetable garden...etc.)? Mine is a veggie garden and I call it that mainly because I grow vegetables; but I do have several varieties of fruits and berries I grow as well.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Oh, No - Cicadas Again!

Okay, just when I thought I was finished with Cicadas for the 2008 season, along comes another crop! Thank goodness these little buggers aren't as bad as the 17-year variety we had early in the year. These are the normal cicadas we normally get during the dry months of August. They aren't nearly as prolific or as noisy as their little cousins. They also don't have those beady red eyes - yuck!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Blogging Award

I was honored to learn this afternoon that Cindy from Brambleberries in the Rain had nominated me for a Brillante Award. I am so excited! I am unable to complete the rules of this award today, but this is something I will be working on this week, so please check back in!

And again, I want to send Cindy a great, big thank you!

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Blogging Break for Breaking Dawn

This is the weekend I've been looking forward to for months. Breaking Dawn will be released at the witching hour tonight and I hope I'm curled up reading by 01:00 a.m. This means I'm taking a tiny break from blogging this weekend so I can read - uninterrupted!

Right now, I'm off to take a nap so I'll be rested and refreshed before this marathon reading session begins. With the exception of my Robin Hood post on Rightmyer Rants, I probably won't be blogging again until Monday. Hope to see you all then!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Taming the Trumpet Vine

For years I’ve been struggling with what to do about the garden that runs across the front of our home. When we moved in almost 15 years ago, there were four yew shrubs growing across the front, and we allowed them to grow for several years.

At first, we kept the shrubs trimmed back every year to help maintain growth and outline a definite footprint around the garden. After five years of trimming and pruning, we got lazy and decided to allow the shrubs to grow unchecked. Within five more years, we had four unruly monsters fighting for the front of our house. I hated these shrubs! The only thing I liked about the disorderly tangle of branches was the trumpet vine that began to grow up through the middle of one of the shrubs. I enjoyed the orange blooms and the fragrant smell, so I began to allow the trumpet vine to expand. Wrong choice!

After living in our home for about ten years, we decided to totally remove the yews from the front of the house. This was a tedious job that took us several weeks. We started out severely pruning the shrubs back, and then we took the chainsaw to the thick trunks and continued to hack away until the majority of the yew was gone. Digging out the roots proved to be another hard job, so much so, that we left the root on the yew that was on the north end of the house. I’ve spent the past five years covering this stump with shredded leaves, grass clippings and bark mulch. This area will eventually make a wonderful planting hole for a new tree or shrub.

After clearing the front of the house, the garden was bare, except for a few remaining trumpet vines. Because I want to use as many native plants in my gardens as possible, I decided to try and train the trumpet vine to grow where I wanted it to. I envisioned vines covering the front of the house and boasting orange flowers all summer. Well, the vines did grow up the house, but strong winds would pull them loose until the entire area looked like a tangle mess instead of the clinging vines I wanted.

Even when I managed to grow the vines up to the roof line, the number of flowers was disappointing; instead of a mass of blooms, I only got a handful of flowers. In the mean time, trumpet vines began to creep all along the ground until they completely engulfed the entire garden.

This year, I have decided to tame the trumpet vine and take back the front of my house. First, I choose the healthiest looking vine near the corner of the house and started to train it up a long piece of rebar; this will be the only vine I will leave. For the rest of the garden, I have started by laying thick pads of newspaper all through the front garden. After covering the area with newspaper, I then covered the paper with a thick layer of shredded bark. When Kentucky Utilities started trimming trees last fall, we had several truck loads of shredded bark dumped in our yard to use as mulch. I am hoping that the newspaper and a six inch layer of bark will be enough to suffocate the trumpet vine and keep it from re-sprouting.

One thing for sure, my gardens will never be the same because they are always evolving. My goal is for a natural garden, one where wildlife is not afraid and plants are allowed to show their natural forms. A garden that doesn’t show the gardener’s hand is the most precious garden of all. Basically, I’m a lazy gardener; I want a garden that does all the work so I won’t have to!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

New Plants with No Cost

I am the type of person who loves to cut fresh bouquets of flowers to bring in the house, take to work, or give to family and friends. I love to have flowers in my home and at the office, especially if it is a flower with a strong fragrance.

But I don’t only cut flowers for my floral arrangements; I also love to cut branches from flowering shrubs. weigela, forsythia, mock orange, pussy willow and curly willow, these branches add height and texture to arrangements, and they have a tendency to hold their blooms longer in a vase than some flowers. What I have found is that many times, these branches will begin to send out roots while sitting in a vase full of water.

Once my cuttings have rooted in water, I transfer them to sand filled pots and keep them in a shaded, sheltered location until ready to plant in the fall. Under a large tree is the perfect place to place these cuttings. It is critical to monitor the moisture daily because new cuttings will die if they dry out - believe me, I've learned this the hard way! Most times, I have nice size transplants that can be planted into the garden in the fall, or they can be babied over the winter and then be planted the following spring.

Many cuttings like willow, weigla, hydrangeas and mock orange are ready to be transplanted into the garden in late fall. Some cuttings take a little more time - snowball bush, lilac and roses. For those later in maturing, just monitor them through the winter and maintain adequate moisture; by spring they should be ready to go into the ground.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Birthday Wishes

We love you bunches,
Mom and Dad

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Allowing Small Creatures to Help With Garden Chores

With organic gardening becoming the norm in more and more gardens, it only seems natural to let the tiny creatures of the garden assist you with some of your gardening chores. Ever wonder what Earthworms do to your soil? Or whether you should try and get rid of those moles tunneling through the garden? What about the birds pecking the ground or roosting in trees? Should I try to get rid of what some gardeners call nuisances in the garden, or should I use my instincts and try to work with these creatures?

In the spirit of being a true naturalist, I have decided to enlist the help of small and tiny creatures in my garden to help me make the most out of my resources. The animal most gardeners dread seeing the most is probably Mr. Snake. Snakes rank right up there with root canals and filing income tax for most people. More snakes meet their fatal end with the edge of a shovel or hoe stabbing into their middles.

But, if you would just stop a minute before hacking your slithering enemy to death, you may learn to enjoy the benefits of snakes in the garden. Number one, if you run upon a snake in the garden, he is going to be more afraid of you than you can ever be of him. The snake’s first instinct is to get away at the first sign of danger. If you will just step back, the snake will skim across the grass faster than you can scream, “Help!” That snake will be so startled, he won’t come out for the rest of the day, and he will probably find another hiding spot, one well away from the crazy humans.

Snakes will keep your yard free from excessive mice, voles, and occasional rats that are a natural part of a neighborhood back yard. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to put up with see the occasional snake in the garden in exchange for no mice or rats in my home.

Walk through the gardening section of discount and home improvement centers and you will see many traps and contraptions to eliminate moles from your yard. Moles are the tiny bulldozers that leave raised mounds all through some lawns and gardens. Some people will try anything to stop these tunneling creatures from making tracks through their lawns, but is that really necessary? Moles are not vegetarians, so contrary to popular belief, they don’t eat the roots of your plants and trees. Instead, moles continually feast on grubs they uncover in the soil.

So whenever moles are leading a wagon train through my gardens, I just gently lift the mounding soil into pots and use them to make container gardens. This soil is nice and fluffy which leads to nice drainage and aeration, perfect conditions for container grown plants. Or, I will sprinkle the super fine soil across the lawn to provide supplementation throughout grassy areas. It is also easy to use a steel tined rake and rake the mounds into the surrounding areas. I look at moles like an extra hand with tilling the soil. They keep the topsoil aerated and tilled; in return, they also eat all the grubs hibernating in the soil. I don’t know about you, but the quicker the moles can rid me of Japanese beetles grubs, the happier I will be.

Spiders are another ick factor for some gardeners, but without their continual patrolling of gardens and lawns, all our plants would be overrun with aphids and other soft bodied insects. Spiders use their webs to capture large flies, cabbage moths and other flying creatures. As a matter of fact, some large farm install “spider boxes” throughout their fields to have with insect problems. These spider boxes are typically wooden crates turned upside down; the spiders spend the hot days under the cover of the box and build their webs in the vegetation.

So next time you are tempted to hack at a poor little snake, set out mole traps or brush away those spider webs, think first of all the benefits these creatures can have to a natural landscape. You will be surprised at what these creatures can do.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Worms Are Eating My Garbage

For years I have composted my kitchen waste into a compost heap or Possibility Pile, but I must admit, many times my compost bucket will get “ripe” before I remember to take it out to the garden. Decomposition does have a distinctive smell, and naturally this is not something I want in the house. I recently found a new way to compost my kitchen waste without smell or hard work. I found some “ladies” who are now taking care of my problems.

My ladies are actually a group of red wiggler earth worms and they live in a plastic tote box in my laundry room. These ladies can eat a hundred times their weight in kitchen waste, and they turn all that waste into rich fertile vermicompost that feeds my garden. Composting gold is made in my home everyday, without smell or hard work.

There are many advantages to vermicomposting. It produces fewer odors and attracts fewer pests than putting food wastes in the garbage. It saves the water and electricity that a sink garbage disposal unit would use. It requires little space or labor. It produces high quality fertile compost – worm castings are a natural fertilizer. It keeps food wastes out of the landfill. Food wast in the landfill decomposes without oxygen, creating methane gas, which is a major contributor to global warming.

All you need to vermicompost are a worm bin, bedding, water, worms and food scraps. You can buy a ready-made worm bin, or you can us a simple plastic bin or wooden box. It will need to have a cover for darkness, and holes for air circulation. I use a large Rubbermaid tote box that I have drilled several holes alone the stop for ventilation.

The worms need to burrow in bedding to bury the garbage. Shredded paper, cardboard or leaves will work. This is a great way to recycle your junk mail and catalogs. Run this paper waste through a paper shredder and add to the bottom of you box. This bedding must be kept moist, so regular mistings of water are necessary.

Use only red worms, or “wigglers”, which are the composting worms. Feed your worms non-meat kitchen waste, such as veggie and fruits peelings and scrapes, tea bags, coffee grounds, egg shells and paper products like coffee filters, napkins and paper towels. Occasionally, when the worms are working to efficiency, you can give them a rare amount of meat, but this should not be done on a regular basis.

Every few months, remove the rapidly multiplying worms from the box and use the rich vermicompost to fertilize houseplants and garden vegetables. After cleaning the box thoroughly, add shredded paper products to the bottom and add the worms back to start the process over.

Be warned, the worms reproduce rapidly because all they do is eat and multiple. You will probably have too many worms to add back to one box, so be prepared to start new worm boxes. Or you can add a few worms to several areas of your garden. They will burrow to soft garden soil and begin their cycle of eating and reproducing as if they had never been moved.

Worm farms would be a wonderful idea for school children that are interested in gardening projects. Worm boxes could be set up at school and then the children could feed the worms with all the left over school meals. This would teach a valuable lesson in the art of recycling and improving the Earth.

So the next time you don’t eat all your house salad at lunch, bring it home in a doggy bag. Can’t eat all that bread left in the complimentary breadbasket? Bring it home to the ladies. Tired of dumping used coffee filters and coffee grounds in the trash? Feed it to the ladies. These ladies are heard working and they work for food, so the more food and kitchen waste you have, the happier your ladies will be. You will be rewarded by a decrease in kitchen waste and an increase in produce from the garden

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

River Birch

I have two river birch trees - Betula nigra - in my gardens. Nothing special about them other than I love the nice airy canopy they provide. I love the peely bark and the variation in color on the trunk. I also love the nicely shaped leaves that look like they are fluttering, even when there is very little wind.

In the forest, birch trees thrive on cool, moist soils. Their very shallow root system makes them sensitive to even short periods of drought or heating of the soil, thus they grow poorly on hot, dry soils. One of my trees is near the back corner of the house to help catch rain run-off from the roof and the other is at the bottom of our yard which is downhill from the house in an area that receives lots of water.

River birch trees are hardy to zone 4.