Saturday, May 28, 2005

Gardening in the Rain!

Some people sing and dance in the rain, but we're gardeners, so we go out in the garden!
If you haven't done it yet, get with it! When it's raining, the garden is a wonderful place to be for any number of reasons.
  1. There usually are NO bugs!
  2. If you're bothered by the heat when you garden, this will be perfect, 'cause it's cooler.
  3. You probably can get away with not watering newly planted things for a bit.
  4. The soil stays where you PUT it!
  5. The shock to newly planted materials is so much less.
  6. No one will bother you!!!!
  7. Everyone will think you're crazy (which you knew already.)
  8. Other gardeners will know now that you are serious about this.
There you have it. Now, go on out. Put on you grungiest clothes and boots. Find an old rain jacket, because if it isn't old when you start, it surely will be when you finish. Then be ready to feel like an 8 year old boy, because you'll be having fun playing in dirt that is less than dusty. After doing it a few times, you'll grow to enjoy it. The reason you'll enjoy it is because it really IS the best time to garden.

Monday, May 23, 2005


This week, before the rains started in earnest, I managed to finish raking out the winter debris from the garden. I have a number of gardening beds, as I'm sure you do as well. I start at the beds closest to the house and gradually go to the farthest extremities of the yard. I FINALLY finished them!
As I finish each bed, I put a good shovelful or two, of compost on and around each clump of plants pushing their way through the ground. I figure it will give them a boost, and also be there for incorporating into the next hole I dig. Remember, I dig as little as possible, BUT I do need to get those annuals in the ground.
In this climate, I wait as long as I dare before planting the annuals. I don't want them to get nipped by a late frost. The only drawback doing this is that by time I get to the garden center, a lot of what I would like to buy, has already gone elsewhere...and is probably getting frostbitten there. Oh well. That's the way it goes. I know I could have planted seed inside, but I just haven't got the energy for that.
The compost bin is now full again with all the winter accumulation of leaves, etc. This year it has the remnants of our spring flooding from our little stream, as well. That should be very good for the compost! The rain that is coming down now has already diminished the compost by a few feet. It means I don't have to water the bin. That's a good thing! I love getting help with my gardening whether it's from God, my husband or my kids! I gratefully accept it all.
My children are now all grown and have their own homes and gardens, but that doesn't say I can't beg a bit of help when they come to visit. The guys are great at turning my compost! I struggle with that and am VERY grateful for their is the compost!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Does Your Garden Overwhelm You? Try this!

OK...let me tell you about my gardening, along with a few suggestions!
  1. I try to only plant perennials, with a few annuals thrown in for color. Perennials take care of themselves and get better every year!
  2. This phenomenon young mother's are struggling with is exactly why I began to get help with the house! My choice was to garden rather than clean house, which I always considered a hateful job. So, if you need help, decide what you’d like to do LESS and get help with that! Also, if you get that help with house work, it allows you to be outside with your kids and dog, rather than having them watch you scrub toilets!
  3. DON’T worry about how the garden looks. It’ll be there when you have time...just like dirty dishes!
  4. Use a HEAVY layer of mulch around all your garden beds! You’ll have far fewer weeds and it looks great, not to say it’s wonderful for the plants as well!
  5. If possible, have that big, strong husband of yours cut the grass and help with weeding. That will leave you with some more open time to garden. If he doesn’t want to do that, hire a kid to cut it for you. You can also pay someone to weed for you...but I have found that often they don’t really know what the difference is, and you end up unhappy.
  6. Do have your little children (and older ones too!) help you pull dandelions and other OBVIOUS weeds. It will look better (and since s/he’s pulling the flowers, they don’t have a chance to set seed.) The weeds will eventually die out. AND it gives her/him a sense of purpose.
  7. I never hired a gardener because they tend to be very free with chemicals and hedge clippers. NOT a good combination.
  8. Remember that a garden should be for your enjoyment! If that’s not the case, begin to phase OUT some of the garden...and just plant ground cover instead (like pachysandra) until the day comes when you’re ready, and then just pull the groundcover out and plant what you want. Maybe ground cover in the back yard and the other flowering perennials out front so it looks nice for passers by. But you will have to spend a bit of time there like maybe a few hours on a Saturday morning...or whenever.
  9. Do NOT dig up the bulbs. They will come up by themselves and will pop right through any ground cover. They won’t cause you any additional work, I promise!

Any other gardening questions I can help you with?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Western Massachusetts Master Gardening Assoc.

I just got a note from a good friend who is a Master Gardener in Massachusetts. She checked my page about Extension Services and noticed that there was one missing! It's the page authored by the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association. It's EXCELLENT! Why don't you click on it here and check it out yourself? I think you'll be impressed.
Let me know what you think!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

At Play in the Fields of the Bronx - New York Times

Here's a great article about inner city kids and how they are being given a chance to enjoy some gardening space. In some cases it's just a small space, in others it's larger. At Play in the Fields of the Bronx - New York Times
I can remember when my children were just little guys, my garden was NOT a sacred place. If the ball escaped into the garden, it didn't trouble me if they went in for it. If something got stepped on in the process, so be it. If the plants couldn't stand up to my kids, that plant didn't deserve to be there. Obviously, they didn't abuse that. I think they enjoyed the gardens as much as I did, nothing was ever "tromped" on. They went into the garden with care and respect for all that grew there.
To garden is to learn what wonderful things can come of digging in the the dirt and planting things. Our children have a lot to learn from gardening. Are you giving YOUR kids that opportunity?
Let us know here what YOU do to encourage your children to be better stewards of the land.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Report: British Flora Faces Extinction - Yahoo! News

This article is downright frightening! It could happen here too. Check my post a few days back about Invasives. They are responsible for the decline of many species. We need to take this seriously! Report: British Flora Faces Extinction - Yahoo! News

Sunday, May 08, 2005



Tulips should be dead-headed(remove spent flower)

The grass can be mowed when it reaches 3-4 inches (sorry, but
it IS that time again!)

Hold off mulching until the soil is warm, or you'll just keep
the cold in!

You can now plant lettuce, beans, corn and carrots right in the

Tomatoes can be planted when the lilacs bloom. You might sprinkle
a teaspoon of Epsom salts into the hole where they go to provide magnesium.

Marigolds, zinnias and even nasturtiums are good to plant in and around
your vegetables as well as the flower beds. They repel insects!

You can begin to plant gladiolas at 2 week intervals

You can fertilize any bulbs that are up.

Stake your peonies before they get too big

Harvest rhubarb by grabbing it at the base of the stalk and pulling firmly away from the crown, twisting just a bit. Be sure to throw the leaves into the compost as they are poisonous!

You can prune your spring blooming shrubs just as soon as the flowers have faded.

Any questions about May?

Saturday, May 07, 2005


Today I had a question from a friend about HOSTA and how to divide them, so I decided to address that here.
Hosta is a WONDERFUL plant for so many different reasons. They will grow in the shade, or in the sun. They love humus-y soil, but will grow well in dryer areas under trees and other dry places as long as they get some water. They come with fragrant, as well as odorless flowers. They come in shades of purple or pure white. The leaves are totally green or varigated...and the varigations come in all forms. They will fill in quickly where they are planted, so thick that they will eventually crowd out the weeds. Not only that, they are easy to divide and increase where ever you might want to generate them. What more could a gardener possibly want?
There IS a trick to dividing them however!!! Their roots tend to get SO thick and dense that they can be extremely difficult to separate.
What I do, and what I would suggest that you try (preferably in the spring), is to dig up the clump of hosta you want to divide and immerse it in a tub of water. Often times that will remove the soil, making it easier to pull the plants apart. However, if that doesn't work? I take either a sharp shovel or even an ax or hatchet and chop the roots into separate clumps of hosta!!! It sounds pretty drastic, but it works just fine and the plant is none the worse for wear. As long as there is a root or two attached to some leaves, the clump should grow happily where ever you decide to put it.
Since the plant will be there for a pretty long time, I also suggest that you add lots of compost or other humus to the soil to sustain it through the years. Then in the fall, or spring when you are cleaning out your garden beds of leaves, DON'T remove that from the hosta beds. Leave it there to become mulch, where it will break down and eventually feed the plant.
The only drawback I can see with hosta is that they are beloved by deer!!! However, they'll grow back, so don't dispair if they are clipped off. (Easy for me to say, right? Those deer can be a real problem for lots of gardeners.)
Anyway, enjoy your hosta! If you have a question e-mail me here!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Finally, Out in the Garden, and Ready to Compost

Yesterday my stars were finally in line and I could get out into the garden to do some bona fide WORK!
I do not spend NEARLY as much time there as I used to. My creaking body limits me. There's the back, the hip and now the neck that keep me from staying out there any longer than about an hour each time, so I need to prioritize what I feel is the most critical.
Critical now is getting the perennial beds cleaned up and cleaned OUT! When I do that, I pull out a lot of debris that collected over the winter, like leaves and stuff. However, that has to go into the compost bin, and before that can happen I need to remove all that "black gold" that has been generated since LAST spring! So, that is always my first order of business.
I have three bins set up, side by side. There's the biggest one (#1) that is the ACTIVE one. Then there is the one right next to it (#2), and the third (#3) one. As I begin in the spring, I transfer the top stuff from the #1 bin into the #2 bin where it can continue to break down. More importantly I use a shovel full (or 2 or 3) of that to cover any new additions into #1. It puts that partially broken down stuff back into the active compost bin (#1). It also serves to inject any new plant material (or kitchen scraps) with all the necessary bacteria to help it begin to "work".
When that is removed, what is under it is the true BLACK GOLD! It looks wonderful, and it IS wonderful! All of that I put into bin #3, which is ready to use whenever I need it. However, there is more compost ready than will fit into bin #3. So, I begin to load up wheelbarrows full of this wonderful stuff and begin to spread it around where needed. If I need to clear out the intended beds, I rake them and just leave the pile of debris there for addition to the #1 compost bin.
My main targets yesterday were blueberries, rhodies, mountain laurel, and my rock garden, right in front of the house. The rock garden needed raking, but the others just got 3-4 shovel fulls of compost, right on top of the ground around their main stem.
Now that the compost is OUT of the working, or active (#1) bin, it's time to collect the debris I removed from the rock garden, etc. and put it in the bin...remembering to broadcast some of the working compost from bin #2.
Are you TOTALLY, and hopelessly confused? If so, e-mail me here, or make a comment below. I'd love to hear how the rest of you make use of all that stuff you clear out of your gardens. Do you compost it? Or do you throw it away?

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Invasive Plants in Our Midst

Yesterday I went to a workshop featuring control of Invasive Plants on large parcels of land. It was offered by the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

Now, I know Invasives are a big problem, but this workshop actually helped us learn how to make a plan to attack the most logical one first. Isn't it too bad that there are so many that we have to pick and choose which one to attack first?

Do YOU have Invasive Plant species on your little plot? If you are unsure of what they are, or how they look, go to the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England and check them out. You will probably be amazed to see what's included!

Here are some definitions we need to know in order to understand invasives.

  • Native Plant – a species that reached its location without assistance from humans.
  • Exotic species – a non-native plant or animal introduced into a new location by human activity, either intentionally or by accident.
  • Invasive species – a non-native species that is capable of moving aggressively into a habitat and monopolizing resources such as light, nutrients, water, and space to the detriment of other species.

Maybe you have some comments to be made about Invasives and how you control them...or DON'T control them! Why don't you let us know here and help us with our endeavors?

If you're unsure about how to do that, just click on the place where it says "comment" and you're in business! It also shows you what other people have said about this same topic.