Tuesday, May 29, 2007


This weekend my son and his family were here. The two guys, my son and his 9 year old son, spent a good amount of time helping this aging grandmother in the garden doing stuff I just cannot handle any longer.
We had, over the last few seasons, had tree blow-downs, and intentional management of trees (removing them to avoid collision with the roof again!). The fellow who did the clean-up left a number of piles of wood chips for me. (I did ask him to leave the chips. Why pay for something you can get free???)
Anyway, my son spread the chips for me, and I got ready to plant the little trees I got from the local Conservation District. My problem, of course, was that the chips are NEW. That means they will suck up the nitrogen in the soil like a Hoover vacuum cleaner! They need the nitrogen in order to help them decompose. I haven't got time to wait for that, so I needed to add some nitrogen. I picked up some dried blood, which is almost total nitrogen. A little of that went into each hole with some compost. I have never done this before.
If you want to read more about the effects of nitrogen on our plants try this site from the University of Missouri Extension.
In the past, I've never used fresh wood chips, but I haven't got time to wait this time, so I had to use them. I know the little plants need the nitrogen...this is a dangerous experiment. I may lose all of the plants if the dried blood doesn't provide the nitrogen they need.
Then this morning when I was reading my NY Times on-line there was an article about nitrogen. It didn't help with my dilemma, but it was of interest to me at this moment. In case you're interested in the article, it can be found right here.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


What a great idea! I read this comment on the National Gardening web site, and it's such a wonderful idea I thought I'd share it with you!

"When removing sod to plant a new tree or shrub, flip the sod clumps over -- root side out -- and lay them down in a wide ring around the tree on top of the soil and they will form a berm to hold water and also add organic matter as the grass decomposes. Top them with your mulch of choice."

Isn't that a super thought?

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Which is it? Is it a rhododendron or an azalea? Can we start by saying that all azaleas are rhododendrons, but not all rhododendrons are azaleas? Well, yes.
My husband asked me what the difference was when I identified a blooming shrub as an azalea on the way home from church this morning. I couldn't give him a really definitive answer, and copped out by saying my understanding was that azaleas were deciduous, and a rhododendron is an evergreen. I really was unsure though, so when I got home I looked it up and here are some of the things I found out. Number one! No wonder I was confused. Even the experts have a hard time distinguishing between the two. Generally, I'm right. USUALLY an azalea is deciduous and the rhododendron is evergreen...but not always! Hmmm.....
So how can you tell the difference between an azalea and a rhododendron? In general, rhododendrons are larger shrubs than azaleas, and have larger leaves. Also, in general, azalea flowers have five stamens, while the rhododendron flowers have ten stamens. Finally, unlike rhododendrons, many azalea plants are deciduous. (Hurray for me!)
So, did I help any? Probably not, I'll still continue to be confused. I can't say that I'll be too quick to go count stamens! Not only that, these shrubs only bloom for a month or so each year...so, for eleven months I'll continue to be unsure. Even if I could count those stamens, I doubt I'd really care that much. They are gorgeous plants, whether they are rhodies or azaleas! Just go out and enjoy them!

Friday, May 04, 2007


Have you made a trip to the nursery yet to buy more plants than your garden would ever need? Yup! Most of us have. But have you thought more about them than just how they look or what they fit in with at the ground level? Have you thought about all the creatures that visit your garden every minute, of every hour, of every day? Are you cutting back as much as possible on pesticides and other toxic chemicals? This is an important thing to take seriously.
Forget the deer...they are a problem that even chemicals probably can't control...so let's not deal with them here.
The creatures I am addressing here are your birds and pollinators mostly. If you put down a chemical to control grubs, the next robin who picks up a grub for it's chick back in the nest, feeds it poison! A bird doesn't have the benefit of choosing "organic" at the grocery store! It has to assume that everything it gets in the garden is safe for it's babies. Is it?
If you spray for some harmful beetle or other on your plants and flowers, every bee, butterfly, ant, wasp or other pollinator will be eating that as well. Good bye "good guy"!
It is SO critical for us conscientious gardeners to keep all of this in mind. Try to be as organic as possible. Try so very hard NOT to put toxic chemicals in the garden if at all possible. Be helpful, not harmful to our wildlife neighbors. They are what make our gardens bloom and reproduce. We need them and they need us to be helpful, not hurtful.
Every creature that comes visiting has three things they need. Try to offer it to them.
  1. Food- For the insect that is pollen and nectar. For the bird it is seeds and berries. Pick flowers that will attract bees, butterflies, wasps, etc. Your shrubs and trees should flower and generate some kind of fruit for the birds. They will appreciate that very much.
  2. Water-if you don't have a natural water source like a brook or pond, you should try to get out some clay dishes or a bird bath. These will help the insects and the birds with their water requirements for life.
  3. Shelter-Trees will provide shelter for the birds. It will also give them an area to build nests, and even watch out for predators. If you can, have a brush pile somewhere for ground dwelling creatures to hide out.
If you can do this, you will never regret it. Wildlife will visit and you will enjoy all the natural sharing that goes on. Your garden will be a healthier place for everyone and everything. Your plants may have a few blemishes, but who cares? None of us are perfect either!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007



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.

Have you got Hosta's? Are there slugs chewing them? Try this solution, if you haven't already.
Combine 9 parts water to common household ammonia and spray it on the hosta just before dark. When the slugs hit this, they will dissolve!

Check the apple, cherry, and other fruit trees for nests of tent caterpillars. As soon as the tender, new leaves emerge, so will the caterpillars. Their destruction is just awful! Try blasting them with a strong stream of water from the hose. Bt will also work if you can get it up there. Maybe the use of a sprayer will be practical in this case. I also understand that the Praying Mantis is a big time enemy of tent caterpillars. Perhaps you should order some of those! They should be released into the affected tree at the same time the caterpillars emerge. If you place them before their dinner appears, they will find another yard to in which to chow down .

Any questions about May?