Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Speaking of crinums.....

Nell Jean was, speaking of crinums, that is. I have some that are somewhat different.

Except this one, which is what I think her first picture is, "Mrs. James Hendry" This is the most elegant blooms and a very clean plant. I desperately need to divide mine,( when it warms up.)

This crinum (below) was another 'find' from the brush site. My Husband picked it up when someone discarded it, several of them actually. He brought them home and potted them up, and there they stayed, ugly looking plants. One day I looked out there, and they were blooming like crazy! I was fascinated, as I had never seen a bloom like this. Our guru, Miss Frances called it a 'Ribbon lily', and that is indeed what it looks like; a pile of ribbons. We have a white one as well, but no pictures of it. The white one also came from the brush site, at a different time.

This crinum has the biggest bulb, the size of a gallon bucket, really.

I also have this 'Ellen Bosanquet'. She is one of my favorites. I got her from Chris, of The Southern Bulb Company, when he came down to give a seminar for us a couple of years ago. She is just beautiful!
This is Chris' picture, from his blog, Unique Bulbs for Warm Climates. There is so much information there, check it out!

A resolution for the coming year is to document every plant variety in my garden. I have a new camera, I think I can keep that resolution.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Gardening for EVERYBODY!

I am hearing so many say they cannot garden now. If you live in the frozen North, in zone 4, 5, and 6, and 3 and 2 as well, you CAN be gardening now, and planning in a hands-on way for Spring. Getting a head start on it.....

I want to send you to a place that deals with sowing seeds- sowing them now, I mean. The people at this place just cannot wait for the Winter Solstice! That is the signal to begin planting seeds, of all sorts, in all sorts of containers, and stick them outside to be frozen, snowed on, iced over, and abused in such a cold manner, you would not expect any of them to live. But they do, and the following Spring, they have so many new plants for their gardens! I thought you might be interested in this manner of plant propagation.

It is called "Winter Sowing", and is based on the premise that all seeds know when to germinate. If a plant reseeds naturally, it would go through all the cold, snowy, freezing weather naturally, and still survive to grow the following year. So, they give their seeds the same treatment they would get 'in the wild' so to speak, and they are very successful.

I have planted in winter here, but with us, we have such a mild winter that the seeds usually germinate right quick, then we have to protect them because the next freeze is going to take them out. Bummer. I want to do Winter Sowing! Oh, Wait! That would mean it was cold, possibly snowing.....that's not for me, never mind.....

Be sure to read the FAQ. There is so much information there, you will be set to go!

For example, this is one of the FAQ pages:


What IS "Hunk-o-Seedlings"?

It's how to transplant your seedlings when they've grown very close together.

You can sow as many seeds as you want into a flat, that's up to you....if you don't like thinning seedlings then sow lightly, otherwise you can sow heavily. I am heavy handed when sowing seeds and I always sow plenty. I just thin the seedlings as I transplant them, often I just take a flat and pry off a "hunk-o-seedlings" and divide it into small clusters and plant those as is. When they grow larger I'll thin them out if needed. Mother Nature is very helpful with this too....she'll bop off the weakest seedlings in the cluster so only the very strongest do survive....so thinning is rarely ever neccesary.

OR...if you really-Really-REALLY want to divide those little seedlings into individuals before you transplant them:

To separate any close seedlings just simply take out a cluster of them from the flat, not a big hunk, maybe a piece of soil an inch or two across, and then carefully work the soil loose from the roots to separate them out. To me the action is very similar to butterflying a piece of meat....I just carefully work the roots apart repeatedly opening and halving the soil hunk (this is not something I do when I am hurried or have "anxious" mangling fingers) and I do very little, if any, damage to the roots.


PS....I really personally prefer the hunk-o-seedlings method best. With Winter Sowing you WILL have a gazillion seedlings so planting them out "en masse" will save time, energy, and sanity.

Entered by Trudi_d

FAQ Page


Trudi d is the person who came up with the Winter Sowing idea, and she will cheerfully answer questions, and will be so thrilled you are wanting to WS- as they call it. Click to see her webpage, WinteSown.org.

Go, Read, and maybe you can quench your gardening thirst. More than anything, have fun!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Time to garden again!

Next week, we celebrate the coming of a New Year. After that, what happens? It will be time to garden again! Whoopee!

Oh, calm myself!

I love to propagate plants. Whether I do it with seeds, (favorite!) or cuttings (also favorite!) there are always little tricks to learn, to improve, to pass along. I would like to pass along some of my 'tricks' for propagating new plants, and everyone can use these, no matter where you are in the world.

Let us start with propagating by cuttings.

I make a little propagation chamber that is so easy, and so reliable for me that I love to share this idea.

That said....

This is what you will need.
A plastic shoebox, with a lid. They come in various sizes, any will do. A deeper box, filled to the same depth, is great for things like angel's trumpets or roses.

Soil less potting mix, half peat/ half perlite, or whatever is your favorite medium. This needs to be damp when you put it in the box.

A little clay pot, with the drain hole plugged with caulking or silicone. If this is a new pot, scrub it with some steel wool to be sure it doesn't have a sealer on it. You want the water to seep through it.
Rooting hormone powder or liquid, or salix solution from the willow tree.

Plant material, snippers. This plant is Plectranthus (a tall swedish ivy) and a Joseph's Coat, 'Red Thread'. This box has been used before, many times. The little succulents in it are rooted, they just need moving to a pot.

You can see here, I hope, that I fill the clay pot to the top with rain water, well water, or distilled water. I just don't use our tap water, too much chlorine and a ph that is out of sight.

I pour a little of the hormone powder out on a paper plate or a piece of paper, so that I don't contaminate the whole package of powder. And these little 'snippers' are the best for taking this kind of cuttings.

This is about right on the amount of hormone to use. I try to get 2 nodes per cutting, if I can. Knock off the excess. It is better to have a little too little than to have too much.
Then, with your finger, or a pencil, or stick, SOMETHING, poke a hole in the potting mix and insert your cutting. Pull the potting mix up around the cutting good and snug.

When your box is full, and I always like to pretty much fill the box, just put the lid on it, and set it in the shade. You don't ever put this box in the sun. You wind up with boiled cuttings.

Check the cuttings every few days, and refill the reservoire as needed. Don't let it dry out.

If you happen to get the medium too wet, just prop the lid open with a pencil for a little while.

This is a very good method of propagation, lots of fun, and it doesn't take a lot of room. You can leave the box sitting in the laundry room, or under the bed. Cuttings don't need light to root.

I posted this on the Plant Propagation forum at Garden Web 4 years ago, and it is still running. It just kept on keeping on.

Tom, at Seventh Street Cottage makes a fantastic cloning machine, and he has excellent results with it. Look there for his directions, or ask him about it.

Have fun with this. If at first you don't succeed, try it again. Try it with dozens of cuttings, or several cuttings of several types of plants. It won't take you long to get the hang of it, and learn what the different plants need to root.

By the time Spring is here, and you can get in the garden, you can have dozens of new plants to put out, with very little effort or expense. And if there isn't much in your garden to cut right now, take a walk through Lowes or Home Depot garden department. I pick up a lot of plants this time of year for a dollar or two, that will provide several nice cuttings.

Next time, let's make a cute little rose rooter...... Or, maybe I could explain how I make sure every seed I plant germinates.....or, we could root violets, or graft tomatoes. Oh, Wait! We can do bulbs! Did you ever cut up a bulb and wind up with a cazillion baby bulbs? Fun!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What does this tell you?

Well, I know I have been remiss in my attention to my Blotanical friends, but we are nearing the end of our remodeling job. I am spackling a few nail holes, and have a few nails to set, then finish our painting, clean up the floor, an we can call this done! I am so happy, it is really nice.

So, I have not had time to pick and post, and message many people, and I miss that.

But I got this in an email this morning, and I thought it would be a great way to get to know people. I love to read these things, because they don't say the expected things. If you would like, please copy, and post on your blog, then let us know you have posted your answers.

These are MY answers. I am sure they will differ from a lot of people, but will coincide with many too.

38 ODD Things about you! Cut and paste into your blog and FILL IT OUT! Then publish it for all the world to get to know you!

1. Do you like bleu cheese? Yes

2. Have you ever been bitten by a dog? No.

3. Do you own a Gun? Yes, lots!

4. Favorite Kool Aid: green

5. Do you get nervous before a doctor appointment? Sometimes

6. What do you think of hot dogs? Not for me.

7. Do you give money or other things to panhandlers? Seldom

8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Coffee, cold water

9. Can you do push ups? yes, in much the same way as a walrus does push ups.

10. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? watch

11. What is your favorite hobby? Gardening, quilting

12. Do you have A. D. D.? No...what?

13. Do you wear glasses/contacts? yes

14. Middle name: Lee

15. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment: don't want to go to WW tonight, need to spackle more holes in wall, need to buy dog food.

16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink? water, coffee, tea

17. Current worry: need to get this house finished.

18. Current hate right now: ???
. Favorite place to be? in my stained glass shop

20. How did you bring in the New Year? stayed home

21. Where would you like to go? Vegas

22. Name people who will complete this: Corky, Peggy

23. Do you own slippers? Yes, floor mops

24. What color shirt are you wearing? RED.

25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? No, I like high thread cotton, or linen.

26. Can you whistle? Yes, .

27. Where are you now? Home

28. Would you be a pirate? No, I hate the water.

29. What do you sing in the shower? nothing

30. What is your favorite girl's name? Sheila

31. Favorite boy's name? John, or Michael, or Brian, or David, or Steven, or.....

32. What's in your pocket right now? some money, a little

33. Thing that made you laugh today? e-mails

34. What vehicle do you drive? Suburban

35. Worst injury you've ever had? hurt feelings

36. Do you love where you Live? not really, except I do love TEXAS!

37. How many TV's do you have in your house? five

38. Do you have any tattoos? No, and I never will!

I can't wait to see your answers!

Friday, December 18, 2009

This Book is Terrific!

Rain Gardening in the South: Ecologically Designed Gardens for Drought, Deluge, & Everything in Between by Helen Kraus and Anne Spafford.

I was invited to review this book* after I posted about being such a fan of Rain Gardens here. I received a copy of the book in the mail, and have had my nose in it at every opportunity since then! This is a terrific book!

This is an excellent resource, and not just for the novice. Written in clear simple language, it is easy to understand. Beautifully illustrated, both with pictures and drawings. If you didn't want a rain garden when you started this book, you definitely want one when you finish it!

This book is devoted to solving problems for the gardener. They start at the beginning, and take you step by step through the how, what, and why of building a rain garden, and continue with pages of suggestions for what to plant in your garden, (either sun or shade) and include valuable information on troubleshooting, and maintenance of your garden. They also discuss other methods of conserving our most precious resource, rain water.

If you are looking for a nice gift for a friend, or a great addition to your own library of gardening books, I would wholeheartedly recommend Rain Gardening in the South!

Published by Eno Publishers
Hillsborough, NC 27278

144 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9820771-0-8.
Suggested retail price $19.95.

*This is my opinion. I was not paid for endorsing this book, and had I not fallen in love with it, I would not have written a review of it.~janie

Thursday, December 17, 2009

RED...my favorite!

I bought this amaryllis bulb at WalMart. It turned out so pretty. It pleases me, even though it is a common amaryllis. I would like to have a whole bed full of these flowers, especially at this time of year.

Friday, December 11, 2009

This Beautiful Agave....

I love cacti and succulents, and I am crazy about agave. I have many, different all, and some are prettier than others. I have this one, that is so intriguing to me, and I don't even know it's name.
This agave is planted in our Native Plant Garden. It has a kind of unusual history, in that my husband found this agave at our local dump. Our county maintains a brush site for residents, where we can haul tree limbs, and other garden refuse. They grind it for mulch, and we have mountains of it, a lot of which is now wonderful compost! I digress...

One day, a couple of years ago, we took a trailer load of limbs and stuff to the dump. We always wander around, looking at what has been unloaded before we got there, because we have found some very nice plants there. People don't know what they have sometimes, and they throw it away. This agave, and three others had been thrown away. We gathered them all, potted them up when we got home, and set them in the hoop house.

Last year, we donated this agave to the Native Plant Garden. It has more than doubled in size since being planted in the ground, and it is really pretty. The markings on this agave are such that I have never seen another agave like it. The agave next to it (behind it, in this picture) is
also a blue agave, but has no markings, and even has a smooth leaf edge.

The most spectacular difference is the marking of this agave. I think it is beautiful. We have harvested 4 pups from this agave already, and I can't wait to harvest more.

Friday, December 4, 2009


It is SNOWING at my house! For those of you who live in the frozen tundra north of I10, this probably seems like no big deal. But for US, who live in South Texas, where the banana trees are unfurling new foliage, and hibiscus are blooming with abandon, and it will be 65 degrees tomorrow at 11:00am, this is a BIG DEAL! BIG flakes are falling, it is sticking to the roads, I am in the house for the duration; I HATE SNOW! Look at my poor plants, all bent over, drooping from the cold! All these other peoples are just tickled that they can play in snow, and all I can think of is -60F and 7' of snow!
It is even sticking in my neighbors yard, and their yard was flooded yesterday! And it wasn't supposed to start this until this afternoon. We will have to tunnel out, if this keeps up. Quit snickering, I can hear you.....Rosey, quit that!

Update to follow! Probably more whining too. Sorry, I need to cover the beautiful blooms of the bromiliads. Bummer.This is my fairy duster, laying down because it is cold. Yesterday it was just beautiful, and lots of buds on it. I wonder what this will do to it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An email I received today.....

I got this email today, and I about choked when I saw it. I was laughing hysterically, my Daughter thought I was sobbing and was really alarmed.

BTW, I apologize for being tardy responding to comments and messages, and awards. We are laying floors at my house (the whole house), and my laborer will quit, I am afraid if I lay out on the computer. I do sneak in a few looks every once in awhile.....

This is the email.

Read the story before you look at the picture.

Well, there is good news and bad news about my Christmas decorations this year

Good news is that I truly out did myself this year with my Christmas decorations. The bad news is that I had to take him down after 2 days. I had more people come screaming up to my house than ever. Great stories. But two things made me take it down. First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost wrecked when they drove by. Second, a 55 year old lady grabbed the 75 pound ladder almost killed herself putting it against my house and didn't realize it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy). By the way, she was one of many people who attempted to do that. My yard couldn't take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up my yard.

Kind of feel like I gave in to the man by taking him down but my neighbor did confirm several near miss accidents on the busy street next to my house. I think I made him too real this time

So it was fun while it lasted

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Doing it the old-fashioned way…

I was talking to a friend in a flurry of email messages the other evening, and of course, the state of our economy and our country came up. She is a city girl, and lives in an apartment, but she has a little rooftop vegetable garden. We don't have a lot of acreage here, but we do have enough to have a nice little vegetable garden.

I have been thinking that perhaps I should be growing heirloom varieties, so that I could save those seeds with assurance that we could eat what we produced with them. Some of those hybrids produce produce that isn't very tasty. Anyway, I remember my Mother and Dad talking about the Great Depression, and how they were actually hungry. At least, if you garden, you should be able to stave off starvation.

In my research about heirloom varieties of vegetables and flowers, I was surprised to find that many of the seeds we buy on the seed racks are heirloom varieties. According to the heirloom seed companies, a variety is an heirloom if it was developed before 1940 and is open pollinated. It will reproduce itself.

This is a few of the varieties I have found so far.

Beans- Kentucky Wonder pole, Asparagus beans (yard long beans), Scarlet Runner Beans.
Tomatoes- Beefsteak, Roma, Rutgers, Brandywine
Lettuce- Black Seeded Simpson, Parris Island Cos (Romaine)
Okra-Clemson Spineless, Emerald
Squash- Early Prolific Straight neck
Zucchini-Black Beauty, Gray
Swiss chard- Bright Lights (who knew?!)

I was surprised by these, but relieved too. Glad to know they are easily found, and of course, there are dozens of others. These are just a few that I have found.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Plants for a Beautiful Rain Garden!

Several have asked for information about which plants are suitable for a rain garden. I am in zone 9a, very hot and humid in summer, quite mild in winter. (I say that, but you just watch us have a record-breaking cold winter this year!)
This is our Native Plant Garden with the rain garden when it was very new. It has grown so much, and the rain garden is about full of plants now.

This is the list of plants that are in our garden. Bear in mind that ours is a garden of natives.
Plants in our
Native Plant / Rain Garden
(common names)
buffalo grass, bald cypress tree
redbud tree, Texas mountain laurel
agave, agarita
heartleaf hibiscus, blackfoot daisy
blackeyed susan, butterfly weed
Mexican hats, sunflower
esperanza, Indian blanket
fairy duster, Turk's cap
verbena, Texas sage
coral bean, coral berry
Barbados cherry, buttonwood
purple coneflower, Gregg's mist
salvia Greggii, salvia coccinea
cross vine, Texas clematis
equisetum, spider lily
lantana, pickerel weed
Joe Pye weed, yaupon
hairy wedelia, rock rose
coral honeysuckle, flame acanthus

Were we not bound by the confines of using plants that are native to Texas, we could use a lot of other plants, like some species lilies and roses. These would be used on the perimeter, and not in the rain garden proper, but that is o.k. You will want pretties in the whole garden.

Now, for those of you who live in different parts of the country, I myself do not know all that you can grow that I cannot. But somebody knows all about you. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden has a site that has a lot of information about plants for rain gardens. Check this out.


Also, the North Carolina Extension service has a good list too, and they explain the difference in planting in the rain garden, as opposed to planting around the rain garden. This is their site;

I hope this will help you. Play around with it. You can always Google 'plants for a rain garden' and come up with a lot of information.

This is the garden now.
The red bloom in the right corner is a coral bean.It is absolutely gorgeous! AND, it will grow to tree proportions. We won't let it get that big, but we could. The equisetum (horsetail) escapes it's boundaries, and that Texas sage is on the verge of blooming. It is called the 'Barometer plant', because it always signals rain. I love when it blooms.

Look, Noelle, we don't chop our Texas Sage into cupcakes!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Assessing the damage

We live in zone 9a, and have very mild winters. Winter is usually 3 days, not consecutive. Just 3 days total.

It fools you sometimes, and really does get cold. It is the nastiest, wettest, coldest cold when it is cold here; it just goes right through you. But it doesn't last long. The next day, it will be back up in the 60s or 70s, with a bright sun in the sky. We garden year 'round.

The killing weather for us is our hot, HOT summers. August in South Texas can be brutal. We lose more plants in summer than we do in winter.

My husband starts to talk about turning the AC on in April. I resist, usually until about July. Nights are pleasant with a fan, and sleep is comfortable. When it gets too hot at night for tomatoes to set fruit, I relent and turn the AC on. He has never understood this.

So, last April, I told him, "When we turn the AC on, I won't go out to work anymore." And when we turned the AC on in June, I didn’t go out anymore.

This summer was really brutal, because we had a drought. No rain for about 5 months, it was awful! I would go out to pull hoses, or turn the water off or on, but I didn’t spend much time out there weeding, grooming, or anything else. Even with us watering, we lost some things. Many trees are down, due to the drought, and some of them are big trees.
We didn’t lose any trees, but my favorite salvia (seen above) bit the dust. I was very sad to lose this. It is called Bog Salvia, blue and white salvia...it likes wet feet. I had a swath of it about 15' long x 3' wide. It was soooo pretty. I will have to find some more. The big leaves behind it are 'root beer plant' or 'spice plant'. It is a thug. It is healthy, of course.

I lost my ‘lycoris radiata’, and a prized blood lily. The blood lily, here, was put
in the ground 3 years ago. It was wonderful seeing it come back every year, and put up more and more of those blooms. I will have to find
another. I was very worried about the yellow spiders, but they seem to be fine. No blooms, but there is always next year.

I also lost crocosmia, and I was very
surprised about that. I had these
planted in several places, I will have
to check around to see if
there are some left for next year.
I love them.

Things that did well in the drought included all the natives. Esperanza was especially drought hardy. The ornamental grasses did well, and although we didn't see as many wildflowers, they did not die. They sprang back to life as soon as the first sprinkle hit the ground.

I am sure there are other things that I lost that I don't know about yet. I am just thankful that it isn't worse.

We were out pulling weeds last weekend. My Darling was helping me, (like it isn't his garden, too), and he was just amazed at how I had neglected my duties in the summer.

"We are NEVER turning the AC back on!" he announced. I have been giggling over that for days now.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Gardener's Guide to Life

I have had this for many years, framed and hanging in my kitchen. I think these are good thoughts to remember as I live my life. I don't know who wrote it, but if anyone knows, will you please share with us?


You get to choose how you welcome each day. If you choose to approach each day with an “I can’t wait to go outside to see the garden” instead of “I have to pull weeds again” attitude, your life will be a lot happier.

Sometimes, in order to create something beautiful, you have to get dirty. The best things in life come with a fair share of dirt.

The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence. It’s greener where you water it most. So instead of wanting what others have, make what you have better.

A garden has plants that provide beauty, as well as those that provide sustenance. It is the same in life. Not everyone or everything has to do it all. That includes you.

A plant that grows best in the sun won’t thrive in the shade. This is true, no matter how much water or fertilizer you give it. It is the same with people. Focus on your true talents, and don’t think you have to be something you are not.

Sometimes what makes a garden grow can smell pretty awful. It is important to remember that we all get our nourishment in different ways. What helps one person grow and bloom may not work for another.

A garden needs extra care in times of stress. The same is true in life. When the world around you is difficult, take care to nurture your relationships with everyone, including yourself.

Gardening requires sharp tools and a big heart. Make sure your sharpest tool is your mind, and cultivate your life and garden with your heart.

Things in nature can’t be forced. If you plant a seed before the ground is ready, it will shrivel and die. The same is true in life. Plant happy seeds when the time is right, and allow them to grow at their own pace.

When looking at your garden, focus on what needs to be straightened or trimmed or pulled. Just as often, you need to step back and see the garden as a whole, appreciating the beauty and ignoring the imperfections. Allow the beauty to make you happy.

Things in life almost never turn out as you planned. It is a waste of time to be angry at the squirrel for planting a pecan tree in the rose bed. Instead, look forward to seeing life’s little surprises.

A garden is for sharing. Let the birds, the bees and your neighbors enjoy it. When you keep it all for yourself, you lose out on the joy that comes from sharing.

Admire other people’s gardens, but don’t love yours any less. What you have is special in it’s own way and admired by someone else as well.

Weed or flower? It’s in the eye of the beholder. So, before you yank another weed from your garden or your life, be sure it doesn’t have something to offer that you might have overlooked.

Gardening and life are both more fun when shared with others. The extra bonus is that you can always learn something new, and you can share your knowledge.

You have to prune away the old growth to make room for the new. So it is with ideas too. Let go of whatever is holding you back, and you can find yourself blooming in ways you never thought possible.

Remember that some friends are annual; they pop into your life and give it a quick burst of color. Others are perennial; they come back year after year, and you can always count on them. There’s room in your life for both.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Building a Rain Garden the right way!

It sounds like a bit of a rant.

Well it is. Not being mean, and trying to not be rude, but I feel that I need to do this.

I saw a post about building a rain garden. Someone used a magazine article, which actually was a good article, and they did attribute and thank the magazine for letting them use their info and picture. But they inserted their words into the article, and gave advice that was incorrect, IMHO.

I am a Certified Rain Water Harvesting Specialist in Texas, having had training that is available above and beyond normal training through the Master Gardener program. Rainwater harvesting is a big deal down here, especially with the droughts we have experienced lately.

It may well be that you can do this and this and that, and install all sorts of extra rocks, gravel, soil, and whatever else. But it certainly isn't necessary, nor even desirable. Common sense is common sense.

The purpose of a Rain Garden is to manage storm water that rushes off impervious surfaces; the roof of your house, sheds, or even the road or a sidewalk. The water rushes to the storm drains, into streams, rivers and lakes, and carries many pollutants and chemicals with it, AND our precious water is gone too! What the Rain Garden does is trap the water and allow it to seep through the soil, cleansing the water and allowing it to percolate back to the aqua systems.

The Rain Garden is NOT a treatment for the wet spot in your yard! To put it there defeats the purpose of the Rain Garden; If the area doesn't drain well, it isn't going to do a bit better just because you planted a garden there. It doesn't drain for a reason; clay soil comes to mind, or heavy equipment could have been stored or parked there for a long time. Building a rain garden is work, and there are much simpler fixes for that wet spot than putting in a rain garden. Fix that low spot, either by filling or by installing drains! A Rain Garden installed in that 'wet spot' in your yard could easily become a fantastic breeding ground for mosquitoes.

A Rain Garden is a man made depression in the ground. We have clay soil here, so this rain garden is pretty shallow. The garden is 10' wide x 52' long x 12" deep. But that size and that depth, creates a garden that handles the water off this building and drains in 24 hours. If we had sandy soil that drained faster, we would have dug it out to at least 18", but not ever much deeper.You can get a good idea of the layout of our rain garden. The garden should be at least 10' away from the building. That is important. The water comes off the building very fast, down the downspouts (2 of them), and runs the 'river'. That's what the kids call it. We didn't use anything except some landscape fabric to keep our rocks and gravel from disappearing into the soil in the river bed, and we didn't dig the river bed out. We did build embankments of a few inches and really pounded them solid, so they wouldn't wash away. Lay the fabric and the rocks and gravel. The water runs under the little bridge. We dug out under the bridge so that water would fall fast enough to not be dammed at the bridge. The garden basin is dug to 12", and the soil taken from the basin is used to build a berm on the outside edge. This berm will help to hold the water, so it can trickle through the ground below. Pile soil around the basin, and whack it with the back of a shovel, then stomp it until it is very solid. You want it really compacted.
We mulched the rain garden with hardwood mulch, and planted many of the plants that grow wild in our ditches and pastures. We planted buffalo grass on our berm, but you don't have to. You can use that area to plant flowers, ornamental grass and small shrubs and trees. We are now removing patches of grass to plant flowers; drifts of black eyed Susan, coneflowers, Blackfoot daisy, native clematis, rock rose.....

A word about mulch; Do use hardwood mulch, so it won't float away, and it won't deteriorate quickly. Don't use pine, you will just wind up with a mess.

We set out to put in a Native Plant Garden, and were confronted with this rain water, rushing from the downspouts, and eroding the ground at the building; thus the Rain Garden was incorporated. This garden has grown a LOT! Kids are always in here, they love that bridge. We have birds and butterflies galore. We had so many butterflies last year that a woman was seen 'stealing' our caterpillars! Grrrrr.....

A Rain Garden doesn't have to be this size or shape, and you don't have to plant natives in it. You can plant anything you want, just be sure that what you do plant doesn't mind having wet feet every once in awhile.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Choosing veggies, for newbies....

LeSan of BlueGate Gardens said in response to my vegetable post. "I don't grow veggies on purpose. The birds have planted a few pumpkins, which I enjoyed very much. A neighbor gave me a truck load of tomato plants that got blight and turned to black mush. I do buy ornamental cabbages every winter for the splash of color, but have to keep them on the porch, or they end up like the tomatoes."

Well, I thought about that. She didn't say she didn't like to grow veggies, just that they didn't fare well in her garden for some reason. So, I thought, there is always a remedy. For every problem, there is a solution.

One of the secrets to successfully growing vegetables is variety selection. All those little letters behind the name of the tomato mean something. They indicate that the variety is resistant to blight, or wilt, or whatever. The more letters, the more resistant. This applies to all vegetables, but we will use tomatoes as an example.

For instance, "Celebrity" tomatoes, while not my favorite tomato plant, makes a very good crop of tomatoes, AND it is resistant to almost all diseases that affect tomatoes. You would see these letters behind the name.

This from Totally Tomatoes (where I buy a lot of seeds!)

00175 - Celebrity Hybrid Tomato

(VFFNTASt) This AAS Award Winner established a new standard for main-crop hybrids requiring multiple disease resistance. Highly adaptable from Canada to the South. Medium sized, globe-shaped fruits are crack-resistant and average 7 oz. Semi-determinate. Maturity is 70 days.

This what the letters mean.
V- Verticillium Wilt
F- Fusarium Wilt*
N- Nematodes
T- Tobacco Mosaic Virus
A- Alternaria Stem Canker
St- Stemphylium Gray Leaf Spot
TSWV- Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus
(The FF in the letters behind the Celebrity name indicate that it is resistant to F- Race 1&2. If it said FFF, it would mean F-Race 1,2& 3.)

This will give you everything you need to know about the plant and the fruit. Semi-determinate means that they don't produce all their fruit at once, but will not go on forever, producing tomatoes as they go. Indeterminate vines will produce until the night temperatures get too warm, (actually, 'warm' is HOT!) then they will not set fruit any longer.

Another thing to consider, especially if you are a novice vegetable grower; Don't make your whole crop heirloom varieties. The heirlooms have wonderful fruit characteristics, but almost no resistance to disease. (You could graft them, but that is another post; later on that.) Choose hybrids along with heirlooms, if you must have heirloom plants.

So, at least in the beginning, pick the hybrids that have the letters behind the name, and pay attention to the days to maturity. If you have a short growing season, don't pick a variety that takes a long time to produce fruit.

AND, if you live where it doesn't get to be 90 degrees all night long, your indeterminate tomatoes may last until frost. I never thought of that before, but I would say it could definitely be a contributing factor.....

May I suggest to some of you that "Champion" tomatoes are the best, most fantastic tomatoes that I have ever grown. These indeterminate vines have been known to produce 72lbs of fruit per plant!

Have I bored you to tears yet? Sorry, my soapbox. LOL

Friday, November 13, 2009

LUV those vegetables!

I am back in the vegetable garden! I love to grow vegetables! So much so, that I took a 2 day specialist class with the Master Gardeners on growing vegetables back in August.

They put these classes on, and a MG can sign up to take them, with consent of his/her Extension Agent. I have a year to get in 12 hours of volunteer service, teaching about growing vegetables. I have taken several specialists classes by now.

I planted 18 more cabbages yesterday , and 12 broccoli plants. The broccoli is replacement, as the first dozen I planted didn't do very well. I pulled them out and started over. I planted 6 'Green Magic', and 6 'Packman', and they are all for my husband. I would never eat broccoli! Not in a million years, not even raw. YUK. But, I do love to see it grow.

The cabbages.....

I already have cabbages growing. I don't know what the varieties are, 'Early' something, is one. Six of the cabbages planted yesterday are red cabbages. We will not eat all this cabbage. I will not make sauerkraut. I like to make stuffed cabbage for New Year celebration, and steam some, stir fry some. And, of course, I like it raw, in slaw.

Most of my cabbage I give away. I give it to my kids, friends, family, neighbors, and finally, I give it to the cook at our county jail. I don't think it an odd choice of beneficiaries, the jail, as many of those incarcerated are trustees who help the Master Gardeners with the hard physical labor of our projects. Some of them are there for menial infractions, but because they have no money, they have to stay in jail...I am not a bleeding heart, I just think they should have good things to eat too.

Those are not weeds in this bed, They are onions.

I love to grow Swiss chard, too. Not because I am going to eat it, but because it is sooooo beautiful! I grow 'Bright Lights', and how can anyone resist all those beautiful red, pink, yellow, orange, lime green, and white stalks?

I planted dill, onions, petunias, lobelia, garlic, radishes, lettuce, lettuce, lettuce, peas, and Asian vegetables. Also, parsley, both the curley and the flat leaf.

This, I have to show you. I have started some seeds of this plant anew, as I would like to grow it again this year. It is cardoon, a relative of artichoke.

This was 12' across! We called it dinosaur food! It was just gorgeous when it was only foliage, but when it put on purple thistle looking flowers, it was spectacular! (That in the next bed was artichokes, and the tall plant being RED hollyhocks. They were over 10' tall, and looked like a Christmas tree!)
We still have tomatoes and peppers, and beans. Herbs are beginning to pick up, with the cooler weather. And, the Laura Bush petunias are up. I always grow flowers with my veggies. It makes the veggies want to be more beautiful. Competition is a good thing.