Even though I love the spring time when the temperatures rise and the inversion lifts and we have unlimited sunshine, I can’t help but dwell on the massive amount of work ahead of me as I began to remove the winter kill as well as the unwanted growth from the flower beds.
I suppose it is because our growing season is so short, things really start growing very fast once they’ve come up. This applies to perennials and weeds alike. But even more than that are the many plants that come up in the wrong place. Take Hollyhocks, for instance. I love them, they are majestic and beautiful and can add so much to a garden with their height and colors, but unfortunately, if not cut back before they throw their seeds, they will re-seed all over the garden.
This applies to many plants, including Feverfew, Foxglove, Purple Cone Flower, Cosmos, Snapdragons and quite a few others.
These pictures show how awful a garden can look in the early spring. There is the dead growth from last fall, the weeds that have wintered over and are thriving and then there is the good plants in the wrong places.
This is an unusual spring in that I am bringing help in to clean up the mess and get the garden off to a “clean” start. I’m so excited. What usually takes me all spring to accomplish (and sometimes half the summer) will all be accomplished in one day. I hope my expectations aren’t too high because I really have a vision of what the garden will look like at the end of day.
I’ll post before and after pictures to show the amazing differences.
After a very cold, snow laden winter and a very chilly, wet spring (since March 21, the official beginning of spring), we finally have some sunny and warmer weather. What a beautiful day it is and even though the yard looks pretty bad still with all the winter debris still lying about, there is beginning to be some growth and even a few flowers.
The fruit trees are in bloom and the tulips are doing their thing, which is being gorgeous.
I look forward to a all that’s coming in the garden, perennials coming back up, blooms beginning to pop everywhere, little tiny fruit beginning to form on the apricot, apple, plum, peach and cherry trees. I guess most of all I look forward to just being in the garden, whether working or relaxing, just being there, instead of shut up in the house.
Speaking of house, this week all the plants that had to winter over inside get to go back out and the house will return to normal. It is kind of nice have them around us when the winter is raging outside, but enough is enough and the house always seems so much larger after they are all returned to their outdoor places. They’ll be happier and we will too.
Check out some of my Pinterest Boards, like “Gardening”, Garden Structures, Vegetable Gardening, Container Gardening and plenty of others with some really good info and ideas.
Just go to http://pinterest.com/judi_julian/ to have a look around.
Click on the red “Follow” button if you’d like to keep up with these boards.
Do you want to have a garden?
Do you have a plot of land that needs clearing off so that you can either put in a little garden or raised bed boxes for a garden? Whether this plot of land is covered in grass or nothing but weeds, you probably don’t want to have to saturate the whole area with an herbicide and then wait till everything is dead to clear it off so you can actually plant a garden.
An easy way to get started is to till the area, either with a tiller (which you can borrow or rent) or with a shovel. A shovel takes longer but is still very effective. After the area has been turned over and tilled, take a garden rake (a leaf rake might work but not very well) and pull the weeds and grass out of the dirt. As you rake them out, just discard them in the trash and not the compost.
If the area is covered in good grass lawn, then it might be better to lift the sod and transplant it somewhere else in your yard or share it with someone else who might be able to use it.
After you’ve gotten out as many grass and weed strands and roots as possible (the more the better since it cuts down on so much work later) then it’s time to either:
Prepare the soil for the garden by turning in some composted cow or steer manure, which you can buy pretty cheap at WalMart or Lowe’s etc. If you heavy clay soil or very sandy soil, you can add some peat moss (also available at WalMart and Lowe’s). Also, it is a good idea to add a balanced fertilizer at this time. Mix all of t
Build raised beds for your garden. After getting the raised beds in place and making sure they are pretty level, it’s easy to put a layer of newspaper in the bed to discourage weeds from coming up from below. The newspaper will break down and become part of the soil. It’s possible to fill the raised bed with garden soil, but much better to use a combination of other things to create a soil that is light, drains well and won’t pack down.
Some of the things you can use to create a “soil” for you raised beds is: sawdust (no, it won’t hurt the plants), washed sand, perlite, peat moss, compost, composted manure, straw (but it may have seeds), shredded newspaper, and a balanced fertilizer, (see previous post for more information on fertilizers). We also add the polymers from gently used baby diapers (wetnot dirty) as they keep moisture in the soil really well.
To keep weeds from growing in the pathways between the raised bed boxes or the garden rows, it’s a good idea to lay down some layers of newspapers and then cover that with wood chips.
All done. Now you’re ready to plant. Wasn’t that easy?
Ever wonder what those 3 numbers on the bags of fertilizer mean?
Here is a break down that might help.
The three main nutrients that have been identified as absolutely necessary for plants are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). These three are also known as macronutrients, and are the source of the three numbers commonly found on organic fertilizer labels.
Nitrogen (N) is responsible for above-ground vegetative growth of plants, and for overall size and vigor. It is probably best known for its ability to “green up” lawns. That’s because nitrogen is a major component of chlorophyll, the green substance in plants responsible for photosynthesis. Nitrogen can be added to your soil through composted manure, blood meal, canola meal, and fish powder. Too much nitrogen and your plants will grow extremely fast, resulting in long, spindly, weak shoots with dark green leaves. Too little nitrogen and your plants will slow or even stop their growth, and have leaves turning yellow and dropping sooner than they should.
Phosphorus (P) promotes healthy growth, strong roots, fruit and flower development, and greater resistance to disease. Rock phosphate, bone meal and some guanos are sources of phosphorous. A phosphorus deficiency is recognized by dull green leaves and purplish stems. Plants are generally unhealthy, sometimes yellowing. Lack of blooming with lush green foliage may also indicated a lack of phosphorus.
Potassium (K), also known as potash, is essential for the development of strong plants. It helps plants to resist diseases and protects them from the cold. Because potassium plays a supporting role, it can be hard to spot deficiencies. Generally, leaves will show blue, yellow or purple tints with brown blotches or discoloration within or at the edges. Plants will lack growth and have small fruit and sickly blooms. Sources of potassium include greensand, sul-po-mag (sulfate of potash magnesia, quick release) and many liquid fertilizers.
The long and short of it is that in most cases you want a balanced (8-8-8, 10-10-10 or 16-16-16 etc.) fertilizer, unless you need something specific, like Nitrogen for your grassy lawn.
As I try my best to be patient waiting on the snow to melt so that I can finally get back out in the garden, I realize that there is a lot to do before I get started..
One of the first things to do is to make a list of the things that need to be done, such as clearing away winter debri and checking the plants for damage. Some of the plants (fruit trees and roses) need to be pruned and as buds begun to swell on the fruit trees, it will be time to spray with dormant oil to prevent pests like aphids from getting a start.
Before the perennials come up or annuals are planted, it’s a good time to work on things like pathways and sprinkler heads.
Early spring is a good time to evaluate your garden to see if you might want to make any changes or additions. Trips to plant nurseries can give you a lot of new garden ideas.
Check out lists above (Flowers tab) for some favorite annuals and perennials. Don’t forget to check out the seeds available before they get all picked over and scarce. Planting seeds are a great way to get a lot of flowers (or vegetables) for very little money.
Unfortunately, planning for spring gardening makes me even more impatient to get out there and get started.
It’s snowing again today and should continue for another day.
One of the best things about snow here in the desert is the moisture it provides to the plants in the early spring as it melts, giving them a nice jump start. We get so much more moisture (in the form of snow) in the winter than in the hot summer months. We fight the dry heat, which can really take a toll on plants.
We’ll soon be leaving on our winter vacation to warmer climates. We leave with lots of snow on the ground and hopefully when we return, it will be to the very beginning of spring. Even then we can certainly get more snow, but it probably wouldn’t stay on the ground for very long.
Ahh Spring and Summer. How I miss you.
I did try Stock last year and absolutely LOVED it. It is so beautiful with its pink, lavender and white flowers, but the most wonderful thing about it was the way it perfumed the air all around it. We had so many comments on how good our deck area smelled and it was all because of the Stock.
See last years post about Stock at: http://wp.me/p1OXDF-20u
The thing about Stock is that it likes cold weather and can’t tolerate heat. So plant very early in the spring. We enjoyed them for a long time, until the summer heat knocked them back. What a nice surprise though when the cool weather of fall came, Stock seedlings began to grow and got almost big enough to bloom again when the first frost came. I planted small plants from a nursery and also planted some seeds to see how they would do. Both did great.
That why I’m hopeful that it re-seeds, and this spring will be especially sweet.
It’s been a cold (single digits) and snowy (3 storms in a row) and icy (worst ice storm ever). Today the snow started again and is supposed to continue Monday and Tuesday. It’s been snowing all afternoon and it’s beautiful.
One good thing about very cold temperatures is that many pests are killed off. At least that is what I’m counting on.
This cold winter won’t last forever and when it finally is over, I’m hoping for a beautiful spring full of Tulips, Irises, Columbine, Peonies, Forget-Me-Nots, Foxglove and Delphiniums.
After being inundated with a couple of feet of snow (which has been on the ground now about 2 weeks), and being house bound
because of the ice storm yesterday that left a quarter inch of solid ice on driveways, sidewalks and roads (the interstate was closed, as well as all the runways at the airport) I am SO ready for spring and summer.
It’s times like this that I’m so glad that I’ve taken lots and lots of pictures of our garden so I can, not only enjoy looking at them during the cold days of cabin fever, but to also evaluate the garden to see what’s working and what might need some tweaking.
Here are a few shots of warmer times in our garden.
We’ve just returned from Arizona where the lemons, oranges and grapefruit are hanging heavy on the trees and it’s the middle of January.
Here in Zone 6 it’s possible to grow citrus but they have to be in large containers so they can be brought inside to protect them from the bitter cold of our winters.We grow Kumquats and Mandarin oranges in large pots and when it’s nice and warm again they will go back out into the bright sunshine.
They do well inside if there is plenty of sunshine to keep them healthy and thriving.
This spring they will be transplanted into much larger pots so next winter it will be a challenge to bring them inside. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
If it has to get bitterly cold, the best thing for the plants here in Zone 6 is to have a nice thick, insulating layer of snow down. Then if and when it warms a little and begins to melt some of the snow, moisture seeps down to the roots to keep the plants from dehydrating too much, which makes them more susceptible to the bitter cold.
When looking at our property on Google maps, I found photos of our yard before we bought it 3 years ago. The bird’s eye view is from about 2 years ago. It’s fun to see how it use to be and how it is evolving. It is still a work in progress. Most of the plants are in (there is always room for more) but they will begin to grow and change and the garden will mature and become a more peaceful, relaxing place.
Take lots and lots of pictures. You’ll be glad you did. I wish we had taken more, especially of our lawn being carted off. We rented a sod cutter and cut up the lawn. Then we put out a huge “Free Sod” sign and our lawn was hauled away by many neighbors. They were happy and we were left with a clean slate.
This year we hope that the grape vines will cover the top of the grape arbor so that the arbor area will be shadier and cooler. Even though the vines made it to the top last year, it will take a lot of leaves to shade our arbor, which is 50’x10′. There are 10 grape vines, one at each post, except for the Kiwi vines at the two post on one end.
Even more than the shade to look forward to though, are the many, many grapes which are growing. We got some last year, but nothing like what’s coming this year. All of the grapes are seedless, table grapes, some white and some pink or red.
Besides eating plenty and sharing a lot (we have a large family), we will dry some. They make the best raisins.
Ah, so much to look forward to. I love summer.
Since I’d never grown Snapdragons before last summer, I had no idea what a wonderful plant it is. Not only is it pretty, and the kids like to make the dragon’s mouth open, but it re-seeds freely. This year I planted lots and lots and next year I hope to have them filling in everywhere.
I did learn that there are taller varieties that grow to 3′ – 4′, and that would determine where they should go in the garden. I have some of both in my garden.
The other plants that I know re-seed, at least here in zone 6, are Hollyhocks, Cosmos, Bachelor Buttons, and sometimes Zinnias. I’m sure there are others, those are just the ones I know of.
Last year I thought I’d built an adequate support for the Green Peas and the Sugar Snap Peas. After all, it was about 4′ high.
I was so wrong. I just put bamboo in the corners of the raised beds and then strung jute for the peas to climb on. The whole thing collapsed from the weight of the vines and peas. I spent all season trying to prop it back up and not very successfully. Picking the peas was made difficult because we had to hold up the heavy vines to get to the pods. I’m sure we missed a lot of peas last year.
This year I decided to get more creative. I built a scaffolding out of the bamboo poles (we have lots of bamboo, bought in bundles at a thrift store) and then strung twine back and forth. I made it about 6′ tall. I got a lot of comments about how tall it was and was convinced that I had gone overboard a little.
Not so. This week the vines reached the top rung, at least the Sugar Snap Peas have and the English Peas aren’t far behind. I am so glad now that I made it so tall. The vines are loaded with pods already and lots of blooms still coming. Looks like a good year for peas.
My Dad passed away this past Christmas, so it was a very sad Christmas and winter for me. My Dad was a serious gardener, his specialties being Rhododendrons (he hybridized and named a few) and bonsai. He also grew many different flowers and fruits. He had a wonderful area that he kept his bonsai in, with all sorts of empty pots and bonsai paraphernalia.
My sweet husband, knowing how much I was missing my Dad, dismantled my Dad’s
potting area and moved it to our garden, rebuilding it, just as it was. It is under a very shady Boxelder tree and beside my potting shed, which is very convenient.
I love spending time back there, mixing up my potions and potting mixes and potting up plants for the deck and front porch. Even though he had 25 or 30 bonsai at one time, many were lost last fall and winter by a terrible wind storm that tried to blow us all away and by neglect. I was too busy taking care of my Dad to worry about the bonsai. At least I have a few to remember him by.
I miss being able to call my Dad with gardening questions and spend time in his garden with him, but I sure love being in my new potting area with his bonsai around me.
Last fall I wrote a post about finding so many bumble bees sleeping on my Zinnias in the mornings. I would check on them for a few hours, sometimes till 11:00 A.M. before they would wake up and take off.
I only saw bumble bees and only on the Zinnias, not on any of the many other kinds of flowers nearby.
This week I’ve been finding honey bees (at least that’s what they looked like) sleeping in the roses. Even though the Zinnias aren’t blooming yet, I’ve not seen any bumble bees sleeping in the roses.
In my opinion, honey bees must have the better taste.
This post is not for the squeamish, so be forewarned.
I’ve done things this past 2 weeks that I never, ever, thought I’d do. Actually it had never even occurred to me to do before.
Since we’ve been having such a beautiful, warm (sort of) and dry spring, I thought that we would escape the plague of the aphids that we suffered through last spring. Not so. Well, they aren’t nearly as bad as they were last year, but they are bad enough, and besides, I have a lot more roses to worry about this year.
My usual tried and true method for combating aphids is to spray them with a mixture of Ivory liquid in water, wait 10-15 minutes and hose them off really well to wash away the soap and the dead aphids.
This year the roses are maturing and setting hundreds of buds. As I worked in the garden I began to notice that some of the buds looked like they were wrapped in brown velvet. Since I was very busy and didn’t really have time to stop and mix my aphid-killer potion, then wait to rinse them off, and I didn’t want the little buggers sucking juice from the rose buds for another day or so, I just reached up (with gloves on) and started squishing the aphids. That was gross and I couldn’t believe I was doing it, but, hey, it really worked…except that the leather gloves I was wearing made it hard to do and I wound up actually pulling off some of the buds.
So, the next step was (you guessed it) to remove the gloves. I did hesitate, for about 3 seconds, and then I reasoned that I could go and scrub my hands and the aphids would be gone in a fraction of the time it would take to do the civilized method.
After doing this a few times, I realized that some were falling off (only to crawl back up later) and I needed to catch them some way. So, since the aphids were always concentrated on the bud and about an inch down the stem, I found that I could grasp lower on the stem with my left hand, keeping the bud over my palm and use my right hand to smash the aphids. I was surprised to find how many dropped off as soon as I took the stem in my left hand. It must be an instinct for their survival, which explains why there are a bazzillion of them.
Now, not only do I have to kill the ones on the bud and stem but also the ones that drop into my palm.
I know that it’s Yucky! I know that it’s Disgusting! But it works. I go on patrol each day to see if any new colonies have been established. I’ve pretty much obliterated them at this point.
The things we will do for our roses.
I was surprised that when I revealed my revolting aphid-control method to other gardeners, I found that they’d been doing it for years.