Friday, October 29, 2010

What's In A Name

At a fall landscape workshop sponsored by the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service (ACES) earlier this week, I learnt the gardener's definition of a weed. Forget what you've been told. It is simply this...any plant that grows where you don't want it to. Seen those red, ball-shaped, pointy weeds in open fields, near the roadsides and lawns the last few weeks? They're not weeds my friend. They're Spider Lilies and people pay good money for them. Here's a tip...when you see one next fall, dig up the bulb, transplant it into your garden and save $5. BTW, they make excellent cut flowers.

Red Spider Lily

Pumpkin By Candlelight

Here are photos of two carved pumpkins I created with my husband's drill and paddle bits. What can I say, necessity is the mother of invention. Not the most skilled job, but a lovely floral design all the same. Besides, candlelight makes everything look better. :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Carpenter Ant Invasion

A few days ago, we had in infestation of carpenter ants in the kids' bathroom. After much trial and error, we deduced that they were coming in from a gap between the toilet and the floor. My husband caulked it, I sprayed the house specifically for carpenter ants, and that seemed to work. At least we figured out how to keep them out of the house. Our next step however is destroying the nest outside. Wherever that is.

Since none of the pest control companies in our area thinks it's worth it for them to spray the wood mulched flower beds around the house, we're left to do it ourselves. We bought the treatment, a sprayer and read the instructions throughly. All we need now is time. I'm a little sad though that the treatment will also kill beneficial insects like bees and spiders, but that's the collateral damage for saving our wood frame house.

Our long-term plan is to replace the wood mulch with rubber mulch. A very long-term plan. Meanwhile, I figure monthly treatments during the active season, and buying pine bark mulch versus shredded mulch will have to suffice. (I never had this problem with pine bark mulch. Damned shredded mulch was on clearance!) C'est la vie.

Sweet Caroline

Joining Master Gardeners has given me access to a host of plants I may not otherwise become familiar with. Last week while working on a project, I was given Carolina Jessamine (aka Carolina Jasmine). It's a stuning evergreen vine that produces yellow tubular flowers in the spring. I thought perfect, this would be great to grow up my new birdhouse post.

As I always do, I googled the plant to determine the light and water requirements before planting. To my surprise, I learned that Carolina Jessamine is highly toxic and ingestion of this plant may result in death. I get that most plants are poisonous if ingested, but in the plant world there are degrees of poison. Indigestion, drooling and temporary confusion is something I would probably risk as side effects of enjoying a particular plant, but death was a new one. Probably not worth it.

So the new birdhouse post in the backyard was out. In fact, any area in the backyard where the kids play was out. My 2 1/2 year-old son is good about keeping things out of his mouth, but my 14 month old daughter...not so much. That left me with the front yard and the most practical place was the mail box post. I imagined this vine covering it like a mail box post in some country garden, and got to planting straightaway. But 'what if' scenarios plagued me. In the end, I dug it up, double bagged it and threw it away. I'm going to leave Carolina Jessamine for experienced Master Gardeners who also happen to be empty nesters. I'm sure some other beautiful, evergreen vine will come along.

For good measure, click on the link below to find a list of poisonous plants. Totally worth it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Backyard's Gonna Make It Afterall

I think my poor rabbit went to the big farm in the sky. It's been a while since I've seen him or evidence of him. When my sweet potato vines were left to grow several feet long, I knew something was wrong. Also, a few weeks ago, there was a weird smell in the garage. It lasted a few days and I have a sneaking suspicion if I could get past all the junk and equipment in there, I'd find a familiar skeleton. Shame. When my son asks for the rabbit, I just tell him he went home to his mama and will come for a visit later. So far I'm not doing too well keeping the woodland creatures alive in my future Certified Wildlife Backyard Habitat.

Some good news though, there is a forest (several acres of undeveloped land actually...does that consitute forest???) across the street from us and while eating lunch, the kids and I spotted a family of deer a few times. Too cool. At least until my son would shout 'look mama, the deer!!!' and they'd scamper away. We've also seen the babies cross over to several backyards on our street. While out for walks, they would race by trying to reach cover. A few scary moments while crossing the street, but thankfully, they're all ok. As far as I know anyway.

Also, my toad abodes are working. I have tons of American Tree Frogs living in our yard, and even in the rim of my rain barrell. They sing to us and sleep on leaves. It's such fun to spot one. Guess I'm not doing that badly afterall.