Friday, August 17, 2012

Pictoral Update for August

You must forgive my lack of blogging these last few weeks. Time escapes me. But I still have a few precious moments to enjoy my yard and here are a few samples of it for you.

At the end of the season when the Queen stopped feeding the colony, I had the worst time with wasps. Anything remotely sweet became a target. I even watched a small group chase a hummingbird away.

Luckily for me she came back and let me get this shot of her.

After 3 years, my bougainvillea finally bloomed. It only needed weekly fertilizing. High maintenance this one but so worth it.

And my zinnias. So lovely.

I was given this milk and wine crinum a few months ago. It surprised me this week by blooming. I thought it would be at least a year! That's my rain garden for you. Whatever I plant in it grows like a weed and produces bountiful blossoms. My low-lying portion of the yard turned out to be the best problem I've ever had.

Until next month!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I Kid You Not

God really does have a sense of humor. For about three years, I've been unsuccessful in getting portulaca to thrive in my yard. I can root cuttings like nobody's business, but once they leave the pot, fuhgeddaboudit. Then out of nowhere, while weeding my garden path, I notice a familiar looking young plant. After close inspection for a few more days, I discovered that it certainly is a young, thriving portulaca plant. Unbelievable.

I can only imagine a bird dropped the seed that resulted in this gorgeous, though misplaced succulent. No matter. I plan to enjoy it the rest of the summer. If I can fight the urge to transplant it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Is it HOT enough for ya?

I cannot believe how brutally hot it is. With 100+ degree temperatures the last few days, my younger plants can't help showing stress, no matter how much I water them. It also seems the heat is also making insect infestations multiply exponentially. Case in point a green, soft-bodied insect (I have yet to identify) chowing down on my bean plants, and another unidentified (and yet to be seen) bug eating my asiatic lilies. I am not amused. Also, I suspect I will have to replace one of my crab apple trees on our extremely steep hillside that simply doesn't receive sufficient water to establish a good root system.

In other news a combination of regular applications of Sevin dust, and companion planting with basil and marigolds have keep the dreaded tomato hornworms away. YAY! We've been blessed to enjoy deliciously rich heirlooom tomatoes for the last month. I finally transplanted my blueberry bushes into a raised bed. After digging them up and potting them last fall because the soil pH was too high, the raised bed and numerous bags of soil conditioner and other organic amendments should be just the fix they need. Finally, my control mechanisms for aphids and slugs/snails are working. Makes working in the heat worth it.

Finally, my always sweet and exceptional smart husband helped me create this guard for a young amaryllis bulb (that he kept stepping on when reaching for the hose). I just love a man who appreciates the power of recycling. :)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Aphids Suck!!!

All six of my crabapple trees as well as my key lime tree are currently infested with aphids, which are slowly, but surely killing them. Aphids pierce stems, leaves, etc and literally suck the fluids from the plant.

Below is a closeup of the little blood suckers:

Once I noticed the damage, I was unable to treat the trees for several days, during which time they multiplied rapidly. Still, an application of Neem oil should do the trick. I plan to follow up with a second application in a week's time just in case.

Funny, just when I felt like I was running out of ideas for my Examiner page, Mother Nature throws one in my lap. Learn about the full course of treatment here.

Found water

Last year, I planted a host of Louisiana irises behind my HVAC unit to soak up the water that the system expels. My little experiment worked a little too well because the water-loving irises multiplied exponentially. I found after several divisions, my efforts only resulted in a very short-term dent, so I dug them all up, transplated a few, and happily shared the others with friends.

Once the warm temperatures kicked in, again I faced the challenge of how to deal with the water dripping from the HVAC unit. Thinking it over one morning, serendipitously with a gallon jug in my hand meant for the recyling, I placed it under the drain pipe and went on my way. A few hours later, I checked back to find the jug was completely full. I emptied it in to my rainbarrel and returned it. A few hours later, I repeated the process. And again. And again. And again.

With the thermostat set between 77 and 78 degrees Farenheit, I've discovered that I collect five gallons of 'found water' during the hours I'm awake. Amazing. I'm encouraged that when the City sets water restrictions later this year, which will no doubt coincide with a drought (ipso facto no rain water in my rain barrels), I will still have at least five gallons of water each day to water my criticals. YAY!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bye Bye Split Ends

In addition to burning calories, I have found another side affect of gardening which appeals to my vanity: wearing my sun hat prevents my hair from drying out. YAY!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Glass Totems and Teacup Bird Feeders

The Pike County Master Gardener Association is shaking things up a little for our annual plant sale during Troy Fest this weekend. In addition to a shining plant selection, we are adding glass totems and teacup bird feeders and are really excited to show these off.

Here's a sample fresh off the assembly line:

Glass totems may sit directly in the garden, or staked like the teacup bird feeders. Their purpose is to draw the eye in and / or create a focal point in the garden. The teacup bird feeders may be used for birdseed or fresh water. Cleaning is a snap as they are removable from the stake. These look best in odd groupings.

Please come by our booth this weekend. We're absolutely sure you'll find something to love.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mating Ladybugs

Something you don't see everyday...

***Click on the picture to make it larger***

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Eradicating Cabbage Loopers

This is the first year I've tried broccoli and it's been challenging. 3/4 of my seedlings died, leaving me feeling a little despondent. Then, thanks to a few lightning-charged rain storms, the remaining three perked up and were on the fast track to healthy production.

Flower head developing below:

Unfortunately, 24 hours later, my sweet broccoli floret would look like this:

I found at least twenty tiny, bright green worms and scores more eggs. As far as I can tell, based on the lack of markings of the immature caterpillars is that they are cabbage loopers. See sample below:

Biological controls include companion planting with rosemary, dill and sage, although I suspect it might be too late to use the aromatic herbs to repel existing caterpillars. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technique is spraying the entire plant with Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) which would kill young caterpillars. (I've had some measure of success with BT on tomato hornworms, but the key is spraying young caterpillars. The older ones tend to build up a resistance.) And of course there is hand picking them -- if you can spot them.

Even though pictures of the damaged broccoli plant may suggest otherwise, I've caught these intruders at a very early stage. My window of opportunity to begin vigorously spraying with BT is still wide open. Too bad the Co-op is not on Sundays. So I'll be handpicking again today and breaking out the spray guns first thing Monday morning. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Amaryllis Beauties

I have [patiently] waited 15 months for my amaryllis bulbs to bloom. They finally have and they are spectacular!

Amaryllis is one of my favorite flowes. I admire the elegant leaf structure which is an excellent bed filler, as well as the tall, slender flower stalk which create mini focal points in the garden. Rather than forcing blooms indoors during the winter holidays, I prefer to have the large, showy, red flowers accent my spring beds. Is there any prettier jewel?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Since when is Early Girl an heirloom tomato?

My family and I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a long weekend in Mobile, AL for spring break. Jam packed with kiddie activities, I was able to squeeze in a few trips to local nurseries to peruse their wares. It was absolutely amazing walking through yards of pink and white azealas, fields of marigolds, and palms as far as the eye could see. It absolutely took my breath away.

However, I was unimpressed by the abscence of heirloon tomato seedlings among the thousands of vegetable seedlings for sale. I was even less impressed by one nursery owner who tried to convince me that Early Girl tomatoes were heirloom and that I shouldn't worry about everything I read. Can you imagine?!? Wish I had a Master Gardener business card to slap on him.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Horticultural Therapy

In recent months, I've read a lot of articles about the health benefits of gardening. In particular, using gardening as a form of therapy to help deal with catastrophic grief and working through mental health issues is gaining popularity. Dubbed Horticultural Therapy, this article from NPR links the benefits to stress reduction, calmer nerves and a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol. If I needed another reason to spend time in my garden, then certainly, this would be it.

As Mom to two toddlers, I'm experiencing another aspect of horticultural therapy; building confidence and encouraing independence in my kids. The three of us maintain numerous flower beds, raised veggie beds and potted plants, and enjoy spending this time together. They're as passionate as I am...ok almost...about seeing the process through from seed to table (or floral arrangement) and are learning to express why that is. And their little personalities are as different as their taste in plants.

Whatever your reason or need, gardening may provide an outlet. If you've never had an opportunity to flex your green thumb, start with an easy to care for potted plant like a peace lily. If you're feeling more adventurous, purchase a seed pack, a bag of potting mix and a planter. It's that easy. Give gardening a chance and see which benefits you reap from horticultural therapy.

Here are a few photos from last summer's garden to inspire you.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Earthworm Delight

I have the most amazing gardening friends who share their best stuff with me. Below is a picture of a tub of earthworms I received today.

So why so excited? Because these beauties are the equivalent of garden gold. They will burrow in the soil, effectively aerating it, eat annoying buggers like nematodes, AND fertilize my garden with their castings. Plus, the kids and I had an awesome time picking them out and spreading them around the veggie and flower beds. There were literally hundreds, which kept my little tykes busy for a while.

For the little ones in your life, check out this cool site from Nat Geo Kids about earthworms. You'll have them digging outside in no time.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Carpenter Bee Extermination Folly

Sunday, the DH, kids and I visited the Greater Montgomery Home and Garden Show. As usual, it was very interesting and this year's addition of the Party Palace's Disney characters even made it fun for the kids. I especially enjoy the garden section. However, I was slightly perturbed at this booth, whose product aimed to trap then chemically kill carpenter bees:

This company is obviously not familiar with the important role carpenter bees play in pollination.

Yes, they can be pesky creatures boring into our wooden structres as detailed in this post from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. However, instead of fighting nature, we should compliment it. The bees are boring into wood looking for a suitable place to lay their eggs. Build a bee house to draw the carpenter bees away from dwelling structures, by grouping several wooden cylindrical shapes together; bamboo works well. A female will nest, sealing up only one side of the bee house so that the young bees can escape from the other side. (Of course this is a process you'll likely have to repeat every year.) The bees can bore till their heart is content, your wooden structures will be protected, and no bees will be killed in the process.

I thought about explaining this either to the man in the booth, or to his potential customers, then decided against it. My husband and kids probably would not have appreciated me getting kicked out. Let's hope in this instance, the pen is mightier than the sword and those same people are reading this post.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


The other day while checking on my veggie garden, I noticed a few strays growing where they shouldn't (like an empty raised bed waiting to be filled and planted). No doubt evidence of my kids 'helping' me plant onion and garlic bulbs a few weeks ago.

Isn't it wonderful that life goes on in spite of...well, anything. This particular onion bulb landed in an unprepared bed of plain ole south Alabama red clay, and was probably trampled into the ground by two 35-pounders. Since I didn't know it was there, I didn't water it or care for it in any way, yet it broke the surface and is thriving.

Great reminder not to take things too seriously. Also makes me wonder why I spend so much on top soil and organic amendments if these things grow anyway. Things to ponder.

Deer Today, Gone Tomorrow

I suppose it was inevitable since I live near wooded areas, but my deer attack last night is still leaving me feeling violated. I've had pansies near my front door since November, and just yesterday, I was admiring how beautiful my planter is. Then I found this today.

Even though I have woody surroundings, I'm on a corner lot on a busy street. I've seen deer further down on our street where the woods back up to my neighbor's property, and I've even seen evidence of them eating flowers inside my Crapemyrtle borders, but on my front step? Food must be scarce.

Feeling a little blue right now, but not for long. The obvious next step is to research deer-resistant plants and refill my planter. That, or build a feeding station somewhere in the woods to draw them away.