21 August 2009

2nd Annual Fall Park Circle Plant Swap

The second annual Fall Plant Swap at Park Circle is Saturday, September 26th. For those that don't know the area, Park Circle is the heart of the original North Charleston, which was founded about a century ago. For those who have never been to a plant swap before, it's really fun - this one especially. It begins at 10am with people arriving and bringing plants that they want to swap. Once the car is unloaded, people begin to mill around, looking at what others have brought, talking to people they met at the last swap, or bumping into neighbors. Most people have labeled their plants, but if not, there are usually master gardeners to help identify plants - including Darren Sheriff, who puts this together every year. There have been a least six swaps in the spring, but this is only the second fall plant swap to date.

Once 11am approaches, Darren will remind everyone of the rules - he'll yell "go" and everyone will grab a plant and take it to their "hiding place", which could be just a spot in the grass - whatever spot you have staked out as your own. After a few rounds of that, he'll tell everyone to grab two plants or more, depending upon how many is left. People have started bringing unwanted yard art, pots and tools to the swap as well. After everyone has claimed the last of the plants, there's a potluck lunch to be had and a tour of Darren's yard, which is not tobe missed - especially if you're a fan of Citrus.

The first swap we planned to attend was the 2008 Spring swap. I couldn't get off work, so I sent Robin with about 15 plants. I was surprised when she came home with probably 50 plants! It's been that way all three times we've been. Each time, I know I take more plants to the swap. More than a month ago, I started rooting cuttings for the upcoming swap. I count at least 30 plants that I'm taking, and that doesn't count what I may throw together during the coming month. So I hope everyone will come out and swap plants with us!

For more info, click on the link below:

19 August 2009

Carnivorous Plants

I think I've always been interested in carnivorous plants - who wouldn't be? A couple of winters ago I started noticing them at Lowe's and became intrigued. I was hesitant at first for a couple of reasons. I knew nothing about how to take care of these plants and in the process of learning about them, I also heard that I shouldn't buy them from Lowe's. They are sold in plastic cubes to maintain a high humidity, but as I learned, they didn't need jungle-like conditions. All of that moisture can lead to fungus and other things - hence the name given to these containers - "Lowe's Death Cubes".

There are a number of things that can go wrong after purchasing a death cube. The plant comes in a very humid environment, so you have to acclimate it to normal humidity. Some people crack the top a little more each day until they feel safe removing it from the container. Another thing that it has to adjust to is light. It starts out in a low light environment in Lowe's, so don't immediately put in all day full sun. It has to adjust to that as well. I lost a cobra plant to too much sun a while back.

Once I felt knowledgeable enough to take care of carnivorous plants, I started buying death cubes of pitcher plants mostly and one venus flytrap and mostly when I had a coupon. I potted them separately, the pitchers and the flytrap, because what I read made it seem that flytraps liked it a little dryer than the pitchers, especially during the winter. I was a little underwhelmed by the venus flytrap - unless you buy the giant ones, the traps are pretty small. So I wasn't too disappointed when my flytrap died. I decided to stick with pitcher plants and eventually make a home for them in the bog. (Not that I'm never having venus flytraps again. When I have the money, I'll buy the larger ones and have them in a nice bowl somewhere that's easy to take care of.)

I strive to have a low-maintenance garden. I was looking for a solution to making pitcher plants low maintenance? I figured that shouldn't be too hard. They are native to our area and winter hardy. I read about planting pitchers in a container of sphagnum peat moss that had a few holes in it. Then put that in a container of water. All you have to do is make sure the second one always has water. I thought I had the solution. I took a shallow barrel liner, drilled a number of small holes in the bottom, laid in a piece of landscape fabric and filled it with sphagnum peat moss. Then I planted the pitcher plants. I took that container and sunk it in the pea gravel bog, where it would get a constant supply of water. They even did well dried out some when the bog was in shambles. They have nothing but thrive since.

Right now I have a couple of different pitcher plants - two prostrate ones and two upright ones. I think the prostrate ones are Sarracenia purpurea and the upright ones are...(this is where I was going to put the latin name, but there are so many similar pitchers that I don't know which is which.) I like the S. purpurea, but they take up a lot of room. I think I'd rather have more upright pitchers. I do have something that not a pitcher plant in there - a butterwort - I got it on clearance at Lowe's for 48 cents! I bought two of them, but one died before I could get it in the bog - death cube lives up to its reputation again! I like to think I saved the other one from certain demise. I wasn't sure how it would do in the bog once it acclimated to it, but it seems to be thriving. My only concern is how winter hardy it is. I tried researching it, but there are so many different varieties that I couldn't get information on the specific one I have. Like everything else, we'll just have to wait and see.

18 August 2009

Pond Saga, Part 2

Pond Saga, Part 1

In a perfect world I should have dug the bog the same time I dug the pond. I would have bought a liner that fit both of them together. That would have cost more money and time that I had. Once the pond was up and running I began digging the bog. After I was finished, I laid the PVC liner in the hole and draped it over the edge, into the pond. The extra pump I had would pump water from the pond and to the bottom of the bog, where it would filter up and spill back where it came. Now came the hard part - buy, transport, wash and dump 15 to 20 cubic feet of pea gravel in the bog. It comes in 1/2 cubic foot bags that weigh almost 50 pounds each. At the time I was going to Lowe's on a regular basis, so I would buy 4 or 5 bags at a time. I would dump each of them in my wheelbarrow and hose them down until the waterat washed out was mostly clear, then dump the gravel into the bog - it took a long time. I still look at the bog sometimes and think I could use a few more bags!

Once it was done, I started collecting plants to put in it. I actually went out and paid full price for a couple of things. I already had some regular papyrus and elephant ears and, at a water garden plant swap, I got some cattails, pickerel rush, a bog lily and some floating plants like water hyacinth and water lettuce. So, I bought a really neat dwarf papyrus and some water irises. The bog has been an experimental garden for me. I spent most of the next year planting and re-planting things, either because they grew too much or not at all. I used to have as much as half of the bog to experiment with, but I've pretty much settled on what I want in there now. About a foot and a half square, closest to the front of the bog, I've planted carnivorous pitcher plants and similar plants that I'm happy with.

Initially the pond turned green, but about six weeks after the bog was up and running, the water cleared up and stayed that way until recently when I had trouble with the bog...

Recently I had decided to pull some of the plants out of the bog to divide and give away to friends with ponds. After I dug out the plants, I would put them in pots before returning them to the bog, so the roots wouldn't take over, like they had done in the past. I knew I shouldn't have sone this but, I did it anyway - I used a garden fork in the bog and ended up putting holes in the liner! Once I found out - empty pond will let you know - I unplugged the pump to the bog and started shoveling out pea gravel in order to uncover the hole. After days of finding holes, learning how to patch them, patching them, and finding more holes, I finally decided to buy a new liner. I got one similar to what I had before - when it arrived, I opened it up and discovered that it had a hole in it! I thought there was a chance I had put the hole in it when I opened the box, but upon further inspection, I realized I couldn't have done it. That was good news, because I was already feeling pretty sorry for myself. The company was nice enough to send me another liner free of charge. Once I got that, I proceeded to deconstruct the bog, put the liner in and build it back. I'm happy with how everythig turned out and I will not be doing that again!

16 August 2009

The End of Procrastination

I actually did some yard work today. We haven't had the money for the concrete blocks that I'm going to use for our raised beds and no one responded to my postings on craigslist for some, so I thought I would continue to prepare that area as well as others for future plantings. More than a month ago I covered the vegetable garden area with a tarp. I pulled it up today in order to use it in other areas of the yard that need smothering. I had some plastic edging that I put down around the vegetable garden and I laid newspapers and mulched the area with my neighbor's grass clippings. I definitely underestimated the amount of newspaper and mulch I would need (I always do that). I had enough to cover about half the area. I'm going to lay some black plastic over the remaining part to keep the weeds at bay for now.

(My friend Joan did something similar recently. She writes about it on the Oak Terrace Preserve blog.)

When I laid out the bed along the edge of our front yard, it was quite large - ambitious, maybe. I didn't plan to fill it immediately - instead, I figured I would plant areas of it as I got a feel for the landscaping, and as I got plants. The area farthest from the street has been the most neglected and recently I've decided that I want to make it an extension of the vegetable garden. When I removed the tarp from the back yard, I laid it over the area in the front yard where I plan to plant vegetables at a later date. Whenever I remove it, I'll use it to smother some areas in the back yard around the pond. I plan to give that area a makeover during the winter - at least that's the plan.

The desert garden in the front yard experienced an unusually busy time this week. I've been meaning to cut back our lantana. It had gotten very overgrown and it doesn't grow extremely upright, so it was beginning to take over the bed. I really just tried to reduce its width and make it somewhat symmetrical in the process. I think I did just that. (I should've taken before and after pictures!) It had completely engulfed one of my cactuses - Cereus Peruvianus Monstrosus (this not my plant-mine is only a foot tall) - after getting a good look at it again, I'm thinking I may dig it up and put it a pot somewhere instead. Speaking of cactuses, I came home from work the other day to find that my prickly pear had nearly fallen over. It had gotten overgrown during the summer since planting it. I knew I might have this trouble in the future and planned to take cuttings and plant more of it around the original plant, to make a wider and hopefully stronger base to support greater height. I didn't get around to doing this, thus the problem at hand. I got out there with my heavy work gloves and heavily pruned it back and mounded rocks and dirt around the base to stabilize the cactus. (Why don't I have photos of any of this? I need someone in my family to document these things - hint, hint.) It seems like I've lost a lot of plant material to pruning this week, but there's a bright spot - I found a yucca on the side of the road this week. It was just cut down out of a neighbor's yard - no roots - so there's a chance it won't survive, but I have confidence. Robin has been wanting some height in that bed. I expected something I planted - the cactus, lantana, or (what turned out to be dwarf) echinacea - to get tall, but nothing has. So I was glad to find this yucca that was probably six to seven feet tall. I didn't need anything that tall, but I figured I could plant it in a deep hole and cut it off if needed. I did all of that - using post-hole diggers, I dug as deep as I could, maybe two feet, and cut off maybe a foot and a half of the yucca and planted it. I'm happy with how it looks and hopefully it will live. I just remembered another plant acquisition in the past week. It's some kind of succulent - a groundcover that has nice yellow flowers. If you can see in the photo, I planted it in front of the birdbath. I'm not totally sure that it is hardy, but the person I got it from, his seems to last from year to year, possible dying back in the winter. I'll just have to wait and see.


I really don't have a lot to say about chickens. I just really liked this comic strip. We do have plans to get some in the near future, but there are a lot of details to work out - exactly where to put them in the yard, building a coop and fencing. My biggest hurdle will be the coop. Buying one is out of our budget and building one is almost outside of my skillset - add in the cost of materials and this option might be out of our budget as well.
Once I decide where the chickens will be, I'll find a coop design I like and then start collecting building matierials. I'm still aiming for Fall, but we'll have to see how everything goes. Wish me luck and I'll keep you posted.

(7/15/9 Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis)

12 August 2009

Downtown excursion and more procrastination

I've been lazy some more lately. I've got plans to redo the garden, but I'm putting it off a little longer. I think I'll be getting the concrete blocks next week. Once I get those, I'll get the compost and plant whatever I can at the time and then put in onions in about a month and a half.

I thought I would post this photo I took recently. It seems like I've seen this before years ago, but that was before I knew what I was really looking at. I noticed this one before we went on vacation and I had a chance recently to go downtown and take a picture. I really can't believe how tall it is. For anyone interested, it's on Coming Street near the Crosstown.

Lately I've just been doing little things around the yard - throwing away dead plants, potting things that I found, propagating plants for the plant swap in late September. Hopefully I'll come up with another post very soon.