31 October 2013

Art of Nature

I've been doing a lot more photography and a lot less blogging this summer.  Most of my photos have been gardening- or nature-related, but that doesn't make up for not blogging.  It does have its rewards - a month or two ago, I found out that our local paper had a weekly photo contest, so I started sending in submissions.  They would have a different theme each week, and recently the theme was the "Art of Nature".  Since that is what I take more pictures of than anything else, I had a lot to choose from.  I narrowed it down to a few and got Robin's help picking the one to submit.  I had been enjoying just sending them photos every week, but then I had to go and win.  To see the article they published on the web, click here, or take a look at what they published in the paper.

06 October 2013

Woods Bay State Park

Earlier this year I wrote about how Venus' flytraps are only found near Carolina Bays.  These are still a Woods Bay State Park.  It is a small park that features a large Carolina bay and a cypress tupelo swamp.  I have a friend who is a connoisseur of swamps, but to me, they all look the same.  To be honest, I haven't studied them enough to know the differences - maybe these formations are more interesting from the air, as this picture shows.  You can even see another one to its left that has retained its shape, even though it looks to be farmland.  For a slideshow of the park, click here.
mystery, and rightly so.  They are mostly found along the coast of the Carolinas, elliptical in shape and all align in the same general direction, northwest.  I won't speculate on their origins, but I did visit one this summer.  I was on another trip and was looking for something else to visit in the area and found

29 September 2013

Summer of the Orchids

Soon after I posted about the native orchids growing in my front yard, I decided to go to the Coastal Carolina Orchid Society meeting.  I usually don't like being in these groups, because the focus is on one type of plant - it's not these groups, per se, but me.  I can be obsessive about things, as well as be a completist - someone who has to have every one of a certain thing.  I'm better about it now, but I still avoid them.  I like variety.  Back to what I was saying - the main reason I went to the meeting was that they were doing a repotting workshop, and I thought I might learn a little something, get continuing ed credit as a master gardener, and probably get a free orchid as well.  The afternoon was one that I won't forget.

The meeting was held in a science lab classroom at a local university, and when I got there, it was fairly full.  I wandered around, looking at all of the orchids on display - for a "show-and-tell" later, and found out they were having a raffle as well.  They had close to 50 orchids to be raffled off at a dollar a ticket.  People were buying ten to twenty tickets at a time, but when I opened my wallet and I had only four dollars - but I had a strategy.  I bought my tickets, but I waited until most people had made their choices as to which orchid they were trying to win - there were cups next to each one that raffle tickets went into.  Then I went around and tried to put my tickets into only the cups that were empty.  I would have to wait to see whether that strategy would pay off.

The meeting got underway, and they covered club business first.  There was a demonstration of some orchid-cataloging computer software, then a discussion about the best size and type of bark in which to plant orchids - and how much a pallet of it would be if everyone chipped in to buy one.  They finally got to the repotting part of the meeting - they talked about the orchid that everyone was getting, and we just went at it.  There was little discussion on how to actually do it.  After everyone had potted their orchid, they did the show-and-tell like I mentioned before.  Members had brought in their plants to talk about them - there were a lot of great specimens, but it had been about two hours and I was ready for the raffle.

I was a little nervous, because either I would be taking home a lot of orchids...or I wouldn't.  I thought I might win all four orchids, but I didn't want to be that person that shows up for a single meeting and wins a lot and never comes back.  So, drum roll, please...I won 3 out of 4 orchids, and if you add the one I potted up, I brought home four orchids!

They were four different species(?) of orchids - phalaenopsis, cattleya...actually, although a couple of them looked fairly different, two of them were cattleyas.  The fourth was an oncidium - it didn't last very long.  At first I chalked it up to beginner's bad luck, or the fact that it might have different enough growing conditions that it should have been treated differently than the others, but I don't think that was the case.  The leaves died very fast, and from the base toward the tip - the best answer I could find was that it had some kind of virus, and that there was nothing that I could do for it.

It has been close to four months since I brought the orchids home and they are doing fine.  I water them about every two weeks with a little liquid fertilizer and water, and they seem to be doing well.  Now the next thing I need to figure out is how to make them bloom!

22 September 2013

New Chicken Drama

I've considered getting more chickens, either by hatching them, buying day-old chicks, or by getting some that are ready to start laying, but most of that involves a little drama.  Hatching them means that you will have roosters to get rid of eventually.  Getting day-old chicks means raising them yourself, or, if you have a broody hen, hoping she will do it for you, but being prepared in case she doesn't.  Introducing older chickens to the flock means taking the risk that they will be rejected by the flock.  One of the first times I introduces a new chicken, she got run off almost immediately.  We found her a few days later a few houses away.

I had the opportunity to adopt three Dominiques from a neighbor this weekend.  He had a situation that forced him to get rid of his chickens.  As I am writing this, he still has seven more that need a home.  Hopefully we'll be able to find one.  I got some of his Dominiques because I remember reading that they were all around good birds.  Most people getting chickens want ones that are fairly young, and at 2+ years old, these are probably close to middle-age.  I think I like the chickens as much for the entertainment as I do for the eggs, so it doesn't bother me to have older hens.

Once I decided which ones and how many I could take, it was just a matter of how to go about this.  I thought his chickens were fairly friendly, and I could walk up to one and pick her up - that wasn't the case, but the first one wasn't hard to catch, since there were ten of them in a confined space.  I put her under my arm, walked back to the house and dumped her over my fence, away from my other chickens just to be safe.

With the second and third ones, I decided to use a net to make it easier.  So after dumping the third one over the fence, I went to observe all the chickens to see if there was any interaction, good or bad, but I could only find two of the three new hens.  I looked in every hiding place in the back yard, but no luck - she must have gone over the fence.  I happened to spot her in the front yard - she was just wandering around out there.  With a little luck I was able to catch her fairly easily and put her back in the back yard.  The didn't seem to interact with the rest of the flock, but they weren't being harassed either, so that was good.

The next important time to see how they interact is when it is time to go to bed.  My experience is that the first night can be the hardest for the new birds.  They're somewhere they've never been and may not know exactly where to go, even though the other chickens do.  Once it got dark, I went to see if the new hens has figured out what to do, and they hadn't.  One was in the run, but hadn't gone into the hen house to roost.  I was able to grab her, and open up the house, and put her on the roost, but it was like she physically couldn't sit on it.  I had to try several times before she didn't fall off.  I had never seen anything like that before.

I found the second one nesting under some giant elephant ears near the hen house.  She was easy to grab and put on the roost.  Then I had to find the third one.  I got a flashlight and looked in every hiding place I could find, but no luck.  The one place left was in a large Japanese privet that was growing in the chicken area.  Sure enough, she was roosting in the giant shrub.  I was able to grab her and put her on the roost next to her sisters.

While writing all of this, I've been monitoring the integration process while taking lots of photos, and there is just too much to write about right now.  Print news can't handle breaking news.  Anyway, that's the situation so far.  I will write more later.  Stay tuned.

08 September 2013

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I always plan to write this blog every week, sometimes even writing more than I need to get ahead of myself.  But I never know when something will keep me away for an extended period, and it tends to happen in the summer.  This past year I was steadily writing from Labor Day to Memorial Day without a break, I had done a lot to attract new followers, and I was tired.  When you add in everything going on in my life - real estate transactions, daughter going to college - it was time for a break.

So, how did I spend my summer vacation?  Well, I visited state parks and botanical gardens, walked where dinosaurs walked, took my daughter to college, cleaned out the garage.  In the coming weeks, I'll be posting about my summer activities as I work on other gardening articles and get back into the swing of things.  Stay tuned.

17 July 2013

Growing Venus' Flytraps

Venus' flytrap in bloom
I posted this photo recently and had several positive responses, and interest in learning how to grow these Carnivorous Plants, Pitcher Plants, Butterwort, Venus' Flytrap, Sarracenia.  There will be duplicates, but these should link to every post.  If you want a guide on growing them yourself, stay tuned.
cool plants.  I looked back through the blog, and, while I had written about carnivorous plants a lot, I hadn't written a how-to guide on growing them.  If you want to read all the other posts about the various carnivorous plants I've written about, they are here:

Much to everyone's amazement, Venus' flytraps are not some strange, exotic plant.  It is native only to the Carolinas, and, according to Wikipedia, probably within a 60-mile radius of Wilmington, North Carolina.  They are found mostly around crater-like formations known as Carolina Bays, which are located mostly in the same area.  Connections to these bays, which are thought to be caused by meteors, only help theories of their alien origins.  Now, how to grow them.

One of the first mistakes that people make with these plants is that they put them on their windowsill.  Flytraps need full sun to thrive.  Their soil needs to stay moist all the time as well.  Some people use a low-nutrient mixture of half peat and half sand.  Some people use a 50:50 mixture of peat and perlite, but I found that mixture too hard to manage when I was repotting mine.  I potted mine in all peat and they have done fine.  I used the finely ground peat, not the long-fibered sphagnum peat moss that you can get at garden centers.  You shouldn't use garden soil or potting soil, or anything with added nutrients or fertilizer.  Flytraps will get most of their nutrients from the flies that they catch.

You will need to keep them constantly moist, especially during the warmer months, but don't let the water level get too high.  My experience shows that flytraps are more sensitive to the water level than pitcher plants.  Pitcher plants tolerate minor droughts as well as floods fairly well, but flytraps like a more consistent moisture level.  Placing their pot in a saucer of water should be enough for them, as long as there is always water in the saucer or tray.

Another thing they need is a dormancy period during the winter.  Not letting them rest will cause them to weaken and possibly die.  When flytraps are dormant, they don't die back completely, at least where I live.  There will be some green and the traps will be smaller, but it doesn't put a lot of energy into producing traps when there are few insects.

There are any number of opinions about when Venus' flytraps should be repotted.  Some say ever spring, around February, before they begin putting out new growth in the spring.  This can be good, because it freshens up their growing medium, but if you repot only every two years, like I do, you'll be fine.  In fact, I'm not sure when I repotted mine, but it's been probably no more than two years.

If you'd like to read more about flytraps and other carnivorous plants, I recommend the book, The Savage Garden.  It has good information and great photos of every carnivorous plant imaginable.  I hope this has given everyone that wants to grow Venus' flytraps hope that they too can do this as well.  Once their basic growing conditions are met, just sit back and enjoy them after that.

15 July 2013

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

It appears that I took the previous month off - it wasn't intentional, but it happened.  I will remedy that right now.  Welcome to another edition of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, where garden bloggers post photos of what's blooming in their yard.

With so many plants growing close to the ground, one doesn't always look up.  It pays to do so when your tallest yucca decides to bloom.  It's tall enough that it makes it hard to get a decent picture.

When we think of American beautyberry, we don't usually think of flowers, but that's what you need if you want berries.  Here they are.

I'm not exactly sure how this is a flower, but this is what the root beer plant does during the summer.  I've never seen any seeds - it actually spreads fairly easily by way of underground stolons, or horizontal roots.

I can always count on my American Bog Lilies to put on a show.  They're in a sometimes shady, overgrown bog area, and when these white flowers appear, they really pop.

The last couple of years I've enjoyed seeing my night-blooming cactus do its thing.  It's in a little less than ideal spot - a little too much sun, but it puts on a show a few times a year now.

I'm not really sure how many different types of day lilies I have, but here's another one.

I thought I had posted a photo of my backyard sunflowers, but it doesn't look like it.  Here's a shot of it, almost fully open, with bees pollinating it.

15 June 2013

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

I started doing a "Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day" post every month last spring, but after the summer and fall, I ran out of blooms to post photos of.  This may happen again this year, but, even if it is only vegetables, I hope to be able to post pics for the whole year - actually I just thought about this, and a lot of winter
vegetables are leafy greens, so maybe I won't be able to.  I'll cross that bridge when I come to it - here are the past months blooms.

I've had trouble with this lantana for the last few years.  It might need more water or more shade.  It's in what I used to refer to as the "desert garden", which gets full sun and drains pretty quickly.  It's doing better this spring, probably due to the fact that we have had so much rain.

You don't always think about certain plants blooming, especially when there are more interesting aspects.  Some carnivorous plant enthusiasts recommend cutting off the stem before it flowers, so it doesn't take energy away from producing more and larger traps, but I don't agree.  These are beautiful, right?

Every year these old garden roses bloom very close
to Mother's Day, early May.  We had a cold spring that just would not warm up.  It finally did and everything started blooming - late - including these roses.

I think I like the blooms of plants that you don't expect to bloom.  Some are just unusual, like these elephant ears.  They got huge last year, and they have recovered well after a mild winter.  I would like to transplant them to a more visible area - right now they are behind the chicken coop - but they are growing through some giant roots, and any attempt to  dig them up would mean their destruction.

This is one of my least favorite plants.  There are probably better varieties of Nandina that have a nicer form, or are sterile, but this one is a pain.  Amongst the switch cane that I was trying to kill by smothering it, was a number of these volunteer plants.  Birds eat the seeds and then sit in a tree and drop them, from one end or the other, and they sprout.  With the help of carpet and chickens I was able to eradicate the bamboo/switch cane, but the nandina would not die, and the chickens won't eat it.

First daylily of the year.  I got this at a plant swap last year, so I didn't know what it would look like until it bloomed.  Apparently its name is "Grape Magic".  I had all my daylilies labeled until recently when I transplanted them to another bed.  So I'm excited to see which is which when they bloom this year.

I love it when I catch a pollen-covered bee in one of my flowers.  They always look like they're in heaven.  In this case, it's one of my many squash flowers.  They're blooming like crazy right now.

This is some Rudbeckia, I think, that I grew from seed last year.  I had a number of these plants, as well as Echinacea, and I didn't know which was which until they all started blooming this year.  I also kept getting bees in the pictures of a lot of the flowers, as you can see.  No problem with pollinators in my yard!

The irises around the pond bloomed a couple of months ago, but this pickerel weed is just starting to bloom.  It has multiple tiny flowers on this plant, and it will bloom continuously for the whole summer.  I want to make a few changes to the back yard, which would mean this pond would go, but I would still have room for marginals, like this plant.

This is one that I used to see on occasion, but now I have one in my yard - Stokes' Aster.  It's beautiful and it's native to the southeastern United States, which even better!

First cactus bloom of the year.  After they are pollinated, prickly pear cactuses will produce fruit that turns a deep red in the winter.  It actually tastes pretty good, if there weren't so many seeds in it.

There are recipes for making jams and sauces and even daiquiri mix with it.  There are to many seeds in these fruit and it can be a little hard to handle because the juice stains very badly.

About the only thing I know about this plant is that it's called hidden ginger.  It produces these blooms on a short stem near the ground, while other leafy stems grow taller.  The main flower is pink, and there are smaller yellow blooms below it.

I've been trying for weeks to get a good picture of my hydrangea - thi is probably the best that it will get for now.  This is in the shade garden, and it didn't do well last year.  A few years ago, I moved it from the back yard (where it was blue) to the front yard (where it is pink).  Very interesting.

I just saw something growing out of the top of this Golden Barrel cactus the other day.  I assumed that it might bloom eventually, but not so soon!  Everything was status quo this morning, but when I left home in the evening it was blooming, and I had no idea it would happen so fast.

Speaking of the pond, this loom popped up recently.  It's a water hyacinth and it's an invasive species, if it ever escaped to another body of water.  But here in my pond it is contained.  There are too many in here right now that you can't even see the water.  They need to be thinned.

Friends dropped off a butterfly bush at my house recently.  I wasn't sure where to plant it, so it's been sitting in the driveway.  In the meantime, it put out its first bloom.  Thanks, guys!

Every day something else blooms, but this is going to have to do it for this month.  I'll get to work on next month's post as soon as this posts.  Enjoy!

09 June 2013

Lady's Tresses Orchid

May 2013
I was planning to do maintenance on my lawn mower myself, but when the self-propelled part broke, I decided to let someone else take care of it.  It's been more than two weeks and I'm still waiting for my lawnmower back. I have to say that you never know what you might see when you let the grass grow.  I was in the yard pulling weeds and I noticed something that I haven't seen for a couple of years - Lady's Tresses Orchids.

I first heard about these years ago on a local public radio spot that horticulture extension agents do every day.  She talked about having a yard full and mowing them down each spring.  I had never considered that there were any native orchids - they seem so exotic to me.  After I did a lot of research, most native orchids, you would miss if you weren't really looking for them.  That goes for these as well - I wouldn't have been so curious about these if I hadn't already heard about them.

May 2011
Spiranthes is the genus of orchid that the Lady's Tresses falls into.  It's one of the terrestrial orchids.  It has fleshy roots - that's how I knew it must have been an orchid when I first encountered it a couple of years ago.  Up close, the flowers had the unmistakable orchid petal arrangement, albeit on a smaller scale.  I'm not sure how I came across them two years ago, but this time it was because I hadn't mowed the grass for a couple of weeks.  It's possible that's what happened last time.  While it grows in a wide variety of soils and ecosystems, it is listed endangered in some parts of Canada. I counted close to a dozen in my yard - I hope they multiply and I'll transplant them to their own area of the yard - so I don't mow over them every year.

05 June 2013

Giveaway Winner

First of all, thanks to everyone who entered.  I hope all of you will spread the word so the next contest is Month-by-Month Gardening in the Carolinas by Bob Polomski.
huge.  One winner was randomly selected to win



You won!

27 May 2013

Our First Giveaway

In celebration of reaching 10,000 hits on the blog, I am happy to offer a giveaway to all of my loyal readers out there.  I was trying to think if something good, and I decided on this:

Month-by-Month Gardening in the Carolinas, by Bob Polomski.  If you don't have it, you should.  It's an all-
around great book to have here.  It may be a little much to keep up with, as it tells you when to plant most any plant, when to harvest, when to prune, when to fertilize.  The book is organized well, broken up into sections by plant type - lawns, shrubs, roses, vegetables, etc.  And as its name implies, it does go month by month explaining how to maintain your landscape.  A must!

Here's how the giveaway works:  To enter, leave a comment on this post, telling me what you like about this blog.  Make sure you include
your first name and an email address so I can let you know if you win.  One entry per person.

You can get an additional entry if you follow me on Twitter, @PCHomestead.  Make sure you mention that you follow when you comment on this post.

The contest ends on June 2nd, 2013 at 11:59pm EDT.  A winner will be randomly selected and will be announced later that week.  Thanks to everyone for participating!

22 May 2013

Japanese Beetles

I've never noticed any problems with Japanese beetles around my yard - I never really thought much about them until recently.  Last year I had a wheelbarrow of compost and soil sitting in the yard for an extended period, and, when I went to use it, it was full of Japanese beetle larvae.  It was really fun feeding them to the chickens - they loved them!  I never thought I had many in the yard, but I found one recently while pulling weeds.

What are japanese beetles and why don't we like them?  As the name suggests they are originally from Japan, hence they are one of many non-native insects that have no natural enemies to keep their population in check.  As adults, they have huge appetites, feeding on the fruit and leaves of more than 200 different plants.  They are identified by their green body and copper-colored wing covers - they also have white spots around the abdomen.

The lifecycle of the Japanese beetle take about a year.  Adults emerge in late spring and begin mating by mid summer.  Eggs are laid in clusters below the soil surface where the larvae develops, feeding in the root zone of plants.  During cold weather, they burrow deeper to stay warm.  When spring arrives they move closer to the soil's surface, resume feeding, and pupate - emerging in late spring.

What can be done about them?  Some adults beetles will be eaten by birds, but not in significant numbers.  There are traps, but a large numbers of them would need to be set out, and there is evidence that these actually attract more beetles to the area.  There are sprays that control adult beetles, but you may have to spray numerous times to be effective.  Another strategy is to control the grubs.  There are insecticides that you can spray on your lawn, but will provide only temporary results.  A long-term strategy for grubs is biological control.  They are highly susceptible to something called milky spore disease.  It is caused by a bacterium and is very specific to japanese beetle grubs.  It may take a few years to become established, but the bacterium will be effective for 20 years or more.  For more detailed instructions dealing with Japanese beetles, please visit this link.

20 May 2013

Memorial Day Milestone

If you follow me on Twitter - @PCHomestead - or if you look at the feed on the right side of the blog, you already know about the site's milestone.  Last week, Park Circle Homestead reached 10,000 hits.  It's not a huge deal, but I thought it was an occasion to celebrate.

I started this blog in 2009 as a way to keep track of what I was doing in the yard - remembering how I did
things previously, whether they worked, and keeping a photographic record of the yard's progress.  Since then, I have gotten chickens and become a certified Master Gardener and the blog has become more of a way to help people garden smarter - including myself.

After getting chickens, I started following a couple of popular chicken blogs.  One of the things that they did was they had giveaways.  Someone or some company would donate an item and there would be a drawing for it.  There were specific rules about leaving comments on the blog to enter etc.  I have been entering them on a regular basis - not every one, but for giveaways that I really like, and I won one last year - the print shown above.  So, I've decided to do the same thing, in celebration of reaching 10k hits.  Stay tuned.  The giveaway is up next!

19 May 2013


For the past five years or so, I've planted potatoes in the spring.  Last year I ended up with too many
potatoes, so this year I only bought one 5lb bag of red potatoes.  They are my favorite and I didn't need so many this year.  We had a really warm early spring and I planted about the time I usually do - February 15th - and everything seemed fine.  Then the rains came.  I've lost count now, but we had five major downpours between late February and mid-April.  I thought my potatoes would rot, but they persevered.  It wasn't until early May that I noticed I had a problem.  It looked like I had a disease on my potatoes.  I consulted the Clemson Extension, and my best guess is that my potatoes had late blight.

So, how could I have prevented this?  I always by certified disease-free seed potatoes.  There are resistant varieties, but when buying at the feed store, there's not much choice.  Keeping the foliage dry would have helped, but with so much rain, there was nothing I could do.  I usually clean up the plant debris and don't leave that lying around to spread pests and diseases.  Another problem that could have caused this is that I have planted potatoes in this spot for a number of years and have not rotated my crops like I should have been doing.

In the future I will be planting potatoes somewhere different, but this year I did get a decent harvest, so I'm satisfied  For more information on potatoes and their problems, click here.

15 May 2013

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Welcome to another edition of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.  The 15th of each month, garden bloggers post photos of what's blooming in their yard at the time.  Without further talk, here you go:

It has sort of finished blooming, but that it the ajuga I got off of craigslist for free.  It has survived neglect from me, and too much attention from the chickens and is still chugging along...and spreading.  It's planted in a narrow area between the driveway and a concrete divider so it won't spread past there.  I found one growing in the grass on the other side of the driveway, one growing out of a crack in the driveway, and one growing 100 feet away, around a corner and at the front of the house!

What can I say about knockout roses?  They are a showstopper.  I got these for free off of craigslist too.  I had them for a few years before I could decide what to do with them.  I finally made a flower bed on one side of the house and they look wonderful right now.  They happy to be in the ground, I suppose.

Every year someone throws out a hibiscus that just needs a little TLC.  I pick them up and give it to them, providing me with flowers the rest of the year.  I found the tag for this the other day and it is called "President Red".  Very appropriate.

I don't know when I got this Setcreasea, also known as wandering Jew. I just know I planted it somewhere so it wouldn't die, until I decided where I really wanted to plant it.  I haven't moved it since.  It comes back every year, and I think, "oh yeah, I said I would plant that somewhere", and I never do.  Maybe one year I'll figure out where I want it.  Maybe one year...

These daisies came from one of the plant swaps last year - I think it was the fall one, but I can't remember.  We expected it to be perennial, but sometimes you don't always know.  It has come back this year and is in a constant state of flower.  I've been meaning to find a nice pot for it and take it to Robin's house, but I just haven't done it yet.

Robin is a big fan of Gerber daisies.  I would see them at Lowe's, but the tag always read that they were annuals.  I don't usually do annuals, so I never bought them.  Now, to the best of my knowledge, even though the tag reads "annual", they are most likely perennials around here.  I have seen some around that come back every year.

Last, but not least are these daisies that I grew from seed almost two years ago.  They are just everywhere around the yard now, and blooming like crazy.  I plan to divide them later this summer and give some away.

I know I did a little of this last year and then it petered out.  I'd like to do this every month, but it all depends on what is blooming.  I have a better chance of doing this more now, since I have more plants...and more blooms.

12 May 2013

Where did you get that plant?

Recently I have had a few friends and acquaintances ask me where I buy my plants.  As a frugal gardener, I know my answer disappoints them:  I usually don't.  I know that sounds a little far-fetched, but I plan to prove it right now.  I can't say that this is a complete list, but it probably comes close.  I'll understand if some of you quit reading before I reach the end.

Shade Garden
Cinnamon fern - dug up from the woods
Root Beer plant - friend
Hostas - bought two, years ago.  The rest were given to me.
Knockout Roses - free off of craigslist
Bulbs -transplanted from elsewhere in the yard
Sweetshrub - neighbor's yard
Holly Fern - clearance at Lowe's
Cast Iron plant - someone's trash
Hydrangea - bought at Dream Gardens
Queen's Tears bromeliad - plant swap

Desert Garden
Yuccas - someone's trash
Century plant - craigslist trade
Beautyberry - plant swap
Sedum - clearance at Lowe's
Coneflowers - grew from seed
Rosemary - clearance at Lowe's
Cactus - cutting from a neighbor
Lantana - transplanted from elsewhere in the yard

Daylilies - bought off craigslist, plant swap
Gerber daisies - yard of abandoned house
Irises - someone's trash
Alliums - someone's trash

Potted Plants
Palm - someone's trash
Tropical hibiscus - someone's trash
Tuberous begonia - someone's trash
Peperomia - someone's trash
Alligator plant - someone's trash
Asparagus fern - someone's trash

Night blooming cactuses - plant swap/friend
Holiday cactus - clearance at Lowe's

It took me awhile to find and link to images of all of these plants.  As I was doing this, I started thinking of all of the other plants that I have that aren't on the list.  Let's just say that this is a good representaion of what I have, but there is still a lot more.

03 May 2013

Build Soil

I've been pretty busy lately.  I have been doing some gardening, but it's been everything else that has kept me from writing about it.  I have a number of posts to write or finish writing, but in the meantime I wanted to share part of a poem that I found recently.  It's called "Build Soil" by Robert Frost.  Unfortunately, it doesn't have much to do with gardening or horticulture, but there are a few choice lines that I will share with you.  Enjoy, and I hope to be back writing later this weekend.  Thanks!

...Plant, breed, produce,
But what you raise or grow, why feed it out,
Eat it, or plow it under where it stands
To build the soil.  For what is more accursed
Than an impoverished soil pale and metallic?
What cries more to our kind for our sympathy?

For the whole poem, click here.

16 April 2013


What is thatch?  Thatch is living and dead plant material in a lawn that has built up on top of the soil that is slow to decompose.  Hybrid Bermudagrass and Zoysia have more problems with thatch than other types of grass.  A certain amount of thatch is acceptable - up to a half inch can regulate the temperature of the soil, retain moisture and provide decomposing plant material for insects, earthworms and microbes.  More than a half inch of thatch can be a problem, because it prevents water and pesticides from reaching the soil when applied.

How do I get rid of thatch?  Timing is important - for warm-season grasses, this should be done after the grass has greened up or later, when it is actively growing.  Around here, that is late April or early May.  Don't apply in very hot or dry weather.  If you have a small area, you can use a de-thatching rake - it's similar to a garden rake, but it has curved tines which pull the thatch layer away from the soil.  If you have a large area, you will need to use some sort of powered de-thatching equipment.  It has vertical blades that cut through the thatch layer, making it easier to remove with a rake.  Once the thatch is removed, you need to water your lawn to help it recover - in addition, a week later, a fertilizer application of one pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet should be applied to your lawn and watered in thoroughly.

How do I prevent thatch?  Good lawn maintenance is key.   Mowing at the proper height for your type of grass is one way.  Also don't over-fertilize or over-water.  For more information , please see:  HGIC 2360 Controlling Thatch in Lawns.

14 April 2013

Unlikely Garden Resources

I planned to write an update for the following article this spring, so I went to Wal-Mart and Lowe's earlier this year looking for cool-season vegetables and I never found the abundance that I did a few years ago.  With the bad economy, people had started vegetable gardens, and they were growing more than just tomatoes in the summer.  A few big box stores were capitalizing on this and sold a larger selection of vegetables.

I looked at Wal-Mart in February when I planted potatoes and onions and they didn't have any.  And while I didn't look specifically for them at Lowe's, I was in and out of there a number throughout the spring and I didn't see any.  I went back the other day and I found their display. They had a huge variety of onions, garlic, shallots, and potatoes.  It's the absolutely wrong time to plant now, but I was looking at them and wondering if I could store them until fall (or spring, in the case of potatoes) and plant them at that time.  Maybe they will be deeply discounted.  Maybe they just threw them away.  I'll have to find out.

Red potato plant in bloom
Over the past couple of years, there has been a large increase in the amount of people trying to grow their own food.  It used to be people grew tomatoes or squash in the summer, but it has expanded to include other vegetables.  Excluding traditional feed and seed sources, Lowe's started selling onion sets in the spring a couple of years ago.  Last year they had these garden packs - asparagus, strawberries, potatoes, onions, leeks and shallots in small amounts, in various combinations, for the home gardener.

I made a discovery Wednesday at Wal-Mart.  I was leaving through the garden are and noticed a display that looked like it had a few winter vegetables.  I was expecting a few veggies mixed in with flower bulbs.  I was surprised to find that it was all vegetables.  They had asparagus crowns, strawberries, garlic, two types of shallots, two types of onions, and five types of potatoes.

Feed and seed stores are usually good for a couple of varieties of a couple of vegetables, in large quantities, at reasonable prices.  The vegetables at Wal-Mart are packaged in smaller quantities for the home gardener and they are more expensive.  Most home gardener don't have the need for five pounds of one variety of potato or two pounds of onion sets.  What Wal-Mart does right is it offers more specialty vegetables.

Asparagus is a perennial, which means that it lives for more than a year.  Most people probably don't have enough room in their garden to commit to asparagus for a number of years - I know I don't.

Most people grow strawberries here and there.  They can be perennials, but some experts suggest replanting fresh plants every year.  I've never grown them, but I know Robin would like me to.  I think I have issues with plants that need a certain amount of daylight to produce fruit or flowers, etc.  I think I will try growing them before long.

Any reader of this blog knows that I have had no real success with onions.  Wal-Mart offers two varieties in small quantities.  I may continue to try growing them, but I won't devote as much space to them as I have been.  And, on second thought, I may not buy them there either - a lot of them had already sprouted and had fairly long green shoots poking out of the bags.

I tried growing garlic almost a year and half ago.  The only place you can reliably find garlic is in a catalog or the grocery store.  The catalog can get expensive when you figure in shipping, so I decided to try planting garlic from the grocery store.  I wasn't expecting great results, but I thought I would give it a shot.  I waited a little late to pull them up - they had been sitting in soil that was a little waterlogged.  I put them on a shelf in the garage to dry and forgot about them.  They're still there and I noticed that started sprouting recently.   I suppose they would be fine plants, but they would not produce very good bulbs.  Wal-Mart is selling  garlic bulbs and I'm sure it's in small amounts and affordable.  I'd rather have found them in the fall, when you're supposed to plant them.  Maybe I can buy them and keep them around until October.  We'll see.

I've never grown shallots, but I'd like to.  If Robin will use them, I'll grow them.  I just don't think we've ever eaten them around here before.  I also think it's great that Wal-Mart has potatoes.  Although I'll buy the bulk of my seed potatoes, I may buy the blue potatoes that they are selling.  I like growing a few odd things.

That's it for vegetables at Wal-Mart.  I blogged about more traditional sources for some of these here.  Go out and try to grow some of these this spring!

10 April 2013

10th Annual Spring Park Circle Plant Swap

I missed the plant swap last fall, so I thought I would be really excited about the one this weekend, but I wasn't.  The main reason is that I have been very busy the past few weeks and did not prepare as much as I usually do.  Last year I had grown a lot of things that I ended up taking to the swap.  Spring this year has been on the cool side and it hasn't been very warm until the past few weeks - and then it was more than ten degrees colder this weekend!

So, here's what I managed to scare up for the swap, and I'm warning you - it wasn't much:  a couple of Sago
Palms that I decided I didn't have a place for, three small tuberous begonias that survived the winter and being eaten by chickens, a couple of arrowhead plants that were growing in a pot that someone was throwing out, and lots of alligator plants, that came from something else someone was throwing out.  Like I said - not much.

I think I talked about how either the swaps aren't as good as they used to be, or that I'm just not in to them as I was before, and that was the same this time.  I hadn't really thought about what I hoped to find there until the morning of the swap.  I realized that I ought to look for vegetables, especially tomatoes, so I don't have to go out and buy them, and maybe something for Robin's new house.

I saw a few things that I might want if I could get them, but nothing really jumped out at me.  There was a giant pot of native palms that I thought about, as well as a corpse flower cactus - I had one of these at one time, but I let it freeze.  I saw a couple of night blooming cactuses - I have two, but I thought I would get Robin one.  I did get a few good things:  Mother-in-law's Tongue - I have some, but I thought I would get more, a couple of cactus cuttings, and some daisies for Robin.  Robin found a rubber plant, a few succulents, and she decided that she wanted a sago palm after all, and she found a pineapple bromeliad for me.  The best part of the swap was when someone showed up very late with flats of vegetable plants.  We got "moon and stars" watermelons, plus another variety, cukes, and some purple/red okra.
I plan to re-pot a few of the plants for Robin and plant the vegetables after I first pull up my unproductive peas.  It's either that or clear and make another row and that's a little too much work at the moment.  Happy Earth Day!