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.