Saturday, March 10, 2018

Slow spring

I was hoping there would be more indicators of spring in the yard by now, but the weather is not cooperating (per usual). Nothing is blooming, not even the snow drops. Nothing more than last time is showing above ground. At least the rain/snow has stopped, for a while.

Inside, the seedlings are doing well. I gave them each a pinch of coffee grounds because I have a vague memory of reading that was a good idea. Today I thinned some of them and gave them each a pinch of granulated compost.

I did purchase a Havahart Above Ground Electric Fence Kit, from Lowes, to limit the dogs' ability to tear up the yard. I knew there would not be enough wire or posts in it, but Lowe's did not have any 17-gauge aluminum wire that was not coated, so a subsequent trip to Tractor Supply Co was required. I love roaming through TSC, looking at all that exotic-to-me farm stuff. In another life, I lived in the country and was even a stringer for the Farmer's Exchange for a few years, so visiting TSC is also somewhat nostalgic.

Today I broke open the Havahart kit and discovered right off the bat that the instructions are woefully inadequate. Thank goodness for YouTube. The kit in the video, though, is better than the one I got: it came with a tester and fence posts with a sharp end and integrated clips whereas my kit has no tester and the posts are green PVC pipe with holes for (included) cotter pins. Pretty cheap. While at TSC, I purchased more wire and some fiberglass posts with integrated clips; I think I'll get more posts, as I'm afraid the ones in the kit won't be tall enough for Legs (a.k.a. Clio).

As I'm sitting here, I'm thinking I just may return the Havahart kit to Lowe's and purchase the rest of what I need from TSC. Live and learn.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Good-bye February!

My annual complaint, that February is the longest month of the year, is about to be stashed until next winter. I find myself thinking the worst is over, but it really isn't, despite the bulbs popping up here and there. March usually brings one more snowfall.

Naturalizing Daffodils

Yesterday I did some more yardening, pruning back the hydrangea, cleaning out this and that. I tend to work on particular plants, like the catmint and milkweed, instead of beds. There is more to do, of course, but it doesn't hurt to get a head start.

Pink Hyacinth

I did find a pair of hand pruners that disappeared last year, far from the area I thought they would be, oddly close to where my SO found his missing Fitbit. I'm also rediscovering my gardening muscles. All that winter walking does not help with the bending, stretching, lifting.

Pink Snow Crocus

Inside, most of the seedlings have germinated, even the 'Luna Red' Hibiscus! A germination heating pad helps. Right now, the only holdouts are the Japanese indigo (dyers knotweed) and the parsley.

Early Snow Drops

I ordered an electric fence to limit the dogs free space. I also bought them passes to the city dog parks. We went to Camp Canine at Johnny Appleseed Park yesterday, and they zoomed to their hearts content before my SO and I took them for a walk along the River Greenway behind IPFW. Today they are still tired.

Robin's nest from last summer

This morning's rain has given way to a little sun, so maybe I will venture outside again, before the rains return. Happy yard cleanup!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Snow more!

The previous snow melted away. Last night I thought we were supposed to get rain but replacement snow arrived instead. Fortunately, it is nearly gone, again. This weather is positively bipolar.

I first planted this coleus in 2012, in the flower box on the front porch. Since then, each fall I save a "mother plant" to winter over inside and be cloned for the following year's transplants. Unfortunately, I can't find the name of this variety in my blog. I think it is 'Velvet'.

I actually did some yardening yesterday, in a desperate attempt to fight off the late February blahs. All I did was cut down the clematis, slogging around in the mushy top half-inch of lawn. The dogs kept me company, which meant they both needed baths afterwards. Mud season - ugh!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Record keeping

Diana created a post at the Garden Bloggers Fling blog asking (and answering) why gardeners blog. My personal reason is primarily to keep track of what I do in the yard and garden. Unfortunately, sometimes I miss posting a purchase. This year I am going to try to fix that by posting purchases as they arrive.

First up are some seeds from Stokes. All I was really interested in were the 'Luna Red' hibiscus seeds. I used to have some of this in my yard but somewhere along the way, it disappeared. Hibiscus blooms may be used for dyeing, so I decided to bring it back. Individual plants are rather expensive (and I want four), so I am turning to seeds. I tried this last year with seeds from a different source, but they never germinated. These seeds are supposedly scarified, though, so they should germinate sooner. Fingers crossed.

Since I was ordering one thing from Stokes, I decided to order a second thing: Profusion zinnias. Last year I tried some plants (from Lowes?) but they did not do much. I planted them at the corner of the house where the purple smoke bush reigns, a spot I have had repeated trouble populating (although the hyacinth do well there). I saw how well Profusion zinnias grow in full sun, in a downtown park, and decided to try them again but somewhere else in the yard. And from seed.

The weather has been crazy lately, with multiple "January thaws". The problem with this is Big Foot, a.k.a. Clio, my lab-pit mix, churns up the lawn when she and Watson have the zoomies. Right now I am attempting to ameliorate that by not letting the both of them out at the same time on days when the top layer of the ground is thawed and/or mushy. They don't understand, of course, but it seems to be helping, or at least keeping things from getting worse.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

It's only money

One of my credit cards was compromised, to the point the issuer issued me a new one with a new number. I put it to the test today, by ordering WAY too many plants and seeds. Well, mostly plants, as the cost of the seeds doesn't really compare. If my plans don't work out, I'm turning the yard back into lawn.

I have never been able to figure out a good way to photograph the Meyer lemon "tree", especially to highlight the blossoms. I did finally figured out how to keep it healthy, though: compost tea. At the Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling, one item in the swag bag was a box of compost tea bags. The idea was to soak the bags of compost in water, then use the water as compost tea. Unfortunately, my dog got into the box and tore open the tea bags. I saved as much of the granulated compost as I could. This fall and winter, I sprinkled some on the soil of the lemon plant, so now every time I water, the plant gets a drink of compost tea.

The plant is loaded with blossoms this year. They smell soooo sweet! I'm hoping for a bumper crop.

Monday, January 01, 2018

New year musings

Needless to say, no gardening is going on, especially during this below-normal winter. The seed catalogs have started to pour in, though, so spring hopes eternal.

I do get outside every day, to at least walk the dogs, lately to keep up with the snow. While shoveling the walk, I contemplate what to do with this, that, or the other bed or plant. Right now I think I will move the sedums, coreopsis, Stella d'Oro daylilies, dwarf fountain grass to around the trees and shrubs in the front yard, yellow things under the purple ones, purple things under the yellow ones. The northern sea oats could go on the south side of the house, where the eaves are a bit deep for true sun-lovers, and the switchgrass can be moved to full sun (front? back?) where it might just remain upright.

I'm leaning toward planting 'Clara Curtis' painted daisies under the purple smoke bush where nothing else seems to thrive. I used to have a lot of Clara but somewhere along the way, it pooped out, probably because I kept moving it. And I'm thinking of dwarf yellow zinnias for the bed by the front walk. The yucca needs to be tamed.

First priority for the backyard is a strategy to help it recover from the dogs. Actually, it is not Watson but Clio and her big feet that are the problem. We have a couple of dog parks here in town, so I may get passes and take them there to get the zooms out. Meanwhile, movable electric fencing in the backyard will be employed to keep them contained while the beds on the north and south sides of the house recover.

There are a few more dye plants I want to raise: indigo, dyers coreopsis, bedstraw, yellow cosmos, hibiscus. I'm going to try starting 'Luna Red' hibiscus again, getting the seeds from a different source. A second bed of hollyhock will also get started, as it is a biennial.

My efforts to provide shade for the AC unit have not panned out yet, so this year I will try planting a Prairie Fire flowering crab nearby. I am enamored with paperbark maple, a slow grower that will provide year-round interest. I also would not mind having a ninebark... along with a hundred other plants.

Then everywhere else I plan to plant plugs of coneflower and rudbekia, plus giant zinnias. And maybe some compass plant in this corner, cup plant in that corner. And Mexican sunflower.

What are your garden pipe dreams this winter?

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Grasses and mostly bad news

I recently learned Chinese silver grass is deemed invasive. I have not noticed it growing beyond its bounds locally - and there is a LOT of it in local landscaping - but that doesn't mean it isn't or won't be a problem.

Intellectually, I am against installing invasive plants in one's yard. BUT I can't help but wonder if my acting ethically makes much difference. This is me making excuses for keeping my silver grass. Any opinions out there?

I did remove my burning bush (or at least, I am still battling it - it's difficult to eliminate). Again, it is a very popular landscape option in theses parts AND I have not noticed it growing in undeveloped lots (unlike ornamental pear). I had an ulterior motive for removing the burning bush, though, as it was crowding the gold mop.

Now that the burning bush is (mostly) gone, the gold mop is beginning to fill out on the south side. If I at least prune back the barberry (ANOTHER INVASIVE) on the east side, the gold mop will be restored to all its glory.

And now I am wondering if dwarf fountain grass, specifically 'Hameln', is invasive. For years, my three plants behaved well. But now they are spreading all over the place. I would like to move it from its current location - it's crowding the cotoneaster - to a stone-mulched bed along one side of the driveway. Worth the effort? I don't know.

And then there are native grasses that are problematic. The northern sea oats spread very easily, and the switch grass flops. The latter problem is of my own making, as there is not enough sunshine in this location by the front porch.

In a sunnier location, the switch grass could look like this grouping at a local city park:

So far, I have not heard anything about hardy pampas grass being invasive. It also tolerates shade fairly well, although it too could probably use more light.

Meanwhile, prairie dropseed is spectacular in its un-spectacular-ness. Is this normal?

The final bad news is that my minimalist approach to dog fencing is not working out. Clio, a.k.a. Big Foot, is not about to be stopped by short ornamental fencing. I obviously need to come up with a better plan.

I'm thinking electric fencing, at least for a while.