Sunday, June 27, 2021

Bird feeding hiatus

There have been mysterious deaths among the wild bird population here in Indiana. The Indiana DNR is asking backyard bird feeders to suspend operations for a while and clean feeders with a bleach solution. I will comply, even though this time of year the birds seem more interested in other food sources.

Although the directions were less than straight forward, I managed to assemble the bamboo mini LED grow light garden from Gardners Supply with only one or two mistakes. It fits well on top of the upright freezer. Now I just need to start some herbs (again).

Here is proof that the 'Golden Spirit' smoke bush does smoke. As I've said before, not as dramatic as the purple leaf version, still a sight to behold. I transplanted some 'Autumn Joy' sedum under it, but it needs something else, maybe some dark-leafed Heuchera for contrast?

Sometimes my landscaping works out as planned. The Bishop's Weed under the 'Limelight' hydrangea has recovered from dog trampling and has filled in that corner nicely. And the natives I moved last summer are thriving; see below. There is coneflower, rudbekia, ironweed, and several types of aster in this bed along the fence. I can't wait for them to bloom. The area needs some spring and early summer bloomers, though, that will grow in clay.

This Clematis Paniculata, a.k.a. sweet autumn clematis, looks like it is cooperating with my plans as well. It is in a container next to a trellis that is tied to a pergola post and starting to climb already. If it reaches its projected length of 10' to 20', it should provide some nice shade for the deck.

As long as the dogs don't try to breach the fence, this crop of sunflowers ("Russian Giant", I think) should do fine. The Mexican sunflowers in the next bed are not as robust, but I think they will come through just fine.

The grass in the sunny area is finally growing, helped no doubt by the off-and-on showers Mother Nature has been providing lately (I tend to be forgetful about watering). The rainy weather has made yardening difficult, though.

A couple of weeks ago, I started taking Claritin to treat sinus headaches. I had never taken it before, and a bonus side effect was the arthritic pain in my shoulders improved. Apparently, there is some evidence that antihistamines help relieve inflammation. I was ecstatic... until a different side effect kicked in: this supposedly non-drowsy OTC medication left me somnolent to the point I was drowsing my days away. It took me a while to connect my sleepiness to the Claritin, but once I stopped taking it, I perked right up. Interestingly, my shoulders continue to feel better. Maybe I can take it once a week and continue to get some relief?

Saturday, June 19, 2021

State of confusion

For some reason, I thought Brood X was about locusts, not cicadas. Neither are apparent in my yard, but I think of cicadas as an August phenomenon. I have seen some butterflies: a monarch, a swallowtail, and the ubiquitous paper whites.

A good old fashioned thunderstorm woke me yesterday morning, pausing my watering activities for a while. More rain is expected off and on for the next several days. It is HUMID. The temps are supposed to be more temperate this coming week, so I hope to do more weeding.

Now that the raised beds are gone, my SO is helping me with some heavy pruning. We whacked most of the purple leaf sandcherry in the front yard, as it was failing, but left several suckers to see if the shrub will regenerate itself. We were surprised to find fruit on the plant. It *is* called a sandCHERRY, but I don't recall ever seeing the cherries before. They are the same color as the leaves, so very well camoflaged.

We also removed several base limbs from the blackhaw viburnum, as it was infringing on the arborvitae next to it. Next up are the arrowwood viburnum on the other side of the backyard.

My indoor/outdoor cat Finn loves to sharpen his claws on the pergola posts, to the point it looks like he might take them down in a few years. I wrapped them in hardware cloth for protection, hoping Finn does not resort to nearby tree trunks. There are several indoor scratching posts, so he is not being deprived.

I invested some time in clearing off the detritus that has accumulated on the deck, in preparation for actually cleaning it. A table I rescued from the side of the road a few years ago needs some repair, but serves its purpose of providing an outdoor surface for starting seedlings, etc. The straw in the dog house needed refreshing, not that the dogs use it but Finn does when he stays out all night (something I discourage).

The yucca have sent up stalks and are blooming, as are some of the hostas. Stellas and Bettys are still going at it, as are the hollyhocks and yarrow. The smoke bushes are smokin'. I was wrong about 'Golden Spirit' not producing "smoke", but it isn't nearly as striking as the purple leaf variety. I see the 'Avant-garde' clematis is starting up.

I've been trying to grow grass in some of the bare spots in the backyard. The shady patch near the deck is doing fine, but the sunny area where the raised beds were is not. Initially, I protected both areas with random pieces of poultry netting and hardware cloth, to keep the dogs from churning up the dirt. Now I've sandwiched straw between the ground and the fencing, to see if that helps, adding more grass seed. The variety I chose is labeled as "Sun & Shade Mix"; the package claims it "GROWS IN EXTREME CONDITIONS INCLUDING FULL SUN AND DENSE SHADE" (emphasis by Scotts). It's also supposed to aggressively spread and thicken. We'll see about that.

Sunday, June 13, 2021


The bamboo mini LED grow light garden is finally on it's way from Gardeners Supply. Or rather, the shipping label has been printed. You know how that goes, especially these days. Ship date promises are easily forgotten.

Another "finally" is the removal of the raised beds. I am *so* glad to have that chore completed, was tired of looking at that mess. Now I can focus on all the *other* stuff that needs attention.

I have never come up with an effective method of supporting the climbing rose. It doesn't seem to care, as long as it is growing more horizontal than vertical. This is another banner year for blooms (which are already starting to fade).

The wren house in the front yard is full of baby sparrows, not wrens as I had assumed. The parents raid the meal worm feeder for their young. That wren house is rather old, so the entrance must have expanded over the years. I'm sure there is a doodad I can buy that will restrict occupancy for future future.

The zinnias have all been transplanted, some into containers, some here and there in the remaining raised beds. I spread more stone on the west side of the house, along the deck. The dogs use that side of the deck as a launching point, so there is no point in growing much there. I've been doing some watering, as the pop-up showers have been hit-and-miss, plus no rain in the forecast.

The yarrow and catmint continue to bloom. The 'Blue Muffin' is done, but 'Chicago Lustre' is peaking. Smooth hydrangea is loaded with blossoms, as are the 'Betty Corning'. Stella d'Oro is starting up, as are the black hollyhocks. Last night we drove past a house with a postage stamp of a front yard, but it was *full* of colorful hollyhocks. Quite striking. One of my SO's neighbors has a similarly sized front yard full of natives. I may have to chat him up to find out what all is blooming there right now, as most of my natives bloom later.

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Future delegation

As I downsize the garden and perform other yardening chores, I contemplate what I might be willing to outsource as I age. Edging is a likely candidate, and maybe mulching, just because they are a lot of work. My lawn service offers fall clean-up, but I like to leave that until late winter/early spring so I have something to do while waiting for gardening season. Also, the leftovers from the previous year help me identify and locate what is planted where. I don't like trimming, but will probably mow until I simply can't do it anymore, because I really do like to mow.

When I was ten years old, I convinced my parents that they had PROMISED to let me mow the yard when I was ten. My mom was against it, fearful I would cut off my toes. My dad would rather play golf, though, and my older brothers had better things to do. So mowing became my chore. Over the years, I have graduated from a push power mower to a Personal Pace Toro to my current Toro, a zero-turn riding mower. I may need someone to take over that task this fall when I have shoulder replacement surgery, but I really don't like the idea.

My SO frequently offers to help with yardwork, and sometimes I let him assist with the heavy lifting and digging and pruning, but generally don't want him touching anything without my supervision. If I'm not willing to accept help, it's a good thing I am downsizing the garden.

I recently read that tulip trees don't bloom until they are 10-20 years old. I have seen evidence of a flower or two over the years since I planted mine in 2009, but this year there are at least a dozen, if not more.

My SO and I continue to remove raised beds; three more to go. I threw down some grass seed where there is now bare earth. The sunflower and Mexican sunflower seedlings have been transplanted to two of the remaining raised beds, and I started some zinnias to put here and there. The perennials from Bluestone are in their containers and look happy. I weeded the beds along the south side of the house; all those plants I moved there last year are doing fine. Current bloomers around the yard are dame's rocket, 'Sunny Twinkles' allium, 'Blue Muffin' viburnum (which smells like a cross between carrion and a skunk), catmint, and yarrow.

While purchasing supplies at the local Wild Birds Unlimited, I asked about orioles. The advice was to drop the nectar but put out grape jelly, which catbirds like as well. It later occurred to me that what I thought was an ant trap on my oriole feeder is actually for grape jelly, so that is on my shopping list.