Saturday, August 26, 2023


We had some brutal days this past week. Nothing like other parts of the country (and world) have been experiencing, but definitely too ick to spend much time outside. So today, partly cloudy with a high of 80, I took advantage of the lull and cut down all those sunflower plants. Now the yard doesn't look anything like the picture at the top of the blog. Since some of the heads had not yet been picked clean by the birds, I hung them over the privacy fence for final feasting.

One of the replacement Canadian hemlocks is looking a bit peaked. I moved the tree waterer to give it a good drink, hoping to stave off its demise. Technically, it is not covered by a plant warranty since it is a replacement, but maybe I can talk the native plant guy into it since I questioned the use of Canadian hemlocks in the first place.

I am eagerly awaiting the blossoming of the goldenrod. Too bad the rudbeckia choked out the asters on the south side of the house. I ordered some asters for the north side and am hoping they won't be overrun by the goldenrod there.

Today I also mowed and trimmed. Or rather, trimmed until the Ego trimmer ran out of power. Now I can't get the battery pack out of it. My hip is fixed, my shoulders are fixed, but I am now troubled by wrist and thumb issues. It's always something.

Have a painfree week.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

August isn't over yet

The temps have been rather mild lately, but that won't hold through the week. One more hot and dry spell and we might be done with August. Maybe since school starts earlier and earlier each year, the weather is adapting to match.

To take advantage of the relatively nice weather, I spent some time handweeding the beds in the front yard. Getting down low and up close at the same time brought me almost nose-to-nose with the seed pods from wild-ish violets that I let grow in my yard.

Seeds still in the seed pod

An empty seed pod and one that hasn't opened yet

Here is another reason to not feed birds in the summer: a carpet of sunflower seedlings under the feeders.

How about a brief walk around the yard?

Something ate one of my tomatoes. I'm guessing a raccoon. The rest are okay, thank goodness.

These late blooming hostas are overwhelming the earlier blooming ones in back, the ones my daughter keeps saying she wants to transplant to her yard.

The sunflowers are almost done. I stopped putting out sunflower seed, letting the birds forage a bit instead.

Of all the sweet potato vine plants I put out, this is the only one to do what I expected them all to do: vine. (I call this photo "Self Portait ala Vivian Meyier".)

And that is about all the garden news there is this week. Time to hunker down.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Non-natives killing the earth? Mea culpa

A columnist on the Washington Post claims that non-natives are "killing the earth". I can think of many other things that are more culpable than non-natives when it comes to ecology, so I was happy to find a post on the Garden Rant blog that rebuts the writer's broad condemnation.

There are all kinds of opinion wars about gardening. I recall being chastised for planting butterfly bush instead of butterflyweed because the former does not provide habitat for butterflies, only nectar. But don't they need nectar, too? And, so far, I have not had much luck with butterflyweed in my yard.

I tried growing a (native) oak leaf hydrangea, but the rabbits ate it. The 'Limelight' hydrangea thrives here, despite being native to China and Japan. What to do? I planted the 'Limelight'.

The "foreign" goutweed growing under the hydrangea is another issue. I wanted a groundcover that could withstand trampling. It can be invasive, but so far, the dogs are keeping it in check. Also, I cut back the seed heads.

At least I am not growing purple loosestrife, like a certain master gardener I know.

Let's leave that topic and look at some bugs!

I don't know what that bumble bee is doing in the video, but he looks busy.

Sunday, August 06, 2023

Rethinking bird feeders

The recent newsletter from Riverview Native Nursery pointed to several articles about the pros and cons (mostly cons) of using bird feeders. (The articles may be found here and here.) This information has provided food for thought regarding my backyard habits.

In the past, I rarely fed wild birds through the summer. Instead, I would wait until after Thanksgiving to put the feeders out, figuring that those that were going to migrate had left by then and those that remained behind could use some help. It turns out this is not wrong.

The other thing I have tried to do is provide plants that provide bird food: serviceberry, oak tree, coneflower, monarda, viburnum, winterberry, crabapple, hawthorn, honeysuckle vine, hosta, and (especially this year) sunflowers.

What changed me into feeding during the spring and summer was the sparrows eating the leaf buds from the Japanese maple, preventing it from fully leafing out. I started putting out millet for them, and it escalated from there.

The result is I have a ton of sparrows and a ton of starlings, but practically no other birds. I enjoy watching the behavior of all kinds of birds, but this monoculture has been disappointing and disturbing. The bird feed industry also encourages year-round feeding by providing products such as cylinders of nesting foods. I put the cylinder inside a cage so that starlings could not get at it, but the juvenile sparrows just sat inside that cage, gorging themselves on easy pickings.

So now I plan to segue into feeding them only during the winter and early spring months. Some exceptions: mealworms for the bluebirds and wrens; millet in the spring for the sparrows, at least until the Japanese maple leafs out; oriole nectar in April and May; and hummingbird nectar in June. I hope that will lead to a more balanced avian population in my backyard. (It will also save me money!) The bird baths will stay, of course.

Yesterday we got a goodly amount of rain, and more is promised. The hot weather has abated and we are having rather mild temps for August. We'll see whether that holds through the month.

We spent some time in Chesterton yesterday and (among other places) visited the Chesterton Feed and Garden Center. It has quite the varied and extensive product line. I picked up a doohicky that will help with the watering of the tulip tree. I can attach a hose to it, and it will spray the whole root zone under the tree.

My attempt to grow bush beans in a rather shallow container did not work, so I purchased this milk crate liner so that next year I can provide more depth for the roots. (I already have a couple of milk crates.) We'll see how that works out.

Here are the aster blossoms I mentioned last week. The plants, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium 'October Skies', are like small shrubs. I expect them to provide some much needed color for the front yard.

In the bed on the south side that the rudbekia and ironweed have apparently taken over, there is a patch of something. I couldn't identify it as either friend or foe, so I let it grow. It is now over six feet tall and showing its true colors: I think it is goldenrod, a welcome newbie. I don't think I planted it, but it can definitely stay. And we'll see how it fares against the thug plants.

Have a surprising week.