A Couple Experiements

When we moved here in 2000, the front landscaping was already planted. The previous owner put in what I think are yew shrubs, interspersed with dwarf Alberta spruce trees. Not what I would choose, but there they were and there they stay!

The front bed meanders and in one large half circle, I have a wonderful hydrangea bush with blossoms that start off green and turn pink, then white as summer progresses. The leaves turn burgundy in fall.

Around the hydrangea, I used to have five Stella Doro daylilies. What a mess! I cleaned up the spent leaves and blossoms, divided them, and finally, when they stopped producing flowers, I yanked them out. And I used mulch to fill in the large bare space. Big mistake.

Gardening with dogs, remember? Juno and Loki love to run through that bare space, kicking the mulch out of the garden bed. Then they started scratching their backs on the yew bushes. Now, the yews have lost needles and I wonder if they’ll survive much longer.

Meanwhile, what to do with the bare spot?

It’s a difficult area. The front bed sits in the shadow of the house until about 11am, and then, due to the western exposure, gets blistering sun for the rest of the day. After wandering around one of our local, large nurseries for about an hour, I decided on mixed sedum groundcover.

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So here’s the experiment part. The ground where I’ve planted is acidic. Will the sedum survive? And will they survive the dogs using that area as a short cut from the yard to the front door?

I also planted, right along the edge, three pink tickseed plants - Coreopsis rosea ‘Heaven’s Gate’ for the aficionados.

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I love the colors, which will match my “pink” garden theme in the front yard. When I went out this morning, after planting yesterday, they looked a bit peaked to me, but perked up after a watering.

And for the final experiment – hardy kiwi! They arrived today with instructions to pot them until the plants get stronger. Hardy kiwi are vines, and I have a nice long fence for them to grow along.

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I wonder what “stronger” means.

Gardening – it’s all one big experiment for me!

Gardening with Dogs

We’ve had three warm and sunny days in a row. While it most assuredly feels like spring, the weatherman says to expect a couple more nights with freezing temps. So instead of pushing the “Go” button, here’s a bit about the challenges of gardening with dogs. First, a couple of introductions.

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This is Loki. Back in spring 2012, I was reading local classifieds and found an ad for Vizsla-mix puppies. About two years before we had lost our old dogs to a variety of illnesses, one a Vizsla and the best, gentlest, smartest dog ever.

Once we met Loki, we had to adopt him. He was a gorgeous pup and so friendly. But we quickly learned he was stubborn, excitable, and well, to put it bluntly, just not the brightest bulb in the box.

Loki was so rambunctious, I thought it would be helpful for him to have a friend. Off we went to Kansas City’s Wayside Waifs – a wonderful place for rescue dogs and cats. There we found this dark beauty.

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Juno is a black lab mix. Super smart, she knows she’s the boss of Loki and herds him around the yard. Together, they get into a lot of trouble; she instigates, he follows.

Both dogs are diggers. They especially love holes started by their humans (us). Making big holes out of little holes delights them both. They also believe they can go anywhere we go unless stopped by the invisible fence that borders three of our four acres.

For example, here’s our most recent grass germination attempt near the pad where we keep the generator. When Jim first put this together, he fenced it off with stakes and string, then put up the flags, hoping that would keep them out.

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Soon we found stakes and string all over the yard and the not too surprising footprints of dog.

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They love to cut across my front bed, knocking bricks off as they go.

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Again, the suspicious paw prints in the newly scattered cotton burr mulch:

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And I’m missing ALL the hellebores I planted last fall and three Purple Emperor Sedum plants. Bad dogs! The words they’re hearing most these days are “off!” and “stay out!”

But on the plus side, they “scent mark” my trees, including one where I planted tulip bulbs last fall. What self-respecting deer would deign to eat those stinky bulbs?

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The challenge is to make them understand that even though we can dig holes and move plant material around, they can’t.

Sit! Stay! Good dog!

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Get Set…

This week I had five emails from five different nurseries that proclaimed it “potato planting time.” Okay then. I had my red, white, and blue potato eyes ready for planting. The problem was the weather. First we had rain. Then hail. Then freezing temperatures.

But this weekend dawned warmer and sunnier, almost spring-like. Jim and I went to buy mulch, both black mulch for the ornamental beds and cotton burr mulch for the “serious” beds.

I found black mulch last year and tried it around the deck where I have junipers planted. I liked the contrast of dark against light wood, and so this year expanded to almost all the established beds. Here it is with the bed of sedum in front of the barn.

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Amazing that it took us almost three hours to spread some mulch, but the yard is starting to look greener and less dead. Even the grass is starting to green-up. Jim spent some time filling in bare spots. Here he is spreading grass seed in front of the garden shed he built for me last year. Gotta love a man that builds stuff!

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We got out and raked the raised beds, and I planted four rows of potatoes – red, white, and blue, and red again. Not much to see yet, but here’s hoping we have better luck in the raised bed than we did in the depression-in-the-ground that we used to call a garden!

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And since I’ve been hardening off my kale and romaine, it seemed a good time to put them in the garden near the house. I have a lovely mini-greenhouse to put over them if things get too windy or too cold.

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I also received the strawberries I ordered. I debated planting them because it still seems early. We have at least another ten days of overnight frost danger, possibly more. But the strawberry farmer up the road from us planted his berries three weeks ago. He has them covered with cheese cloth and I suppose I can do the same if it looks like a freeze is imminent.

So here they are, looking like a big pile of dirt. I was amazed that they perked right up after planting.

Then I read the directions – disappointing!! This year we’re supposed to pull off the flowers to give the runners the energy they need to spread. Darn. No strawberries!

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So we’re getting set. I’m getting down the seed packets this afternoon to do some serious reading of directions.

Special note to Gordon Lamb: all these photos were taken with the new camera! Now if only I could get things in focus…

Getting Ready for Spring at Longlips Farm

To quote the Christmas song, the weather outside is frightful. We’ve had cold temps and high winds for most of March – when it isn’t snowing! I’ve been out in the garden getting ready for spring and since spring has yet to arrive, I took a detour to visit Longlips Farm to check on how my friend, Lenora Larson gets ready. Gardening for Lenora never seems to stop and by the time I was done with my tour, I had 30 photographs! So here are some highlights.

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MULCH is the first sign of spring at Longlips. With Lenora standing in front, you can see the height of her mulch pile – and this is her second! You can also tell how windy it is – we had gusts over 40 MPH today!

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Lenora makes most of her own garden art. Here is this year’s project – old tractor seats painted to look like flowers in the Longlips “official” color purple.

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Past projects include my personal favorite. Lenora spent several years making these concrete blocks with mosaic tiles and used them as part of her walking path.

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Tropical plants like this Lantana overwinter in the basement.

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And cuttings in gel are being prepared for planting.

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And down by the lake, a goose is laying eggs.

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Plenty to do and maybe the weather will cooperate. Soon?

Ready…

Today is the first day the weather has tempted me outside, in the 60’s and minus the strong south wind that’s been blowing for the past week. I walked out to the garden to see what was waiting for me.

My husband outdid himself with this first of his retirement gifts. I have five raised beds fenced in against rabbit and deer, with water close by.

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I checked the asparagus. Nothing has changed since the winter clean-up.

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And everything looks like it could use the snow that’s been predicted for Saturday.

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In older, more established areas, the garden is starting to green up. Ground cover is popping up here and there.

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And the daffodils I planted last fall have started to push through the ground.

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So we’re not quite set, but ready. My ten kale and romaine live and thrive, ready for hardening. I’m ready to get down the box of seeds and finalize what will go where. I bought a fifth packet of broccoli seeds, and I feel ready to see if I can get something to germinate.

Ready…

Will I Ever Try Starting From Seeds Again?

Tuesday, we had our first day of 70 degree weather and it was gorgeous! I put my ten plants – five kale and five romaine – outdoors to begin the hardening process. A little sun, a light breeze, and when I brought them indoors, all was good. I checked the pots and found the soil still damp.

Wednesday morning, my husband greeted me with a long face – the face he uses when he has some bad news to tell me – and he said, “You better go out and look at your plants.” And this is what I saw:

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The finger test proved that the soil was bone dry, so I watered them. In about three hours they mostly perked up. Maybe I’ve lost one – I’m still not sure.

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They are outside again today and tonight when I bring them in, I’ll give them a drink of chamomile tea. But it got me thinking. These ten baby plants that I could probably pick up at the nursery for about $20 or $30 have taken an enormous effort on my part. Could I have bought this much romaine and kale at the farmer’s market for $30? I’m sure of it.

And this realization got me thinking about starting plants from seeds. I already know that my gardening mentor, Lenora from Longlips Farm, considers this a time-consuming and fussy process that she just doesn’t have time for! The other two gardeners in my life – my mom and my grandma – didn’t start plants from seeds.

So will I try starting from seeds again? Today, the answer is no. But I’m prepared to be convinced otherwise!