Weeds!

Our acreage used to be pastureland. Here in Kansas, that means weeds. Keeping the weeds at bay is the single most time consuming task in my “lawn” and garden – and no doubt in yours!

And it’s not my favorite chore. I have not-so-fond memories of weeding around my mother’s prized fruit trees. By the time weeding gets serious, the weather has turned hot and the bugs are out in force. Still, weeding has become a “must-do” part of my routine. Once they get away from me, I might as well hang up my hoe. Now that I have lots of time, I have a commitment to weed at least two hours a day. No matter. I continue to look for that “magic bullet” for weeds.

Sadly, I haven’t found one, though I did learn a lot at the Miami County Extension Master Gardener class on weeds. Not surprising, I’m doing some things right and a lot more things wrong.

So what is a weed? Some wonderful definitions from class. A weed is a plant that is not valued where it’s growing or a plant that you can’t get rid of no matter how hard you try! And my favorite “that’s not really a weed” story: about ten years ago, my friend Lenora gave me a wonderfully invasive vine when I needed privacy on a lattice fence. I’m still picking new vines out of my lawn!

The dreaded Musk Thistle. Composite Family, also called Aster, Sunflower or Daisy Family. A fall-germinating biennial. Spraying in fall when small rosette is best. In spring, chop off tap root about 3” below ground.

So, what did I learn about weeds? First and most important, use a lot of mulch. Two to three inches of mulch will prevent weed seeds from getting the sunlight needed to germinate. Mulch also keeps the soil cool and holds moisture; good for the desirable plants!

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Looks like Spurge. Euphorbia Family like Poinsettias. Annual spring-germinating. Need the flower to be sure.

Second, I need to sharpen the “blade” of my hoe. Like a lot of people, I turn the soil when I hoe around plants. This brings new seeds to the surface, giving me a bumper crop of new weeds.

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Shepherd’s Purse. Mustard (Brassica) Family. Annual and may be a fall germinator.

Finally, the type and timing of chemical treatment depends on weed type. Is that weed an annual or a perennial? Is it grass, broadleaf or spurge? Take dandelions, for instance. We sprayed about an acre of dandelions in the spring and, yes, by now we can’t see them. Since dandelions are (apparently) an annual that germinates in the fall, spraying in October will prevent that carpet of yellow next spring.

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Pennycress Mustard (Brassica) Family Annual, also may be fall germinator.

So many different kinds of weeds. So much to learn!

Special thanks to Lenora Larson of Longlips Farm for identifying my various “interesting” weeds and a shout-out to Dennis Patton, Johnson County KS extension agent, for a great presentation.

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Plums!

A quick “bonus” Blog today. Five years ago, we planted three plum trees. Two of them died. One survived to blossom and leaf out every year, but never had plums.

This year, we bought another plum tree from one of the “big box stores.” Just a happy convergence of place, time, and truck! Sadly, I think our new plum tree is already on its way to the great bonfire in the sky – it has lost all its leaves.

But the old plum tree. My goodness, we got plums! Cross pollination? I’ve been picking off (thinning?) green plums every time I go out to the so-called orchard.

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Tonight I’m going to a Master Gardener class about weeds. I hope to learn a lot to pass along.

Weeds. Maybe if I can identify them, I can also be rid of them!

How Much is an Inch of Water?

How often and how much should I water my flower beds and vegetable garden? Same question for my newly planted trees. The care instructions that arrived with my plants say “an inch of water” either weekly or twice weekly.

In the past, my watering habits tended toward neglect. I’d water after a couple of weeks without rain or when plants looked wilted enough to be dying. I don’t recall my mother or grandmother watering their gardens and I can almost guarantee that my gardening neighbors don’t water. At least I’ve never caught them at it!

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But okay, I’m into following written rules. After a string of sunny days sans rain, I got out my hoses and started watering. Then I realized – uh oh! How much is an inch of water?

I took off to Google, hoping to find something like the guidelines for washing your hands: sing Happy Birthday before the final rinse. Maybe I could sing one of my old Girl Scout songs. Wouldn’t that be easy?

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But the answers I found were not that easy. The first and most frequent guideline was the old tuna can. For example: “My dad said to put a tuna can next to my roses and water till the can is full which would be about an inch.” Okay, great. I don’t have roses. Does that apply to all flowers? And what size tuna can are we talking about?

A lot of the tuna-can answers noted that “grandpa said…” And did that mean someone the age that MY grandpa would be if he was still alive? Maybe back then tuna came in only one size, leaving me with the question, what size tuna can? And what happens when I’m watering a new tree? The tuna can is going to get full awfully fast.

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Some answers involved what I consider higher mathematics. For example: “An inch of rain is exactly that, water that is one inch deep. One inch of rainfall equals 4.7 gallons of water per square yard or 22,650 gallons of water per acre.” Now what am I supposed to make of that?

Another website suggested “To determine if the soil has been watered enough, dig into the soil beside the hose. If the water has seeped 12 inches down, it’s about time to turn the hose off. Remember how long this took for the next time around.” Really? So I need a hose, a shovel, a ruler, and a stopwatch. Oh good grief!

One of my favorite higher mathematics suggestions asked me to find the gallons per minute (GPM) flow rate of the sprinkler being used from the package of the manufacturer. Even assuming I still had that information (I don’t) and assuming I’m always using a sprinkler (I’m not), I still have to do things like multiply the square footage to be watered by .62 gallons or 1 inch of water per square foot. Okay, now my head hurts.

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Still another website suggested that I set out a rain gauge. Well, been there, done that, and what does a rain gauge have to do with knowing how much time it takes to water? After all, sometimes it rains an inch an hour and sometimes an inch a day.

Even if I take any of these steps, I need also to account for the variables such as root depth of the particular plant being watered and average temperature.

Finally, several sites suggested I buy a flow timer. Since I’m already drowning in gardening equipment (no pun intended), I think I’ll pass.

None of this has solved my problem – how long do I water for an inch of water?

I’ve decided to disregard the expert advice, especially since the guidelines make little sense to me. Sure, if I’m using a sprinkler I could probably measure with a tuna can, a glass, or a bucket, and then time how long it takes to get to an inch. But I’m not.

So what will I do instead?

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Unless it rains, I will water twice a week. You’ll find me hauling hose on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I plan to water until I think I’m done. I suppose time will tell if I’ve watered enough.

Bonus Blog: Container Gardening Exhibit

This week the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens held its container garden exhibit. If you live in the greater Kansas City metro area, you may have taken a stroll through the Arboretum. If you’ve never visited and want to learn more, you can check out the Arboretum online.

I went with a couple of Master Gardener friends – a treat for me because I got to hear a lot about the do’s and don’ts of container gardening. One question that came up over and again as we walked: What is and what isn’t a container garden? Another much discussed topic: Is May too early in the season (in Kansas) to see container gardens at their finest?

I didn’t photograph all 17 entries, but here are a few, along with their names.

I’ll show you our hands-down favorite, although due to some directional challenges in following the map provided, we missed seeing a couple of the containers. If you have a different favorite, please take a moment to comment!

And remember! My photos do not show these mini gardens at their very best! If you live in the area, it’s worth the trip to Metcalf and 179 Street to walk the Arboretum!

Beautiful by Day or Night
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Gardener’s Sink
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Life is Succulent
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Butterflies in Flight
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Radiant Repurpose
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Picasso’s Waterfall
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Tea Time in the Garden
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Fireside Chat
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It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere
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Paint by Flowers
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And the unanimous winner according to my friends and me:

Flower Drum Song
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And still for next week, the many answers to the burning question: how much is an inch of water?

The fun never ends when you’re playing in the dirt!!

Weeding, Watering and Maybe Rain!

It’s supposed to rain today. I hope so, because otherwise I’ll have a gazillion dollar water bill. Everything’s in bloom, including the pernicious weeds that this year seem like old friends. I’ve seen YOU before!

Since I don’t know a single gardener who likes to look at weeds, how about some flowers instead? Yesterday I had no flowers on my clematis. Today? Pow!

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And if you look closely at the bottom-most petal (or enlarge the photo), you’ll see a tiny bug. Not sure what kind it is but it looks relatively harmless.

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Overnight, the allium also bloomed. I love these and decided to simply leave them in my “almost pink” garden as a sort of oops-didn’t-plan-on-pink.

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Here’s a little bonus. It’s what I thought was a dead Baptista australis. I had to look this up to identify it in its nascent state. Under the “learn something new every day” category, I discovered that my Baptista (also known as false indigo) is in the legume family.

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Another nice surprise. My viburnum has grown to the roofline every year since we planted it, and every year, my Jim has cut it back. Last fall, he cut it back to the ground and now it’s blooming for the very first time! Good going, Jim!!

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My final “oops” is the lovely fountain clematis in my red garden. I bought three red clematis and this is what grew instead. I refuse to claim this error! Like the allium, it’s too pretty to tear out simply for consistency’s sake.

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Look for my Blog next week when I try to answer the burning question: How much is an inch of water?

Go Already!

What with the cold, rainy weather, it feels like I haven’t been able to get anything done in the garden. And that’s just not true. We’ve had a series of spring-like days, both sunny and warm. I’ve managed to sow quite a few seeds, which are just now starting to pop up. The proof is in the radishes!

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Also in the potatoes. I’m ready to thin these out a bit.

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Miracle of miracles, three of the four blueberry bushes I planted last fall survived the winter. Here’s one just starting to bloom. Looks like blueberry pie at some point this summer!

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From my generous friend Lenora: per her instructions I tossed a couple of handfuls of pink balsam seeds in my front yard flower garden this past February. They are coming up!

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So, many successes!

Even so, I have been drooling over the gardens of other gardening bloggers here at Word Press (and elsewhere). For those of my friends with raised beds, I see lovely paths of mulch or gravel or grass. What do I have between my raised beds? You guessed it. Weeds!

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In an effort to make my paths tidy, I raked out a section between the beds and planted grass seed. This despite the fact that “lawn” is Jim’s responsibility. I want grass paths that emulate – or improve upon – golf course fairways. Am I asking for too much? I hope not. That was a lot of work and I think I need to do it several more times before I’m done.

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Thanks to Lenora Larson of Longlips Farm for an example of what grass between raised beds should look like. Note her asparagus, another feature of her garden that makes me green with envy!

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