It’s a Wild Life

I’m going to take it as a compliment that wildlife seems to be exploding in my yard this year.  Just a few weeks ago, my wisteria became a temporary housing development for a family of robins.  I can’t believe how quickly this little nest of eggs became a little nest of baby birds.  And they are on their own, not 3 weeks in total.

Last evening I was out tending to a border along my fence when Willis discovered a family of baby bunnies right on the edge of the lawn.  I had no time to teach him to be gentle, that these little creatures were not playtoys.  They did sound like little squeaky toys.  I prefer never to hear that again.

It’s not unusual for rabbits to make their homes right out in the open like that.  The more I thought of this location, the more I realized that predators usually won’t attempt an attack right out in the middle of a yard.  At least that’s the excuse Mr. Google gives for this seemingly careless choice of location, Mama Bunny.

It was surprisingly well hidden right in plain sight!

This isn’t the first time that Willis has brought my attention to some bunny friends.  However, mama moved that nest shortly after his last discovery, or so I choose to believe.

Speaking of that wisteria, I really need to get that vine under control.  Here’s hoping there’s not another family hiding within!

Postscript:  Our little family of bunnies got flooded out of their home shortly after this post was penned.   Thanks to our local Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for the quick call back (on a Friday evening, well after regular hours.  These people are the best!)  They guided us through a rescue effort, and I know that we did all we could to provide these little guys shelter until the Mama Bunny came back to take care.  We tried to save them, but Mother Nature had other plans.

 

Organic Fertilizer

I recently spent time with my Garden Club friends.  The Master Gardener presentation was “Fertilizer – Organic or Not” and was very informative.

Her first question to the group got us all talking about what we currently use for fertilizer in our own gardens.  I have never really tried a fertilizer.  My attempt at compost lasted about as long as Springtime in Pittsburgh – not very.  And I’m now convinced that is most likely the reason I’m not so thrilled with the production of my plots as of late.

There are many types of fertilizer available, from the not so expensive garden variety ones that can be found at the big box stores, to the organic assortments available at specialty garden shops.  All personal preference of course.

The idea that struck me about organic is that you truly amend the soil with these types.  Organic means it comes from once living sources.  Blood, bone, dung.  Gross.  But effective and truly life-giving!  The non-organic types are great for instant satisfaction but don’t add any value to the soil – sort of a one-shot deal.

One of the garden club ladies shared her recipe for great soil in her gardens.  We live in an area that has much clay in the soil.  In fact, I could probably make pottery out of my soil, but that’s a story for another time.  On her suggestion, I purchased a huge block of “garden mix” and a large (and extremely heavy) bag of garden soil.

fertilizerGarden mix is mostly peat moss and perlite (white pellet things that help with aeration).  Garden soil purchased in a bag can be just about anything.  I opted for a bag of Miracle Grow, which was slightly more expensive than the store brand.  But I’ve had horrible experiences with soil in bags that smelled suspiciously like road finishing asphalt.  You never know what is behind that mysterious label.

Mix equal parts well in my 5-gallon bucket, add some water, and amend as I weed and plant the borders.  I’m sure the plants will respond well.  But this is one of those “non-organic” solutions.

We have been tossing the grass clippings behind the fence for years.  The thought has crossed my mind every so often to just take a peek under the mound and see what is there.

Unimaginable rich black soil matter (and earthworms!), that is what is under there!  I was so excited to discover this.  My husband thought I found actual gold.  I call it garden gold!

He just doesn’t quite get it!

So now, I’m mixing some of the garden gold with the garden mix and adding that to the borders.

We also learned about the numbers on those fertilizer packages.

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Nitrogen – Phosphorus – Potassium.  5-10-5.

A fertilizer with a 18-24-6 analysis means that there is 18% Nitrogen (by weight) in the mix.  Now I know you are adding that up in your head – am I right?  That’s only 48%.  So what about the rest?  Filler.  And it’s OK because too much of a good thing can burn your plants.  So the manufacturers use a good filler to temper the mix.

A high Nitrogen mix is good for greens – grass, leafy foliage.  Higher Phosphorus content is good for root development, new plants, and blooms.  Potassium helps guard against disease, temperature extremes, and helps if your plants have been attacked by insects.

Did you know gardening could be so scientific!

 

Gardening by the Moon

Ever wonder about those full moon names?  Harvest Moon, Pink Moon, Flower Moon . . .

The full moon in June is called the Strawberry Moon.  Sorry to say, it won’t be pink.  But it represents the peak season of this favorite summer fruit.

I refer to the Farmer’s Almanac periodically, and there is an Astronomy tab, giving much information on the moon phases.  Here’s the link on Gardening by the Moon.

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A friend once informed me that there is a particular time each moon phase when it’s better to apply for a job.  Much better to make introductions after the New Moon but before the Full Moon.  Use the energy of the new moon for new ventures and new beginnings.  This strategy actually worked out very well for me on a few of my many job interviews.

So it came as little surprise to realize that the moon’s phases could have something to do with success in planting.

Plant annual flowers and vegetables that bear crops above ground during the light, or Waxing of the moon – from the day the moon is new to the day it is full.

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Plant flowering bulbs, biennial and perennial flowers and vegetables that bear crops below ground during the dark, or Waning of the Moon – from the day after it is full to the day before it is new again.

Sounds a little superstitious, but the power of the moon is magical and mysterious!

I’m adding a moon phases chart to my collection of widgets here on g4t.  Just in case.

Holey Hosta Leaves, Batman!

Out in the yard last evening, finishing up some mulching, when I took a look at the gerber daisy that Brittany had planted.  The leaves were looking suspiciously lacy, and I spotted 3 large slugs enjoying the lovely plant.  Smaller slugs were attached to the centers of the flowers.  I quickly plucked them from their dinner and threw them on the street.

We have had a lot of rain lately, and the ground is pretty wet.  Perfect conditions for my least favorite garden creature.

How do you control slugs?

I have heard of a few remedies, but the first one that came to mind last night was beer.  My dad used to set out small butter dishes of beer to trap slugs.  So I found a small shallow dish, dug a small hole next to the gerber, and filled it half way up with beer.

Slug Bait

Heading to the watering hole . . .

This morning, I discovered six large slugs had drowned themselves in yellow gold!

There are other methods to controlling slugs, but I can honestly say I have never tried them.  When I looked for info on the topic, Mr. Google shared a few methods that make sense.  Here are a few:

  1.  Keep a dryer garden. Well, no kidding.  Let me just confer with Mother Nature on this one.  However, in dryer times, limit the watering to early morning.  That will give the ground and plants all day to dry.  Those slugs come out at dusk and dine through the night.
  2. Spread mulch from certain plants that deter.  Oak leaves can be shredded with a lawn mower and used as mulch.  Something called wormwood tea is also a good deterrent.  From what I gather, you can brew dried leaves and flowers from the wormwood plant and spray the ground and foliage of slug-favored plants.  Wormwood is used as a remedy for parasite worms, so I guess this makes sense.

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    Wormwood (photo credit – DavesGarden.com)

  3. Copper strip barrier – form a ring out of a thin copper strip and place it on the soil around plants that are susceptible.
  4. Sprinkle salt directly on any predators you see.
  5. Coffee grounds, coarse sand, seaweed meal all have properties that repel these slimy pests. These items create an uncomfortable path which makes slithering impossible.

Every year I vow to control slugs before they ruin my hostas.

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And every year, I’m reminded that I waited just a bit too long.

 

 

 

Braddock’s Trail

This Easter break I was fortunate enough to spend some time with one of my favorite people.  She was receptive to exploring nearby Braddock’s Trail.  I had no idea this path existed, but I’m so glad to know it now.

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The sun was shining when we arrived, and Britt kept asking if I was sure I wanted to do this.  It was about 80F, a surprisingly warm mid April day.  I kept thinking that we were going to be in the woods, but the canopy really hadn’t sprouted yet.  It was decidedly warm.

The trail we chose (there are 5) was the wildflower trail.  It did not disappoint.

We were hiking mostly downhill, the map reminding us of how steep some of the terrain is.  “We will have to climb back up,” she reminded me.  We kept going.

And this was at the end of the trail.

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So peaceful.

I tried not to panic on the way back up.  Every so often, I would recognize a long boulder, a carved tree, a painted rock.  It did seem to take much longer to climb back up than it did to climb down.

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But we did make it back to the car just before the thunderstorm struck.

Can you believe it?

I certainly cannot!  The Wisteria Tale continues.  I stepped out on the deck that afternoon, it was such a nice day.  Low and behold, the wisteria had decided to create such a lovely display.

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Do you suppose she heard me talking about chopping her down?  Crazy how she hasn’t created the display I’ve dreamed of  – UNTIL NOW.  Kind of how my hair misbehaves – until the day before I plan to chop it all off.

I really hate to say this too loud, but my plan to cut her down to size remains unchanged.

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Only perhaps I’ll wait a week or so until those blooms fall.  So that was the wisteria just 3 weeks ago.

And here she is today.

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You can certainly understand why she really needs to go.  But wait – what have we here – right in the middle of the railing?  I really cannot believe this.

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The wisteria lives to see another summer.  Nice try, wisteria, but I see serious trimming in the future.

Azalea Inspiration!

I never claimed to be good at arranging flowers.  Some of my favorite blogs out there have multi-talented writers who are especially good at it.

And at the risk of these arrangers seeing my half-baked attempt, I present to you my Azaleas in a Vase!

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Well, it’s not actually a vase.  I’m in a recycling mood.

And to be honest, not much in my yard was blooming last week when I went out to gather something to bring indoors.  That is the spirit of a weekly meme that is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden called “In a Vase on Monday”.  Bring some of the beauty that is in the garden into the house to be appreciated there.

I never really thought to bring azaleas inside.  But I’m glad I did.  Again, those bloggers who are so good at arranging actually inspired this choice.  Thanks to John and his arranger over at A Walk in the Garden, who have used their Encore Azaleas quite successfully in one of their latest posts.  Mary, who writes one of my new favorite blogs, Home is Where the Boat Is, recently featured azaleas in a post highlighting an adorable potting shed wreath.  Thanks for the azalea inspiration!

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I had no idea these blooms would last so long indoors, and I really love the backdrop they create for these Bachelor Buttons.  As an aside, I hope these are Bachelor Buttons, as that is what my garden friend called them.  I’ve tried searching with Mr. Google and come up with Corn Flowers, Centaurea Cyanus, and Knapweeds as possible relations.

These bushes are very close to the front entrance of my house.  So we are very careful not to disturb these bumblers on our way in and out.  Luckily, they are not a quiet hummer, so we know when they are around.  These giant bumble bees really enjoy the thousands of blooms that are there.

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Are bumble bees as beneficial to the garden as honey bees?  Again, I’m not the expert here, but I’m hoping these guys are doing some good!