A-to-Z Challenge, compost

C is for Compost

I really want to be successful at composting – I really do.  I’ve tried a few times, and lost interest once it became too much work or (more likely) had to be thought about too often.  In my latest attempt, the ingredients turned into a great attraction for fruit flies, which caused me to send the “kitchen scraps” ceramic container to the deck.  Where I promptly forgot about it.  And where it eventually cracked – ceramic does not do well in the winter around here.

With my current attempt, I’m thinking through the details before I step one foot into that, well, wasteland.

Here’s a Recipe for Compost.  A pretty easy way to remember it is by color.

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Right now, I have an abundance of leaves that I’ve raked up from the yard and shredded with the lawnmower.  Funny side note – none of these leaves came from trees in my yard!  Thanks, neighbors!  I also can prepare some newspaper by shredding it with the office shredder.  So there’s my brown stuff.  I will keep my extra brown in a covered pile beside the composter.

The green materials seem to be easier to come by.  Kitchen scraps (including egg shells, coffee grounds, tea and tea bags) will be saved and stored in this handy-dandy trash can I picked up at WalMart.

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I have biodegradable plastic liners from a former composting attempt.  I read somewhere that you can freeze these scraps so they are available when you need them.  Not sure about the practicality of that, but it’s an idea.

Yard scraps (grass clippings, weeds that have not turned to seed) can be stored behind the fence, out of sight and out of smell range, hopefully.

I have a composter that tumbles.  It’s very easy to turn, and makes compost in as little as 4 weeks.  Or so I’m told.

composter

I have added layers of ingredients – 2 inches of green + 6 inches of brown then sprinkle with some water – to the composter .  You aren’t suppose to fill it up, so I made 3 layers.  I also added a scoop of soil that contained a few earth worms from one of my flower beds.  Those worms will get the process started.  Be sure to save a scoop of finished compost to add to your new batch, again, with a few worms.

Now I will need to turn the composter once a week.  So I will add a (yet another) reminder to my smartphone to remind me to turn the composter.  Turn it Tuesdays!

It’s a little disappointing when you open the composter and find this itty bitty amount of compost, but I have used the small amounts to amend a few of my borders.  It does feel pretty special to turn waste into something so useful.

And bonus – it’s free!

C

 

My “C” entry in the A-to-Z Challenge. 

Chugging right along!

 

 

 

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A-to-Z Challenge, garden creatures, pollinators

B is for Butterfly Garden

 

Being the great avoider of housework that I am, I’ve managed to find yet another way! Pokemon Go® – I’m searching for a Butterfree.

butterfree
Butterfree

In the meantime, I’m planning to address a very neglected part of the yard this summer.  Overgrown dumping ground will become a Garden for the Butterflies.  After the monarch attempt a few years back, I’ve been thinking of ways to attract them to my garden on their way to Mexico.

There’s a  small garden center in Unity, PA called Friendship Garden that specializes in native plants.  I learned about this place a few weeks back when our garden club speaker, a master gardener from the Latrobe Area, informed us.  He encouraged native plants, but at the same time, did not criticize our love and hopes with the exotic tropicals we adore.  Native plants have formed symbiotic relationships with native wildlife over thousands of years and therefore offer the most sustainable habitat. A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction.

Some plants that attract the pollinators include Purple Coneflower (echinacea), Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Butterfly Flower (flor de mariposa).

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My big plan was to start these from seed.  I still may, but upon careful inspection of the directions on the packet, my plants won’t be blooming this summer.

Coneflower seeds that would have naturally fallen from the flowers in the fall would have a much better chance, as these seeds should be planted 12 weeks before the ground freezes.  Ditto with the Butterfly Weed.  There seems to be some hope for the Butterfly Flower.  I will be starting them all, but will have to be patient for the bloom show.

I was able to snag 2 milkweed plants from the Friendship Garden.  I’m hoping that the Common Milkweed will attract monarchs.

Now for the work of clearing brush, moving rocks, and creating the space.

Here’s hoping all this work gets done before my plants die!!

B

 

 

My B entry for the blogging challenge from A to Z.  Trying hard to keep it up, wishing I had started these entries in March, not going to make excuses!  Keep on blogging!  I think I can, I think I can . . .

A-to-Z Challenge, garden

A is for Azalea

As a child, I remember stalking the neighborhoods while riding in the car with my dad, looking at the first blooms of the season, noting how lovely (or not) the azaleas were this year.  Strong, deep pink puffs of lovely on each neighbor’s lawn.  As though the strength of the winter had somehow affected how beautiful the blooms would be.  Was it actually all Mother Nature’s doing?  Or perhaps the length of time since we seemed to have seen the final blooms of fall had something to do with it.

Dad always had the bright pink varieties, and when I started planting at our first home, I loved the pale pink.

 

 

My white azaleas came with the house.  Two really fine specimens that don’t seem to care if I forget to prune them, or if I do remember to prune them but at the wrong time.  Last year, I did get to pruning them right after they bloomed, which is the recommended time to prune.  The blooms for the following year are set a few weeks after the blossoms fall, so it’s best to prune shortly after the blossoms have fallen.

I have to tell you, though, that the years I did wait until even the end of summer did not ruin a great show come spring.  It may be that my specimens are just so big that there are layers of potential blooms, and I only cut off the top layer.  I really don’t know, but I have never had a disappointing azalea show.

There’s so much that actually goes into a “good year” for the azaleas.  Let’s explore!

Weather

Azaleas do best in warmer temperatures.  I live in Zone 6a, and the azaleas do very will even our hard winters.  They prefer part sun rather than direct sun, but mine do well on my west-facing front border.  They are situated very close to the house, so that could be the reason they survive our winter.  Just know that they need that part sun in order to bloom.

Soil

Azaleas love an acidic soil.  A good mulch of shredded pine bark will naturally seep acid into the soil.  And if you like to add a boost, some Holly-Tone will always be a good addition.  Wait until after the flowers bloom, otherwise you will be feeding and encouraging the greenery.  Keep the mulch about 8 inches from the base of the plant.

Pruning

As mentioned above, any necessary pruning should be done shortly after the flowers have dropped.   Don’t risk cutting off next year’s flowers by waiting until much after 2-3 weeks.  Not only will you cut off next year’s flowers, you risk stressing the plant with any midsummer trimming.  When the flowers start wilting and turning brown, that’s the perfect time to prune.

 

Propagation

Those new sprouting stems that show up after the blooming period are perfect to cut for startings.  Strip a few of the bottom leaves off and put the stem in a glass of water.  Keep the node from where the leaves were under water for a few weeks and you should have a nice rooted stem.

My large azaleas have some smaller branches underneath that sort of lay on the soil, and those branches root without my even trying.

A

 

 

Here’s to a month of Blogging from A to Z! 

Am I up to this challenge?  Stay tuned!

A-to-Z Challenge

L is for . . .

Oh, I don’t know.  In like a Lion, out like a Lamb.  In like a Lamb, out like a Lion.  Here it is, the first day of Spring 2018, so Let it Snow!  Makes sense on some level, I guess.

lions n lambs

Get ready, friends!  It’s time for the annual Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge!  Every day in April (except Sundays), join the fun and create a post based on a letter of the alphabet for each day.  Are you up for the challenge?  I’m not sure that I am, but I will try!

I plan to blog in the ‘Nature/Outdoors’ category, with the theme of Gardening (surprise!)  I will try to stick with flowers in my garden but may have to slip into the realm of vegetables in my garden.  Or maybe weeds . . .

Grab a month of April calendar, map out the alphabet on each day, then choose your topics for each day.  That’s the fun part!

Now get writing – that may be the hard part!

In a Vase on Monday

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!

challenges, deck garden, Post-a-Week Photos

Stranglehold Decision

This post is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge, Resilient.

Here she is, my wisteria vine.  She’s a bit naked at this moment, but the absence of her abundant (read overwhelming) foliage really lets me see just how persistent and actually strangling she has become.  I’m really trying to decide if I should keep her or if I really need to just throw in the towel.

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In my mind’s eye, she graces the stairway railing with flowing cascades of blossoms each spring.  Lovely lavender (I’m guessing) ponytails of fragrance dancing over the edge of the railing.

She has never, not even once, lived up to the floral expectations I so loftily placed on her.  I found her about 15 years ago, and knew it would take years before this young vine would be established enough to bloom.  After about 5 years of waiting, I decided to read up on the care of the wisteria vine.

The year after I realized that she needed to be pruned in order to bloom, she did produce what seemed to be the perfect amount of bloom buds.

I was so excited and could not wait for her to bloom that year.  It was pretty early in the season, and the baby buds perished when the weather turned frosty in April that year.  I was devastated for I simply forgot all about her as I scurried to save all the early bloomers with bedsheets that evening.  She really hasn’t produced any blooms since.

The vine is pretty overwhelming in the summer, and the vines are getting pretty hefty around the new posts of our two-year-old deck.  It’s true – I had to chop her completely to the ground the year we extended the deck.  But she came back, stronger than ever.

A truly resilient vine.

I do think she needs to go, though.  The shield of privacy she provides is simply not worth the apparent stress she is placing on the railing she is using for support.  Not only that, but she really leaves a mess along the stairwell.  And she’s minimizing the actual space we have to climb up and down the steps to the pool.

I’m thinking a lightweight clematis would most likely be a bit more fitting for this location.  I’m so sorry, Miss Wisteria, but I think this story is writing its final chapter.

birds, challenges, Post-a-Week Photos

A cardinal moment . . .

In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge – Rule of Thirds 

My dad was famous for giving me items that I could seldom use.  I could never quite figure out his gift at my baby shower – an old tool he found that I probably needed while creating the nursery.  A reamer.  Really, dad?

But there are many things he did give me that I will always be thankful for.  He was pretty good at photography, long before DSLR cameras.  He taught me about ISO – when it dealt with film (actual film) speed.  A tripod.  And a table tripod.

I remembered the table tripod recently when I realized the new macro lens I bought was ultra-sensitive to movement.  How was I ever going to capture the birds in the feeder with my shaky hands?

I figured out how to attach the table tripod to my camera’s body.  I realized I could take closeup shots of the birds in the Stained Glass Birdfeeder from INSIDE (the dirty windows aren’t in the field of focus – yea!!)

And just look at this!

at the feeder
at the feeder

The visitors to the feeder are very efficient – leaving me very little time to focus and shoot!  In fact, this cardinal was a one-time visitor, and I was lucky enough to capture him.

It’s not the best of shots, and I do realize that I need lots more practice with this lens.  But I’m so happy with this shot.

In a Vase on Monday

In a Vase on Monday – Mother’s Day Harvesting, Part 2

As promised, here is a vase of cosmos straight from the border.

The kids really outdid themselves with their  Mother’s Day gift for me this year.  I hope they remember how excited I was when I received the flowers, seeds, and bulbs.

I’m equally as pleased with the results – some truly beautiful dahlias that I featured in last Monday’s Vase, and these spectacular Summer’s Dream cosmos.

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Once again, my limited arranging experience shines through on the simplicity of this arrangement.  But I think Mother Nature hit it right when she set these airy leaves with these gorgeous flowers.  I could see no reason to add anything more.  The vase is a Lenox piece we received as a wedding present some 29 years ago.

I love the watercolor effect of the petals – something I would never have had the chance to appreciate at the plant’s current height of 7 feet!

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Putting these specimens in a vase and photographing them really lets me appreciate the beauty up close.  While the photo session happened outside on the covered deck, I will be enjoying this arrangement in my kitchen while I pack lunches in the morning and make dinner in the afternoon.  Ahhhh.

Thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for encouraging us to bring those flowers indoors each week and share them.

Post-a-Week Photos

Weekly Photo Challenge: Contrast

As I enjoy these gloriously sunny, warm and (mildly, please) humid days of summer, I change the perpetual calendar and realize that only six months from now, we will be in the throes of bitter cold January.  I should get rid of that perpetual calendar!

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a winter surprise

I’m reminded of a recent October snow shower that surprised me, and provided a true test in contrast.  I love to sit out on the deck in the evenings, far into October, so I usually wait to ‘clear the deck’ until at least mid October.

Winter was certainly impatient that year!

 

In a Vase on Monday

In a Vase on Monday – Creamy Callas

My first submission to Cathy’s In a Vase on Monday turned out to be more challenging than I thought it would be.  I knew exactly what flowers I wanted to highlight, and coming up with a container that was tall enough to handle my tall Creamy Callas left little room for creativity.

3 Creamy Callas

This tall vase doesn’t seem to be as original as what I’ve enjoyed from other participants, but hopefully you will forgive me.

These lovely Callas were given to me by a friend at the office, Diane.  Last fall, she sent out an e-mail offering calla corms to whoever wanted them.  Of course, I snatched 6 right up.  I kept them in the garage all winter, and actually rememberd to bring them out and plant them back in May.  They sprouted almost immediately, and in mid-June, they started blooming.

The leaves of this plant are interestingly speckled.  I checked with Diane as soon as the leaves unfurled, I was concerned I had some sort of blight!  But that’s the one feature she really loves about this variety.

I like the creamy yellow color, and matched it up with some of the enormous blue hosta leaves that grow in The Shade Garden.  My daylillies are up and blooming, and I chose of few of their leaves to offset the height a bit.

The true challenge came from actually photographing this arrangement.  I really need some practice on lighting, avoiding shadows, choosing backgrounds.  It’s amazing how much you pay attention to the details of other shots once you have tried to do it yourself!

Of course, true to how I roll, I’m submitting this entry with little time to spare!  It’s still Monday, tho!!