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!

 

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.

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.

Fuzzy Wuzzy

Out tidying up the gardens this past week.  Not sure when Mother Nature will pull the plug on this unseasonal warmth.  Even though I’m late, I’m getting the beds cleaned up.  I do try to keep up with the Fall list of garden things to do, and I have to give myself a pat on the back this year!

I overturned a random brick next to the fence, and woke these guys from a nap!

 

Haven’t seen one of these for so long.  Took me back to the days when a little girl used to follow me just about everywhere.  She loved to pick up worms (they soon became her friends) when I was out turning the soil over.  She was also fascinated with locust shells, collecting as many as she could find from the base of the crabapple tree.  Not sure why they are so drawn to that tree, but there are so many shells there, and she just loved collecting them.

She also loved finding fuzzy wuzzy caterpillars.  I’m not sure how true it is, but I’ve heard these guys can predict the weather.  Probably about as good as the local weather forecasters, but I won’t tell them that!

According to The Farmer’s Almanac this is the legend: The Woolly Bear caterpillar has 13 distinct segments of either rusty brown or black. The wider the rusty brown sections (or the more brown segments there are), the milder the coming winter will be. The more black there is, the more severe the winter.

They will freeze over the winter months, then in spring will evolve into the Isabella tiger moth, shown in the center photo above.

It looks like these guys have more brown than black, so I’m hopeful for a mild winter!

We’re Cool

We  don’t truly appreciate things in life until they’re gone.  How many times I’ve seen posts on Facebook, usually around Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, lamenting the times and people who are lost.

Certainly not on that level, but our air conditioning decided to take a break a few days ago.  How can you blame it, working basically non-stop through this searing heat of early summer.  My family has never known life with it.  I was not going to hear the end of the wailing until something was done to bring that A/C back to life.

The HVAC company I’ve always used (always being 20 years in this house now) told me it was time.  Time to put the A/C down, remove it from its years of service, replace it with a better unit.  Very well, I agreed.  It really wasn’t turning out the cool air like it used to.

Second opinions are always a good idea.  I know this is good advice.  Not that I always abide by it, but the cost of that new unit made me take note.  I’d be calling for quotes the next day.

We couldn’t bear to sweat through another dinner at home, so we went out to our favorite the local restaurant that night.  We ran into a friend, who we never see out.  She listened to my hot tale, and recommended a guy who had replaced their unit not long ago.  Get a quote.

I called her guy the next day.  Some service guys really mean service.  This one called me back after he had completed his service calls for the day.  It was already 6:30 in the evening.  He would grab a bite to eat and come take a look at the old unit.  He wasn’t going to replace anything he hadn’t tried to fix.

And fix it he did!  He was at the house for 3 hours that night, flashlights aglow, umbrellas overhead during the torrential downpour, he ignored the lightning in the distance.  He wasn’t going to let us go through another night in that heat.  Listen to the master – his quote, not mine!  And mark my word, when that A/C unit breaths its final breath, the master will get my business for the replacement.

The following morning, I went out to check the area he had been working in.  The outside unit sits right in the middle of one of my borders.  A neglected border.  (How do you control thistles?  I need to find out.)  But one of the plants he had trampled (not judging, as he did fix the unit) was blooming – a tall phlox I have not seen for a couple of years.

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I’ve missed this plant so.  It hadn’t bloomed in years, I thought it was gone.  These tall flowers are great for the rear of this border, as the bright pink flowers show up so nice next to the dark brown brick of the house.

However, it’s always a good idea to place plants in locations where they will thrive, for optimal growth.  A quick check in my trusted flower book tells me this tall phlox is not in its optimal location.  It’s not a shade loving variety.  Most likely the reason I hadn’t seen it bloom for so long.  It needs a sunny location, protected from the wind.

There’s a challenge for me.  Most of my sunny beds are smack dab in the middle of the yard – no protection from wind.  There’s a new bed along the fence, and yes, it gets sun, so I’ll most likely put it there.

Occasionally, we get a second chance.  A/C units can be fixed, plants can be relocated.  Not always with people, though, so make an effort today to appreciate those who you know you will miss.

Daylily Faves

June, aka Daylily Premier month, pretty much escaped me this year as I was so busy preparing for B’s graduation party.  I took a few pictures here and there as I noticed the blooms.  I usually take note of the order of blooms – yellows, then oranges, then reds.  They are all in bloom today!  But I’m sure they did it all in order.  Great thing about perennials – they grow without any help from me!

Every year, I seem to have a new favorite.  As they emerge, I try to remember which was the favorite last year.  I think it was this one.

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2015 Best of Show

 

But this year, I’m not sure which to choose.  These dark red ones are really captivating.

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2016 Fave Contender

 

I wish I could remember where I got each of them.  I do know that these lemon yellow ones came from Elaine, and of course, the original Stella D’oros came from Alice.

I bought a few from Shady Rest Gardens last year, and the blooms are truly spectacular.  I tried keeping the name tags close to the spots where they would be coming up this year, but the weather was not kind to said tags.  They were blank this spring!!  There were a number of new-to-me varieties like Coach’s Fast Break, Jewel in a Crown, Monkey Giggles.  I wish I knew which was which, but they are great additions to the Daylily Collection.

 

Move over Winter

It’s here!  The first day of Spring!  I’ve been waiting all winter for her!  (Spring IS a female, right?)

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Of course, I woke up this morning to a light covering of snow out on the deck, but it didn’t “stick to the grass”.  Ha – the ground is too warm!  My crocuses heralded Spring a little too early this year, thanks to the extremely warm temperatures we had in February.  I’m not complaining!  This photo was taken back on February 20.

And the Snowdrops bloomed for the first time this year, I was so excited!  While I was out filling the bird feeder, this little guy shyly said “Hello!”.

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I planted these bulbs 2 years ago, and have been waiting patiently for their arrival.  These guys showed up on March 8.  It’s so wonderful to have some color poking through.  This winter was one of the warmest on record here in the Pittsburgh suburbs, so it will be interesting to note the arrival of these early bloomers in the years to come.

So, this weekend is my annual seed starting weekend.  Along with the marigolds, I’m planning to start my Salsa Garden – Roma tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, garlic, and cilantro.