Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

I have 3 new fact sheets up at my workplace website. Take a look:




Pretty pictures too.   And yes, this does mean it’s time for me to pay attention to this blog again. I’ve neglected it for far too long.


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God Gets a Lesson on Lawns

Over at Suburban Farmer, an amusing essay on suburban lawns.  God Gets a Lesson on Lawns

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It’s so easy you won’t believe you haven’t thought of this method before. Or maybe you have, but wondered what the neighbors would think.

Lawn maintenance is expensive, both for the lawn owner and for the environment. Huge quantities of fertilizer and pesticides are used every year to produce and preserve the perfect monoculture of turfgrass that is the American lawn. Much of it is overused, misapplied or runs off into our water systems.

The equipment used to mow and care for a large lawn is costly and requires it’s own frequent maintenance – ride on mowers, aerators, dethatchers, spreaders, etc. There’s gas to purchase (and burn at a much more pollution producing rate than the worst clunker car), blades to sharpen, cleaning, oiling, repairing. What other plant in your yard requires so much weekly attention? (Ok, annual flowers and vegetables can, you got me. I bet they give more pleasure, and in the case of the vegetables, monetary savings than the lawn though.)

And if you hire a lawn service to do all this, it’s even more $, and from what people tell me, very few are actually happy with the results.

I can save you from all that, and for the insignificant fee of ONLY….well, nothing. Sooner or later you’ll think of it yourself, or the neighbor you’re worried about will put the plan into action, and life in your yard will get easier.  So, here’s the secret….

Ask yourself “How much lawn do I really need and want?” Not how much you think you should have, or the neighborhood will find acceptable, but how much is right for you. If you’ve got a pile of teenagers at home that play football and would otherwise destroy the inside of the house, the answer might be quite a lot of lawn (let them mow it.)

Big enough lawn lgIf you don’t THIS might be the right answer for you. Or something in between, or even, none at all.

Yep, just look at that. Big enough to sunbathe on, big enough to set off the garden surrounding it, big enough for a small garden party. Small enough to mow with a cheap hand push mower in 10 minutes with time left over to extract the 5 dandelions. Easy.

So what do you do with all that left over space? Lot of possibilities – you could plant a vegetable garden big enough to feed you, your family and more to share, or a  small orchard. Or you could plant easy maintenance trees or ground covers or ornamental grasses or perennials or a meadow or all of the above. If you need some ideas, take a look over at The Lawn Reform Coalition, where you can find absolute heaps of inspiration for lawnlessness.

You’ll have to figure out what to do with the extra time and money.

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I really wanted to post a bright, perky, colorful post for a gray Friday. But it wasn’t to be.

Article at ConnectMidMichigan.com

This is one of those horrible headlines that Extension agents have nightmares about. As must all the farmers, 4-Hers, gardeners and many others that are provided with researched, reliable information from people who they know care about them, their livelihood and well-being. The Cooperative Extension Service system is undoubtedly one of the great parts of our country, benefiting millions of Americans in every state and county. I’m heartbroken for all the people in Michigan who will be affected, both by losing their jobs, and by losing their trusted advisers. Go to the article, read the comments, imagine this happening to the Extension Service in your state and counties.

Here’s the Clemson (South Carolina) Extension website. Take a look at everything that’s there, at everything it does for people in SC.

  • 4-H Youth Development
  • Economic & Community Development
  • Food & Nutrition
  • Forestry & Natural Resources
  • Horticulture
  • Livestock & Forages
  • Rowcrops
  • Urban & Structural Pests
  • Home & Garden Information Center
  • Soil & Other Testing
  • Pesticide Safety & Education
  • Pesticide Regulation
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Books, DVDs & more…
  • Income Tax Course for Tax Consultants

What would happen if it all went away?

Tomorrow I’ll be perky.

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or at least a small part of it.

Hamilton VA house June 2009 286My mother was recovering from surgery*, yet needed some gentle exercise, so we spent time walking through the small towns in Virginia near her home. The town where I found this house and garden is Hamilton, VA, a tiny place that has mostly missed the great western sprawl of the DC suburbs. It’s a old town, along a former rail line, once both a village serving the area farmers and a summer escape for urbanites from Washington DC’s heat and humidity.  A lovely place, with large old shade trees for summer strolls, and this fantastically colorful and fun home garden. Hamilton VA house June 2009 345

Sometimes it seems we forget just how entertaining gardening can be. We worry about the pH of the soil, and whether or not we should fertilize or prune or aerate now, and whether those insects are serious enough a threat to haul something with a long name from the shed.  In the midst of all that, we can forget that gardening is play.

Hamilton VA house June 2009 295I love this house and it’s welcoming garden. It has cheerful bright seats, gnomes and gazing globes and twisty vine arbors and weird ornaments on the porch.  It has a brilliant yellow rocking chair that matches the hanging baskets and daylilies. Even the mailbox is decorated.

Hamilton VA house June 2009 274

This looks like a garden made by someone who was just handed the 64 color box of crayolas**. And you know they are having FUN.

*Mom’s doing great now. Thanks.

**Yes, that did just show my age.

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Iridescent purple is a good color for a native plant.

Iridescent purple is a good color for a native plant.

This first time I met this gorgeous beauty, I came close to falling off a rather hilly trail in Virginia. My hiking partner (after rescuing me from an embarrassing near face plant)  knew the plant only as French mulberry, a fairly common name for it in that area.

As it turns out, this stunning berried shrub isn’t French and isn’t a mulberry. It is a native plant throughout most of the Southeast, from Maryland on around to Texas.This is American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), a shrub so gaudy it makes Asian beautyberries look shy and retiring. It is found growing in dappled light in open woodlands with rich, well drained soil.

Callicarpa americana habit klr

In full berry, the branches are so heavily loaded that they bend over to the ground, giving a weeping effect. The berry clusters themselves can be as large as a small child’s fist. The berries are preceded by lovely, surprisingly dainty lavender flowers in spring. American beautyberries easily grow to at least

6 to 8 feet tall.  Beautyberries usually appear best when planted in groups rather than individually.

For even more fun, there is a milky white berried cultivar – Callicarpa americana ‘Lactea’  – that can pull off being the main fall feature in a white garden.

Just a few days ago, I learned of the existence of a PINK American beautyberry. Obviously, this is a plant I need, and as soon as possible. Fortunately, it appears that Woodlander’s, a mail order nursery in Aiken, SC carries this plant, a cultivar called ‘Welsh Pink’ or ‘Welsh’s Pink’ or ‘Welch’s Pink’ depending on whose site you go by. Under any name, it looks irresistible to me.

(fixed a bit of grammar and spelling)

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