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Thursday, April 29, 2021

 

Dodging the Frost Bullet


Last week Mother Nature played a cruel but not an unusual trick on gardeners. After being unseasonably warm for several days, the temperture dropped way down in to the mid-20’s for two nights in a row. Of course, the Old Fashion Lilacs were opening that seems to be when we are always hit with a surprising bit of cold. That is one reason why I have switched to growing Korean Lilacs and later blooming varieties. 




I have learned many very expensive lessons in my 40 plus years of gardening, but #1 is not to plant out any thing too early. It is always so tempting when the stores are full of beautiful spring annuals and the weather has been teasingly warm. But after “freezing “ so many new plants I finally caught on …do not try to fool Mother Nature. 


So here is the plan I try to stick too…


#1 I do fulfill the urge to plant early some spring color by filling my pots with beautiful pansies, violas, snapdragons, dianthus and other cold tolerant spring beauties. * See list at the end of the blog.  


#2 I plant early spring veggies in grow pots close to the house. This area warms up so quickly and is a great microclimate. My husband and I really enjoy the fresh greens after a long cold winter and they are cold hearted customers. 


#3 As I am in the process of developing new spaces and gardens, I am trying to stick to planting natives. It seems like perhaps they have a built in timer that resets with adverse  weather. 


#4 If a frost has covered my plants within an area that I can easily spray, I will get up before sunrise and spray the frost off. 


#5 Lastly, I will cover my plants. This has become an exercise know as showing the neighbors my wide variety of  bed sheets. Please use sheets not plastic !  I prop the sheets up inside and put the cover all the way to the ground to hopefully trap some of the warmth in the ground. 


I pushed my luck last week and did not do any of the above and I won. Most of the plantings  were close to the house and survived. I believe the blanket of snow helped insulate the plants the first night and then we had a cloud cover that kept the temps a little higher the next day. The only victims were my Nasturtiums and they probably should not have been out side anyway. Since I have not been gardening here long, I had not planted out strawberries or any tender fruit. 


I can’t say we are past the possibility of getting a drop below 30 degrees, after all I was in a zone warmer in Kentucky and did not plant out until after Derby Day. (Traditionally the first Saturday in May)  I believe I am Zone 6A here in Southern Indiana. 


So I am erring on the side of caution.  May 15th is the magic date I am focusing on as my safe day to plant outside.  Until then I will make full use of my screened -in porch and my small greenhouse.  May 15th is by the way my dad’s birthday so I will take that as a sign from above. 


Here are images from the front porch.....AKA the survivors of the Freeze. 








* Some Cold Tolerant Annuals I trust for Early Planting: 




Snapdragons, Pansies, Violas, Calendulas, Sweet Peas, Larkspur, Dianthus, Sweet alyssum and Forget me nots, 


I also really enjoy some of the early Spring Ephemerals such as Virginia Bluebells, Celandine Wood poppies, Brunneras, Money Plant, Hellebores and the many wild flowers. 




















Thursday, April 8, 2021

New Chapter...New Adventures



Several  Friday’s ago, I officially started a new chapter in my life. I have just now relaxed enough to write about what has been happening.


Because our house in Kentucky sold quickly we had only three weeks to pack up 28 years of life. Sometime in the next couple weeks I will share how two old people with a pickup truck, a small box trailer, 

and lots of help from a few very special friends, successfully moved all our worldly possessions, north and out of Kentucky This will include how we successfully moved my bee hive, that is known for its yummy honey, but very aggressive bees. It was a mad rush and we ended up loading the last trip with the new owner arriving for a final walk through before the closing.


The house was purchased by a person who seems to have as much passion for gardening as I do.

 She loves the land, the gardens and appears anxious to tackle my addiction of planting as many varieties of plants that I could get my hands around. In addition she absolutely loves the old Historic House and the Old Herb House. It appears to me that her plans are to maintain the historical integrity of this amazing Kentucky property. 


We are moving to the house my parents built for their retirement; to a property they loved, gardened, and nurtured for their six children, many grandchildren and great grand children.  We will continue that tradition. 


I have felt their presence here with us since we purchased this property over two years ago. Traveling back and forth and trying to maintain two very different landscapes has proven to be more than I could effectively handle. So the timing of the house selling, along with the wonderful person who purchased the house, and getting the move done, was all a gift from my parents watching over me from above. 


It is fitting that we moved when the daffodils were starting to bloom. My parents many, many years ago here in south central Indiana, started planting daffodils, much as I did at my home in Kentucky. They are everywhere and very comforting.


The gardens at my Kentucky home were outstanding and they will forever be etched in my heart and soul  But I am a Gardener and what do Gardeners do when they leave one place and move to a new spot?  They just build more gardens. Since I have over 150 acres space is not an issue. 


But they will be different different gardens, with more natives, wildflowers and with a focus on developing natural spaces. I have been thinking about how to nurture this land for over two years and the time to jump 

in is now.   


So in between unloading hundreds of boxes I will begin my new adventure in a place that is very dear to my heart, my new home. I have so many amazing friends in Kentucky, it was hard to say goodby so I didn't. We will be coming to Shelbyville at least one day a week to our Blitz Builders Office to work. I hope to see many of you and keep up with the very special relationships that I have cherished thru the last 28 years.


Also know that Brown County Indiana is not far away and a great place to explore, 

my gate is always open 

for old friends......


Sunday, February 21, 2021

PHASE TWO: STARTING SEEDS INDOORS


        Phase Two / Stage One        Starting  Seeds Inside




It is time to start my seeds indoors and I am hoping this seed season will be as successful as last year.  Over the course of the last couple years, I have learned by trail and error, listening to podcasts, poured over articles and books, and I still thirst for more knowledge. There are numerous on-line seed classes, webinars and blogs for all levels of expertise; google around and you will find them. Please don’t take my advice or experiences as the seed starting bible, I am just sharing my experiences. 

In my gardens in Kentucky, I did use Winter Sowing as a way to start some seeds but did not start many seeds indoors due to what I thought was a lack of a good space. Since moving my gardening to the Lake House in Brown County, I have gotten more adventurous and not only set up a DYI Indoor Seeding Station but have been utilizing my small greenhouse as well. The following are what I consider to be the most important lessons I have learned.


NUMBER ONE: Read The Seed Package. It provides all the information needed concerning the seeds success. Valuable knowledge such as depth to plant, when to plant inside or outside based on the number of days it will take for the seeds to germinate, light requirements and well as much more, is right there on the package. 


NUMBER TWO: Be mindful of how many seeds of each variety you are planting. Last year I started two packets of tomatillos and ended up with over 50 plants. I just do not have that many friends to give starts, nor do I love Salsa Verde that much. It could be fun to swap a 1/2 pack with a fellow gardener or save half for next year.

Last year I scrambled to find pots to transplant the seedings into and lost some due to waiting too long to move my babies into bigger accommodations. This year I have reduced the number needing attention at any one time by better following time recommendations on the packages. In addition I am hoping my homework will give me an A + this year. 

My preferred method of sowing is two fill my trays with a good seed starting mixture. Before adding the seed, I wet the mixture down to a damp workable mixture. Then carefully insert the seeds according to the package. Then I use a spray bottle and spray the soil and put a plastic dome over the container. 

NUMBER THREE: Make sure you properly tag the each tray. I use markers for each section planted plus I make a chart to have as back up. Be sure to keep the original seed package, as it has valuable information on transplanting etc. 

NUMBER FOUR: I have a bamboo shelf that I have transformed into my Seed Station. I have Heat mats on each level as well as Grow lights. I believe that these two items are essential to starting seeds.  Next year I am hoping to purchase a bonified seed starting station, however for now this works good. 

When all of the above steps are done, I carefully position the trays and then wait and watch. I will monitor the moisture levels and cautiously water.  Where it is possible, I water from the bottom but on the others I gently water on the sides. I use a mister as well.

If you pay close attention the seedlings will give you the clues and help with their success. I do take the plastic domes off when the seedlings emerge. Plus carefully monitor the light. I often turn the seed trays as the seedlings lean in towards the light. 

STAGE ONE for the first round of seeds is done. I have to be patient and nurture them along and be prepared for the future steps to ensure success.  

Then a class of wine to cheer…Seeds that need to be planted 10 to 12 weeks ahead are out of the starting gate. Many more to come … stayed tuned for the progress.. meanwhile if you have questions or comments, I hope to hear from you. 



Here are some examples of the type of seeds I start indoors. I choose ones that I love and that I am looking to do mass plantings.  Or just because...





I

 I do use these seed pods as well as just tray of seed starter. It depends on what is on sell and what I have around the house when I am ready to sow the seeds. Sorry not so scientific .


Often times I will pour the seeds into cup or a bowl to make for easier sowing. Careful sowing of the seeds make for more efficient  placement of the seedlings. 

The seeds are germinating and popping up!! So exciting 


My cat Inky feels that he is in charge of the young seedings. Actually he loves the heat mats. 















Tuesday, January 26, 2021

WINTER SOWING: Phase One of My Seedy 2021



 

         I first heard about the Winter Sowing technique for starting seeds on a podcast over three years ago. The hosts were homesteaders in Texas. They had extensive gardens and also sold plants. They propagated most of their seedlings using this method. Of course, a quick Google search provided me with much needed additional information including a definition that follows.

" Winter Sowing is a method by which seeds are sown into containers that act like mini greenhouses. These seed vehicles are then located outside, experience the chill of winter, and eventually germinate in the spring." It is a phrase that was first coined by Trudi Davidoff.  You can 

read more about her on her website www.wintersowing.org. 

     At that time I did not have a greenhouse so finding a suitable area to start seeds was very 

difficult for me. The notion that I could use the outdoors as a place to start seeds set my wheels in motion, so I gave this method a try.    

   Flash forward three years and I am hooked. That is not to say that I had a 100% success rate 

and all has been perfect. But the pros outweigh the cons and I am going to use this method of sowing certain seeds every winter. 


Here area few very important keys to success that I have learned over the last three years.


#1 This will provide you with a mass of seedlings that will need to be divided and transplanted.BE PREPARED

#2 Seeds that need the cold stratification work best. I try to do my homework and be selective about which seeds I pick for using this method. 

#3  This method has been amazing for perennials that I desire mass plantings of for the bees, butterflies and pollinators. 



    Here are the steps that I took for this project.  

# I sorted through my recycling to find an assortment of potential plastic containers. Milk jugs, vinegar jugs, fresh greens containers, large fruit plastic containers, and liter beverage bottles all went into the potential winter sowing pile. 

#2 I decided to start with perennials. I have good luck with direct sowing annuals in the garden

 but not perennials. So I end up spending a fortune on new perennials. 

#3 All summer I collected seed packets, buying some when they went on sale after the planting season rush. I tried to focus on plants that I wanted in mass and ones that I have not had great success with direct sowing. Here is an example of the many I tried. 

Parsley, both the curly and the flat leaf( I need an abundance of these for my Spicebush Swallowtails to munch on). Hollyhocks (I am still experimenting with this beauty, as it always dies in 

my garden. But I am determined). Butterfly Weed, (to add to my Butterfly Garden), plus some Coneflowers and various other perennials. I tried to stick to seeds that required cold stratification to germinate. 

#4 Early in January, I enlisted the help of my husband to prepare the bottles for me. I have a 

lousy track record with knives, so I thought this the best approach.

#5 The milk and vinegar jugs, were cut open about 1/3 of the way down and just 3/4 of the way around. So it resembled a lid that opened but was still attached. By doing this, I was able to plant the seeds evenly. And I figured that when they are ready to venture into the real world, I will be able to transplant them into the garden swiftly. My husband created drainage holes on the bottom of the 

plastic jugs using both a box cutter and a drill to make the drainage slits and holes. The salad greens containers already had hinge type lids and just needed some additional drainage holes.  

#6 I purchased seed starter mix and filled each vessel with the correct amount of mix. Next, I made sure the soil was wet.

#7 Following the directions for seed planting depth and coverage, I sowed each container. Then I watered them into their winter home. (HINT: the seed packages are your best friend when it comes to information on planting.) 

#8  I marked each filled container in two places. First I used a water soluble pen and wrote on a plastic knife and duct taped it to the side and in addition I labeled each jug by writing on the container. I have added this step, I make a chart that has the seed packets attached and the layout of the seed containers marked. It has been one of the best things I have added to this process. 

#9  At this point I wished them all a good growing season and battened down the hatches. I used duct tape to seal the flip tops, and made sure the caps were off the jugs and took them outside to my patio table. 

All throughout February, March and into April they endured the snow, sleet, and rain and I did nothing to them. By the end of  April I was starting to see some sprouting, then in May there was a lot of significant growth. Near the end of May, I began to transplant my hundreds of seedlings into pots and the gardens.

I would estimate that I had about a 60% success rate the first year and now it is more like 80 %. Here are the reasons for the failures. 

#1 The salad containers worked the best. The holes in the bottom of the vinegar jugs and coke liter bottles seemed to get stopped up, not allowing the water to drain efficiently. Thus causing the containers to fill with water and destroy the seedlings. So ever year since I have focused on better drainage. 

#2 Initially my labeling system was a big miss. I double labeled all the growing bins, but only 

about 1/2 of the labels were still legible after a couple months. Fortunately I had saved all the seed packets, and had to do a guessing match game. I now make a chart and attached the packages. It 

has proven to be the ticket. 

#3 I need to be more proactive with transplanting the seedlings. I lost quite a few due to not separating, thinning and putting them either into pots or safely in the ground.  My lack of experience with transplanting seedlings was an issue. But I learned have done better each of the following years.  The greenhouse and screened porch at the lake house afford me valuable pace to spread out the seedlings. I also have become more selective with the amount of seeds I start using this method. 

The bonus to this method is that each year I have hundreds of seedlings, from Foxgloves to Parsleys to Butterfly Weed and much more. It is a perfect way to start perennials that require the cold to sprout. 


Winter Sowing will always be a part of my seed routine. It is just one seed starting process I use among several others, However, this method has a very distinct and important niche.  


    I hope you will give this fun project a try. If you have any questions, please email me I am happy to help. 

This is such a great way to  reuse the containers we all collect by buying fresh greens and salads.
This is a perfect example of a perennial that I would love to have multiples in my garden. Money saved 
by starting them myself.
This is a container ready to have some seeds planted into it and then set outside 
An example of last years harvest...ready to plant 

Grow babies grow...outside on the deck!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Down a New Garden Path

  A year ago, I was so excited to have a new growing season upon us. I had spent most of the winter crafting plans to start transitioning from gardening at my amazing Kentucky Gardens to the wild uncultivated gardens of our Brown County Indiana Home. 

The previous fall I created some spaces to allow me to start bringing up some plants. My gardens of over 27 years in Kentucky are overflowing and the gardens in Indiana were non-existent, so it was going to be a win-win for both spaces. 

Indiana gardens are going to be heavily native, pollinator and wildlife friendly. The emphasis is going to be on easy and incorporating the gardens gently into the existing  untouched 150 acres.  

Then as we all know it hit. Our lives will forever be changed by the “virus”. But for me it was much more…my daughter and her family, arrived from India.  This was the first week in April..2020.

They were in quarantine for two weeks at our house in Kentucky. We stayed in Brown County for the two weeks. From there we all realized that it made the most sense to make the lake house in Indiana home base. The ability to swim every day, fish, hike, and have the kids help me craft the gardens was perfect. After all it was just for a month right??

Innovative gardens, like straw bales and grow pots, etc were put into place to grow veggies in Indiana verse Kentucky. Plans were shifted and my expectations changed. My gardens in Kentucky were put on automatic pilot. 

What was suppose to be 1 to 2 months turned into almost 6 months. But it went by so fast and furious. We swam everyday, hiked, gardened and enjoyed nature, the precious time flew by and on August 16th they flew back to India. This is one of the unexpected blessings from an unpredictable 2020. 

Somewhere during this time period my husband and I realized the time had come to put  our beloved Kentucky Home on the Market. We had purchased the Lake House almost three years ago. Our game plan was to sell the house within 5 years, however as we neared the start of the 3rd year we felt it was time. 

It is bittersweet …..leaving a home, neighbors, friends, associates, and my beloved gardens behind. However it is time to transition into an easier lifestyle and gardening style  I look forward to the challenges of developing gardens full of natives on this 150 acres of beautiful land. 

I hope that you all will join in the journey. I have been feeling uprooted since we put the house on the market late October. Too much time has been spent by me searching for ways to let go of 27 years. 

Finally it dawned on me that in reality I am not letting go of my 27 years of Kentucky Gardening just adding to my story. Building on my knowledge, love and passion for all things natural by incorporating my love of gardening, with cooking, gardening crafting, bees, photography, pets, wildlife and travel. Plus creating a space that we can enjoy with our beloved grandsons, granddaughter, our immediate family, lifelong friends, extended family and new friends. 

I hope you will follow me along this journey, as I have renewed my commitment to blog, write, lecture and share my many passions in my Indiana home.  

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Lily of the Valley ...make my heart Sing






       Approximately eight years ago Kalee, my daughter and her husband Will were looking for a special project for a Mother’s Day gift. They had been staying with us for a couple weeks and realized how overwhelmed I was with the scope of constant work involved with the upkeep of my gardens. 

One of the most expensive items, plus the most time consuming task during my early days of managing my 6 acres of gardens and land, was controlling the weeds by mulching. I began out of desperation to explore creating alternatives such as using green living mulch under big areas, so I did not have to buy and spread mulch each season. 

This area under the large Siberian Elm which required a lot of mulch was a prime example. I was in need of a spot to let one of my favorites Lilly of the Valley  plants run wild and the space under this enormous tree was perfect. Kalee and Will made it happen by transplanting a hundred or more  Lily of The Valleys to the space under the tree. They took them out of a perennial garden where they were invasive and placed them under the tree where  they could grow, protect the Siberian Tree roots and sing joyfully. 

Flash forward to May 2020, and the space has filled in beautifully. As I  worked in the space today I could smell the amazing fragrance calling out to me. The Lily of Valleys are so thick that they block out most weeds. This time of year they spew forth such a sweet scent and have a very unique display of small white bells. Even after they are done blooming the dark green foliage remains a soft carpet under my massive tree. 

As a child my mother and grandmother always had this plant in our gardens. They would send me out to pick them and then sing to me the following song:
White coral bells upon a slender stalk,
Lilies of the valley dress my garden walk.
Oh, don’t you wish that you could hear them ring?
That will happen only when the fairies sing…


Last night as I picked these little gems, weeded and edged the area, I heard the fairies singing and ringing the bells. I definitely felt my mom and grandma’s sprite with me. What a great pre Mothers Day evening in the garden…thank you fairies!

Facts about Lily of the Valleys:
From “Gardening Know How” 



Growing Lily Of the Valley: When To Plant Lily Of The Valley
Around since at least 1000 B.C., lily of the valley plants are one of the most fragrant blooming plants in the spring and early summer throughout the northern temperate zone.
The stems are covered with tiny white, nodding bell-shaped flowers that have a sweet perfume and medium-bright green leaves that are lance-shaped, 4 to 8 inches (10-20 cm.) high and 3 to 5 inches (7.5-12.5 cm.) wide.
This moisture-loving plant forms a spreading mass with red seed pods remaining after flowering, which makes lily of the valley attractive after blooming and very carefree. Growing lily of the valley plants (Convallaria majalis) is easy, as they will remain perennial in USDA Zones [1]2-9.
Growing Lily of the Valley
This easy-care plant doesn’t require much to thrive. Preferring partial shade [2] and moist soil, growing lily of the valley is easy if you know how and when to plant. That being said, these plants are adaptable and will grow very well in dry shade too. Lily of the valley can also be adapted to full sun or full shade, depending on the amount of moisture it receives.
When purchasing plants, look for the following cultivars:
Convallaria majalis ‘Albostriata’ – This type has dark leaves with white to cream longitudinal stripes.
‘Aureomarginata’ – This variety has cream to yellow-edged leaves.
Rosea – A pink variety, not as vigorous as the white-flowered species but very pretty.
Convallaria majuscule ‘Greene’ – This North American native is great for naturalistic ground cover and provides a carpet of beauty between other native plants.
When to Plant Lily of the Valley
Knowing when to plant lily of the valley will help to ensure its survival in your garden. Planting lily of the valley should take place by late fall. Cool winter temperatures are required to allow a proper dormancy period [3].
The single underground rhizomes of this plant, which are known as “pips”, can be divided anytime after flowering. November or December would be the ideal time for division [4] and planting lily of the valley. Care should be taken when planting as it is a poisonous plant, so keep it away from children and pets.
Try planting lily of the valley plants in a naturalistic garden. Planting lily of the valley in outdoor containers would also be a great way to control its spread and provide it with the moisture it enjoys.
No matter what method you choose for growing lily of the valley, you will find that lily of the valley care is easy and worth the rewards.

Article printed from Gardening Know How: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com
URL to article: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/bulbs/lily-of-the-valley/growing-lily-of-the-valley.htm
URLs in this post:
[1] USDA Zones : https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/planting-zones/usda-planting-zone-map.htm
[2] partial shade: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/info/what-is-partial-sunlight.htm
[3] dormancy period: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/info/plant-dormancy.htm
[4] division: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/propagation/propgen/dividing-plants.htm

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Thursday, March 26, 2020

My Saucy Saucer Magnolias






Walk into my yard right about now and you are hit with an incredibly sweet fragrance.  It calls to your senses and fills a person with an intense need to linger and take in the freshness.

A sincere thanks to the gardener who tended his property many years ago and planted two of these beauties.  They are ever bit of 30 feet tall, one is pink and one white.

These are Saucer Magnolias (Magnolia x soulangeana). They generally are lower growing but mine two beauties send there limbs high up in to the sky.  Early in  the spring, in Kentucky it is usually in March, the tree become filled with large buds, that remind me of large pussy willows.

The buds open up to a magnificent display of saucer-shaped flowers. On the White tree, the closed blossoms have a light pink or purplish-pink tinge that burst open into a large white blossom. The Pink tree buds look similar but open into pink blooms.

The tree become full of blooms. Unfortunately March winds play havoc with the blooms and the ground often quickly becomes covered with individual white petals.  But even if they only last a few days, they are worth it!

The bark is grayish and smooth, and the limbs are somewhat twisty, although the tree grows in a rounded shape.  Since the bark is somewhat tender to lawn mower damage, I maintain a safe green zone under each tree.

This tree is listed as being a medium to fast grower and good for zones 4-9.  Both of mine grow in full sun.

This tree is a hybrid cousin of the Southern Magnolia and has been grown since 1826.  The fragrant blossoms sure give it's distant relative a run for its money.

 I see lots of nests tucked in the limbs, and the seeds are enjoyed by a number of birds. This is a great tree/shrub, on of my favorite rites of passage from winter into spring.





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