Garden

Gardening for me is therapeutic, zen for body and soul. Something about getting dirty and working the earth. Planting, growth and reaping the rewards or lack thereof,  I’ve had those too!  I’d like to share with you my garden adventures here. Building stone walls, putting in new flower gardens and tending to my kitchen potager. I’ll share my tips on gardening and welcome your feedback as well.

 

Growing grapes

A few years back I decided to plant some grapes.  I found the variety that grows best for my area, the Concord grape.  I’ve gone at this very experimentally since I’ve never grown grapes.  Seems easy enough……I thought.  I “planted” poles into the ground in a cement/stone mixture, added wires both at the top and bottom as well as diagonally for the plants to attach to as they grow.  Then I also attached a heavy gauge cable coming off the end poles secured into the ground with long galvanized nails (purchased at any hardware store, they are at least 10″ long).  This gives the poles added support as the grape vines grow and add extra weight to the structure.  Now the growing part.  I’ve had ups and downs.  Some have been plagued by insects and birds.  I did try another variety, the Canadice grape and had marginal success.  The Concord seems the most prolific in its growth and grape production.  I am still dealing with spots which can be caused by a variety of conditions ie: excess moisture, soil conditions and fungus.  I’m also still learning about the pruning process which should be done in March or April depending on your area. So in retrospect, growing grapes is a little more difficult than I expected, but regardless of my crop, they add a little bit of wine country charm to the yard and yes, my little hens love lounging under the vines as well!

Arranging fresh cut flowers

In a previous post, I mention a quote by Anne Morrow Lindburgh (Decor). Beautiful. Anyway, I was reminded of it when my daughter came in with some fresh cuttings from the gardens to arrange for the dinner table. Simple, beautiful and resourceful all at the same time, not to mention the little touch of thoughtfulness for all to enjoy.

The latest on my little hens

Well as you can see, my brood is getting bigger. They are now just about two months old. I’m so obviously a novice at this, that I was talking to someone the other day knowledgeable about chickens and found out I won’t have eggs for at least 6 months! Oh well, at least they are entertaining. They travel around like a little gang and get into just as much trouble. Did I mention that they have a real affinity for my mulch?!  My daughter has named them and swears she can tell them apart – Penelope, Flossie, Bep, May, Squirt and Miss C. Stay tuned………

My first egg!  There it was neatly sitting in a corner of the coop.  My hens are laying and we couldn’t be more excited.  Finally – fresh eggs!

My Kitchen Potager

I wanted to share with you one of my favorite spaces around my home.  The kitchen potager.  This is directly off my kitchen, so I can conveniently step outside and grab some fresh herbs or whatever is ripe at the time!  This is a walled-in garden so it is safe from garden thieves – you know, the “wild” variety!  It is not excessively large, but just a few raised beds.  I grow the simple most-used items such as tomatoes, various varieties of peppers, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, some beets, various herbs and of course some flowers for my visual enjoyment.  There is a small bubbling fountain and of course a bird house (I always have to have one!).

I love enjoying some down-time in the late afternoon in the potager, and as you can see above, so does our little rex rabbit – Coco.

Spring in the gardens

The vegetable garden is planted and my flower beds are flourishing.  The wisteria I planted 5 years ago is finally in full bloom, and the fragrance is heavenly!  Wisteria will react very positively to much pruning.  I cut back the long shoots continuously throughout the summer and it looks as though my efforts have paid off!

Container Gardening

Planting in containers is a great way to add color to patios and porches and create beautiful welcoming entryways.  The type of container you use does not necessarily have to be limited to traditional planting pots.  Wheelbarrows, wine barrels, anything that can hold an amount of planting medium with enough room for growing roots and drainage can be used.  The key to creating a lavish display – just as in decorating tabletops – is to have various heights and color.  Having at least one plant variety that grows tall, a couple of ‘spillers’, those that hang down over the pot, and a couple of mounding types with lots of color, will grow into a lush display.  I have also done containers with a single color story, such as purple using purple potato vine, petunias, and tall spikes for example.  Be sure to use a good planting mix with fertilizer already mixed in to feed your plants throughout the growing season and have good drainage.  Here are some beautiful examples for your inspiration.

The barrel example comes from a fellow blogger, theguildedbloom.  The succulents are an idea from Southern Living.  When you stack pots such as the second photo shows, place a clay pot that is similar in height in the middle of the lower pot upside down, then stack the other on top.  This eliminates the need to fill completely with dirt and ‘contains’ the plants planted around it.

Boxwoods traditionally do very well in containers, such as here, again from Southern Living.  However, they do need some room to develop their roots.  Lined up they create a privacy hedge, or grouped together in various heights a dramatic simple focal point.  It can be difficult to over-winter these pots where winters are harsh.  They should be moved to a protected location, which can be cumbersome.  Extreme conditions can freeze both the roots of the plant and the pot, so be cautious as to the size you wish to plant if you are in these areas.

Chickens!

Well I’ve finally done it.  I’ve thought about having hens for quite a while, but never quite took the plunge.  On a trip to the farm store (for bunny bedding), I was side-tracked and before I knew it, I was on my way home with 6 chicks!  They are adorable, and I’ve already learned a lot.  I will keep updates on raising my little egg-layers as they grow.  Stay tuned!

My little brood is growing nicely! They are kept warm with a heat lamp and for now are taking up residence in a recycling bin. They’re needs are simple, fresh water and food. I change their bedding every other day and for now they are perfectly content.

My little chicks are now almost 4 weeks old. They are growing feathers and love to practice flying. I put them outside every now and then to get them used to the outdoors. I don’t trust this entirely, so I have to check on them often to be sure no predators are tempted.

 

Still growing!  I’ve moved my little hens to a temporary outdoor pen.  They love to stretch their wings and attempt flying.  They are comfortable sitting on a perch.  Their needs are still pretty simple.  Currently, I’m looking into a chicken coop.  So many varieties out there!  Stay tuned…

Well my little feathered friends have moved into their new home.  I purchased a hen house on-line.  It was a little daunting to put together, but I did it – with a little help from the kids.  The chickens seem very happy and occasionally we let them out to roam, but never without someone nearby.  I am still nervous about the natural predators – hawks and fox, and since I am out on some acerage, it is a very real possibility.  It is amazing how fast they have grown!

Pruning Roses

I have always wondered if I was pruning my roses correctly or not.  I came across this article put  out by “The Garden Glove”. I found it very informative and wanted to share.

If you have roses in your garden, chances are, you need to learn how to prune them. Why prune? Here’s the thing… most roses are a lot tougher than we give them credit for… In fact, it can be pretty hard to kill a rose! But just because they can survive through a lot of neglect, doesn’t mean they will be healthy, or beautiful. Pruning helps the rose plant in three ways…
It shapes the plant, preventing it from becoming gangly and awkward.
It allows the plant to concentrate on growing flowers instead of cane, producing more, and larger, blooms.
It allows circulation of air within the plant, and removal of old and dead canes keeps disease from setting in and ruining your blooms.
All in all, if you have roses, prune them. And it’s pretty easy! Here is a quick how-to on pruning roses.

When?
Prune roses about a month before your last frost, before many new leaves emerge.  In mild climates this is likely January, the colder your climate the later you prune, all the way up to March. If your rose is breaking dormancy and starting to put out lots of new leaves, you’ve waited too long, but it’s not too late to do a light pruning of dead canes, and to lightly shape the plant. (It’s always ok to prune out dead, dying or diseased wood, no matter where you are in the season.)
Tools?
Use a sharp pair of pruning shears, and make sure they are clean so they don’t pass on disease from other plants. You can always wipe your tools with a bleach solution after pruning to keep them disease free. Allow to dry thoroughly before using. Ratchet pruners are great for those who find it tough to get through those thicker canes.
What?
So the big question is, what to prune? First, where do you make the cuts?
Always cut on a 45 degree angle about 1/4 inch above a swollen leaf node. This diagram shows us how its done…

So now you know where to cut, now what do you cut?
The best choice for most gardeners is to do a moderate pruning. This helps keep the bush healthy, and produces armloads of pretty blooms for you. A light pruning might be done if you were interested in a larger bush, with more, but smaller flowers. A hard pruning, meaning pruning more than half the plant back, is often done for roses meant for show. It puts more energy into the blooms, producing larger, and more spectacular flowers.
How to do a moderate rose pruning.
Prune out all dead or diseased canes back past the damage.
Cut any interior canes that cross, or are weak growth.
Cut any suckers off at the base. Suckers are straight shoots that come out of the plant under the graft union. The graft is the large swollen rootstock at the base of the plant.
Remove about one third of last years branch growth on each remaining branch. The illustration below shows you what we mean…

Some people use a sealant on the cuts after pruning, though I have never found that necessary. Remember to always dispose of diseased canes properly and not add them to a compost pile or community yard waste container to prevent spreading the disease.
Throughout the season, lightly prune back dead and dying flowers to promote further blooming, and always cut back and dispose of dead canes or canes that prevent good shape or air circulation of the plant.
One more tip? Gloves. Leather gloves. And when you are done, you will be rewarded with healthy, beautiful roses!

Bunnies!

In the spirit of spring and re-birth, here is my bunny story.  One Saturday morning a close friend called me.  Their mother’s dog had gotten into a rabbit nest and unfortunately the mother bunny didn’t make it.  Knowing that I am a self-admitted sucker for any animal, would I take the babies?  Without a pause, yes.  Quick to the computer to see what I would need to raise these little ones, that still had their eyes closed, approximately 7 days old.  Calls to the vet and wildlife rehabilitators (which really weren’t keen on me doing this myself), gave me all the information I would need – key item needed – kitten milk dry formula.  Quicker, to the pet store to procure items needed.  Needless to say, this was no small task, I quickly found out that the babies needed additional heat and needed to be fed (much like a human infant) around the clock.  My children happily volunteered to take various shifts through the night – remarkable, I know, but they did.  After a few days the bunnies opened their eyes and were becoming more bunny-like and plumping up nicely.  They were moved to a box when their fur became longer and were introduced to dandelion greens and clover – readily available in our field!  As they grew it was fun to see them go from the dropper to drinking out of a dish and see them form their own personalities.  And then, yes, I couldn’t resist, as the pictures below show, I had to have them pose for some adorable pictures.  They were growing up and my dining room (where I kept them because I have two cats that knew something was up and I could lock them out) was starting to smell barn-like. So sadly, the time came to let my baby bunnies return to the wild, and one day we brought them outside and as quickly as you can say ‘jack-rabbit’, they hopped very quickly away into the woods and into a large rock pile that borders the open field.  So their instinct kicked in, they found shelter and it was close to a food source and protection from predators.  Yes, we missed the bunnies terribly and I looked for them often, but I knew they would be fine.  I still think of them and like a worried mother hope they are all right.

*As cute as this story is, it is highly discouraged to raise any type of wild animal if you aren’t properly licensed or capable.  The majority of wild animals that come into contact with humans, despite their best intentions inevitably do not make it.  It is always best to contact a wildlife rehabilitator, names of which you can almost always obtain from a veterinarian.

Great little guide…

I found this great guide from Farming and Agriculture.  I realize the dates may be sporatic, but I would say use your knowledge of the region you are in.