Archive for Climate change

My Gardening Goals and Dreams for 2017

A new year is starting- time for some new gardening goals!

A new year is starting — time for some new gardening goals!

Hi there! It’s been a hard few months for me, trying to not worry too much about the future, but I’m doing my best to re-focus on what I can do. I urge all to stay aware of clean gardening practices and what we can do for the environment: not using chemicals, recycling/composting, participating in clean-up efforts in our communities, and last but not least, sending your Senators and Representatives a call or an email asking them to keep as many environmental protections in place as they can. You can reach them all at (202) 224-3121. The Capitol operators can help you find your Senators or Representatives, even if you don’t know their names.

We have a lot of work ahead of us! I don’t mean to rant on, but really, who doesn’t want a clean and healthy world? I think we can all agree on that! I think that is my biggest dream. I hope we can curb our losses at the EPA. Climate change is real!

Here in my little corner of the world, I managed to get quite a lot finished up in 2016, but I still have so much to do. This year’s main focus is on improving the areas under and around the deck.

It was time for an edit in this garden. With more shade from a tree, it was out with the sedum and in with a transplanted rhododedron.

It was time for an edit in this garden. With more shade from a tree, it was out with the sedum and in with a transplanted rhododedron.

Here are my goals: I’ll make an designated area to place the trash can and recycling bins that is both out of sight, but still easy to roll out to the curb. This also will improve the area where I store my flower pots, extra hoses, etc.  And, there is one area I couldn’t work on last fall because I ran out of time — I need to lift some of the bricks on the back walkway and level them. After sixteen years, the ground has sunk around the plexi pipe that carries the runoff water from the downspout — should be an easy fix! Third, I will use my brick saw to cleanup the edge of the walkway where it connects to the driveway.

All the cosmetic work will boost the curb appeal, too — always a plus. When spring arrives, the garden around the base of the deck will get some annuals to really fill out the space and give some added color.  Looking at the winter garden, when most everything is bare or died back to the ground for the season, things look bleak, so I will post a  picture when everything has sprung back to beautiful life and show some before and after shots in a few months.

Here's a photo of my re make of the old planters into privacy screens. I removed the rotted supports and replaced with posts I had saved from an old job. These are buried 3 feet into the ground, no cement, so they can be re-positioned later if I want.

Here’s a photo of my re-make of the old planters into privacy screens. I removed the rotted supports and replaced them with posts I had saved. These are buried 3 feet into the ground, with no cement, so they can be re-positioned later if I want. I’ll be sure to post again when everything is in leaf and bloom, but while the bushes are bare you can see the screen more clearly.

When I manage to finish all of that, the upper trim around the house and gutter system needs a complete cleaning and painting. Lots of the basics — weeding, mulching, trimming, mowing and edging — go on pretty much year round. Here’s a winter tip to make quick work of a messy, windswept yard: We find that it is much easier to run the mower over the grassy areas every month or so even in winter to pick up the leaves that blow in and smooth out the clumps of grass than it is to rake the whole yard over and over.

Here is another area that I edited. It had become crowded and one of the bushes had died. I balanced out the azalea bushes on either side of the Holly tree and divided and replanted the hosta in a wave. An edit every few years it helps to keep things fresh.

Here is another area that I edited. It had become crowded and one of the bushes had died. I balanced out the azalea bushes on either side of the Holly tree and divided and replanted the hosta in a wave. An edit every few years it helps to keep things fresh.

Last fall I did manage to finish re-making the planters and arbors and reinstall them. Using the leftover lumber from other jobs that I had stored in the garage, I added extra posts so that the planters could be used as privacy panels (hiding the less-than-pretty necessities that are stored under the deck). Then I planted the rose bushes, which had been in pots before, and divided and replanted the liriope to fill out the garden. Also, five other areas of the garden were edited and simplified. Plants had grown so out of bounds over the years, and it was time to selectively remove and transplant many to new locations. Now there is some breathing room, with nothing crowded. I added another three cubic yards of mulch to spruce up the beds, and then the cold weather set in.

This fun garden ornament has so much personality. It spins and bobs in the wind! I would love to incorporate a few more interesting things throughout the gardens like this.

This fun garden ornament that I was gifted has so much personality. It spins and bobs in the wind! I would love to incorporate a few more interesting things throughout the gardens like this.

On the creative side of things, I’m looking forward to making some stepping stones to access some of the deeper garden beds more easily.

Lastly, I received a really fun garden ornament from my sister, and it adds so much personality to the garden. Thank you, Tracy! It makes me want to incorporate a few more special things to spice things up! More on that later…

What are your goals for 2017 out in the garden? I’d love to hear!

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A Long Goodbye to Summer Heat

This pretty lemon/lime coleus has done well in the summer heat. Watering at least once a day has been a key!

This pretty lemon/lime coleus has done well in the summer heat — watering it at least once a day has been the key! It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, too!

Here in the mid-Atlantic, this has been a really rough summer, and the climate change has been very pronounced. Officially, it is the second hottest summer on record. With well over 50 days of temps in the mid-90′s and higher, the plants and trees are struggling — so much so that I am rethinking the location of many different plants in my garden. The micro-climate in my yard is hotter than the officially recorded temps by usually around five degrees. I think that is mostly due to the fact that we don’t have many shade trees on the property.

It’s a good time to take inventory of how the plants are faring. I think it’s interesting to compare how the same variety of plants do on various sides of the house, getting sun at different times of the day.

I am concerned about a row of euonymous that I planted along the front walk. Each spring, they start off looking amazing and full but lose their leaves by the end of summer, leaving them looking like bare stalks — not pretty. Those will be removed, and in their place I will add more liriope, and just fill the walkway garden with it, since it has done exceptionally well in that exposure.

The other hits in the front garden are the Hyacinth bean vine that I started from seed from last year’s winner, and also this gorgeous lemon/lime coleus with purple flower stalks. Both of these have been attracting butterflies and hummingbirds!

The purple flowering hyacinth vine has also come into it's prime in this heat.

The purple flowering hyacinth vine started from last year’s seeds has also come into its prime in this heat.

On the other side of the house in the east garden, I have a huge amount of beautiful white iris that are struggling in the intense amount of afternoon sun, as well as lamb’s ears that are always looking bedraggled. They will both be removed as well. The garden on that side is now getting established, and the crepe myrtle trees have grown to a point that they are blocking an unappealing view, so I couldn’t be happier about that! I might not even install anything else in that garden, and leave them some extra space. Deep watering has kept them in good health, so just adding some extra mulch is all that is needed.

The underplanted iris and lamb's ears will be removed, and give the crepe myrtles so more space. They have grown quite a lot this season.

The underplanted iris and lamb’s ears will be removed to give the crepe myrtles more space. They are exceptional trees for hot climate and have grown quite a lot this season.

 

In the back yard, I have some renovating to do. After 20 plus years, and even a move from our old house to this one, the planters we built from pressure treated wood are on borrowed time. I am rethinking how we might rework a privacy screen for under the deck, and then add to the flowering bounty underneath. The knockout roses and beautiful peonies that I currently have in pots, as well as some of the white iris I am removing from the east garden will be planted there. I’ll increase the garden’s size to accommodate them as needed. They’re my “green children” after all!

I have a couple of beautiful photos to share of the Labor Day weekend’s sunset here, and a last photo of this summer’s front door — next time you see it, it will be decked out for autumn, and hopefully a lot cooler! Until then — Happy gardening!

The setting sun on Labor Day weekend from ythe front garden.

The setting sun on Labor Day weekend from the front garden.

And a minute later-

And a minute later-

Pink glow on the front door from the setting sun- goodbye summer!

Pink glow on the front door from the setting sun — goodbye summer! Hello Fall!

 

 

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Some 911 for the Rain Soaked Garden

Too much rain!!!!

Enough already — Too much rain!!!!

Soaking as a sponge doesn’t even come close to how damp the garden has been here in the mid-Atlantic region. With more than a month of rainy days and only a few sunny ones mixed in, some extreme measures are needed here. Almost half of the flowers that I planted ended up rotting from it all. On the other hand, it caused a lot of the established plants to grow a ton of wimpy new growth because they were growing so fast. So here’s my 911 to help manage this crazy season’s issues.

 

 

 

Remove the drain saucers from your flower pots when heavy rain is expected so that the pots do not become waterlogged.

Remove the drain saucers from your flower pots when heavy rain is expected so that the pots do not become waterlogged.

First, if you have heavy rain in the forecast and have flower pots or planters go ahead and remove the drain dishes so that the rain will drain through and not become soggy. This is also a good idea in general, with so many mosquito-borne diseases this year. If the flower pots are not too heavy and you have some overhead coverage, like a porch or under a deck, carry the pots underneath before the rain so that the blooms do not get damaged or rot. I did this with my roses, and was very glad I did. Open blooms will be destroyed by the heavy rains. If this happens, deadhead the plants as soon as possible.

 

If possible protect the open blooms from the rain, by putting them undercover. If they do become damaged by the rain, deadhead them ASAP.

If possible protect the open blooms from the rain, by putting them undercover. If they do become damaged by the rain, deadhead them ASAP.

 

 

 

 

 

If your grass is thoroughly soaked, try to stay off of it until it dries. When it’s walked on with standing water, it crushes the soil, compacting it which can then lead to other problems and weeds down the road. Clover is really difficult to get rid of and seems to love compacted soil, as do dandelions, and many of the weeds that we try so hard to keep away.

 

 

If you have standing water in your lawn try not to walk on it, or mow it until it has had time to dry out.

If you have standing water in your lawn, like mine, try to not walk on it or mow it until it has had time to dry out.

It’s also not a good idea to mow when the lawn is wet. That rips the blades of grass, instead of cutting them, so you will get brown tips to your lawn- not a good look! Beware of using the mulching option on your mower when there has been this much rain, it is better to collect and compost the clippings until the soil has had some time to dry out. Mulching the lawn clippings right now can cause fungus and mold issues.

 

 

 

 

I like to keep an extra package of garden stakes on hand. The new growth has grown way too fast, and much of it can use some extra support.

I like to keep an extra package of garden stakes on hand. The new growth has grown way too fast, and much of it can use some extra support.

Where extremely fast growth has occurred on plants you may need to either stake the plants to give them some extra time to strengthen, or trim them up some. This is the time of year when azalea and rhododendron bushes should be trimmed anyway, now that they are done blooming. And with all this rain that we’ve had, a granular slow release fertilizer can be helpful. Keep an eye out for wilting, and trim it out, ASAP. That will hopefully halt any further disease.

One last thing: if you do see wilting and fungus that need to be trimmed out, please have a small container of rubbing alcohol that you can dip the blades of your trimmer into between cuts, so you won’t spread infection from plant to plant.

I hope that you won’t have much damage in your garden, like I did, but it can’t help to know some plant CPR just in case! Happy gardening!

It might even be too damp for my favorite duck family around here- bring on some sun!

It might even be too damp for my favorite duck family around here — bring on some sun!

A Very Busy Second Half of Spring

Our resident fox enjoying a nap and a sunbath.

Our resident fox enjoying a nap and a sunbath.

Here it is — the second half of spring already! The garden here is bursting with activity, both flora and fauna. We recently spent a leisurely morning with our fox friend, our feral kitty, the crazy squirrel, duck family, chipmunks and many songbirds to name a few. It’s always an adventure around here!

With the nice weather warming the soil, the garden is growing quickly now, despite the fluke ice storm that deposited an inch of slushy ice two weekends ago. The trees are blooming all out of sync again. Strangely enough, the dogwood was the first to bloom and has held on to her flowers for almost a month.

This ice/slush storm was winter's last hurrah. Most plants had started to get their new Spring leaves, so this storm was most unwelcome.

This fluke ice/slush storm was winter’s last hurrah. Most plants had started to get their new spring leaves, so this storm was most unwelcome.

We have finally turned the corner on frost and freeze warnings, so I’ve been planting herbs and veggies. It makes me so happy to see how many heirloom varieties are now being offered in the garden centers! I’m trying out many old fashioned varieties this year, so I will have some fun things to report back on.

The flowering trees were a welcome sight, and the dogwood is still blooming!

The flowering trees were a welcome sight, and the dogwood is still blooming!

I’m so glad that the trees came through the winter alright in this region. We had such a strange autumn that many of the National Cherry Blossom trees bloomed around Christmas, about 1/4 of them! The affected trees didn’t rebloom, but thankfully they are all okay.

This patch of lily of the valley has doubled in size this last year. The scent is wonderful!

This patch of lily of the valley has doubled in size this last year. The scent is wonderful!

 

The same happened with many of the bulb flowers. The hyacinths that I have in my garden had sprouted at Christmastime, so they became freezer burned by the cold of winter and their flowers were all deformed this time around. Thankfully the daffodils had not gotten as big and were fine. On a better note, the patch of lily of the valley is looking the best that it ever has, and I’m so glad to report that it is covered in fabulously scented flowers. This is a fantastic ground cover with tons of old fashioned appeal, and will grow nearly anywhere, so keep that in mind if you are looking for something to fill a tough spot.

 

Not in bloom yet, but this area is planted with large masses of flowers. I can't wait to see the alliums in bloom!

Not in bloom yet, but this area is planted with large masses of flowers. I can’t wait to see the allium in bloom!

The allium bulbs are getting so huge as well. They were a gift at Christmas, so this is their first year. I will post some pictures when they start to bloom. I love how interesting the flowers are, and I planted them in a wave, between masses of iris, daylily, lamb’s ear and coreopsis. It’s getting so full that it should look amazing when they are all in bloom. While they are newly emerging, this is the perfect time to round up the edges on hosta, grasses, liriope, and lily to get them in shape for the new growing season. I like to do this now, rather than in autumn because they send out shoots underground over the winter months, and can start to look a bit messy otherwise.

 

On other fronts, I’m continuing to work on the storm window project, and I have a tip for you on fixing discolored brick. Years ago, way before we bought this house, someone had used some crummy paint on the trim work. It left long streaks of ugliness on the brick. I had tried all kinds of things to remove it short of sandblasting, and nothing could clean it off. My solution — more paint! I picked up half a dozen exterior craft paints in different brick colors and blended them. Just dab them into the offending areas and like magic the stained areas look fresh and clean. I have done this before on the front stairs and many other places on the house. If you didn’t know a stain was there, you never would. I won’t tell, if you won’t! Works like a charm. Give it a try!

BEFORE- ugly white streaks on the brick.

BEFORE: ugly white streaks on the brick.

AFTER- Looks like new! Blending a few different brick colors and dabbing it on the stained bricks works great, and east to do!

AFTER: Looks like new! Blending a few different brick colors and dabbing it on the stained bricks works great, and it’s easy to do!

I hope you are having a wonderful springtime and getting time in the garden. Here is one last photo, a bird’s eye view picture from the upper window looking out on the neighborhood trees. I just love how many bloomed all at once again this year!

Bird's eye view of the tapestry of colors of the blooming trees.

Bird’s eye view of the tapestry of colors of the blooming trees.

 

 

Mid Summer Garden Rescue

The poor garden this summer! Extreme heat, no rain, blazing sun, then sudden torrential storms with incredible winds. All this and more have left gardens in a sad state. It’s time for a rescue. Here’s my list of fixes and tips to help reclaim their health and beauty.

Trim out all dead and diseased branches on bushes and trees. If left alone this could attract insets and/or further spread the disease.

Start by clipping out dead branches on bushes and trees. Next (depending on how much is affected), trim out the bad parts, or completely cut back perennials as well as annuals. Make sure to collect and recycle your trimmings. In the humidity which comes with late summer, it is easy for fungus and insects to infect large clippings on the ground. Adding them to a compost pile will heat them so this doesn’t happen. In my yard, I am completely cutting back the foliage on all of the daylilly, yarrow, iris, and lamb’s ears, which will resprout fresh new foliage and look terrific until frost.

I will trim out many small branches on the Japanese hollies and junipers, and a significant number of dogwood limbs, too.

I suggest raking through the mulch to make sure that it has not compacted too much, and if you are in a drought area, start watering your foundation bushes with a soaker hose if you haven’t already.

When your lawn goes into a dormant state due to severely high temperatures combined with a drought, it is best to wait until temperatures have receded before resuming watering and/or feeding.

The grass in the yard has gone completely dormant here due to the lack of rain and the heat. Rather than stress it by trying to force it to grow, I will let nature tell me when it’s time to regenerate. I must say that in all the years I’ve been gardening, I don’t remember a year that has stressed the grass so much. I caution against adding any mid-season fertilizer this year. It may help to lightly add a 1/2 inch of compost to the lawn to help protect the roots. Until the temperatures are back below the 90′s I am wary of doing much else. As soon as the temperatures are lower I will start watering unless we receive significant rainfall.

The flowers that I have in pots this year are tried and true. I planted only geraniums, which I know to be more drought tolerant than many other flowers. Tip: plant two pots for every one that you need in an exposed focal area like the front door. Put one pot on the front porch and one in a less exposed area (under the deck in my case). Rotate them back and forth each week. That way they are given a break from the harshness of the weather extremes and are able to stay healthy. Also be sure to turn your pots at least 1/4 rotation each week, so that they don’t grow crookedly towards the sun. This is especially true if you have potted evergreens that you display year round.

This is an example of "sucker" branches. They are ugly and can actually draw the nutrients out of the tree if left alone. It is best to keep them trimmed out.

Many trees will develop “sucker” shoots from the trunks or branches this time of year. They are very unattractive and provide no benefit to the tree, and they can actually harm the tree if left alone. I like to take a sharp pruner and trim them out. You may need to check every month or two for a re-occurrence.

This is also the perfect time to trim back wisteria. (Remember January and July for hard pruning on wisteria.) Mine grows as much as 3 to 4 feet in a week, so I do lots of mini-prunings to keep it in shape. If you are growing chrysanthemum or sedum, this is also the last time for pruning back the height before blooming. I like to take mine down by a third. By doing that you will have many more blooms on a much stronger, more compact plant which will be less prone to splitting open in the rain.

I hope your yards and gardens are surviving this hot, dry summer. If you have any tips you would like to share on this subject, send them along and I’ll be sure to print them. Here’s looking forward to some healthy green color coming back!

The Changing Climate

Where's the snow? This year we have not had this scene at all.

It’s official: the USDA has changed our climate chart once again. This was done because the average low temperatures have increased, resulting in many regions in the U.S. changing their growing zones. Unlike previous changes, this data was compiled over 30 years. The new map can be viewed at: http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/

This was just two winters ago. At one point we had two feet of snow which lasted for a month.

 

My area is now squarely in the “Upper 7″ range. I have noticed that many of the plants which used to be marginal in my yard have not had much winter die-back this year. This is very recent though, and I am not convinced we have really changed that much, since we had an incredibly snowy and frigid winter just two years ago.

This season the rosemary, oregano, sage and lemon balm remained thriving in my herb garden all winter, and the chives were only dormant for a couple of weeks. In the past, I would have been without fresh herbs for at least a couple of months. Here is a tip you can try which can extend the growing time quite a bit: Place a terracotta pot over the herb during cold nights. The pot will hold enough warmth to keep the herb from freezing, while allowing excess moisture to escape. I once kept cilantro (which is very tender) growing for two months this way, even in the snow!

This is the first time we have had flowers on the pansies all winter long.

I am already seeing lots of new growth on the ornamental grasses which I just finished trimming back. Tip: After you have trimmed them down, rake through them with gloved hands (heavy duty gloves — I don’t want anyone getting cuts!). This will help remove the dead leaves and debris which if left behind, can make its way into the crown of the plant, choking the new growth.

The pansies which I planted last fall have been blooming all winter. Normally, they would have died back to the ground and re-sprouted new growth just this month. I am also seeing the strawberry plants sending out new leaves. It will only be a short time now until we have some on our plates, barring any late season storms.

If we do get an ice storm remember that falling ice can be very harmful to humans and plants alike, If you get falling sheets of ice, like I do, make sure that you block the area where they fall.

I hate to sound selfish, but I do love the milder weather this year so far. I am much farther along with my usual winter gardening this season. Tip: We are now at the correct time of year to apply a crabgrass preventer on the lawn. It can be applied anytime between February and April, but must be down before any 80 degree days to create a barrier.

In years past, when we have had mild winter weather, we would be in for a really wet spring, often with ice storms. We will see! It is always something different around here.

Until then, you know where you can find me — I’ll be out in the garden!