Archive for August 26, 2011

Getting the Garden Ready for a Hurricane

We now have Hurricane Irene on route to the eastern seaboard. Possibly a strong 3 from all the forecasts. There is much to do at our garden to prepare for the winds and potential flooding which could ensue.

Move all potted plants to a protected place, and cluster them together for wind protection.

I started by moving all the potted plants, and other small garden accessories under the deck. The pots are touching, to give them support against the wind. We are expecting the wind to come in from the Northeast, and the deck is on the Southeast side of our house, so this will hopefully give the pots the most protection.

Next, we removed the lattice panels from the arbors, laying them flat on the deck. We then flipped the patio table, adding it to the pile, then the chairs. I strapped the whole pile to the deck and joists below.

Strap down all outdoor furniture.

We have also removed the propane tank from the grill, and stored it in the garage. The grill will also be tied to the railing, as well as the deck box, holding all the chair cushions. It is a good idea to bring in or tie down anything loose in your yard. In high winds things can become projectiles, causing more damage than anything else.

Don’t forget to check any low-lying doors and windows. We have a walkout basement with French doors that are at the lowest part of the yard. We sandbag the door, laying down plastic first to give extra protection. There is also an outdoor sump pump closeby, just in case.

Sandbag all low lying doors and windows.

If you rely on a sump pump, make sure you have back-up battery capability. If a storm is that intense, you could lose power, and will be very glad you have back-up.

Check all arbors, swingsets and even small trees to see if they might need to be tied down, or staked. Its also a good idea to check your gutters and storm drains for anything which might or is blocking them. Lastly, make sure your rain gutters on the house are cleaned out as well.

An outdoor sump pump can give added peace of mind in an intense storm. Just make sure you have a battery back-up system in place.

Mother nature is the biggest force we know, when she decides to make herself known, it can be quite daunting. I hope my tips will help you protect your garden. Stay safe!



The Victory Garden – Growing Our Own Food

Growing your own produce is one of the healthiest things you can do. Not only for your body, but your wallet as well.

With the skyrocketing price of great produce this year — $3.99/lb. for tomatoes, $2.99/lb. romaine lettuce, and even more if you want to have an artichoke or some asparagus with your meal — I am once again getting ready to grow some of my own.

I have tried many times in my current house to  have a vegetable garden, but we have problems with the wildlife eating everything we try to grow. I have had great success with herbs, they seem to leave them alone, but my strawberries and tomatoes are another story. I have decided that this fall I am going to try a cold frame, so that I can grow lettuce and spinach. I will post more pictures as this evolves. I am also going to try planting in pots and trays on my deck. I have done that in the past with limited success, as I found that things dry out quickly, so I will try putting them on trays with waterwicks.

My border of oregano

The herbs this year seemed to grow exceptionally well. I had a combination of pots, and many in the ground. I have an entire row of oregano which is now blooming, and cascading over on to the back walkway. Each year it gets more full than the last, and is as pretty as it is delicious. The other in-ground herbs I grow are chives, lemon balm, sage and thyme. These are all perennial and do best when they have become established. I grow the rest in pots: mint, because it is invasive; oregano, so that I can move it to a more protected winter spot; basil, because it is so sensitive; and catnip and cilantro for the same reason. I am hopeful that this year we will get some of the figs from my tiny little fig tree, but then again I think the chipmunks already have their eyes on them.

My fig tree, a cultivar from Mt. Vernon estate.

I am also looking forward to trying a cold frame to see how long I can extend my growing season into the cold weather. This has been such a hot and dry summer it wasn’t too appealing to spend long hours outside, so I am hoping that we will have some great fall weather, and do some catching up with some new projects.


Putting herbs in pots lets you maximize their best exposure.

My plan is to construct the cold frame by layering bricks about five courses high and placing my old storm door panel on top. The nice thing about doing this is you can change

location easily from year to year simply by moving the bricks. They also hold the heat and provide great insulating value.

I’m curious to know what others have and will try. So please let me know. Here’s to your health!

By the way, the beautiful “Sow the seeds of victory” vintage poster was created by James Montgomery Flagg in 1918.

The Beautiful Peartree

Storm damage to mature peartrees is not uncommon.

I am sorry to say, it has happened again. We had a massive wind and rain storm on Monday night, and it claimed 40% of our gorgeous peartree . It was a perfectly symmetrical gumdrop shape. Always beautiful, they are the harbinger of Spring opening up before anything else in the garden, looking cloud-like with white flowers. Also the last tree to lose its leaves in the fall after turning fabulous shades of yellows to maroons, and every color in between. I always have leaves on the peartrees still when I’m decorating for Christmas, so I have many times used pears in my front door wreath, and used that as my theme for decoration.

This is one of my Cleveland Peartrees, you can see how different the branching structure is than the Bradford Pears.

Peartrees are prone to having major branches break in wind and rain. They have an unusual structure that is not very forgiving. The Bradford variety usually has three or four branches which come out of the trunk, and all smaller branches grow out of these, making them exceptionally heavy. When you add rain and wind to the mix it is quite often more than the structure can support. If at all possible, in the winter months, when you can see the branches easily, prune out some of the heavier secondary branches. By doing this you will greatly reduce the weight and open up the inside of the tree. This will make it far less likely to succumb to wind damage.

Because each branch carries so much weight, they are easily ripped from the trunk in high winds.

In this picture you can see how much of the trunk was actually ripped away when the branch broke. If I were to leave this tree standing it would be very likely to die of disease, and bring it into the garden, so at this point it is best to take it down.

I have two other Pears in the yard. They are both Cleveland Pears. The branching structure is much stronger, because they are smaller in size and more plentiful. They can withstand the wind better, although they are not quite as magnificent shape-wise. They are a better choice for an exposed location like mine. But if you have other large trees to provide some wind protection, I would definitely encourage you to plant a Bradford, and enjoy its beauty for however long mother nature allows!

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