I love spring! With everyone having to keep “social distance” due to the coronavirus, I have been working my way around the yard enjoying the lovely weather. Things are popping around here, and everything is starting to green up and leaf out all at once. Here are a few hints to make sure your garden is in tip top shape.
Archive for Gardening Tips
The calendar says it’s autumn, but wow is it ever still hot! We have now had almost double the number of over-90 degree days in a normal summer and almost no rain since June. Drought has taken hold even though we had a massive amount of rainfall for three full months in the spring. The poor heat-stressed grass is having a hard time bouncing back, so I’m really happy to have at least one stalwart perennial to count on looking beautiful. Sedum, or Stonecrop — also known as Autumn Joy!
The roses love the sun — but me, not so much. Especially when the “feels like” temperatures are approaching 115 degrees outside! Doing anything we can to stay cool is important. Here are a few things that you might not have thought of, but they really do help:
Most importantly conserve, conserve, conserve! Water is precious, and so is electricity on days like this. Try to stay indoors as much as possible during the sunny hours. Draw your shades and curtains on the sunny side of your home, it adds insulation, and protects flooring and fabrics from fading as an extra bonus. We have found that the rooms are 10 degrees cooler by doing just that. If you have ceiling fans keep them running, stale air and humidity can lead to mold and mildew. Try to eat fresh and healthy salads, or no-cook meals. Just turning on the stove or oven can heat up your entire kitchen. Run your dishwasher overnight when the water usage is less. After washing, air dry your clothing, or minimize using your dryer. I find that removing clothes from the dryer and then simply hanging them to dry after 5 minutes releases wrinkles and works great. And who likes to iron anyway, right? Those are some of my best indoors tips, now on to the outdoor tips–
Hello my gardening friends! I have some big news. I am now being hosted by a new company after having way too many technical difficulties with my previous host. I will open comments and questions again and improve this blog with many new ideas. I hope it will be more helpful and encouraging to my readers. So please leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you. (The first time you leave a comment it will go into moderation to make sure you’re not spam, but after that it’s an open forum.) I’d love it if you want to share my posts as well — the more people in discussion, the more tips and ideas! As always, I’ll be here at LisaEarthGirl.com and for those on Facebook at LisaEarthGirl.
As some of you already know, since my mishap last November, falling from a ladder while working on a tree, breaking my ankle and a rib, I had a bit of a slow start to this year. I was very lucky that I didn’t get hurt worse. (Coincidentally it happened on the same day and hour as our esteemed Justice R.B.G. had a mishap and broke her ribs.) I am back physically, thank goodness, and learned to be extra careful on ladders on windy days! I also would like to warn against leaning a ladder on branches that can sway in the wind! Safety first. Best tip I can give!
The cycle of renewal has happened in a big way here. With all the rain that we had over the last year and a half, the garden is lush with new growth. Everything has sprouted with beautiful, fresh new leaves and lots of flowers everywhere. Many trees and bushes bloomed way out of their normal sequence — some early and some late — but it has been a gorgeous month and a half here in the mid-Atlantic. Vibrant colors everywhere!
Here’s a tip for one of America’s favorite plants, the flowering Azalea: When pruning and feeding, wait until after blooming, but finish before the 4th of July. This gives the plant time to set new buds and new growth before the frosts and freezes of the next winter.
Last week I took a field trip with a friend to one of our local State Parks — Green Spring Gardens. We discovered many gardening ideas, and plants that were in full bloom a full month earlier than their usual bloom time! It was a refreshing way to spend the day, and fun to see school children so interested by what they were seeing. Fun for all ages, really! Why not pack a picnic and enjoy a hike at your local park someday soon?
My biggest gardening concern so far this year is for some of my favorite mature bushes and trees to overcome the amount of rain from last year: the pink honeysuckle bush, the stellar cherry blossom tree, cardinal hollies, and the aristocrat pear. Last year’s losses were two prized cyprus bushes that drowned along the fence border garden. The change in climate and a neighbor’s poor drainage have proven deadly. The challenge continues with attempts to combat the excess water. I’ll keep you posted with some remedies to help keep the excess water away.
I’m back in my own garden now, preparing for the season ahead. I’ve almost finished with the mulching, weeding, and trimming back perennials. The grass has turned green again, and that alone makes a great backdrop for everything else. To celebrate the beautiful weather, I planted my annual flowers last week in flower pots and areas that are protected close to the house. In past years we have still had the odd late frost, but this year the long range forecast is showing we are much warmer. I used some of my favorites that do well in my micro climate on the banks of the Potomac — vinca, impatiens, salvia, lobelia and geraniums.
I’d like to start up a new segment on each blog from now on on plant I.D.- I’ll start with one that stumped me for years. I’ll encourage others to join in with plants from your garden.
It’s good to finally be back, and I hope that everyone is out and enjoying their corner of the world. Happy Gardening!
Hi everyone! We had an unbelievable amount of rain here this year, almost double our annual rainfall total. The air feels like a sauna even in October. It’s been hard to spend more than a few hours outside at a time in the heat and humidity — but you know I can’t stay inside, and there’s work to be done!
My priority now is renovating the lawn. Normally, I would finish this completely in September, but the weather has put me behind schedule. To do this right, I started by weeding the entire lawn by hand, as opposed to using an herbicide. When planning to overseed, one needs to make sure not to have any chemicals on the lawn which could interfere with the new seed sprouting.
I am using a specialized steel rake to get every bit of thatch out of the lawn — a tool I inherited from my grandfather. This is THE most grueling step. After de-thatching two-thirds of the lawn, I have collected more than a dozen full bags of debris (don’t worry — you know it’s going to the compost heap). I’m impressed with how effectively this steel rake pulls out the thatch — and it loosens the surface, which makes for great new seed contact into the top soil.
Everyone who walks by while I’m working asks me why I don’t just use a machine for this, but if you saw how much better this works you’d know why!
I bought a premium seed that has a variety of grass types: some that sprout within a week to stabilize the bare spots, and additional varieties that will be sprouting over the next few. This mix also had a seed-starting fertilizer mixed in, but if the variety you purchase doesn’t have this, I’d recommend using some.
Keeping things moist while the seeds are doing their magic is key, but with all the rain we’ve had, I’ve only had to water the new seed a few times.
I’m happy to say that I finally was able to easily pull out the last of the roots from two pear trees which used to grace the front yard. Now those areas are much smoother in elevation. The vast majority of the surface roots came out with the tree, but a few deep ones remained. On these areas, which were quite large, I used a couple of pieces of sod and more seed around the edges to completely fill it in. Now you’d never know that those were trouble spots!
Once the new seed reaches three inches tall, you can start mowing. We gave our newly-seeded lawn its first mow this week. I have a tip for this, too: Set your mower to highest level first, because after a few weeks of not mowing, the existing grass will definitely be quite long and would clog the bagging chute. In a couple of days, set your mower to the normal level and cut it again. This way your lawn won’t be stressed as much — and you won’t create new thatch by using a clogged mower!
I’m hoping the weather will cooperate so I can finish up my raking this week, but (if you can believe it) we have a new hurricane bearing down tomorrow night, and two more in the Atlantic pipeline. Hope everyone stays safe, and best of luck — I’ll be back with some pretty fall flowers next week!
Hi all! I think I am finally ready to show you some of the garden areas I have been working on since last fall. My goal was to open up the areas that had gotten a bit too crowded and simplify the overall design. While we walk through the yard, I’d like to show some tricks and tips that might help solve similar dilemmas that many of us deal with.
I have never shown a closeup of this garden area on the blog before. It is the front corner of my front yard, where the cul-du-sac meets the street. Here on the corner a low wall of juniper bushes are very strategically placed. As cars round the corner at night into the cul-du-sac, this blocks the headlights, shielding the windows from the bright headlights. All you need is 3 or 4 foot high evergreen bushes in order to protect the house from an oncoming vehicle’s headlights. No one wants to feel like a search light is spraying the inside of your home, and this does the trick! This garden is layered with euonymous and liriope on the street side, and anchored in at the corner with a dogwood tree. We have an up-light that shines at night into the canopy of tree, which right now looks like a cloud of beautiful white blossoms.
Here is the updated front walk. I cleared out some of the jungle of large plants on either side of the Nellie Stevens holly and highlighted it by relocating the hostas to either side in a semi circle to add some visual depth and light to that side of the walk. The liriope on the lawn side of the walk were all divided and will stay low. They will add some seasonal interest in the late summer with their purple flowers. These carry through the front of the other two garden beds on either side of the front door to create a nice flow from one garden to the next.
I inherited the layout of the walkway, but if I were to design it myself, I would have brought this odd zig zag section forward to match up with the rest of the walkway and made the whole walkway 4 to 5 feet wide. It’s always nice to be able to walk side by side with someone on a front walk, and being on the north side of the house, it would have been smarter to bring the walk out of the shadow of the house. If I ever win the lottery this is one of the things on my wish list – LOL!
Moving around to the east side of the garden I have done a lot of work. There were many of the older perennials that needed dividing, and some areas requiring removal, like the lamb’s ears which never was happy in that location and the beautiful iris which were overwhelming their area. All is smoothed out, and in a few weeks this area will be teaming with color. I have simplified many of the waves of color on this side, and interspersed some of them with liriope and periwinkle which will provide more year round interest. I also want to suggest to those looking to brighten up an area that placing lighter colors or variegated plants in the dark recesses under trees will draw your eye in and create more dimension. Repeating the plant material, colors and varying the numbers of plants in a group is also helpful to pull your eye through.
One more thing worth mentioning in this region of the country and other drought-prone areas: limit the amount of lawn that is in your yard. For example, in my yard the side and back are fairly hilly, so the lawn is kept to a minimum through there, and treated more like a wide pathway flowing through the yard and the garden beds are much wider. In the front, the yard is flat, so we have kept a larger patch of lawn for activities– perfect for throwing a Frisbee, or a game of croquet. This limits the amount of water, nutrients needed, and even helps with the amount of time you need to spend mowing — bonus!
Moving around into the back garden, I’m really happy to see that all the roses I transplanted are really flourishing in the full sun. This is where I have amped up the flower power, and have sedum, orchids, astilbe, hellebores, ginger, lamb’s ears, yarrow, iris, peonies, lily of the valley and hummingbird vine. Many of these were started from gifts from my gardening friends! The idea was to have something blooming for as much of the year as possible. The only time there is a void is February, and don’t worry, I’m on it. I think I’ll add some crocus bulbs in the fall to make it year round. Will I ever be done? No, but that’s the fun for me!