Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.
What will you be doing on Saturday?
I'll be getting rid of the mountains of buckthorn branches now piled in my back yard and driveway. They've been there since last week when I grabbed a chainsaw and attacked them with a vengeance. Sometimes they fought back, poking me with their thorns until I had bloody scratches up and down my arms. It was a grueling battle, but ultimately very satisfying.
And this time, they're not coming back -- not if I can help it. This time I went medieval, dousing the freshly cut stumps with Roundup. I hate using chemicals in my landscape but buckthorn is such a relentless bully that I made an exception.
I've been pulling out little buckthorns and cutting down big buckthorns for as long as I've been living in my current house (in northern Eden Prairie). But the big ones always come roaring back, bigger and badder than ever.
What's the urgency with getting rid of buckthorn? In natural areas, the invasive shrub is so fast-growing and aggressive that it chokes out native plants that support songbirds and other wildlife. In home landscapes, it does the same thing, plus it's scraggly and ugly, quickly shooting to twice the size of everything around it.
Fall is an ideal time to battle this monster, when its leaves are still green, making it easy to identify. If you don't have time to tackle all your buckthorn, concentrate on the female plants, the ones with the blackish-purple berries. They're the ones that will produce armies of new buckthorn for you to battle. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has some good information about buckthorn eradication on its website: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/terrestrialplants/woody/buckthorn/control.html
As for getting rid of buckthorn branches, most waste haulers will pick them up as yard waste if they're cut and bundled. I've got so many that I'd be sawing and bundling until Christmas. Instead, I'm going to haul it to the Mulch Store (www.mulchstoremn.com), which has four Minnesota Department of Agriculture-certified sites for disposal of tree branches and other yard waste.
Is your yard plagued with buckthorn? Or is something else on your "most hated" list?
You know those people with pristine garages? With tools arranged just so, and floors that look like you could eat off of them?
I'm not one of those people. In fact, our garage is an embarrassment. Tools, bikes, ladders and other gadgets -- the stuff that's supposed to be in garages -- are jumbled together chaotically with little rhyme or reason. But there's more. LOTS more. A broken-down computer and fax machine. A high chair so destroyed that it isn't fit to donate. (The dog ate the cushioned seat after the baby spilled something tasty on it.) The ugly, stained futon from our daughter's freshman dorm room. The list goes on.
The garage pictured above isn't mine. It apparently belonged to someone in Texas who won a "Messy Garage" contest. But I think mine could have been a contender -- at least a runner up.
Every spring, my husband and I resolve to do a major purge and cleaning of the garage. But life always gets in the way. Weekends get consumed by sports tournaments or out-of-town relatives or some other more urgent chores in the house or yard. The garage remains our hidden shame.
If you've got stuff cluttering up your garage, the next few days offer a golden opportunity to do something about it. Hennepin County is sponsoring a community collection event where residents can safely dispose of unwanted garden and household hazardous wastes.
This Thursday, Friday and Saturday, July 21-23, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., you can bring those unwanted items to Dunwoody College of Technology, 818 Dunwoody Blvd., Minneapolis. Items that will be accepted include household, lawn and garden products, items containing mercury, electronics (old computers, VCRs, CDs and DVDs), and auto and fuel waste. Items NOT accepted include photocopiers, appliances, tires, explosives and asbestos. For a complete list of acceptable and non-acceptable items, call 612-348-3777 or visit www.hennepin.us/collectionevents.
One caveat: You must be a Hennepin County resident with an ID to prove it. And items are limited to residential household waste. Businesses, you're on your own.
So round up some of that junk. But before you do, tell us about some of the embarrassing items in your garage. And if you're one of those pristine-garage types, how the heck do you do it?
Now that the fun stuff (planting flowers and veggies) is mostly done, there's a bigger chore looming in my landscape. Banishing the buckthorn, that nasty invasive that eventually conquers every spot it sprouts.
I hate this chore, in part, because I've been such a failure at it. I didn't even know what buckthorn was when it first started appearing in my yard a few years ago. But it sure was aggressive. Once I figured out what I was dealing with, I hired a guy with a chainsaw to cut it down. He advised me to paint the stumps with Roundup, which I didn't do. I have kids and dogs and hate using toxic chemicals.
I was shocked to see how fast and how vigorously the buckthorn returned. The next year, I rented a chainsaw myself and hacked the buckthorn down to the stumps. Then my husband and I spent two hours trying, in vain, to dig them up. Those suckers were so deeply rooted we couldn't budge them. Finally my husband said he'd heard you could rent a machine to pull out the stumps. I was more than happy to put down my shovel. But life got busy, and we never got around to renting that machine.
Now my buckthorn is back with a vengeance, bigger and badder than ever, in more places. It's definitely chainsaw time again, but this time, I'm resolved to finish the job. I've since been told the stump-pulling machines aren't very effective, and that chemicals are the only way to go.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has a lot of information about buckthorn on its website (http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/terrestrialplants/woody/buckthorn/control.html)
How do YOU beat buckthorn? What's worked and what hasn't? And is it your least-favorite chore, or is there one you hate even more?
It’s been nearly two years since I discovered the sinkhole. My sewer line had broken, and the excavation and repair left me with an unplanned project -- a blank slate of a front yard scarred from the heavy equipment that compacted the
heavy clay. I wrote about it then, imagining that I would spend all winter dreaming and ordering perennials from catalogs, ready to grab a shovel as soon as the snow had melted. My high-energy boyfriend and I had cleared out landscape rock and spread topsoil in the fall. I had visions of grandeur by spring.
It didn’t happen that way.
High-energy boyfriend gave me a ring. We got married, sold his house in an
awful market, and then worked on merging two households into one.
As my husband said goodbye to the beautiful gardens he had worked so hard to build, we started planning our own – together, as a wedding gift. We had visions of grandeur by early last summer.
The rain washed away our best-laid plans. Weekend after stormy weekend. We didn’t get started in earnest until the weather was blistering hot. We stripped the sod, tilled in soil and amendments and shopped for bargain plants for our project. And we learned a lot along the way. Some lessons, and some photos:
All this rain, and me with no rain barrel.
I'm behind the curve on rain barrels, partly because I'm not sure which one to choose, partly because many of them seem to cost a lot so I want to research them carefully first, and then, of course, there's inertia.
Initially I was kind of put off by the looks of them, except those handsome wood barrels that seem to cost heaven and earth. But now I'm seeing a lot more attractive options, some with slightly less scary prices. (Although I'm so not buying the one I saw in a catalog recently that's supposed to look like a landscaping rock but looks more like a cheesy prop from a 1960s B sci fi movie.)
I need help from rain barrel veterans to overcome my indecision and inertia: Has it been worth the effort? What size do I need for a house with a smallish roof area? Any tips for setting them up that I should watch out for? And did you buy yours or go for DIY?
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