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.
Our home grows a little bit at this time of year. We gain a whole extra room -- the one on our deck just off the kitchen. It's where my husband and I like to drink our coffee and read the paper on weekend mornings.
Our son, a student at the U, has decided that our deck is the perfect place to study -- quieter and sunnier than anywhere on campus, plus he can work on his tan and hit the books at the same time.
Jim Rash, the screenwriter/actor who most recently made headlines for mimicking Angelina Jolie's leg thrust at the Academy Awards, turned his patio into a complete outdoor office.(http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/home_blog/2012/03/jim-rash-house-garden.html).
Rash lives in L.A. where outdoor living happens year-round. But I like our seasonal approach to the outdoor room, because it gives me the chance to redecorate every year. Unlike the rest of my house, which looks basically the same for years at a stretch, my outdoor room gets a radical personality change every May, depending on what I decide to plant.
One year I was in an exuberent mood, and put bursts of hot-pink blooms in every container. Another year I went nuts for tropical foliage plants like elephant ear and canna, and turned my deck into a jungle. Two years ago, our outdoor room became a small farm, with veggies and herbs planted in almost every container.
I haven't come up with this year's redecorating plan just yet. Maybe this weekend. In the meantime, if you need inspiration for your outdoor room, landscape designer Jamie Durie of HGTV's "Outdoor Room," has tons of gorgeous al fresco spaces on the show's website. (http://www.hgtv.com/designers-portfolio/room/arts-and-crafts/outdoors/3009/index.html#/id-2997/room-outdoors) (Durie is coming to town next month for a seminar and book-signing at Bachman's www.bachmans.com)
How will you be decorating your outdoor room this year? And what activities do you like to move outside once the weather warms up?
Our neighbors put down new sod right before the heat wave hit. They've been very good at watering, and their lawn looks super. Our 20-year-old lawn pales in comparison. This made me pick up the UofM recommendations on Fall Lawn Care. In order to have a great looking lawn in Spring here's what they recommend:
1. Overseeding and sodding. Oops should have done that in mid August
2. Fertilizing. Oops again, last fertilizer should have gone down Labor Day weekend.
3. Watering. Ah ha, I can still do that. One inch per week is what is recommended,
but watch the weather. The ground should feel moist but not wet. (the old stick your finger in the ground trick!)
4. Mowing height. Another one I'm not too late to do. Lower from 3" (Summer height) gradually down to 2". This helps reduce snow mold. The lawn's not ready to mow yet, so I can put that off.
5. Lawn aerification & thatch control. Wow, sounds like work. Rending a core aerifier. We'll see if one is available this weekend. We did it two years ago, is it that important?
6. Broadleaf weed control. Now's the time to get the dandelions and creeping Charlie! They may not look dead in the Fall, but the poison will flow quickly througout the plant and there will be less chance of the pesky buggers in the Spring.
For right now, I think I'll enjoy the Fall hues of my Hydrangeas.
What are you doing in your garden right now? I think that I'll grab another cup of coffee and wait for the weekend!
If you're like most gardeners, you've probably got a lot of plastic pots cluttering up your garage. (I've even got a little stack stashed in the corner of my deck, leftovers from my last frantic planting spree.)
With fall cleanup on the brain, it's tempting to toss all those pots and plastic trays in the trash. Resist the urge. Instead, recycle 'em, at one of 45 garden centers around the state.
The Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association's garden plastic recycling program, now in its sixth year, has kept millions of pounds of plastic out of landfills.
More than 30 garden centers have been accepting plastic pots all growing season; this weekend (Sept. 17 and 18), another dozen join the effort.
What can you bring in for recycling? Any size plastic pot that came with trees, shrubs, flowers or other plants you bought at a garden center. You can also bring in those little polystyrene trays that annuals and bedding plants are sold in. But other types of household plastic will NOT be accepted, nor will clay pots.
Wipe excess soil from the pots, and remove any metal hangers.
The participating garden centers receive no payment for the plastic they recycle, according to the MNLA. It's a service they provide free of charge, in an effort to reduce landfill waste.
To see which garden centers are participating in this program, visit www.gardenminnesota.com/content.asp?pl=5&sl=18&contentid=18
My special hosta is Royal Standard, which throws up sprays of white flowers in August. Their heady scent reminds me of Easter lilies.
That plant built a connection between a stranger and I more than a decade ago. My yard was on a neighborhood garden tour, and I talked briefly with a woman who said she had a hosta that was one of Royal Standard’s parents. She said she’d dig a piece for me.
Great! I said, and forgot about it. A week later I came home from work and there by the gate was a potted hosta with fat green leaves - a gift from the gardening lady.
I don’t know her name, and I never saw her again. I wish I could have thanked her for her gift. Her hosta has been divided many times and shared with other gardeners. I think of her every time I look at that plant.
Leaping forward a few years, I have a big ornamental grass, a miscanthus called Blondo in a garden at the side of the house. It can be a bit of a nuisance, with a tendency to spill over onto surrounding plants after a heavy rain. But in the fall and winter, when it stands seven feet tall with the light shimmering through its feathery blooms, it is spectacular.
Last fall, when Blondo’s leaves had already dried to their winter buff, a man rang the doorbell. He was driving a beat-up pick-up, was dressed in soiled work pants and a jeans jacket and didn’t speak much English.
He pointed to the grass.
“You give me some?” he asked.
Explaining that it was too late to dig the grass up now, I told him I’d give him a piece of Blondo if he came back in the spring. He nodded and drove off.
I forgot about him too.
In May, I was weeding the garden when an SUV drove up. It was Grass Man.
“Remember me?” he said with a smile. I told him I’d be happy to dig a division of Blondo for him. The smile faded. “How much?” he asked.
“For a gardener, it’s free,” I said. We shook hands and he said he’d be back for the plant at the weekend.
I potted up a nice clump of Blondo for him. By Saturday, it was gone.
This week my Blondo sprouted its first tentative flowers. On Sunday, the immature flowers already had taken on that gorgeous, shining look as the sun set. I thought of the stranger who didn’t speak much English. I hope his grass is growing well for him.
Grumble! The two big urns flanking my front door were just starting to look the way I'd imagined them when I planted them. The sweet potato vine was trailing and curling just so, the coleus and spikes were tall and stately, and the mocha-leaved begonias were blooming brightly.
But their zenith was short-lived. Last week the begonia in one pot started to look shriveled and sickly. I don't know if it was the withering heat wave a couple weeks back -- or all the water I dumped on my pots trying to compensate. Either way, the begonia up and died over the weekend, leaving a big, blank hole in my showcase container.
What to do? Normally, I'm too cheap to invest in any new annuals this late in the growing season. But this is such a prominent spot that I know it's going to bug me to look at that blank, blah hole every day, especially when the begonia in the pot next to it is still blooming.
I perused a couple of garden centers over the weekend to see if I could pick up a mocha-leaved begonia with pink flowers, to match the one I had, but the pickings were slim indeed. And rightly so. It's mid-August, after all.
Do you fill plant holes this late in the summer? Have you come across any mocha-leaved begonias still languishing on garden-center shelves? What would YOU plant in this empty space?
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