Rain Garden Extremes

As I was driving around I noticed two rain gardens which are at the maintenance extremes .

In the first case at Nipher Middle School, there is no maintenance and the garden is mainly filled with ten foot tall weeds. While there is a bit of Goldenrod and New England Aster, most of it is ragweed and some smart weed.

In the second rain garden, the management of this pizza joint apparently only saw a bunch of weeds and ordered everything cut down.

This goes to prove the importance of planning for regular skilled maintenance on any garden. Especially in schools and businesses, the leaders need to make an effort to sign-up or hire a skilled gardener to take care of the garden.

It’s a shame that so much money and effort is spent in the setup of new gardens, but eventually the garden dissolves and either Mother Nature takes over or the maintenance crew nukes everything.

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Watering in Late Summer/Fall

The plant sales are starting up again and people are encouraged to plant now with the thought that plants will establish roots and be prepared for great spring growth.

The problem I observe with this philosophy is that many people don’t realize how dry the soil is and forget about their plants. It starts to cool off in September and people equate cool temperatures with great growing conditions. Unfortunately if the plants don’t have sufficient water, they will do poorly and possibly die.

I just looked at weather records for St. Louis during August and during the last 20 days we have only had .11 inches of rain. While I want my established plants to go deep for water, any new plants or transplants will need water on a regular basis.

I even tested moving plants during the 95 degree temperatures we had during July and with daily watering, they have come through like champs.

Echinacea moved in 95 degree temperatures.

Below is a nice video by Charles Dowding on hand watering. The only thing I would do differently is that I use a hose with sprayer or sprinkler attachment and a water timer.

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Late Summer Echinacea

While mid-June is the standard time my echinacea starts blooming, it has occurred to me that I might be able to delay some of my blooms into September.

June 15th

In one of my gardens. the rabbits took a liking to my echinacea and kept it small, broken and trimmed up over the early summer. The result is that the echinacea is finally blooming as of August 29th.

August 29th

It occurs to me that I can do the same thing that the rabbits did and trim half of my echinacea in mid-May. The trick is to have some echinacea blooming all through the summer and into the fall.

I’ve got this marked on my calendar for May 18th. Hopefully, I’ll report positive results next year.

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No Dig Gardening

If you’d like to reduce your work in the garden, no dig gardening is an easy way to reduce your work load.

Here is the link from a recent Charles Dowding interview which explains the process.

Tom – 90% Perennials Makes No Dig Easier

I’ve taken a few notes from the interview.

  • Leave the soil undisturbed and let the soil life flourish.
  • He adds compost to the top of the soil every year in the fall. He only applies this once per year.
  • In the startup faze – you have to buy compost from other sources.
  • It’s hard to create all the compost yourself. Look for other free sources.
  • Don’t use a broad fork. Forked soil is 5% less productive.
  • No Dig works on all types of soil.
  • You don’t have to dig clay first.
  • New compost from business sources is hot and will probably need to rest for two or three months before you plant in it. (Note – I have burned my grass from a load of compost.)
  • He doesn’t use peat.
  • He twists out the plants. He doesn’t dig them out. Leave in as many roots as possible.
  • He doesn’t have trouble with leaching since the soil life holds on to any nutrients.
  • He can grow two crops a year.
  • Stay on top of the weeds to prevent weed seeds.
  • The first year will be a little tough as you work to get things setup.

Here is the link for Charle’s YouTube Channel.

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Monarchs in Missouri

While Monarchs usually disappear after their first appearance in April, they seem to reappear in July and August in the St. Louis area.

Female in August

Monarchs began showing up in early July and laying eggs. I spotted their caterpillars around August 1st.

Just yesterday, August 8th, they were again laying eggs on my local milkweed. They are still laying eggs as of August 27th. This should be the last generation before they head to Mexico.

In the last six weeks, I’ve also had at least one male Monarch in the yard flying about the flowers.

The trick to attracting Monarchs is to have lots of milkweed, the more the better.

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Saving Seeds from Your Garden

Collecting seeds is the easy way to have hundreds of plants in the spring for no cost. If you figure that many plants can cost $10.00, you could save hundreds and thousands of dollars by collecting and planting your own seeds.

Almost every plant will produce seeds. You just need to be eagle-eyed to spot the seeds and gather them as they ripen up.

I have already collected seed from maltese cross, milkweed, poppy, rue, columbine, echinacea, golden alexander and lots more.

The trick is to allow the seed to ripen and dry on the plant and then grab it just before it might drop to the ground or be blown by the wind. I place all my seeds in a lunch paper bag and mark the bag with a black permanent marker.

Each plant will usually give you hundreds/thousands of seeds, so this is a great way to share with friends.

I also allow some of the seed to fall to the ground as I collect it. This will ensure that you have some seedlings coming in the spring at that exact spot.

The final tip is to only select seed from the best plants. Any plants that do particularly well, I mark with gold paracord so I remember to collect these seeds.

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Bulbils – Cheap Way to Propagate Plants

I admit that the word “bulbils” is new to me. I discovered a growth of tiny bulbs on top of my allium and I wondered if they could be planted.

I did some research and found out that these tiny bulbs are called bulbils. Most sites talk about bulbils on garlic, but also some allium species form these also.
Bulbils in a Pot

I decided to cut off some of these bulbils and put them in a planter to see how they would grow over the next year. I could have separated them, but decided to keep them together. Charles Dowding uses this method, so we’ll see how it works. The trick is to leave about one inch of the stem. Make sure your soil is loose and moist (I usually add an inch of potting soil.) You can then just stick the stem in the soil and don’t have to do any digging.

I am planting these about an inch or so apart as I plan to dig them in the spring and move them to other locations.

Bulbils in the Ground

Here is what the root system looks like after a month or so.

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3 Bloomers – 1 Area

One of my goals is to have as many blooming plants and as much color throughout the year. Here is a plan which is working well for me.

March – April
Virginia bluebells.

They come back every year and disappear back into the soil. Scatter the seed around when they are done blooming.

May – June
Annual Poppies

They will reseed themselves, but I choose to save a lot of the seed and plant them again around April 1st.

July to Frost
Salvia – Lady in Red – annual.

These will also reseed themselves and germinate around July 1st.

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Sharpening Hand Pruners

While I’ve used standard files in the past to sharpen hand pruners, here’s another smaller option.

Smith’s DRET Diamond Retractable Sharpener

The Smith’s DRET Diamond Retractable Sharpener is available on Amazon for less than $9.00 and seems to do a nice job of sharpening.

Below is the technique I use. I sharpen from the bottom up.

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Gardening with a Phone

Since I usually spend two to three hours a day working in a garden, I like to be entertained while I work.

The phone is a natural resource these days since you now have access to the world. The problem is that if I keep it in a shirt pocket, it likely will fall out and possibly break and while I can keep it in a pants pocket, it will get sweaty and possibly banged around.

I found a solution recently which works out well. It’s a “Hiearcool Universal Waterproof Case,Waterproof Phone Pouch” found on Amazon. For $10.00 you get two cases. It fits my Pixel 3a which is around 6.5″ diagonally and seems to fit perfectly. Larger phones will be tight or not fit at all. It hangs around my neck and I can manipulate the phone from the outside and even take pictures through the clear plastic. The phone sound is good through the case.

While this device is really meant for water protection, it seems ideal to keep my phone protected while I garden and listen to my favorite podcasts.

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