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message 1: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments The condition inside of the house is often dictated by what goes on outside of it. Gardens can be pretty, but they can also be a menace when they hide grading issues or encourage pests.

I have gardens all around my house. I love them, but I don't love maintaining them. I try to plan them to be fairly self sufficient. I don't want to water or weed them often as I have plenty of other chores to do, so I like hardy, pretty 'weeds' that fight hard for their space & tend to choke out the rest, but I also like to encourage hummingbirds & butterflies.

What about you? What type of flowers, mulch & bushes do you like? Have your gardens ever caused you a problem or fixed one? Do you plant for or against some types of bugs &/or birds?

message 2: by Foxtower (last edited Jun 04, 2013 01:44PM) (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments I prefer the natural look including mowing as little as possible. I do tolerate the old lilac bush out front and let it spread unhindered.

When the seedlings first go in the cut worms celebrate! While every gardener has heard of making paper collars, I have no intention of making a hundered or more paper collars every year. I made aluminum collars that consist of a strip of four inch aluminum flashing held in shape with a loop of wire. When the plants are big enough I pull the wire loop off which slides up the plant easily while the aluminum collar just pops off, then the collars and loops get thrown in a bucket until next year.

The poor cut worms have to be content with the seed crops which aren't as tasty and too numerous for them to hurt much.

message 3: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments What sort of seedlings do you grow? I've never used collars on anything except the bird feeder to keep squirrels out.

message 4: by Foxtower (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments Gee Jim, your last post didn't show up on my notices... I just found it.

This season for greenhouse seedlings I did brocoli (now 2 feet high), a couple kinds of tomatoes, melons, head lettuce and lots of peppers.

I've just now removed the collars from the tomatoes and brocoli to a row of brocoli my ex Joyce started from seed. Cut worms will devastate the seedlings around here and being an organic farm collars are effective and environmentally friendly.

message 5: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments Ah! Interesting. Thanks.

message 6: by Foxtower (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments Yesterday was HOT and HUMID, followed by a cold front hitting from the North and the first thunderstorm of the evening dropped two inches of rain with half inch hail in ten minutes. The garden took a beating!

The top heavy crops, about a third of the sunflowers and brocoli got knocked over, with all the tomatoes getting flattened. While everything will be crooked now the tomatoes and sunflowers stood up by themselves. The brocoli needed help.

Weather can be a friend or enemy, but either way it always has something to say!

message 7: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments Hail. Ugh. We've avoided that so far, although we had some very nasty thunderstorms pass through tonight. The worst of them missed us, although the power flickered a few times. We got 1/2" of rain this morning & only another 1/4" tonight. Great for soaking in. We needed the rain. This clay soil dries out awfully fast & we've had the A/C on all week. It's been upper 80's to 90 & humid.

The garden is doing well. We had the last of the spinach last night, but now the snap peas are coming in along with the squash. My tomatoes are running late, though. My son in RI said they got their first Early Girl while mine just has a few small green ones. The late frost we got about killed the plants, so they took a while to recover.

message 8: by Foxtower (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments I lived in Ohio a couple years and during the summer the thunderstorms came in like clockwork every day at 4 P.M.. Made a great show!

Here thunderstorms and even hot humid weather isn't so reliable. It's 60's and rainy today.

Gee, you're garden is weeks ahead of mine! My peas and tomatoes just started blossoming.

message 9: by Foxtower (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments 80's, Muggy and buggy but today was the first day without rain for over a week so it was time to tend the garden.

The second weeding, along with cultivating and hoeing only took a third of the time as the first weeding, but it was hot work what with needing to cover every bit of my skin with clothing and bug netting.

The old scarecrow may have been around too long. It's kinetic, bending at the waist and with a bobblehead, and scented with laundry soap, but this morning when the doggie and I went out for our stroll there was a buck in the back yard. It looked at me, then went back to foraging. If a real person can't scare a deer away what chance does the scarecrow have?

The dog didn't see it over the hip tall grass, but finally scared it away when he went walking near the buck to do his business.

message 10: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments Gorgeous garden!

message 11: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments The squash is coming in fast, so we're getting creative on how to use it. Today I made up squash lasagna, mostly zucchini with some yellow, & zucchini bread. The lasagna just substitutes the squash for the pasta. The bread is like a carrot or pumpkin bread. I haven't tasted either of these, but they usually come out pretty good. (Marg just brought me in a piece of the zucchini bread. It's great.)

We'll have the lasagna tomorrow night when Erin is coming to visit. I cooked it for about 20 minutes, so warming it back up in the oven for another 20 should cook it fine. I always like it better the second night when the flavors have had time to mix & settle.

It's real simple.
Frizzle up a pound of ground beef & drain, mix it with 32 oz of spaghetti sauce.
Slice up a couple of medium squash thin with a knife.
Layer them with a pound or so of ricotta or cottage cheese & top the last layer (1st & last should be meat sauce) with a pound of mozzarella in a pan. Cook it 30 - 45 minutes.

message 12: by Foxtower (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments Yummy!

message 13: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments Make sure to cook the squash first. I didn't. The lasagna tasted good, but was a bit crunchy & watery.

message 14: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments Foxtower, you mentioned that you don't care much for squash. I agree. It's tasteless, IMO. It's main saving grace is that it can be used for all kinds of things with some prep.

It's the prep for fresh veges & fruits that really gets to me. I spent most of an hour cleaning beans & spinach last night. When I compare what I make an hour to what they cost in the store, it's not worth it. Only the taste & (possibly) health benefits make it worthwhile. Even that gets undercut with so many people selling it so cheap around me. I do like having my own garden, though. The nod at self-sufficiency is kind of nice.

message 15: by Foxtower (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments "Worth it?"

It costs about $200 for my 2800 square feet of gardens. If I added in the opportunity cost of the time it takes preparing, planting, weeding and processing it makes no economic sense at all. I could easily get the $200 back with a farm stand, but then I'd have to deal with the general public and there's no price that would make that worthwhile!

Yet beyond the "dollar" value, an arbitrary measure of "worth". there's the value to the planet not measured in dollars. Yes, food tastes better and is much healthier than the crap big agriculture comgloberates produce while raping the planet with chemicals. It's the very fact that I produce food in a sustainable way, contributing calories and feeding people and critters that creates "worth". My little bit of planet is much more productive than it would otherwise be. My squirrels are fat, my mice are numerous, my birds are plump and happy, and my bees, grasshoppers and bugs proliferate. That generates LIFE, a "return" that adds value to my farm and my existence.

I don't make money. I contribute to LIFE!

message 16: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments I'm not convinced on that life score, but if it makes you happy & adds to your existence, that's all that counts. That's what my little one does for me. Cost is why I won't raise my own chickens, though. I'd like to, but protecting them would be too expensive.

Have you ever read Countryside magazine?
You should check out their website. Lots of people that are into living off the land, many off the grid. I think you'd really like it. The library section has a lot of articles that are free to read as are some of the articles in each issue.

message 17: by Foxtower (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments Makes me happy... adds to my exisitence... what more could a person want!

I agree re chickens... while I'm glad my farming practices contribute to wildlife, opening a KFC restaurant for foxes, coyotes, weasels and what have you is a bit much!

My library has volumes of similar information to Countryside, though with gardening and the farm I'm well past the point of reading about it as I'm too busy doing it.

Meanwhile after several days of HOT (over 90 twice!) sunny weather the garden has exploded!

message 18: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments Even in the back to nature movement, there is a lot of new stuff. You should take a look. Those folks seem to be on the bleeding edge of living off the grid, natural composting, soil maintenance, & such.

message 19: by Foxtower (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments But but but.. there is nothing new under the sun...

From composting the soil maintenance, since what I do works, I won't try to fix it!

message 20: by Foxtower (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments There was a brief thunderstorm last night, and when I went out to check the mail this morning I discovered that a microburst had flattened the oats in the East garden. It was a neat job, with the center of the 60 foot by 12 foot patch mashed to the ground while leaving a two foot wide rim around it.

Darn, it was just starting to dry, with the seeds still milky. At least the barley is still intact.

I don't know if there's any way to recover it... any gardeners out there ever had to deal with flattened grain?

message 21: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments Ah! The farmer's life. Put in all that hard work, money, & time - do everything right - then have a bit of weather come along & ruin it all. Worse than computers!

message 22: by Foxtower (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments I realized today halfway through trying to stand up the fallen oats so they might dry that what I should have done is tied some paddles to my feet and refined the mess into a crop circle. Then I could call the National Enquirer, claim I was abducted by aliens and that the secret meaning of the symbols points to the way to true happiness, which is of course, logging into goodreads!

Alas, fame a fortune elude me....

Meanwhile the garden is doing great having already harvested brocoli, lettuce, peas and basil. When I was out weeding around the root crops and peppers (about the only places I can walk now) I found lots of peppers, corn, tomatoes, beans (dryed versions) and melons are coming in. (the variety of watermelon I can grow here isn't much bigger than a softball, but they taste great)

You win some, you lose some and the oat harvest becomes compost. Such is farming.

message 23: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments We dried out pretty badly here. Some new mutant grass has shot up around the pond. It would be great on the lawn. Grows fast, has a very tough root system, & doesn't seem to mind the dry conditions at all. Pulling it out around the pond was tough, though.

Yesterday the heatwave broke & we should get some rain today. I hope we get a good soaking. I need to do some weeding, but it's too dry. I'm just breaking most roots off at ground level & getting anything into this soil is tough. It's like brick.

message 24: by Foxtower (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments I've had to irrigate twice in the last week, but then the whole reason I have irrigation lines is that Maine is normally very dry in the summer. Nice dry days forecast all this week!

There are a whole bunch of japanese beetles this season going to town on the wild primrose. In one spot I walked along and there had to be about 60 beetles on just a few of the six foot high plants.

There were also a few beetles in the garden munching on some mallow I planted from wild seed. Better they eat the native flowers than the tomatoes!

message 25: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments We got an inch of rain yesterday. Today is cloudy & so humid that I want a knife to cut may way through the air.

message 26: by Foxtower (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments Looks like about an inch of rain for us too, though it's cool and not too humid.

It's just about time to get my butt in gear gardenwise, freezing string beans and beets and getting the drying racks ready for the surviving grains. Gee, as I get older it just seems like the seasons get shorter and shorter.

message 27: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments We just got another fast downpour & tonight it is supposed to go down into the mid 60's & only be 10 degrees hotter by noon tomorrow. Yippee.

message 28: by Foxtower (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments Glad to hear some of the relief had made it South...

Perfect day here, sunny, breezy, hig of 72. Spent the late afternoon picking beets and string beans for freezing tomorrow when we're due for tons of rain.

Just getting the first tomatoes up here in the frozen north.

message 29: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments I had to widen the apron of the lane by about 4' since Marg's bus run now has her coming & going the opposite direction on the road. The rain we've had was perfect for the chore. We got enough yesterday to soak in & soften the ground. It held off this morning until I got the area dug up with my front end loader & gravel put in & graded. I didn't even have to borrow the neighbor's backhoe.

It only took a few hours & looks great. I came in & got brunch. I was just sitting down to a bunch of fried tomatoes out of my garden, a huge pile of bacon, 3 eggs over easy & a couple of pieces of toast when the rain started.

Then the rain stopped & Marg got home from her trail ride. I helped her put everything away. The grass was too wet to mow, so I had a perfect excuse to take a nap! Now that's how to enjoy a Saturday.

message 30: by Foxtower (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments Beautiful weather so far this month if still a bit rainy, perfect dry breezy days for harvesting vegetables.

I cut all the fallen oats and tied them in bundles to see if I could still get a harvest. Now the second floor of the farmhouse is full of bundles of grain drying.

message 31: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments Is Organic Agriculture 'Affluent Narcissism?' a very interesting article from Forbes. It makes a good case AGAINST buying & supporting organic foods, especially if you read the entire article, in part because
"...the designation “organic” is itself a synthetic construct of bureaucrats that makes little sense...."

I've always felt that moderation in pesticides & herbicides was needed. Often, there is more data on manufactured chemicals than 'natural' ones, especially since the latter tend to be manufactured anyway, just under different reviewing guidelines. I've also seen some pretty ridiculous laws passed in the name of saving the environment. For instance, Chlorodane was outlawed & we had to use Dursban (I think) instead. The recommended dose was twice as much for treating termites around fence posts &, according to one article I read, just as bad. It was a 'feel good' change that really did nothing for the environment. (I feel the same way about the new light bulb change.)

message 32: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments The crocuses are up & blooming in Zone 5! Yay! Spring has finally sprung, although we're dipping back into freezing temps for the next few days. The past couple of days have been nice, though.

Friday night I came home & chain harrowed the fields. That breaks up the clods of manure & evens out a lot of the ruts caused by hooves in mud. The fields always look so much nicer once I'm done. I'm going to do it a few days before Erin's wedding, too. I usually do it a couple of times every year, although it depends on how many horses we have & what the weather has been like. If we have enough rain, it & mowing break up the manure pretty well, besides using up my time.

There are a lot of other chores to start getting to. I have some big sections of liriope to trim. The tops of it get brown now & by cutting it back, the new growth shows that much sooner. It should be done with trimming blades or scissors, but I have too much to do so I just use sharp plastic blades on the weedeater. I'm hoping to expand a couple of gardens this year, mostly banks that I have to weedeat & want to turn to flowers. What are your plans?

message 33: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments We took a quick trip up to MD (600 miles each way!) to see the new grandmonster. Colin is 5 months old now & Marg had a week off for spring break, so we went up on Sunday, drove back on Wednesday. We got back to find the place greening up. It rained Thursday & Friday, but started drying up well yesterday. Everything is practically popping up as we watch.

I'd love to take another week off to get chores done, but can't. Lots to do. It's time to get the vege garden turned & spinach planted. In another week, I can probably plant peas, too. The liriope needs to be trimmed & it's time for all the old stems to be removed from the cone flowers & such. Most do that earlier, but I leave them up for the birds. By now, they've eaten all the seeds, though. The forsythia are blooming which means the roses need to be pruned. Once the forsythia have finished flowering, it's time to prune them, too.

I guess I'll put mulch down this year. I don't do it every year or even on every garden because it kills off plants that volunteer & I count on quite a few that do. Still, I want the place to look good since Erin is going to get married here this July.

message 34: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments We had asparagus out of the garden last night for dinner. Marg cut it, washed it & served it - less than 15 minutes from garden to plate. Now that's fresh! Mom has been getting it for a couple of weeks now & usually she's a week or two behind us, which is odd.

I've been doing a lot of work on the gardens. Friday before last, I bought about 3 dozen annuals, mostly marigolds & wax begonias, to put around the trees & have spent all the time I can weeding & putting them in. I finally got the last in yesterday. We had a perfect rain this past Friday, 1/2" that came down slowly so it all stuck & soaked in. That's a huge help or I spend most of an hour watering.

message 35: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments Our fields are getting filled with a pretty little white flower called 'Star of Bethlehem'. It has a little bulb & is kind of pretty, but it's crowding out the grass. There's more on it here:

Brenda ╰☆╮    (brnda) | 49 comments It is a pretty flower. I would leave it in my yard, but everyone has a breaking point.

Haven't had a garden for years. Hoping for fresh tomatoes this year.

message 37: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments With everything else that was going on this year, I still decided to start growing flowers on the last 2 banks I can't mow along the road. They're very steep & dry. While the county will mow them a couple of times a year & I can weedeat them, they're an eye sore & a pain.

I used Round Up (actually Gly4) to kill the grass & sprinkled a lot of seeds on them. Some I bought, like Cosmos, Zinnias, & some wild flower mixes. Others I collected from my other gardens; Holly Hock, Cone Flowers, Gaillardia, & Black-eyed Susan. I transplanted others; liriope, lilies, Japanese Iris & some others, one a ferny looking thing that I don't know the name of.

For a first year, the results haven't been too bad. The Zinnias really did well in one area, crowding out everything else. Most of the other plants survived, but aren't thriving yet, of course. Only one area, shaded & further dehydrated by some small trees, didn't grow much of anything. Of course, the weeds & grass have come back with a vengeance, too. While I weeded some, I have to be careful because the grass wants to come up in clumps which will lead to erosion.

Most of the plants that growing now are summer plants. I got catalogs from Dutch Garden & Breck's. I went through them looking for good deals on big groups of bulbs to put in for spring time. Breck's looks to have the best deals. I've got about 400' at 4' wide to plant, so I'll need to get quite a few & it will cost more than I'd like, but I'm going to get several hundred daffodils, tiger lilies, & iris.

To do all that planting, I'm going to need a decent bulb auger for my drill. I found one for $30 in the Dutch Garden catalog. That's pricey, but it has a case around it unlike most I've seen. Here's a link to it:

I can get longer ones (less bending) cheaper without the case for less, especially if I got to Lowe's & skip the shipping costs. I'm not sure if I should get a 1.75" or the 2.5", though. I will have a few tulip bulbs, but most will be smaller & I don't need this often enough to need more than one bulb auger.

Does anyone have any experience?

message 38: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments I ordered some seeds yesterday to plant on the banks & in the hedgerows, too. I found 1000 seed packs of Jupiter's Beard & Zinnias for under $5 each. I ordered 2 of the first & 1 of the second. The Jupiter's beard is supposed to be good in dry areas. Zinnias did well in a few places this year. I hope they reseed.

Brenda ╰☆╮    (brnda) | 49 comments More flowers!
Always good.


message 40: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments Yeah, I've been looking for something that liked dry & I saw Jupiter's Beard in a Birds & Blooms post on FB. We'll see how it does. Cheap & easy enough to try.

message 41: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments The seeds arrived yesterday. They're awfully small packs. I haven't opened them yet, but I assume they hold the correct count. I had visions of broadcasting them, but I think it's going to be a pinch here & there.

Brenda ╰☆╮    (brnda) | 49 comments I've always (mostly;) found myself disappointed with buying things I don't actually get to see in front of me.

Hopefully the results will be a pleasant surprise.

message 43: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments I planted all the bulbs! I thought I bought 340 from Breck's, but it was closer to 500. I think the sales lady made me a couple of deals I couldn't resist, such as 120 daffodils rather than 80 or an extra pack of 25 iris for $5 more.

The Grecian windflowers (80) & mountain belles (100) were tiny bulbs, but were some of the hardest to plant in the dry ground since they were supposed to be planted 3" deep. I used a pokey thing for weeding out deep rooted plants most places.

I used my cordless drill & a 2" bulb auger for the larger bulbs: iris, lily, tulip, & daffodil. That worked very well with my cordless drill, although it was tough on my wrist & hand when I'd suddenly hit a root or rock. It's not awful the first dozen times, but eventually got wearing. Luckily we've had some rain which softened the ground.

My neighbors all think I'm crazy to spend so much time & energy on this. My 90 year old neighbor, Curtis, shook his head more than few times while he chatted last night as I was putting in the last of the daffodils into the hedgerow along the road between our two places. They're scattered pretty thinly through there, just a couple of dozen for the entire stretch, so ever 2 paces or so.

I have some more bulbs coming through my Arbor Day subscription. They're all purple tulips, hyacinths, & one or two other things. I hope I don't dig up other bulbs as I plant them. Next spring should be pretty, though!

message 44: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments I got most of the lawn mowed tonight. It's been 2.5 weeks since the last time I mowed it. I think this is it for the year. Tomorrow, weather willing, I'll finish it up & mow around the fields for the last time.

message 45: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments One of my neighbors dropped in to the shop & gave me a gift card for Appleby's in appreciation of the gardening I've done along the road this year. She said the riot of flowers at the end of her lane just tickled her & her grandkids every time they drove in or out. That was really sweet of her.

message 47: by Jaye (new)

Jaye  | 160 comments Jim wrote: "I planted all the bulbs! I thought I bought 340 from Breck's, but it was closer to 500. I think the sales lady made me a couple of deals I couldn't resist, such as 120 daffodils rather than 80 or..."

Anything showing signs of Spring growth over there?
I've got daffodils and some other bulb types starting to peek through right next to the remaining snow.

message 48: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments Thanks for asking, Jaye! Yes, all the daffodils are up & blooming well. The tulips are poking up. Looks like most of both made it. The Grecian Windflowers & Mountain Belles don't seem to have done as well. I can't remember which is which, but not as many seem to have popped up, but there's grass in many places & their leaves aren't huge. I haven't really gotten in there to plant seeds yet, so might have missed some. It's not unusual for flowering bulbs not to bloom the first year.

We had a perfect week for planting. Unfortunately, I've missed it with a really bad case of the flu, despite getting the shot last fall. I've been flat out - no work or anything - since Sunday. I didn't set foot out of the house for days. Don't think I'll make it into work tomorrow, either. The cure seems to be as bad as the disease.

I've got a whole bunch of seeds to plant & have already mowed the back yard once. It really needs it again & I haven't touched the front lawns or the road sides. It's nice seeing all the green, even if it is driving me crazy.

Still no signs of the Purple Martins. I've had one house up since March 10th or so. They generally scout around by the first day of spring & today is the latest the scouts have ever been, but still no sign of them. I could have missed the scouts, though. My neighbor had the time & a lot of houses, so kept track. He died last July, so I'm on my own this year. His son has less time than I do to look for the birds, though.

message 49: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 1411 comments One of my newly planted tulips has started to bloom! I took a brief walk along part of the road to look at it & see how the other new bulbs are doing. They're GREAT! I think almost all of them have come up & 90% of those have bloomed, most with multiples. That's fantastic for a first year.

More amazing, they're surviving well in our bouncing temps. Yesterday, besides getting 5" of rain, we were over 70. This morning we're at 30. Last week, we had one day where we never hit the mid 30's bracketed by 60 degree days. Some have drooped, but they've kept their blooms & straightened up. I guess it helps that most are on east facing banks. That lends some protection & warms them up first thing.

Brenda ╰☆╮    (brnda) | 49 comments Bulb plants are so amazing.

My husband did wonders with them.(He passed two weeks ago.)
I have a brown thumb...Hoping to dip my hands in and learn.

Do you ever dig up your bulbs to "rest" them?
My sister was saying, she planned some, but they never did anything.

Oh...and another thing I remember from my husband, is to ring daffodils around plants you don't want disturbed by critters.

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